Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day...for most


I'm thankful for the work and sacrifice of this nation's founders. Independence Day is a big deal in the U.S.....but not for everyone. Check out what Gary North said, then read his full article if you dare.

I do not celebrate the fourth of July. This goes back to a term paper I wrote in graduate school. It was on colonial taxation in the British North American colonies in 1775. Not counting local taxation, I discovered that the total burden of British imperial taxation was about 1% of national income. It may have been as high as 2.5% in the southern colonies.


According to North, 1775 represents the good ole' days. Click on his quote to see his total argument.

12 comments:

Derek said...

I wish the American Revolution was based on a cornerstone issue of the Civil War: abolition of slavery. "King George, we colonists can no longer be a part of an empire that allows for the buying and selling of image-bearers of our Creator. . . and secondarily, please stop taxing our tea." Certainly the founding fathers suffered from selective moral outrage (as do we).

Brother Titus said...

For as learned as one would think he is, he's sadly mistaken if he thinks the only reason, or even the core reason, the colonists wanted to break from England was because of high taxes. That's surely not why the colonists left England in the first place. This guy needs to take his blinders off and learn about the real founding of America.

Curious to see that he quoted Frederick Engels in a positive context, too.

Jim said...

The Declaration of Independence - which is what we celebrate on July 4 - no where objects to high taxes. It criticizes the king for "imposing taxes on us without our consent." I.e., it criticizes taxation without representation.

Any tax imposed without representation was objectionable, high taxes imposed with representation (which they considered an entirely valid means of consenting to the tax) did not violate the Declaration's principles.

If you're interested, I briefly discuss the Revolution in the context of Romans 13 here: http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/2007/09/romans-13-and-american-revolution.html

Woody Woodward said...

I have no idea who Gary North was or what he did, but as for me and my house, I will go by what the great brave American, Oliver North said about the 4th!
http://www.nragive.com/ringoffreedom/index.html

Roger Mann said...

I wish the American Revolution was based on a cornerstone issue of the Civil War: abolition of slavery. "King George, we colonists can no longer be a part of an empire that allows for the buying and selling of image-bearers of our Creator. . . and secondarily, please stop taxing our tea." Certainly the founding fathers suffered from selective moral outrage (as do we).

I'm not sure how the American colonists could have biblically justified their rebellion against the British government over the issue of slavery. Why? Because not only is slavery never condemned or prohibited in Scripture, but is rather explicitly sanctioned in God’s law and upheld in the New Testament Scriptures. That statement is obviously not popular or easy to accept in today’s culture, but I see no other way to honestly deal with the biblical evidence.

“Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)

According to the tenth commandment, God considers a “male or female slave” just as much legitimate property as anything else that “belongs to your neighbor.” Therefore, to say that slavery is inherently sinful or evil is to slander God’s law and make Him out to be a liar. On what basis are we to say otherwise?

“Your male and female slaves are to be from the nations around you; you may purchase male and female slaves. You may also purchase them from the foreigners staying with you, or from their families living among you—those born in your land. These may become your property. You may leave them to your sons after you to inherit as property; you can make them slaves for life.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

Notice that God’s law here explicitly permits the buying and owning of slaves “for life” under the Old Covenant, and to bequeath them as inherited property.

“Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1)

“And you, masters, do the same things to them [i.e., your slaves], giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” (Ephesians 6:9)

Far from abolishing slavery or undermining it as a legitimate institution, the New Testament continues to sanction slavery -- even likening earthly slave masters to our "Master" in heaven. As the Old Testament had done before it, the New Testament explicitly permits Christians to own slaves and regulates how they ought to be treated.

So on what basis do we dare say that slavery is immoral? And on what biblical principle would the American colonists have opposed slavery in order to justify their rebellion against the British government?

Jim said...

Slavery is never condemned in the Scriptures?

Aside from the central pre-exilic motif of the OT being God's liberation of Israel from slavery to Egypt, the overarching theme of the Scriptures is humanity enslavement to the devil and Jesus redeeming us from that slavery as our kinsman-redeemer.

So slavery most certainly can be an evil according to the Scriptures.

But we don't see this only in the overall story arc of the Scriptures.

There are different types of slavery. OT Israel (contrary to slavery in Egypt) had a number of legal protections for slaves (Ex 21.2 ff).

Israel's fugitive slave law alone - which prohibited returning a slave to his master (Dt 23.15) - by itself would have greatly limited the abuse a master would dare to give his slave. Masters basically had to make their lives good enough that they didn't want to run away.

Further, Israelites could be enslaved to a limit of seven years. Now today we think of Israelites as an ethnic category, but that's not what the Bible tells us. Being circumcised made one as a "native of the land" (Ex 12.48). So Gentile slaves could convert, be circumcised, and they'd need to be freed in the seventh year.

Further, on my reading, slaves could be made only through debt, just war, or voluntarily.

The Scriptures expressly prohibit selling a kidnapped person (Ex 21.16).

The Atlantic slave trade was far and away a trade in kidnapped people. Kidnapped individuals need to be freed. The burden of proof of clear title to a slave would be on the seller & holder of slaves, not on the slaves themselves. So if a slaveholder could not prove good title - i.e., that the person was made a slave justly - then the slave would have to go free.

Now, if all of these protections for slaves had been instituted in the U.S., then I would tend more to agree that the institution in the U.S. need not be condemned as sinful.

But it appears to me that chattel slavery in the U.S. was more akin to the experience of the Israelites in Egypt than to the protected status of a slave in Israel.

But it does not appear unreasonable to me, given the utter lack of all of those protections, to condemn chattel slavery in America as a form of "sinful" slavery.

As to the New Testament: It encourages slaves to secure their freedom if they can (1 Co 7.21,23), again suggesting the freedom is the preferred state.

But in any event, the NT passages do not teach us that Roman slavery is somehow normative for slavery in a Christian society or that Christians could not wish that Roman slavery be done away with as a political matter.

An example: I'm tempted to believe that prisons are sinful reponses to crime: They punish innocents by taking away husbands and fathers, and I'm tempted to think that a brief amount of very intense pain (e.g., whipping) is actually more humane than the wounds created by long internment.

But while I may hold that position, I nonetheless tell the men with whom I interact on the inside to submit to the authorities in prison, and even to serve them as they would serve the Lord.

That doesn't mean that I wouldn't abolish the institutions tomorrow if I could (and if the evidence confirmed that my intuition about the cost and benefit of prison versus physical punishment were accurate).

But the policy question is distinct from the question of how to behavior toward the institution on a personal level.

Also, recall that Paul instructs Christian slave holders to treat their slaves with "justice and fairness" (Col 4.1). Indicating that there is an appropriate, non-sinful way to treat a slave.

If that behavior were not seen in large measure, then, again, it might be a perfectly reasonable policy recommendation to abolish the institution itself as irreformable.

Roger Mann said...

“Slavery is never condemned in the Scriptures?”

Correct. That’s why you were unable to cite a single verse of Scripture that condemns slavery or treats it as a moral evil. It simply doesn’t exist. Yet there are numerous explicit verses that sanction the buying, selling, and owning of slaves throughout Scripture, a few of which I’ve already cited -- proof positive that slavery is not inherently sinful.

“Aside from the central pre-exilic motif of the OT being God's liberation of Israel from slavery to Egypt, the overarching theme of the Scriptures is humanity enslavement to the devil and Jesus redeeming us from that slavery as our kinsman-redeemer. So slavery most certainly can be an evil according to the Scriptures.”

Yes, slavery to sin and the devil (which Israel’s bondage in Egypt pictured) is considered evil in Scripture. Yet being “slaves of righteousness” and “slaves of God” (Rom 6:18, 22) is considered morally good. But that obviously demonstrates that slavery itself is not considered evil is Scripture, so I’m not quite sure what your point is here.

Indeed, God’s giving of slaves to Israel is even considered a blessing in one passage of Scripture:

“For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob. Then people will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them for servants and maids in the land of the Lord; they will take them captive whose captives they were, and rule over their oppressors.” (Isaiah 14:1-2)

“There are different types of slavery. OT Israel (contrary to slavery in Egypt) had a number of legal protections for slaves (Ex 21.2 ff).”

I agree that Scripture gives certain legal protections for slaves. But it was only the Hebrew slaves that were to be set free after six years (Ex 21:2), and only the Hebrew male slaves at that: “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do” (Ex 21:7). Moreover, the foreign slaves were considered as “property…for life,” and could be bequeathed as an “inheritance” (Lev 25:45-46), as I pointed out previously. So the Bible explicitly sanctions chattel slavery.

Roger Mann said...

“Israel's fugitive slave law alone - which prohibited returning a slave to his master (Dt 23.15) - by itself would have greatly limited the abuse a master would dare to give his slave. Masters basically had to make their lives good enough that they didn't want to run away.

Well, the Hebrew slave masters were permitted to beat their unruly slaves, as long as it didn’t result in their death (Ex 21:20-21) or permanent maiming (vs. 26-27). So I think you’re glamorizing their treatment a bit here. Moreover, it’s highly doubtful that this fugitive slave law applied to slaves who were owned by Hebrews who were treating them in accordance with the law. In John Gill’s commentary on this passage, he cites several Jewish sources who interpret this passage as only applying to foreign slaves who ran away from their abusive pagan masters and fled to Israel for safety.

“Further, on my reading, slaves could be made only through debt, just war, or voluntarily.”

I think you need to re-read Leviticus 25:44-46. The Israelites were permitted to purchase slaves as permanent property from the nations surrounding them (v. 44), and the children of foreigners living among them (v. 45). And a Hebrew man could sell his daughter into slavery whether she volunteered or not (Ex 21:7). I’m sorry if that offends you, but I’m not the one who authored it.

“The Scriptures expressly prohibit selling a kidnapped person (Ex 21.16).”

It only condemns the kidnapping and selling of a free-man. It certainly doesn’t condemn the legitimate purchase of foreign slaves (Lev 25:44-46), or the forceful taking of conquered enemies as slaves (e.g. Numbers 31:32-47; Deuteronomy 20:13-14).

“The Atlantic slave trade was far and away a trade in kidnapped people.”

I don’t believe that’s historically accurate. The vast majority of slaves were not kidnapped free-men, but were already slaves in Africa and were purchased by the European slave traders on the open market. For example, the kings of Dahomey (a country in West Africa) sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery, who otherwise would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. In fact, Europeans rarely entered the interior of Africa, due to fear of disease and fierce African resistance. The slaves were usually brought to coastal outposts by other Africans and traded for goods or sold for money.

“Now, if all of these protections for slaves had been instituted in the U.S., then I would tend more to agree that the institution in the U.S. need not be condemned as sinful.”

There were quite a few legal protections for slaves in colonial America. Nevertheless, I’m sure there were plenty of abuses as well. But the issue is whether the American colonists were morally justified in rebelling against the British government and refusing to submit to its legitimate authority over the issue of slavery. I don’t see a shred of Biblical evidence that they were. In fact, where does the Bible condone armed rebellion against one’s government for any reason? I simply don’t see it.

Derek said...

Our Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Self-evident: needs no argumentation to support the proposition.
Created: necessitates a Creator.
Unalienable rights: completely and always immoral to deny.

It's hard for me to understand how the Colonists could so fervently rally behind this beautiful Declaration, yet fail to apply it to the slaves they held.

Jim said...

Roger,

[1] My apologies, I thought it was obvious that I didn't seek to address Derek's claim about the American Revolution. Your argument on slavery was much broader than that. That broader argument is what I aimed to address.

[2] I also tried to make it clear that I did not defend the position that slavery was inherently sinful. The position I laid out was that there are forms of slavery that are sinful.

Unless you're defending the position that all forms of slavery are biblically permissible, then you certainly agree with my overall claim.

I.e., that there are different types of slaveries. So there is sinful slavery, e.g., the slavery to which the Egyptians subject Israel, and there is non-sinful slavery, e.g., the many protections for slaves in OT Israel.

Slavery without the OT protections (mutatis mutandis) would be sinful slavery. Why? Because the slave owners break God's law.

The question then is whether the form of slavery in which the U.S. engaged was of the sinful sort or not.

Quoting additional verses about slavery in the OT doesn't address that question: Was U.S. slavery more like sinful, Egyptian slavery, or more like OT Israel slavery?

Jim said...

[3] Dt 23.15. Just read the verse. I don't see qualifications and exceptions in it, and I see no need to import qualifications and exceptions. Israel's "fugitive slave law" by itself would create an incredibly mild form of slavery since a slave could flee harsh treatment.

I can understand why people who want to defend harsh systems of slavery would not like that law, or would wish to explain it away. It certainly indicts the ante-bellum Fugitive Slave Act in the U.S. that required the return of slaves as an ungodly law.

[4] A Gentile slave who converted would be an Israelite, and would need to be freed at the time that an Israeli slave had to be freed.

Jim said...

[5] On the Atlantic slave trade: I am aware of everything you write, but it is non-responsive to my point:

Just because someone else stole a person (or property for that matter) and sold him to you, doesn't mean that you get to keep him in good conscience.

And there is no reason to believe that the permission to purchase foreign slaves meant that Israelites had permission to purchase Gentiles that had been kidnapped.

In the OT, slaves were made because of their debt, because of just war, or voluntarily. It is insufficient that someone be taken in a war in order to keep or sell that person justly as a slave. The war has to be a just war.

Many of the wars in which Africans made other Africans slaves were in fact wars to make slaves.

And the fact that some of those taken in an unjust war would be murdered if they weren't made a slave, doesn't make the purchase of that stolen person any better morally. (E.g., if I kidnapped you in order to murder you. But then changed my mind and only sold you into slavery, does that mean that the person to whom I sold you actually has good title to own you?)

Unless debt, just war, or volunary enslavement were the bases upon which slaves brought to America were enslaved, then it was a form of slavery in which the U.S. engaged was sinful. Purchasing property that you have reason to believe was ill-gotten gain does not give you good title. This would go doubly so when that "property" is a human being.

And it's not sufficient simply to close one's eyes. If the U.S. system had any hope of being permissible, then it needed to be founded on slaves made justly - by debt, just war, or voluntarily.

[6] "Sons" in Lev 25 does not mean small children - it means descendants. E.g., bequeathing slaves to "sons" does not mean bequeathing the slave to a child, it means bequeathing to your descendant. Without this provisions about sojourning Gentiles, the laws about releasing Israelites, along with laws about treating sojourners the same as Israelites, would be taken to require the release of justly-made Gentile slaves earlier in the passage.

[7] On daughters: Dt 15.12 would seem to be the general rule (i.e., when there are no sexual relations between master and female slave), and provides the freeing of women slaves who are Hebrews in the seventh year along with the men.


Ex 21.7 appears to expect that the daughter would be a mate for the man. Hence, if for his son, she needs to be treated as a daughter (rather than as a slave), and if another mate is purchased, the rights of the first cannot be reduced.

Like enslavement for debt, selling children was a last-ditch response to starvation (Neh 5). Much like giving children up today if you're in dire circumstances. Given fatherly prerogatives in the OT, this is a form of voluntary slavery. I don't think, e.g., that this is authorization to sell a child, say, to be able to pay for a vacation.

[8] On the overall story arc of the Bible - freedom from slavery to the devil - and in the OT in particular: The Bible clearly condemns forms of slavery as sinful. The point of the image is entirely lost if not. If slavery is everywhere commended - as seems to be the argument that you want to make - then Egyptian slavery was not wrong, and why would "slavery" to sin be a negative connotation.

Humanity is made for liberty in Christ. That doesn't mean that slavery is inherently sinful at every time and place. And I haven't argued that it is.

As Jesus said in John 15:15: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."

Not incidentally, let me thank you for the interaction.

-- Jim