the christian case against copyright

How would someone convince someone else there is no Biblical prohibition on eating dogs? How would someone convince someone else that eating a dog is not immoral? As per celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:

It’s an artificial construct of our society, a cultural decision, to make pets out of dogs and meat out of pigs. Both animals could be used the other way round, although pigs probably do make better meat than dogs and dogs better pets than pigs, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

The statement might be at first, appalling, but is it true? In order to address issues like these, it is important to set aside culturally based beliefs. In China, dogs are often on the menu. In the United States, the practice is outlawed in many States. Who is right and who is wrong, and how would one convince the other?

To those who care more about tradition than morality, it does not matter that God himself commanded us to eat dogs:

Act 10:12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Act 10:13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
Act 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Act 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

When God abolished the Kosher food laws, this included the prohibition on eating dogs. Paul follows this up by saying do not let people judge you in what you eat (Col 2:16). If using the Bible as the source for right and wrong, eating dogs is definitely not wrong, despite the inclinations of American culture.

In order to address concepts from a neutral point of view, it is important to isolate and remove cultural prejudices. In regards to copyright, the same must be done. When the Bible talks about stealing, we cannot just assume this applies to intangible concepts in addition to physical property. We cannot just assume when the Bible talks about workers and what is owed, it applies to those who create art and other media who have no agreement with the end user. We cannot assume that when the modern world includes copyright violation in their definition of theft, that is also applies to the Biblical concept of theft. We cannot assume that which we are trying to prove.

Starting at the ground up, the proponents of Intellectual Property rights have a lot of work to do. They first need to define Intellectual Property. This is an impossible task in and of itself. They then need to show that there is such thing as concepts, patterns, or processes which can be owned. This is a concept foreign to the Bible. The Bible is replete with references to inventions, songs, and artisan works which today would be deeply copyrighted. Paul, himself, carries around books and was a tentmaker. The psalms in the book of Psalms are both poetry and songs. The Israelites created works of art (such as the golden calf and the Ark of the Covenant), they created writings and songs (as evident from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible), and they used innovative technology (such as Iron).

Iron is a particular example of Intellectual Property because for a long time Israel did not use or have access to it, and that fact impeded their military efforts. Genesis records the first (recorded) teacher of the art of Ironmaking:

Gen 4:22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

Tubalcain might or might not have invented Iron Working, but he definitely did not invent the myriad of uses of it. The Canaanites eventually figured out a way to apply it to their chariots and were able to overcome Israel:

Jdg 1:19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

Other nations figured out how to craft iron weapons such as swords and arrow tips. The Philistines used iron to overcome Israel. They had a monopoly of the sources and manufacturing techniques of this metal. The Bible records in Judges how the Israelites lost wars and were oppressed due to lack of iron technology:

1Sa 13:19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:

And,

Jdg 5:8 … was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?

Israel had to eventually adopt the practices of their neighbors to become militarily sound, definitely violating some individual’s “Intellectual Property” in the process. Once Israel started using Iron, it never went out of use. In Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions the author uses arrow tips as an example. The Israelites did not invent iron arrow tips or iron chariots. They “stole” these technologies from their neighbors.

If someone wishes to argue that the Canaanites first stole the technology and then Israel stole it from them, this is precisely what proponents of Intellectual Property wish to stop on P2P technology. Those hosting the files are not the original “thieves” but are well down the chain. Secondary stealing, such as if a stranger steals my car and then another stranger steals it from them, does not give the second person any right to my property.

The point of all this is that Israel adopted many customs, processes, and intellectual properties of their neighbors. Did they pay the originators? Is there any hint at owning someone something for adopting their ideas? Intellectual Property is just not found in the Bible, despite consistent references to technology, innovation, and art. This becomes even more glaring of a problem for proponents, when one considers that over 600 rules are listed in the Old Testament, none of which hint at anything approximating Intellectual Property.

Stealing is used often. It is used both figuratively and literally. In both uses, it is never used for Intellectual Property. When the Bible states “thou shalt not steal”, it is referring to tangible goods that can no longer be used by the owner. The Hebrew word for “steal” is used in the Bible as follows:

Cattle – Gen 30:33, Exo 22:1
Idols – Gen 31:19, Gen 31:30, Gen 31:32, Gen 31:39
Humans – Gen 40:15, Exo 21:16, Deu 24:7, 2Ki 11:2, 2Ch 22:11
Money – Gen 44:8
Stuff – Exo 22:7, Exo 22:12, Jos 7:11
Bones – 2Sa 21:12
Water – Pro 9:17
God’s words – Jer 23:30
Figurative: To win over – 2Sa 15:6
Figurative: Carry Away – 2Sa 19:41, Job 21:18, Job 27:20
Figurative: Sneaking – Gen 31:20, Gen 31:26, Gen 31:27, 2Sa 19:3

This list is fairly exhaustive, only excluding general statements without indication of item being stolen. The only reference that can conceivably be linked to intellectual property is the one about God’s words. This is referencing false prophets parroting God’s prophets. In this case, is this a literal or figurative use of the term? Can it be applied to works such as novels and paintings? The verse alone is not a compelling argument that God has copyrighted his words and that others can do the same. Instead God is concerned about plagiarism and misattribution. It seems people were taking God’s words, maligning them, and vulgarizing them. To settle the question of Intellectual Property, we might ask “would God be for or against these false prophets repeating the words of Jeremiah and sourcing Jeremiah?” If the answer is no, this is not about Intellectual Property.

The fact that any of these “stealing” verses do not apply to Intellectual Property is compounded by the prescribed penalties for stealing. The penalty for stealing, in the Bible, is paying back a multiple of what was stolen:

Exo 22:1 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep…
Exo 22:7 If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

How does this apply to Intellectual Property, which can be multiplied at whim? If one person copies one mp3, do they have to send 3 mp3 copies back to the owner? The payments are always “in kind”, sheep for sheep, ox for ox, and money for money. The penalties for theft just do not apply to Intellectual Property. Notice also, the restitution is based on current value, not future projected value and not guestimated losses in projected earnings.

It should also be noted that stealing implies loss of the original to owner:

Oba 1:5 If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough?…

It is telling that the Hebrew word for Robber, literally means “destruction”. The Hebrew word for Thief is from the Hebrew word for Steal, literally meaning “to carry away”. Both these imply a loss. A robber does not steal a chair and then leave the chair at the house for the original owner to use. Something must be taken or destroyed for theft to occur. Ideas, concepts, and words cannot be lost. A physical book might be carried away, but if someone memorizes the Bible (imagine if the King James copyright did not lapse) then they are not stealing away the words.

It is often claimed that copyright violations, such as printing off a book or duplicating a song, are defrauding a workman of his wages. But this is not a solid interpretation of the verses. Let’s view one claimed in support of copyright:

Jer 22:13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;

The Jeremiah verse deals with using a neighbor’s service without wages. This is in direct context of “building his house”. This is not about getting tangential benefits from someone else’s work. If my neighbor cuts his lawn and repaints his house, my house’s value goes up. Do I then owe him anything? No, he is doing a job from which he should not expect any compensation from others. He is not working for me in any sense of a contract. I never agreed to pay him and he never agreed to work. If I then proceed to paint my house and mow my lawn to increase my property value even further, I do not owe him anything for the idea.

If he takes it upon himself to come over to my house and mow my lawn, again I do not owe him anything (think of the news story in which a robber cleaned someone’s house and left them an invoice). In Jeremiah, it is implied that there is mutual consent or some sort of agreement. Working on your own does not entitle you to someone else’s money, no matter how much it benefits them.

Take then the music artist whose mp3 is downloaded for free. Some might argue that you are building up your standard of living by consuming free entertainment, and that you are defrauding your neighbor who provided that entertainment. But imagine I visited a tourist destination. These places are filled with street performers. They dance or do tricks for money. If I stop and watch them, am I now obligated to pay? By the nature of their work, they have no expectation of compensation. There are natural spill-over effects of art (including software development, painting, and music). People, because they have thinking minds, will catalogue, reproduce and modify their experiences. People have the right to their own perceptions. It is unreasonable to use the state to then force payment between individuals for these effects.

It is likewise immoral to have the state use theft to enforce copyright restrictions. Remember, real theft involves taking or depriving use. If the state says that there are only certain data arrangements of 1s and 0s that someone can have on their computer then this is tantamount to theft. People no longer have full use of their computer. If the state confiscates a contraband football jersey, again, real theft is taking place. Ironically, supporters of copyright support theft of real property.

The Bible does not teach intellectual property. Copyright and patents did not exist in ancient Israel (or the rest of the ancient world). Instead they are a modern conception, forced into the Bible by modern Christians who think that their ways are higher than God’s. Instead of defending property rights, they destroy property rights to further their need to control people. They are like the Pharisees who built man made laws on top of God’s laws. Let Matthew 15:8 be the warning:

Mat 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Mat 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Intellectual Property, Morality, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to the christian case against copyright

  1. Suzette Hays says:

    The intellectual dishonesty of that statement takes my breath away. Either your dishonest or lazy. Is this your first time on this site? Do a google search on copying as intellectual property. Heck, do a search on intellectual property. Your argument has been made and answered so often that it’s now boring. Try what you said. I wouldn’t pay you a dime for your ebook because I could do a search of your name and find that you are an intellectual hack. I could, however, find that Stephan has serious background knowledge on intellectual property, and would pay for his ebook. Try selling on-line classes and compare your results to anyone on Mises online. Try giving speeches for pay. Try selling articles to blog sites that make money by clicks. All these answers to your concerns were out there, which makes me believe that you didn’t actually care about learning, only trolling.

    • Great news! I am here to help you. I assume you read an entirely different blog post by an entirely different author, went into an enraged (but coherent) rant, but then accidentally loaded into my blog post and posted it. Accidents do happen, but I will give you a 6 step system in which you can mitigate these things from happening in the future:

      1. Before posting, review the article you are posting to.
      2. Ask: “What is the article about; what is the main theme?”
      3. Ask: “What are the main points?”
      4. Ask: “Is the purpose of my post to refute or agree with a theme or any main points?”
      5. Ask: “Does my post attempt to do so?”
      6. Ask: “Is my post rambling nonsense that has no relation to the above post?”

      If it is found out that your post has no relation to the opening post, or that you post is nothing but rambling nonsense, chances are you are posting to the wrong blog post. With these simple steps, you can avoid a myriad of future embarrassment. I am happy to help, no thanks is necessary. : )

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  4. In China, dogs are often on the menu. In the United States, the practice is outlawed.

    “It is legal in 44 states to eat a dog or a cat.” Source

    • Thank you. Noted. And I will change the wording of my article. I seem to notice that owners are being prosecuted under animal cruelty laws as a generic catch-all for any behavior towards pets that is not socially accepted.

  5. Rodrigo Rezende says:

    Hello, Christopher. Although you made some interesting points, you did not mention the central biblical passage in defense of copyright legislation, 1 Peter 2:13-15:

    “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

    He commands us to obey all civil authorities in all things, and he clearly does not say that we should only obey the authorities when they act in accordance with the Bible. Indeed, at the time the apostle was writing the epistle there were either no or very few Christians authorities, but he still commanded all Christians to submit to them.

    To be even more clear, the apostle goes on in 1 Peter 2:18-20 to command servants (also translated as slaves) to submit to their masters even when these masters are unreasonable (also translated as unjust or perverse). So, servants (or slaves) should not question the judgments of the authorities placed over them, but submit in all cases, especially if these masters are unreasonable (or unjust, or perverse). And any master who can be described in these terms is not acting in accordance with the Bible.

    I think the whole passage (1 Peter 2:13-20) makes a strong case for complete submission to civil authorities, and copyright legislation was given to us by our civil authorities. It would get complicated if these authorities were trying to interfere with the faith, but we can leave this issue aside, as copyright legislation clearly does not affect the christian faith in any direct way.

    So, even though the Bible does not directly tell us to respect copyright laws, it does tell us to respect all civil laws. For this reason the question of whether Christians should obey copyright laws is analogous to the question of whether Christians should obey traffic laws: can a Christian in good conscience drive over the speed limit? No. Can a Christian in good conscience download an mp3 file without permission from the owner of the copyright? No. ” For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

    Yours,
    Rodrigo, from Brazil.

    • Sir,

      Thank you for your comment. A few things of note:

      1. This is an article on copyright laws. The verses you cite are about generally following laws and are not about copyright laws. There is no real reason to discuss these verses in the article.

      2. Your citation is just about following laws in general. Your comment is as equally applicable to laws about speeding, Jim Crow laws mandating white shop owners segregate black patrons, or even mandated persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. In fact, if I wrote an article against mandated legal discrimination, your comment could pretty much be copy and pasted directly as is, making the same argument.

      Me: “We should not have laws mandating separate drinking fountains for blacks.
      You: “Peter says to be subject to the authorities.”

      3. My article is not telling people not to follow the law. My article is about the morality of copyright law to begin with. Basically I am saying we should not have copyright laws. Which, if we did not have copyright laws then your argument is moot. Having laws just to have laws is not a good argument, nor is it what Peter (or Paul in Romans 13) is advocating.

      4. Each person in the United States commits 3 felonies a day. There are so many laws that each American cannot help but violating the law. Peter was not dealing with the surveillance state when he is writing about following laws. He is writing about a government that is thousands of miles away and has only limited reach on its people. James is not saying that if a cop comes to your door and demands that you shine his shoes, every day of your life, that you are now to be a slave to him forever. You might be engaged in overreach of Peter’s point. Peter wants people to live peaceably.

      5. God will judge us, ultimately, not on man’s law but on God’s law. In James, the reasons for following the government is given. The reason is not that it is sin not to follow the government, but due to public perceptions. My article is about morality, not perceptions.

  6. Rodrigo Rezende says:

    Hello Christopher,

    I will try to answer each of your numbered points:

    1. Of course you should have mentioned a blanket endorsement of all civil laws in a discussion about whether or not our civil authorities were correct in passing and trying to enforce any specific law. Peter really told us to submit to our authorities, in all things. He did not say “second guess the king at every step, and if you find that your opinion in any matter is superior to the king’s, fight to change the king’s mind.” On the opposite, he commanded us to submit to the king. At the very least you should have provided an argument justifying your decision to revolt against our established authorities, placed over us by God “for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

    2. I made it very clear that Peter did not command us to obey copyright laws directly. Instead he commanded us to obey all civil laws and so, indirectly, copyright laws. Peter’s argument does say all laws, without exception, and he makes his point even more clearly in the passage in which he commands servants (or slaves) to submit to their masters even when these masters were perverse. This could, maybe, mean that we should submit even if the authorities were acting immorally or against the faith. But as I mentioned in my original post, we can safely leave this much more complicated issue aside because copyright laws do not contradict God’s Law or the christian faith.

    3. So you do agree that as long as the copyright laws exist they must be completely respected in all parts? Many points in your article suggest otherwise. For instance, in the final paragraph you go as far as to suggest that copyright laws are like the laws of the Pharisees that tried to add to God’s Law or that our established authorities are trying to destroy property laws by enforcing copyright laws. If you agree that copyright laws, for as long as they remain laws, must be respected by Christians, I advise you to revise the article to make this clear.

    4. If a Christian commits a felony he should repent and make restitution. If, however, it is a non-Christians who committed the felony he has a more urgent problem, so he should convert first and worry about restitution after. Further, the apostle’s command in not conditional but absolute. Peter does not command us to submit only to the reasonable, moderate or libertarian authorities, but to all authorities, including the perverse, unjust or unreasonable.

    5. It is irrelevant why we were commanded to do something because our obedience to the Bible is based on absolute trust. We trust that everything that God commands us to do is for the good and so we obey, even when he doesn’t tell us why. The apostle Peter commanded us explicitly to submit to civil authorities so we should submit without question, unless we have a very good argument showing that we would be justified in rebelling. And whoever presents this argument has the heavy burden of showing why Peter’s general and unconditional command should be disregarded in the specific case.

    Yours,
    Rodrigo.

    • I will pretend to be you for a second.

      [Putting on your theological hat]
      Peter commands us to endorse abortion because Peter says:
      “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

      So this means not only that we need to endorse abortion, but that we should not oppose it. Peter makes no exception for any type of rebelling against human institutions, not even a “moral exception”. Christians who oppose abortion, even verbally, are violating the will of God.
      [Takes off your theological hat.]

      Your argument is not with me, but against yourself. From my perspective, your “moral exceptions” are arbitrary and are never detailed in the Bible. This is besides the fact that it is a huge violation of morality for the government to oppress those whom engage in “crimes” that are not based in morality. For example, the government’s persecution of Aaron Swartz was definitely evil.

      My take on the verse, on the other hand, is common sense and contextual. It actually tries to understand where that mandate is coming from, the purpose of the mandate, and how it works in practice. Your views, alternatively, endorse government mandated discrimination and racism. I don’t think that was Peter’s purpose. And I don’t think that something as important as that would just be overlooked in all Biblical history until Peter arrives on the scene. More rationally, you are just not understanding Peter.

      1. The Bible never commands us to “endorse” all civil laws. That is absurd. Yes, we can oppose legalized abortion and mandated persecution of the Jews. I do not see in Peter a command to endorse abortion. You might; you definitely cannot find a “morality exception” which you hinge your case on. The exceptions are not in Peter’s words. So, our disagreement is not really on “if” there are exceptions to following civil law but “when”. Note: I never advocated anywhere that people violate the current law, so I am not even violating being “subject” to the law. It is a wild leap to claim that verbally opposing a law is not being “subject” to it.

      2. Let’s talk about how the American legal system works. The system of American government is one of democratic principles. In democracy the people are encouraged to speak about what should and should not be legal. My, exercising this right is well in accordance with submitting to American authorities. In fact, my doing this is the basis of our government.

      3. The American system of laws is not a moral code; rather it is act and consequence. Civil Disobedience is an American right and is recognized as compatible with the American form of government. The principle of Civil Disobedience is quite simply the right to do an action if you are willing to suffer the consequences. Civil Disobedience is in accordance with the American form of government.
      http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3628&context=ilj

      4. My last point about the American legal system: laws are de jure or de facto. Some laws are just generally disregarded by the governmental authorizes. For example, in Florida it is only legal to have sex in the missionary position. Is your claim that Christians should follow this law and a million others that have been largely abandoned?

      5. Again, my article is not about what people should and should not do, rather it is about what is and is not moral. Every Christian should speak out on what is and is not moral. Christians are lied to, and told that copyright violations are theft. This is wrong, and the purpose in my article. Am I allowed to criticize Christains?

      6. Can I endorse the lax copyright laws in China? Would that endorsement be “subject” or “not subject” to the government, in your views? Your views that “criticism equals rebellion” make no sense.

      7. Counter to your ideas of how God’s relation with government operates, there is a long history of Biblical assassinations and governmental overthrows of evil regimes. My favorite story is in Judges 3, when Ehud kills a fat king and escapes through the window. In Hosea 8:4, God laments that the governments that Israel established are not through Him.

      Hos 8:4 They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.

      In Ezekiel, God searches for someone righteous to rise up and kill the wicked, but no one steps up:

      Eze 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

      So we know there are evil governments, God engages in assassinations and rebellions to overthrown evil governments. How does this work, if we are never the challenge anything the government does? Or, are you misreading Peter, Peter’s point, and the context of what Peter was saying?

      8. Can I endorse the lax copyright laws in China? Would that endorsement be “subject” or “not subject” to the government, in your views? Your views that “criticism equals rebellion” make no sense.

      9. Rereading my article, the focus is on the Biblical historical concept of copyright law. It would be highly out of place and inane to put in statements about respecting all laws (something the Bible never commands us to do).

      10. You assume Peter’s statement is “general and unconditional”, yet you carve exceptions. Here is just a general question on reading comprehension for any blanket statement: are blanket statements usually generalities with exceptions, or unconditional and absolute principles? Just use your normal interaction with people.
      “How was your day?”
      “It was good.”

      “How was your day?”
      “Everything went wrong today.”

      Insert your own.

      Are these statements absolute and unconditional? Can you give an example of a letter someone wrote to you in which they made an absolute statement without exceptions? Remember your own hypocrisy on the verses in question while you think of this.

      For you consideration,
      Chris

  7. Rodrigo Rezende says:

    Hello again, Christopher,

    Now I’m more confused about your views than I was before. On your first reply to me you said:

    “My article is not telling people not to follow the law. My article is about the morality of copyright law to begin with. Basically I am saying we should not have copyright laws.”

    I understood this to mean that you were actually in favor of people following the laws, including copyright laws. But then you compared being in favor of copyright with being in favor of abortion? This is very confusing. There is no law mandating abortions just like there is no law mandating other forms of murder. If there were such laws we would be in deep theological trouble, because the Bible tells both that all authorities are sent by God and that God haters murder. But I’m not going to discuss this complicated issue, but the much simpler issue of whether Christians should obey and support copyright laws.

    So, first, in your article were you or were you not making a biblical case against copyright? I assumed yes.

    Second, are you in favor of Christians respecting copyright laws in all their respects? I assumed no.

    If both of my assumptions were wrong, I apologize for wasting your time. But if they were correct, then your biblical case against copyright fails completely because it does not even attempt to refute an explicit biblical command to submit to “all human institutions”, under which heading are included legislative bodies.

    Here’s an illustration: Suppose a father told his child: “eat everything that the nanny tells you to eat”, and the nanny then told the child: “eat all your vegetables”, wouldn’t that be exactly the same as if the father had told the child directly to eat her vegetables? But suppose further that a schoolmate of the child came along and wrote a case against the child eating vegetables, supposing that the father had not commanded the child to eat them. Well, at the very least we’d hope the schoolmate would address the father’s original instruction to the child and argue that the nanny was abusing her authority or some such thing. But if the schoolmate couldn’t come up with any arguments to show that the father didn’t mean for the child to eat her vegetables, his case would fail. Does this help you to see why your “christian case against copyright failed?”

    • “So, first, in your article were you or were you not making a biblical case against copyright? I assumed yes.
      Second, are you in favor of Christians respecting copyright laws in all their respects? I assumed no.”

      Correct, with caveats.

      “But if they were correct, then your biblical case against copyright fails completely because it does not even attempt to refute an explicit biblical command to submit to “all human institutions”, under which heading are included legislative bodies. “

      I have actually made a cascading list of problems with your position. The intellectual problems with your position are vast. Any one of the below topples your take on the text, on their own. In conjunction, they just show how out of touch your reading of Peter is.

      1. I argue that there is no Biblical mandate to “submit” to “all human institutions”. My argument is that you misread the Bible here, out of context. Peter is simply not saying never to criticize law.

      2. I argue that “submit” does not mean “endorse” and does not mean “no criticism”. You have done nothing to show why “submission” means we cannot criticize something.

      3. I argue that even if (EVEN IF) there is a Biblical mandate to “submit” to “all human institutions” in the way you argue, then I am “submitting” to my government, because the government is structured for input from citizens.

      4. I argue that even if (EVEN IF) there is a Biblical mandate to “submit” to “all human institutions” in the way you argue, then I am “submitting” to my government, because the government is structured for civil disobedience.

      5. I argue that your view is hypocritical. You hold that there is some sort of moral exception, not stated in the text, and you get to define this exception however you like. You deny me the same leeway to contextualize and draw exceptions. You then hold that the text is “absolute”, violating your own position.

      6. I argue that sometimes criticism of copyright law is “submitting” to authorities (just depends on which authority we are looking at).

      7. I argue that if Peter was saying what you say that he is saying, there is zero Biblical precedence and that would cast doubt on this being some sort of real command.

      8. I argue that throughout the Bible we find plenty of governments in opposition to God who are not sent to “punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” We find God endorsing the rebels. So, no, Peter is not making a universal statement with “no exceptions”.

      9. I argue that copyright can definitely fall into your categorization of a gross moral violation by the government, as in the case of Aaron Swartz. So, even by your own standards, I should be able to criticize copyright law.

      10. Your position, if followed, would preclude us from writing against slavery, Jim Crow laws, Jewish persecution, and a whole host of other evils. I am 100% sure, that is not what Peter was saying.

      11. In the American system, it is highly impractical and impossible for Christians to submit to the government in how you describe. Peter is not writing towards an omniscient surveillance state. He has no concept of totalitarianism. His context is an aloof government, with sporadic persecutions.

      12. Peter is not giving a moral command, and God will definitely not judge us for violating speeding laws (etc). Peter is instead giving us a Public Relations tip (he explains his purpose in writing his point). We see a lot of such tips in the Bible, and sometimes they contradict each other.

      Any one of these points, by themselves, overturns your reading of 1 Peter. You are misreading Peter; it is obvious.

      Can you copy and paste this statement in your next post just. We should be debating slavery or Jim Crow laws, because that is what you are really defending:

      “William Wilberforce was wrong for speaking against slavery. He was wrong for working to overthrow slavery. He should have submitted to the British government.”

      Or

      “Christians should have not opposed Jim Crow laws, but upheld them. Those Christians who marched with Doctor Martin Luther King and refused to sit at the back of the bus were violating God’s law.”

      I would appreciate you addressing each point, because each point by itself invalidates your argument.

      Thank you.

      PS. There are government mandated abortions in China as we speak.

  8. Rodrigo Rezende says:

    My country allowed slavery up until late in the 19th and if I were alive them I would have fully backed those laws. Today slavery is illegal in my country so I fully back the prohibition of slavery. I’m not going to discuss Jim Crows or Nazism. If I lived under such a regime I would fully support all their laws, even the evil ones. This is my position. I know you disagree. I’m not willing to discuss these matters. If you try, you will just waste your time.

    I made a broad statement based on 1 Peter, but I also said that I was not going to defend it, but focus instead on the matter at hand, copyright. Since you can’t let it go, I now withdraw my earlier statements about submission to all laws. My new and restrained statement is simply that Christians must obey all civil laws that do not contradict the Pentateuch. And IP laws do not contradict the Pentateuch, so Christians must submit to IP laws.

    With this, I’m not going to address any of your points that are not related to intellectual property. And if you believe that IP laws contradict the Pentateuch I’m not going to discuss the point either. If that’s the case we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

    The real problem is that the more you write, the more confused I became about what is your view of IP and what was the point of your article. Do you now admit that 1 Peter is relevant to a “christian case against copyright”? In past replies you explicitly denied this! So, is it or is it not relevant?

    Presuming it is relevant, do you believe that all Christians must obey current laws pertaining to intellectual property? If not, should they obey parts of the laws? Should they disregard them entirely?

    Do you believe that the governments that have intellectual property laws and attempt to enforce them are evil? Are they in any way like the Pharisees?

    Do you believe that because the Bible chronicles some actions that, had they happened today, might constitute IP violations, that the Bible implicitly prohibits intellectual property?

    Most of your points attempt to evade the issue at hand and flee into other matters into which I’m not interested. For instance, I never said anything about whether Christians are going to be judged on whether they respected human laws. I just don’t care about this question.

    You should be able to criticize anything you want, so long as you make it clear that it is your opinion. The way you wrote your article made it sound like the Bible was against copyright, that copyright was immoral or evil and that the authorities that tried to enforce copyright were themselves immoral or evil, not even worthy of respect, let alone submission. So the obvious conclusion was that Christians should disregard copyright laws. But if you had provided your interpretation of 1 Peter 13-20 initially your case against copyright would at least have been made stronger, as I hope you now admit?

    One final question that could clarify everything: what would you say if a Christian asked for you advice if he were feeling guilty after copying a book without the copyright owner’s permission?

    • ///I made a broad statement based on 1 Peter, but I also said that I was not going to defend it,
      Well, that is interesting as I think 1 Peter is being misused by you and you are using 1 Peter to criticise my article. If you are not defending your criticism of me, why criticize me?

      /// My new and restrained statement is simply that Christians must obey all civil laws that do not contradict the Pentateuch.
      Again, I think you made up this concept. Show me in the Bible were we obey all civil laws that do not contradict the Pentateuch. Your prooftext you use against me can be used right back at you against your exceptions. It is not a very solid prooftext. And in my previous post, I explain a cascading list of problems with your view. If you are not defending your view, then you no longer have a criticism of me.

      ///And IP laws do not contradict the Pentateuch, so Christians must submit to IP laws.
      Speculative. Refer to my previous post.

      ///Do you now admit that 1 Peter is relevant to a “christian case against copyright”? In past replies you explicitly denied this! So, is it or is it not relevant?
      Is 1 Peter relevant to if we should have copyright laws or not? No. Is 1 Peter relevant to if copyright laws are based in morality? No. Is 1 Peter relevant to if we should observe copyright laws? Maybe. But I have a cascading list of problems you need to answer about your own prooftext before this can be determined.

      ///Presuming it is relevant, do you believe that all Christians must obey current laws pertaining to intellectual property? If not, should they obey parts of the laws? Should they disregard them entirely?
      Christians can do what they want. I do not encourage anyone to break the law. Note: copyright law is not universal and in America is a civil offense (not criminal). I have pointed out to you that Christians cannot obey all laws. There are too many laws, and the laws contradict. Also, some law has been abandoned although still on the books. How do these facts work with your views that Christians should observe all laws? The general command is for Christians to live peaceably with others. As long as they are doing that, they are meeting the intent of Peter and Paul.

      ///Do you believe that the governments that have intellectual property laws and attempt to enforce them are evil? Are they in any way like the Pharisees?
      Yes, in a way. Is it evil to steal? That is what copyright law is: theft. Copyright law tells people what they can and cannot do with their own property. If I want to use my own pencils and paper to draw Mickey Mouse, the government will use guns to stop it.

      ///Do you believe that because the Bible chronicles some actions that, had they happened today, might constitute IP violations, that the Bible implicitly prohibits intellectual property?
      No, but it does tell us that they had zero concept of intellectual property, and that intellectual property is a modern invention by fiat.

      ///For instance, I never said anything about whether Christians are going to be judged on whether they respected human laws. I just don’t care about this question.
      Then why on Earth would you care if Christians violate human law? If Christians are not judged on it, why do you care?

      ///But if you had provided your interpretation of 1 Peter 13-20 initially your case against copyright would at least have been made stronger, as I hope you now admit?
      No, it is distracting, off-point, and would add unneeded and unwarranted bulk to an article dealing directly with the concept of copyright.

      ///One final question that could clarify everything: what would you say if a Christian asked for you advice if he were feeling guilty after copying a book without the copyright owner’s permission?
      I would chuckle. Don’t feel guilty. Someone cannot own “patterns”, “ideas”, or “sentence arrangements”. If you are still feeling guilty, send the author some money directly and bypass the middlemen.

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