Jesus said debts should be forgiven. So did the ancient Greeks, as Rev. Matt points out.
One of the most consistent arguments made against the policy of society wide debt forgiveness is this: “You need a Christian or believing (in the sense of ancient Israelite) nation for it to work. It cannot work in a nation like ours because it is non-Christian, so either people will not go for it, or they will abuse it and it will not work.” Almost every time I have made a case for debt forgiveness somebody makes this argument. But it is a fallacious one, both historically and logically.
It is fallacious logically because there is nothing inherent to many pagan philosophies saying that debt cannot be forgiven. Forgiveness, liberty and debt cancellation were all concepts that existed before either Israel or Christianity had graced the face of the earth. Indeed, the most ancient usage of words that can be translated as “liberty” were pagan words referring to debt forgiveness.
It is fallacious historically, because we have countless examples throughout history of ancient societies practicing debt forgiveness. From the ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, and other Near Eastern societies, on through to Greek city states and the Roman public, we see that debt forgiveness was either practiced, debated, or offered in various contexts. In fact, many ancient pagan leaders saw it, correctly, as an effective means of shoring up popular support for their reign, and limiting the damage their nobles could do to both their reign and their society.
Many examples of debt forgiveness in pagan societies can be given, here is one from ancient Athens,
“Now later writers observe that the ancient Athenians used to cover up the ugliness of things with auspicious and kindly terms, giving them polite and endearing names. Thus they called harlots “companions”, taxes “contributions”, the garrison of a city its “guard”, and the prison a “chamber”. But Solon was the first, it would seem, to use this device, when he called his cancelling of debts a “disburdenment”. For the first of his public measures was an enactment that existing debts should be remitted, and that in future no one should lend money on the person of a borrower.”
Debt enforcement and the refusal to cancel fraudulent debts such as student loans is neither moral nor Christian. Precisely how is it “progress” for a modern society to be observably less moral and less forgiving than ancient pagan societies?