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Slave huts Bonaire

With hands tied above and his battered body hanging from a beam, the shirtless young black man absorbed punishing whiplashes until he placated his white owner by uttering his new name. Such images from the TV miniseries Roots imprinted on the minds of a generation the brutality of slavery.

Since slavery is today considered a great moral evil, some wonder why the Bible doesn’t categorically condemn the practice. Critics even insist that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) condones, if not promotes, slavery. Some “new atheists” proclaim that the Bible can’t serve as a basis for morality because it fails to condemn the primitive and barbaric practices of humanity’s past—especially slavery!

It is true that the Bible does not formally and explicitly condemn slavery as an institution. So how do we account for this? Just what does the Bible say about slavery? Several important points warrant careful consideration.

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You don’t have to spend very much time interacting with atheists on the internet before you hear this objection: “There are almost 5,000 gods being worshiped by humans, but don’t worry… only yours is right.” The picture above was sent to me on Twitter last week in response to my blog about God’s hiddenness. There are other very popular forms of this argument. Richard Dawkins claims that Christians are atheists when it comes to Zeus, Thor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and many others. Dawkins just goes one god further than the Christian. So the claim is either than I’m an atheist when it comes to 4,999 gods or that I’m dumb for claiming to have truth when I reject so many other options.

The reason this argument is so popular on the internet is that it is easy. It fits into a 140 characters for Twitter and can easily be turned into a meme. Here are examples I found from a very quick search on Twitter.

“There have been nearly 3000 Gods so far but only yours actually exists. The others are silly made up nonsense. But not yours. Yours is real.”

“there are thousands of religions practices. thousands of gods worshiped. but don’t worry. yours is the only right one.”

“30,000 religions and 5000 versions of Christianity and only ‘yours’ is the right one-you are a joke.”

“Roughly 4200 religions in the world; and only yours is the right one? You must be a genius and everyone else is dumb to not pick yours.”


This objection also works well because a good response can’t fit on Twitter or a meme (like most good responses or argument), and so it seems like the Christian is left without an answer. If you try to answer on Twitter, you are most likely going to get another short objection. Instead of giving you a short Twitter response, I will hopefully help you understand this objection. This will help you see that there is a response and that the is just a bad, popular level objection. There’s nothing to worry about for the Christian.

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I would like to offer you, in a nutshell, what I think is the simplest, most powerful way, strategically, to make your case as a Christian.

 

I would like to offer you, in a nutshell, what I think is the simplest, most powerful way, strategically, to make your case as a Christian. I have been using it a long time in a variety of ways, though it really came together for me quite by accident recently when my eldest daughter, then about eight years old, asked me an important question.

“Papa,” Annabeth asked, “How do we know God is true?” She was already a Christian, baptized at six, but was now trying to connect the dots, not regarding the “What?” but regarding the “Why?”

What do you say to a youngster who already believes in God, but is not sure why belief in God is defensible? That was my challenge. And nothing technical would do, not at her age.

I thought for a moment how I could say something meaningful in a simple way. Then a thought crystalized in my mind. “Annabeth,” I said, “the reason we believe God is true is that God is the best explanation for the way things are.”  The minute I said it I realized I had summed up in a single sentence a major thrust of how for decades I have approached defending Christianity.

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The question of the so-called Canaanite “genocide” is a difficult one to answer. It's difficult to answer for a few reasons. First, there is no sound bite response. In fact, I have a 50-minute talk devoted to addressing this one subject, and still much more could be said. Second, any adequate response requires laying out the historical and theological context. However, many who raise the challenge are biblically illiterate and have no interest in even attempting to understand the context. Third, any rational response may not be emotionally satisfying. There is something deeply disturbing about these accounts, and the apologist can’t just wave a magic wand to make it go away. Even though a response may not be emotionally satisfying, that doesn’t mean it’s not a reasonable response to the challenge.

Rather than rehearse my response to this challenge, I want to make an observation about the challenge. Many atheists have cited the killing of the Canaanites in the Old Testament to charge God with being a genocidal monster. Christians have rightly pointed out that the conquest of the land of Canaan was an act of judgment on a very wicked society. In fact, the Canaanites engaged in idolatry, incest, temple prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice, witchcraft, and sorcery (Lev. 18:20-30). For instance, the Canaanites worshiped the underworld god Molech. Molech was represented as an upright, bull-headed brass idol with a human body. The Canaanite people would heat the idol to hundreds of degrees and then place one of their children in its glowing hot arms. The child would burn to death. So this was judgment, not genocide.

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