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Old 06-24-2001, 05:32 PM   #51
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I've got a bit more time now to respond to people. This thread is getting rather confused with several side issues and since there are a very large number of questions/replies/complaints/rants about my position perhaps it would be easier if I clarified my position and where I am coming from first.

For some reason when the average atheist thinks of a "Christian". They are thinking of what I would call a "Fundamentalist". This is someone who believes the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, divinely written "Word of God". This particular belief is actually relatively new in the way of things (ie only a few hundred years old) and probably all things considered would represent by far the minority of all people I would term Christian in today’s world. - I consider anyone who can say the Nicene Creed without pulling too many faces a Christian. Fundamentalists tend I think to be the most prominent because they are the most vocal and controversial (and hence get the most media attention) of all Christians in their beliefs. The traditional (of course a fundamentalist I'm sure would argue that theirs is the traditional one ) belief is that the Bible is "divinely inspired" which is far more (conveniently) vague. God and the Bible have quite a lot to do with each other, but exactly what is less clear. It is recognised that the books in the Bible are written by fallible humans and thus subject to human limitations and flaws.
I align myself with the above traditional position, and I think that the fundamentalists are silly and misguided in their approach.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Can the Christ god err?</font>
I do not believe so.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Does he lack perfection or is god/Christ a perfect being, without sin</font>
I believe he is perfect.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">that guided, through the aide of the Holy Spirit all the writers of the bible?</font>
I do not know exactly. What we term "the Bible" is a collection of diverse writing by many different writers throughout the centuries. I believe the Holy Spirit may have guided writers of the Bible at times, but how often I cannot say. But if you mean (as I suspect you do), "Did God all but use the writers as puppets to write the Bible with?" then my answer is an emphatic "NO". Most of the books in the Bible are written by the authors with the sole purpose of addressing certain issues or answering particular religious or moral questions or their day. I doubt in general (With the possible exception of the Gospels) that the writers had any intention of contributing to "the Bible" or much thought to the eternal significance of their work. Christians however recognise the (eternal) importance and timelessness of these writings and that they cover important, moral, historical and theological issues and so we call these writings canonical. Behind the thoughts, ideas and histories presented in these books we can get a glimpse of God and see his hand moving in creation.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Please clarify your flavor of Christian belief and please provide the denomination you belong to so we may debate this from the proper Christian perspective.</font>
Is there really any such thing as a "proper Christian perspective"? All that needs to be remembered is that the term "Christian" covers quite a diverse range of beliefs and it really does need to be clarified which group is being attacked by any given argument. -eg Don't give me a list of Biblical contradictions and expect me to faint as I realise the follies of my belief any time soon.
Flavour of my beliefs? Just the normal ones . Yes I know everyone says that.
What's outlined in the Nicene Creed pretty much covers most things. With regard to the Bible, some of my position is outlined above. Many conservatives might consider me liberal because I'm quite happy with evolution (at least for animals - I'm not sure about humans but it has nothing to do with the Bible) and would doubt the "literal truth" of much of early Genesis and I have doubts about the historicity of a few events in Matthew. However I tend to be pretty conservative in my beliefs on the authorship of the Bible books.
For most of the beliefs which are controversial within various forms of Christianity, I feel "I don't know" is a good answer and I've annoyed many people for failing to have an opinion. My denomination is Baptist, but I do not put a lot of stock in denomination.

With that in mind, heading back to the argument in this thread:
I do not support the idea of slavery as it would be considered by any modern western person. True many "Christians" may have tried to use the Bible for justification of continuing slavery, but the fact is that the major driving force behind the abolition of slavery was Christian and was the acting out of the true Christian morals.
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength", and that the second greatest one is "Love your neighbour as yourself". Whatever comes from these is the true Christian moral message, and it is these truths on which Christian morality (and hence my definition of morality) is founded.
How do I explain/explain away the Bible's apparent support/non-condemnation of slavery? Well the very first thing that must be recognised is that all ages are not equal. Slavery 2000 years ago differed in many major respects from slavery 200 years ago. This is a basic fact that we must recognise - we may still think that slavery as practiced 2000 years ago was a bad thing (and indeed I do) but we still must make the distinction (as slavery in America entailed things like racism which are completely inapplicable to ancient slavery).
The second thing we must understand is the culture that the Biblical writers lived in. They lived in a world dominated by a system involving slavery, it's what they were brought up in. I have to wonder how many people who would today say "slavery is evil, immoral, unjust... etc" would have said the same if they lived 2000 years ago. So one must understand that the Biblical writers probably took slavery for granted, it was simply how their system of community worked. Living today we are all in support of "freedom of the individual" and "individual rights" and many of us would class anything which opposed these things as the most heinous evil. When we look at a practice that took place in the ancient world and say "that is wrong", do we mean "I personally given the moral opinions of my age and my upbringing think that that is wrong" or "I have knowledge of the ultimate moral standard and judge that to be wrong"?
Throughout history there have been many political systems many of which restricted individual freedom. Feudalistic systems, class systems, dictatorships, monarchies... etc. Almost every single political and governing system in history restricted individual freedom to some extent far further than does the modern democracy. Slavery in the Roman empire falls pretty soundly under this sort of category. It was an integrated part of the way of life and the entire social system of the Empire revolved around it. It is under this socio-political system that Bible-writers like Paul would have grown up in. It pervaded the culture and the entire way of life. Did Paul think the system was perfect? I doubt it, few people think their system of government is perfect. So what did he think about it? I'm not sure that his thoughts about slavery can be ascertained from his letters. He seems to accept slavery as part of the way of life, but only the most narrow-minded could criticise him for this. He asks that slaves perform their duties admirably and that they obey the will of their masters in all things so that they might spread the Gospel where able. This passage is in support of the Protestant work ethic (do all your work as for God) and also supports Jesus' second greatest commandment and is about a possible way to spread the Gospel. If I remember correctly, Paul elsewhere writes asking masters to be kind and loving to their slaves, which certainly seems to be a exhortation worthy of being in the "Word of God". What did Paul actually think of the Roman system of slavery in general? Personally, I think he probably thought it bad. So why didn't he write about it and condemn it? Well the very first thing that comes to mind is this: He had bigger fish to fry. His task was the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world: A task with implications for eternity. Slavery, however wrong is merely a thing of this world not of eternity and its importance pales in comparison. If Paul could either spend his time condemning slavery or preaching the Gospel, is it ungodly or immoral of him to choose the latter? I think not.
What would Paul hope to gain by condemning slavery? In all practicality: nothing. Slavery was an integral part of the Roman Empire, one man could no doubt fight for its abolition his entire life and achieve nothing. I seriously doubt that the Romans would have been particularly happy about someone preaching against slavery. Their murderous put-downs of slave rebellions demonstrate the extents to which they were prepared to go to keep the system of slavery in tact. I have been asked for evidence that Paul would be in danger if he wrote against slavery, yet I consider the above ample evidence. I think there is little doubt that anyone who complained about the slavery system would be considered as trying to incite a rebellion and would face the consequences. If nothing else, Paul had a duty to the unreached to not get himself killed, and a duty to the other Christians not to get them unnecessarily persecuted by the Romans.
Furthermore slavery was part of the social system. The Christian message is one of religion not of political revolution. It was not the jobs of Christians to start political revolutions, indeed Jesus himself told them to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's". The Christian message is not that people should change the world, but that the people should change themselves. It would almost be contradiction therefore to find a condemnation of a social system or a political system in the Bible.
We are to love each other as ourselves. If we all spent more time doing and preaching that and less time condemning the cultures and political systems of other countries, I believe the world would be a far better place.
So what is to be our opinion of the Bible for failing to condemn slavery? Perhaps we should say "for failing to specifically condemn slavery". For the Bible provides the foundation of Christian morals which were to eventually remove slavery from the (western at least) world, and is thus an integral part of the removal of slavery. I believe there is nothing wrong with "the Bible" as such for failing to condemn slavery. It gives the moral foundations: It is up to us day by day to apply them to our current situations and decide whether to condemn a system as wrong or not. In any situation where the Bible could be construed to support or accept slavery we can recognise the writer's cultural and political bias for what it is and take a moral lesson from it to make sure that we are not similarly blinded to true moral wrongs in our present culture which we are not aware of due to the tinted lenses of our present day thoughts. Many people of today seem to believe that they know the true objective standard of morality and when they say "that is immoral" they mean "I have knowledge of the ultimate moral standard and judge that to be immoral". Such people need to recognise that they are every bit as culturally biased in their judgements as every other person in the history of the world. The current cultural morality appears to be based on individual rights and something is declared moral or not insofar as it matches the standard of individual rights.
As CS Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man:
"There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they called them) 'ideologies', all consist of fragments from the Tao [He mean by this the true, objective, morality] itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess."
Our modern day morality is merely another wrenching of fragments from their context and swollen in their isolation. The two, timeless, Christ given Biblical truths to love God and love your neighbour and that which flows from them form the true basis of morality, the real eternal Tao. As Paul says "Through all things, three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love. And the greatest of these is Love." (1 Corinthians 13:13) That is the true Christian message and anyone who cannot see it is missing the point.
"For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below - there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39)

Your brother through the love of Christ Jesus,
-Tercel
 
Old 06-24-2001, 09:32 PM   #52
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">They lived in a world dominated by a system involving slavery, it's what they were brought up in. </font>
Like I said in an earlier post, this is exactly what the slaveholders in the South said to justify slavery in the south. And indeed, the economic system of the south DID depend on slavery. So, like I said, Tercel WOULD support slavery in the United States.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think there is little doubt that anyone who complained about the slavery system would be considered as trying to incite a rebellion and would face the consequences. If nothing else, Paul had a duty to the unreached to not get himself killed, and a duty to the other Christians not to get them unnecessarily persecuted by the Romans.
</font>
Nonsense. Christianity itself was considered rebellion against Rome. The above is not an excuse. If Paul could convert Christians, how much would it have been to condemn slavery? Secondly, Paul specifically says that a slave is not to resist his/her master. That transcends ancient Rome and applies to the 1800's. As Tercel said:

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">He asks that slaves perform their duties admirably and that they obey the will of their masters in all things so that they might spread the Gospel where able.</font>
So slaves are not to run away, but do their service dutily. Bad news for the folks that ran the Underground Railroad. I wonder if they were ever convicted of their "sin." I wonder if they ever felt guilty. So, I hope that Tercel can admit that Paul was just plain wrong here. A slave is morally justified in running away from his/her master.

And the topic of this discussion board is homosexuality/hypocrisy. And indeed that is what this is all about. People have been saying for years that Paul's conception of "homosexuality" was radically different from our concept, and that Paul was condemning same sex acts as he understood them (that is an ancient view of same-sex activity), not "homosexuality" in the way that we understand it--an expression of an orientation towards people of the same sex. In Paul's world, same-sex acts was an expression of people who were wild and obnoxious in their sex lives. People who had sex with other men were also promiscuous with women, and participated in orgies. Many ancient witnesses attest to this belief of same-sex activity--including Philo, the most prominent Hellenistic Jew of Paul's time.

So we should look at everything with a critical and historical eye, not just the parts that are troubling for Christians (like slavery).
 
Old 06-25-2001, 08:47 PM   #53
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Le pede:
Like I said in an earlier post, this is exactly what the slaveholders in the South said to justify slavery in the south. And indeed, the economic system of the south DID depend on slavery. So, like I said, Tercel WOULD support slavery in the United States.</font>
I do not support slavery. Would I have supported slavery had I lived 300 years ago in the United States? I have no idea. How can anyone possibly speculate of what they would have done if they had lived their life under completely different circumstances? No doubt if I was brought up at that time I would have understood slavery to be the way the world worked. But as to whether I would have considered it immoral or not, or whether I would have supported its abolition or not I doubt anyone short of God can say. Unless you are claiming to be God I think your statement that I would have supported slavery is totally unjustified and unsupportable.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">So slaves are not to run away, but do their service dutily. Bad news for the folks that ran the Underground Railroad. I wonder if they were ever convicted of their "sin." I wonder if they ever felt guilty. So, I hope that Tercel can admit that Paul was just plain wrong here. A slave is morally justified in running away from his/her master.</font>
Actually I don't think that Paul had taken the idea of slaves running away under consideration when he wrote that passage. He was probably considering the possibilities of whether a slave should treat their master with respect or whether a slave should rebel and refuse to do the masters wishes. I think Paul's advice is clearly the wisest course of action for all concerned. What was Paul's attitude about a slave running away? Again, I think it is unclear at best. In Philemon Paul is concerned with returning a runaway slave to his master. Certainly Paul does all the he can to ease the return of the slave to his master and there is a general implication that this is only happening because the slave wants to return. I find no fault here with Paul's behaviour from a moral point of view.
Personally, I would support a slave running away from a master who mistreated them.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And the topic of this discussion board is homosexuality/hypocrisy. And indeed that is what this is all about.</font>
Well, I considered this part answered: unless the condemners are homosexual themselves, there is nothing hypocritical about people condemning homosexuality.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">People have been saying for years that Paul's conception of "homosexuality" was radically different from our concept, and that Paul was condemning same sex acts as he understood them (that is an ancient view of same-sex activity), not "homosexuality" in the way that we understand it--an expression of an orientation towards people of the same sex. In Paul's world, same-sex acts was an expression of people who were wild and obnoxious in their sex lives. People who had sex with other men were also promiscuous with women, and participated in orgies. Many ancient witnesses attest to this belief of same-sex activity--including Philo, the most prominent Hellenistic Jew of Paul's time.</font>
Possibly. I do not myself know enough about homosexuality in the first century to comment. Could you please give any online references you have to support the claims you've just made?

The Christian Church and Western society as influenced by it has historically believed that homosexuality is wrong. What do you believe is the reason for this?

-Tercel

[This message has been edited by Tercel (edited June 25, 2001).]
 
Old 06-26-2001, 04:53 PM   #54
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Unless you are claiming to be God I think your statement that I would have supported slavery is totally unjustified and unsupportable.</font>
I think your words provide more than enough support. You have said that because an economic system depends on slavery--that is an excuse not to take a stand against it, or to encourage others around to take a stand against slavery. Paul never said it was wrong for a Christian to have a slave. In fact, he supports the idea of Chrisitans having slaves when he tells Christians to be kind to their slaves. So Paul says that it is okay to buy another human being on an auction block, and support an economic system that treats human beings as commodities. Paul could have told Christians to free their slaves, but he didn't.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Personally, I would support a slave running away from a master who mistreated them.</font>
This is an unbiblical idea for precisely this reason:

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">He was probably considering the possibilities of whether a slave should treat their master with respect or whether a slave should rebel and refuse to do the masters wishes.</font>
And for numerous other passages that say that a slave is to submit in all things to their master. This rules out the possibility of running away. Paul's views on running away are not unclear at all. Running away is an act of defiance against the master. The only reason there is a question here is because of the clear inhumanity of saying that slaves have to stay with their masters, even the "perverse" (2 Peter 2:18).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The Christian Church and Western society as influenced by it has historically believed that homosexuality is wrong. What do you believe is the reason for this?</font>
It's really not that simple. I'm sure you've heard of John Boswell. Well, I have specific criticisms of his book, but I suggest you start with that. There is evidence that the Christian church was not as anti-gay as it is sometimes made out to be. Secondly, there was plenty of homophobia in the Roman empire to go for several millenia. Anglo-Saxon tribes were also extremely homophobic.

Additionally, I would recommend Dale Martin's Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-26. He provides many primary sources for the ancient idea of "homosexuality." As far as online sources, I don't have any at this time, but when I dig up the thesis I wrote on this topic, I'll be sure to point you in the direction.
 
Old 06-27-2001, 06:51 AM   #55
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There are many reasons that can be attributed to the “abomination” of homosexuality statements in the Bible, least of which can be attributed to a directive from a god. First of all, Christianity did all it could including murdering, raping, pillaging and burning all things pagan. Look to the ancient rites of Bacchus and Priapus – both Roman, pagan gods. Sex could be considered one of the most important aspects of these ancient rituals. I am not sure if I still have the link, but I came across some of the translations of the descriptions of these rites – and they were quite erotic, not to mention homoerotic as well.

The Jewish edict against it was specifically against paganism, had pagans not practiced such sexual rites I doubt any mention of it would have been made. Not to mention that man does not suppress that which he does not fear! Why fear homosexuality? What damage does it actually do? In the eyes of the Jew it would curtail their ability to go forth and multiply, covering the earth with their numbers and thereby taking over out of sheer numbers. Acts that did not lead to procreation were seen as wasteful and therefore punishable, not because they were right or wrong, but because they threatened a plan of dominance.

The only argument that is made by the Church is that homosexual intercourse is not procreative and therefore against gods plan to dominate the earth with his adherents – although they attempt to put it a bit more ambiguously. That is why masturbation is “immoral”, contraception, ejaculating outside of the female, etc. That is also why there are Jewish rules about when to have sex with a woman and when not to and how often. Those rules coincide with a woman’s natural ovulation cycles to best insure the most offspring. Although, unlike Catholicism the modern rules dictate that a Jew may stop having children and choose contraceptives to prevent such pregnancies once at least one female and one male child has been born. Judaism even has laws regarding abortion – such as an abortion is permissible within 40 days from conception, that allowing a mother to die for the sake of the child is murder – and one must always remember these rules apply to Jews ONLY and us Gentiles has different ones according to the same god that birthed Jesus – much more permissible laws. So, using the OT to explain why gentile men and women cannot engage in homosexual activity is wrong as it only applies to Jews!


brighid
 
Old 06-27-2001, 06:37 PM   #56
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A couple of questions Le Pede,
"Paul's views on running away are not unclear at all. Running away is an act of defiance against the master."

Can you quote a single time where Paul says "Slaves do not run away from your masters"?

"The only reason there is a question here is because of the clear inhumanity of saying that slaves have to stay with their masters, even the "perverse" (2 Peter 2:18)."

What the...? I would think that you'd made a typo in giving the verse reference except that it does mention the "perverse". The context seems, um... completely unrelated. Perhaps you could clarify the point you are trying to make with this verse?
 
Old 06-27-2001, 09:53 PM   #57
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Can you quote a single time where Paul says "Slaves do not run away from your masters"?</font>
This is a joke, right? I think that when it says submit to your masters, it's pretty clear that running away is out of the question.

Where in the Bible does it say, "don't commit genocide?" Where does it say, "don't think races are inferior?" Where does it say "don't beat your wife?" If you bring up any passages about showing "love" to one another, it won't suffice because it doesn't SPECIFICALLY say these things aren't acts of love. But I think you can infer it. Running away from a master is an act of disobedience and defiance. It's non-submission, and flies in the face of passages that say "submit to your masters in ALL THINGS." Nice try, though.
 
 

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