Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Chattel slavery

I've been responding to some village atheists over at Brian Godawa's movie blog. For now I won't repost the whole exchange. Rather, I'll confine myself to some "offending" passages of Scripture which they cite. 

steve hays

i) To begin with, you don’t even grasp the nature of a law code. You act as if laws automatically condone whatever they regulate.
However, laws sometimes, or oftentimes, regulate behavior the lawmaker may frown on. However, it’s futile to outlaw some kinds of conduct, because the ban would be unenforcible. Indeed, some prohibitions backfire by creating a new criminal underclass to supply the banned goods and services.
By contrast, regulating certain kinds of conduct may be more enforceable, and it mitigates the worst abuses.
Likewise, outlawing every evil creates a new evil–the evil of a totalitarian state. So some laws settle for the lesser evil principle.
Laws are often compromises in that respect. Is that a novel notion to you?
ii) Regarding Lev 24:44-46: Israel was in no position to prohibit surrounding nations from selling slaves. They’d be sold to someone or another regardless. It’s a question of whether they will be sold to pagans or Jews.
They are better off with Jewish masters, inasmuch as slaves enjoyed some legal protections under the Mosaic law code.
ii) Exod 21:20-21 is the opposite of chattel slavery. The master is liable to punishment if he abuses the slave. In context, he may well be subject to the death penalty. The passage you quote is a deterrent to abusive behavior. It puts the master in legal jeopardy.
iii)The ear-piercing ceremony has reference to voluntary enslavement. That’s the opposite of chattel slavery. Are you oblivious to the context? Are you copy/pasting quote-minded verses from some village atheist website? Is that your problem?
iv) Exod 21:7-11 is the opposite of chattel slavery. She has civil rights.
Moreover, the background for that passage presumes a situation in which a father has too many children to support. He lacks the financial wherewithal to feed them all.
The alternative to “slavery” is starvation. Are you oblivious to subsistence conditions in the ancient Near East? Selling minors into conditional slavery was better than death by malnutrition.
Furthermore, she’s not sold to foreigners. The master must be very careful how he cares for her, because her father and brothers are in a position to monitor her treatment and exact revenge if their family member is dishonored. Are you unaware of that honor code?
v) As for Eph 6:5, what do you expect Paul to say? Should he incite Christian slaves to defy their Roman masters? What do you think happened to insubordinate slaves under Roman law? Did you even bother to think that far?

This is how runaway slaves might be punished under Roman law: “He could be scourged branded, mutilated, or fitted with a metal collar, perhaps even be crucified, thrown to beasts, or killed. J. Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon (Doubleday 2000), 28.
steve hays
The Mosaic law contains provisions for indentured service. You simplemindedly reduce everything to “slavery.”
The OT doesn’t have chattel slavery. Slaves were never mere property of the master, to dispose of as he sees fit. He wields absolute power over his property.
By contrast, OT “slavery” was never chattel slavery. “Slaves,” “indentured servants,” &c. had certain rights and protections.
In the case of indentured service, it was contractual. LIke enlisting in the army. If you enlist in the army, you forfeit certain freedoms you had as a civilian in exchange for the compensatory benefits. You trade freedom for security.
steve hays
“I am laughing so hard right now I can barely type…”
Because you can’t rebut my arguments, you gesticulate and make funny faces. I appreciate your dilemma.
“I stop at a foundation that can be demonstrated to exist. That’s not ad nauseam. People exist…Until we get to you what you demand there to be. (ad hoc).”
Since you don’t understand the nature of explanation or the onus of your own claim, I’ll have to walk you through it.
You are making a claim about objective moral standards. That requires your explanation to terminate with something that is, indeed, an objective moral standard. Unless and until you can do that, you’re left with an infinite regress. Posting an arbitrary stopping point like “your emotions” isn’t an objective moral norm.
Appealing to something that exists is not the same thing as demonstrating that objective moral norms exist. Rocks exist. That’s not a moral norm.
Unlike you, there are secular philosophers who at least understand that distinction. There are secular philosophers who candidly admit that atheism leads to moral fictionalism, relativism, and/or nihilism. You’re not even a sophisticated atheist.
“They have emotions like empathy and compassion”
And they have emotions like envy, hatred, and revenge. Take the Hutu/Tutsi massacres.
“Really? God says it’s ok to beat them and they can even die if they linger and suffer for a few days.”
i) I began by explaining the nature of a law code to you. You blow right past that explanation. Yet you offer no rebuttal.
ii) The fact that laws permit some things doesn’t mean it’s “okay.” It just means penal codes don’t attempt to outlaw all wrongdoing.
iii) Do you just lack reading comprehension? If the slave dies, the master will be punished. In context, that may well be a capital offense.
iv) Laws must also make allowance for what’s provable. It has to be the kind of injury that an ancient Jewish judge would be in a position to attribute to the master. There have to be witnesses. Who threw the first punch?
Penal codes don’t address some forms of wrongdoing because they are unprovable. Is that a novel concept to you?
“Source please?”
The fact that you ask for the source either shows that you lack elementary reading comprehension, or else you didn’t read the full text. Instead, you’re just copy/pasting digests spoonfed to you from some village atheist website.
Go back to the beginning of the chapter [Exod 21]. V2. It deals with the case of an indentured servant. He has a 6-year contract. He’s free after six years of service.
And the end of his 6-year contract, he can indenture himself for life of his own accord. That’s up to him.
In context, it’s unmistakably voluntary. How did you miss that? Are you unable to understand what the text says? Or did you not read the full text because you rely on quote-mined excerpts from a secondhand source?
“Again, Source please?”
You can start with John Currid analysis.
“and on and on. That’s ‘ad hoc’. Yup.”
Calling my explanations “ad hoc” doesn’t make them ad hoc. If you think they’re ad hoc, you need to present a supporting argument to substantiate your classification. Otherwise, your dismissal is unintelligent.

1 comment:

  1. Are you [uncritically] copy/pasting quote-minded verses from some village atheist website?

    Why go against the norm? We all know that in their omniscience and omnipotence atheists know God must have been wrong in sanctioning the Bible's regulated form of slavery, and that it must have been like the worst of the antebellum south.

    Likewise they know that the author of life cannot take it for the better, and allow evil in order to make it work for good, and that based upon the unanchored moral reasoning of atheism, it could never commit the evils it attributes to God in their self-righteous moral rage against Him, as it does not even have a supreme transcendent objective moral standard that defines evil. Morality is what one atheist sees as reasonable.