Is the New Testament an improvement on Old Testament morality?

July 18, 2007 at 1:12 am 102 comments

Evolution of phonesI find it interesting that Christians, many of who believe the Bible to be the Word of God, so quickly divorce themselves from the Old Testament. It allows them to conveniently ignore many actions by YHWH including genocides, the condoning of rape and slavery, killings and other acts of evil. It also allows them to ignore some very strange laws.

As pj11 stated on another thread:

I’m not going to rehash the OT issue. It’s been asked ad nauseum on this site and answered (not just by me, but by theologians over hundreds of years!). The Law has been superseded. If you want to have a productive dialogue about the morality of the Bible and how it relates to our lives today, let’s stick to the NT.

The New Testament attempted to show us a new and improved version of YHWH. However, old habits are sometimes hard to break as shown by these N.T. events:

Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

Acts 5:1-10 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? … You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. …
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.

In a previous blog, Jesus and Family Values, I used New Testament scriptures to show the views Jesus expressed on family values.

Of course there is also the little matter of how women are portrayed primarily in the New Testament.

So pj11, please review the above scriptures and blog entries and explain how the New Testament is an improvement on Old Testament morality.

- The de-Convert

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102 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yueheng  |  July 18, 2007 at 1:40 am

    pj11:

    With all due respect, restricting the morality of the Bible to the NT seems to be an intellectual cop-out. Firstly, the OT God’s commands to wage genocide on non-believing tribes are not, strictly speaking, part of the Mosaic Law. If one accepts the OT as giving a correct representation of God’s nature, then one must accept the genocidal commands emanated from God, who found genocide morally commendable.

    In John 10:30, Jesus effectively claimed to be one with the same genocidal OT god who ordered children and infants to be cut down and women to be enslaved as sex slaves (see Numbers 31:35), it therefore follows that the OT cannot be irrelevant to a discussion of the morality of the Bible.

  • 2. Thinking Ape  |  July 18, 2007 at 1:58 am

    While I continue to believe that there are definitely problems with NT practical morality, especially with family and women, I think that, as a whole it is an improvement – maybe not infused with a divine touch and literally “holy”, but certainly an improvement.

    I see a direct contrast between Jesus and the later Pauline tradition. Jesus was revolutionary, but he still lived at a certain time in history. He allowed and even favoured women as disciples, which is readily apparent when reading in between the lines. The gnostic tradition, unlike the Pauline tradition, favoured Mary Magdalene so much that they regarded her as the only continuity of truth after Jesus’ death (and slams the disciples over and over – The Gospel of Mary makes for some great feminist literature). Of course, the Gospel of Thomas has that troublesome ending, which has been interpreted in several different ways.

    My point is that, like the Buddha Gautama, Jesus was revolutionary for their respective times. They were both either hesitant or cautious, but were definitely progressive. Paul himself understand women to be on equal footing with men (Galatians 3:28) in a similar way as the gnostics. But culturally, they weren’t wiling to up heave social order. Later writers in the Pauline tradition, such as the authors of 1/2 Timothy retracted Pauline notions of equality (1 Timothy 2:9ff).

    New Testament as something we should uphold as our moral foundation? Maybe not – but it is something that should definitely be applauded, alongside with other ancient moral philosophers and religious leaders.

  • 3. The de-Convert  |  July 18, 2007 at 2:07 am

    TA,

    Do you believe what is defined as “the Pauline tradition” really originated with the Apostle Paul? Per stories in Acts, Paul also seemed very inclusive to women as a part of the ministry vs. what was written in a few of his letters.

    Paul

  • 4. Thinking Ape  |  July 18, 2007 at 2:38 am

    What I mean by the “Pauline tradition” is a movement, not necessarily uniform and probably less so as time progressed and small schisms appears within the major trajectories, that later became orthodox. The issue of women is not central to Paul’s message, and so it is something that could change, likewise with church leadership, and even eschatology.

    The Pauline tradition is characterized by Paul’s Christology. Paul was earlier than the gnostics or the proto-gnostic author of John’s gospel. This later trajectory probably exaggerated on Paul’s myth-making, seeing Jesus some sort of ethereal figure – god, not man – a phantom.

    Many contemporary scholars are debating whether Paul was actually an adversary to the early church in Antioch and Jerusalem, headed by James and Peter, which is supported by internal evidence in Paul’s letters, as well as the epistle of James. Even if this is not the case, most scholars do not doubt that, at least, Paul’s writings deviate from other understandings of Jewish-Christianity as we can see even in our own Christian canon (esp. Epistle of James).

    And so when I speak of “Pauline Christianity” I speak of the mainstream line that would later become orthodox. Whether it is “true Christianity” or not if for each to decide. This line went through many changes between Paul, later pseudo-Pauline writers, and then of course the early church leaders, but they would all be in the “Pauline tradition.”

  • 5. Thinking Ape  |  July 18, 2007 at 2:43 am

    I don’t know if that answered your question, but something like the Pastoral epistles would not be based strictly on Paul’s teachings. They are what later writers felt Paul would say about their contemporary issues (esp. church happenings).

    Personally, I believe the pastoral epistles were partly a reaction to the increasing popularity of gnostic syncretism – women were especially drawn to it and appear to have been making a stink in some of Paul’s gatherings, but thats just a hunch.

  • 6. Stephen P  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:10 am

    For so long as Christians continue to place bibles in hotel rooms, give bibles to school children and go door-to-door saying “can I interest you in the bible”, they should be judged by the content of the bible – all of it.

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:16 am

    Pj11, I am writing this comment for everyone, but it is really a continuation from the last article. Anyone, please chime in with your insights.

    Whether the Law of Moses was progressively more moral than its neighbors’ laws is really not the issue for me. It may be, it may not be, but I don’t have the knowledge to verify that either way. But that is beside the point.

    Nobody is claiming that Christians think old testament tort law should apply today. I think we all understand the claims of Paul and the Book of Hebrews that Jesus death supersedes the law. The issue is this – The old testament is loaded with what we (as educated non-believers) would consider Divinely sanctioned atrocities. I see no need to candy coat that issue. And pointing them out is not hard to do – everyone here knows what I am talking about. My problem is that if God is good, and this same good God is claimed to have sanctioned barbarism, then something is wrong.

    Pj11, I asked you how the passages in Deut 22, which treats women as mere property, could be considered Divinely sanctioned morality, regardless of time, culture, or dispensation. Your answer was that it was progressive law compared to that time and that culture. In other words, Moses was at least better than his neighbors.

    Pj11, this is not Christian bashing, this is a real problem. I left Christianity because of many problems and this was one of them. My wife, who gained an interest in reading the Bible, once made me try to explain to her how God could be so cruel – and I pulled the same line on her that you are using on us – that God’s morality was better than their neighbors, or that they was deserving of some wickedness that is not always stated in Scripture, or that it said Slavery but it really meant Indentured Servitude. I said this stuff because that is what I heard from the pulpit, and read in apologetic books.

    My wife gave me the same look she gives me when I am trying to sneak something past her. She knew that answer was bunk. And that is when I realized there was a problem. Long ago, Robert Ingersoll said in ‘Mistakes of Moses’ that it is no surprise the OT contains brutal stories, laws and behavior. It was written during a rude time. But to claim that every word came from an all-loving God just invites ridicule – as a way to expose such claims. It forced me stop excusing the Bible every time there was trouble, and just read the text and evaluate it honestly.

    Let’s just suppose that an all-good God inspired Moses to pen Deut 22. And let’s even suppose it is a step up from the neighboring Amalekites’ Law which said you could sacrifice children by the dozen (I am making that up for argument’s sake). Sure, Moses’ Law is a step up from that – but it *still* treats women like property.

    Is it ever right to treat women as property? Ever? At any time? In any culture? I don’t think so, but obviously the Israelites would disagree with me based on their own cultural differences. This just tells me that the Mosaic Law is purely human in nature. It was written by humans as a reflection of their own culture, of their own ethical stance. I see nothing omni-benevolent in this. Our laws are lightyears more enlightened than the laws of the ancients. The mere fact that we allow women to vote was unheard of just 100 years ago! Is our Congress and Senate inspired by God because we pass laws that are progressively more enlightened than that which we had in the past? Of course not!! It is just a reflection of our humanity – of struggles to make this world better little at a time. Why should the Mosaic Law be any different? Why was God not TRULY progressive and say the following things to Moses: Thou shalt not own human beings as property. Thou shalt not beat children – ever. Stuff like that? But no, God did allow slavery, and he did sanction capital punishment to children. I do not see this as any way coming from the mind of a Divine, all loving, all caring and knowing being. On the contrary – this is Human.

    I see another problem with this type of morality. It is progressive morality that is exactly the kind of morality that I was told NOT to trust by my church pastor. Pj11, you are basically saying that at one time long ago, God declared slavery, misogyny, and all the other bad stuff in the OT was morally correct simply because of the cultural background. But with the new covenant comes a new morality. Huh? Does this mean God has changed his standard? Has God redefined his moral standard of sin? I thought Malachi said ‘God changeth not’. Apparantly he has. And if the old morality was flexible and a function of cultural background, then why is it this not the case today? Where is it said otherwise in Scripture? Jesus said that the Golden Rule was the totality of the Law and the Prophets. So, there really is not an iron clad standard of morality and rule of sin. Because to love your neighbor as yourself means to take whatever cultural context your neighbor comes from apply it wisely.

    We are back to human inspired morality again. Either that or God changes his mind as to what is right or wrong depending on culture context. Which tells me that this God was nothing more than human thought to begin with.

    Sorry this is such a long comment. But this issue is not mere picking on uneducated Christians as you claim. This is stuff that I struggled with for years and finally decided to stop excusing the Bible for who it claimed God was.

  • 8. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 5:03 am

    The problem I would have with the argument that the OT is no longer relevent is that Jesus claims in the NT to fufill the law. I also think he claimed that not one “jot or tittle” would pass away?

    Plus, Jesus’ whole death is interpreted through the Christian’s perspective of the sacrificial system. You would need those laws for it to even make sense from that perspective. Also, as another person said, there is a whole lot of OT that doesn’t involve the Mosaic law — it involves some rather disturbing events that were started or sanctioned by the God that Jesus says to be the son of/the Messiah for. To not focus on those at all comes across as picking and choosing, or trying to have a God that is easier to deal with.

    You also need the OT because of how much the NT pulls from it, in terms of saying what the prophecies were and how Jesus fufilled those interpretations.

    You need it because the Timothy quote of all Scripture is inspired, when written, could only refer to the OT, given there was no NT at the time.

    You need it because Jesus was a Jew, and Paul came from the Jewish background: that was their life, their culture, and their religion. I also wouldn’t see Paul discarding the OT like that, nor would I see Jesus doing the same.

  • 9. Stephen P  |  July 18, 2007 at 6:46 am

    The problem I would have with the argument that the OT is no longer relevent is that Jesus claims in the NT to fufill the law. I also think he claimed that not one “jot or tittle” would pass away?

    Matthew 5: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

    Though that sits rather uncomfortably with Matthew 12 – one of the various indications that each gospel was not written at a single moment by a single author.

  • 10. kramii  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:04 am

    I, too, would be interested in the opionion of Bible-believing Christians on the verses presented. But, I suspect my motivation is different from others writing here. You see, I do believe that the Bible is a fair representation of the way that God dealt with people 2000 years ago.

    So, how do I deal with verses that seem to suggest that God is an immoral being? I will do my best with the Acts 12 verse as two quoted in the article.

    I should say that, as far as I know, my views are not in any way ‘official’. The don’t represent anything other than my views. And I am often wrong about things.

    To be honest, I must say that this verse makes me feel uncomfortable, too. I don’t like violence, either. I am a pacafist by nature. OTOH, it appears that the purpose of these verses is to make us uncomfortable, to help us to see that God is not a pink-fluffy-bunny kids-TV kind of God. The truth is, God is not ‘nice’.

    To address these verses, I would use a simple analogy:

    I have a son, JB. I am convinced that his best chance for a good life is for my wife and I to take care of him and bring him up as best we can. I do not think that someone else is likely to do a better job than us.

    Suppose someone said that JB should be taken away from us, and brought up by an alcoholic who lives on the street? What would I do to prevent that from happening? If it came to it, would I put my pacifism aside and resort to violence? Would my violent actions be justified? I believe that they would.

    So, if someone is trying to keep God from benefiting His children, what lengths would he go to to prevent that from happening? Would He resort to violence, too?

    In Acts 12, Herod is effectively promoting the separation of God from His children. So, He demonstrates his wrath towards those who do this. As a father, I think I can begin to understand His actions.

    Naturally, I would appreciate your feedback.

  • 11. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Stephen P –

    Thanks. I knew Jesus said something to that effect.

    Kramii,

    it appears that the purpose of these verses is to make us uncomfortable, to help us to see that God is not a pink-fluffy-bunny kids-TV kind of God. The truth is, God is not ‘nice

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that God should be a pink-fluffy-bunny. Rather, given God’s nature and that God is supposed to be better than us, God’s behavior shouldn’t be something that we would do so easily. Like your example with your son: the flaw I would see there is that it gives Herod way too much power. You would interfere with the alcoholic, and possibly use violence, because it may be your only way of stopping the alcoholic. God has a multitude of ways. God is all-powerful. Can one man effectively interfere with God communicating with people? Can one man interfere with God’s ability to benefit his children? And given that Jesus promoted peace, and said that loving one’s enemies is just like being God, and that forgiveness is paramount, it would logically follow, for me, that God would find better ways than violence. Violence is associated with the ‘fruits of the flesh.’ So I would think we should see some radical, peaceful measure that would stop Herod, rather than killing him. And if God does kill Herod to prove a point, how does that make God better than us?

  • 12. kramii  |  July 18, 2007 at 9:22 am

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that God should be a pink-fluffy-bunny.

    Fair enough, this is probably my mis-perception of what a lot of Christians seem to believe. I guess I was thinking of the average ‘Christian Bookshop’ seems to carry a lot of merchandise with cute bunnies and the like. But that’s probably not representatve.

    God is all-powerful. Can one man interfere with God’s ability to benefit his children?

    All-powerful, yes. But as I understand it, God has also delegated responsibility to humans in this world. He does not appear to have revoked this as yet. Why else the suffering? So, in this case, I think it is reasonable to think that one man’s action could have a negative effect on the propogation of His message of love.

    And given that Jesus promoted peace, and said that loving one’s enemies is just like being God, and that forgiveness is paramount, it would logically follow, for me, that God would find better ways than violence.

    Actually, I don’t think that Jesus did always promote peace. Consider Matthew 10:34:

    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

    (I know this verse also presents problems for some people. In this case, I think Jesus is making a simple observation: If you preach against certain kinds of behaviour, you make enemies.)

    As I understand the Biblical perspective, we humans have already rejected God, peace, mercy etc. by the very act of rejecting God (I am not talking about intellectual reasons for rejecting God – rather, the desire to continue with behaviour that he has outlawed). As such, we haveeffectively already chosen all that Herrod received and much worse. It is only by God’s mercy that anyone escapes what Herrod got.

  • 13. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Kramii,

    Actually, I don’t think that Jesus did always promote peace. Consider Matthew 10:34:

    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

    (I know this verse also presents problems for some people. In this case, I think Jesus is making a simple observation: If you preach against certain kinds of behaviour, you make enemies.

    I think I have a different interpration on that verse. I don’t think that Jesus is adovating anti-peace, but rather he’s bringing a ‘sword’ to unhealthy things that one is comfortable with. He later goes onto say that those who find their life lose it, but those who lose their life for Jesus’s sake find it. It also has the setting a household against itself, which I saw as ‘beyond’ a literal household, but also the components of a person: the bad stuff and the good stuff, and how they would clash. I do think he always promoted peace, but not always in the way we’d understand peace.

    So, in this case, I think it is reasonable to think that one man’s action could have a negative effect on the propogation of His message of love.

    .

    I still say that’s giving people too much power, in terms of God’s message. Suffering is in a different category, in the sense of matching an all-poweful/all-loving God. But in terms of God’s message, and what God is saying in this case, to simply kill a man for interfering is a human type of behavior — for an entity that’s all-powerful, I would expect something better, just as a way of showing that God’s ways are higher, and that love does overcome all. Otherwise, the message here is preach against God and get killed, and that behavior is too much like a tyrant.

    we humans have already rejected God, peace, mercy etc. by the very act of rejecting God (I am not talking about intellectual reasons for rejecting God – rather, the desire to continue with behaviour that he has outlawed). As such, we haveeffectively already chosen all that Herrod received and much worse. It is only by God’s mercy that anyone escapes what Herrod got.

    This, I would also disagree with. Otherwise, we would consistently engage in the behavior of the flesh, and people don’t. People do choose bad things, yes. But they also choose good things: mercy, peace, love, forgiveness. But no one chooses to get killed like that, just as no one would rationally choose hell. It also makes the nature of God war against itself, and introduces a terror of God, and what God would do: and love can’t be produced from that kind of fear.

  • 14. Yueheng  |  July 18, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Kramii:

    You write of God’s message of love. Where was this love when he (supposedly) uttered commandments like:

    This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ — 1 Samuel 15:2-3

    I think it requires some considerable mental gymanastics to reconcile such a god with Love. How could a loving God command his followers to cut children and infants down?

  • 15. julieH  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Speaking as a Christian, let’s put these two passages in a little bit more context…

    In the beginning of Acts 12, Herod had just beheaded James and arrested Peter and thrown them in jail for no apparent reason. Herod was a murderer and persecuting people. Herod wasn’t a blameless innocent.

    In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were struck down. The passage portrays them as greedy, and says that they tried to trick God. Look back a chapter. They are in the midst of a community that was selling everything they had and distributing it among the people so there was no one who was poor. (see the end of Acts 4, 32-37).

    Now, why did God choose to kill these people rather than punish them in some other way? I won’t even attempt to answer, that’s a question for God alone.

    Divorcing yourself from the Old Testament is dangerous, all of scripture was given by God, and is a story of what happened, whether we are under the law or not (whether you are a dispensationalist or a covenant theologian).

    Difficult passages don’t make me doubt the scriptures, if anything, the scriptures seem more authentic because of them… wouldn’t early Christians want to NOT include these in the bible? Yet they are there for us to wrestle with… myself included…

  • 16. Brad  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Man, this is a great debate. This is a topic that, as has rightfully been pointed out, many Christians ignore because it unsettles their comfortable faith.

    For myself, I love the OT. Yes, there are a lot of things that are unsettling and do seem in contradiction. Are they? I’d say “no,” but then I need to educate myself more on this to give a sold answer as well.

    Until then, I’d like to build on Kramii’s example with his son, JB. You see, God’s “son” is His people (in the OT, this was Israel). His son is not perfect, they wander, get in trouble, and generally misbehave. Yes, God does sanction war and violence in the OT, but consider Kramii’s discussion of what he would do if someone took his son and an alchoholic raised him. Kramii would (rightfully) do violence to protect his son.

    In this same way, God sanctioned violence because of what was at stake. In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abraham to bless “all the nations of the world” through his offspring. Thus, through the nation of Israel, all nations would be blessed. For Israel to be able to do this, they must survive and be “covenant representatives” for God on earth.

    So if the future of the nation of Israel is at stake, and thus God’s promise to Abraham to bless all future nations in the world through Israel, it may be necessary for God to sanction violent protection of His people.

    This is not “the answer,” but one that I as a believer have come up with. I understand the moral implications of a relative or causal justification of violence, but it is important to remember that the OT and NT are written with a “theocentric” view (God is the giver of standards) and not an anthrocentric view (Man is the giver of standards).

    I’m sure I opened a can of worms, but I thought this might add to the discussion and also buid on the example Kramii gave.

  • 17. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Julie,

    Now, why did God choose to kill these people rather than punish them in some other way? I won’t even attempt to answer, that’s a question for God alone.

    No one is saying that they were innocent, though. Rather, the question comes from the sense that God is acting the same way a human would act in that situation, and not “better.” Someone wrongs God/God’s people, and God retaliates in kind, in the whole ‘eye for eye’ mentality — and the NT was supposed to do away with the ‘eye for eye’ mentality.

  • 18. Brad  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:20 am

    And also, I’d like to ditto JulieH. She is dead on in context, not divorcing the OT, and how to view difficult questions. Thank you, Julie for making those points. You are absolutely correct!

  • 19. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Brad,

    but consider Kramii’s discussion of what he would do if someone took his son and an alchoholic raised him. Kramii would (rightfully) do violence to protect his son.

    But there still lies the problem when ominipotence gets thrown into the mix. If Kramii had unlimited power, he’d have a way other than violence in order to protect his son, and if he did use violence or kill the alocholic man, others would consider that an abuse of power, because he had other means at his disposal. Whereas if Kramii and the alcoholic man have an equal amount of power, the violence is understandable in defending his son. But if Kramii has unlimited power, and a way that does means violence can be avoided, then Kramii will be asked why he was violent towards the man.

    are written with a “theocentric” view (God is the giver of standards) and not an anthrocentric view (Man is the giver of standards).

    But herein lies the problem for me: we are flat-out told in the NT about how to forgive unconditionally, because that is what God is like. We are to love our enemies, just as God does. We are to bless those that curse us, because all is Christ-like behavior. If I am told that such behavior is what God expects, then I would naturally conclude that such a God would follow his own standards. Otherwise, God is above his standards, and thus I have no way of determining whether God is good or just, and whether people are following a good/just God.

  • 20. HeIsSailing  |  July 18, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Heather sez:

    The problem I would have with the argument that the OT is no longer relevent is that Jesus claims in the NT to fufill the law. I also think he claimed that not one “jot or tittle” would pass away?

    The Gospel of Matthew sure seems to think Jesus wants the Law to continue:

    “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

    -Matt 5:17-18

    The sticky point here the “until all is accomplished” part. What does that mean? According to many Christian apologists, this means until all Jesus’ work on earth is accomplished, and tie it in to Jesus last words as told in the Gospel of John. Well, it might but it is so ambiguous that it is hard for me to tell for sure. It seems to me though that the context is contained in the previous sentence, “until heaven and earth pass away”. Just read straight that way, without thinking of any Pauline Christology, it sure looks like Jesus expects the totality of the Torah to be followed until Heaven and Earth passes away. Consider also the next verse:

    “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others {to do} the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches {them,} he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    -Matt 5:19

    Here, Jesus is telling the crowds how they are to teach the Torah! Consider also that this was written after Jesus had died. If this command only applies up to the point of Jesus’ death, why does the author of Matthew even bother to quote this? It just seems silly to write a teaching of Jesus that *never applies*!

    Then look at the resurrection story in Matthew. What is the last thing Jesus says to his disciples when he meets with them in Galilee?

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    -Matt 28:19-20

    Jesus has already died and resurrected and he is charging his followers to teach the Gentiles “all that I commanded you”. ALL? This has to include his teachings from Matthew 5, doesn’t it? It makes the most sense to me that Jesus, as described in Matthew, expects the Torah to continue after his death.

    Stephen P sez:

    Though that sits rather uncomfortably with Matthew 12 – one of the various indications that each gospel was not written at a single moment by a single author.

    I assume you are talking about Matthew 12:7, where Jesus says compassion is what God desires, not sacrifice. That is true, but I think this being an interpolation into Matthew is kind of a stretch. There are also similar passages in the Old Testament as well (ie Jeremiah 31). Certainly Jesus makes the meaning of the Law explicit in Matt 12, but I don’t see anything there that is contradictory to anything else in Matthew or the OT.

  • 21. HeIsSailing  |  July 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    JulieH asks:
    wouldn’t early Christians want to NOT include these in the bible?

    Oh no, I think the opposite. I wrote an article a few months ago that discussed this passage (Acts 4:32 – 5:11) in the context of church fund raising. The moral of the whole story is to teach young Christians not to try and fool God. It is a morality tale taught from a more uncivilized world – Barnabas sold everything and gave it all to Peter and serves as the example to follow. Ananias/Sapphira tried to lie to God, and look what they got. I can’t see any other function for those stories to serve.

    JulieH
    Herod was a murderer and persecuting people. Herod wasn’t a blameless innocent.

    I like how worms were eating Herod *as he died*!! ewwww….!!! What a way to go!! Sorry, as a typical male, I get excited with gross stuff like this!!

  • 22. julieH  |  July 18, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Heather,

    No one is saying that they were innocent, though.Rather, the question comes from the sense that God is acting the same way a human would act in that situation, and not “better.” Someone wrongs God/God’s people, and God retaliates in kind, in the whole ‘eye for eye’ mentality — and the NT was supposed to do away with the ‘eye for eye’ mentality.

    God is acting in the same way a human would act? I guess I don’t agree with you there. The outcome may have looked like “an eye for an eye”… But I view God as all knowing, all wise, all powerful. He sees every action, he knows every thought, and is the only one able to fairly judge, and assign the right consequence for the person and the action, knowing the ripple of its effects throughout time. No human has or will ever have that capability.

    But herein lies the problem for me: we are flat-out told in the NT about how to forgive unconditionally, because that is what God is like. We are to love our enemies, just as God does. We are to bless those that curse us, because all is Christ-like behavior. If I am told that such behavior is what God expects, then I would naturally conclude that such a God would follow his own standards.

    I don’t think forgiveness equals lack of consequences. God can punish us, and still be following his own standards.

    I see God’s love and blessing playing out in his daily mercy. He didn’t have to offer us the option of forgiveness or restoration to him. Every sin is an offense against him. He is holy and perfect and blameless. He could wipe us out at any moment, as an all powerful God, but he doesn’t. He gives us chance after chance, day after day, through sin after sin. That’s the blessing, that’s how he is showing love to everyone, believer or not.

    Not that I like punishment, as a sinful human myself… and I will never claim to understand why God chose death as punishment in these cases…

  • 23. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Julie,

    The outcome may have looked like “an eye for an eye”… But I view God as all knowing, all wise, all powerful. He sees every action, he knows every thought, and is the only one able to fairly judge, and assign the right consequence for the person and the action, knowing the ripple of its effects throughout time. No human has or will ever have that capability.

    It becomes a matter of how you are determining that God is all those characteristics: are you basing that on behavior seen in the Bible, such as the Acts example? Or because that is the expectation of God, and so the examples are re-interpreted?
    You said yourself that the act may look ‘eye-for-eye.’ But this means that we can’t interpret if God is good based on the actions that God says are good. So how does one determine that God is, in fact, good?

    He didn’t have to offer us the option of forgiveness or restoration to him. Every sin is an offense against him. He is holy and perfect and blameless.

    Then this makes God as having to punish, and yet choosing to love/forgive. In which case, that love can be turned off if God so chooses. Because the whole point of forgiving as God forgives is to forego the option of punishment, or what is due to us as the wronged party. That is how God is supposed to be, according to what Jesus says.

  • 24. julieH  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Heather,
    I am basing my view on God according to what he has told us about himself in the bible. He tells us that he is good. See Exodus 33 and 34.

    Because the whole point of forgiving as God forgives is to forego the option of punishment, or what is due to us as the wronged party. That is how God is supposed to be, according to what Jesus says.

    Where does the bible say that the point of forgiving others is to forego any consequences? Where does Jesus say God operates that way?

    thanks!

  • 25. Stephen (aka Q)  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Walter Brueggeman

    sees God as a developing character in the text. When i brought up the problem of violence in the Old Testament, his reply is that God is a ‘recovering violent-person’ (as in ‘recovering alcoholic.’) This means that God did sanction violence in the past, but is ‘recovering’ and becoming more fully God. The ‘fully-God’ characteristics are the words we often see in the Bible such as mercy, steadfast love, grace etc. Those then are the attributes we are to try live into too, as we (also characters in the story) become more fully human.

    There are more ways of being a Christian than some folks imagine.

  • 26. kramii  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Heather,

    I wrote:

    Consider Matthew 10:34:Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

    You replied:

    I think I have a different interpration on that verse. I don’t think that Jesus is adovating anti-peace, but rather he’s bringing a ’sword’ to unhealthy things that one is comfortable with. He later goes onto say that those who find their life lose it, but those who lose their life for Jesus’s sake find it. It also has the setting a household against itself, which I saw as ‘beyond’ a literal household, but also the components of a person: the bad stuff and the good stuff, and how they would clash. I do think he always promoted peace, but not always in the way we’d understand peace.

    This is an interesting interpretation, and I do see some merit in it. Nevertheless, the observation I made does stand. People didn’t like what Jesus said. They killed him for it. In this sense, at least, his actions and message resulted in violence. Where Jesus is preached, peace does follow, but there will always be opposition, sometimes violent oposition.

    I still say that’s giving people too much power, in terms of God’s message.

    It seems to me that people do have a great deal of power in this world. Soemtimes for the good. Sometimes not.

    for an entity that’s all-powerful, I would expect something better, just as a way of showing that God’s ways are higher, and that love does overcome all.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see that love does conquer all. In the movies, perhaps, but not in real life. If someone is determined to be unloving, they will be. I wish I could be more optomistic. Sometimes, justice is also required.

    Otherwise, the message here is preach against God and get killed…

    Imagine people said that my son should be taken away from me and given to a tramp on the street. Imagine that I could be certain that the authorities would listen and take JB away. Would I not be justified in silencing those people? Does that make me a tyrant? Or just a good father?

    I wrote:

    we humans have already rejected God, peace, mercy etc. by the very act of rejecting God (I am not talking about intellectual reasons for rejecting God – rather, the desire to continue with behaviour that he has outlawed). As such, we haveeffectively already chosen all that Herrod received and much worse. It is only by God’s mercy that anyone escapes what Herrod got.

    You replied:

    This, I would also disagree with. Otherwise, we would consistently engage in the behavior of the flesh, and people don’t. People do choose bad things, yes. But they also choose good things

    Our rejection of God is like pulling the plug from a bath. The good stuff doesn’t suddenly disappear. I drains away slowly. I am sure that you are battling the flesh. I know I am. I battle lust. I bite my nails. I am adicted to caffine. I get grumpy with JB when I am tired.

    It also makes the nature of God war against itself, and introduces a terror of God, and what God would do: and love can’t be produced from that kind of fear.

    Consider electricity. The rule is, if you stick your fingers in a socket, then you’ll get a shock. You may hear stories about people who have broken the rules. But, are you in terror of electricity? No, but you do have respect. Do you hate electricity? Or do you see its benefits?

    To Brad you wrote:

    But herein lies the problem for me: we are flat-out told in the NT about how to forgive unconditionally, because that is what God is like.

    As I understand the Bible, forgiveness is always conditional upon repentence.

    If I am told that such behavior is what God expects, then I would naturally conclude that such a God would follow his own standards.

    Agreed. If.

    From what you have said, I think you are looknig for a god who is all love and no justice. That simply isn’t the God of the Bible.

    Have you considered just asking God, outright, “What are you like”. If you are open to an answer. You just might receive one. You might not always like what you find (none of us does), but the truth is always better than fantasy.

    Regards.

  • 27. Stephen (aka Q)  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Walter Brueggeman

    sees God as a developing character in the text. When i brought up the problem of violence in the Old Testament, his reply is that God is a ‘recovering violent-person’ (as in ‘recovering alcoholic.’) This means that God did sanction violence in the past, but is ‘recovering’ and becoming more fully God. The ‘fully-God’ characteristics are the words we often see in the Bible such as mercy, steadfast love, grace etc. Those then are the attributes we are to try live into too, as we (also characters in the story) become more fully human.

    There are more ways of being a Christian than some folks imagine.

  • 28. Stephen (aka Q)  |  July 18, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Oops: here’s the source for that quote.

  • 29. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Julie,

    I am basing my view on God according to what he has told us about himself in the bible. He tells us that he is good. See Exodus 33 and 34.

    So you aren’t using a standard to determine if God is good? Because that’s how it’s coming across to me: God says he is good, and thus all actions he does are good, even if the actions would be bad in any other setting. Therefore, something is good because God says it is, and there’s no standard to determine if God is actually doing something good. Do you determine that God does a good act because you know the act is good, or is it that the act is good because God does it? To me, it sounds like the latter, and thus there is no objective way of determining if God is actually good.

    Where does the bible say that the point of forgiving others is to forego any consequences? Where does Jesus say God operates that way?

    The very defintion of forgiveness is “to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; grant relief from payment; to cease to feel resentment against an offender.” When you forgive someone, you are saying that you will no longer hold to a claim that you are entitled to compensation for a wrong.

    The Sermon on the Mount, especially chapter 5. Jesus sets aside the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality, and says do not set yourself against someone who has wronged you, turn the other cheek, offer a cloak and love one’s enemies, so that you can be children of your Father. If you only love those who love you, there is nothing extraordinary about that. Rather, you are to be perfect as your Father is perfect.

    One is also to forgive 70X7 in Matthew 18, and Jesus goes onto say what the KIngdom of Heaven is like, and that and that forgiveness is letting go of what is owed to you.

    Or even with the fruits of the Spirit/flesh mentioned in Galations. God striking down Herod comes across as falling into the anger/rage category, rather than what is produced by the fruits of the Spirit.

  • 30. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Kramii,

    Nevertheless, the observation I made does stand. People didn’t like what Jesus said.

    More so the religious legalistic rulers didn’t like what he said, not every single person.

    Imagine people said that my son should be taken away from me and given to a tramp on the street. Imagine that I could be certain that the authorities would listen and take JB away. Would I not be justified in silencing those people? Does that make me a tyrant? Or just a good father?

    But this still doesn’t address what happens when omnipotence is thrown in: you and the authorities and the tramp are all equal in this scenario, which is why it doesn’t work when comparing it to God’s actions. If you were omnipotent and used violence to stop the authorities, or even killed them, you would be asked why you didn’t find another way when it was in your power to do so.

    As I understand the Bible, forgiveness is always conditional upon repentence

    Except that deals with the acceptence of forgiveness. You can forgive someone without them ever reptenting of the action, and according to the Sermon on the Mount, you are suppposed to, because that is being perfect as God is perfect.

    From what you have said, I think you are looking for a god who is all love and no justice. That simply isn’t the God of the Bible.

    That’s retributive justice, though. The justice I’m see in the Bible is the justice that is the opposite of injustice, oppression, unequality, and that type of justice is very much in the Bible, especially with the prophets. It’s even there in the concept of sin, because of God liberating people from the oppression of sin — that’s justice in action. Justice just for the sake of punishing isn’t justice: that’s revenge.

    <But, are you in terror of electricity? No, but you do have respect. Do you hate electricity? Or do you see its benefits?

    Electricity isn’t an entity that required a blood sacrifice in order to save people from it’s wrath. Electricity also simply is: it’s nature doesn’t change, whereas wrath and love are two conflicting natures. No matter who you are or your belief status, if you stick your finger in a socket, you’re electrocuted, period. It’s not the same with how God is presented.

  • 31. pj11  |  July 18, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    aA: Thanks for this post … the fact that you have directed it at me is an honor and I consider it a privilege to both defend and suffer for my faith. There are a number of rabbit trails I could take on this question because it’s a rather broad issue that deserves a research paper, not a blog entry. So I’ll try to stay focused on your question and give you the best exegetical response to the two passages you quoted from the book of Acts.

    Of course, you and I approach the Scripture from distinctly different starting points. This always causes a problem when a theist and an atheist discuss the morality of the Bible. In order to make this work, you’re going to have to indulge me and allow me to speak from my foundation of truth which is the infallibility of the Scripture. Otherwise, we might as well quit and go home!

    Biblically, “sin” can be a failure to do what God commands (omission) or it can be a wonton transgression of God’s commands (commission). As creatures made in the image of God, we are free moral agents, and, because we have a mind and a will, we are capable of moral action. We are responsible for every choice we make before God. Even the smallest sin is an act of rebellion against God. Every sin is an act of cosmic treason, a futile attempt to dethrone God and His sovereign authority and to have things “my way” rather than “His way.” The fact is, all of us sin many times daily. It’s not as if God punishes any of us for one sin … in the average lifespan of a human being, we probably rack up millions of rebellious acts against God! The punishment for every sin must be meted out or else God fails to be perfectly just. As John Calvin wrote: every sin against God is a “mortal sin” in the sense that it deserves death. Fortunately, God is patient and longsuffering, not wishing that His creatures would perish in a state of rebellion against Him. As Scripture says, He takes no joy in the punishment of the wicked. As a result of His loving nature and according to His sovereign rule, He doesn’t always dish out His justice immediately … He gives the sinner opportunity after opportunity to repent. However, He is not under any obligation to do so. He is perfectly just in meting out justice on the spot, for any sin is deserving of death. In the two cases you’ve cited from Acts, we see two particularly heinous examples of rebellion against God. In His sovereignty, God decided not to delay His justice. This is His prerogative as Creator and King.

    You may say “that’s immoral” or “I won’t serve a cruel God such as that.” As a free moral agent, you have the right to choose that position. But always remember that your concept of morality is particularly finite and human (you have no other option). You have expected – no, demanded – that the infinite, eternal Creator of all things live up to YOUR standard of morality. If God is … He is beyond your comprehension and His ways are beyond your comprehension. We can only catch a glimpse of His ways by what He chooses to reveal to us. If God is … He has no obligation to live up to your standard of morality. The only way we can understand the divine perspective of morality is if He chooses to speak to us through the written word. If you reject the Bible as His vehicle of divine revelation, than you are stuck with defining morality in your limited, finite way. That is your right. However, if you trust that His Word is indeed that divine revelation, then you can also trust that His actions in Acts 5 and Acts 12 are perfectly just and moral … for only God is capable of defining true morality in the first place.

    Whew! Let the siege upon me begin! :-)

  • 32. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Pj11,

    You have expected – no, demanded – that the infinite, eternal Creator of all things live up to YOUR standard of morality. If God is … He is beyond your comprehension and His ways are beyond your comprehension. We can only catch a glimpse of His ways by what He chooses to reveal to us. If God is … He has no obligation to live up to your standard of morality

    And if the standard of morality we’re using is pulled right from the Bible, what then? I am not asking God to live up to my moral standard. I am saying to God that this is what God considers to be good/moral and even just, and then seeing if God follows what he considers good.

    I don’t trust that someone is moral or good because they say so — I trust that based on their actions, and how they live their life. If I tell you that I am moral, you certainly aren’t going to just take my word for it. You’d want to see proof of that, and see what I do in situations where I could be immoral and what choices I make. We should do the same in any situation, especially if the being is infinite and all-powerful. We want to be sure that we are, in fact, following a good and just God.

  • 33. pj11  |  July 18, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Heather: Thanks for your comment. Here’s a challenge which goes hand-in-hand with what I shared above … if God declared in His revelation that, within a particular historical context, stoning a child for disobeying his parents was “moral” in His eyes, would you accept that? Why or why not?

  • 34. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Pj11,

    No, I wouldn’t. Because then God’s concept of morality changes, and I would have no guarentee that God wouldn’t once again deem it moral to stone a child for disobeying his parents. Morality becomes dependent on whatever God says, rather morality being moral for its own sake. Or God might deem it moral for me to kill my child, or all the children on my street. I would have no way of trusting God.

  • 35. pj11  |  July 18, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Heather: What if God said it was “moral” to stone a child for disobedience today … would you accept that? Why or why not?

  • 36. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Pj11,

    By today’s moral standards, it is wrong. By today’s Biblical standards, it is wrong. And if God says that such an action is ‘moral’ than the very concept of morality holds no meaning. It’s whatever God says it is, and thus becomes a whim.

  • 37. pj11  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Heather: I appreciate what you’re saying and understand your feeling on this. But … “By today’s moral standards” … who is the arbiter of morality among finite human beings? Why wouldn’t God’s statement on morality override all?

  • 38. Heather  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Pj11,

    “By today’s moral standards” … who is the arbiter of morality among finite human beings? Why wouldn’t God’s statement on morality override all?

    But I also said by today’s biblical standards. Because if God deemed it moral to stone children at one particular time, then God can deem it that way, again. You have no outside way of determining if God is, in fact, moral if God is either above his standards, or makes the standards.

    What do I use to determine if God is moral/just/good? The Bible has God doing acts that would be deemed evil in any other setting, so I can’t go based on actions. I’m left with God is this way because God says so, and that is not a reason to believe that someone is such a way.

  • 39. Yueheng  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    It is painful to observe clearly intelligent people attempting to defend the indefensible.

    What would apologists for YHWH say if they could have been there when the children of the non-believing tribes were cut down by YHWH’s minions? What would say to the women enslaved as war-plunder and sacrificed for the pleasure of YHWH and his high priests? (See Numbers 31:32-41)

    One can imagine these apologists, admist the screams of terror, admonishing YHWH’s victims: “You cannot expected that the infinite, eternal Creator of all things live up to your standard of morality!”

  • 40. Thinking Ape  |  July 18, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    I await the day that the Christian god becomes liberated from biblical idolatry.

    “He took [them] from their hand[s], fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into a molten calf, upon which they said: “These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Shemot 32.4)

  • 41. The de-Convert  |  July 18, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    TA,

    I await the day that the Christian god becomes liberated from biblical idolatry.

    Then would he still be the “Christian god”?

    The God of many modern day Christians is kind, gentle, compassionate, merciful, loving, and has a good plan for the lives of his children. He protects them, heals them, provide for their needs, etc.

    This does not describe the God of the O.T. or the N.T. but is an evolution YHWH who looks nothing like YHWH (similar to how we do not look anything like the glob we evolved from :) ). I’m beginning to believe he also looks very different to some of the things attributed to him in the N.T. and many of the words of Jesus.

    However, isn’t this just yet another God we’ve created? Even within the Bible itself, God is very different. Abraham’s God bargained with him, walked into his tent and even physically wrestled with his grandson. Moses’ God was holy, spoke with a thunder and lightning, and you could not see his face and live. Elijah’s God spoke with a still small voice. The N.T. God is also very different as is the descriptions of Jesus.

    Doesn’t this all point to man creating God vs. God creating man?

    Paul

  • 42. Thinking Ape  |  July 19, 2007 at 12:25 am

    “Doesn’t this all point to man creating God vs. God creating man?”

    And if human creates God, than doesn’t human become God? Or maybe not God, but at least the master of his/her own destiny.

    I spent the last five years studying Nietzsche, specifically in relation to religion. Nietzsche, although anti-Christian, saw Jesus as an ideal ubermensch figure: a destiny-creator. A “Christian god” would be such, a god liberated from the authority of men which they themselves claim to be god. One should note that one queer definition of “god” is the “use as a conventional personification of fate.” God, as you notice, appears to evolve as man does. I use “Christian god” in jest and partial satire.

    God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

    – Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 125.

  • 43. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Heather: Thanks again for a good dialogue. Please allow me to divide my response in two parts … in part 1 I’d like to stay with the issue of “moral standards.” Then I’ll address your objection about “biblical standards” in part 2.

    Regarding “moral standards” … you didn’t really answer my key question in your last post: who among finite human beings is possibly qualified to be the arbiter of morality? Given the diversity of traditions and cultures worldwide, how would it be possible to arrive at any sort of human consensus? Moreover, why would any finite, human consensus of morality (if one were possible) stand above a statement of morality made by an infinite God?

    Regarding “biblical standards” … you ask a good question: how does one determine if God is moral? Your answer is: I deem God’s actions in the Bible to be immoral (“evil in any setting”). You have every right to conclude this … but unless you are the universal arbiter of morality, it’s just your subjective opinion. Although you may have many who agree with you, your concept of morality is not universally binding or enforceable.

    We’re back to our original problem … I believe God is … and you disagree. If He is … He DOES have the right to determine the standard of morality by virtue of His role as Creator and by virtue of His divine attributes. If God is … His standard for morality is both binding on every creature and enforceable. He sees and knows things that you cannot fathom. Your understanding of how the universe operates is less than an infant’s understanding of quantum physics. And still, the pride of the creature causes him/her to question the ways of the Creator.

    Heather, this is not intended as a criticism of your honest responses. You are right to question these things. I have wrestled with them too and I know it’s not easy. I welcome your further response.

  • 44. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:22 am

    Yueheng: Your post is a classic case of argumentum ad misericordiam. If you want to know how I might defend Numbers 31, just ask! By the way, I’m honored that you think I’m “clearly intelligent.” 

    The defense of Numbers 31 and other examples in the OT where the ancient Hebrews are instructed by God to attack and kill is difficult, however, it’s not a new objection. The obstacle to you and I finding common ground is where we start in our worldview. In your world, you are in charge and you have a reasonable expectation of certain things – a chance at freedom, happiness, to live a long life, the ability to pursue your goals, and more. Perhaps you believe you “deserve” these things. You believe you should be able to determine your future. You probably set certain moral standards for your life and hold others to a standard which you think is reasonable. If I’m wrong on any of this, please correct me.

    That’s not the biblical worldview. Here’s my starting point – I deserve nothing. Not one more breath. Not one more day of life. Not one shred of goodness. Why? Because on a daily basis I live in open rebellion against the Creator and Judge of the universe (so do you, by the way). As I stated above, the only thing I deserve is to die on the spot because of my blatant sin. If God took me out today, He would be perfectly just and moral for doing so … for I have sinned against Him and I have incurred a debt for that sin. I’m thankful that He is loving and patient with me and I’m thankful for Christ – in my case, God’s justice has been satisfied and my debt is paid in full. You probably don’t like this vision of God – no atheist ever does – but it’s the biblical view.

    Here’s the point … the Midianites in Numbers 31 did not deserve one more breath on this earth. They had rejected Yahweh and His commands, they lived every day in open rebellion against Him, and physical death was an appropriate sentence (just as it was for Herod, Ananias, and Sapphira). The fact that Yahweh had allowed them to live up to that point was an example of His patience and mercy. But their time of judgment had arrived just as it will one day arrive for you and I. We all die … so be prepared! Those women who were spared death and brought into the camp of Israel had a new and greater opportunity to repent of their sins, worship the one true God, and live. (Note: please don’t come back with a flame about “sex slaves” and “rape victims” … that’s not in the text!)

    Again, Yueheng, I know you won’t like this answer. But I will repeat what I said to Heather earlier: if God is … He is the only one qualified to define morality and make it universally binding and enforceable. He makes the rules, He sets the agenda. You either submit to His sovereignty or not … either way, you own the consequence of your choice.

  • 45. Yueheng  |  July 19, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Pj11:

    Numbers 31 does not indicate any compassionate spirit of amnesty towards the captured female Midianites. They are described as “plunder”. Although the text does not explicitly state that they became sex slaves, this is implied in the very criteria of their being allowed to live – they had to be virgins. One suspect that the reason why YWYH wanted to spare virgin POWs and not non-virgin female POWs has little to do with wanting to “new and greater opportunity to repent of their sins.”

    YWYH’s blatant disregard for the rights of women is also seen in Deuteronomy 21:10-11 where it is written: “When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.”

    So it is not accurate at all to represent the women that YWYH enslaved as recipients of a new and better life. They were the spoils of YWYH’s wars.

    On a more philosophical note, you have expressed the belief that we deserve death for our sins because we live in daily rebellion of our creator. This belief, which seems to have been inherited from an ancient monarchical society, cannot be logically proven or disproven. But the logical conclusion of your argument is this – because God is the “owner” of life, he has the absolute right to dictate what happens to life. So if he orders his followers to cut children and infants down, he is good. If he orders plunders of virgin women to be shared among his men, it is good. If he orders his followers to forgive men when they are persecuted, it is also good. If he orders whole towns and tribes to be obliterated, it is good. If he orders his followers to love one another, it is good. If anyone can believe in such an absurd deity, one can believe in literally anything.

    Out of curiosity, If you were an apologist for YWYH and happened to be at the scene when his minions were about to commence the cutting down children and infants, what word of advice would you have for them who are about to be slaughtered?

  • 46. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 5:24 am

    Pj11,

    I deem God’s actions in the Bible to be immoral (“evil in any setting”). You have every right to conclude this … but unless you are the universal arbiter of morality, it’s just your subjective opinion.

    No, as I have said before: I am determining this based on what God defines as good within the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount, for example. Or the fruits of the Spirit, compared to the fruits of the flesh. Those are the qualities that are deemed good/evil. I am seeing if God in fact matches what he says is good: and if he doesn’t, what then? We tend to define that type of behavior as hypocritical. I am not going to simply accept that God is good, because that is too close to ‘merely following orders’ and we’ve seen what happens there.

    Moreover, why would any finite, human consensus of morality (if one were possible) stand above a statement of morality made by an infinite God?

    I would say no one person should be the arbitrator of morality — that would give the person too much power. Rather, as society develops and becomes more civilized, they reach a better process of morality, through a consensus of rules they follow.

    Because on a daily basis I live in open rebellion against the Creator and Judge of the universe (so do you, by the way). As I stated above, the only thing I deserve is to die on the spot because of my blatant sin.

    Then you deserve to die simply for being human, is basically what you’re saying. You were born inherently sinful, and cannot be good unless God intervenes, and yet deserve to die for that.

    And still, the pride of the creature causes him/her to question the ways of the Creator.

    You are supposed to question, in order to ensure that you are actually doing good. There are lines in the Bible about testing the spirits, or test everything, and cling to what is good.

    And you have provided no method of determining if God is moral or good. You haven’t said, “This is the way you know that.” Rather, you are relying on the fact that God is infinite and has divine attributes — but again, you can’t even know that, it’s up to what God says about himself. That is not how you determine morality, or even someone’s nature. Simply because God ‘is’ does not automatically translate into God being moral, or good.

    Simply because someone is all-powerful or infinite does not make them worthy of worship. It’s what someone does with those characteristics that make them worthy of following. If God provided clear, no way around it proof that a section needed to be added to the NT about stoning disobedient children, it sounds like you’d have to accept it — because God is saying that it’s moral.

    in my case, God’s justice has been satisfied and my debt is paid in full. You probably don’t like this vision of God – no atheist ever does – but it’s the biblical view.

    Actually, I disagree with this because of the variety of atonement theories that are out there, and given that this one comes across as developing based on culural understanding in the 11th century, and later modified. Which is why I don’t find it as the biblical view.

    Those women who were spared death and brought into the camp of Israel had a new and greater opportunity to repent of their sins, worship the one true God, and live. (Note: please don’t come back with a flame about “sex slaves” and “rape victims” … that’s not in the text!)

    Given the time in which those women lived, and that only the virgins were spared — and picture the method the men had to use in order to determine that the women were virgins — which conclusion is most likley? Especially since it says, “spare for yourselves women who haven’t had intercourse.” That’s what people did with virgins from a nation/tribe they were at war with. And these women watched the Israelites slaughter their entire family — they were suppose to realize that God was good and worthy of worship based on this?

  • 47. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Yueheng said: “Although the text does not explicitly state that they became sex slaves, this is implied in the very criteria of their being allowed to live – they had to be virgins.”

    Didn’t I predict this response? If the text doesn’t say it, you have to be careful about drawing false conclusions. Verse 31:18 gives us an important clue about the identity of these virgins. In his command to the officers of the army, Moses uses the Hebrew word taph to describe those who are spared. This word (translated “girls”) is the Hebrew word for “children.” In the previous verse, Moses uses the Hebrew word ishshah to describe the “women” who have known man intimately. Two different words, two distinctly different meanings. If you survey the research among Hebrew scholars on this passage, you’ll find an emphasis on age, not sexual activity. In other words, Moses wasn’t looking for virgin sex slaves at all … he was instructing the officers of the army not to kill the female children. So why kill the male children? Common pratice in the ANE – young men grow up to be soldiers who will fight against you. The female children were not a threat. They would be brought into the camp of Israel and probably become servants until they reached an age where they could marry an Israelite man. No doubt they mourned for their family members who were killed. But they themselves were spared and brought into a culture which was sworn by covenant with Yahweh to treat the alien with respect.

    In fact, the passage you quoted – Deuteronomy 21:10-11 is a great example of this. If an Israelite soldier were to take a wife from among the captives of an enemy, according to Deuteronomy 21:12-14, he “shall not mistreat her.” That’s an ultra-progressive concept for the ANE. He must take her to his home and provide for her for one month while she grieves. Then he may take her for his wife and if he is not pleased with her, he must set her free to go wherever she wishes. He must not sell her for money as if she were his property. Now, by 21st c. standards you may still think is awful, but by ANE standards in 1500 B.C., this was a huge upgrade! There’s no mention of rape or her becoming a sex slave (quite the opposite). If her family was killed in battle, a woman had very little chance of survival on her own, so God’s law provided a framework for dealing with the human spoils of war (which are a brute fact of life – even today).

  • 48. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Yeuheng said: “the logical conclusion of your argument is this – because God is the “owner” of life, he has the absolute right to dictate what happens to life.”

    Yes, I won’t argue this point with you. I would put it this way: “God is the orginator of all life, the sustainer of all life, and He is the sovereign ruler over all. Therefore He has the absolute right to do as He pleases.” He has aseity – God is “from Himself” and is not contingent upon anything. You, on the other hand, are entirely contingent. You have no ability to guarantee your next breath! So if I’m choosing which person is more qualified to determine “goodness” – Yahweh or Yueheng … infinte or finite … omniscient or limited – I’m going with the Big Guy! (sorry … nothing personal).

    Yeuheng said: “Out of curiosity, If you were an apologist for YWYH and happened to be at the scene when his minions were about to commence the cutting down children and infants, what word of advice would you have for them who are about to be slaughtered?”

    I’ll answer you by providing a more personal example. If my family and I were captured by Muslim terrorists who put a knife to my son’s throat and told him to renounce Christ, my advice would be this: “Don’t do it son, stand firm in the Lord and I’ll see you in heaven.” Would it be easy? No. But the Christian doesn’t grasp onto this life. As Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We don’t have a death wish like the suicide bombers of Islam, but this earthly existence doesn’t have a hold on us.

  • 49. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Heather said: “I am determining this based on what God defines as good within the Bible.”

    We’re going to have to move on from this issue, Heather … we’re starting from two different points and so we’ll never agree. I start from the perspective that God is the only one qualified to define goodness. He is omnibenevolent by definition, therefore, everything He commands in Scripture is “good.” You, on the other hand, start from a place where God has to prove His goodness because you see Him doing both good and evil in the Bible (according to your finite definition of goodness). We’re not going to agree on this one!

    Heather said: “as society develops and becomes more civilized, they reach a better process of morality, through a consensus of rules they follow.”

    And I would respond: (1) are you sure mankind is increasing in civility and morality? How would you go about proving that important claim? (2) human consensus that transcends tradition, culture, and religion is a pipe dream. Let’s live in reality. Morality as defined by finite human beings will never be agreed upon … it will always remain subjective opinion, neither binding nor enforceable.

    Heather said: “Then you deserve to die simply for being human, is basically what you’re saying.”

    Yes, the death rate among humans is 100% and looks to continue in that pattern. How long will God endure your rebellion before He pronounces judgment upon you? Can you add even one day to your life? Of course not, because you are a contingent being. So what is your life contingent upon?

    Heather said: “Simply because someone is all-powerful or infinite does not make them worthy of worship. It’s what someone does with those characteristics that make them worthy of following.”

    But what if that “someone” says: (1) I am God and your Creator (2) I am sovereign over you and your life (3) You have sinned against Me (4) The punishment I decree is eternal death (4) I have provided a remedy for your sin (5) I will give you eternal life if you trust in Me?

    When I was a kid and we played kickball, the guy with the ball made the rules and when he had to go in for dinner the game was over. It didn’t seem fair, but it was a brute fact. If God’s existence is a brute fact … if He’s made up “the rules” and communicated those rules to us, what should be our response? Does kicking and screaming and yelling “not fair!” make any difference? Does it change the brute fact that God is in control and it’s His ballgame? Now, based on what I’ve just said, you’ll probably say “he’s a tyrant … I won’t worship a tyrant.” That’s your free choice. But it doesn’t change anything.

    Now, let me go a step further. I don’t believe God is just a tyrant who brings the ball to the game and makes up the rules. He’s gone way beyond that to exhibit His love toward you. He took on flesh, lived as a human being, and suffered a brutal death … that’s a real commitment toward understanding and sympathizing with His creation. If God were a tyrannical deity who controlled my eternal destiny, I would still bow down to Him – simply out of self-interest. However, if He’s a sovereign God who is willing to take on flesh and suffer for my benefit … yes, I will worship Him!

    Heather said: “this one comes across as developing based on culural understanding in the 11th century, and later modified.”

    Whoa! Heather, the concept of substitutionary atonement is replete in the NT – in the first century. Just a few examples: “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, as to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). “… the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all …” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) “…Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:25). “… a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15).

    Do you really believe that the church fathers – from Ignatius to Ireneaus to Athanasius to Augstine – didn’t understand that Christ had paid the penalty for our sin? Go back to the original sources and check it out.

  • 50. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Pj11,

    You, on the other hand, start from a place where God has to prove His goodness because you see Him doing both good and evil in the Bible (according to your finite definition of goodness)

    I have said this again and again– if God says in the Bible what he defines as good, and then does something that does not match up to his definition of goodness, then what? I am not saying that this is what *I* determine to be good and God doesn’t match. I am not going based on my definition of goodness: I am taking what God says is good, and seeing if God does it, in order to determine if the God being followed is in fact a good God. Christianity says we can find what pleases God, and what God considers good, in the Bible. Should not the giver and creator of standards follow his own standards?

    I realize you’re dropping this topic, but you also keep saying that I am basing it on my finite understanding of goodness. I’m not sure you’re understanding that I’m leaving my own perception out of it, and going based on the Bible. Now, that I’m misinterpreting the Bible due to being finite, that’s fine. But you are also finite, and I have no reason to suppose that your interpretation is any more valid than mine.

    (1) are you sure mankind is increasing in civility and morality? How would you go about proving that important claim?

    Women are gaining more rights and freedoms, slavery is being abolished, people are more aware and working to fix global tragedies, children have a better access to education and so on.

    He is omnibenevolent by definition, therefore, everything He commands in Scripture is “good.”

    Then you are left with God is all those things because God says so. That’s not a method for determining goodness. Do you have any way of determining that God is good, other than he says so? I would say no, if you would see stoning children to death as a good thing, or the killings of first-borns in Egypt as a good thing. (No, you do not see those as good now. But you say they were good at one point, which gives me no objective standard).

    (1) I am God and your Creator (2) I am sovereign over you and your life (3) You have sinned against Me (4) The punishment I decree is eternal death (4) I have provided a remedy for your sin (5) I will give you eternal life if you trust in Me?

    I have nothing to fear — I either live forever, or I die. Death is an end, and it’s eternal. I would also point out that I am to live up to the standard of God when I in fact am not God, and that is not just. Nor is it just to punish an innocent person for the crimes of another. Plus, I am being punished simply for being what I was created to be: human. I can only behave in the manner in which I am created. Even if free will is thrown in — I was created to have free will, and then punished for it?

    if He’s made up “the rules” and communicated those rules to us, what should be our response?

    In no other setting do we follow someone simply because of claims to power, or even if they made up the rules — if someone from another planet showed up tomorrow and said we had to let him rule or he’d blow up this planet, is he worthy of that rule? He has the power to enforce it. But it’s not having the powre that makes one worthy. Rather, if this person used his ship to make this world a better place, and then suggested he be a ruler, is he worthy to rule then? Yes, because of how he used his power.

    Whoa! Heather, the concept of substitutionary atonement is replete in the NT – in the first century. Just a few examples:

    It went from the Ransom Theory, to the Satisfaction Theory, to the Penal Substitution Theory in Western Christianity. The reason why I say cultural understanding is because the Satisfaction Theory was built in a feudal concept — God was seen as feudal lord, and any sin was an affront to his honor, and thus demanded payment to rectify that affront. That is *exactly* how a feudal society functioned. Two of the quotes you use above would be used in support of the Ransom Theory. If we were Eastern Orthodox, we’d go with the Christus Victor theory.

  • 51. Yueheng  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Pj11:

    You have completely evaded the question by furnishing a false analogy. This just reinforces my perception that Christians are uncomfortable facing the ethical implications of their God as reflected in the OT.

    Let me rephrase the question again. If you, as an apologist for the genocidal YHWH, were to be there when his minions were in the process of cutting down children and women of the non-believing tribes, what would you tell them as they cower in terror from your God’s minions? Please don’t make reference to “Muslim terrorists” again because the terrorists here in this scenario are none other than YHWH and his men.

    This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”
    — 1 Samuel 15:2-3, NIV

  • 52. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Heather: You and I need to stop once again … we just can’t agree on anything! :-)

    Thanks anyway for the dialogue!

  • 53. Yueheng  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    In case my question wasn’t clear, Pj11..I mean to ask this. If you could have been there when YHWH’s armies were descending on the Amalekites, what would you, as an apologist for YHWH, say to the women and children of the Amalekites as they await their violent fate?

  • 54. HeIsSailing  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    pj11 sez:
    “if He’s made up “the rules” and communicated those rules to us, what should be our response? Does kicking and screaming and yelling “not fair!” make any difference? ”

    I agree that if God made rules that were unfair to humanity, I would obey simply out of self interest, like a cowering wretch. Here is my approach though. I do not look at the rules God made and say “not fair”, I instead ask, “does this make sense?”

    The Bible claims to say certain things about God’s attrubutes, and the rules of play. With respect to the topic in this article, God is described in the Bible as working in a way that is contradictory to how his nature is described. I am not screaming and yelling “not fair”, I am just saying “this does not make sense”. An all-good God cannot possibly act the way he does in certain parts of the Bible. As I said in comment #7, something is wrong with that picture.

  • 55. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Yueheng: You underestimate me … I’m not at all uncomfortable facing the ethical implications of the OT. My analogy was meant to draw a personal parallel so you couldn’t accuse me of being disconnected from the reality of the scene. Since you didn’t understand, I’ll help …

    I would tell a Midianite man about to be executed the same thing I would tell my son if he were threatened with death … don’t grasp onto this earthly life. It’s only a vapor that is here and gone. As Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Bow your knee to God and submit to Him before you pass from this earthly life. He is a just God who will require payment for your sin. But He is also a loving God who promises eternal life to those who trust in Him. Choose life!

  • 56. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    HlS: Thanks for your feedback … I haven’t heard from you in awhile, so I assumed I had ticked you off. I appreciate your tone and respect also (TA’s still ornery).

    Your post is logical but I would still question your ability as a finite person to discern what “makes sense” over and above what an infinite God says “makes sense.” Again, it comes back to the nature of revelation. I start from the perspective that God determines what is good, sensible, moral, etc. If I see an apparent contradiction in the way He operates in Scripture, I have to reconcile it. I can say “God is contradicting Himself” or I can say “I haven’t fully understood the passage in its context.” Which is more logical? For you, the first. For me, the latter. It comes back to the nature of revelation. Do you agree?

  • 57. Yueheng  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Pj11:

    But the analogy of “Muslim terrorists” that you provided was false and irrelevant, personal as it may have been.

    And again you seem to be evading the question. I was referring to Amalekite women and children. OK. Let’s not quibble over the finer details. So as an apologist for YHWH, you would persuade the cowering children and women to turn to the “one true God” and not grasp on to this life. This means you would probably advise them their imminent slaughter is God’s will and that they should just accept it. Being made victims of genocide is your payment for sin!

    And one wonders why they are still terrorists willing to unleash bombs onto civilians even today.

  • 58. Yueheng  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Voltaire once remarked that, “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices”. I think it can be said that one who is capable of believing the absurdity that a God who preaches love and forgiveness can also be justified in commisioning genocide and sexual slavery, is also capable of committing atrocities in the name of religion.

  • 59. HeIsSailing  |  July 19, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    pj11 sez:
    “I haven’t heard from you in awhile, so I assumed I had ticked you off.”

    No – I never get ticked off with online debate. I have better things to do with my life than anonymously harrass people I don’t even know. I just have a busy schedule. Actually I am on business travel this week – typing this from a seedy hotel room.

    I wrote a longer comment to this whole issue up above (comment #7), I don’t know if you saw it, but I would rather just not repeat myself.

    pj11asks:
    “Do you agree?”

    Not quite. There is another article up on CSLewis’ arguments from ‘Mere Christianity’. His famous trilemma argument is only valid if Scripture accurately recorded the words and claims of Jesus. That is what it all boils down to. Is Scripture Divinely inspired or in any way authoritative?

    As a Christian, I took the approach set forth first by Origen. He was the first to say that there were no contradictions in Scripture, but where there appear to be, we have to look for a deeper meaning. If the Bible is of God, I would expect that to be the case. And I harmonized Scripture with the best of them. I bought all the books, listened to hundreds of apolgetic sermons on cassette, and read the Bible as thoroughly as I knew how.

    And frankly, after years of holding Scripture together, I finally realized that the harmonizations are like loose glue holding a million pieces of Scriptural authority together. I guess I just read a few too many of the wrong kinds of books – but I am convinced that the Bible is inspired by nothing but the human mind, and I have no reason now to try and harmonize it.

    There is another article up about CSLewis famous trilemma argument. I am sure you are familiar with it. The book that it is based on is from Mere Christianity. The portion called, if I remember right, “The Case for Christianity” tries to derive Christianity based on first principles, and ultimately ends with the trillema argument. It is assumption based on assumption, based on assumption based on….. and if the foundation disappears, everything crumbles. That is how I feel about Christian Fundamentalist theology. The Bible is interpreted to meet certain church creeds and doctinal statements that fall like a house of cards if the bedrock of biblical authority disappears.

    So to answer your question, no, I did not start from the perspective that I should just hammer Biblical contradictions. I looked at those contradictions, knowing the standard harmonizations, and asked myself if there was an answer that made more and better sense. I can look for any deeper meaning that way too. It just does not always point the way to Divine Authorship.

  • 60. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Yueheng: Your credibility is diminished by your exaggerations and appeals to pity. You asked what I would say to someone about to be executed … I answered. The whole of life is not what you see before you in the relatively brief number of years you are given on this earth. Choose this day whom you will serve or not serve. Sow and reap.

  • 61. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    HIS,

    Thanks for your input — I think you summed up in two lines what I spent response after response attempting to say. :)

    It just seems very circular to me. For the basic assumptions of God’s nature: where does one get those assumptions? If there is behavior that doesn’t match up, as you say — in any other situation, we’d use that as a reason for saying the person is not good.

    Yueheng,

    So as an apologist for YHWH, you would persuade the cowering children and women to turn to the “one true God” and not grasp on to this life. This means you would probably advise them their imminent slaughter is God’s will and that they should just accept it. Being made victims of genocide is your payment for sin!

    Actually, in those times, I doubt they’d be persuading the others to join, or even saying anything. YHWH had the convenant with Israel, and no one else. He didn’t seem that interested in getting the other nations to submit.

  • 62. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Heather said: “Actually, in those times, I doubt they’d be persuading the others to join, or even saying anything. YHWH had the convenant with Israel, and no one else. He didn’t seem that interested in getting the other nations to submit.”

    Oh, Heather, I thought we were done … and then you go and do that! Total speculation on your part. No exegetical basis for your claim. Oh, and you’re wrong too. Did God not send Jonah to preach to the Assyrians? Does the text say that God saved an entire city of Gentiles (hundreds of thousands of people) through Jonah’s preaching? Does the OT Scripture speak of the Jews as a light to the nations? So is it reasonable to say that God does have interest in saving those outside the covenant of Abraham? Based on the text, it does.

  • 63. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    HlS:

    First, I did read the C.S. Lewis post and decided not to get involved. I think there’s some wisdom to his trilemma but I wouldn’t try to overstate its theological weight. Besides, there’s enough discussion going on over there already and I’m too busy to jump into another debate!

    Second, I would take issue with your understanding of how Origen handled Scripture. True, he believed it was free of contradiction. But he is generally considered the father of the allegorical method of interpretation. He looked for hidden meaning everywhere … whether it was to reconcile a contradiction or not. He simply loved allegory. As a result, he ended up with some wacky (heretical) ideas.

    Third, I understand that you found Scripture to be a human product based on your research. But “a million pieces” which need harmonizing? I assume you’re using hyperbole. Yes, I know there are difficulties throughout the Bible – I’m not an ostrich when it comes to these issues. I thank God for textual critics who have devoted their lives to examining the difficulties. No other piece of literature has ever been so closely scrutinized! Over recent decades, we’ve seen many “problems” get resolved. And, of course, others have been suggested. This is the nature of the process … and it’s a worthwhile process.

    But given the Bible’s internal nature (66 individual writings, 40 authors, written over 1500 years), would you characterize it as a pretty amazing human product? Perhaps the MOST amazing collection of literature ever produced (historical narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, epistles, apocalyptic, etc.)? I think it would be hard to argue for any other “greater” collection of ancient literature. Would you honestly expect such a gathering of literature culled over thousands of years to be free from internal errors or inconsistencies? Is that idea even within the realm of rational expectation? I know we claim inspiration for the autographs … but we don’t claim inspiration for it’s translation, it’s transmission, or it’s interpretation. Could the problem lie with us and our unrealistic expectations?

  • 64. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Pj11,

    I’m sorry, my response is probably going to be on the rude side, but this is starting to get frustrating. Yueheng asked as follows:

    If you were an apologist for YWYH and happened to be at the scene when his minions were about to commence the cutting down children and infants, what word of advice would you have for them who are about to be slaughtered?

    You answered with what you would do if captured by a Muslim terrorist – but that didn’t answer Yueheng’s question. He said if you were at the scene where people under God’s orders — as in, someone like the Israelites — were doing the terrorizing, what would you say?

    Yueheng asks the question again, with more specifics:

    If you could have been there when YHWH’s armies were descending on the Amalekites, what would you, as an apologist for YHWH, say to the women and children of the Amalekites as they await their violent fate?

    And he’s pulling this from 1 Samuel 15.

    You answer with the Midinite man about to be executed. Which is problematic, because Yueheng was asking about the Amalekites, and he was asking what you would say in reference to cutting down children/infants. You also include references to Jesus, which also doesn’t work because Yueheng is asking what you would say in the particular time when Israel attacked the Amalekites.

    I chime in, and say that in those times, they wouldn’t say anything. Why? Because God ordered Saul to kill all the Amalekites, including the children and the livestock. No one was to be left alive. Saul did, and God got mad about it. I found it reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t say anything, because 1) this was not an execution, this was a slaughter, as Saul cut them to pieces 2) God was “punishing” the Amalekites, and given the orders, it would be unlikely that any Israelites would tell them to submit to God or even think that God wanted to save them. God wanted them dead, end of story and 3) Saul dismembers the king, even after the king says that “surely the bitterness of death has passed.” Not just kills him — dismembers him.

    If you want to keep telling people that they’re wrong, they are speculating, they aren’t doing a correct exegesis, that’s fine. But I have no idea how you feel you can honestly do so while you are demonstrating that you don’t read what the person is actually asking.

    If this gets a remove the beam from my eye response, that’s fine. You might even feel that you are reading correctly: but I am saying that you are not, Yueheng has said you haven’t answered his/her question, and other posters have made comments along these lines, as well. If you are truly here to convince us that your view is correct, or that we should even find it a valid viewpoint, shouldn’t we be able to tell that you understand us?

  • 65. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Heather: First, let Yeuheng defend Yeuheng. He/she is perfectly capable and up to the task.

    As for you, you “chimed in” with this quote: “YHWH had the convenant with Israel, and no one else. He didn’t seem that interested in getting the other nations to submit.” That’s patently false as I showed above in my example of Jonah. You chose not to address my example … instead, you chose to defend Yeuheng’s line of reasoning and make a whole bunch of assumptions which are grounded in your head, not the text. I can’t respond to things in your head … only the text.

  • 66. Thinking Ape  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    pj11 says,

    TA’s still ornery.

    You are an amazing human being, and a hypocrite.

  • 67. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Pj11,

    “YHWH had the convenant with Israel, and no one else. He didn’t seem that interested in getting the other nations to submit.”

    I did say that — based on the response to the Amalekites, for one. God demonstrated no desire to save them. I also would have based this on responses to other areas, such as the events in Joshua, or really even Egypt. Protecting Abraham’s line, and keeping the promise with Israel, seem to be the primary focus.

    I would not find it reasonable to assume that the OT God saw everyone as equal to Israel. My response to Yueheng was written against the Christian perspective, if that makes any sense. How I’ve seen it presented is that the OT and the covenant in there were for the Jews, and then Christianity comes and extends the covenant to everyone. But in the OT examples of reaching to the Gentiles, that was with God specifically requesting that it occur, whereas the NT assumes that one goes out and prostelyzes (sp?) to get people in the New Covenant. Jews don’t do that.

    The Jonah example is God specifically requesting that someone outside of Israel get saved. With the Amalekites, there was no specific command such as that. Just the command to kill them. And since, from the Jewish perpspective, one doesn’t prostelyze, I find little reason to assume that the Israelites would tell the Amalekites to submit to God before it’s too late. In their mind, God doesn’t care for the Amalekites.

    God does not seem that interested in getting the other nations to submit to make them on par with the Jews. They had a special set of instructions, they were to serve a certain purpose, and based on the Jewish perspective, I do not see them treating this situation as a Christian would, in saying for someone to repent, or to welcome the Amalekites into the covenant.

  • 68. Brad  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Ignoring the dispute here with the Amelekites (I honestly don’t know what I would say, and do not have a flawless answer to that admittedly tough question. This is where faith comes into play for me), I would also add that God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents shows that God is very much interested in nations aside from Israel:

    “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,”
    (Genesis 26:4)

    I would even go so far as to say that in order for “all the nations of the earth” to be blessed, the remnant must remain pure enough to accomplish this. It is possible that the Amelekites posed a threat to this, and because God was concerned about the future of ALL nations (as well as Israel), those who would interfere with this blessing needed to be dealt with.

    I am not unaware of the moral problem with this, and am only musing. I would say, however, that what God does is God’s business, and we certainly should not assume the same standards as God holds for Himself.

    That said, I have no idea how I would communicate this to the men, women, and children being eradicated as 1 Samuel 15 describes. My own apologetic is nice, fitting, comfortable, and in complete ignorance of the difficulty of repeating it in that context.

    In short, “I have no idea.”

  • 69. Brad  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    For this discussion, I HIGHLY recommend Christopher Wright’s “The Mission of God.”

    Wright writes about the need for a “missional hermaneutic” because he asserts that the entire bible (Ot and NT) is missional and was God’s intent in the first place. The bible itself, as revelation from God, implies that God is “missional.”

    I mention it only because Wright is first and foremost, an OT scholar. His perspective is by far focused on the OT in this area, whereas most scholars assert a missional hermaneutic using the NT. I am only about 75 pages into it, but it is excellent, I assure you.

    Hehe, one of my professors made it a required text, not because we would use it in class, but believed that everyone should own anyway.

  • 70. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Brad,

    It is possible that the Amelekites posed a threat to this, and because God was concerned about the future of ALL nations (as well as Israel), those who would interfere with this blessing needed to be dealt with.

    The difficulty I would have with this is that it’s mentioned God is doing this to punish what the Amelekites did when the Israelites left Eygpt.

    That said, I have no idea how I would communicate this to the men, women, and children

    Don’t forget the livestock. :)

    I think you’ve nailed it on the head, and that it’s important not to view this in a black/white scenario. As you said, we are in a comfortable and nice surrounding. To actually be in that situation, to have to explain to a five year old why we are killing him/her on the order of God … that’s a horrible picture to contemplate. It just calls into question the whole concept of morality itself. This is something that God orders, and yet God must be moral and just. Yet we don’t see this situation as either.

    So how would one go about determining whether one follows a moral/just God, with examples as these? As you said, faith comes into play. That just troubles me, because faith can sometimes too easily become blind faith, and lead to zealousness (of a bad kind), which leads to atrocities in the name of God.

  • 71. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Heather:

    It’s fallacious to make a statement about God’s character and then point to one specific example while ignoring other key pieces of evidence from the text.

    If NIneveh consisted of several hundred thousands of people, that’s a significant number of Gentile converts to the religion of Yahweh. It makes a major statement about Yahweh’s intentions outside of Israel. It can’t be ignored. Your claim that “God doesn’t seem interested in getting other nations to submit” is a swipe at God’s character … and it’s simply not accurate in light of the example of Jonah. The Amalekites? I don’t know … the text isn’t clear whether the Jews made any intentional attempt to proselytize them. We can speculate all day. But the text is VERY CLEAR that God desired to save several hundred thousand Assyrians. That’s huge! And it shouldn’t be minimized.

  • 72. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    “TA’s still ornery. You are an amazing human being, and a hypocrite.”

    You just proved my point, TA … you are ornery. Why so unraveled?

    By the way … “an amazing human being?” Isn’t that the highest possible compliment from an atheist? Thanks! :-)

  • 73. Brad  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    *smacks forehead*

    *sigh*

  • 74. Thinking Ape  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    pj11,

    Ornery: bad-tempered, combative, stubborn

    I am a passionate person, but hardly bad-tempered (stubborn, in certain situations, definitely). You are a hypocrite because you have treated me as I have treated you – with more regard to what we believe than to each other as human beings. I believe we have both been combative and stubborn. I have constantly recognized this and tried to remedy it. I apologize if I ever flippantly attacked your character as a human being rather than debating your positions (ie. “gadfly” comment)

    I am unsure whether “an amazing human being” is the highest compliment from an atheist – I am not an atheist. I do not, however, believe in the authority of scripture. This does not make me an atheist, but I have no problem with people who subscribe to the idea that God does not exist.

  • 75. pj11  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    TA said: “I believe we have both been combative and stubborn.”

    Agreed. I don’t subscribe to the “Christians are obligated to be doormats” theory. I too am passionate about what I believe – in particular, I am passionate about defending the character of God and His Word. On a site like this where I’m badly outnumbered, that can come across as combative (and, at times, sarcastic). I’m ready to put down the war axe and stick to the issues. Thanks for the olive branch.

  • 76. Heather  |  July 19, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Pj11,

    It’s fallacious to make a statement about God’s character and then point to one specific example while ignoring other key pieces of evidence from the text.

    I explained where I came from on this. I explained why I said it, and then admitted that it was on the vague side, and attempted to clarify what I meant by not seeming interested, and positioned it in terms of the OT covenant — and should have said Mosaic covenant, because that’s what I automatically think of with the word ‘covenant.’

    But honestly? I think any explanation I offer is going to be futile, so at this point, I say that from here on out, we refrain from commenting on each other’s posts.

  • 77. Brad  |  July 19, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Speak the truth in love.

    http://bradedwards.wordpress.com/speaking-truth-in-love/

  • 78. Yueheng  |  July 20, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Pj11:

    I think Heather has eloquently articulated some of my thoughts on this matter and I have no objection with her participating on our exchange.

    You claim that my “credibility” has been damaged by exaggerations and appeals to pity. Let us deal with the point regarding exaggeration. How have I exaggerated? The OT describes Yahweh ordering the genocide of women, children and livestock. He clearly allows for his followers to practice comfort women (predating the Japanese imperial army by a few centuries) and has also shown, on the record, to have demanded 32 virgins from the plunder of 32,000 women who had never slept with a man (Numbers 31:40) again carefully). These sordid details, and much more, are clearly recorded in the pages of the OT.

    And regarding the point of my appealing to pity, I can only say that if the idea of children screaming in terror (as all children undoubtedly would if they were to be accosted by a tribe of blood-thirsty people) can only evoke some dogmatic rationalization rather than a sense of pity, then I think you have presented a very clear picture of what your god is like. For the worshippers inevitably acquire the characteristics of that object of worship.

  • 79. pj11  |  July 20, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Yueheng: I appreciate your perspective and the passion from which you speak.

    “He clearly allows for his followers to practice comfort women.” That is not in the text, my friend … you’re committing the mistake of eisegesis. You’re speculating. You fail to understand both the Hebrew language and the nature of the Mosaic covenant when you read this conclusion into the text. The followers of Yahweh were not given permission by God to take female prisoners and rape them or use them as sex slaves. I addressed this once before. First, Hebrew scholars will tell you that the references to their virginity had to do with age, not sexual status (see the actual Hebrew language used). Second, in Deuteronomy 21:14 God’s command concerning the female prisoner is clear: “you shall not mistreat her.” Throughout the Mosaic Covenant, Yahweh specifically commanded that the alien was not to be mistreated. God’s granting of rights to the alien was very progressive among cultures of the ANE.

    In terms of your appeals to pity, I”m not denying the emotion of the biblical scene. I’m simply reminding you that such an appeal is a logical fallacy in the realm of civil debate.

  • 80. pj11  |  July 20, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    To all my friends at de-conversion:

    As I reflect on the messages here … I’m reminded that we’ve completely lost track of the focus of aA’s original post. aA wanted to know if the NT was an improvement on OT morality, citing two passages from the book of Acts. I responded to that particular question in post #31.

    What happened next was predictable … the discussion quickly returned to the OT. Now that we’ve beaten that proverbial horse to death (and, yes, I know you’re all still dissatisfied with my answers and you’d love to pound me some more!) … but can we return to the original thought from aA?

    I’m going to be out of contact for a couple of days, but I’d love to hear some of you pick up where aA left off and discuss the morality of the NT. I think it’s a very worthy discussion.

    Thanks and blessings to you all!

  • 81. Katia  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    “If you want to have a productive dialogue about the morality of the Bible and how it relates to our lives today, let’s stick to the NT.” The new Testament was written 2000 years ago aimed at a male dominated society. Hopefully we are at least moving away from this outdated view of people’s role’s in society so the tone of much of the New Testament at least isn’t always appropriate for modern day standards and therefore modern day morals.

  • 82. HeIsSailing  |  July 20, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Katia sez:
    “Hopefully we are at least moving away from this outdated view of people’s role’s in society so the tone of much of the New Testament at least isn’t always appropriate for modern day standards and therefore modern day morals.”

    My view exactly. The Bible clearly shows us that the concept of ‘morality’ does indeed change over time.

  • [...] Is the New Testament an improvement on Old Testament morality? [...]

  • 84. gEO  |  November 23, 2007 at 4:26 am

    DARM GOOD TOPIC!!!

    GOES TO THE POINT OF OLD VS NEW….

    IF THE OLD IS THE JEWS ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND GOD AND ITS THEOLOGY EVOLVES WITH THEIR UNDERSTANDING,,,, TO THE POINT WHERE GOD DOES EVIL WITH ONE HAND AND GOOD WITH THE OTHER … AND THEN GETS TO JOB WHERE A GOOD MAN CAN GET SCREWED BY GOD THROUGH THE DEVIL….. THEN WHERE ARE WE???

    SIMPLE…. BOTH TESTAMENTS ARE MAN’S ATTEMPTS TO KNOW GOD…AND THE JEWS GOT THE 1ST COMMANDMENT RIGHT AND MESSED UP THE SECOND ONE… LOVE AND FORGIVENESS… JESUS CAME ALONG AND GAVE US THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (PLAIN)… AND THE OUR FATHER… WE ARE STILL TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THAT… BLESSED ARE THE POOR??? WHAT THE HECK IS THAT TO AN AMERICAN???

    GOD DOES NOT CHANGE… OUR UNDERSTANDING EVOLVES LIKE A VIRUS IN THE WORLD DISRUPTING OUR CULTURAL VALUES…..

    BIBLE DIVINLY INSPIRED, NOT DICTATED BUT WRITTEN WITH THE PEN OF MAN WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN THE CULTURE OF THE WRITTERS… SOMEWHERE GOD IS THERE!

  • 85. gEO  |  November 23, 2007 at 4:33 am

    LIKE THE OLD TESTAMENT WE ARE STILL USING GOD TO JUSTIFY OUR KILLINGS TOO…. CHRISTIAN AMERICANS KILLING THE BAD PEOPLE OF THE WORLD… JESUS REJECTED ALL OF THIS…..YOU CAN NOT KILL EVIL…. YOU CAN FORGIVE IT…. WE VIEW THE ENEMY AS EVIL AND SO HE SEES US AS EVIL… WE KILL IN THE NAME OF RELIGION… OR A VALUE…. WE ARE ALWAYS 3 STEPS FORWARD AND 2 STEPS BACKWARD IN THE BIBLE AND IN LIFE’S GROWTH….. JESUS IS THE KEY WITH HIS SERMON ON THE MOUNT (PLAIN)…. THEY KILLED HIM FOR REFUTING THE JEWS TRADITIONS OF KILLING AND REPENTENCE, ETC… JESUS GAVE IT FREELY…. THAT IS THE TURNING POINT OF HISTORY… BIBLE….

  • 86. the chaplain  |  November 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

    gEO:

    Thanks for your comments. This may be a quirk that’s unique to me, but I find it very difficult to read ALL CAPS posts. Are you aware that ALL CAPS is the written equivalent of shouting? Therefore, when a reader sees such a post, he or she is likely to get defensive, a reaction that may not be at all warranted by the content in the post. Such a reaction creates an unnecessary communicative barrier, one that could be easily avoided. I, for one, would appreciate it if you would write according to standard norms. Additionally, full sentences and paragraphs help readers follow the writer’s train of thought.

    I don’t want to come across as a pedantic school marm, but I tend to ignore posts that appear from the outset to be either combative (all caps) or incomprehensible (no discernible structure). I don’t want to do that. I want to read comments carefully and consider them thoughtfully. It’s easier to do those things if we can all agree to use basic communications formats.
    -ESVA

  • 87. turtlecurls  |  May 2, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Sadly, NT is not an improvement over OT. OT is meant as a history story. It’s read allegorically in Judaism for layers of meaning & not literally. This is how it was meant to be read. Chrisitanity tends to read literally both the NT & OT. It misses the underlying lessons to learn.

    God’s actions were not commanded onto people. It is clear they aren’t commandments to carry forward as code. They are history in a time of strife. The book would not make sense if it didn’t include warring, as was comon at that time. Rather than credit themselves, the book credits God with appreciation for his guidance. If you read carefully, the groups genocided had that same goal at the Israelites. Therefore, this was a matter of self-defense.

    As for other actions, considering Judaism doesn’t condone them at all & quite the contrary, a reading for meaning gives lessons of compassion out of the book. These tougher stories are only allegorical statements of how important the values were being given by God.

    An important point is that OT is NOT the original Hebrew Tanakh. Many lines in OT are translated to makes Israelites & God of OT look more hostile than the original lines tend to read. Some of the psalms this really stands out.

    I came to this site in a search for something around the 2nd century & Jews. This idea of OT & NT God is confusing for Chrisianity. I just hope people here realize that the Christian readings of OT are different from the Jewish readings. Therefore, they don’t reflect a religion, Judaism, that is hostile.

    I say this as important, because of what drew me here. Earlier this week I started researching the history of antisemitism. Going back to early Church Fathers, it turns out there are tons of awful comments, even some in the NT. Within the context of the times they may make sense. However, they carried forth & blossomed. One of the blossoms was to claim the OT God of the Jews was terrible & the NT God of the Chrisitans is loving. To Jews, our God (both of ours) is loving & merciful. Hopefully, my explainations have helped eludicate that. Also, hopefully commenters here weren’t assuming that older view of Judaism & Christianity. (I haven’t read down the list to see.)

  • 88. Quester  |  May 2, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Turtlecurls,

    If it sets your mind at ease any, I consider the portrayals of God in the Old and New Testament both as evil, inconsistent and incoherent. I consider evidence of God in the world at large to be greatly lacking. I do not consider Judaism as a better or worse religion than Christianity, nor do I consider their God to be a better or worse divinity.

  • 89. turtlecurls  |  May 2, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Quester
    Obviously I was addressing my post to Catholics, not to those uncomfortable with these religions to begin with.

    Can I ask one thing of you? When you think about Christianity & Judaism, please be sure to study each individually. Often people are familar with the larger one, Christianity, & mistakenly project onto Judaism. Christianity teaches a lot about Judaism & almost all of it is the opposite of what Judaism actually is. You can dislike both – not arguing that -( though it came thorough as rude that you felt the need to say so as an “assurance.”)

    To give instances:
    Judaism does not have a hell concept. It doesn’t even focus on afterlife but on how to improve this world. It sees non-Jews as being good in God’s eyes based on their actions, not beliefs. This is why it doesn’t prostelyze, no need for anyone to join to be okay. Other religions can also have a good path to God. Mostly it’s about using Torah to come up with a moral code, some of which modern society has only recently caught up with.

    So, you are welcome to think it’s irrational. However, please do be sure you actually learn Judaism from Jews for your judgements.

    Side note: messanic “jews” are christians through & through. They use the name jew to force their christianity into our religion.

  • 90. Quester  |  May 2, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Obviously I was addressing my post to Catholics, not to those uncomfortable with these religions to begin with.

    I’m afraid it wasn’t obvious. Er, which Catholics, exactly, were you addressing your comments toward? I’m not sure if we have any here.

  • 91. Lucian  |  May 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Well, I do have to admit, the atheist insistance on the Old Covenant is very indeed strange, to say the least… :-| (Might as well listen to a bunch of Pentecostals speaking in tongues instead: same thing). Then it dawned on me: Inquisition & black slavery. That’s why they insist so much on it. (Well, this plus Fundamentalism and Islam).

  • 92. Lucian  |  May 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    That should read: very strange indeed. Sorry.

  • 93. Eve's Apple  |  May 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Reading through these posts, I found much that was disturbing and frightening, namely the fact that there are people who are not only comfortable with the idea of God commanding people to kill for him, but actually “defend” these actions! One poster repeatedly stated his/her willingness to see his/her child MURDERED in the name of God. I am sure glad that who ever you are that you are not my parent! I don’t know about anyone else but this sort of thing sends chills up my spine and is another reason why I am no longer a Christian.

    A few months ago while on a plane a fellow passenger said to me, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”. I said to her, “What about Oklahoma City? That was home-grown.” Right after 9-11 Islam came under much scrutiny and justifiably so. But we totally ignore the dark side of Christianity. Why is that? Because it makes us uncomfortable?

    I think we need to start confronting this “dark side” and start asking very pointed questions. Especially to those who defend God’s murderous actions, no matter what Scripture they come from. Ask them, “If God told you to kill me, would you obey that command?” It is very interesting how few will come right out and say Yes. But they won’t say No, either. They hem and haw and squirm around that point, saying that was Old Covenant and God doesn’t act that way any more.

    The bottom line is trust. Can I, as a nonbeliever, trust you, as a believer? I’m afraid, sadly, that the answer is “no.” Because I do not trust your God who has amply demonstrated that he has no qualms ordering his followers to kill for him. It does not matter how many centuries ago this happened. If you follow such a God, and you put obedience to him above any other consideration, you are not to be trusted. Period.

  • 94. paleale  |  May 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Lucian,

    Just trying to understand your post. Are you pointing out a disproportionate use of Old Covenant pictures of god as an argument against theism? Or are you saying that atheists feel they have to start with the Old Covenant god in order to condemn the Inquisition, slavery, fundamentalism and Islam?

    Not really sure what you were trying to say.

  • 95. Lucian  |  May 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I’m saying that I didn’t get you guys. And then I (finally) got it where you were all coming from. That’s all.

  • 96. stevefnp1  |  April 9, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Anyone with any sense knows the new testament overrides the old testament. Get it-new, old?? I think anyone who wants can cherry pick and try to make themselves feel better in their own religion by confusing the books of another to either justify their own shortcomings or to just be deliberately hostile. What’s wrong if a religion improves and the people as well and who is to say god is not different in the new testament. It would be great if a relgion like islam would update its out-of-date testament so to speak and become trully peaceful like they claim to be every time they commit violence and terrorism.

  • 97. cag  |  April 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    stevefnp1, google “jot or tittle” and then get back to us. Do not assume that we accept anything that is written without checking it for reasonability. We do not sit in pews and blindly accept any lies that emanate from the pulpit. We do not attempt to justify any work of fiction to reinforce our beliefs. We are not faith based, we are evidence based.

    We do not consider ourselves as unworthy sinners – sinners who hate themselves and consequently when told to “love thy neighbor as thyself” actually do. Is it any wonder that some of us reject fantasy for reality?

    We are not out to cherry pick the bible. Those “fruits” are poison. We totally reject the bible as a source of anything of value to a reality based life.

    Updating the “word of god” is an admission that the god of the bible is far from perfect. You may want to check out Matthew 5:17-18, which contradicts your old-new argument.

  • 98. Eve's Apple  |  April 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    If I recall correctly, Islam sees itself as a corrective update to both Christianity and Judaism. And Baha’i sees itself as a corrective update to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, while Mormonism sees itself as a corrective update to Christianity. The problem with this view of “progressive revelation” is that God apparently does not bother to tell the followers of the old religion that their beliefs are out of date.

    I cannot think of ONE example in history where God told people (not just one or two but whole populations) that while they were undoubtedly sincere, they had gotten his will tragically wrong and that they should not continue their present course. So I do not look to see any changes in Islam regarding violence, which in any case is only true of a few fanatics and certainly not true of the majority of Muslims in the world. But “Thou shalt not scapegoat” isn’t a commandment in either Testament as far as I know. To read the New Testament one would think that the majority of Jews had nothing better to do than hound Christians from town to town. If Jesus truly died for our sins, did He know or even care that many of His people would die for His death?

  • 99. Anonymous  |  May 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

  • 100. jeff  |  May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

  • 102. Resources for Deuteronomy 21:12 - 14  |  March 3, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    [...] 1Is the New Testament an improvement on Old Testament morality? « de-conversion SUBMIT [...]

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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