Hebrews 13:8-9 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching. It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them.
Bishop Paprocki does call for this investigator and committee to be led by the laity, but as he says his view is for those names to be sent to the Pope for the removal of Bishops, it is still within this culture of clericalism that the those in the Church who call for action still operate with the Church and outside of the secular law. It stops short of what absolutely needs to be done; the investigator and committee need to provide names and evidence to the secular judicial system to arrest, to try, and to send to prison any citizen, whether it be a member of the clergy, for breaking both secular and divine laws.
I urge every Catholic to demand a different approach from the leadership of the Church. And let’s face it, the only power the laity has is the power of the purse. So, if the USCCB is still unwillingly to do what is needed, and it still appears to be the case, do not give one penny to any parish or diocese. Donate your funds to self-sufficient apostalates instead. It has to be a complete and utter shock to the Bishops that we will take no more.
Demand it! Stop posting normal Catholic posts, actually DO something, write a letter, stop your offerings, request meetings with priests and bishops. If you hear something that’s wrong in a meeting or even a homily–say something!
“A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. ” Mk 1:3
I do enjoy the new voices with different traditions that have come here recently to converse, although, in many ways with their short departure, I believe they lack the understanding of this community, a once a community of Christians. It was a place a both peaceful tension; a both/and, and many of those voices who made it such have left for various reasons. Here, I’ve come across one of the voices of a Baptist that I’ve missed Geoffrey RS Sales on original sin and justification–may his voice add to our conversation on Free Will, Divine Sovereignty, and Original Sin.
My understanding of the answer to this question in a Christian context is ‘hell-fire’. You can take whatever understanding your tradition gives you of original sin and theorise, but I don’t think you can take your own life and get away from the conclusion that you have not followed God’s ways. I may be preaching here to a bunch of folks who are outraged by such a suggestion, and who have so conducted themselves that they ‘deserve’ salvation. But were that the case Paul need not have written Romans, and, indeed, Christ need not have hung on that Cross. You can take whatever theory of the atonement your tradition offers you, but I don’t see you can escape having to have some theory, and that theory has to encompass the idea, outrageous to the unsaved, that Christ suffered and died for us – yes, for me, and for you, and…
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ƒ*Below is a combination of two conversations that I’ve had with reformed Christians on the debate between Free Will and Divine Sovereignty. I listened to a podcast where the Professor said he often had his students construct dialogues. I liked the idea; most of this is not based on my imagination but actual conversations, as my first attempt. The bulk of the text is based from one reformed Christian ideas; however, many of his points I thought were weak, so I did tweak them a bit with another reformed Christian’s comments of a debate I’ve had almost a year ago. However, in both cases, it appears that when presented with either proof texts and philosophy they both relied on a sort of personal revelation conclusion. I still think the arguments are weak but I surmise it’s not due to reformed Christians not having good arguments. The two that I had conversations with seemed to want to rely on short deflective statements rather than a development of their position. Again, in searching for truth, I’d ask for any reformed Christian who reads this to comment and present their arguments for dialogue. There are many authors and commenters on AATW and it can be a good experience to develop our ideas. Also, note, the conversations at the behest of the reformed Christians avoided philosophy so topics like determinism were never brought into the conversation.*
Vinnie: Free will is a myth. It’s a philosophical concept that has nothing to do with theology. The concept of Free will is a contradiction of God’s Divine authority based on the idea that the individual’s will is outside the authority of God’s word.
Tomas: I believe you’ve mistaken the permeance of God’s omnipotence and the idea of what constitutes free will.
Vinnie: God is in control of every aspect of our lives. God is the creator; he sustains us and everything in His dominion. Why do you make petitionary prayers for a new job or a promotion, good health, or to have a safe trip unless God is completely sovereign over all things?
Tomas: Much of what you say is true, God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, etc. Of course, prayers are for our own good whether we receive what we’ve asked for or not, it’s purpose to build our habits of virtue through God’s grace. For we cannot pray without the Spirit. I suppose I need to ask, “Do you believe the Bible is the word of God?”
Vinnie: Of course! And the scripture shows that Free Will is a myth! Genesis 50:20!
Tomas: Oh yes, the intention of harm being a part of God’s plan for the greater good. Naturally, I have to ask why does the passage necessarily support God’s Divine Sovereignty instead of humanity’s free will? You believe God to be supremely in control and yet you’re willing to put constraints on His power by declaring that because He has Divine sovereignty.
Vinnie: I understand your point and I agree that there are certain ideas within Christianity that don’t make a lot of sense if God is sovereign. Nonetheless, I believe He is.
Tomas: Interesting, so you’re admitting to rejecting observations within your own ability to reason?
Vinnie: Things can be logically proven and still be wrong.
Tomas: Careful down that rabbit hole, The ole’ atheist quip, to argue against a concept of free will one must have a sort of prior knowledge of actions being a free choice of the will. A prior knowledge acts as a sort of proof by the definition itself and admits to the existence of free will by your own argument against it.
Vinnie: This is a prime example of why philosophers make poor theologians. I don’t accept your point, because I believe God is in control, and God has complete freedom. So there is free will, but it’s God’s freedom and not ours. As creatures under God’s sovereign control, we are not free in relation to God’s will.
Tomas: And yet you’re not presenting any substantial proofs for your positive claims here.
Vinnie: To simply state, Reformed theology gives theological answers to theological questions in the context of the Reformed and Covenantal tradition in which it is presented. It really doesn’t advance the argument to erect straw men just to burn them down…
Tomas: Well, you’d have to show how I’ve erected a straw man on your position, which again you provide no proofs for such a claim. Furthermore, I can only surmise that your proofs would be weak arguments that Free Will doesn’t exist. In fact, what you do do is create a tautological argument by repeating words “reformed” and “theology” without implying anything of substance. Furthermore, as you indicate that only true theology can be done by doing theology—see the Tautology there?—you’ve erected a sort of Every True Scotsmen fallacy, as your saying, “Every true theologian uses theology, not philosophy.” I will use both philosophy and scripture as proof for the existence of the Free Will.
Thomas: If free will is a myth, it contradicts the theological doctrine of Original Sin and that of an omnibenevolent God. Naturally, if God creates and sustains all, including all of humanity’s will, then wills a programmed fall from grace; doesn’t give grace sufficient for all to be saved then he ultimately would be responsible for all subsequent evil actions made by humanity. Of course, in such a scenario, a judgment would be made on some who have no opportunity to cooperate with His grace–reprobate–to atone for sins they could not freely choose not to commit. As these concepts contradict with the essence of Divine Justice one cannot articulate the Augustinian view of the elect as double predestination because Augustine, in his Confessions book 7, explains quite clearly that humanity is solely responsible for evil, as it has no substance, as all of God’s creations share in his goodness and that evil is a privation of said goodness.
Furthermore, God gives humanity, government, the authority in scripture to punish criminals–Romans 13: 3-4. To give authority to punish criminals who are not responsible for their actions would be intrinsically disordered within the frameworks of divine justice. The Theologian makes the argument that the judgment of any action would be illogical if free does not exist unless of course, one argues that society’s response is a predetermined one.
Vinnie: if God has free will and man has free will, if the two come into conflict God’s free will wins. It’s called the Sovereignty of God…
Tomas: Okay, now take that to its conclusion. No Free Will means God is responsible for Adam’s fall. Therefore, it would contradict the need for atonement as Adam could not create a free act of disobedience against God, which consequently renders Christ’s ransom of our sins meaningless. So, let’s make this clear so a straw man argument cannot be claimed. if God’s will wins out, there’s no need for atonement of sins that one did not freely choose on their own. No need for atonement, no need for Christ. You’ve rendered Christianity as needless.
Vinnie: As I said, if God is truly sovereign (i.e. omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent) then this creates problems for the Christian worldview, which you rightly point out. Nevertheless, I believe that God is Sovereign because of the Divine revelation of scripture.
Tomas: So let’s move into scripture and let’s not forget the whole context of Hebrews 10:26-29:
26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?
Vinnie: The context in reformed theology expressed by James White is that “he was sanctified” means Christ. Your argument is not with me, but it seems at minimum you fallen into Semi-Pelagian heresy.”
Tomas: Shall we take the sentence to a linguist to graph the sentence? I would presume that the vast majority will choose the man as the one who was sanctified by Christ being God would have no need for sanctification. The heresy of Semi-Pelagianism is starting with Free Will without God’s grace. Of course, this isn’t the position I’m claiming to hold. Now, your statement is a prime example of a straw man fallacy, so let me explain why…
God’s grace gives each person sufficient grace to choose Him. It begins with Him but then we’re allowed by God, who is sovereign, to cooperate with Him. After this initial grace, we can certainly pray, choose to do his will through his Church; however, this isn’t a radical separation from God’s will. As God is existence, our will’s do not function outside of God. By God’s omnipotence, he can certainly will us to have free will and still operate within his Divine Providence. So, when we pray, help others as Christ commands in Mt. 25, or fast as Christ mentions in Mt. 5, etc. God continues to give us perseverant grace to actualize our will through His Grace to order our will toward His own. The will isn’t radically free but formed through the habits of virtue and vice. Again Hebrews 10:26-29 illustrates this by acknowledging those who are sanctified can fall from God’s grace.
Vinnie: It’s not that I’m mildly impressed with your ability to move effortlessly conflating one category with another but at some point to engage in such novelties is unproductive. I believe God is Divinely Sovereign. Good day.
As many of you are aware, I have been interested in the history of the Exodus. For some time, I have been putting forth a hypothesis based on a thesis written by Richard Elliot Friedman that the Exodus wasn’t a large event but a smaller event of Levites. Of course, my approach combines other research to include a more plausible event the can coincide with what we know from the Exodus text.
However, after giving a brief example of my hypothesis to a Lutheran pastor who seemed very adapt to historical studies of the scriptures. He informed me of a minority view within Egyptology proposed by a David Rohl that the Egyptian dates for the Exodus are off by several hundreds of years. Many scholars date the Exodus to the reign of Rameses II because of this particular passage in the Exodus 1:11 text:
11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ra-am′ses.
After thinking about this for a period of time, I thought to myself, “Well isn’t it ironic that a text that secular scholars say isn’t historical is how they attempt to map out an event against other archaeological evidence?”
David Rohl proposes that the evidence for the Hebrews in Egypt is found in the Middle Kingdom rather than the New Kingdom. He believes that the mention of the city of Raamses is an anachronism from when the text was written rather than what the city is more commonly known as Avaris. An example, in Genesis 47:11 of the use:
11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
Of course, Rameses couldn’t be the Pharaoh of both Joseph and Moses. So, it would be like someone writing a history of the Byzantine empire about the waning years approximately three-hundred years before it’s collapse and the rise of the Ottoman empire. In our Political correct-climate instead of using the name Constantinople, the author decides to play it safe and uses Istanbul. So, imagine 2000 years from this point, several collapses of civilizations and dark ages, new historians find this text and compare it with the few other pieces of evidence and start looking for information of groups of Latin Christians in the Byzantine empire during the time of the Ottomans and conclude, “The Latin massacre never took place because there is no evidence of Western Christianity at this point of time; of course looking well after the massacre and expulsion. ”
Naturally, there is one of the best archaeologists in the world working in the area named Manfred Bietak from Austria. Bietak has found in the area of Avaris large settlement of proto-Caanites during the middle kingdom but asserts because they’re too early for the Exodus event these cannot be the same Semites.
But, if they’re gone a few hundred years after we start looking for Semites, where did they all go?
Is this new dating plausible? Most Egyptologist entire careers are tied up in the old dating system so many would fight it tooth and nail, but historically speaking with the lack of information, it could be plausible. I’m not entirely confident enough to jump across a conventional dating system.
I answer that, It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee (Isa. 66:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that, besides philosophical science built up by reason there should be a sacred science learned through revelation
The excerpt from St. Thomas Aquinas drives home the idea that faith in God is a gift from him. Indeed, without revelation, we could surmise by our reason that beings we observe in the world that are created are contingent on a prior being. However, we wouldn’t know anything more about God by coming to this conclusion. Furthermore, we cannot expect that other folks in the world who do not believe in God to be able to debate and discuss various parts of the Scripture without a consensus on the existence of God.
I recently heard that Thomas Merton once wrote that the demon of the current age is noise. I wonder that if our technological age’s noise, the speed of life, and constant attention stimulants has led to the drowning out of God’s grace. I suppose God’s grace is greater than all of these obstacles, but like an addict, I wonder if it doesn’t distort and twist our will. If God’s revelation is necessary for our Salvation, how can we hope that our fellow neighbors will take the time to hear the call? Or has the gate narrowed?
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).
The (in)famous reader and contributor of AATW Bosco always challenges both Catholic and mainline Protestants faiths reliance on tradition. Perhaps, he will not object so much to this particular post. The participates here at this blog who know my own personal theology probably would not argue when I say it is rooted in an understanding of Christ’s Priestly Prayer and the unity of Christianity and thought–even if they’d say it’s misguided! The strong point of this particular blog has always been its discussion, so I hope with introducing small passages for discussion instead of long theological treatises, we foster and rebuild what was once so great here.
Plus, I may find enough time in my day to contribute these smaller discussions.
So, again, taking a look at some known works within the frameworks of the Catholic faith, I stumbled upon The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis’ thoughts on reading scripture. Naturally, the passage reminds me of Pope Benedict XVI’s emphasis to do one’s theology on one’s knees, the idea brought forth countless times here at this blog that Peter wasn’t a scholar but a fisherman or that St. Paul was a mere tent maker. Kempis writes, “Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by,” I wonder if the wisdom here is to look at scripture and rather than spend so much time arguing about theological concepts of justification rather note that we’re saved through Christ, repent from sin as the scriptures explain what is sin, and do good to our neighbors.
Let us all pray for humility:
TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.
Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.
Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.
If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 10.
In many Christian churches around the world, this last Sunday readings reflected what is commonly known as Trinity Sunday or the Feast of the Holy Trinity. As I’ve heard in several sermons by pastors or have read in other articles that it’s doctrine of Christianity many find difficult to express before others. A common analogy that I’ve read, although all analogies stretched to their ends fail, explains how three persons can be one God by using the sun that gives life to all of the earth. The source or the Father, which gives life, also provides light which illuminates the truth of our sinful natures like the light that reveals specks of dirt on a window and makes way the path of salvation—The Son. Finally, we have the Holy Spirit, which is said to be the love of the Father and the Son exemplified by the warmth of the sun felt on a cool spring or fall day.
Trinity Sunday, in many church calendars, falls after the Feast of Pentecost where, as promised by Christ before his ascension, has sent us this Advocate of Love that provides for us Christians the mode of Grace to be in a relationship with God. Of course, once we’ve experienced this friendship of God through grace, let us be reminded that the Lord calls us to action in the world in the Great Commission:
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Six years ago, today, a new little blog poked its head up over the parapet of that desert mission above and made its first post. The founder of this blog and all who commented on that post, are rarely seen in the precincts today. But that post, quoted here in full, still motivates us.
This is a blog about Christianity under siege, and sometimes this Christian under attack. That’s not to say I think that in this country we are persecuted, but just that it can be difficult to make one’s voice heard above the clamant voices. This is my voice, for what it is worth. My first two posts appeared on another blog, and I am grateful to Jon for making them available here.
The spirit that Jessica showed in post number one, has been our constant guide here, ever since, as has been the tagline, she chose for us.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you … John 13:34
Well, we all fall far short of the goal, but we keep trying, and given the troubles we’ve all seen here, I think we’ve done fairly well, with God’s help.
Some of us have been here since almost the beginning, some came here much later, it doesn’t matter. I’m glad you are here, and we will go forward together.
And so, here’s to the next six!
It is not uncommon in our current political and cultural society to hear the assertion that slavery had been an institution supported by Christianity. The issue is that claim is one not founded on a proper understanding of the historical geopolitical climate of ancient times, the middle ages, and Judeo-Christian culture. A claim that rests on nothing more than the generalization that both Judaism and Christianity existed in societies that functioned economically through slavery but did nothing to prevent it until roughly the 18th and 19th century—The Age of Enlightenment. Naturally, the claim lies in a lousy history of both economics and the history of religion. The first point is simply that it wasn’t until the advent of industrialization and technological advances that Western civilization was willing to fully give up an institution that lasted more than two millennia. Furthermore, as will be discussed within the parameters of the history of religion, in the more than 2000 years of history, there is a failure to recognize the development and changes in the institution of slavery.
The predominant viewpoint is best expressed by Historian John Francis Maxwell who wrote: “Since the sixth century and right up until the 20th century it has been the common Catholic teaching that… slavery is morally legitimate.”
The challenge with most historical reconstructions of history is not, as the relativists claim that we cannot know the past but rather much like our present condition is that humanity is as messy and complex then as we are now, and most likely for the rest of our time here on earth. As examined by Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences at Institute of Religious Studies at Baylor University, in his book Bearing False Witness, the modern historical consensus of the ilk of Christianity is based on Anti-Catholicism. He presents evidence for this generalized thesis of his work by quoting renowned American Historian from the University of Chicago Daniel J. Boorstin, “ Christianity conquered the Roman Empire and most of Europe. Then we observe a Europe-wide phenomenon of scholarly amnesia…the leaders of orthodox Christendom built a grand barrier against the progress of knowledge.”
Naturally, this consensus sets up the environment and culture where Catholic, and now Christianity as a whole, is now set upon by the commentary of modern historians that now shapes the prevailing outlook of the faith as a whole.
At this point, It’s important to flesh out what the Bible actually says about the institution of slavery before further examining the history of the Catholic Church’s involvement with it. Catholic Apologist, and new professor of moral theology at Holy Apostles College, Trent Horn argues in his book Hard Sayings that to have any debate on the topic we have to give a proper definition of the term slavery. He writes, “When most people think of slavery they think of kidnapping, imprisonment, and forced labor of Africans that took place in the New World between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, these events aren’t a good definition of slavery because slavery existed before and after this time period (including in the present day), and not all slavery is like what happened in the antebellum or pre-Civil War south. Hector Avalos, an atheist scholar who extremely critical of the Bible and its view of slavery, defines slavery as ‘a socioeconomic system centering on the use of forced laborers, who are viewed as property or as under the control of their superiors for whatever term was determined by their masters or by their society.’”
By using this proposed definition of slavery, Horn explains that there are various degrees of slavery such as chattel slavery, debt slavery, and criminals forced to work. At this point, Horn focuses on the last particular category to illustrate that slavery cannot be outright considered an intrinsic evil. For example, criminals who are forced to work in prison do retain certain basic rights like not being tortured, the right to a lawyer, the right to food, clothing, and medical care, but they have been deprived of their freedom through the laws contracted by the community. Horn develops his explanation on why the Bible cannot universally condemn slavery by writing, “ it might be necessary to the common good to force criminals or prisoners of war to work against their will. If that’s true, then it’s not surprising the Bible does not universally denounce slavery, because not all kinds of slavery are wrong.”
So, let’s get to the point, what does the Bible actually say on the topic slavery? Horn explains that one has to understand the basic economics of the ancient world to understand what type of slavery existed during this period of time. He cites Gregory Chirichigno, author of a tome on the topic Debt-Slavery in Israel and Ancient the Near East:
“small landowners were often forced into procuring loans which often included high-interest rates. If their crop(s) failed or was below expectation, then the debtors would be hard pressed to pay back the loan. Therefore, many of these landowners were likely to become insolvent, since they were able to engage only in subsistence farming. As a result of their insolvency famers were forced to sell or surrender dependents into debt-slavery.”
Of course, what Chirichigno is explaining here as the most common type of slavery in the Ancient world is not chattel slavery, but instead, debt-slavery, which has more in common with what modernity calls indentured servitude. Naturally, when one is able clearly examine the institution within the framework of first-century Judea, parables in the Gospels begin to make more sense.
Let’s take a look at the Son outlook at the end of Parable of the Unmerciful Servant:
23 ¶“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; 25 ¶ and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 ¶ So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me; 33 and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. 35 ¶ So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” 
How is modernity to understand the Biblical view of slavery? The scriptural evidence for these types of arrangements, other than the beginning of the above parable begins with Joseph in Genesis:
19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be slaves to Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 
After framing what type of slavery is in the Bible, Horn explains that although this type of slavery was common in the Bible:
“the Bible’s authors did not endorse or celebrate it. As with polygamy an divorce, the sacred authors of Scripture attempted to limit the harm caused by this ubiquitous yet degrading human institution…instead of issuing shrill, universal condemnations of slavery that would have been ignored by most people (just as condemnations of abortion fall on deaf ears for many today) the laws set down in Scripture progressively guided God’s people toward eventual rejection of slavery…For example, the Old Testament does not instruct the Israelites to treat slaves in the same way one would treat an animal or a chair. If a master seriously injured a slave by knocking out a tooth or an eye, he had to set the slave free (Exod. 21:26-27) Slaves could not work on the Sabbath (Exod. 20:10, and were allowed to participate in religious festivals (Exod.12:44)…Slaves could marry free persons (1 Chron. 2:34-35), own property, and even own other slaves (2 Sam. 19:17) (like exampled in Jesus’ parable). If an ox killed a slave then the ox would be stoned, which was the same punishment that was administered for the killing of a free person (Exod. 21:28-36)”
It’s important to note historically that all ancient peoples had a functioning institution of slavery, Rodney Stark notes that what is unique about Christianity is that “Amid this universal slavery, only one civilization ever rejected human bondage: Christendom. And it did it twice!”
Stark explains how slavery in Western Europe was first removed during the middle ages, “As the ninth century dawned, Bishop Agobard of Lyons thundered: ‘All men are brothers, all invoke one same Father, God: the slave and the master, the poor man and the rich man, the ignorant and the learned, the weak and the strong…None has been raised above the other…there is no…slave or free, but in all things and always there is only Christ.’ Soon, no one doubted that slavery in itself was against divine law. Indeed, during the eleventh century, both Saint Wulfstan and Saint Anselm successfully campaigned to remove the last vestiges of slavery in Christendom.”
Slavery because of the Catholic Church had been eliminated from Western Civilization, but when Europeans discovered the New World, this horrid institution would once again be reestablished. Stark explains, “when European colonists began to reestablish slavery in the New World, the popes vigorously opposed it. Unfortunately, the popes lacked the power to impose their will—the Spanish had recently sacked Rome and ruled much of Italy.”
Pope Paul III on May 29th, 1537 made a public rejection of the institution by writing in a Papal Bull:
The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.
We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.
The Papal Bull was in accord with prior Bulls from Pope Eugene IV to future ones from Pope Urban VIII who gave “the most outspoken attack on South American slavery.” Unfortunately, Ulrich L. Lehner, a professor at Marquette University and a Catholic, in his attempt to present Catholicism as an ‘enlightned’ to his peers asserts that “while the popes resisted the enslavement of North America, they condoned slavery as an institution. The often-repeated claims that Christianity humanized the institution of slavery because it regarded slaves as persons has been falsified—ancient Roman thinkers, such as Seneca, had brought the innovation.” The problem with this assertion is that it totally ignores the codes of Exodus recognizing the persons of debt slaves in Israel in the Near East within the frameworks of the Old Testament as examined by Trent Horn. It also assumes the tired thesis of the history of religion narrative that 1st century Christians converted themselves from Judaism to Christianity rather than Christianity a development of Judaism after the temple period ended in 70 A.D.
Now, there are a few problems with Lehner’s assessment; first, he lumps all forms of slavery into one institution. The problem with doing this is that as Trent Horn explains by using Hector Avalos’ definition of slavery is that criminals and prisoners of war who also fall under this definition and who retain their basic rights as mentioned above does not represent an intrinsic evil if it benefits the whole of society. Furthermore, it doesn’t address the most common form of slavery in the ancient world—debt slavery, nor does it address the eradication of slavery from Europe presented in Stark’s argument.
Lehner explains that although the Popes by their words condemned New World slavery, they still practiced the institution within the Papal States. He writes, “archival material still exists on the slaves of the Papal States. As state property, these were predominately galley slaves, who were forced to row the ships of the fleet. Some were volunteers who been bribed to enlist, some were criminals who sentence was considered equal to the death penalty, and others captives from wars. The last group comprised the largest number of slaves.” Again, the problem with Lehner here is that it is already assumed ‘slavery’ is intrinsic evil, now he can certainly make the case that both criminals and prisoners of war shouldn’t be forced into labor and they are intrinsic evils, and perhaps this is the consensus view, so he doesn’t feel that he needs to assert any argument. But again, Lehner’s argument rests on a generalization, which Horn’s argument does address the differences between different modes of the institution.
The difficulty with tackling such a topic is that due to the stresses of our contemporary culture with the ramifications of chattel slavery of the pre-Civil War America and the legacy of racism in its aftermath is that the topic becomes an emotive one. Lehner does make good points of Catholics supporting slaves during the period of the slave trade, but ultimately by presenting his evidence passes judgment against the Church as a whole. It may simply be that he also needs to walk a tighter rope in his department at Marquette University, whereas Trent Horn, as a Catholic Apologist and Professor of Moral Theology at Holy Apostles doesn’t feel the need. It’s important to note that if the topic is generalized within the parameter of modern thought and historical figures are moralized within the norms of our modern society, it’s easy to find them guilty. However, if historians, clerics, laymen, and non-believers view the complexities of an era within the framework of historicism and taking into account the historic period and understanding, we’ll be more likely to discover the truth.
 Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness (West Conshohocken: Templeton Press, 2016), 169.
 Ibid, 73.
 Trent Horn, Hard Sayings (El Cajon: Catholic Answers Press, 2016), 268.
 Ibid, 269.
 Ibid, 270.
 The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), Mt 18:23–35.
 The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), Ge 47:19.
 Horn, 272.
 Stark, 81.
 Ibid, 82
 Ibid, 169.
 Ulrich L. Lehner, The Catholic Enlightenment (New York; Oxford University Press, 2016), 186.
 Ibid, 185.
 Ibid, 186