Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Slavery, freedom, and the Bible

I just read an interesting argument for the Biblical condemnation of slavery. (Hat tip: Winds of Change.) It links to a much more comprehensive argument made in 1845. As for the latter, there's some assertions about Greek words that I'm not qualified to evaluate. These assertions amount to the claim that every instance of the word "slave" in the New Testament should really be translated as "servant." I'm very skeptical of this. (Hopefully there will be a follow-up post with some more research on this point.) I think both arguments I linked to above persuasively argue for a Biblical condemnation of slavery as it was practiced in the antebellum South, but not for a universal condemnation of slavery. (Even the 13th Amendment allows convicts to be enslaved.) In Ephesians, the apostle Paul tells Christian owners of slaves to be good and kind masters, but he does not tell them they must free their slaves. Of course, this doesn't mean I don't support the 13th Amendment; it just means I don't think it is a corollary of Christian doctrine.

On a related note, I think a Christian could consistently be a monarchist, for example. Jesus said love your neighbor. He wasn't too specific on how to govern your neighbor. I heartily agree that freedom is God's gift to mankind, and that we should help others become more free. (An atheist can examine human nature to reach a similar conclusion.) However, more specific proposals, like spreading democracy, are for me based on prudential arguments about how freedom can best be promoted. (Moreover, freedom is a complicated thing: for starters, it is not license, and various things we call freedoms often conflict with each other.)

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