Home » Intelligent Design » For the record – a comment on Dan Savage’s latest talk

For the record – a comment on Dan Savage’s latest talk

By now, I imagine most of my readers will have watched the infamous video clip featuring activist Dan Savage’s comments on “the bull—t in the Bible,” during a talk he recently gave to the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle. The text of Savage’s remarks can be found in a post by a contributor named Sigmund, over at the Website Why Evolution Is True. (The font color is easier on the eye than the original transcript at Towleroad.) P. Z. Myers weighs in here, and The Huffington Post has a piece about Savage’s comments here.

I’m currently working on a post on Methodological Naturalism, which has direct relevance to the issue of Intelligent Design. Morality is a topic which has only an indirect relevance to ID, but it’s one which arouses surprisingly strong passions, as people debate the perennial issue of whether scientists can ever provide a purely naturalistic account of morality, or for that matter, of the origin of morality. Last year, I addressed this topic in my post, Why morality cannot be 100% natural: A Response to Professor Coyne. I had (mistakenly) hoped that my post would make some of the New Atheists pause and rethink their (by now predictable) screeds against moral codes that claim to be of supernatural origin. However, some of their recent comments on Dan Savage’s speech – as well as other comments that have been bouncing around on the Internet – have persuaded me to add my two cents’ worth to the discussion. Lots of valid points have been made elsewhere in response to Savage’s comments. What I’m going to do in this post is put them all together here in an accessible form, for interested readers.

Savage: credible or not?

Dan Savage has apparently read the Bible cover to cover (as I have) and he has a perfect legal right to criticize Biblical morality, if he wishes to do so. I’ll address his criticisms briefly below. But before I do, I’d like to pose a simple question: “How qualified is Dan Savage to talk about morality?” Short answer: not very. I’m not saying that Savage is a bad man; I’m simply saying that he has no right to pontificate about moral matters. Here’s why:

Controversial remarks by Dan Savage

What Dan Savage has said in public about Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, John McCain, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

The Doorknob Chronicles of Dan Savage by Joe Carter, writing in First Things (July 13, 2011)

Savage was charged and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of fraudulent voting in a caucus in 2000

Dan Savage has endorsed “The Abortion Pledge”. An excerpt:

I pledge the following…

1. If I get pregnant before the age of 21, I will have an abortion.

2. If I know anyone who gets pregnant before the age of 21, I will strongly suggest that they have an abortion.

3. If I get pregnant while still pursuing my education and cannot feasibly financially support a child, I will have an abortion.

7. If I am in any other situation where I feel like an abortion is the best course of action, I will have an abortion.

I should also mention that Savage is a self-professed sexual libertarian who has stated that “our bodies are our own … they’re ours to use, abuse, and since we’re all going to die one day, they’re ours to use up.” On the subject of drugs, he has written that “the freedom to use drugs can certainly be viewed as a civil-rights issue: It’s about the right to control what you do with your own body, and that argument resonates with others advanced by gay-rights advocates and advocates of reproductive choice” – a quote That’s just one of many eyebrow-raising quotes you’ll find in an article at Alternet entitled, Dan Savage, America’s Most Important Sex Ethicist by Lutheran minister Benjamin J. Dueholm.

And here’s Savage advising a reader in the Pittsburgh City Paper (May 28, 2009) on drug use:

I don’t believe that all drug use is abuse, and I believe that recreational drugs can be used responsibly….

Recreational heroin? Heroin seems kind of extreme as recreational drugs go…

[L]egal or not, heroin is a highly dangerous drug. It’s a drug that’s made more dangerous by its prohibition, sure, but it’s dangerous even when it’s pure.

I think you have a right to use it, and that you should have access to safe, medical-grade heroin and clean needles. But I don’t think you should use it, not when there are other, better, safer drugs available.

Like my boyfriend’s pheromones.

What Dan Savage got wrong about the Bible

I would suggest that anyone who might be wondering whether Dan Savage’s rant against the Bible was accurate, despite its anger, might like to read an article I wrote on Uncommon Descent last year, entitled Why morality cannot be 100% natural: A Response to Professor Coyne. In that post, I endeavor to set the record straight about Biblical morality, and I also highlight certain passages in Leviticus 19 that Savage forgot to quote.

Savage asserts that “The bible is a radically pro-slavery document.” Rubbish. Regarding slavery, Dan Savage might want to read an article by Dr. Matt Flanagan entitled, Slavery, John Locke and the Bible. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

It is often affirmed, as an incontestable and obvious truth, that the Bible supports slavery. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong cites Leviticus 25:44 as evidence of this charge in “Why Traditional Theism is not an Adequate Foundation for Morality.” Although Armstrong is not the alone in making this claim, I think the charge is mistaken; the Bible does not support slavery.

This claim was refuted by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, one of the founding texts of contemporary liberal political theory…

Locke’s argument here is as follows,

[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”

[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”

The conclusion Locke draws from [1] and [2] is that the institution scripture refers to is not slavery. Locke’s response here is interesting and fundamentally correct.

Similarly, Christian apologist Glenn Miller argues in Part One of his essay “Does God condone slavery in the Bible?” that the “slaves” in the Old Testament – even the foreign slaves – were not chattel slaves. Additionally, he points out that in contrast to the laws of other ancient Near Eastern nations at that time, slaves who fled their owners and came to Israel were not to be returned to their masters, nor were they to be oppressed, but they were to be allowed to live wherever they pleased (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

Regarding slavery in the New Testament, which is discussed in and Part Two of his essay, Miller makes the telling point that “the NT clearly denies the idea that a master ‘owns’ a servant.” That’s hardly a “radically pro-slavery” position. Responding to the popular objection, “Why doesn’t the New Testament command Christian slave owners to free their slaves?” Miller sensibly observes that “we would NOT expect blanket commands to ‘free the slaves’, if for no other reason than that infanticide-rescued infant slaves and aged/infirm/sick slaves would become critically destitute.” In the conclusion to his article, Miller declares that “we cannot correctly accuse the NT of ‘condoning slavery’ in any traditional sense.” Miller’s thoughtful, well-researched articles on Old Testament and New Testament slavery are essential reading for any critic of Biblical morality who wishes to be taken seriously. I wonder if Savage has even heard of Glenn Miller.

Incidentally, is Savage aware that slavery remains legal in the United States to this day, under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constiution, which permits it “as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”?

Savage’s claim that that the Bible orders the stoning of non-virgin brides is highly questionable. Apparently the Jewish scholar Rashi (1040-1105), who was the medieval author of a renowned commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), thought otherwise. Rashi is considered the “father” of all subsequent Jewish commentaries on the Tanakh. According to his commentary on Deuteronomy 22 (see also the explanatory footnote here), the stoning was carried out only if it was confirmed “Through witnesses, and with a pre-warning, that she committed adultery after her marriage,” and not merely that she was not a virgin.

I should add that the death penalty for adultery was rarely carried out, for the simple reason that any capital crime required two or three witnesses, and the witnesses had to be so sure of what they saw that they were willing to “cast the first stone” – that is, initiate the execution (Deuteronomy 17:6-7).

On a practical level, however, Savage’s remarks about Biblical laws that people were executed for breaking is utterly irrelevant, as the Jewish leaders had virtually ceased executing people for infractions of these laws as far back as 2,000 years ago. Standards of evidence required for a capital conviction were extremely high, due to the strong Jewish cultural emphasis on the value of human life. An example of this kind of thinking can be found in the Talmud (Tractate Makkoth I. 7a): “The Sanhedrin which condemns to death one man in seven years is accounted murderous. According to Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaria, it would be a murderous court even if it condemned one man in seventy years. Rabbi Tarphon and Rabbi Akiba assert that if they had been in the Sanhedrin [i.e. when it possessed capital powers] no man would ever have been condemned to death by it.” In the 12th-century, the Jewish legal scholar Maimonides stated that “It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.” (Moses Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot [Book of the Commandments], commentary on Negative Commandment 290, as translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1967.)

Readers can learn more about capital punishment in Judaism here.

Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan describes how the capital punishments listed in the Torah for various acts came to be set aside, in his Handbook of Jewish Thought (Volume II, Moznaim Pub Corporation, 1992, pp. 170-71):

In practice, however, these punishments were almost never invoked, and existed mainly as a deterrent and to indicate the seriousness of the sins for which they were prescribed. The rules of evidence and other safeguards that the Torah provides to protect the accused made it all but impossible to actually invoke these penalties… the system of judicial punishments could become brutal and barbaric unless administered in an atmosphere of the highest morality and piety. When these standards declined among the Jewish people, the Sanhedrin… voluntarily abolished this system of penalties. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

When did this happen, you might ask? Quite a long time ago. The Sanhedrin effectively abolished capital punishment as far back as the first century A.D. (see here and here.)

As for what Christianity says about executing adulterers, I take it that Savage is familiar with the words of Jesus: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

To sum up: neither Judaism nor Christianity advocates executing people for sexual misdemeanors today, and what’s more, they haven’t done so for a long time. So why is Savage flogging a dead horse?

Finally, Savage absurdly equates the Old Testament’s laws on sexual morality with its dietary laws, and he suggests that we can ignore what the Bible says when it condemns various sexual practices as immoral, just as we ignore what it says on eating shellfish. Apparently he hasn’t heard of the Noachide laws – a set of seven moral imperatives, which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – that is, for the entire human race. A short summary of these laws is available here (see also here). The fourth law relates to sexual immorality. None of the laws relate to eating shellfish, although the sixth law prohibits eating meat that was taken from a still-living animal – and by implication, all cruelty to animals. The existence of the Noachide Code is proof that the Jews have always regarded the moral prohibitions in the Bible as more universally binding than the dietary laws.

As a point of interest, the rainbow (pictured above) is the modern-day symbol of the Noachide movement, recalling the rainbow that appeared after Noah’s Flood in the Bible.

I was amused to see P. Z. Myers confidently declare in his recent blog post, Truth will sometimes make you cry (May 1, 2012), that “Zinnia Jones says Savage is right about the Bible, and she’s exactly right.” I think Jones and Myers both need to do some reading.

Quoting Sam Harris on morality

Dan Savage digs an even deeper hole for himself when he quotes the New Atheist philosopher, Sam Harris, on morality:

Sam Harris, in ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’, points out that if the bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced, wrong, slavery. What are the odds that the bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong. One hundred percent.

Sam Harris, you say? Would that be the Dr. Sam Harris who believes it’s OK to deliberately kill an innocent person in order to save the lives of five people? I’m referring, of course, to the famous “Fat Man” case, which goes like this. Imagine that you see a trolley which is about to hit and kill five people. The only way to stop it is to push the fat man in front of you to block the trolley.

Nearly everyone, if you ask them, says it would be wrong to push the fat man. Dr. Harris would push the fat man onto the track. For most of my readers, the evil of the action defended by Sam Harris is self-evident; it needs no further commentary.

To render his view more plausible, Sam Harris likens the action of pushing the fat man onto the track to the famous “Trolley problem”. The error in Harris’ moral reasoning has been identified by an atheist who goes under the pen name of Robephiles, in an article entitled, Sam Harris and the Moral Failure of Science. Robephiles sharply criticizes Harris’ ethical views, and regards them as being “as dangerous as even the most radical religion”:

In one of his speeches Harris mentions the famous “trolley problem.” In one scenario a runaway trolley is on a track and going to run over four people but you can flip a switch and put it on the other track where another person is. In the second scenario you are standing next to a fat man who you can push in front of the trolley to save the four people. In the first case almost everyone says pulling the switch is okay but almost nobody says pushing somebody in front of the trolley is okay. Harris mentions this but doesn’t even have a point. He just says that the two acts are “different” but doesn’t clarify.

If he had bothered to think about it for even a second he would have seen that the first example is collateral damage. There was no malice in the flipping of the switch but it was the act that was necessary to save the four. If the other person was to see the trolley and jump out of the way then their death would not be necessary. In the case of the man being pushed in front of the trolley we are using another human being as a means to an end and that is unacceptable to most of us. (Italics mine – VJT.)

Dr. Harris seems to have no qualms about his choice. He appears to believe that if you don’t see things his way, then you’re simply irrational. Rational, enlightened people would evaluate the morality of such an act by looking at the results produced.

What’s missing from Dr. Harris’ equation? Atheist blogger Robephiles hits the nail on the head: Harris doesn’t regard human beings as “ends in themselves”, properly speaking:

He [Sam Harris] doesn’t see what else is important other than the maximizing of human welfare, so your religious rights don’t matter, your civil rights don’t matter, due process doesn’t matter. Kant claimed that every human being had intrinsic value and an inherent right to be free. Kant thought that it was better to let humans be free to make bad choices than to enslave them in the interest of their well-being. For the last few hundred years civilizations that have lived by these principles have done pretty well.

For Harris, while treating people as “ends in themselves” in everyday life might be a good way to safeguard human well-being in the majority of cases, in the end, overall “human well-being” is the supreme good, and human lives can be sacrificed to protect this greater good.

Readers who would like to know more about what is wrong with Harris’ moral philosophy might like to read an article by Dr. Joseph Bingham entitled, The Science of Bad Philosophy: A Review of Sam Harris’ book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

Dr. Sam Harris clarifies his moral views on some controversial cases here:

Sam Harris clarifies his position on preemptive nuclear war, torture, and killing someone on the basis of their beliefs.

Conclusion

I’d like to say that I don’t want this post to lead to a flame war on Biblical morality. Most Jews and Christians will readily agree that there are passages in the Bible that are deeply troubling, from a moral perspective, and that create genuine difficulties for religious faith. But as Cardinal Newman once observed in part 7 of his Apologia pro Vita Sua, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.” It would be presumptuous to claim that people living today can possibly know how to interpret each and every verse of Biblical books which were written over 2,000 years ago, in a language very different from our own, and it would be foolish to point to an isolated verse as “proof” that the Bible is wrong, when we’re not sure what it means in the first place. I find it ironic that the New Atheists are a lot more certain about what Scripture really means than Jews and Christians are.

And given the human propensity for self-deception, especially on matters sexual, it would also be extremely rash to claim that scientists can know with anything like certainty that some sexual practice that was formerly considered “taboo” is in fact harmless, or even good for you. Scientists don’t know any such thing. The science of psychology is young, and its practitioners are all too human. They have their own set of prejudices. In the meantime, if some people choose to live by the Noachide code, or even the code in Leviticus, they should be free to do so, so long as they leave their fellow citizens alone. As for the education of the young: no State has any right to impose its own brand of morality – permissive, restrictive or otherwise – on children. That’s the job of parents. A State that doesn’t trust parents to tell children what’s right and wrong is a State that parents should not trust.

Just to illustrate how much we still don’t know about sex, I’d like to recommend the following article by Professor Jerry Coyne. Despite the fact that he’s an atheist who denies free will, he has offered a remarkably fair-minded assessment of what scientists do and don’t know about the causes of homosexual behavior in animals and humans, and what ethical conclusions (if any) can be drawn from all this. Here is his article:

Evolution, animals, and gay behavior .

I’d like to close with a comment made over at the Website The Right Scoop, which I think hits the nail on the head:

Fox and Friends had on Rick Tuttle, the teacher of the students who walked out in protest of Dan Savage’s anti-Christian message, who said that he, on behalf of all his students, was offended that he was duped into bringing his students to a seminar that turn out to be little more than a profanity-laced anti-Christian bash-fest. The bullied has effectively become the bully. Tuttle said that it’s his job to protect all of his students from bullying and was more than willing to grant his students leave of the offensive seminar.

“The bullied has effectively become the bully.” That says it all. I hope the anti-bullying activist, Dan Savage, will take these words to heart.

And now, I’m going to go back to writing my article on Methodological Naturalism.

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18 Responses to For the record – a comment on Dan Savage’s latest talk

  1. 1

    Even a lot of LGBT people dislike Savage. Just reading some of the comments on other websites about him, it’s clear he doesn’t speak for all LGBT.

  2. Even a lot of LGBT people dislike Savage. Just reading some of the comments on other websites about him, it’s clear he doesn’t speak for all LGBT.

    That may be true. But I’m reminded of something John C. Wright has said about moderates: they’re irrelevant, precisely because they do nothing.

    Where are the ‘LGBT’ people who are standing up and publicly denouncing Dan Savage? I’ve run into plenty who’ve said “well, he had a point, but I wouldn’t put it that way”. I’ve seen no ‘LGBT’ organizations denouncing what he did. And until that changes, that’s tacit endorsement.

  3. 3

    Locke’s argument here is as follows,

    [1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”

    [2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”

    The conclusion Locke draws from [1] and [2] is that the institution scripture refers to is not slavery. Locke’s response here is interesting and fundamentally correct.

    By that same logic, the United States didn’t have slavery.

    As horrid as it was, slave-masters couldn’t legally kill slaves “when he pleases” (at least by the mid 18th century. There may have been times and places in America before then that things were different). There were laws on the punishments slaves could receive and under what circumstances, how many hours a day they could be made to work, and for when capital punishment was permissible.

    This is why even Jefferson, who was not too fond of slavery (despite owning slaves), argued in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” that: “We know that among the Romans, about the Augustan age especially, the condition of their slaves was much more deplorable than that of the blacks on the continent of America.”
    (Note that I think Jefferson was probably wrong on this. I’m only pointing out that there were laws giving slaves rights in the US – as paltry as the rights were.)

    The Bible was often used as a guide for how to treat slaves in the US (see, for instance, the writings of Dr. Cartwright).

  4. 4

    Its not origin stuff and wow all those kids left.
    Saying the bible is ….. is saying the personal beliefs and identity of bible believers etc is also ….. .

    the bible is the word of god and criticism of it is old hat.

    Yes homosexuality is immoral, wrong, repulsive and should be opposed in society.
    The only thing is that in a mutually held nation people must get along and agree to disagree.
    Things can be worked out but right now the left wing is imposing a homosexual acceptance on the nations.
    This must be stopped and territory taken back.

    By the way slavery in the bible is a minor matter in human relationships.
    Its not evil though unloving.
    Its trivial and didn’t affect people more badly then a bad boss otherwise.

    slavery opposition or proposition in america was about identity.
    Thats what bothered people more.
    People saw black slavery as not so bad as slavery otherwise because they were seen as a primitive African people.
    likewise people opposed slavery then and now most passionately because this was the reason behind slavery. the denal of equal dignity as humans.
    Just like today the fetus is denied equal dignity with born kids.

    In either case slavery was only evil if the slave was treated wrong relative to Gods or mans moral laws.
    The slavery is undesriable but not that big a moral deal.
    its these people trying to teach the bible what matters more morally.
    ain’t gonna work.

  5. It is also important to note that Jesus superceded much of the Old Testament. He said that it was no longer, “an eye for an eye” but “turn the other cheek.” His moral teaching has been admired by Christians and non-christians for thousands of years. Gandhi was a fan, for example. He was a man who gave a LOT of thought into moral living. A lot more than Dan Savage, I think.

    But even in the Old Testament there is much to admire and learn from. “Love thy neighbor” didn’t start with Jesus (except in an ultimate sense). Much of Isaiah and other books in the Old Testament concern helping the poor and widows, dealing fairly and justly with the poor and needy, with honesty, and self restraint (gluttony, drunkenness and sexual immorality). There’s really a lot of great moral teaching.

    By saying this I’m not saying that there is no value in other scriptures, philosophies or traditions.

  6. Slavery is a very complicated issue and the knee-jerk uses to which it is put in the US are atrocious. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of “beer summit” fame, Chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard produced documentaries about Africa for PBS. While peripheral gto the main content of the documentary they also illumine the practice “slavery” in modern Africa. The following transcript with video may be found at PBS.org

    MEN WITH SLABS OF SALT.

    GATES (V.O.): These great slabs of salt are mined deep in the Sahara Desert, far to the north of Timbuktu. The salt is dug by the dark skinned Bella, but the trade is controlled by their traditional masters, the nomadic Tuareg.

    GATES: So he’s from near Timbuktu?

    OUMAR: (MALIAN)

    MAN: Timbuktu.

    OUMAR: Timbuktu.

    GATES: But how come, Oumar, how come he looks different from him? They’re both Tuareg?

    OUMAR: No, this is like … things like that.

    GATES: Is he a slave?

    OUMAR: Yeah.

    GATES: A slave? Ah, I see. So this man owns him?

    OUMAR: Yeah. Like that.

    GATES: So he’s born into slavery?

    OUMAR: Exactly. He’s two or three … father to son, to big father.

    GATES: It’s not illegal?

    OUMAR: It’s traditional.

    GATES: Traditional?

    OUMAR: Yeah, it’s traditional.

    GATES: Mm. Well, my great great grandfather was a slave.

    OUMAR: Yeah, man, now you are an American, now is finished for that. Now for these people it’s traditional. Everything he have to do, he have to going to ask a friend, you have to ask …

    GATES: You have to ask …

    OUMAR: … he have to say do that and don’t do that, and things like that.

    GATES: So does he pay him or …

    OUMAR: Yeah, he’s paying him too.

    GATES: He pays him too. But this man, if he wanted to quit and work on the river he couldn’t do that, unless he said yes?

    OUMAR: Sometime he can say yes, sometime he can say no.

    GATES: Hm-mm. And the Bella people, no rebellion, they never wanna fight the Tuareg?

    http://www.pbs.org/wonders/fr_e5.htm
    OUMAR: No, no.

    GATES: No.

    OUMAR: He like that.

    GATES: They like it?

    OUMAR: Yeah, for …

    GATES: Yeah, they used to say that about Black American slaves. (LAUGHS)

  7. 8

    In either case slavery was only evil if the slave was treated wrong relative to Gods or mans moral laws.
    The slavery is undesriable but not that big a moral deal.

    …aaaaand right here in this thread we see how Biblical literalism can lead someone astray on slavery. As happened in the South, where lots of the religious establishment was pro-slavery, and thought, and said and argued, that the text of the Bible supported them.

    What do you think was the origin of the Southern Baptist denomination, after all?

  8. Nick,

    The bible does have a slavery problem, but it’s more a problem of neglect than actually teaching that slavery is good. Indeed, under the law of Moses, every 50 years or so, all slaves were freed so that Israel would have no slaves for at least a year or so. That’s at least some indication that the ancient Israelites had a notion that slavery was morally wrong. I think that mostly biblical writers skirted the issue and just didn’t want to make waves.

    The Old Testament does have rules about treating servants well and the prophets testified that Jehovah was angry with those who mistreated the poor, downtrodden and weak. This surely included slaves.

  9. Dr Nick Matzke (late of NCSE):

    Please, tell me: do you have a tin ear or are you so caught up in the bitterness of your ideology that you do not know when you are going too far, a point where you are liable to set off a conflagration that you cannot control?

    I had no intention of commenting in this thread, but I, too need to say something for record, for you and your ilk at NCSE and those of your new atheist young turks who run hate sites in the penumbra of UD and who lurk and tank up on venom in other fever swamps to hear.

    Let me say something about myself before proceeding further.

    I am of Afro Scot, Indian and Irish ancestry, from Jamaica [a land which has three baptist Christian leaders among its national heroes, all martyrs;and you need to remember that it was Bible-believing Christians, standing on plain biblical principles, who were in the forefront of the movement to abolish the slave trade and to emancipate slaves -- one can always twist the Bible or any other source like the US Constitution and DOI into pretzels to serve ideological agendas, but the follies and fallacies involved will tell in the end].

    The blood of one of those martyrs, whose name I bear, flows in my veins. The blood of a man who was kangaroo courted and hanged by an idiotic toff and colonial governor when the explosion my Grandma’s great uncle warned against and tried to head off by warning an Assembly that was full of tin-eared idiots too full of themselves to listen, happened. Happened because in a time of drought and famine two men from Stony Gut were abused by a court in Morant Bay. And, an idiot of a Custos had the militia shoot at the protesting peasants. No wonder, they destroyed the court house with him in it.

    That is what comes of spreading the sort of poison that this idiot who tried to viciously lampoon the Bible did, if it is left unchecked. Your side just does not seem to realise that it is clutching an asp to its bosom when it does the sort of folly that prof Dawkins, retd., just did by appearing on a stage with Aiden.

    And instead of seeing the folly involved, you are trying to back this venom-tongued idiot up.

    If you had the sense God gave a pigeon, you would pause right now and reread, very carefully, what Dr Torley has written. And, right after that, I suggest that you read and ponder the following excerpt from Professor Bernard Lewis, in his epochal article on The Roots of Muslim Rage, very carefully indeed, so that you may begin to get a glimpse of the hard earned wisdom that speaks in the voice of a man from a people who have suffered almost as much as my own, and who offers himself up as a representative of those who more often than not have been the oppressors of his people:

    . . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty — not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . .

    In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.

    When you come to the place where you can understand the moral hazard of being a finite, fallible, fallen, too often ill-willed human, perhaps, then you will have earned the right to be heard on the subject you have taken up — even as you have ducked and dodged at every turn, for weeks, where you have had to be corrected.

    Until that day, you have nothing to say that is worth listening to, only correcting so that the poison you spew will hopefully not do as much harm as otherwise.

    Good day, Dr Nick Matzke, late of the US NCSE.

    And, if you refuse to learn, then understand that which I have a right to cry:

    Bydand

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Those who genuinely wish to address concerns on the sins of Christendom, may find the 101 level remarks here on helpful, and these here on will help us understand the contribution of the Bible-rooted Christian faith that Dr Matzke so despises that he can only spew venom on it, to the rise of modern liberty and democracy. (Cf here, on slavery.) One hopes there are enough wiser heads on his side to understand that if ever they succeed in undermining the Christian faith in our civilisation at large, they will carry forth a play that will make the ones that played out in France, Germany and Russia over the past 230 years look like school pranks. If you doubt me, go read Heine’s warning to Germany on the matches they were playing with, in the 1830′s — yes, a full hundred years before the bitter demonic fruit were reaped.

  10. 11

    KF,

    Your personal history is fascinating, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Bible as written is weak on slavery (as even pro-creationism/ID people in this thread have admitted; heck, one of the young-earth creationists seems to be pro-slavery) and that, as a matter of documented history, many in the South defended slavery on Biblical grounds.

    No less than the leading evanglical historian of American Christianity, Mark Noll, has written on this in detail:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O.....y_question

    Origins of the American Civil War

    Subsection: Religious conflict over the slavery question

    Led by Mark Noll, a body of scholarship[51][52][53] has highlighted the fact that the American debate over slavery became a shooting war in part because the two sides reached diametrically opposite conclusions based on reading the same authoritative source of guidance on moral questions: the King James Version of the Bible.

    After the American Revolution and the disestablishment of government-sponsored churches, the U.S. experienced the Second Great Awakening, a massive Protestant revival. Without centralized church authorities, American Protestantism was heavily reliant on the Bible, which was read in the standard 19th-century Reformed hermeneutic of “common sense”, literal interpretation as if the Bible were speaking directly about the modern American situation instead of events that occurred in a much different context, millennia ago.[51] By the mid-19th century this form of religion and Bible interpretation had become a dominant strand in American religious, moral and political discourse, almost serving as a de facto state religion.[51]

    The problem that this caused for resolving the slavery question was that the Bible, interpreted under these assumptions, seemed to clearly suggest that slavery was Biblically justified:[51]

    The pro-slavery South could point to slaveholding by the godly patriarch Abraham (Gen 12:5; 14:14; 24:35-36; 26:13-14), a practice that was later incorporated into Israelite national law (Lev 25:44-46). It was never denounced by Jesus, who made slavery a model of discipleship (Mk 10:44). The Apostle Paul supported slavery, counseling obedience to earthly masters (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-25) as a duty in agreement with “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness” (1 Tim 6:3). Because slaves were to remain in their present state unless they could win their freedom (1 Cor 7:20-24), he sent the fugitive slave Onesimus back to his owner Philemon (Phlm 10-20). The abolitionist north had a difficult time matching the pro-slavery south passage for passage. [...] Professor Eugene Genovese, who has studied these biblical debates over slavery in minute detail, concludes that the pro-slavery faction clearly emerged victorious over the abolitionists except for one specious argument based on the so-called Curse of Ham (Gen 9:18-27). For our purposes, it is important to realize that the South won this crucial contest with the North by using the prevailing hermeneutic, or method of interpretation, on which both sides agreed. So decisive was its triumph that the South mounted a vigorous counterattack on the abolitionists as infidels who had abandoned the plain words of Scripture for the secular ideology of the Enlightenment.[54]

    Protestant churches in the U.S., unable to agree on what God’s Word said about slavery, ended up with schisms between Northern and Southern branches: the Methodists in 1844,[55] the Baptists in 1845,[56] and the Presbyterians in 1857.[57][58] These splits presaged the subsequent split in the nation: “The churches played a major role in the dividing of the nation, and it is probably true that it was the splits in the churches which made a final split of the national inevitable.”[59] The conflict over how to interpret the Bible was central:

    The theological crisis occasioned by reasoning like [conservative Presbyterian theologian James H.] Thornwell’s was acute. Many Northern Bible-readers and not a few in the South felt that slavery was evil. They somehow knew the Bible supported them in that feeling. Yet when it came to using the Bible as it had been used with such success to evangelize and civilize the United States, the sacred page was snatched out of their hands. Trust in the Bible and reliance upon a Reformed, literal hermeneutic had created a crisis that only bullets, not arguments, could resolve.[60]

    The result:

    The question of the Bible and slavery in the era of the Civil War was never a simple question. The issue involved the American expression of a Reformed literal hermeneutic, the failure of hermeneutical alternatives to gain cultural authority, and the exercise of deeply entrenched intuitive racism, as well as the presence of Scripture as an authoritative religious book and slavery as an inherited social-economic relationship. The North– forced to fight on unfriendly terrain that it had helped to create– lost the exegetical war. The South certainly lost the shooting war. But constructive orthodox theology was the major loser when American believers allowed bullets instead of hermeneutical self-consciousness to determine what the Bible said about slavery. For the history of theology in America, the great tragedy of the Civil War is that the most persuasive theologians were the Rev. Drs. William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.[61]

    There were many causes of the Civil War, but the religious conflict, almost unimaginable in modern America, cut very deep at the time. Noll and others highlight the significance of the religion issue for the famous phrase in Lincoln’s second inaugural: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

    [...]

    51. a b c d Noll, Mark A. (2002). America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. Oxford University Press. pp. 640.

    52. Noll, Mark A. (2006). The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. UNC Press. pp. 216.

    53. Noll, Mark A. (2002). The US Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South. Oxford University Press. pp. 640.

    54. Hull, William E. (February 2003). “Learning the Lessons of Slavery”. Christian Ethics Today 9 (43). Retrieved 2007-12-19.

    55. Methodist Episcopal Church, South

    56. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....irth_pains

    57. Presbyterian Church in the United States

    58. Gaustad, Edwin S. (1982). A Documentary History of Religion in America to the Civil War. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. pp. 491–502.

    59. Johnson, Paul (1976). History of Christianity. Simon & Schuster. pp. 438.

    60. Noll, Mark A. (2002). America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. Oxford University Press. pp. 399–400.

    It wasn’t just the Southern Baptists. The southern Methodists and the southern Presbyterians also split and set up new pro-slavery denominations, well before the Civil War.

  11. 12

    Mr Matzke.
    I’m not for slavery and my fellow evangelicals were the origin of active opposition to slavery in the Anglo-American world.
    Evangelical and general Christianity was the reason why slavery was seen as wrong and finally to be ended.
    Otherwise it was natural for people to slave people especially very inferior peoples once regular people couldn’t be slaved.

    Slavery in the south had church support but it wasn’t evangelical support.
    They would be like those liberal churches today who support abortion.

    I understand the southern Baptist only segregated from Northern baptists because of the slavery issue.
    Yet it was Christian morality that alone in the world saw slavery as wrong for deeper reasons of dignity and love.

    I don’t see slavery was evil in the south or in the ancient world.
    Nobody did and this because it wasn’t.
    Wrong and undesriable but not evil or a big moral deal.
    Slaves were usually foreigners and as long as not treated badly as in natural rights of life and limb it was not seen as wrong.

    slavery is not a big deal in human injustice. Its trivial.
    I don’t want to be a slave but I don’t want to be beat up which would be worse.
    Slavery is being said to be evil for deepwer issues of pride or freedom or spirtuality.
    In reality slavery itself was a minor wrong unless it was used to do bigger wrongs to the slave.
    I don’t see southern slavery or bible slavery as evil or on the top twenty problems of society.
    Yet I don’t want and see it as immoral.
    Slavery opposition in modern times is largely a complaint about the African inferiority justification.
    In movies about Roman days the story seldom cares about slavery despite being a story of right and wrong.
    It was just unpaid work and restricted movement and freedom like experienced by kids.
    dignity issue but not evilness.

    The bible rightly is not interested in slavery opposition.
    God has bigger things to deal with.

  12. Mr. Madzke
    Humans practice slavery, and they will excuse that practice with whatever means they have at hand. The Bible allows for this human failing, mitigating the worst abuses by delimiting its practice. Slavery has been practiced, and is still practiced by human beings both with and without the Bible. It is practiced by Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Africans, Moslems, Hindus, etc. The only culture which has ever made a concerted effort to end the practice is Christendom.

    As you point out, “as even pro-creationism/ID people in this thread have admitted” we are to confess our shortcomings and repent of our failings – to take the plank out of our own eye before commenting on the speck in our brother’s eye – so rather than pretend perfection we admit our shortcomings and work to overcome them.

    No doubt you have no shortcomings and your peers on the atheistic side of the fence have never transgressed any moral boundary. I suppose it helps that naturalism admits of no moral boundary to transgress, there are only means to an end and it is the end that is important, not the means. So you are free to sit in self-righteous judgement on the morality of Christendom without acknowledging any lack on the part of you and your peers.

    There is a reason why science, human rights, liberalism, and freedom arose only in the West, and it owes nothing to the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. These concepts are intrinsic to the Bible and without it they likely would not have risen. These facts have been recognized by theist and atheist both. The apostacy of modernism has removed the foundation for all of them. We tolerate, even excuse, and in some cases, applaud, the destruction of Western civilization because it means the destruction of Christendom. But I ask, with what will you replace it?

  13. Mr Matzke (late of NCSE):

    It is sadly revealing, that — having been cautioned — you insist on tin-eared willful agenda-pushing, spewing one-sided, loaded talking points in the face of easily accessible evidence and fairly direct warnings on the kind of conflagation that has been set off three times in the past 230 years by the kind of matches you insist on playing with.

    __________

    F/N: Did you pause to think that men like George Liele and William Knibb were Baptists, and why the powers that be tried to silence the first and to hang the second and his colleagues on false accusation of instigation of rebellion [I need not revisit the kangaroo court that did hang my Grandma's Great uncle later on, for standing up for peasants under hardship and oppression a generation later . . . ], or why it was from the Baptist Missionary Society meeting in London that the latter launched his campaign to expose slavery — evils lurk and thrive in the shadows — by publicly swearing to walk the length and breadth of England to “make the Christian people of England know what their BRETHEREN in Jamaica were suffering”?

    That, such men and the apostles and prophets they followed might just be taking the regulating the hardness of heart principle in Malachi 2:16 and as explained by Jesus in Matt 19:1 – 9 seriously?

    That, they understood the force of the teaching by key example in Paul’s epistle to Philemon — just one page worth of reading, FYI — and understood the balance of power and hardness of hearts leading to en-darkening of minds and destructive, abusive lifestyles they faced a little better than today’s angry atheists?

    As in, there is a reason why the founder of the Christian faith was crucified by a kangaroo court that first found him innocent then sent him to die then washed its hands of the affair, and why the vast majority of the apostles died as martyrs at the hands of corrupt, hard-hearted elites and the mobs they stirred up.

    That, certainly in the British Empire, the Bible-wielding dissenters succeeded without triggering a major and bloody civil war?

    Does that not tell you that we need to learn from history why — repeatedly — reformation setting a context for transformation works, but that radical, rage-driven rebellion and revolution usually ends up in rivers of blood? Did it ever dawn on you that there was a reason why the Anglican based, establishment supporting Colonial Church Union took occasion of the slave uprising of 1831 to burn to the ground fifteen dissenter slave and freedman chapels?

    That, when word of this reached England in May 1832, as a feature of the Governor’s report on the slave uprising, in the context of Knibb’s campaign, and in the face of the political instability in England, it was finally deemed necessary to toss the hitherto dominant, well-heeled West India Interest overboard? Did it ever register with you why it was that the slave population of Jamaica on the night when the first phase of emancipation was to begin, August 1st 1834 — Christian and animist alike — crowded into the Dissenter chapels?

    Or, why it was that the same William Knibb — standing at the pulpit in Falmouth, Trelawney, counted down the seconds to midnight at the beginning of that famous August morning, saying that the monster was dying; then at midnight announced in triumph that it was dead?

    I see that, never mind the cogency of what was just summarised, you have impatiently and closed mindedly brushed aside highly relevant history, personal, national and general, simply because it is in the way of your cued-up toxic talking points that will poison, polarise and mislead the ill-informed.

    I must ask: is that what the NCSE taught you to do? Thanks for letting us know, from your clearly habitual patterns of argument.

    Of course, as was already pointed out, it was possible to construct ever so clever theological rationales for supporting slavery in a climate that was full of that ideology.

    Just as, it is possible to excuse greed and the like by wrenching Bible verses out of context today, and just as it is possible to try to twist Biblical sexual morality into pretzels today. In every such case the error is revealed by how it ends in fallacies and heresies that violate fundamental principles of the scriptures.

    But, one of the things about such errors, is that — once they are seriously challenged by those who know their onions — they cannot stand by themselves on a level playing field.

    That is why they so often seek to subvert civil power to prop up evil, and/or to stir up mindless, rage-driven mobs; whether as vigilantes or as revolutionaries makes but little difference. Do you see why it is that the US founding fathers, in the 1st Amdt to the Constitution, under pressure from the dissenters, adapted the settlement of Westphalia that local [but not federal] powers could establish religious institutions, but could not block freedom of conscience and worship, assembly, expression and the press?

    Let me clip a bit on now too often ignored or suppressed US history here:

    Abolitionists

    In U.S. history, particularly in the three decades before the Civil War, members of the movement that agitated for the compulsory emancipation of the slaves. Abolitionists are distinguished from free-soilers, who opposed the further extension of slavery, but the groups came to act together politically and otherwise in the antislavery cause. The abolitionist movement was one of high moral purpose and courage; its uncompromising temper made the slavery question the prime concern of national politics and hastened the demise of slavery in the United States.

    Evangelical Influences

    Although antislavery sentiment had existed during the American Revolution, and abolitionist Benjamin Lundy began his work early in the 19th century, the abolition movement did not reach crusading proportions until the 1830s. One of its mainsprings was the growing influence of evangelical religion, with its religious fervor, its moral urgency to end sinful practices, and its vision of human perfection. The preaching of Lyman Beecher and Nathaniel Taylor in New England and the religious revivals that began in W New York state in 1824 under Charles G. Finney and swept much of the North, created a powerful impulse toward social reform—emancipation of the slaves as well as temperance, foreign missions, and women’s rights. Outstanding among Charles Finney’s converts were Theodore D. Weld and the brothers Arthur Tappan and Lewis Tappan.

    The Antislavery Movement

    The Tappan brothers and William Lloyd Garrison, who began publishing an abolitionist journal, The Liberator, in 1831, were the principal organizers in Dec., 1833, at Philadelphia, of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The primary concern of the society was the denunciation of slavery as a moral evil; its members called for immediate action to free the slaves. In 1835 the society launched a massive propaganda campaign. It flooded the slave states with abolitionist literature, sent agents throughout the North to organize state and local antislavery societies, and poured petitions into Congress demanding the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

    The abolitionists were at first widely denounced and abused. Mobs attacked them in the North; Southerners burned antislavery pamphlets and in some areas excluded them from the mails; and Congress imposed the gag rule to avoid considering their petitions. These actions, and the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in 1837, led many to fear for their constitutional rights. Abolitionists shrewdly exploited these fears and antislavery sentiment spread rapidly in the North. By 1838, more than 1,350 antislavery societies existed with almost 250,000 members, including many women . . . .

    An antislavery lobby was organized in 1842, and its influence grew under Weld’s able direction. Abolitionists hoped to convert the South through the churches, until the withdrawal of Southern Methodists (1844) and Baptists (1845) from association with their Northern brethren. After the demise of the Liberty party, the political abolitionists supported the Free-Soil party in 1848 and 1852, and in 1856 they voted with the Republican party.

    The passage of more stringent fugitive slave laws in 1850 increased abolitionist activity on the Underground Railroad. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, became an effective piece of abolitionist propaganda, and the Kansas question further aroused both North and South. The culminating act of extreme abolitionism occurred in the raid of John Brown on Harpers Ferry. After the opening of the Civil War insistent abolitionist demands for immediate freeing of the slaves, supported by radical Republicans in Congress, pushed President Lincoln in his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

    That does not sound to me like the advocates of slavery had the best of the Biblical, theological and moral issues. never mind who may have been able to play power games to entrench error.

    The story of Martin Luther before the Diet of Wurms should suffice to tell us all that that is an old story. At least, the Southern Baptists have had the decency at length to formally apologise and repent, expressing this through institutional reforms. That, too, does not at all sound like, once they had cooled down, they thought the balance of the scriptures was in favour of slavery and abuse! (Similar to what happened in the end with the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa.)

    And, plainly, if you already are brushing aside simple cautions, it is patent that so long as you remain in that mood, you are not going to take time to ponder a more balanced, detailed survey of issues. That is why I spoke for record, as a test.

    Right now, and pardon directness: you are failing that test.

    You also show no signs of having seriously read or thought through the original post for this thread, or the onward linked discussion of slavery etc, or of having pondered prof Lewis’ pivotal point, or even of having thought about the previously linked on the sins and blessings of Christendom.

    Maybe, then, you need to consider the following all too apt summary of Mr Savage’s boorish and bullying behaviour at a conference against bullying in schools, especially as that is what you are allying yourself to in this thread by your pattern of argument:

    Author, alleged journalist and “gay-rights” activist Savage attended a high school journalism convention, pushing what he claims is his “anti-bullying” program. Savage’s idea of fighting bullying is apparently to bully, hector and insult the only religious group one may still attack with impunity in the United States: Christians.

    Savage’s tirade about the ills of Christianity was so offensive, so laced with profanity and so aggressive that it prompted a hundred teenagers to walk out of the convention. Savage responded childishly by further insulting those who left. He has since whined that he has the right to “defend” himself. Just how vehemently insulting a group of teenagers accomplishes this goal, or furthers the lofty ideal of preventing and combatting bullying, is not clear . . .

    Do you really want to stand shoulder to shoulder with such?

    Even, as Prof Dawkins (ret’d) recently — just over a month ago — stood on stage with a band such as Aiden, notorious for its venomous filth?

    Such, even, as you continue to be conspicuously missing in action when it comes to correcting your gross misunderstanding of the nature of inductive generalisation and its limits. (That highlights a thread running through your agenda: evident, rage-filled hostility to the God of the Bible, and a strong tendency to strawmannise, stereotype, scapegoat and demonise.)

    Let me pause to cite Heine’s warning to Germany on the price to be paid for breaking the subduing talisaman of the cross:

    Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [--> the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

    The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. …

    … Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

    At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [--> cf. air warfare, symbol of the USA], and lions in farthest Africa [--> the lion is a key symbol of Britain, cf. also the North African campaigns] will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll. [Religion and Philosophy in Germany, 1831. Cf discussion here.]

    Do you really, really, really want to play with matches like that? if so, it is time for the firemen to show up, high-capacity hoses in hand.

    Bydand

    GEM of TKI

  14. F/N: In order to see the significance of the strategy of the softened heart through repentance, renewal and revival leading to reformation (cf the above clip on the social locus of the Abolitionist movement in the USA); let us look at and briefly annotate Paul’s Epistle to Philemon concerning the escaped slave Onesimus [who may well have stolen something from his master in fleeing], who is reported to have later been Bishop of Ephesus:

    __________

    >> Philemon 1

    English Standard Version (ESV)
    Greeting

    1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

    To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

    3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    [a --> Establishes a context of fraternity, mutuality and fundamental equality in the image of God, in the redemptive grace of God]

    Philemon’s Love and Faith

    4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.[a] 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

    [b --> Reminds Philemon of the good path that he began, and now is going to need to build on]

    Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

    8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,[b] whose father I became in my imprisonment.

    [c --> I have power to command, based on personal obligations you hold and loyalties, but that will not deal with the heart issue, so I move to the platform of love and the brotherhood of men in God by creation and redemption]

    [d --> Onesimus, BTW, means, useful or beneficial, so Paul is about to use the issue of a prophetic name as a rhetorical pivot]

    11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.

    [e --> He is going to the heart of the issue: do you see that this is one who is of like flesh and blood, family and redemption with us? How, then can you stand on the legal points of that which was regulated because of the hardness of men's hearts, lest it be even worse? Recall: I hate divorce, but for the hardness of men's hearts, regulate it lest it be even worse. Then, as hearts are softened by the gospel, I call for a different level.]

    [f --> Remember, too, this is going to have to pass the censors, for a prisoner who is perpetually chained to a soldier, and is on trial for his life, before those who would pounce on any excuse of promoting slave uprising or harbouring runaways to gleefully pronounce a death penalty.]

    13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

    [g --> Paul goes for the heart.]

    15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant[c] but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

    [h --> He asks for manumission, and sets it in the context of fundamental equality in God by both creation and redemption.]

    [i --> Remember, this is the apostle to the gentiles, dealing with a field problem when he judged the time ripe to do so, a kairos of God where he had the hears softened enough to address the issue, even hampered by the watching censors for a prisoner on trial for his life. And at this pivot of history he speaks in the name of fundamental equality and directly implies that liberty is the right of those who are equals in God.]

    [j --> No show of learning and/or of alleged theological erudition and/or of clever rhetoric and legalistic point scoring can ever suffice to erase this. And, given that it is self-evidently true that en are equal by creation and thus nature, this principle extends without limit to the human race. The problem is not the principle, but the hardness of our hearts.]

    17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.

    [k --> Remember, the one to whom Philemon in ANE culture, owes his all.]

    18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

    [l --> Paul offers compensation for any losses.]

    19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

    [m --> Paul explicitly appeals to the cultural norm of a debt of honour of Philemon to Paul. And, multiplies it by the principles of brotherhood and redemption plus duties of mutual support and encouragement in Christ.]

    [n --> To reinforce this, he does not use an amanuensis at this point, but as the one who holds authority, writes in his own hand. One can see Timothy coming over and handing the pen to a man manacled to a Roman soldier in armour, sword at his side. This is a statement of Paul's theological will and legal stance.]

    21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

    [o --> Paul here hints that his confidence is that Philemon's heart has been softened through the gospel allowing him to see the light of the message of brotherhood, equality and right to be free.]

    22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

    [p --> Paul thus implicitly dates this letter as being of his first imprisonment in Rome, and that this is c 62 AD. In this context, he is saying that he expects to be set free and he is coming, expecting to follow his son Onesimus, and expects that his heart will be refreshed. Indeed, Onesimus is clearly the messenger sent with the letter, which obviously is also a subtle announcement that the trial before Burrus is expected to go well. Which, evidently it did.]

    Final Greetings

    23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

    25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

    Footnotes:

    Philemon 1:6 Or for Christ’s service
    Philemon 1:10 Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)
    Philemon 1:16 Or slave; twice in this verse (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)>>

    ___________

    Do you see how this is the plain pivot of the NT teaching on slavery, and how this extends immediately to any number of real abuses in times and places?

    Do you understand why reform based on softened hearts is the better path to abolition of grave social injustices, and that in the meantime, if ameliorative and restraining measures can be got through, they should?

    Also, do you see why any attempted justification of this particular abuse as supported by the Bible MUST be fallacious and will founder on the many pivotal principles of Christian theology that it must ignore or pervert?

    Do you also see why I am incensed to see the sort of toxic rubbish that Mr Savage stood up to spew out in the name of objecting to bullying in schools?

    Mr Matzke, I do not want to hear from you any more of the sort of toxic, ill-informed, tendentious and atmosphere-poisoning talking points like those we have seen above in this thread.

    Good day, sir.

    Bydand,

    GEM of TKI

  15. 16

    Mr Matzke, I do not want to hear from you any more of the sort of toxic, ill-informed, tendentious and atmosphere-poisoning talking points like those we have seen above in this thread.

    So, you think that quoting esteemed historians, evangelicals even, who are experts on the issue of slavery and religion and the Civil War, amounts to “toxic, ill-informed, tendentious and atmosphere-poisoning talking points” will eventually lead to some kind of Nazi-like takeover of the U.S.? Interesting.

    At least, the Southern Baptists have had the decency at length to formally apologise and repent, expressing this through institutional reforms. That, too, does not at all sound like, once they had cooled down, they thought the balance of the scriptures was in favour of slavery and abuse! (Similar to what happened in the end with the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa.)

    All it took was hundreds of thousands dead in the Civil War, then, let’s see, 130 years to get around to apologizing (which they finally did only in 1995). On this issue, this denomination trailed “secular” opinion in a deplorable way.

    This from one of the most outspokenly Biblicist, literalist, conservative denominations out there (and, I think, it is the biggest Protestant denomination in the U.S.).

    I’m not trying to argue that the Bible or Christianity is all wrong or pure evil or whatever. I’m just pointing out the record is decidely mixed. Which supports the idea that we need to exercise independent moral judgment which will sometimes disagree with morality derived from Biblical literalism.

  16. Mr Matzke:

    You obviously have paid no significant attention whatsoever to the patent facts from the epistle to Philemon and its easily ascertained context; which is as decisive now as it was 2,000 years ago.

    And, it is precisely this text that overturns any attempt to pretend that the Bible views slavery and similar institutions as anything more than evils, to be ameliorated in the first instance, and once hearts have sufficiently been softened by the ethical principles of the self same gospel and Bible you so patently despise, eliminated.

    This response on your part simply underscores what the challenge to reform has ever been, in the 1400′s BC, in 62 AD, in the 1830′s, as well as today: hardness of hearts that endarkens minds from seeing what would otherwise have been quite plain, even obvious.

    (That murder was resorted to, and church splitting to suppress a voice that obviously could not be soundly answered on the merits, as I excerpted on the history above, speaks volumes on the 1830′s and 40′s in the USA, just as the attempt to hang missionaries and the burning of fifteen dissenter chapels in Jamaica by men acting in the name of the Anglican Colonial Church Union said: yes, men were convinced that slavery was justified (and could trot out twisted readings of the Bible in support), but again, why? In the teeth of the plain message of Philemon, the answer is not pretty and speaks volumes to Lincoln’s sense in his 2nd Inaugural, that every drop of blood unjustly shed by the lash was being matched by a drop drawn by the sword: woe to those by whom offenses come. That,seemingly you will learn from neither an exposition of the text nor the evidence of history placed before your eyes today, equally and equally sadly, speaks volumes.)

    I have already warned you on the matches you seem determined to play with and on those you seem determined to side with as companions- in- arms.

    I need say no more for now, then.

    Bydand

    GEM of TKI

  17. F/N: Onlookers, do you see now one of the main roots of why what should otherwise be obvious concerning the design inference on tested signs of design and its roots in sound inductive logic seems so lost on so many objectors? There, indeed, is none so blind as he who will not see.

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