So I just finished reading Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.
This is a book that not everyone should read. Harris is an atheist and he is writing to try to bring Christians over to the Atheist Camp. I read it because I was asked to, and I saw it at half price books so I bought it, and marked it up.
I am one of the first people to say that Christians have hurt the cause and image of Christ over the centuries. And while an apology doesn’t cut the horrible atrocities that were caused under “Christian” leadership, it’s all I can really do.
There was one thing that really bugged me about something Harris had said and I just had to write about it. Harris was talking about Slavery and how the Bible both the Old and the New Testament encouraged slavery, and how a Christians really have no argument against slavery because their book is cool with it.
Now yes the OT does give prescriptions for Slavery. And Yes the NT does talk about slavery, but there is something that I think Harris as well as most Atheist have in common, they ignore context. Sadly many Christians ignore context as well so they misunderstand what the Bible is saying, and they miss-apply the text entirely, and Harris gives one such example on this slavery thing.
In the age of the OT slavery was very common. Most, if not all cultures had some form of slavery. Slaves were acquired through military conquest, lack of ability to pay of debts, and things like that. So for the Law to have a passage that talks about how to treat slaves would be a decent thing to do. There is also something that Harris ignores all together called the Year of Jubilee, where by all debts are forgiven and all slaves are freed and property is returned to the family ownership. Show me one culture on earth that had anything like that at the time.
Now I am not saying that I’m down with slavery, but everyone was then. I agree with Harris that Slavery is horrendous and I am glad that the US has abolished slavery. But we need to look at the Geo-Political and Social Context of the passage first.
Context is King!
Harris then goes to show how the New Testament endorses slavery from the words of Paul(Ephesians 6:5 1 Timothy 6:1-4). Harris uses these passages to justify that Slavery is encouraged in the NT. Clearly he is looking for ammo and this is the best he could come up with. No where in the NT does it say, “Go Get Slaves, they’re the best!” that’s what Harris makes it sound like, but he is grossly taking this out of context.
Again during the NT era slavery was still very common. And many slaves were coming to faith in Christ. Paul was writing to slaves to tell them not to rebel against their masters, and thus cause discord and give the non-believers reason to hate Jesus. Instead Paul is encouraging slaves to love their masters. To serve them and to show their masters that they are serving someone higher still. Paul was not endorsing slavery, he was not saying that Slaves should be kept!
If you look to another passage of Paul’s writings, he even encourages a slave to be released. Read Philemon and judge for yourself if Paul was all about slavery.
I just had to post on this. I’m a Bible guy and this is some gross miss-use of context by Harris. I don’t want to insult his intelligence but I’m surprised that he would miss this.