A Final (and hopefully friendly) Response to James A. Lindsay Ph.D.

This post is my final offering in an exchange with James A. Lindsay Ph.D.  His responses to me can be found on his blog here.

I realize that a number of things I wrote are easily described as bizarre by atheist readers.  Akin to a question like, “Which taste better, adjectives or seven?”  It simply makes no sense.  I think most of the discrepancies between our understandings of one another could be quickly cleared up over cold beers or deep cups of coffee.  Since that is not an option available to us, I will settle for this exchange.

The dilemma I posed was not intended to be a slick trick or word games.  Rather, I wanted to be focused and clear.

  • Either objective morality is real or it isn’t.
  • If we affirm objective morality, either the truths we hold most fundamental can make sense of that assertion or they can’t.
  • The necessary implications of atheism either can or they cannot make sense of objective moral truth claims.

You and I disagree both on the necessary implications of atheism and whether or not objective morality can be sufficiently grounded in a godless universe.  While you reject how or that I define the necessary implications of atheism, certainly you believe there are implications.  If there are no implications then atheism would be an inconsequential idea.  That would have to be a demeaning label after reading how you eloquently argued for your position.

I remain unmoved by Dan Barker’s and your responses to my 3 necessary implications.  I can’t help but wonder if they were misread or misinterpreted.

1.  If there is no god then the universe is only material or natural.  If there is a supernatural reality of any kind, how could any expression of atheism continue to be affirmed?  I will take you and Dan Barker at your word when either assert,

We atheists are open to new knowledge, and would be astonished to learn that there is ‘something more’ out there.”

Being open to new information does nothing change this necessary implication of the assertion the truth claim, “God does not exist.”  True, there are many nuanced expressions of atheism.  It is not my intention to lump all into one pot.  Rather, I’m concerned with the implications of there being no god.

You are right to assert that abstract thought is a serious problem for naturalists.  And I don’t pretend that all atheists are naturalist, though I do believe naturalism is the only reasonable choice if no god exists.  My personal opinion is that trying to avoid this dilemma explains why Sam Harris and others affirm determinism and reject free will.  Perhaps the most troubling reality for naturalists is the reality of the laws of logic.  But that’s a discussion for another time.

2.  The universe is scientific.  You may have me on this one.  I’ve been repeatedly accused of writing at a level that is higher than the average person reads.  In an attempt to be accessible, I may have been inaccurate.  The issue here is the word I chose, not the idea.  The intent is to communicate that universe is knowable and yes, governed by the laws of physics.  I completely agree with you when you write,

“Natural laws, like the laws of physics, are descriptive, not proscriptive. That is, natural laws do not govern how nature operates. Instead, they provide us with a method of describing the operation of nature. Those descriptions, the “laws of physics,” are abstract entities that exist in our minds; they are tools by which we try to understand the world we live in.”

A great question is why nature operates the way it does.  But like the laws of logic, that is a discussion for another time.  We operate as though the way nature operates is fixed.  We believe it has always operated this way and will continue to do so, even if we can’t explain why.

“Altogether, there are fifteen physical constants whose values current theory is unable to predict.  They are givens: they simply have the value that they have.  This list includes the speed of light, the strength of the weak and strong nuclear forces, various parameters associated with electromagnetism, and the forces of gravity.  The chance that all of these constants would take on the values necessary to result in a stable universe capable of sustaining complex life forms is almost infinitesimal.  And yet, those are the parameters that we observe.”                                               - Francis Collins (The Language of God)

If we open the door to the possibility that all of this could change, we open the door to the possibility that we don’t really know what we think we know.  Or, if we are open to the idea that natural explanations could be inadequate to explain the universe we have left the door open to the supernatural.  Again, the furthest this would allow us to remove ourselves from theism is agnosticism.

3.  The universe is impersonal.  Both you and Dan Barker have misread this point.   The assertion was clear, though muddied in your responses.  The universe does not have a consciousness or will and it is not guided by a consciousness or will.  That does nothing to refute that there are conscious, volitional species in the universe.  You may have missed the point, but not the blow this levies against atheism if denied.

Allow me to be clear, again.  Any atheist is free to ignore or reject these implications.

I won’t spend much time referring to the rest of Dan Barker’s attempt  at defending meaning.  Though he may find it loathsome, I believe he has conceded the point of my article.  There is no objective meaning so people create their own meaning in life.  That is by definition subjective and possibly an illusion.  Further, this view lacks any moral imperative for one to honor another’s sense of meaning.  The gate is left open for the most horrific worldviews to run rampant.

It’s at this point that I fear we both retreat to our respective corners.  Our own views make the most sense to us.  You have a robust and thoroughly integrated view of Harris’ Moral Landscape.  I hope that I can count you a friend and not an enemy in our shared insistence of objective moral value.

There are many areas in which we continue to miss one another.  I’ll only address two of them.  I don’t expect our differences to be remedied in this exchange.  You countered with a number of caveats to rebuff the “horrors in the reaches of my imagination.”  That was a clever line that I’m sure made it easy for your readers to dismiss me.  I live in the real world.  It is grotesque.

While your caveats appear to counter what I submitted as defeaters, they do not adequately account for possible actions or possible worlds in which your caveats would be accounted for.  (Man, I just used the word caveat a lot.)  I’ll leave it at that because I’m not interested in arguing for the moral neutrality of such actions.

Here is the biggest point of difference.  It is a contention that has been continually side stepped by Sam Harris and you.  In Harris’ own words, avoiding the worst possible suffering has to be assumed.  I agree with him that it should be.  Where I don’t agree with him or with you is that doing so is an objectively true moral imperative derived at by observation.  Various definitions of “faith” not withstanding, Harris is asking us to take it as a given.  This moral imperative simply is, even though we can’t observe it or find evidence for it.  I expect that you will find this confounding.  In all seriousness, the moral imperatives he asserts are non sequiturs.   One could assume his same starting point and reasonably argue for nihilism.  Another point I’m sure you will dismiss.

Finally, I have read Dan Barker and many others affirm repeatedly that the Bible endorses slavery the raping of women.  That is utter nonsense.  Giving an account of horrific acts is not the same as giving an endorsement of horrific acts.  Yes, God did command acts of violence against people who transgressed his holiness.  This will make absolutely no sense if the idea of a holy God is nonsense to you.

If there is a holy God who created, and that God gave commands that emanated from his character and agents rebelled against that God—how could he be immoral for holding his creation accountable for transgressing his holy commands?

I have no doubts that this will evoke all kinds of responses from you and your readers.  I hope you can trust that it was my intention to rile people up, but not to insult you or any others.  I believe that atheism, like Christianity is a serious response to serious questions.  I believe that you are a serious minded person who has meaningful questions that deserve thoughtful, serious responses.

I will end our exchange here.  If ever you find yourself in the Salt Lake City area, I’d love to buy you a beer.  I’m always open to new friends, even if our deeply held ideas are contentious.  Should you choose to write a response, I will leave the last word to you.

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About Rick Henderson

Happy husband. Proud father. Friend of Jesus Christ and desperate to introduce him to others. View all posts by Rick Henderson

35 responses to “A Final (and hopefully friendly) Response to James A. Lindsay Ph.D.

  • Robert

    You said, “I have read Dan Barker and many others affirm repeatedly that the Bible endorses slavery the raping of women [sic]. That is utter nonsense. Giving an account of horrific acts is not the same as giving an endorsement of horrific acts.”

    The Bible does not simply ‘account’ for slavery, it endorses and lays out rules by which slaves can be bought, freed, beaten, transferred and inherited.

    Leviticus 25:44-46
    Exodus 21:1-36

    This is not an account of slavery, it is the playbook for slavery.
    To pretend anything else is disingenuous.

    As I said in response to your earlier post, Objective Morality is true whether we like it or understand it. It is not contingent on human belief.
    You either accept it all or you are back in the realm of subjective morality.

    So, either you must accept that owning other people as property is viewed as morally acceptable by God and therefore objectively ‘good’, or admit that your own morality is subjective and based on the parts of the bible that you believe are ‘good.’

    If you choose the first option, you will be a consistent (and therefore ‘good’ Christian). If you choose the second option, you are in the same position that you claim atheists are in, unable to justify their own standards for morality.

    • Rick Henderson

      Robert,

      Great and thoughtful comments. Yes, the Bible condoned a certain kind if slavery, but it is one that is markedly different than what people generally think of when they hear that word. We really need a better word to help people see the clear differences. Anyone who reads those passages should quickly see the preservation of human dignity throughout.

      Because this has been discussed so thoroughly elsewhere I thought my statement was clear without adding to the length of an already lengthy post.

      You and I both agree that objective morality is real. On that point we are allies. Where we disagree is how do we make sense if that belief in light of our most fundamental beliefs.

      I remain unconvinced that the necessary implications of atheism allow for this belief. Even if I’m wrong about Biblical Christianity that does not advance the case for atheists.

      We are looking for the best explanation to the most important questions. This is just one question. It’s not even the most fundamental.
      Why is there something instead of nothing?
      How do we explain the laws I logic in a material universe.
      I’ll stop there.

      Again, thank you for a serious reply. Happy holidays.

      • Jenna Black

        Pastor Rick,

        I just discovered your blog and am very pleased and excited to see your thoughtful and kind dialogue with non-believers. I am working at honing my own skills as a Christian apologist so I find your analysis to be very helpful. Please allow me to make a few observations based on my experience with discussions of the Old Testament and the issue of slavery. I think that many Bible critics overlook several points: Fist, the Exodus. God went to a great deal of trouble to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. I sincerely doubt that the Pharaoh would have claimed that the God of the Hebrews condoned slavery. Then we need to examine very carefully the meaning of the Tenth Commandment: Thou shall not covet… IMO, God is saying to the Hebrews that although they may live in societies where their neighbors hold slaves, they shouldn’t even want to have slaves themselves! Of course, the Hebrews’ response to God’s law was imperfect, but God loved them anyway. Given the historical fact that both slave owners in the Confederacy and abolitionists argued that the Bible justified their position on slavery, it seems very odd to me that non-believers would claim that God was on the losing side of the argument. Other considerations in this argument are the sabbatical year and the Jubilee year laws that governed the redistribution of power and wealth in Hebrew society.

        Good bless you, Pastor Rick.

        Jenna Black

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        Thanks for taking the time to jump into this discussion.

        I would like to point out a few things here.

        Your reply seems to insinuate that God merely ‘tolerated’ slavery at certain points, and ignores the fact that God himself laid out the laws by which humans could be enslaved, and how they should be treated while slaves.

        Secondly, I would doubt that God went to a ‘great deal of trouble’ to free the Hebrews from slavery. I think we can all agree that to God nothing would seem a great deal of trouble. Regardless of that, God chose to free the Hebrews from slavery, not all slaves. In Exodus he makes it a point to say that you should not enslave your fellow Isrealites, but other people are morally okay to enslave. So it is not slavery that is wrong in and of itself, only slavery of certain people.

        At this point there are multiple options, I suppose:

        1) Either enslavement is morally acceptable in certain circumstances.

        2) Or enslavement WAS morally acceptable at one point and then God changed his mind (I can’t imagine either of you would be okay with this answer).

        The only other option is that slavery is morally wrong, which is not a justifiable belief from a Biblical standpoint.

        I still contend that in order to be consistent with the Objective Morality of the Bible one needs to accept the belief that slavery is morally good in certain circumstances.

        This is a tough situation for Christians, no doubt. But as Rick says, church is messy. We cannot duck from these issues simply because we don’t like them.

        As Rick has pointed out, atheists cannot justify a belief that slavery is ‘wrong.’ But Christians must go a step further and accept that slavery is ‘good.’

        Either that, or pick and choose which portions of God’s word we want to accept, which puts Christians in the same subjective morality relied on by Atheists.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        Thanks for the dialogue. In your message you say this: “God himself laid out the laws…” My understanding of the Law of Moses is that God gave the Hebrews the Ten Commandments but that the legal system for implementing God’s law (aka God’s will) are the Hebrew people’s interpretation based on their understanding of God’s law, not God’s law itself. I do not find it surprising in the least that our interpretations and understandings of God’s law (will) have evolved and matured over time, as we see with the question of slavery. In fact, as a Christian I believe that Jesus gave us a deeper understanding of God’s Law: For example, consider this passage: Matthew 22:36-40
        “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
        Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
        For me, this means that love is the basis of all God’s law and slavery cannot be reconciled with “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
        I don’t happen to agree that there is an “…Objective Morality outlined by the Bible” but rather, the Bible establishes the existence of an objective morality that humankind has not and cannot live up to, which is why we need God’s grace.

      • Robert

        (I’m sorry, I said Exodus when I meant Leviticus).

        “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        that’s an interesting perspective, and seems a bit different from what I think Rick was getting at (I’ll let him clear up his own views on slavery and Objective Morality instead of jumping to conclusions).

        One thing that troubles me in your approach is this:

        “the legal system for implementing God’s law (aka God’s will) are the Hebrew people’s interpretation based on their understanding of God’s law, not God’s law itself. ”

        So, you believe there are portions of the Bible that are the word of God, and portions that are NOT the word of God?

        How do you distinguish the difference?

        The Ten Commandments are included in Exodus, which is also where many of the rules for slavery are included. So portions of the book of Exodus are divine, and other portions are not?

        This seems to be a very sticky approach once we consider the ramifications it has in regards to the divinity and infallibility of the Bible.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        At the heart of the matter here is the understanding of what is meant by the God’s Word. Note that this is Word with a capital W, not word or words. For me, the term God’s Word means God’s message to humankind, God’s revelation of Himself, which comes to us through the OT and NT. The reality is that we humans don’t always get the message, or we don’t get it right. This is what I so love about the OT. It is full of stories about very imperfect people who are sinners but who God loved and related to despite their sinfulness and because of it. King David, the adulterer, is one example. The message I take away from the OT is that the Hebrews lived out their covenant relationship with God, making their very best efforts to live up to the demands of God’s law, but always falling short and in need of the Messiah to redeem them. Discussions and debates about the meaning and truth of the Bible are essential to developing our understanding of God’s nature and His love for humanity: Bible interpretation today is part of a wonderful tradition of “midrash” of the Torah and the Hebrews’ sacred writings such as is found in the many volumes of the Talmud, where I’m sure we can find rabbinical interpretations and debate about the meaning of the very verses of the Torah that we are discussing here. This is how we discern God’s Word.

      • Robert

        I think I’m tempted to completely agree with you.

        However, this becomes a difficult situation then.
        Because essentially what you are saying is that the Bible is still subject to our subjective and imperfect interpretation.

        If we pair that together with Pastor Rick’s view of an Objective Morality it becomes troublesome, because that means that the morality we draw away from the Bible is still filtered through our own subjective interpretation of the objective morality that is somewhere in the text.

        So, while there may be an Objective Morality we are still limited by our own subjective interpretation of it. We still have to choose how to interpret passages, discern which portions are directly from God and which may be misapplied laws from the Hebrews, etc. As you said, the laws of slavery were the interpretation of God’s law by the Hebrews, they were not God’s laws. So it seems at least SOME small part of the Bible could be fallible.

        Essentially it sounds as if what you are saying is that at the very least we cannot trust our own reading of the Bible to be necessarily perfect. We are left to our own subjective interpretations.

        Combined with Pastor Rick’s view (as I understand it), the best case scenario out of that situation would be to be able to claim that there IS an Objective Morality, but that we cannot possibly understand it or even know it completely. We cannot rightfully say whether or not God deems slavery as moral, because we cannot escape our own subjective reading of the Bible and know, absolutely, what God intended or meant. And that leaves us unable to say that slavery is ‘objectively wrong.’

        Either way that seems to leave the Christian in the same predicament as Atheist, relying on subjective interpretation in order to construct a moral code.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        I am the daughter of two attorneys so growing up in my home, we spent many hours talking about the law. IMO, what you describe is the very essence of the way we humans deal with the law, which includes both the laws of our society and God’s Law (with a capital L). We must interpret it and apply it to our own lives, individually and collectively. What we strive for is for righteousness and justice.Deuteronomy 16:20 “Thou shalt follow justice and righteousness, that thou may live and inherit the land which the LORD thy God gives thee.”

        I do not agree that Christians and atheists are in the same “predicament” regarding morality. We arrive at our understanding of justice and righteousness through moral reasoning. A belief in God and love of/for God gives us a paradigm for moral reasoning that atheists do not have. I believe that God is much more concerned with our getting right with God than with getting God right. The message of Christianity is that through Jesus, the Messiah, we get right with God.

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I am really enjoying getting to better understand your viewpoint.

        I think we see completely eye to on your first paragraph.

        However, there may be a slight difference in our views when it comes to your second. You said:

        “I do not agree that Christians and atheists are in the same “predicament” regarding morality. We arrive at our understanding of justice and righteousness through moral reasoning. A belief in God and love of/for God gives us a paradigm for moral reasoning that atheists do not have.”

        You are right, and I may have mispoke if I said the situations were exactly the same. I suppose what I meant was that the situations were similar, or analogous.

        Let me take it piece by piece.

        “We arrive at our understanding of justice and righteousness through moral reasoning.”

        Fair enough, at this point atheists and Christians are in the same please. What I mean is, they both feel they have moral reasoning (we’re not yet into the topic of whether or not that reasoning is justified).

        Then you say, “A belief in God and love of/for God gives us a paradigm for moral reasoning that atheists do not have.”

        Very true, and I agree. The problem is that while Christians may have a paradigm for moral reasoning through God, they are still subject to the same subjective interpretation when it comes to reading the Bible. At some point each Christian must make a decision on what passages mean to them. As you said, “We must interpret it and apply it to our own lives, individually and collectively.”

        It is in that moment of interpretation that any claim on objectivity gets lost. Objective Morality may very well exist, but none of us can claim to have a clear and full understanding of it. We must interpret and apply on an individual basis. This is the same sort of process that Atheists go through – only they do not lay claim to an objective standard at the start.

        This is also why there are so many differing views within Christianity. And within each of the over 40,000 denominations there are people who each at some point made a decision, based on their own reasoning, as to which interpretation of the infallible text was correct. And obviously they cannot all be right… yet they all appeal to an ‘objective standard.’

        My point is that the ‘objective standard’ may very well exist, but it seems clear that humanity lacks the capacity to access it in any meaningful way. The Christian, regardless of how much they may want to, cannot get out from under the subjective interpretation and reasoning required in order to construct their moral code.

        This is never clearer to me than when discussing the Bible and slavery. I don’t know any Christians who condone slavery, even though the Bible explicitly does on the surface – and it is because they have each made an individual choice and interpretation, regardless of what the text might say in black and white.

      • Jenna Black

        As I see the issue here is the attempt to find an understanding of what God “thinks” about slavery from a reading of what it says about slavery in the OT in “black and white.” There is no single passage or even a collection of passages in the OT to interpret to support a claim about what God “thinks” about the morality of slavery. This is why IMO, literalists have a problem. God frees the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, but then they make laws allowing slavery under certain conditions. So whose wrong about slavery, God or the Hebrews? Keep in mind that Christians have the advantage of interpreting the Old Testament through the lens of the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus Christ. On what basis do atheists construct their morality? What is their “lens” for analyzing a moral dilemma to decide what is righteous and just? What is their “yardstick” for making moral judgments? As C.S. Lewis frames the question, what is the atheists’ understanding of “straight” in order to determine “crooked”? In the absence of belief in objective morality that we Christians call the Will of God or God’s Law, how do atheists make moral judgments such as whether slavery is right or wrong? This is the fundamental problem here, and the fundamental difference between the moral reasoning of Christians and atheists.

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        We completely agree on atheists having no external or objective standard for morality. No argument there at all. But an argument against Christianity is not an argument for atheism, and vice versa. Each view should be analyzed on its own for its own internal consistency. We agree on atheism, so no need to to continue that line of discussion.

        As far as the issue of what God ‘thinks’ of slavery, going back to Exodus I have a bit of an issue with your earlier interpretation now.

        Exodus 20:22 begins with “And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.”

        This continues as Exodus 21 begins with, “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.” This is clearly still God speaking to Moses (or so the text would have us think). Referring back to the end of the previous section the pronouns are clearly referring to Moses and the Israelites, “Now these are the judgments which thou (MOSES) shalt set before them (the ISRAELITES).” So Exodus 21 clearly begins with God still speaking directly to Moses.

        It is in the very next verse (Exodus 21:2) that we begin to see the detailed rules under which slavery is condoned.

        It seems difficult to see how God would think slavery is ‘wrong’ if He Himself laid out the rules for it. According to the text it is not the Hebrews who made these rules (as you said earlier), these were spoken to Moses from the Lord Himself.

        Or at least, that is what the text says.
        So again, either the Bible is fallible in certain parts and God did not actually speak those things to Moses, or slavery is morally acceptable to God under certain conditions within the Christian worldview.

        I don’t see another option, though I am happy to admit there may be one. If there is, I can’t think of it.

      • Jenna Black

        I understand what you argue here, but I think that when you say “within the Christian worldview” you need to consider what the “Christian worldview” is. As you pointed out earlier, it would be extremely difficult to find a modern-day Christian who believes that slavery is permissible. Most Christians, I believe will argue that according to Jesus’ teachings, slavery is irreconcilable with God’s commandments, as in the citation of Matthew 22:36-40 that I posted before. Is this then not the “Christian worldview” regarding slavery? There is nothing problematic about Christians’ interpretations of the OT in light of Jesus’ teachings. If fact, this is our task as Christians: to seek to understand God’s Word based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m am not troubled by your having an “issue” with my interpretation of the Bible since I know that our understanding of God’s Word (revelation) is an ongoing, continual learning process. Grappling with difficult passages and seeming contradictions from the OT has deepened my understanding of and my faith in God.

        Thanks for the conversation.

        JB

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        You said, “There is nothing problematic about Christians’ interpretations of the OT in light of Jesus’ teachings.”

        If that is the case then I suppose perhaps it could be said that prior to Jesus’ teachings it could have been that slavery was morally acceptable. Otherwise I don’t understand how we can believe the NT when it tells us what Jesus said in Mathew, but disregard the OT when it tells us what God said in Exodus.

        You also said, “Thanks for the conversation.”

        I’d like to sincerely thank you for taking so much time to discuss this issue with me. It has been a fascinating exchange, and though I still may feel that my main point hasn’t been addressed directly, I do feel I have a much better understanding of your perspective. And I do truly appreciate that.

        Hopefully Pastor Rick will still chime in at some point to address the original post himself.

    • HiEv

      Jenna: “Most Christians, I believe will argue that according to Jesus’ teachings, slavery is irreconcilable with God’s commandments,”

      I’m sure they will often argue that, but that isn’t actually consistent with what Jesus is reported as saying in the Gospels:

      “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:17-19

      “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” – Luke 16:17

      The laws God supposedly gave regarding slavery are part of the Law that Jesus speaks of. The laws Jesus say will never disappear.

      You say, “There is nothing problematic about Christians’ interpretations of the OT in light of Jesus’ teachings.” But that’s only true if you just accept a certain selection of Jesus’ teachings and ignore other parts or obvious interpretations of those other parts, such as the lines I quoted above.

      I agree that the modern “Christian worldview” approves of certain things, such as divorce and remarriage, but in order to do so it has twisted or blatantly ignored Jesus’ teachings (i.e. Luke 16:18, where Jesus says those who get divorced and remarried are committing adultery).

      So the facts are, the “Christian worldview” on morality only comes from the Bible when they feel it makes sense, and they ignore the Bible when it doesn’t (slavery, divorce, the Sabbath, etc.). The “Christian worldview” uses the Bible not as a source of morality, but merely as a convenient justification for some of the morals they had already chosen to accept. Most of the time these are morals they’d have likely chosen anyways, if they were brought up with the same values but without the Bible.

      The fact is the “Christian worldview” has been continuously and slowly changing over the centuries, and is becoming more and more like the secular worldview. The only thing setting it apart from a secular worldview are a few specific morals which can only be “justified” if you assume that a “supreme moral lawgiver” gave them, (e.g. not allowing same-sex marriage), which is problematic if you’re not following ALL of that “lawgiver’s” laws.

      In the end, your only choices are 1) hypocritically insist everyone follow all “God’s laws” while actually only following some, 2) actually follow all of “God’s laws” and get thrown in jail for slavery or stoning people to death for working on the Sabbath or having gay sex, 3) chuck the book out the window and just do what you’ve actually been doing all along 99% of the time anyways: figure out what promotes wellbeing and reduces harm on the basis of empathy, cooperation, reciprocity, fairness, reason, and experience. Us secular humanists are the ones who’ve chosen #3.

  • Robert

    Rick –

    I appreciate your reply.
    While this topic may have been discussed thoroughly elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to have been discussed on your blog. I did a search for the words ‘slavery’ and ‘slave’ and couldn’t come up with anything you’ve written. So I hope you will indulge me, given that this article began with a concern of Atheisms inability to remain consistent. Making that claim assumed that you are able to remain consistent within your own worldview.

    You said, “the Bible condoned a certain kind if slavery, but it is one that is markedly different than what people generally think of when they hear that word.”

    While there MAY be some slight differences between our modern conception of slavery and biblical slavery there are definitely some similarities as well.

    Slaves in the Bible are considered property.
    They may be inherited and sold, just like any other type of property.
    There are even verses, as I’m certain you know, that clearly explain that slaves may be beaten so long as they do not die within a day or two (Exodus 21:20-21).

    Regardless of any subtle differences you may want to draw between Biblical slavery and our modern concept of slavery you must concede that on the broad points they are very similar.

    Therefore, we must agree that the Bible tell us the following things are considered as morally acceptable:

    1) There are situations where people may be owned, bought, sold and inherited as property.

    2) There are situations where these same people may be beaten by their owners, so long as they do not die within 48 hours.

    Both of those things are deemed as morally acceptable by God, according to the Bible.

    Again, we may not like it, we may not understand it, but this is part of the Objective Morality outlined by the Bible.

    You sidestepped the main point of my reply, which I will repeat now.

    In order to be a ‘Good’ Christian must agree that owning another person as property and beating them is morally acceptable to God. If for some reason you believe that it is wrong to do so then you are making a subjective judgement on your own and will need to justify the standard you are using for your subjective morality (which is the same situation you say Atheists are in).

    So, which option do you adhere to?
    I look forward to hearing your moral stance on Biblical slavery.

    Thanks for your time.

    • Robert

      Just to be clear, you said “Even if I’m wrong about Biblical Christianity that does not advance the case for atheists.”

      That is absolutely true and I agree completely.
      It would not advance the case for atheists. But I would say that if you are wrong about the Objective Morality of Biblical Christianity it does leave you in the same place Atheists are intellectually (relying on subjective morality).

      I am simply trying to ascertain whether or not you actually adhere to an Objective Morality and are therefore consistent within your own worldview.

      So let’s focus on the one specific issue at hand here, which is the Objective Morality outlined by the Bible, and not muddy up the waters with Atheism (which you and I are already in agreement on).

      Thanks so much.

      • Rick Henderson

        Robert,

        You’re a smart guy who deserves a thoughtful answer. I simply don’t have time to engage any more this week. So please allow me to offer this for your consideration: http://godwords.org/515/does-the-old-testament-condone-slavery/

        After Christmas eve services and finishing my shopping, I’d love to exchange with your further.

        Happy Holidays,
        Rick Henderson

      • Robert

        Pastor Rick – I appreciate the kind words and response.
        I completely understand, given it is Christmas week, I’m sure we all have more pressing and important things to do with our time.

        I will most definitely read over the link you posted and revisit this after the Holiday.

        Merry Christmas to you and your family.
        All the best.

  • Robert

    Pastor Rick –

    First off, Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope you have all started 2014 off on the right foot.
    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Between Christmas, the New Year, and my wife unfortunately becoming rather ill, time has been a bit scare. Luckily she is doing better now and I have found myself with a bit of time to delve back into this topic.

    I read over the article you linked quite a few times now and find the argument interesting, to say the least. That said, I do still find it a bit problematic. In the interest of time I will address what I feel are the most important points here.

    The article begins by making the claim that regulating behavior does not necessarily show approval. While that statement in and of itself is true, so is the converse. Regulating behavior does not necessarily show disapproval. So we are left to interpret what the Bible has to say on its own and draw our own conclusions.

    The author uses the issue of divorce as an analogy, since it is clear that while the Bible may regulate the behavior of divorce it is clear that divorce is not approved of. That argument is pretty easy to make given that the bible clearly states that divorce is not liked by God in Malachi 2:16.

    The problem when it comes to slavery is that the Bible never tells us that God does not approve of slavery in the same way that it directly tells us God does not approve of divorce. So, much like the Bible may regulate the behavior of sex but it is clear that God does not disapprove of sex, the Bible may very well regulate the behavior of slavery without disapproving of slavery. My point is that the issue of slavery needs to be analyzed via the verses that deal with slavery, not via analogy or assumption. What the Bible says about divorce, sex or anything else is moot in this context and only serves to cloud the issue.

    On top of that, EVEN IF the divorce analogy held up to scrutiny we would be left with a situation where we would have to accept that in certain contexts slavery is tolerable to God, in the same way that within certain contexts divorce is tolerable to God. That isn’t particularly where I think you want this to lead. So let’s forget the analogies and deal with the verses directly.

    The crux of the article you asked me to read seems to rely on the idea that slavery in the Bible was not involuntary servitude. The article states that “slavery was almost always voluntary.” ‘Almost’ is obviously a very important word in that sentence. While the article tries to paint a picture of slaves with rights and freedoms, it sidesteps the fact that the verses used to justify that belief are all speaking of Hebrew slaves only. It also ignores the loopholes through which masters could keep their slaves for life and pass them on to their children. Yes, Hebrew slaves (and only Hebrew slaves) were to be given their freedom in seven years, so long as they were willing to leave their wives and children is they were married while with their masters. If they wanted to stay with their families then they were to pledge their loyalty to their masters and they became his property for life. This is about as ‘voluntary’ as my paying a ransom to someone who kidnaps my wife. Sure, technically I would ‘choose’ to pay the ransom, but no rational person would agree that my action was voluntary and free in the true sense of the words.

    The article goes on to claim that slavery of the Bible was not cruel or inhumane. I found this to be a bit of wordplay quite honestly. The justification is the citing of several verses which commands masters not to be ‘ruthless.’ However, later on in the article, it is made clear that what is defined as ‘ruthless’ is very different in the Bible than what we consider today. Simply because slaves and free citizens may have had similar punishments does not make their treatment any less ruthless, it simply means that both were punished equally ruthlessly. So, on the one hand one could say that slaves may have been treated equally to citizens while on the other hand taking away that it is morally acceptable to God for us to beat another human being as punishment being as they don’t die within 48 hours. At most we should be asked to pay a fine.
    Personally I do find that to be cruel and inhumane, but you are free to disagree.

    The most outrageous claim in the article is a bit off topic, but I feel the need to address it. The author claims that women were not sex slaves, and he may be right in the pure sense of the word ‘slave.’ However, the defense of this claim is surprising to me. He writes, “A concubine wasn’t held against her will and used for sex. She was a true wife, but a secondary or subordinate one.” He goes on to say, “These relationships could hardly be considered negative.” So we are to understand that in order to not view the Bible’s treatment of female ‘servants’ as sex slaves instead we are to believe that God supports polygamy and the taking of concubines? On top of that there is absolutely zero mention of the fact that none of the verses dealing with female servitude include any form of consent from the women themselves. In fact, Deuteronomy 20:10-15 outlines the context in which it is acceptable to take a female prisoner of war as your wife without her consent (including the proper amount of grieving time you must allow her before you may have sex with her). Deuteronomy 22:28-29 also gives us another context in which a man may wind up with a wife through forced sexual intercourse. As I said, this goes a bit off topic, but given that the article you sent me tried to use ‘marriage’ as a defense for the treatment of women I found it important to bring up. So, we are left to believe that God may approve of polygamy, but regardless it seems that a woman’s consent is not a priority. I find this very troubling.

    The article ends by claiming that the OT does not condone involuntary slavery. It does this while glossing over the fact that the majority of any ‘positive’ rules of slavery were only applicable to Hebrew slaves. It also glosses over the very claim that was made at the start of the article, that children were often sold by their parents in hopes of giving them greater opportunity. I think it would be safe for us to assume that at least SOME children did not want to be sold as slaves. I think it would also be reasonable for us to assume that SOME slaves were beaten and died within 72 hours, but not 48. I think it would also be fair for us to assume that SOME slaves felt trapped to stay with their masters for life in order to not lose their wives and families. And, given what we are told from the verses within the Bible, the only conclusion I can draw form those scenarios is that every one of them is acceptable to God.

    I had much more to say about the defense in that article, but as it is I have already taken up entirely too much space and time here. I would close by pointing out the most troubling thing of all to me. If the Bible is truly the inspired and inerrant word of God, don’t you find it troubling that we even have to have this conversation? Should it truly be so difficult to parse whether or not treating other human beings as property is objectively wrong or right? The fact that both supporters and detractors of abolition used the Bible to bolster their position should at least help us realize that the Bible’s stance on slavery is nebulous at best. Personally I find that very troubling – because if these passages need to be interpreted subjectively in order to make moral sense, then so do all other passages. And in that case we are back to subjective morality, relying on our own interpretations of what we think is justifiably right or wrong.

    If we want to believe in Objective Morality then we have to take the Bible at its objective word, otherwise you’re opening the door to subjective interpretation.

    And I still stand by the belief that if we take the OT at its word then we have to agree that in certain contexts slavery is morally acceptable to God, even if it is a subtly softer version than the slave trade we saw in the west. And that doesn’t even address the topic of polygamy and sexual consent that cropped up in the arguments used by the author of the article you cited as a defense.

    I hope you take this verbose reply in the spirit in which it is offered, which is one of mutual challenge and respect. Yes, these are difficult issues, and I am not attempting to “win” an argument here. I am simply trying to understand how you make reconcile issues that I have been unable to. Please take my word when I tell you that I am coming to this discussion in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17.

    “As iron sharpens iron,so one person sharpens another.”

    Thanks for your time, and thanks for the dialogue.

    • Robert

      Pastor Rick – I’m sure the new year has you busy, but I just wanted you to know I am still checking back on your blog every now and again and am still looking forward to your reply.

      Thanks so much.

      • Robert

        It seems another couple of weeks has gone by, and you have clearly moved on to other things. Having read your responses to other comments I know you are preparing for your trip to Asia, so I can see how this would seem less important.

        I had hoped to continue this conversation, but it seems we’ve reached the end of it. Oddly, the last time I have a very similar conversation about the true ‘objectivity’ of Christian morality it ended in very much the same way… with being given a link to an argument instead of a response, and with my taking the time to read and reply to the link only to be met with nothing in return.

        I may check back at some point to see if you’ve decided to take this topic back up, but given that you’ve had a month to do so since my last response it is probably safe to assume that will not happen.

        If you do decide to come back to this discussion please remember what its implications are. I still contend that Christians, like Atheists, are choosing their morality subjectively. While God may offer a moral standard, I have yet to meet a Christian who truly believes or follows the standard laid out in the Bible. Christians, like all other people, choose for themselves, subjectively, what they feel is good or bad, and retroactively point to an ‘objective standard’ to justify it – all the while ignoring the portions of the ‘Objective Standard’ which don’t sit well with them.

        In order to be a ‘good’ Christian (I borrow the terminology from your original post about atheism) you must accept the entirety of the ‘Objective Morality’ that is outlined in the Bible. That includes, among other things, the belief that slavery is, in certain contexts, morally acceptable.

        Therefore, if you accept that slavery is morally acceptable to God you may continue to claim Objective standards. But if you do not, you are back into subjective morality – picking and choosing what you feel is right, much like the atheist does.

        So, you can either be internally consistent, and accept slavery as moral – or rely on your subjective standard, and claim it is immoral.

        I am sure you can see the dilemma here clearly.
        And I suspect it is part of the reason this conversation has stalled completely.

        As I said, I am not out to ‘prove’ or ‘win’ an argument. But these are difficult questions which we should not shy away from, and this particular dilemma is one I have never been able to reconcile.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        I have to wonder if you would be making this same argument about slavery in the Old Testament if you realized that the Hebrew word for “slave” is also translated as “worker.”

      • Robert

        Jenna – please read over my reply above regarding the article the Pastor asked me to read that makes somewhat the same argument.

        In short, the language is less important than the relationship it portrays (that much I assume we can agree on). So while the argument wouldn’t be exactly the same, the spirit behind it would be.

        At that point you would have to accept that beating a worker so long as he does not die within 48 hours is morally acceptable. It would also mean that a worker may be owned, bought and sold as property… etc etc.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        It appears to me that you are trying to make the point that Christian morality is “subjective” just as atheists’ morality is “subjective” and you are attempting to use your own clearly subjective interpretation of the Old Testament’s teachings about “slavery” as evidence of this moral subjectivity. IMO, you are missing the point. Modern values and moral thinking about slavery among Christians demonstrate the operation of a paradigm for moral decision-making and problem-solving that is clearly and undeniably God-centered and biblical, i.e., God lead the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom and this act of God’s love is commemorated by modern Jews in their Passover Seder and by modern Christians in many communities of faith through the sharing of Holy Communion. When we apply a God-centered and biblical paradigm for moral reasoning, we are not being subjective, as you also are not when you critique the ancient Hebrews’ laws regarding workers. We are engaged in interpreting the morality of an ancient culture based on our modern understanding of objective moral principles.

        The difference between your analysis and a Christian analysis is that in your analysis, biblical teachings and our understanding of will of God (justice, righteousness, etc.), as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ, are not your paradigm, while they are for Christians. I really doubt that most people, atheists and Christians, in this day and age spend much time pondering the moral implications of slavery “subjectively” or otherwise, except when we go to see the movie “My Twelve Years a Slave” and are reminded of the moral depravity of slavery before the matter of its legality was resolved in God’s favor through the Civil War.

      • Robert

        Jenna –

        You said, “It appears to me that you are trying to make the point that Christian morality is “subjective”

        Not quite. I am trying to make the point that the majority of Christian’s morality is subjective, not that Christian Morality is subjective. That is a slight but significant difference.

        “you are attempting to use your own clearly subjective interpretation of the Old Testament’s teachings about “slavery” as evidence of this moral subjectivity.”

        I am taking the Old Testament at its word as outlined in Exodus, Leviticus and the other books I’ve mentioned.
        Either slavery was morally acceptable, and it at some point was no longer deemed as such by God, or it is still acceptable today. The final option, obviously, is that the Bible is in fact fallible and slavery was never morally acceptable, but that seems more problematic for Christianity that the other two for obvious reasons.

        If God’s view of slavery changed then God is not immutable.
        If God’s view of slavery has not changed, then the majority of Christians are in fact choosing their morality subjectively.
        On top of that, the moral mutability of God would have other significant ramifications.

        That is what I am trying to say.

        In regards to God leading the Hebrews to freedom, it seems important to point out that He only freed Hebrew slaves, not all slaves. Also, we shouldn’t forget that it also involved the slaughter of countless babies, which brings with it ramifications of morality that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

        You also claimed: “We are engaged in interpreting the morality of an ancient culture based on our modern understanding of objective moral principles.”

        We discussed this a bit a few weeks ago – but I would say again that we are not discussing the morality of an ancient culture, but the moral code that God Himself spoke to them. These laws did not come from man, but from God.

        “I really doubt that most people, atheists and Christians, in this day and age spend much time pondering the moral implications of slavery “subjectively” or otherwise,”

        I completely agree, and that goes to the heart of what I am saying. God had something to say about slavery, but the majority of humanity simply feels it is immoral, even if that goes against the laws God laid out in the Bible.

        “except when we go to see the movie “My Twelve Years a Slave””

        Which I still haven’t seen, but very much want to.
        I have heard nothing but good things about it.

  • Anonymous

    For all of you who think that GOD DID not have aclue about people owning other people, you are worng. God ment for any one to own other people . If it had not been for the sin that came to tbis world no one would have gone thouhgt it. God made it real clean but as always man makes up their own laws where things like this is invole. If we truly want to know what God thinks about people owning other people ask Him and then wait to really what He says about it. Just people fight for the rights of aminals we humans have as much right not to be owned by any man. The turth is man will never want to do what God said in his word, they will always think they know better than God. So when wwe are ready to hear from God, man will never do what’s right. One thing I do know we can not speak for God, He’she only one that can speak the turth,man will never for God,but some of us trying real hard to do so. Man was meant worship the Lord and all men was made to free. God don’t live on a double standard, man
    Do.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you meant well… :)

  • Jenna Black

    Robert,

    Here is where I see the difference in our approaches to interpreting the Bible. You say this, “These laws did not come from man, but from God.” The Law written with a capital letter L comes from God, but the particular laws of Hebrew society at the time of the writing of the books of the Torah are their interpretations of God’s will in and for their society. In other words, these laws are a product of the Hebrews’ understanding of what God expected from them to uphold their “end” of their contract with God, called the Covenant. Their civil laws reflect their understanding (man’s) of the Law as justice, righteousness, mercy, etc. I can’t think of any Jewish or Christian Bible scholars who argue that every social/civil law of the ancient Hebrews are an exact reflection of God’s will. I find such a notion to be rather peculiar since we clearly see an evolution of the Hebrews’ understanding of justice and righteousness throughout the OT and a great leap in their and our understanding of justice through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No, God has “changed His mind” but in the process of our evolving and deepening understanding of God’s Law and His Justice, we humans (man) most certainly have, and our civil laws reflect our growing approximations, as yet and probably forever imperfect and incomplete, at enacting the will of God as we understand it. JB

    • Robert

      Jenna –

      I think we’ll simply have to agree to disagree on this point, because I believe we’ve covered it before (above).

      As I wrote a few weeks back, I have a difficult time seeing the laws as written by man when Exodus 20:22 begins with “And the Lord said unto Moses.” Following that we have many of the laws governing slavery.

      “the Lord said…”
      It is pretty clear.

      So either God gave these laws to man, or this section of the Bible seems to mistaken.

      I realize I may sound a bit inflexible, but that is exactly what ‘Objective’ leads us to. Objective morality is all or none. Once we pick, choose or reinterpret we are back into our own subjective preferences.

      • Jenna Black

        Robert,

        Of course God’s Law has to be interpreted, as do all human-made laws as well. As to the latter of these two, witness the Supreme Court of the United States. We humans do not have and cannot have a perfect understanding of justice and righteousness. Our shortcomings in interpreting and applying God’s Law is not evidence that there is no such thing as God’s Law, nor that those of us who believe in God are not attempting, to the best of our ability and limited by our human understanding of God, are not following a Law that is greater than ourselves and not just a reflection of our own subjective preferences.

        I’m perfectly fine with agreeing to disagree. JB

      • Robert

        Surprisingly, I think I completely agree with everything you just wrote. However, I don’t feel it addresses my central point at all (perhaps you weren’t attempting to).

        I am also fine with agreeing to disagree – but make no mistake, I have greatly enjoyed our exchange. You force me to think with every reply, and that is always a good thing.
        Thank you for that.

      • makssiful

        Robert,
        If you’re still following this post a little bit more than a month, I responded on the bottom, maybe you’ll respond back?

  • makssiful

    Robert,

    If you’re still following this post,

    I find the conversation to be thought-provoking. I see where the disconnect between Jenna’s thoughts and yours lie. I am reading Jenna’s view as this: interpretation evolve over time, while yours as this: objectivity only stands if the interpretation remains constant.

    I do think God condones slavery as a form of love, even though sometimes involuntary to some people, as you said:

    “The crux of the article you asked me to read seems to rely on the idea that slavery in the Bible was not involuntary servitude. The article states that “slavery was almost always voluntary.” ‘Almost’ is obviously a very important word in that sentence.”

    Now I did not exactly read the article, but I have a gist of what it is about from your response.

    “While the article tries to paint a picture of slaves with rights and freedoms, it sidesteps the fact that the verses used to justify that belief are all speaking of Hebrew slaves only. It also ignores the loopholes through which masters could keep their slaves for life and pass them on to their children. Yes, Hebrew slaves (and only Hebrew slaves) were to be given their freedom in seven years, so long as they were willing to leave their wives and children is they were married while with their masters. ”

    A crucial part of being slaves, being identified as slaves, is giving up independent rights, in other words, giving up their life.

    Consider this: would a loving husband not give up his own life to save his wife?

    Would a loving husband not give up his freedom so his wives and kids be happy?

    Would a loving God not use his Son as payment so humanity can live while satisfying justice?

    Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    The theme is consistent in the Bible: God’s model “slavery” or “servitude” is of love.

    “If they wanted to stay with their families then they were to pledge their loyalty to their masters and they became his property for life. This is about as ‘voluntary’ as my paying a ransom to someone who kidnaps my wife. Sure, technically I would ‘choose’ to pay the ransom, but no rational person would agree that my action was voluntary and free in the true sense of the words.”

    [ESV (more word for word translation) Exodus 21 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave,he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.

    4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. ]

    It makes perfect sense. The wife is not kidnapped; she belonged to the master before the master gave to the slave. If the slave wants to leave the master, then it makes sense the slave will leave behind the master’s gift too.

    5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

    Much of the old testament also condones harsh disciplines compared to today’s relative standards including that beating of slaves – it is treated as non-personal injury instead of a hate crime because slaves are property instead of an independent entity.

    And these judgement and disciplinary actions, including stoning people, are relinquished by Jesus when he did the whole “let him who is without sin cast the first stone to the adulterous woman” thing.

    Other passages about slavery – (I’m trying to be inclusive to everything, if you do find something I fail to mention, don’t hesitate to bring it up)

    Leviticus 25 deals with something ridiculously hippy for our time – sustainable agriculture, and then continues on with God saying “everything belongs to me, don’t be a douche, because I am God, who freed you from slavery in Egypt”

    NIV (modern english version) Leviticus 25:54“ ‘Even if someone is not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, 55 for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

    NIV Deuteronomy 23:15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. 16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.

    “Remember you were slaves in Egypt” repeats multiple time in Deuteronomy as well, implying “don’t be a douche to slaves” because of the Jewish identity: who they were in Egypt and what they have become because of God.

    I would also like to introduce a new idea into this as well:

    Everyone is slave to a master whether he/she know it or not.

    We can have a whole discussion of humanity’s identity, but for the sake of connecting things together, (just like how economics assume people are rational) assume everyone is enslaved to something, but being enslaved to anything other than God will be destructive not only for the enslaved, but to the world around the enslaved.

    It makes sense God wants us to be enslaved to him, because he is the only being in the world that is not dependent on anything; God is uncaused along with his qualities and is able to remain the same. Everything else is a derivative of something else other than God; all other masters fail other than God.

    I’m sure you have heard “I am yours and you are mine” – sounds like love, and slavery to each other.

    The way God said it – “You will be my people, and I will be your God”

    I do have a lot of time in my hands so I’m fairly free to respond. I hope you (or someone else) may respond to this post.

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