Friday, November 17, 2006

On God...

A friend of mine and I have been debating the Bible, speficially Exodus.

Here is Chapter 21 in Exodus, the chapter immediately following the "Ten Commandments."

If you are a Christian it seems to me that, from this chapter, you have to agree that either:

1) The Bible is not the literal word of God


2) God condones slavery.

To quote from Exodus, Chapter 21:

Verse 1 (remember this is immediately following the commandments): These are the rules you shall lay before them.

2: When you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he shall be given his freedom without cost.

7: When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go free as male slaves do.

26: When a man strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye.


Anonymous said...

The Bible is way too complicated a text to be evaluated in such a simplistic manner. Theologians have spent lifetimes over centuries plumbing its depths. The short and simplest answer to your crude analysis: The Old Testament was not intended to be followed as law by Christians - Christians are not to follow it. It was meant for the Jews, and was meant to apply to them for only the time until He was to come to earth and fulfill His plan. Jews have stuck to using it, but that was not His intention, as Christians see it. The Old Testament can be used for background or insight into the meaning of the New Testament, b/c the New Testament sometimes refers back to it, but it's not to be used as law applicable to Christians.

Ben Guest said...

So it is not the literal word of God?

Anonymous said...

It is the word of God. I really don't know how adding "literal" to this makes any difference, one way or the other. What is says is what He means, but as with any complex text rooted in history, it takes learning and contemplation to really understand it - to really understand what He means. It would be foolish to just sit down without either this learning, or guidance from those who've done such learning (hence the priest or minister interpreting the gospel reading each Sunday for his flock), and attempt to understand the text's meaning. It is the word of God, but it takes learning and contemplation to understand it. In any case, with regard to the Old Testament from which you quote, it doesn't much matter - it's not a directive for Christians, as I've already noted. It's been superseded for Christians by the New Testament.

Ben Guest said...

What is so complicated about "When a man strikes his male or female slave in the eye and destroys the use of the eye, he shall let the slave go free in compensation for the eye." That seems pretty straightforward to me.

Anonymous said...

Exactly - it seems straightforward TO YOU. The fact that you see this statement plucked out of the Bible as uncomplicated and straightforward is precisely the reason you need the aid of scholars (or church tradition as well in the case of Catholics) in interpreting the text's meaning for you. The Bible means what is says, but it takes insight and study to understand what it says. You're using your uninformed interpretive methods to read the text, and that will lead to faulty understanding. Context, time and circumstances, changes in language and meaning, among many other factors, play into figuring out the meaning of the text. A little prayer might help as well, to seek His guidance, to ask for the "gift of ears" to hear what He means to tell you. I'm guessing you're some form of secularist or agnostic, someone who tries to understand religion, faith, and God from a faulty worldy perspective, and relying entirely on his puny human brain (and everyone's is puny - a full-on child of the "Enlightenment" which really was in many ways just man returning to the darkness of the cave. And again, in your debate with your friend, you seem to be attempting to tar Christians with clearly un-Christian positions, or to debunk the Bible as guidance for Christians. But again, the Old Testament is not meant as such guidance for Christians. The New Testament is. So . . . even if you were to succeed in your task of getting your opponent to either support slavery or refute the authority of the Old Testament, it would be a pointless victory, because neither position would be relevant to Christianity. Debunk the Old Testament all you want, but if that's what you're doing, you'd be debunking Judaism.

Ben Guest said...

Again, what is so complicated about the lines I've quoted. In Verse 1 God is quite clearly saying these are the laws I expect you to obey. In Verse 26 one of the laws is: if you beat your slave and knock his eye out, you should let him go. Now' I'll admit that I'm no genius, but this isn't Toni Morrison or James Joyce. The language is clear and straightforward.

As for my own beliefs, I am an atheist. I think the Bible is a nice bedtime story, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy our occasional debates on your blog, but your argumentation strategy is baffling - you simply repeat your early question multiple times in response to multiple answers to that question. You did the same thing in your odd point about education spending: "If money doesn't matter, why do rich people spend so much on their children's schooling?". I and others provided you responses to that, but your response to our responses served not as an answer to our reponses or a refutation thereof, but a stubborn repeat of your initial question, even after it was answered multiple times. Here, again, the line you quote in and of itself is a mere assemblage of words, but must be taken in context and considering multiple factors to really understand its meaning - that's what makes it complicated. Continuing to repeat the question and the quote does not advance your argument. And again, your underlying point was to get your friend to say either the Bible's not to be taken literally, or the Christian God condones slavery. And once again, the Old Testament does not apply to Christians as a directive, so you might as well be quoting from "Ulysses" and putting your Christian friend on the spot about its contents. Ulysses is about as relevant as law to Christians as the Old Testament is. Again, God may be saying these are the laws we are to obey, but he's speaking to the Jews. Talk to a Jew and debate him/her about whether he/she believes those things.

And I hope you don't mind an observation about you personally, but your atheism (or other godlessness) has been obvious to this sometime reader. You seem a bit of a lost soul, unclear who you are in this world and your proper role in it, and you seem to put much energy into knocking down long standing institutions that have served mankind well and serve important purposes and that we diminish at our own peril, the institutions of faith being the most important among these. I hope you find your way back to your God-given faith, if indeed you were blessed with one. If not, I hope you seek out one for yourself. It's necessary for a life of meaning, which from your past and current activities you seem to find important to pursue. The essence of human life is faith in God; all other truly purposeful pursuits are necessarily directed toward serving Him, either directly (as in the priesthood, for example) or indirectly (by serving others). All other pursuits are merely killing time. Your teaching would serve much more meaning for you if you had in mind that your educating children were a form of serving God. Good luck to you.

Passerby Reader said...

I see that the reason you repeated your question is likely because you didn't feel that it was sufficiently answered the first time. "Anonymous" suggests that he never had a teacher when he didn't pick up on that. I'm just a passerby reader, but have encountered far too many "Anonymous'" to not say something. His Christian education runs very deep and I would even venture to say that a lot of his words are his own, and he's truly internalized many of the teachings of Christianity. But he's so adamant and pushy. Of course one would expect him to believe that his side of the argument is correct (or he wouldn't be arguing it) but the way he argues it puts others on the defensive. There is an art to getting your message across in a way that someone who opposes your point will at least consider it. Discussions versus arguments. And to actually contest something that he said: how closeminded of him to think that the thing that gives his life meaning must be the only thing that can give a person's life meaning.