Can you respond to the claim that the Bible condones slavery, child abuse, misogyny, war and rape-marriage?
I’ve been interacting with a lot of punk rockers on facebook and on occasion one will post something anti religious and I’ve been making some gentle answers. However, I am hoping you can help me with the question below. Do you either have verses for me to cite or some short hand answers for this list of complaints? If it’s not too much trouble, I’d really enjoy it. I know this is right up your alley: “I don’t care what the Bible says about gay people, the Bible condones slavery, child abuse, misogyny, war, and rape-marriages, and should not be considered a “moral guidebook”. And until you actually prove that God even exists, your argument is irrelevant.”
I look forward to whatever your answer is.
First of all, anyone who claims that the Bible condones child abuse, misogyny and rape-marriage is just plain wrong. This person is totally misinformed and unless he/she can show some evidence for these outrageous claims, you will do well to ignore such completely unfounded claims. The other two criticisms do deserve a response. No reasonable person reading the Bible could ever even remotely think that it condones child abuse misogyny or rape. The person making this claim proves nothing but his/her obvious bias or lack of knowledge. However, it is not unreasonable to claim that the Bible “condones” slavery and warfare. Therefore, please forgive me for only replying to the two criticisms which are “reasonable.”
Let me respond to the claim that the Bible “condones” slavery. My response is that the Bible allows for slavery, especially in an ancient world in which it was so prevalent that God decided to limit its harmful effects rather than outlaw it entirely.
- First, let us acknowledge that, on some level, God legislating slavery can be troubling at first glance.
- God accommodated rather than approved slavery.
- All of God’s regulations with regard to slavery were to limit it. (Eph 6:9)
- Slaves could not be bought and sold.
- Humane treatment was legislated in great detail. Deuteronomy 23:15, Leviticus 25:14
- All slaves were eventually given their freedom at the Jubilee year. In fact, “slavery” in the Old Testament was more like indentured servanthood than classic slavery.
- God is not concerned with physical slavery nearly so much as spiritual slavery. This is a big issue for us, as it should be, but for the Jews, God was more concerned with the spiritual welfare of people, including those held as slaves in Israel.
- Nevertheless, Paul asked Philemon to free his slave Onesimus in an inspired passage through which it is clear that Christianity, as a religion, may condone slavery in certain situations, it never supports or encourages it.
- William Wilberforce. It was Christian influence which ended the slave trade world wide. It is a fact of history that if it were not for Christianity, slavery would be rampant across the entire world.
God does not ever condone or encourage slavery in the Bible, but instead he accommodates it and provides very strict regulations preventing its abuses in the Old Testament, and providing the principles in the New Testament which successfully led to the end of legal human slavery in all nations.
About warfare, this is a more difficult question. Let me copy and paste an outline on this from a class I taught a few years ago. Because God wanted to establish a people of his own through whom he could send the prophets and, later, the Messiah, it was essential that his people have the ability to conquer their territory and to hold that territory against their enemies. This was the reality of the world at that time. God never condoned offensive warfare to take territory outside the Promised Land. He never condoned the Jews raiding their neighbors. He did not allow for torture. Nevertheless, he did allow his people to take their land and defend it. Perhaps we can disagree with God’s plan, but, given his plan to save us, limited warfare was needed. On the other hand, in the New Testament Christian warfare is completely ruled out. Jesus commanded that we love our enemies. Christianity is international and apolitical. Jesus would never condone a Christian making war on believers or unbelievers. Here is the outline:
Claim of the skeptic:
The God of the Old Testament is a sadistic ethnic cleanser.
We have to admit that, on some level, this seems to be a fair charge.
Ex: 1 Samuel 15:2-3 “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amelekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt. Now, go and attach the Amelekites, and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
That is tough stuff!
A few points on the subject:
- If you are not bothered by this on some level, I am worried about you!
- The argument assumes that physical death is bad/evil. This is a false assumption. Sin is evil but death is not. Death is a transition, hopefully, to something better.
- This is the Creator talking here. Like the father said to his kid: I brought you into the world, and I can take you out! God has every right to do as he wills.
- God has a perfect right to judge.
- There is the issue of the religion of the Amelekites. Sacrificing of children, worshipping gods by having sex with a prostitute in the temple, etc.
- The situation for the children in this situation was hopeless.
- In the case of Amelek and other Canaanites, both God’s love and his justice demanded that something be done.
- Either God was going to create a nation or he was not. If God is going to have a “people,” then such people must have a physical land and must have an army.
- God’s plan is to choose a man, then a nation, through whom to send a savior. God’s plan to bless humanity through Jesus trumps all else.
- It is sinful to take the life of another in anger, out of greed or selfishness, but it is not necessarily sinful to take a life in war.
- Everything God did to Israel as a nation was to limit their ability to wage war.
- No authority to establish an empire.
- No standing army allowed.
- No cruelty, no abuse, no rape allowed.
I hope this helps. If your friend can find a scripture to supposedly justify that the Bible condones child abuse or rape, please send me that scripture so that I can respond.