The SR, for reasons I can only guess at, decided not to give me 5 "contradictions", but rather gave me 5 questions, which I will take as an admission of defeat on the question. Since I'm a nice guy, however, I'll have a go at his questions, with the reminder to my readers that I see no evidence that SR has gone to the extraordinary lengths of looking up his questions in standard commentaries, for example.
1. Why is there no penalty for murder in Exodus 21:20-21?20 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21 “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.
God permitted slavery to exist in both Old and New Testament times. But this does not mean that slavery was a God-ordained system. Slavery was an invention of fallen man, not of God. Nevertheless, God allowed it to exist the way He allows other things to exist that He does not approve of: murder, lying, rape, theft, etc.
God also works within the system of fallen man and makes allowances for the freedom and failures of mankind within that system. We see this, for example, in Jesus saying that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of peoples' hearts (Matt. 19:8). The fact is, people are sinners and do things contrary to the will of God. But, even though people have murdered, lied, raped, and stolen, God has still used people who've committed these sins to accomplish His divine will. Moses murdered an Egyptian but was used by God to deliver Israel. David committed adultery but was promised to have the Messiah descend from his seed. This is proof that though God desires that people not do much of what they do, He permits them their freedom, yet uses the system and the people according to His divine will.
In the case of a slave being property, that is simply the way things were done back then. As I said, God worked within the fallen system of man and put limits and guidelines concerning the treatment of slaves.
I'd add a few things:
1) It says "he shall be punished", and that punishment is left up to the discretion of the judges. They could very well inflict the death penalty if they wanted to.
2) The master who strikes his slave so harshly that the slave might die is a fool and is behaving counter to his own purposes. I wouldn't expect him to last very long as a master.
3) The master would be punished additionally thru the loss of work and profit that his slave can't produce while s/he is recovering from the blow.
4) First, the fact that a servant survived a day after the beating shows that the master was not doing it out of malicious spite, or the servant would not have survived so long. After that, the part that explains it is the last phrase 'for he is his property'. As a general rule, men do not destroy their own property. Because of this, it is assumed that the injury or death of the servant was an honest mistake made by the master in a legitimate act of discipline, for which God does not deem it necessary to punish (source).
2. Why is payment of a fine the penalty for murder in Exodus 21:22?22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
See the answer at Tektonics.
3. Is it appropriate, if the Bible does not directly address a controversial topic, to find passages whose context is only indirectly or peripherally related, and from these to approximate a doctrinal answer? For example, I don't know that the bible addresses health care, or the environmental conservation. How are disagreements among such to be resolved?The Westminster Confession, Chapter I, Article VI:
“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…”
So the answer is yes - the Bible not only gives direct guidance but also principles by which we can live and apply to other situations. Usually it's not nearly as hard as those who oppose the biblical position make it sound, b/c they have a vested interest in muddling the waters. Abortion, for example, is not expressly mentioned in the Bible, but anyone who might claim that the Bible is unclear on the matter is a fool. The hardest matter I've ever encountered in terms of moral questions is euthanasia/when it's permissible to unplugg the terminally ill and really old patient. That doesn't mean the Bible is unclear on all of those situations or even most of them, but on a few, yes. Terri Schinder-Schiavo, for example, represents a case where the answer is very easily obtainable; it still amazes me that the courts got it so wrong.
4. How did Abraham determine whether the demand to sacrifice his son was a command of God, a deceit of Satan, or a delusion of his own mind? How would you, if you were in his position today?Here you go.
A revelation from God Almighty is self-authenticating; there is no asking God for His ID. No higher authority, whether moral or epistemological, to which to appeal. Further, there is plenty of information to ascertain between God and Satan - the Bible. Abraham had quite a bit less, but I see no reason to assume that God wouldn't have provided some way for Abraham to know for sure, given that he didn't have the Bible, but that's not a question that I have to answer today, fortunately.
5. What biblical contradiction do you find most difficult to reconcile, or most instructive for study in doing so when challenged?I assume you mean which difficulty is the hardest for me, and the answer is the Incarnation of Jesus, hands down. How does God become contained in a human body? How does God mess His diaper, and how does He "grow in grace and knowledge and in favor with God and man?" How does God become the God-man? How does God Himself mask His glory and walk around with camel poo splattered on his ankles? How does He get nailed to a cross? I have answers, sure, but the whole thing still blows my mind. It is a great, great mystery, but I see no reason to assume that that which transcends my reason, that which is too great for me to wrap my mind around, is necessarily incorrect.