Slavery and The Existence of an Immutably Good God
By Mike Robinson
Atheist X (AX) wrote a guest post (here) that argued Christians cannot “reconcile their belief on slavery, God’s nature, and His proclamations on slavery” within scripture. He discussed other issues and presented a few additional claims, but the heart of his essay centered on the alleged inconsistency of an immutably good God issuing laws regulating slavery.
There are numerous problems regarding AX’s approach. One issue he did not consider: There are Christians who do not ascribe to God all the actions and commandments issued in His name in the Old Testament. These sorts of Christians may hold to one or more of the following:
- The full inspiration of Scripture
- The infallibility of Scripture
- Particular notions of the inerrancy of Scripture
One who maintains such (OI) still affirms God’s immutable1 goodness while having hermeneutical commitments that reinterpret the pertinent passages or deny that the difficult passages were in the original autographs. Even though I personally reject these positions, these views provide clear defeaters for AX’s contention.
Defending Immutable and Objective Moral Values
AX’s position fails, but that does not insure that my views of God’s immutable goodness conjoined with full-orbed inerrancy are correct in contrast to the previously mentioned OI Christians.
I have argued:
- Objective moral values2 exist.
- Selected objective moral values have the attributes of being immutable and immaterial.
- The mutable material cosmos and humanity within lack the attributes of being immutable, and immaterial.
- The mutable material cosmos and humanity within cannot account for objective moral values.
- The triune God has the attributes of being immutable and immaterial.
- Therefore the existence of objective moral values furnishes grounds for knowing that the triune God exists.
How do I defend this argument against AX’s disputation?
AX contends that  is defeated because:
[S1] There is no morally good justification that an immutably good God could have for adjudging laws that allow Old Testament slavery.3
But this prompts the question: How could a finite, fallible man know such a contention as [S1]? AX’s position is not based on knowledge, but on his presuppositions.4 Presuppositions tend to drive people into confirmation bias (men seek out evidence that supports their worldview and ignore evidence that disconfirms it). No finite man can possibly have access to enough knowledge of the incalculable amount data that God has for justifying transitory laws. No mere human has the ontological status to justify [S1] and AX’s case against . Mortal men lack the capacity to have this almost exhaustive knowledge of Old Testament history, culture, and possible actions needed to make such an assessment.
AX could not possibly provide epistemic justification that there is no possible reason God could have for justifying His dispensing laws within ancient warring cultures—laws that repel our modern sensibilities.
Worldview Interpretive Necessities
AX bases his rejection of  on particulars and not universals.5 All worldviews are open to charge on particular claims as well as individual assessments of specific evidence (disagreement over interpretation of particular evidence is often the case among interlocutors—while both are susceptible to confirmation bias). Apologists for a specific worldview have answers pre-formulated for particular issues, so trading brute evidence (or swapping uninterpreted facts) is not the chief means of finding truth apropos worldview analysis.
I’m asking: What are the required rational and ethical a priori conditions necessary to ground immutable universals required for intelligibility? Christian Theism offers the answers; atheism fails. Atheism is fully deficient of immutable universals required to even begin an inquiry concerning the morality of worldviews. To examine, analyze, and discern proper moral particulars, one needs a worldview that supplies immutable universals including objective moral values. Materialistic atheism believes that only the cosmos exists; the matter and motion within the universe is all there is. Does the cosmos have the capacity to ground immutable universal moral values and duties? No. The material cosmos comes up infinitely short since it is a particular mutable (changing) thing; it lacks universal reach (it is not omnipresent) and it is always in a shifting and variable flux. Thus the material cosmos as well as the matter and motion within fail to ground immutable universal moral values. Since immutable universal moral values exist, strict materialistic atheism cannot be true.
Strict materialistic atheism lacks the ontological ability necessary to furnish a suitable foundation for objective moral values and duties. Equally, mutable humanity embedded in the cosmos is also devoid of the ontic capacity to account for immutable moral values.
Christian Theism posits things, forms, entities, norms, concepts, laws that are immutable, universal, and non-physical, but the atheistic materialist denies this at his own peril and self-stultification. Christian Theism brings with it the ability for coherence, moral law, inductive truths and all the a prior rational requirements for intelligibility.
A few Questions for AX and other Non-theists
- Atheist X: On your principles, why is slavery, abusive servitude, or men kept in small prison cells morally wrong?
- Is there anything immutably wrong?
- If there is no God, this means that bad things just happen, why should anyone care? It is all physical stuff and things happen like leaves burning in a field. Within an atheist worldview, why ought we care about mere matter in the shape of a man over matter shaped like a leaf? These under your worldview are merely displacements of atoms from one form to another. If there is an ontological distinction, could you show how the presuppositions of atheism might yield such a distinction?
- Within an atheist worldview, why should the state or individuals be required to respect a person? How does this value of humanity result from the presuppositions of atheism? Why should the state or individuals respect your opinions and even your life more than the pulling of a weed or the quashing of a bug?
- Given an atheist worldview, how do objective immutable moral values follow?
An immutable standard (the Decalogue), grounded in the immutable character of God, allows men to delineate good and evil. And since you, like me, have sinned, how do you find pardon and eternal forgiveness? The answer is to turn from your ways and trust in Christ who died and rose from the grave. Repent, believe on Him and you will then be accepted by God; He will rinse away all your wicked deeds as you find real peace.
- Immutable: Unchanging; invariant; that which cannot change; always remaining the same; not mutable; perpetually the same, unceasingly unchanging, changeless (God, the laws of logic, and moral law are immutable).
- Moral Value: That which is morally good or evil; the moral worth of something. It is morally good to give apple pies to all your neighbors, but it is not a moral duty to do such. Moral Absolutes: Moral truths or obligations independent of individual men, convention, culture, or society and independent of what they consider to be morally right or wrong. Moral Duty: That which is morally right or wrong; moral obligations. Universal Immutable Moral Value: That which is universally and unchangeably morally good or evil; the immutable moral worth of something that is an absolute.
- Selected rulings in the Torah regarding slavery were not ideal or ideally good. In the Torah, God commanded that men love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18). Old Testament slavery was much different than the general manifestation of antebellum slavery. In ancient times of almost perpetual war together with the harsh reality of daily survival, what was the state to do when a man was in so much debt that he could not repay his lender? These and similar problems required God to allow some form of fair regulations for bodily retainers and servitude. Various things permitted in the Old Testament did not automatically represent the ideal of good. Because of the hardness of men’s heart, God tolerated some things in the Old Testament that He did not commend. If this is always morally wrong, what about men retained in small cells in modern prisons? While slavery is unlawful and absolutely immoral within a Christian worldview, in ancient tribal days, the Torah provided public acknowledgment and lawful protection to those retained that was for its period progressive. Servitude and bondage regulated in the Torah were not based on race or color. Even aliens were to be treated fairly: “But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34). “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren, or one of the aliens who is in your land within thy gates” (Deu. 24:14). In Matthew the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus told them that divorce was not in the Lord’s plan from the beginning of mankind. They then asked Christ: “Why, then, did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and to put her away?” It was in the Torah so it must be God’s model choice. But Jesus replied: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:3-8).
- Presupposition: One’s primary rational principle. A preeminent belief held to be true and taken as a precommitment. It is the belief that is held at the most foundational level of one’s grid or web of beliefs. It is the lens through which one interprets reality; it is taken for granted and assumed in making a statement or a theory. It is one’s rational starting point; primary and fundamental assumption; and metaphysical foundation. Everyone has presuppositions—primary belief patterns that influence one’s thinking and outlook. Reason, logic, mathematics, knowledge, predication, and morality are only consistent with Christian presuppositions.
- Universals: A universal is something that is true or applies everywhere and at all times. Immutable laws in mathematics and logic are universals. Universals are applicable to or affecting all things, individuals, conditions, or cases; in general. Existing or prevailing everywhere, applicable or occurring throughout or relating to everything everywhere in the cosmos and outside the material cosmos. An assertion, statement or proposition that affirms or denies something about every member of a class, as in all men are mortal; a general term or concept or the type such a term signifies all of one thing, concept, or truth; a metaphysical entity taken to be the reference of a general term, as distinct from the class of individuals it describes. In general, I employ this term in reference to laws or entities that are not limited ontologically to the spatio-temporal realm; the Law of Non-contradiction and the Law of Identity are examples of universals. There are diverse meanings and applications of the term “universal,” but herein I develop the classification above.
See the new eBook: The Sure Existence of Moral Absolutes: Proof for Christian Theism HERE