Don’t Mock the Second Coming of Jesus Christ…

August 26, 2007 at 2:15 am 26 comments

…or you may get mauled by a she-bear..!!

BearSince my recent comment about irrelevant and forgotten old radio Bible teachers, I thought I would re-publish this rant from my old website. It is several months old, and I am beating up on a dead guy, but hopefully some of the younger folks out there can relate. Dig?


It was darker than usual this morning due to turning the clock ahead an hour, so I was able to pick up a distant AM station on my drive into work. It was broadcasting a rerun of one of those ancient J Vernon McGee Thru The Bible programs. He was working his way through 2 Kings when he hit this troublesome passage concerning the prophet Elisha:

Then he (Elisha) went up from there (the River Jordan) to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. – 2 Kings 2:23-25 (NASB)

I have never heard a sermon from this portion of Holy Scripture, but there it is in black and white, right there in our Bibles. Face it Christians – this is embarrassing. As a Fundamentalist, I found it very troubling, and I prayed that nobody would bring it up when I evangelized to my buddies. But it is not the scripture that bothers me so much, as McGee’s rationalization for it. Let me summarize what he said.

McGee said that scoffers just love this passage of Scripture, and try to mock God because of it. Mankind has an innate streak of rebellion against God. We desire not to believe in God, so any opportunity that the Scripture affords will be used by the heathen to ridicule God. No, God will not be mocked.

He continued by saying that the news of Elijah’s ascension into heaven on a fiery chariot preceded Elisha on his trip from the River Jordan to Bethel which literally means “House of God” in the Hebrew language. We also jump to the conclusion that the youngsters were precious and innocent children. But this assumption is wrong! No no, see they were in fact young men from an ungodly parentage and students of the false prophets!! (WOW, talk about a huge leap of logic!) Much like young heathen in the “House of God”, they were like the hippies of today in Los Angeles “The City of Angels” (here the program really dates itself).

Then McGee just tells a bald faced lie. See, the Hebrew word for little children is everywhere else translated in the Bible as young men, and should not be translated as little children at all. In fact the same word is used in 1 Kings 12:8 to speak of young men. So these innocent and precious youngsters were in fact no better than a gang of thugs..!! I guess McGee could get away with this back in pre-internet times. But it took me about 10 seconds on the online Hebrew concordance to see that McGee was lying. No, I am not giving him the benefit of the doubt here. According to Strong’s Concordance of the Hebrew Bible (blueletterbible.org), little and children are almost always translated as, guess what?, little and children, despite what McGee, our radio evangelist and Bible expert, claimed. McGee went from little children to a gang of thugs (or hippies, take your pick) for one reason – because he wanted it to. He lied, and I don’t make those kinds of accusations lightly. As a pastor and Bible teacher he should have known better. Look it up for yourself. In these days of instant information, Evangelists just cannot get away with this stuff. McGee may have passed away years ago, but this is true concerning modern Bible teachers too. Trust me, I have been burned enough times by faulty logic from authoritative figures behind the pulpit. Look it up for yourself and see whether these things be so.

We are not done yet – it gets worse. What was Elisha taunted with? “Go up you Bald Head, go up!” What were they saying? They were mocking Elisha and challenging him to ascend to heaven the same way Elijah just did down at the River Jordan!! You see, they were ridiculing the truth in Scripture, that God can take people out of this world. This passage is placed here by God to let us know that God intends to judge those who dare to ridicule the second coming of Jesus Christ!!!

HUH?? WHAT??? So God is making an example of the thugs to warn us not to ridicule the Second Coming of Jesus?? That will teach those punks, considering that Jesus does not come onto the scene for another 750 years or so! Does J Vernon McGee really believe this ridiculous leap of logic? Does he really expect the unbeliever to be convinced by this?

He continues. Elisha cursed the mockers in the name of the Lord. God shall smite thee, you whitened sepulchers. Elisha is not responsible for the young men’s deaths, God is – so find fault with him if you dare do so. We live in a day of lawlessness. The minds of the people of this country have been brainwashed. We need judgment, just as in the early days of this country, we need to take the young lawbreakers and whip them in public! We can be assured that nobody in Bethel ever scoffed Elisha again.

I don’t know what to say about this. It is easy enough to find fault with this portion of Scripture, in fact I avoid it because it is too easy to ridicule. That our Holy God of moral perfection, the God whom Jesus is equated with, would send a couple of bears to maul anybody, be they children, thugs, hippies, whoever, just for taunting a prophet just cannot be harmonized with our God of Love and Mercy. And if that is God’s idea of justice, then Falwell, Robertson and Hagee are absolutely correct when they say that God punished New Orleans via Katrina for its sin. But that is not what upsets me. What upsets me is the lengths that Fundamentalists will go through to rationalize the Bible, to excuse God for his killing, and the outright laziness, sloppiness and deception that is used in doing so. This is what I am supposed to believe in? Fine, but if you find passages from your own Scripture so embarrassing and so difficult that you cannot be honest in dealing with it, or honest in explaining it to us, the laity or the unbeliever, then it is not my fault when I say I cannot believe it.

- HeIsSailing

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What Is My Problem (with the church)? God may have created you to be an apostate!

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. blueollie  |  August 26, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Well, I know for a fact that the Flying Spaghetti Monster overturned a bowl of spaghetti on the head of someone who said they doubted the divine inspiration of The Origin of Species.

    Oh wait; was it the other way around? :)

    Seriously, there was one passage (Exodus?) where this one guy was killed because he touched the arc of the covenant; they were carrying it over uneven ground (via poles) and it started to tip over.

  • 2. Jim  |  August 26, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    HeIsSailing!

    I really enjoyed reading this one. It caused me to look hard at a passage I’ve heard about, but have never really dug into before.

    Sometimes, it’s too bad stations can’t test radio preachers for sound exegesis before giving them the microphone. You know what I mean? Some of that that preacher apparently said (tying it to Jesus?) is pretty far off. But there are some other points to consider as I read through this. Of course, a passage like this must be considered carefully with the worldview of where and when it was written, rather than our worldview. I want to humbly offer my considerations here of this text, and solicit your feedback as well.

    -Elisha was a prophet. This means he was specifically set apart as a spokesperson for God. So to mock him is to directly mock God. So this wasn’t just any regular Joe the youngsters were taunting. In this time, a prophet was a big big deal. The Bible depicts God taking it personally when His people are maligned (Acts 8). Jewish prophets probably were shaved bald to set them apart as prophets. So the mocking of his bald head may take on a more serious status.

    -Also, we think of ‘mocked’ and we probably think some harmless ribbing by kids on an older man in our American context of it. But what if we heightened the religious tension, and consider if it was similar to a Catholic priest in Northern Ireland walking through a neighborhood, and some Protestant youngsters were mocking him? Or some Muslim kids following a nun in Turkey, taunting her? Given the culture of violence in these two settings, the priest and the nun might have more than legitimate fear for their lives. And this culture at least was that violent, if not moreso. ‘Mocked’ takes on a more serious tone there.

    -I agree the jump to Jesus is really careless. We can’t infer from the text that this is meant to point toward Jesus, or anything like that. It is a recording of something that happened, with the text not indicating that any moral lessons are to be taken from this, or that this is to point forward in any way. I could be wrong here, but I’m not aware of anything in the New Testament referencing this either. So a jump to talking about Jesus here is really off the grid.

    It is a difficult text to work with, absolutely. The preacher you listened to sure was off in a lot of ways. Mocking God is not a small offense. This is not a comfortable text for me either. The justice of God is not our justice.

    I wasn’t there, and the text doesn’t provide all the info I would like to have before passing judgment on this. I wish I did. It would sure make it easier to understand.

    It is really easy to pick on God for this one. But we must FIRST consider the that time, that place, that worldview, morals and the role of a prophet in that context before we superimpose our own morals onto it as 21st century Americans.

    I wish the preacher you listened to had done that. It would have made him a lot more humble about how he worked with this.

    Again, thank you for writing. I’ll have to listen to this sermon myself.

  • 3. HeIsSailing  |  August 26, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Just as a clarification – this article is not meant to trash the Biblical passage. I feel it speaks for itself.

    Rather, this article is a rant against a once respected Bible teacher, and others whom Christians trust unquestionably and without reservation.

  • 4. karen  |  August 26, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    In these days of instant information, Evangelists just cannot get away with this stuff. McGee may have passed away years ago, but this is true concerning modern Bible teachers too. Trust me, I have been burned enough times by faulty logic from authoritative figures behind the pulpit. Look it up for yourself and see whether these things be so.

    You hit on a good point there. I sometimes wonder if this is one of the reasons we seem to be seeing an upswing in deconversions and people willing to declare themselves agnostics, atheists or at least non-religious.

    So much of the flim-flam that used to be considered unchallengeable because it came from “religious authorities” is now being exposed for the fraud it really is. People (younger people especially) aren’t scared to call out liars like this when they have the goods available at their fingertips to back up their words.

    God bless the Internets! :-)

  • 5. Shannon Lewis  |  August 27, 2007 at 10:16 am

    The thought that you would expect to get a good answer out of Strong’s Concordance makes me a little nervous regarding the extent of your research.

    Consider this, however: do two words placed side by side literally carry the same meaning as those two word’s independent literal meanings combined? This has long been an interpretive fallacy – it’s the equivalent in English to thinking that a ‘Butterfly’ is a fly dripping with a creamy spread. D.A. Carson has given a multitude of such fallacies in his book “Exegetical Fallacies”, a worth-while read for all Christians, or even former-believers, as it exposes a great deal of rediculous interpretations of passages that CLEARLY don’t actually mean what some fundies twist them to say, by not understanding their cultural, historical, or even literary context.

    It also should be noted that the American Standard Version, a far more word-for-word literal translation (with far better manuscript evidence) than the KJV translates the phrase here as “young lads”, and the English Standard Version – another version solid translation – translates it ‘young boys’. At first this may seem to confirm your ‘well-developed’ scan of Strong’s (p.s. – I threw my Strong’s concordance away: it’s only used by fundamentalist, pre-trib, Southern Baptist-types – the sort of folks to whom reading ‘Left Behind’ is paramount to regular Bible study), however when considering that in Hebrew culture one wasn’t considered an ‘adult’ until you were 30, calling someone a ‘boy’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ‘young’ in our modern understanding of the word. You weren’t even allowed to read the “Song of Solomon” until 30, which was considered the age of adulthood.

    Of course, the word ‘naar’ here – as any serious Bible scholar would tell you – is actually a relatively generic term that is fully altered by it’s use and the context in which it is used. In Genesis 41 it is used of Joseph, who was 30 at the time – it was used in Exodus 33 of Joshua, who was near 45.

    Honestly, I can’t stand listening to McGee, but let’s be fair: interpreting ancient texts is a complex task, and it does no one any good for self-proclaimed ‘skeptics’ to stoop to the same tactics used by fundamentalists to try to further their cause.

    Respectfully,

    Shannon

  • 6. Heather  |  August 27, 2007 at 11:43 am

    do two words placed side by side literally carry the same meaning as those two word’s independent literal meanings combined?

    I don’t think the example of butterfly works here. The word “young” is meant to modify the type of boys/lads that are mocking Elisha. Butterfly is a name for a type of flying insenct. “Young lads” isn’t a name for a type of person, it’s describing the type of lad. This isn’t a matter of looking at root words that make up another word, like butterfly.

    however when considering that in Hebrew culture one wasn’t considered an ‘adult’ until you were 30,

    How would this work in terms of the bar mitzvah (I may be spelling that wrong)? Everying I’ve read says that in Judaism, the “coming of age” was 13 years old for a boy, at which point he was held responsible for his own actions and treated as an adult. Are you saying that the age of adulthood starts at 13 and then ends at 30?

    naar’ here – as any serious Bible scholar would tell you – is actually a relatively generic term that is fully altered by it’s use and the context in which it is used. In Genesis 41 it is used of Joseph, who was 30 at the time – it was used in Exodus 33 of Joshua, who was near 45.

    But the context here is specifically noted by use of the word ‘young.’ Had they just meant someone who was around the age of 30 or 45, they could’ve just stuck with the word ‘naar.’ These verses do not indicate young boys. But in this verse, they specifically add on a word that is translated as “little/young.” But there must’ve been a reason for including what was translated as young/little. They seem to be specifically narrowing it. Why else select two words that seem to indicate small chiildren? I mean, Genesis 36 also uses “naar” when describing a seventeen year old Joseph, so can’t we at least conclude that the boys referenced with Elisha are younger than seventeen?

  • 7. saintlewis  |  August 27, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Argue as you will, the fact is that there is plenty of evidence in the Old Testament that this could easily have been a group of teens or even twenty-year olds, and many scholars – not fundies, mind you – recognize this.

  • 8. saintlewis  |  August 27, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    p.s. – Heather…
    the addition of the word ‘young’ implies that it was quite likely that they were under the age of 30, and not considered yet an adult.

  • 9. karen  |  August 27, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    It amazes me how apologists will knot themselves into pretzels trying to “minimize” the evil of this passage and so many others of blatant cruelty in the bible!!

    So, for argument’s sake, let’s say the lads in question were 20-25 years old. Why is it considered passable for god to arrange the brutal mauling to death of 42 of them because they teased a prophet about his baldness? Does that punishment fit the crime?

    It would never pass muster in the court of public opinion today – are we so much kinder and more civilized than god?

  • 10. Heather  |  August 27, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    the addition of the word ‘young’ implies that it was quite likely that they were under the age of 30, and not considered yet an adult.

    But what is the basis for saying they weren’t adults until 30? I’ve looked at a few Judaic sites, and all I’ve found was that children must start being held accountable at 13, and can earn a livlihood by 20. So is there another site or scholar that specifically says this is a Judaic custom? If anything, based on life expectency, it would seem that the age of adulthood would occur sooner than today’s times.

    And even as it is — the word used when tearing up the 42 lads was “yeh’led,” which has been used to refer to boy or child. Both this word and “na’ar’ were used to refer to Moses when he was found in the basket floating in the river.

  • 11. Jim  |  August 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Karen,

    Hi there. Please refer to my earlier comment regarding this passage; I think your rendering that they just “teased” the prophet is problematic and a gross understatement of the text and the meaning of the prophet’s baldness.

    The court of “public opinion” has been on the right and wrong side of so many issues throughout the day. I don’t think they (whatever they means) are a solid source of scholarship, given that “they” have been wrong just as much as they’ve been right.

    I do look forward to seeing where this discussion heads regarding age of adulthood. It may be safe to say that whatever the text says, it doesn’t mean what we mean when we say “young lads.” Compared to who’s talking, if it’s an 80-year-old man, I’m a “young boy,” though I graduated high school quite a while ago. Food for thought? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

  • 12. heatlight  |  August 27, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Karen…
    the subjectively observed ‘brutality’ of the passage is really inconsequential, when you think about it.
    Either, 1.) okay, it seems brutal, but it’s a myth, so who cares?
    2.) It seems brutal, and there really is a God who did this – if God exists, and He/She/It created everything, it’s His and He can do whatever he pleases with it.
    I admit, it seems somewhat brutal – there are many ways of ‘experiencing’ the narrative, however. If I place myself in the minds of the ‘youth’, it seems harsh – but if I were an old man of great importance being threatened and harassed by a gang, I can’t say I wouldn’t think the consequences necessary or even just. Lastly, if I were the bear, I would’ve likely been quite pleased by the whole situation! ;-)

  • 13. heatlight  |  August 27, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Also, it should be considered that the Hebrew concept of ‘adult-hood’ would be quite different from our own, being a culture which revered age, instead of dispised it like our own.

  • 14. Heather  |  August 27, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    HIS,

    That’s the first place I checked, too. It didn’t show me anything. The only thing I have been able to find comes from the three links below:

    http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/33329/format/html/displaystory.html

    http://www.aish.com/societyWork/society/Turning_30.asp

    The really interesting aspect is from the second link, copied below. Apparently, the age of 30 is connected with coming at full strength, and receiving wisdom and so forth. But I don’t see how this gets translated as they aren’t considered adults, given that the commandments apply at 13, they can be married by 18, and livlihood at 20. Plus, the list goes onto to show that things occur at 40 and 50, too.

    the last article gives a better understanding of that, in saying that thirty is the time to start applying all the wisdom one learned from the mistakes between 20-29. But it looks like they were still functioning as adults from at least the age of 20, if not before.

    ***24. He used to say (60), “At five years (the age is reached for the study of the) Scripture, at ten for (the study of) the Mishnah (61), at thirteen for (the fulfilment of) the commandments (62), at fifteen for (the study of) the Talmud (63), at eighteen for marriage, at twenty for seeking (a livelihood) (64), at thirty for (entering into one’s full) strength, at forty for understanding, at fifty for counsel, at sixty (a man attains) old age, at seventy the hoary head, at eighty (the gift of special) strength (65), at ninety, (he bends beneath) the weight of years, at a hundred he is as if he were already dead and had passed away from the world.”
    **

  • 15. Heather  |  August 27, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Jim,

    It may be safe to say that whatever the text says, it doesn’t mean what we mean when we say “young lads.”

    The complication with this is that you could start doing this with the entire Bible. Sin doesn’t mean today what it meant back then, or salvation, or love. At which point, we’d all need to fully understand Hebrew/Greek.

    Plus, you do need a basic starting point. You mentiond earlier that our justice is not the same as God’s justice. But then how do you go about determining whether you’re following a just God?

    Say a group of people starting calling the President a monkey, and he ordered the army to run over them with tanks. The President is in a position of authority and respect and power. Yet no one would call that act just, they’d call it tyrannical and possibly even petty.

    That’s how I’m seeing the she-bears scenario. In any other circumstance, we’d call this a horrific crime. The only difference are the characters involved, and to me, that’s giving the impression that morality becomes subjective when it involves God, and that people can’t call it bad precisely because it involves God. The action is no longer deemed good/bad based on its own merits, but of the characters involved.

  • 16. Jim  |  August 27, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Heather,

    I agree with you. Our ideas of sin, salvation, and love (your examples) are not quite on target with how the Bible uses them. As much as possible, we must do our best to understand what the Bible means when it uses terms we might take for granted that we immediately understand. Such as this text in 2 Kings, for example. We can’t assume that we immediately understand, and then go about rendering judgment.

    That’s a great question about justice. Gosh, you have good questions. Given the state of the world, I think humanity is the last species to go about judging justice.

    “Say a group of people starting calling the President a monkey, and he ordered the army to run over them with tanks. The President is in a position of authority and respect and power. Yet no one would call that act just, they’d call it tyrannical and possibly even petty.”

    Interesting scenario. I would say we would rightly call it a tyrannical act on the part of the president. This is a far far different example than 2 Kings though, as the president is not a spokesperson for God or a prophet (no matter how some in the media say otherwise). Apples and oranges.

    It’s interesting how when reading this story, everyone is taking it from the point of view of the younger folk (however old they actually are). Why is that?

    I do think morality is objective, but we subjectively view it, and miss the larger picture since we’re finite. The text mentions nothing about morality.

  • 17. The de-Convert  |  August 27, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I haven’t read this discussion in detail. However, it seems as if the conclusion is that this God sending 2 bears to rip apart young men is ok but little children – not so much.

    I beg to differ. No matter what the age of these individuals being ripped apart for calling someone bald-head is an atrocity.

    On top of that, if you try to define God as “loving and compassionate,” it’s a stretch to do that when he’d have you ripped apart for making fun of a prophet.

    Paul

  • 18. heatlight  |  August 27, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I know I will sound like most Darwinists saying this, but I know many good Hebrew scholars and theologians (of course, the Darwinists would point to ‘experts’ in other fields of which they know little) who are convinced, and make good cases, that the passage is about a ‘gang’ of ‘young men’…I don’t have time to reference everything else, but I’m sure that if you read up you’ll stumble upon it.

    I will add one thing, however, for HeIsSailing’s orginal post – it’s not only Bible teachers who are taken at their word, it’s a common practice throughout our culture – people are rarely as questioning as they should be of various media, authors (I’m thinking of how many people thought “The Divinci Code” was fact), and even pop-scientists.

    Lastly, I once was slotted to debate an Atheist publicly on a topic related to this post: “the Bible is Obscene”. To the shock of my atheist opponent, I publicly sided with him: it is obscene, and sadly the majority of the public, particularly the church, is blind to it’s offensiveness. I personally think that the obscenity of the Scripture is what our complacent, middle-class lives need to be shocked out of our dull, self-satisfied lives, and I love the ‘Word’ for cutting me like a ‘double-edged sword’. He thought we would do better just do without the book. That is very simply where we differed. It was an enjoyable discussion, though!

  • 19. Heather  |  August 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Jim,

    Gosh, you have good questions.

    Thank you. :) I do my best.

    Given the state of the world, I think humanity is the last species to go about judging justice.

    But then how do you determine that the God you are follow is in fact what he claims to be? Such as just? Ultimately, what I see in these discussions is that it gets reduced to “God is just because God/the Bible says so.”

    This is a far far different example than 2 Kings though, as the president is not a spokesperson for God or a prophet (no matter how some in the media say otherwise). Apples and oranges.

    But this still puts us in the position of judging the act based on the characters, not the act itself. THe mauling becomes “okay” or “just” because God orders it. If this same situation were in the Qur’an, would you still find it okay? I would say you wouldn’t, because you’d find the act to be horrific. The only reason I can see for finding it okay here is because the Christian God is involved. In one case, it’s the “orange” ordering it, in the other case it’s the “apple.” But what’s being ordered is the same.

    It’s interesting how when reading this story, everyone is taking it from the point of view of the younger folk (however old they actually are). Why is that?

    For me, it’s because I would expect the Christian God to be above such behavior, honestly. This behavior mirrors something I’d expect to find a Greek God do, or any other God of ancient myth.

    The text mentions nothing about morality.

    But can’t we still determine whether the action is moral?

  • 20. karen  |  August 27, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Hi there. Please refer to my earlier comment regarding this passage; I think your rendering that they just “teased” the prophet is problematic and a gross understatement of the text and the meaning of the prophet’s baldness.

    But Jim, here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. There’s no evidence in the text that violence was occurring. They were “mocking” – maybe they were disrespectful and vile and hateful, but they were using words – not stones, rocks, clubs or anything else that would justify murder by mauling.

    David, in many of his psalms, said angry, hateful things about god. Even Jesus himself asked why god forsook him. These are legitimate human emotions being expressed. Since when does that “crime” merit a sentence of being mauled to death by wild animals? And note, it wasn’t five or 10 people being killed, it was 42!

    The court of “public opinion” has been on the right and wrong side of so many issues throughout the day. I don’t think they (whatever they means) are a solid source of scholarship, given that “they” have been wrong just as much as they’ve been right.

    When I’m talking about public opinion, I’m talking about the basic standard of justice and decency in today’s modern, secular society. Can you imagine the reaction of any religious leader who pulled something like this today in response to an angry mob of protestors? The Pope, James Dobson, Mullah Omar, the Dalai Lama – let them try it. Why does today’s society hold itself up to a much higher standard that god seems to in the bible?

    You are starting from a place of absolutes (god is good because the bible says god is good and the bible’s true because it says so in the bible) and trying to tinker with the text to make it “fit” your presumption, instead of approaching the text objectively and looking at what’s actually there.

  • 21. pj11  |  August 28, 2007 at 1:53 am

    If you don’t mind … some straight talk from a so-called “fundie” on this topic …

    HIS said: “That our Holy God of moral perfection, the God whom Jesus is equated with, would send a couple of bears to maul anybody, be they children, thugs, hippies, whoever, just for taunting a prophet just cannot be harmonized with our God of Love and Mercy.”

    It is lopsided and inaccurate to describe God in the form of just two of His attributes … yes, He is Love and He is merciful, but He is also wrathful and just. He accounts for each and every sin and none will go unpunished. Since every one of us has sinned against Him, we all deserve death … and each of us will, in fact, die someday and face judgment.

    Is God sovereign over everything? Yes, according to the text, He is … that means He will declare the number of our days and He will determine the means of our death. Not one person dies without His decree and permission. When we die, we will die with hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of sins attributed to our accounts. In light of this, do we dare say to God, “I didn’t deserve this?” Physical death is not unjust on the part of God – it is deserved. On the contrary, each day that we live is an act of delayed justice and the extension of grace on His part. He desires that none should perish, but each come to a place of repentance.

    Having said all that … is dying in a bear attack any worse than dying in a car accident? Or slowly dying over years from cancer? Why should we be offended by the bear attack? If you’re offended in a general sense by the concept of death as a punishment for sin, fine. But the bear as a means of death is not the issue. I would say that any manner of death is shocking and difficult to swallow. Yet we cannot avoid it, nor can we control it. God is sovereign over our departure from this life.

    These “young lads” (or whatever) had sinned by taunting God’s prophet … but if you think that’s the sum total of their debt for sin, you’d be wrong. I guarantee these lads had racked up their share of sins and they too were deserving of death just like you and me. God simply chose that moment to execute justice. So what’s the problem? Don’t we admire swift retributive justice if the judgment is correct and the punishment is fair?

    HIS also said: “And if that is God’s idea of justice, then Falwell, Robertson and Hagee are absolutely correct when they say that God punished New Orleans via Katrina for its sin.”

    Falwell, Robertson and Hagee were wrong in their statements because they assigned a direct correlation between Katrina and the sin of New Orleans without the benefit of special revelation from God. We dare not make such a claim on God’s behalf because we simply can’t know the mind of God in specific circumstances today. However, we can say (in a general sense) that Katrina and other “natural occurrences” are used by God to accomplish His purposes. This is supported by the biblical text … God sends calamity upon the earth for reasons which we can’t see in our finite condition.

    Look, death is a reality. We all deserve it. We will all face it. If God exists and He is the Judge, none of us will be able to shake our fist at Him and claim that He is unfair or unjust when He pronounces His sentence. It doesn’t matter if it’s by bear or by old age. Just be ready … because justice will come some day.

  • 22. epicurus  |  August 30, 2007 at 2:35 am

    This passage about the bears started me on the road to atheism. Though I’d been attending church several times weekly from the time I was small, the first I encountered it was around 13 or 14 in a Heinlein novel. Oddly enough, nobody at the church had ever used this passage in any sermons or lessons; it’s the red-headed stepchild of Bible passages. When I asked people at church — who ought to be in the know — I was told, “Well those kids weren’t supposed to be outside the city wall anyway” and other lame justifications. If that was the case then “God’s Justice” makes three strikes look like a full pardon. So far I’ve found every explanation for this story less than satisfactory — it just doesn’t jibe with the idea of a “loving” God in any way, no matter *what* rationalization you use. It’s just a cruel, evil story about a cruel, evil God. Period.

    Regarding my beliefs, once one stone was removed and I started examining others for cracks, the entire wall of faith fell down: I realized that few of the stories in the bible made sense or were relevant, it was riddled with contradictions, and there was no evidence for God anyway outside of wishful thinking. I dabbled with other religions for a while but once the wall was down, there was no building another in its place; religion, gods and superstition became superfluous. It turned out my faith was a bit like the biblical “house built on sand”, only the structure (Christianity) was unstable, not the ground (myself).

    And what a fantastic thing too! Finally I was free — a bit like a prisoner, once the wall crumbled, I found that I could explore in any direction. I’m so happy for the awful story of the bears, because if it weren’t for that, I might still be a prisoner.

  • 23. heatlight  |  August 30, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Strange how what one person interprets as contradictions another sees as realistic corrobarating testimonies/evidence. Still stranger how the things that lead a theist raised in the church to eventually reject ‘God’ are often the same things that lead others (like me) to grow skeptical of their atheism and explore agnostic or more theistic options. It’s even strange how one self-proclaimed Christian can see overwhelming evil as undermining their Christian faith, where by acknowledging true, objective evil is sometimes the means by which Atheist’s moral/philosophical framework is entirely undermined on a subjective level, opening the door to faith in a moral lawgiver – i.e., God. Anyway – having read the last response before this one it just struck me as interesting. Thanks.

  • 24. mewho  |  September 12, 2007 at 12:14 am

    I find it amusing that so many think that God communicates via a book. Sam Harris pokes fun at this a little, as well (he writes books, too). God doesn’t make movies, write music, send e-mail, postcards, or make phonecalls. He primarily writes books. That’s it. Read His book. It’s all in there. But then, he makes people blind, and they can’t even see the book! Or dyslexic, and reading frustrates them. Or God places them geographically where the book he wrote ISN’T EVEN IN THE NATIVE LANGUAGE!!! You would think he would at least have you born with the ability to read, but He doesn’t even do that…
    This doesn’t even mention the fact that he authored several books to different people that reveal different, conflicting things…that say the other books that He wrote and the people that believe them aren’t to be trusted..(koran, bible, book of Mormon, apocrypha, extra-canonical writings, etc.) If I could just get an e-mail, though…

  • 25. Allan Svensson  |  August 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Hi.
    I found your Web Site by Google
    And I wish you the best you can get,
    the peace of God through Jesus Christ.

    Welcome to visit my Site.
    Allan Svensson, Sweden

    Why does the revival tarry? It is because God’s
    people tarry to obey the powerful command of
    the Lord in Rev. 18:4. This is the most powerful
    revival message of the Lord to his people in our time.

  • 26. jeff  |  September 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    your all a bunch of frauds who do not even do background checks.

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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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