Answering the Atheists

Bible and History

Drawing, shell

Drawing, shell

Drawing, skull, Museum of Natural History

White Racism

When Moses married an Ethiopian woman, the local 'White Citizen's Council' grumbled. God indulged in a little 'symbolic speech' to set them straight: "Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman...So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, 'Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned.'" (Numbers 12:1-11).

God having made His feelings about white racists plain, where do the atheists get their information that the Bible teaches blacks are inferior to whites? From Bible interpretations that don't pass the straight-face test, like the 'mark of Cain'! Acquired characteristics are not passed on to offspring; so why would an acquired characteristic like the 'mark of Cain' be passed on to Cain's descendants at all? The Bible says nothing about Cain's descendants inheriting the 'mark', which was placed on Cain to protect him from vengeance; why his descendants would need such protection is far from obvious: "Then the LORD said to him, 'Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.' And the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him." (Genesis 4:15). If Cain was not born with this characteristic - and he was not — then in the ordinary course of nature, his descendants would not inherit it. While God could certainly change Cain's genetic make-up if He willed the 'mark' to be inherited, where in the text does it suggest He wished to do so?

Even if the 'mark of Cain' were imagined to be heritable versus 'a tattoo', where does the text even hint that the 'mark' is 'black complexion', versus 'a birthmark shaped like the State of Utah', or 'red hair', or an 'epicanthic fold'? Nor is the 'mark' placed on Cain to mark him out for ill-treatment, but rather precisely to protect him from ill-treatment. Reassembling the atheist/racist house of cards for the moment, if we were to allow the speculation that the 'mark of Cain' were heritable, and that the 'mark of Cain' were black skin, and that the 'mark of Cain' was intended to mark its possessor out for ill-treatment, then why would only one of Noah's sons have inherited this character? One commonly expects brothers to be of the same race, not different ones. Who, of the eight persons saved aboard the ark, from whom all subsequent humanity trace their ancestry, was a descendent of Canaan? If one of the wives of Noah's sons is imagined to be a descendent of Cain, then realize that the same cannot be said of her sons, because descent is reckoned patrilineally. There is no descendent of Cain who disembarked from the ark. This 'Bible argument implodes upon itself.

Noah uttered a curse against Canaan, the ancestor of the idolatrous nation displaced by Israel. . .which racist interpreters transform into a curse upon Africans, by displacing it back a generation, to Ham: ". . .he said, 'Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.'" (Genesis 9:25). This interpretive approach goes back to a medieval Kabbalist named Isaac ben Judah Abravanel, and like most Kabbalistic interpretation, it makes no effort to connect with the text. Relations between the numerous Alexandrian Jews and the ethnic Egyptians, descendants of Ham, having been toxic for a very long time, it may be that some interpreters transferred the curse onto those they wished had been cursed; but the Bible is not silly putty.

The Southern racists who defended slavery claimed that black Africans were descended from Canaan. Southern doctor Samuel Cartwright had 'discovered' a new disease, drapetomania, an obviously pathological longing for freedom on the part of Southern blacks. He justified this new diagnosis by a resort to the Bible:

"Lest anyone doubt that drapetomania was a real disease — and, evidently, some Northern doctors did — Cartwright offered proof. First of all, he said, we know that Negroes are descended from the people of Canaan, a name that means 'submissive knee-benders.'" (The Book of Woe, Gary Greenberg, p. 2).

It is linguistically absurd to trace African languages to a Semitic original, nor is it Biblical. It is typical of what atheists consider to be a stellar Bible argument: it mentions some name or place also mentioned in the Bible, but then proceeds to say something about it quite different from what the Bible says. Biblically, African blacks are, as it happens, not descended from Canaan. Cush, black Africa, was also a son of Ham, but this is not the nation Noah cursed. The Egyptians, who held Israel in slavery until the LORD liberated them, were also Ham's descendants: "Then Israel came to Egypt, Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham." (Psalm 105:23). The Egyptians, descendants of Ham, enslaved Israel, but were never enslaved by them. For the racists' purposes, the wrong nation was cursed; it ought to have been Cush.

The handsprings and somersaults which the racists must perform are not over yet; Noah's intention was plainly to wish catastrophe on his grand-son, but they wish him to have stated rather that the institution of slavery is natural and benign. And so he does not curse Canaan from any motive of vengeance, but rather speaks as God's mouth-piece, uttering God's perfect will, not his own wishes: "In this transaction, Noah acts as an inspired prophet, and also as the divinely chosen, patriarchal head of church and state, which were then confined to his own family." (Robert Lewis Dabney, Defense of Virginia and the South, Kindle location 1205). It is true that God would not enacted Noah's curse had it offended His sense of justice. In this author's peculiar method of analysis, the fact that God did punish these people, the Canaanites, with dispossession from the holy land, is proof that slavery is right "in itself:" "But this inquiry is not essential to our argument, is found where God has authorized domestic slavery, the principle is settled, that it cannot necessarily be sin in itself." (Dabney, Robert Lewis. Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South, Annotated. (Kindle Locations 1236-1237). Booker House Publishing, Incorporated.) Certainly God, the righteous judge of all the world, has the right to enact punishments as He sees fit, employing for the purpose such instruments as the murderous Assyrian hordes. It would be strange indeed if this circumstance made mass murder righteous "in itself." In the listing of punishments to which Israel may be subject in Deuteronomy 28, this one is indeed included: "You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity." (Deuteronomy 28:41). The yoke of iron is something that can happen to the disobedient, but this fact is no license to try it at home for yourself, on your harmless neighbors. Why not strangle them, or starve them. Why anyone would take a threat of God's wrath as a blanket permission for private parties to act this way at their own discretion, to any objects they see fit, is a mystery.

Why did Noah curse Canaan instead of Ham, the offender? The sectarians who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls speculated, it was because God's blessing of Noah and his three sons was irrevocable: "And he did not curse Ham, but rather his son, because God had already blessed the sons of Noah." (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, Commentaries on Genesis, p. 276). According to the Bible, eight souls were rescued by the ark: ". . .who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." (1 Peter 3:20). The eight were Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. God specifically granted His gracious favor to those living creatures carried on the ark: "And God blessed Noah and his sons. . .And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth." (Genesis 9:1-10). It may be that Noah realized it was futile to curse one whom God had blessed. Or he may not have wished to do so, aiming more for poetic justice. Noah, disappointed in his hopes for one of his sons, wishes the same misfortune upon Ham, not a different one: one of Ham's sons will not live up to the lively hopes his father placed upon him. Whatever the reason, the racists cannot rescind it after the fact. The fabled 'Curse of Ham' is simply not found in the Bible, it is an invention of the racists: Ham was never cursed, not by God, not by Noah. The small nation which Noah did curse supplied none of the slaves brought to America.

Another verse atheists advance to claim the Bible teaches racism is Nehemiah 13:3, "Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude." Of course, northern Europeans were as much part of Nehemiah's "mixed" multitude as any African would have been!: "When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent." (Nehemiah 13:3 NRSV).

God had instructed His chosen people not to form marriages with the pagans surrounding them, on grounds that this would put a snare and temptation in their way to corrupt the worship of the true and living God with paganish practices: "Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods." (Deuteronomy 7:3-4); "And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods." (Exodus 34:16).  Often enough they defied God's instructions, and just what He predicted happened: worship of foreign gods was introduced to the people of Israel.  The infamous Jezebel was only following the religion she'd been taught as a child when she introduced Baal-worship to Israel: "And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him." (1 Kings 16:31).

This isn't a question of 'race', because those foreigners who chose to cleave to the God of Israel were welcomed: "But Ruth said, 'Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die -- there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!" (Ruth 1:16-17).  Ruth, of Moabite racial origin, is in the family tree of King David: "...and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David." (Matthew 1:5-6).

Is there even a loose analogy between God's election of nation Israel and the racist's claim of superiority of whites over blacks?  No; nation Israel was not chosen to be a "kingdom of priests" because they were superior to the other nations.  Quite to the contrary, God rubs their noses in how inconsequential they were: "It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you -- for you were the fewest of all peoples." (Deuteronomy 7:7).  Far from stressing the innate superiority of the Jews, the Bible stresses their pitiful state versus God's great mercy in choosing them for His own: "No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.  I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, 'Live!...'" (Ezekiel 16:5-6).

This is a recurring theme of scripture; God's election is not of the elder but of the younger, not of the strong but of the weak, not of the superior but of the inferior: "Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God's purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, 'The elder shall serve the younger.'" (Romans 9:11-12).

There was no racial segregation in the early church. Believers were united in one body: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28). One of the first Gentile converts to Christianity was an Ethiopian: "So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet...Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?'...So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:27-38).  There was a flourishing Christian church in Ethiopia while the savages of northern Europe were dancing around sacred trees.  If North African church fathers Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, and Victor, Bishop of Rome, had all boarded a time machine and tried to hop on a bus in the American Southland in the 1950's, they'd have been obliged to go to the back of the bus. Their precise ethnic affinities are in dispute but what is certain is that none of these gentlemen would have looked like Heidi.

One Blood

What does the Bible teach on these matters? Are the various tribes of humanity different by creation, or are we all of one lineage, both as to spiritual paternity and human descent?:

  • “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
  • “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
  • “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. ”

  • (Acts 17:24-29)

All humankind are of the same parentage, by both streams, tracing directly to our Creator, and also following back our human descent: "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" (Malachi 2:10); "Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15).

The implications of this truth, that all humankind are one species, did not fail to be drawn by Bible students:

"Like as on earth therefore, there is spread over the whole world but one, and that the same human nature; and, as many nations have arisen out of this, and the manner of life of every race, its fashions, modes, and governments, are different, not only of the barbarians and wild, but also of the peaceable, fashionable, and wise; and, (as) there are among these both slaves and freemen, poor and rich; those also who differ in colour, as the Scythians, and those whose lot it is to dwell without, in the west; the Hindoos also, at the rising of the sun, and the Ethiopians at its setting; Greeks, too, and others whose destiny it is to reside among princes; and, among all these again, some bear rule over portions of the nations, and others are wholly subject:. . .still, the whole of these are men, and one is the common species of them all."
(Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius of Caesarea: Theopania (Kindle Locations 557-568).)

We were made in the image of God: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:27). Not only are we all creatures of the one God, but reckoning also by physical lineage, we are all descendants of Adam: "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live..." (Acts 17:26 NRSV); "...for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:22); "Thus it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living being'...Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven." (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

"Consider the starting point in the gospel: the creation of man and woman in the image of God with equal dignity before God. This means that no human being is more or less human than another. All are made in God's image." (David Platt, Because We Are Called to Counter Culture, p. 45).

The Deist Ethan Allen was well aware that his racist ideas could not co-exist with the plain Bible teaching that all mankind are of one lineage, one blood. He actually advances this manifest conflict between the Bible and racist arrogance as an argument against the Bible:

"Those adventurers, who have sailed or travelled to the several parts of the globe, inform us, in their respective histories, that they find the habitable part of it more or less populated by one kind or other of rational animals, and that considered as tribes or nations, there is evidently a gradation of intellectual capacity among them, some more exalted and others lower in the scale of being; and that they are specially diverse from each other with respect to their several animal natures, though in most respects they appear to have one sort of nature with us, viz: more like us that like the brute creation; as they walk erect, speak with man's voice, and make use of language of one sort or other, though many of them are more or less inarticulate in their manner of speaking: and in many other particulars bear a general likeness to us. . .

"So also concerning the difference which subsists between us and the negroes; their black skin is but one of the particulars in which they are different from us; their many and very essential differences fully evince, that the white nations, and they, could not according to the law of their respective generations, have had one and the same lineal original, but that they have had their diverse kind of original progenitors.

"It is true that the several nations and tribes of the earth, comprehended under the general term man, notwithstanding their diversity to each other in bodily shape and mental powers, bear a nearer resemblance to one another than the brute kind, for which reason they are known by one common appellation: though it is manifest that they could never have lineally descended from the same first parents, whether their names were Adam and Eve, or what not. . .

"The acquaintance, which we have had with the negro nation in particular, fully evinces the absurdity of supposing them to be of the same blood and kindred with ourselves. . .

"For that we and they are in nature inherently and uniformly diverse from each other in our respective constitutions and generations, and have been so time immemorial. So that the negroes are of a different species of rational beings from us, and consequently must have had their distinct lineal original. . .

"The Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope have enacted laws to punish with death such of their Dutch subjects as may be convicted of copulating with the Hottentots: for that their nature is adjusted to be of an inferior species to theirs, so that mixing their nature with them would essentially degenerate and debase their own."

(Ethan Allen. Reason, The Only Oracle of Man / Or a Compendious System of Natural Religion, Chapter X, Section II.)

Thus, according to the Bible, we are all one family, one blood, the children of Adam. But this conflicts with Deist Ethan Allen's self-image. What a surprise, he believes the group to which he belongs is superior to the others. Ah, the Age of Reason, thank goodness it is over.

Scientific Racism

The Bible has plenty to say about Africa and its inhabitants. The "Cush" of the older translations is approximately equivalent to Ethiopia, i.e., black Africa: "Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel? says the LORD..." (Amos 9:7).  But nothing the Bible says is unflattering to the inhabitants of that region.  Since this is what the Bible teaches, where could the white racists of nineteenth and twentieth century American have gotten contrary information?

One fertile source was the 'science' of anthropology, which throughout the period of the nineteenth and early twentieth century was putting out the hokum that the various races of man were of different origin and of differing worth.  Paul Broca (1824-80), professor of clinical surgery at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris, thought he'd found solid, measurable proof that whites are superior to other weighing brain size!: "In general, the brain is larger in men than in women, in eminent men than in men of mediocre talent, in superior races than in inferior races.  Other things equal, there is a remarkable relationship between the development of intelligence and the volume of the brain." (Paul Broca, quoted p. 150, The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould.)  Another 'scientific' anthropologist, E.A. Spitzka, found an evolutionary lesson in brain size: "Spitzka, nonetheless, was undaunted...he arranged, in order, a large brain from an eminent white male, a bushwoman from Africa, and a gorilla.  Spitzka concluded...'The jump from a Cuvier or a Thackeray to a Zulu or a Bushman is no greater than from the latter to the gorilla or the orang.'" (pp. 150-151, The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould.) (Brain size tracks with body size; if these 'scientific' anthropologists were even correct that European male brains out-sized oriental or aboriginal brains, the likely reason was better nutrition, thus larger overall body size, amongst the former. Tall men have larger brains than short men do.) This pretentious twaddle about 'inferior races' and 'superior races' was the bread-and-butter of Darwin and his successors. Here evolutionist Herbert Spencer imagines that childhood development recapitulates the 'advance' from the 'barbarous race' to 'civilized man:'

  • “Do not expect from a child any great amount of moral goodness. During early years every civilized man passes through that phase of character exhibited by the barbarous race from which he is descended. As the child's features—flat nose, forward-opening nostrils, large lips, wide-apart eyes, absent frontal sinus, etc.—resemble for a time those of the savage, so, too, do his instincts. Hence the tendencies to cruelty, to thieving, to lying, so general among children—tendencies which, even without the aid of discipline, will become more or less modified just as the features do.”

  • (Spencer, Herbert. Essays on Education and Kindred Subjects, Everyman's Library (p. 153). Kindle Edition.)

These 'scientific' anthropologists quite pointedly turned up their noses at the Christian sentimentality of the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God.  Louis Agassiz, famed American naturalist, was very well aware his contention that each major race had begun as a separate biological species rebutted the Bible's teaching of common descent.  He reserved the right to pursue science untainted by religion: "Naturalists have a right to consider the questions growing out of men's physical relations as merely scientific questions, and to investigate them without reference to either politics or religion." (p. 171, The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould). Unfettered by the Christian sentimentality of a common origin, he gave full voice to the racism then prevalent in his profession: "The indomitable, courageous, proud Indian — in how different a light he stands by the side of the submissive, obsequious, imitative negro, or by the side of the tricky, cunning, and cowardly Mongolian! Are not these facts indications that the different races do not rank upon one level in nature." (Louis Agassiz, quoted in the Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould, pp. 171-172). The Darwinians were, if anything, even more virulent in their contempt for the 'lower races.' The evolutionists all did, it was their stock in trade:

"In proof of the first of these positions, we may cite the fact that, in the relative development of the limbs, the civilized man departs more widely from the general type of the placental mammalia than do the lower human races. While often possessing well-developed body and arms, the Australian has very small legs: thus reminding us of the chimpanzee and the gorilla, which present no great contrasts in size between the hind and fore limbs. But in the European, the greater length and massiveness of the legs have become marked—the fore and hind limbs are more heterogeneous."
(Spencer, Herbert. Essays: Scientific, Political, & Speculative, Vol. I (Kindle Locations 275-279).)

This is not an unfortunate happenstance, as if these people simply picked up the racism that was present as a background noise in their culture. This is what they brought to the table. They sat down at the table of the great conversation, and belched out just this.

  • “No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favor, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites.”

  • (Thomas H. Huxley, quoted p. 302, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion)

Where did this stream of the 'zeitgeist' come from? It is no mystery; the reader who wants to know need look no further than the full title of Charles Darwin's magnum opus, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life." These 'scientific' anthropologists strained at the bit to find an 'evolutionary sequence' in the races of man, marching upward from lower to higher. Bible-readers always knew better. Science is not, as its acolytes sometimes represent it, an Olympian activity taking place at aetherial heights where ordinary human cultural concerns do not reach; in the nineteenth century, northern Europeans and especially the British, found themselves sitting atop the globe, and began busily making up reasons why it was right and proper for them to dominate other peoples. We are still saddled with some of these enabling ideologies to this day, although they have outlived their usefulness. Britain is by now a second-rate power that does not dominate anything, so can we please just drop this nonsense? The reason for this glaring inequality cannot be, as the Darwinians maintained, the inherent ineptitude of the 'inferior races,' because those among the 'inferior races' who adopt certain political institutions, such as democracy and free markets, can fairly rapidly find themselves beating their former colonial masters at their own game.

Unfortunately this flood of pseudo-scientific, racist anthropology warped and stunted human lives. Not only that, upon its adoption by the Nazis, it killed millions of human beings. But the atheists have no concept of intellectual honesty or moral accountability; they do not care that their own ideas have caused harm. To whom shall the butcher's bill be forwarded? To the Christians, of course! One moral of this unimpressive story is that science does not fall down from the heavens, it is a human cultural activity which observers will do well to consider from a gimlet-eyed stand-point of healthy skepticism.

Drawing, skeleton


There is an unholy alliance in the world today between atheists, red-state racists, and 'paleo-Confederates,' all united in their claim that the the Bible really does, when all is said and done, support slavery, and that the abolitionists were simply mistaken in their belief to the contrary:

  • “But neither do I want to ignore the biblical teaching on slavery and act as though the Christian defenders of antebellum slavery had no clue what the Scriptures said about this. They knew the apostolic instructions precisely, had their exegesis in hand, and consistently bested the abolitionists in debate.”
  • (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 303).

Who actually holds the Bible high ground in this matter? How did the abolitionists succeed in convincing millions of Christian Americans that slavery is wicked and unbiblical in spite of losing every debate? Let's get down to cases. Had the law of Moses been scrupulously followed, debt slavery should not have existed at all within nation Israel:

"If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. And then he shall depart from you -- he and his children with him -- and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God." (Leviticus 25:35-43).

Every 49 years Israel was to hold a year of jubilee.  At this time, farmlands that had been sold were reclaimed by their original owners, debts were remitted, and anyone who had fallen into a condition of servitude was liberated.  Every 49 years the deck was reshuffled and economic inequities that had built up in the meantime were drawn back to the starting point.  For many years after the Civil War, African Americans celebrated the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation as 'Jubilee Day'.  We have a sort of rolling jubilee built into our own law code, in the form of bankruptcy law.

The law of Moses, while providing a high standard of justice and righteousness within nation Israel, was not universal in its scope; Jews were allowed to treat Gentiles unjustly.  Chattel slavery as it existed in the American South was perceived by Moses as an injustice; one Israelite cannot keep another in a state of lifelong involuntary servitude.  The slave trade was strictly forbidden: "He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:16).

The Mosaic law does not have a universal perspective, though; Moses permitted Jews to treat Gentiles unjustly, purchasing them as slaves, charging usurious interest, etc.  Jesus addressed this very issue of Moses' particularism, when asked, 'who is my neighbor': But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him...'So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?'  And he said, 'He who showed mercy on him.'  Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:33-37).

In theory, under Leviticus 25, debt slavery should not have existed within nation Israel. Should one of the people fall into slavery through this route or through the common ancient route of capture during time of warfare, even before hitting the backstop of the Jubilee year, the term of servitude was limited to six years:

"Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing." (Exodus 21:1-2).
"If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress.  From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him.  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today." (Deuteronomy 15:12-15).

The Mosaic law on slavery seems to have been observed mostly in the breach.  Jeremiah 34:8-22 reports a fitful, inconsistent effort by King Zedekiah to proclaim a jubilee: "...after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim release to them: that each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them, a Jew his brother, in bondage.  And all the officials and all the people obeyed...But afterward they turned around and took back the male servants and the female servants, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection for male servants and for female servants." (Jeremiah 34:8-11).

The economic provisions of Mosaic law were not made binding upon Gentile churches, but it has always been assumed that Mosaic law will inform the consciences of Christians on issues of economic equity: "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath." (Acts 15:24).

The law of Moses ameliorated rather than totally corrected existing social conditions within nation Israel.  The early church went Moses one better, not just practicing the jubilee, but sharing all: "And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45).  The church came to realize that "...God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34-35).  With this realization, Gentiles too were admitted to one brotherhood: "...and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:10-11).

The Mosaic law's distinction between Jew and Gentile was overcome in Christ, who tore down the wall of partition: "So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it." (Ephesians 2:11-16).

It's precisely because of the Bible's teaching against slavery that evangelicals like Wilberforce agitated against it.  Atheists misrepresent Paul's instructions to slaves to work hard for their masters as an unconditional endorsement of slavery, because they can't think of any reason why slaves should work hard unless it's because slavery is hunky-dory.  But Christian ethics does not deal with injustice the way they expect, teaching non-resistance to evil: "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters will all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.  For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.  If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that?  But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps...When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross..." (1 Peter 2:18-24).

Paul doesn't recommend slavery, telling the Corinthians, "Were you called while a slave?  Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that....You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men." (1 Corinthians 7:21-23).  He tells Philemon to receive Onesimus, a runaway slave, as a brother: "For perhaps he was for this reason parted from you for a while, that you should have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.  If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me." (Philemon 1:16-17).

Eyre Crowe, Slaves Waiting for Sale at Richmond, Virginia

Those who worked most diligently against the evil of slavery were believers whose consciences were informed by the Bible: "Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love, and His gospel is peace; Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease." (O Holy Night, Adolphe Adam).  Had the practice of the early church continued, there would have been little cause for complaint: "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common." (Acts 4:32).

This practice did not continue, however; John Chrysostom would later look back wistfully, "Should we do as much today, we should all live much more happily, rich as well as poor...Let us imagine things as happening in this way: All give all that they have into a common fund. No one would have to concern himself about it, neither the rich nor the poor.  How much money do you think would be collected?  I infer -- for it cannot be said with certainty -- that if every individual contributed all his money, his lands, his estates, his houses (I will not speak of slaves, for the first Christians had none, probably giving them their freedom), then a million pounds of gold would be obtained, and most likely two or three times that amount.  Then tell me how many people our city [Constantinople] contains?...What could we not undertake with our huge treasure!...Will we not make heaven on earth?" (John Chrysostom, quoted in Foundations of Christianity, Karl Kautsky, Book Four, 1, pp. 280-281)

What were the abolitionists thinking? Didn't they know the Bible endorses slavery? For more resources on slavery, the Bible, and Christianity, see:


Adolf Hitler

Was Adolf Hitler a Christian? By the Nazis' own ideological writings, they espouse a pagan nature mysticism with more affinity for the racist Social Darwinism of their day than to Christianity. But this accusation, that Adolf Hitler was a devout Christian whose crimes were motivated by zeal for Jesus, is oft repeated by atheists. Is it accurate?

Hitler's contempt for Christians and the Bible was genuine and well-attested. Of Roman Catholic upbringing, he was, however, a theist, who seems to have had a vague religious faith, attributing his escape from Stauffenberg's bomb to "Providence." (Colonel Stauffenberg had placed a briefcase containing a bomb at the Fuhrer's feet, then hastily departed. Not owing to any break in the course of nature, but simply because somebody found the clumsy briefcase to be in the way, it had been moved before exploding, and Hitler survived.) He spoke to the nation: "The bomb planted by Colonel Count Stauffenberg exploded two meters to the right of me...I myself an entirely unhurt, aside from some very minor scratches, bruises and burns. I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence..." (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer, p. 1069).

But he was no Christian, and his movement was no celebration of Christianity. He thought ill of Christianity, preferring Islam for its warrior spirit:

"You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" (Adolf Hitler, quoted by Albert Speer, p. 96, Inside the Third Reich.)

The "meekness and flabbiness" to which Hitler objected in Christianity fell straight from the lips of its Founder:

  • “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
  • (Matthew 5:39).

Our own "War President" deals with such troublesome verses mostly by ignoring their existence.

This new pagan nature mysticism, a hot-house plant springing up under Nazi care, lacked coherent definition, but owed its martial character to Charles Darwin's conception of nature as a theater of struggle. The Nazis also took from Darwin and his successors their preference for racial eugenics. Other streams converged to make up this muddy flood, including atheist Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the Superman. Germany's Lutheran Church was so hollowed out by decades of liberalism that it provided very little resistance when the Nazis pushed on it, like a post hollowed out by termites. Adolf Hitler cannot join the ranks of the twentieth century's atheist mass killers, because he was a theist entranced with the occult, not an atheist, but he was certainly no Christian either, cautious political pose to the contrary.

Drawing, skull, Museum of Natural History
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