In a spiritual world of quick fixes and vague emotion, is it crazy to believe there is still a place for insights based on simple, basic, theological understanding. I believe it is worth exploring.
Mostly, filter it through the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus.
True, though the rest of the New Testament teaching also seems relevant.
How would you respond to Paul's admonition for slaves to obey their masters? Should that verse be used to filter OT verses on slavery?
I do not see Paul's admonition as in any way requiring slavery. In fact I see his admonition on how masters should treat their slaves as undermining the institution and ultimately leading to its abolition. The Christian approach was not primarily to rework the political system, but to to live as innocently as possible in the system that did exist, looking for Christian principles in the long run to transform that system.
I am wondering if you are thinking that Moses missed God when he wrote this scripture that seems to condone beating a slave."If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." Exodus 21:20
I will admit this is a difficult passage. But the Hebrew here can be read, after a day or two, he stands up, indicating the slave survives rather than dies. There is a parallel here to Exodus 21:18,19 where the man is struck and when he recovers and walks about with his staff he is paid for his lost time. In the case of the slave, he does not need to be paid for lost time, because the loss is the master's.But I admit this is a difficult passage. But while I know you have broader concerns, I am not willing to reconsider my view of the Old Testament based on an occasional verse I do not understand. I would rather rather puzzle over it and pray for enlightenment, rather then base too much on it.
Beating another human being because you believe them to be your property is simply wrong. Plantation owners in the south used such verses to justify their wicked behavior. I believe that owning another human is simply wrong and leads to, over time, abuse of that human being.As followers of Christ we must stand with those who, in past and present times, are oppressed and enslaved by those who profit in the trafficking of human beings. These occasional verses are what helped me understand that the such verses must be understood theologically through the lens of Christ, his life and his teachings. I do not mean to be harsh in my communication and condemnation of slavery but feel that the trafficking of human beings is one that we must all stand against. And in doing so we must have a coherent response for those who accuse religious people of justifying slavery. Saying that we are puzzled about such verses has never really helped the cause of Christ.
If you think I have any sympathy, whatsoever, with slavery I do not. I would like for the verses involved not to be there.But while I understand that you think your way is the correct way of dealing with the verses, I do not that it is a stronger position for dealing with the issue. I can heard the critic saying, "So you follow the the Bible until you don't like what it says." This does not seem to me to be a strong position to argue from. Nor can we pit Jesus against Moses and Paul on the subject because Jesus said nothing on the subject way or the other. I do believe the principles of Christianity taught by Jesus and Paul both, resulted in the ultimate elimination of slavery, But I do not know any easy answer to this question. All I can conclude is that God is more interested in changing people than institutions and leaves the changed people to decide what to do with the institutions.As for Southern slavery it should be noted it did not even live up to the standards of Mosaic slavery. It kidnapped people into slavery (which Moses forbids) and treated them like animals where the law said they should be treated like a hired man. I could wish for a more categorical condemnation of slavery in Scripture, but it is not there.
Perhaps the categorical condemnation is found in the commandment to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Or love your neighbor as yourself? Or love your enemies? Or love each other the way that Christ loves us? Maybe the answers are found in the character of Christ? I find that the answer to things like slavery is found in Jesus, not in Moses. Moses was a GREAT man and a GREAT leader but his understanding of the character of God was limited as he did not have Jesus. Jesus came to show us what God is like.Regarding the idea that we follow the the Bible until we don't like what it says. We should respond to such retorts by helping people to understand the nature of biblical writ and not to offer some simplistic idea that scripture need only be understood without interpretation. I taught a class at church last year that did just that. People really appreciate answers to complex questions that are not simplistic.For me, I think that one can measure the scriptures based on the principle of Christ, his ministry and his teaching. But I think that we have discussed this before. ツ
I agree that the principles of Scripture ultimately tell against slavery. I find those principles not only in Jesus, but also very clearly in Paul and even in Moses. how to reconcile these to the passages on slavery is a difficult question.
Reading Exodus 21 leads me to believe that Moses thought it was okay to purchase another human being as long as there were rules around it. To me the passage does not represent the timeless will of God but of a great leader who was trying to bring order to a nation in crisis. So I do not criticize Moses because I understand what he was trying to do. That, to me any ways, is a thoughtful way to interpret such passage.
Whereas I would say this is another concession to the hardness of people's hearts which was ultimately to be done away with. This makes sense to me. But to see the Bible as a grab bag where I can pick and choose which parts I will follow. Or setting up one part (for instance the sayings of Jesus) against the other part. Ultimately undermines its ability to speak into our lives when we do not happen to agree with what it says. But we have been over all this before. :)
I agree with you that this passage and others are concessions to the hardness of people's hearts. Yet in saying that I could be accused of seeing the bible as a grab bag where some things are concessions to hard hearts and others are the will of God. ツ
This is of course always a problem no matter what course you take since Jesus did say that some things were there due to the hardness of people's hearts in the case of divorce. But I feel comfortable saying God did this deliberately and had specific plans for what was done, then that people simply misheard Him.
Hard to see involuntary slavery as any part of God's will or an expression of love.
I do not believe that God ever advocates slavery. I also do not believe He advocates divorce. But slavery seems to be the standard way in the ancient world to deal with an unrepayable debt. If God would have just abolished it, it would have been replaced with something else, quite possibly worse (selling into slavery to a foreign people, imprisonment, torture). I believe God left it in place but regulated it, until people could became sufficiently clear on God's basic principles to be willing to see and accept a more just solution.