A myth propped up by secular skeptics is that Scripture sanctions slavery. Nothing could be farther from the truth. First, it should be noted that far from extolling the virtues of slavery, the Bible denounces slavery as sin. The New Testament goes so far as to put slave traders in the same category as murderers, adulterers, perverts, and liars (1 Timothy 1:10).
Furthermore, slavery within the Old Testament context was sanctioned due to economic realities rather than racial or sexual prejudices. Because bankruptcy laws did not exist, people would voluntarily sell themselves into slavery. A craftsman could thus use his skills in servitude to discharge a debt. Even a convicted thief could make restitution by serving as a slave (Exodus 22:3).
Finally, while the Bible as a whole recognizes the reality of slavery, it never promotes the practice of slavery. In fact, it was the application of biblical principles that ultimately led to the overthrow of slavery, both in ancient Israel and in the United States of America. Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt became the model for the liberation of slaves in general. In America, many are beginning to wake up to the liberating biblical truth that all people are created by God with innate equality (Genesis 1:27; Acts 17:26–28; Galatians 3:28).
For further study, see Paul Copan, That’s Just Your Interpretation:Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001), 171–178. See also Hank Hanegraaff, “President Bartlett’s Fallacious Diatribe.” Available from CRI at www.equip.org.