Douthat on Secular Morality: A coherent secular morality is a tricky problem in and of itself. One that makes absolute claims even more so, and one that makes absolute claims absolutely seems well beyond our grasp. And, I say this as a secularist…. [T]he claim that slavery is fundamentally wrong in all cases is not controversial among secularists but it is far from clear how one justifies this except by asserting it. And, then of course what is one to say to people who deny it? Intending no disrespect to the underlying issue, the argument seems to devolve into “na-na na-na boo-boo.”…
The ethics-game is an attempt to answer the question, what moral stance “should” I adopt…. What Douthat appears to be saying is that the ethics-game is hard for secularists, and that is correct.
What Karl seems to miss is that playing the ethics-game is much much harder for Ross Douthat than for secularists.
For secularists it is simply the very hard question: "what is good?" For Ross it is three even harder and much more convoluted questions: "what do the priests tell me God commands?", "what reason is there to think that the priests know what God commands?" and "why should I think that what God commands is good?" Cf. Euthyphro, passim.
Ephesians 6:5-8: Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
When asked "what have you to say to slaves?" St. Paul responds: "Slaves! Obey your masters! And do so enthusiastically, diligently, and lovingly--that way you will have treasure in heaven!"
That's a considerably worse "argument" on the proper place of slavery in this fallen sublunary sphere than "na-na na-na boo-boo".
Plus there is always Genesis 22:1-10 to deal with. The idea that when God commands evil we must attempt to do HIS will because HE will somehow make it come out all right in the end is very unattractive...