Friday, December 7, 2012

Does the Bible condemn racial slavery?

The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). The Bible does not outlaw slavery altogether. However, the problem is that many individuals mistakenly interpret this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery.

What many fail to understand is that slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was more a matter of social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters.

In contrast, the slavery of the past few centuries was often based exclusively on skin color. In the United States, many black people were considered slaves because of their nationality; many slave owners truly believed black people to be inferior human beings. The Bible most definitely does condemn race-based slavery!
Consider the slavery the Hebrews experienced when they were in Egypt. The Hebrews were slaves, not by choice, but because they were Hebrews (Exodus 13:14). The plagues God poured out on Egypt demonstrate how God feels about racial slavery (Exodus 7-11). So, yes, the Bible does condemn some forms of slavery. At the same time, the Bible does seem to allow for other forms. The key issue is that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the racial slavery that plagued our world in the past few centuries.

In addition, both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of “man-stealing”, which is what happened in Africa in the 19th century. Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God.

In fact, the penalty for such a crime in the Mosaic Law was death: "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death, whether." (Exodus 21:16). Similarly, in the New Testament, slave-traders are listed among those who are “ungodly and sinful” and are in the same category as those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, adulterers and perverts, and liars and perjurers (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

Another crucial point is that the purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society. The Bible often approaches issues from the inside out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God by receiving His salvation, God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, he will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible’s prescription for ending slavery.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christianity vs. Islam

As Christians we are called to discern the false religions and worldly philosophies in contrast to the biblical worldview:

Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6)... and Jesus also proclaimed that "...for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) 

When Christianity is compared to Islam for example, they are not just incompatible, but are also opposed with each other and set on a collision course with historical and global consequences.

The Koran and the Bible have opposing value systems:
  • Chistianity offers grace and Islam offers legalism.
  • Christianity offers a God of intimate relationship, while Islam offers distant demands.
  • Christianity offers conversion through conviction, while Islam offers conversion through conquest and Jihad.
  • Christianity offers intrinsic value to all human life, while Islam offers less value to a woman’s life when compared to a man’s sense of shame.
  • Christianity offers peace love and joy, while Islam offers fear, terror tactics and honor killings.
Many Muslims leave their faith in fear (i.e. honor killings), and Muslim women struggle for status and fair treatment.

A person can take on the label of Christian, but not have a biblical worldview or lifestyle based on the teachings of Jesus and the Gospels.

So a nominal or cultural Christian who commits a horrific crime would be entirely contradictory to a Christian worldview and his actions are completely unjustified and incompatible with the Bible.

Take Hitler for example.  He had a distorted view of Christianity.  He committed mass murder in the name of secular fanaticism, social-political Darwinism and world dominance.  His views against Jews were not justified by biblical teaching but instead by a science-flavored myth of Darwinian logic to defend the Aryan race. 

In contrast, a devout Muslim can commit a terrorist or violent act and have perfect justification in doing so from the Koran, Sharia law and in the name of Jihad. 

In order to have peace, Muslims would have to be moderate (less devout) and go against their teachings.

Christians would have to be more fundamental to live-out their Christian worldview. 

However, the Bible explains that God is not only a God of "love"...  His attributes also include holiness, justice, jealousy, righteousness and perfect judgment.  In other words, there will come a time when it is required to fight (i.e. 'war'- Joel 3:9). 

When we attempt to understand the underlying meaning of the word of God, it should not depend on the "cleverness" of the interpreter, but instead we should rather focus on the evidence of history, biblical grammar, comparative linguistics, anthropology, and context; or else the interpretation becomes very subjective and fuzzy.  This means we are required to thoroughly research the true meaning of the scriptures from the author’s perspective and not our own. 

The Bible teaches that God loves all people, but hates sin. The Koran does not say this, but instead, it says that Allah only loves those who obey Muhammad and loves not the infidels or those who reject their faith. 

If we look at it from a Bible vs. Koran perspective, in order to have a peaceful coexistence would be for Muslims to be more moderate and for Christians to be more radical.  That means we must live for Christ alone.