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Slavery and Christian apologetics

A common objection to Christianity made by atheists is that the Bible supports slavery. Some example videos are given below.

Unfortunately I usually find the arguments in defence of the Bible unsatisfactory. Normally those arguments go like this:

  • Transatlantic slavery was very different to Biblical slavery
  • Manstealing was categorically forbidden in the Bible
  • Slavery in the Bible was more like social welfare
  • People willingly sold themselves into slavery
  • Slaves had rights
  • Slaves sometimes willingly remained life long slaves
  • There were regulations controlling slavery
  • Slaves were to be set free every 7 years

These are true arguments which are important in clarifying the type of slavery condoned in the Bible. However it presents just half of the truth. They do not address the key objection which is that the Bible condones the ownership of other human beings.

Leviticus 25:44-46 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

The Bible is clear that a person could be owned by another person and that ownership was total such that the slave could be passed from father to son “as a possession forever”.

So how should a Christian answer this objection? An honest answer might include:

  1. Yes, the Bible condones slavery.
  2. Yes, the Bible condones the ownership of one human being by another.
  3. Yes, God is OK with slavery although it is not His Plan A.
  4. God is OK with human slavery because it reminds us of a much greater eternal reality.
  5. Every person is enslaved to something:
    1. You are either a slave of sin resulting in eternal destruction
    2. Or a slave of God resulting in eternal happiness
  6. The evils of slavery warn us against making sin our master
  7. The virtues of slavery encourage us to make Jesus our Master
  8. It is not expected that this answer will in anyway satisfy the atheist’s objection. It can be only foolishness to someone who rejects the base premise – that there is a God.
  9. However, for those who accept the possibility of a Divine being and eternal consequences, this explanation may be of some help.



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