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Source: (consider it) Thread: Kerygmania: A Sovereign God
Bullfrog.

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The latter, about the "Crucified God" sounds like Moltmann, or perhaps it's Bonhoeffer. One of those German dudes. I've definitely been told as much by a prof at seminary, though I'll grant that he may qualify as heretical.

ETA: (responding to mousethief's post of the previous page)

[ 20. June 2010, 03:14: Message edited by: Bullfrog. ]

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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shamwari
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I dont think there is any point in trying to reconcile the command in 1 Sam 15 with Jesus' command to love your enemies.

I work on principle that "God does not change, but our understanding of God does".

And Samuel lived 1000+ years before Christ.

I have no problem believing that Samuel got it wrong in his understanding of God.

As Hebrews says the OT is fragmentary and partial and I accept that; especially the sub-Christian bits of it.

For me Jesus' revelation of God in what he said, did and was, is the benchmark.

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Nigel M
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It's not an unfamiliar problem for Christians, shamwari, but one which I think may be because we have been standing in the wrong quagmire. The problem – partly a language thing – lies in the use of that word 'reconcile' here. I see a few issues:-

[1] What is being meant by 'reconcile'? Is it to resolve an issue that is impacting adversely on one's life (where the way of living is being informed by faith)? If so, what options are on the table for so resolving: removing one of the factors in the clash, redefining the terms, or just living with the tension and celebrating the diversity(!)? Alternatively, does 'reconcile' mean to establish a close relationship with? If so, does that mean we should think of this issue as a Venn diagram, with a small degree of overlap and agreement between the opposing factors, but a much greater degree of non-agreement? Or is it something else?

I agree with you that we are not going to 'reconcile' Amalek with Nazareth however we define the terms. But this is because...

[2] It implies an attempt to compare different genres of literature. Narrative (1 Samuel 15) and Teaching (Matthew 5) are two different pieces of literature and will not sit together easily at any time on a pure face-to-face reading. Each needs to be understood on its own terms first before they can be compared with each other – and even then the methodology used needs to be a connector that is compatible with both genres. We need something that can take the input plug of narrative and the input plug of teaching, connect them and provide a stereo output. Achtung! Metaphor!

If 'reconciliation' doesn't work here, then...

[3] Something more like a metaphor is needed. Something that acts as a framework within which to embrace the two differing components of literature here. Having tossed about various options for this over the years, I think 'covenant' provides the very best of metaphors for this operation. It is compatible with the cultural presuppositions of the time, it operates both at figurative and literal levels, it pervades the entire book, it is amenable to a copious number of interfaces, it is translatable to other cultures, and it is sub-unit friendly. It is the international connector plug and socket of biblical literature.

[4] I've studiously avoided issues around canon and faith here because those of no faith would not be convinced by the arguments that “we must find coherence here because (a) God does not change, or (b) God gave us the Scriptures as a block.” Still, for Christians these issues add another layer that has to be dealt with. For the moment, however, I will continue to studiously ignore them! Am happy to take these up for discussion if needed.

So...

I'm arguing for an approach that goes a bit like this:

First, take 1 Samuel 15 in the context of a narrative strand within its cultural environment. See what the writers have done in communicating what they have communicated, using the words they used in the way they used them (there is an element of rhetorical analysis here, as well as semantic structure analyses). Bear in mind the overarching framework – the given presupposition underlying the communication – of covenant. In effect we would be taking two sometimes opposing strands of study seriously: history and faith. It's my belief that the opposition of these two, particularly in western critical studies, has made a quagmire out of what should have been a foundation of rock when it comes to understanding the text.

Secondly, take Matthew 5 in the context of teaching, see what is being reacted against and again being serious about the rhetoric of the writing. See it within the overarching context of covenant and also – most importantly for the NT writings – in the context of the (Jewish) Scriptures being used by Jesus and his immediate followers. These formed the ground upon which the interactions between Jesus and his contemporaries were based.

Thirdly, ask the question, How has covenant impacted on both communications?

It is this last question that propels into view some interesting and often unsighted points. A couple of examples from our current texts: What did God mean by using the word “punish” in 1 Sam. 15:2; and What did God mean by using the word “love” in Matthew 5:44?

I appreciate I haven't got round to answers here to those questions, but frankly, answers in a forum like the Ship are useless unless one can demonstrate the process one is using for getting to them!

Also much more in your post that I'd love to discuss (e.g., the Hebrews point, human points of view in the bible, a changing God...), but I need to wash my hair...

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shamwari
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Nigel: I take your point and am thinking thereon. But I have the feeling that you are 'strining at a gnat....'

The camel in question (AFAICS) is fairly simple. The hebrews believed they were God's chosen people and that God had given them this land.

Therefore it subjection and the elimination of all enemies at all costs was entirely legitimate. If that entailed massacre ( as at Ai ) so be it.

The idea that we should 'love' our enemies ( i.e. seek their best interests) would have been prepostorous. It was even that 1000 years later when Jesus suggested it.

What has changed is the understanding of God and His Will. Unless we are prepared to evaluate the OT in the sense of 'progressive and developing understanding' then we shall forever be doomed to trying to rationalise the incompatible and defend a schizophrenic God.

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Nigel M
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I would want to break the sequence of the argument up a bit, shamwari, because I don't think we have the bridges between the various parts in place.

quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
The hebrews believed they were God's chosen people and that God had given them this land.

Yes, let's take that as a starting point.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
Therefore it subjection and the elimination of all enemies at all costs was entirely legitimate.

This is the first bridge that is missing. I don't think the biblical evidence would support the jump between the two points. Crucially, the Hebrews were chosen for a purpose and the narratives seem to be a reflection on ways of living under that purpose. Abraham's role, set out in Genesis 12, acts as a signpost here. Dealings with enemies has many flavours in the bible as a result - the herem (the Ban) of 1 Samuel 15 being just one, and a minority one at that. From what we know of the operation of 'Ban' from other near eastern events, it was a rare occurrence, surrounded by judicial formalities and by no means an ad hoc knee-jerk reaction by petulant people on an ego trip. It was invoked in cases of extreme violation, where the violator was given a series of warnings and only in the last resort, when the violator refused to accommodate, was the Ban invoked and then carried out. Otherwise the normal rules of war applied (for which bible makes provision as well).
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
The idea that we should 'love' our enemies ( i.e. seek their best interests) would have been prepostorous. It was even that 1000 years later when Jesus suggested it.

Again, I think we are missing the bridge. There needs to be a definition of that word 'Love', in the context of its usage at the time. I don't think the bible defines it as seeking the best interests of our enemies - it is hedged about with a lot more than that. I fear many Christians have been taught to import a meaning of the English word 'Love' that doesn't not really exist in the Hebrew or Greek usage.

I would also add that Jesus was using the same Scriptures that had been written hundreds of years before his time - which meant that his message was not so much "Here's a new thing for you" as "Here's the proper interpretation for you." Ultimately Jesus supports the use of the herem; the total Ban is still due to be enforced, according to the NT, when God (via Jesus?) judges the world and separates out the good from the bad.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
Unless we are prepared to evaluate the OT in the sense of 'progressive and developing understanding' then we shall forever be doomed to trying to rationalise the incompatible and defend a schizophrenic God.

Not sure how we get to this from what goes before. I agree we certainly can have progressive and developing understanding, but that does not of itself demonstrate that what went before was wrong. It would be more accurate to say that the way we interpret the text might lead us to believe we have a schizophrenic view of God.

I would advocate getting back to first principles, seeing how the writers understood the role of the Israelites in creation and how they formulated ways of living based on that. In a way, the 1,000 years of history (or whatever length it was) before Jesus - plus the few hundreds after him - work for us here. That's many generations of thinker-theologians who passed on the text without cutting out inconvenient truths along the way. What the People of God inherited and passed on has stood the test of time. That might imply the hand of God at work (a God who did not arrange for the removal from history of the 'bad' bits when he realised they were inconvenient), or it might imply the recognition of generations of humans who reckoned that it all hung together well enough. Or both, of course.

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shamwari
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Nigel: I find your contribution helpful, But my problem is not with the cultural context in which the Hebrews responded to the call to be God;s Chosen. I am very happy to acknowledge that the response was culturally conditioned ( as is ours today).

My problem is more specific. The texts say "The Lord said" - whether to Samuel or Joshua or whoever.

And it is what the Lord said which bothers me. Either we are to love our enemies as Jesus commanded or .....

I agree the word 'love' requires definition.

But I cannot think of any definition of love which would include exterminate and massacre them wholesale.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
What the People of God inherited and passed on has stood the test of time. That might imply the hand of God at work (a God who did not arrange for the removal from history of the 'bad' bits when he realised they were inconvenient), or it might imply the recognition of generations of humans who reckoned that it all hung together well enough. Or both, of course.

Or it might imply that humans are capable of holding two completely contradictory beliefs in their heads at the time time.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
But my problem is not with the cultural context in which the Hebrews responded to the call to be God;s Chosen. I am very happy to acknowledge that the response was culturally conditioned ( as is ours today).

I wouldn't go as far as to say they (or we) were culturally conditioned, as that implies a sense of being locked into a set of responses. Israel had a lot in common with the culture of the other ancient near eastern nations, but there were some significant differences, which leads me to think that their reflection on God was forming them in a way apart from the culture. Not sure what the appropriate term for this is. Their near eastern presuppositions / world-views were being challenged, and they were changing as a result.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
...I cannot think of any definition of love which would include exterminate and massacre them wholesale.

It might be worth exploring here the covenant usage of the terms 'love' and 'hate.' The “Love your neighbour” saying in Matthew 5:43 and 22:39 was most likely drawn from Leviticus 19:18, where the context is relationships with those who are in alliance with you – family, tribe, clan, etc. etc. Love in these circumstances is more akin to “I choose to offer a commitment to you” in the sense of offering a reciprocal relationship to all without discrimination (as in the picture of God causing the sun to rise and rain to fall on both righteous and unrighteous – Matt. 5:45). Be perfect, in the sense of being complete – i.e., thinking strategically and relating to all creation, not just the bits that I like.

Having made such an offer, though, covenant demands reciprocity. The NT as well as the OT offers similar approaches here:
* God's People (so including Christians) have the obligation to 'gospel' the entire creation (Abraham's call, Great Commission, etc);
* They have an obligation to maintain relationships in the face of lapses (love your fellow-traveller, forgive 70 times 7, etc);
* Those who deliberately rebel against the relationship will be judged by God (vengeance is for God to mete out).

There isn't really any difference between 'love' in the OT and 'love' in the NT. I rather think the perceptions of difference are imported from our own time.
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Or it might imply that humans are capable of holding two completely contradictory beliefs in their heads at the time time.

What, like believing that England will win the World Cup while at the same believing they can do so without the necessary skills or leadership? I suppose if the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass could believe in six impossible things before breakfast, and pulpits are six feet above contradiction, then congregations are certainly capable of holding at least two contradictory beliefs before they disperse to drink coffee.

Would 10,000 generations of thinkers have held unchallenged the same two completely contradictory beliefs, though?

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shamwari
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Nigel: I think your post about exploring the meaning of 'love' in terms of the covenant relationship is worth thinking about.

But I cant see how that in any way answers my statement that I cant conceive of any definition of love which would include the command to massacre your enemies.

Can you conceive of a 'love' which would command that?

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Would 10,000 generations of thinkers have held unchallenged the same two completely contradictory beliefs, though?

Who says they were unchallenged? They could well have been, but since they held the reins, their challengers went unrecorded. Argument from silence is perilous.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Would 10,000 generations of thinkers have held unchallenged the same two completely contradictory beliefs, though?

Who says they were unchallenged? They could well have been, but since they held the reins, their challengers went unrecorded. Argument from silence is perilous.
There are quite a few records of challenges to those in power within the OT itself; it reads like a group of people who felt able to disseminate criticisms of their thinking.
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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Would 10,000 generations of thinkers have held unchallenged the same two completely contradictory beliefs, though?

Who says they were unchallenged? They could well have been, but since they held the reins, their challengers went unrecorded. Argument from silence is perilous.
There are quite a few records of challenges to those in power within the OT itself; it reads like a group of people who felt able to disseminate criticisms of their thinking.
And we have their writings ... where?

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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Would 10,000 generations of thinkers have held unchallenged the same two completely contradictory beliefs, though?

Who says they were unchallenged? They could well have been, but since they held the reins, their challengers went unrecorded. Argument from silence is perilous.
There are quite a few records of challenges to those in power within the OT itself; it reads like a group of people who felt able to disseminate criticisms of their thinking.
And we have their writings ... where?
The prophets?

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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mousethief

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I don't think the prophets challenged the contradictory thinking, did they? Maybe I'm not seeing something; I'll admit I'm no scholar on the OT prophets.

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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I don't think the prophets challenged the contradictory thinking, did they? Maybe I'm not seeing something; I'll admit I'm no scholar on the OT prophets.

One large one that I recall (vaguely enough that getting the proof texts would be more work than I can do now) that Isaiah still had a belief that the institution of the temple had intrinsic worth where Jeremiah views the whole thing as beyond redemption.

Also shifts in attitudes toward foreigners ranging from "Kill em all!" to "don't interbreed with them!" to "Oh, go marry yourself a nice Babylonian woman and settle down for a while."

Of course, these show different political situations in Palestine, but I think the theology shifted too.

ETA: The right word, though I'm sure I missed another error somewhere.

[ 21. June 2010, 02:55: Message edited by: Bullfrog. ]

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I don't think the prophets challenged the contradictory thinking, did they? Maybe I'm not seeing something; I'll admit I'm no scholar on the OT prophets.

I'd bet we wouldn't find an example of anyone challenging a ruling teaching along the lines of the discussion so far, i.e., “God is Love” and at the same time “God gets his servants to conduct genocide” - but why would we find that? After all, the case I'm making so far is that such a contradictory teaching never existed and therefore the need to challenge it never arose! This is because the Israelites had a covenant understanding of the word Love, which had a different connotation to the word 'love' used in English versions.

I think in any event it doesn't matter for the purposes of the argument whether the prophets made challenges to two completely contradictory beliefs held in an individual's head at the time time or not. The point would be that simply that prophets challenged the ruling teachings – they had a voice in powerful circles and their voice was recorded and past down within the powerful circles. This seems to be one of the distinctives for Israel compared to their neighbours in the ancient Near East. I can't think at the moment of any example from the region where material has come to us demonstrating challenges to the way of thinking and living of those in power, concurrent to the period of their rule. We do have examples of regimes pooh-poohing predecessor regimes, but I am not sure about interactions along the lines of the Israelite prophetic activity.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
...I cant conceive of any definition of love which would include the command to massacre your enemies.

Can you conceive of a 'love' which would command that?

The simplest answer would be "Yes, the biblical one!"

Perhaps we should try coming at this from the other end. How would you define the English word 'love' as it is used in the Bible?

I think this may be where the issue is. It's my feeling that concepts foreign to the biblical view have been imported into the bible on the back of that word and that this is what has been causing so much angst among Christians about the relationship between the OT and NT.

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shamwari
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Just to say that a major influence on my thinking on this topic has been what is called "Process Theology".

It seemed to me more favoured in the USA than in UK.

But I feel at home with it.

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Nigel M
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Ah, OK shamwari. I have to admit it's not something I favoured as it seemed me to raise more questions than it answered. But it is one of the options to consider when tackling the issue of God's behaviour across the ages.

Not sure how we got to this from Brueggemann! His attempt to develop a post-modern, reader-response, approach to reading the text would probably permit a view of God that was developmental. His various works on the Psalms tried to answer the question: What was the function and intention of the Psalms as they were shaped, transmitted, and repeatedly used? In other words, what happened as the text developed (taking 'text' here to include the oral tradition in the background to the written)?

He got rather hung up, I thought, on trying to make his way of reading compatible with form criticism. It couldn't be done - but a lot of ink was spilled in the attempt.

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sanityman
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
...I cant conceive of any definition of love which would include the command to massacre your enemies.

Can you conceive of a 'love' which would command that?

The simplest answer would be "Yes, the biblical one!"

Perhaps we should try coming at this from the other end. How would you define the English word 'love' as it is used in the Bible?

Well, here's one definition of love.

If the English word 'love' is really so inappropriate - failing to embrace massacre as it does - perhaps we need a new bible translation, where the word is left out altogether?

I confess, all the attempts I've seen to reconcile OT atrocities with the God of 1 John 4:16 end up pretty much calling black white to satisfy their high view of scripture. I'm totally happy with understanding the deeds recorded in Samuel in context with their times and cultural milieu, but isn't it easier to come to terms with different books of the bible having different views of God - especially when they're separated by about 200 years (Samuel to Isaiah)?

Pleading semantics to get out of a contradiction smacks of Bill Clinton's famous "it all depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

- Chris.

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Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only the wind will listen - TS Eliot

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
Well, here's one definition of love.

It's a good one, too - note the "does not delight in evil" phrase; that gets us a step closer to the covenant 'love versus hate', 'love versus evil', distinction that is central to the bible. One cannot exist apart from an clause dealing with the other. Jesus (and Paul) did not express a view of 'love' contrary to Deuteronomy 28.
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
If the English word 'love' is really so inappropriate - failing to embrace massacre as it does - perhaps we need a new bible translation, where the word is left out altogether?

Welcome to the wide world of bible translation! That is of course the very issue that translators have to grapple with. It's either replace to define. If there is no other word available that can facilitate the transfer of ideas, then definition / clarification is the only other way out.
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
I'm totally happy with understanding the deeds recorded in Samuel in context with their times and cultural milieu, but isn't it easier to come to terms with different books of the bible having different views of God - especially when they're separated by about 200 years (Samuel to Isaiah)?

Well, the point here is that different views of God are not necessarily incompatible views of God. Some of the arguments about 'love' in the bible presume incompatibility. I'm arguing for an alternative view: that it is the reader who has imported a skewed view of the word 'love' (and a deficient view of the worldview of the time), and that it is this that has led to a wrong understanding.
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
Pleading semantics to get out of a contradiction smacks of Bill Clinton's famous "it all depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Alas, semantics is everything. That's the nub. My argument is that the issue lies the other way - more akin to "When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." And the word 'love' has become a bedrock of just that in Christianity. The word desperately needs clarifying.
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Boogie

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Whatever meaning of love or clarification you may choose I can't see it incuding genocide.

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Kwesi
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Nigel M presents a convincing case that within the concept of a Covenant between God and the tribe of Israel that his love for them can encompass the extreme prejudice visited on the Amalekites. His critics find it difficult to reconcile the commmand to undertake such an action with the God revealed in Christ Jesus. Nigel's response is that Christians need a definition of love that satisfies both Old and New Testament usages to resolve the dispute, and avoids the sentimentalities that have become associated with the term.

ISTM that the difficulties lies less with a definition of love than with the extent of the Covenant, because that has great implications for relationships between ethnics groups and their relationship to God. Once God's favour extends to the Amalekites then his love for them will be no less than his love for Israel.

For me the problem is that I find it difficult to believe that the extent of God's love have ever been less than universal.

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Boogie

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Exactly - favouring one over the other is a lessening of Love. How an we say 'For God so loved the world' if God commands/sanctions/demands that one tribe be exterminated?

It makes no sense and (imo) rises out of a need to see the people/prophets of the OT as infallible when they thought they were led by God.

They weren't infallible , any more than we are.

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sanityman
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Nigel M, thanks for your reply, which have given me a lot to think about. I wasn't trying to be snide abot the word 'love,' but I think Humpty-Dumptyism is a real problem: one can't just arbitrarily decide on the meaning of words. Interesingly, both sides could accuse the other of this: either using the modern word for a completely different concept, or of taking the ancient's use of the word to mean something other than they did.

I believe we have both the right and the obligation to read the OT in the light of the NT. Of course, Jesus was far from all sweetness and light, as your previous list of verses illustrated, but the NT does contain elements which I find hard to reconcile with Samuel's view of God. Your point about compatibility rather than difference is well made, btw. My contention is that Isaiah's view is better than Samuel's, that the notion of God as a tribal god who plays favourites and demands blood was giving way into the vision of Joel (if you will permit me to switch prophets!):"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people."

I sense a danger of becoming purgatorial - for which my apologies in advance - but I could ask if you regard Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" an absolute moral teaching (one that has always held and is true for all parties, including God) or one that is either only appropriate from that time on (a dispensationalist view?), or more realistically applies to us but not to God? It certainly is incompatible with Samuel's actions.

I can see two get-outs: either a form of Divine Command morality which makes morality for us and for God two different things - which is a question for Purg - or a liberalisation in the way we read the bible, accepting that Samuel might actually have been wrong about God's will in that situation, however it has been recorded.

I seem to have stopped talking about the definition of love here, and started talking about morality. Still if Augustine is right, and morality consists of "Love, and do what thou wilt," then perhaps they're not too far apart.

Cheers,

- Chris.

PS: on a slightly more board-appropriate note: how much consistency are we right to demand from the bible? Is it a block given to us by God and effectively 'written' by him, or is it more like a library of different books recording man's encounter with the diving, in which the Spirit may be seen moving; like a family album rather than a constitution, complete with the occasional mad uncle? (hat tip to Brian McLaren for the image)

[ 26. June 2010, 16:03: Message edited by: sanityman ]

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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Exactly - favouring one over the other is a lessening of Love. How an we say 'For God so loved the world' if God commands/sanctions/demands that one tribe be exterminated?

It makes no sense and (imo) rises out of a need to see the people/prophets of the OT as infallible when they thought they were led by God.

They weren't infallible , any more than we are.

Are you implying that John the Evangelist was infallible?

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Others say God's a drunkard for pain
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Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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Nigel M
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Good to see this discussion, because it is useful in fleshing out the relevant issues.

Some things to clarify:-
[1] The English word 'Love' has been used as to translate Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words. It is probably the closest English word we have to get to the meaning of the those other words, but it is important to remember that it is only the product of a translation process and does not (in common with most words used in translation) have a precise 1:1 semantic match. It is necessary to define the meaning (or perhaps better, the semantic field of meaning) that the word has in common with its host language. It is a linguistic fallacy to import a semantic field from the receptor language and assume that the way we are accustomed to use to word was also the way the biblical writers used the host word.

[2] It would also be a fallacy to assume that the Greek words in the NT carry the same sense of meaning that native-born Greek speakers would have carried about with them when they used them. The NT was written with the Jewish Scriptures in mind (c.f. the sheer quantity of direct quotes and allusions to the OT in the NT) and it is therefore more likely that a translator will find the meaning of a word or phrase in a Hebrew counterpart, rather than a historical Greek one. At the very least, I would argue that onus is on the transistor to show evidence that a meaning is linguistically Greek rather than Hebrew.

[3] The covenant use of the word 'Love' (I'm sticking with the English use here though am sorely tempted to use the assorted Hebrew words as that would assist in setting some concepts to one side for the moment) does not occur in isolation. It is bound together with an opposite. Just as Deuteronomy 28 contains the two responses to covenant – loyalty and disloyalty – so love is bound with its opposites: hate and evil. We can't lever one away from the other in the bible without destroying the meaning. This is the basis for the answer to:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Whatever meaning of love or clarification you may choose I can't see it incuding genocide.

The biblical context suggests that while 'love' is not the same thing as genocide, the two areas of meaning are bound together inextricably, so in a sense, yes, love must include an understanding of what you are calling genocide. Loyalty = love, but the flip side is always that disloyalty cannot produce or mean love. There are sanctions for disloyalty, something both Jesus and Paul knew and taught. They were on all fours here with the OT understanding of God's relationship with creation. Happy to explore this in more detail if needed.

On the subject of genocide, I have always felt somewhat unsure about that word, because (like 'love'!) the word doesn't really capture what is going on in the relevant passages. The Hebrew herem (and here I have to use the Hebrew word because no English word comes close to it) is not genocide as we think of it (images of Rwanda or Kosovo). It was an element of war, surrounded with judicial and religious procedures. It was not a falling upon in the night with no warning. Again, we need to get the right image in mind here. Herem is now reserved to God (hints exist that Jesus will perform it) according to the text. Why did God allow humans to perform it in the early years of Israel? My guess is that it fell within the category of functions, like kingship and sacrifice, that God permitted and regulated for a period but that which were ultimately of no benefit to humans and could fade away without loss to the way the People of God lived. Whatever the reason, it was an accepted part of covenant sanctions in the event of disloyalty to one's overlord. The implication is that Amalek had had the opportunity to repent and return to their creator, but consistently refused and chose to fight. A desire to cut out this part of God's work has to grapple with its successors in the NT.

[4] Although I have tried to stay away from issues of canon and faith, I see that they are now being raised so will attempt to tackle them briefly as a starter. I'll kick off with Canonity here. Like it or not, we have received a set collection of books that have been transmitted down generations and the onus is on us to justify any removal of component parts. We are linked here to the issue:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
It makes no sense and (imo) rises out of a need to see the people/prophets of the OT as infallible when they thought they were led by God.

Not really Boogie. They might or might not be infallible. What matters here is that the worldview within which they operated was the same one as pervaded the poets, the narrative writers, and legal loggers.

I see the prophets acting in much the same way that Jesus did when it came to tackling the normative writings and interpretations that formed a framework for their way of living. Compare, for example, Jeremiah's confrontation with the popular saying, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes – but the children's teeth are set on edge!” (Jeremiah 31:29 – also tackled in Ezekiel 18) with Jesus' confrontation with another popular saying, “Love your neighbour – but hate your enemy!” In both cases the prophet promotes a true meaning of what has gone before, displacing the incorrect one. It doesn't negate what went before, it merely prunes out the distortions. In Jeremiah (and Ezekiel) the idea of a new covenant is not a negation of an old covenant, it is a confirmation of the old. The 'new' is the way of its working, not a change in its conditions. Equally, the series of Jesus' “You have heard it said...but I say to you...” paragraphs is prefaced by his assertion that his role is to confirm the Jewish Scriptures, not negate them (Matt. 5:17).

So, I fear we come back to Canon and dealing with uncomfortable passages in the bible. If we really want to put aside the connection between God and the herem, then we need to do two things:

[A] Firstly, we have to justify the decision to manage out those sections.
[B] Secondly, we have to be consistent. If we remove Amalek from the category of “that which is mandated on God's People for the way they live”, then we also have to remove similar and related chunks from the NT and gospel. My take is that we would end up with little left.

So – turning the question round: What exactly is the justification for not taking the herem seriously for today?

The answer thus far seems to revolve around the use of the English word 'love'. I hope I've been able to point out that this, on its own, is insufficient; it merely pushes the question back one stage: What is the justification for using the English word 'love' as a guiding principle for categorising biblical themes?

Secondly, are we really prepared to abandon huge areas of text to be consistent with our justification (if there is one)? For example, 1 Cor. 13 would have to go because it contains the language of covenant. Similarly, John 3:16 has to go (sorry about that, Boogie!) because it is dependent on those who believe – it's not a blanket coverage. Again, covenant stuff. And so on.

This is overly long – sorry. I will pause and then respond later to Kwesi's point re: covenant.

Whoops! And others who have been posting since...

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shamwari
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Nigel does us all a favour by reminding us that the meaning of words is crucial.

Hence we need to take account of the meaning of "love" in its different contexts, including the covenant context.

But, for the life of me, I cannot see how any context of the phrase "love your enemy, do good to them that hate you" ( Jesus ) can include the idea that exterminating them via wholesale massacre of man, woman, child, ox and ass and everything else is legit.

Else Jesus on the Cross, as an act of love, might well have called down the legions of angels and obliterated every Roman in sight.

He didnt. Love absorbs, not retaliates.

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Jengie jon

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Is it just me who is wondering whether part of the problem is translating God's love into human language at all. Love for humans contains a strong level of preference. You here the echoes of "If you love me truly you will love me more than you do ..."

I am also assume God is revealing himself, that it is cumulative for human experience. It seems logical that when our relationship to God was young, we assumed that God's love was like our love in far more ways than we now know it to be.


Particularly we felt that it must entail this idea of being the sole object of desire. So God loved Israel more than he loved the other tribes. That was what it meant to love Israel, and in turn Israel's love for God should be such that they would destroy anything that would stand in its way. That is portrayed by the demand they destroy the tribes, which might lead them to worship other gods. The point is not the destruction of people but singleness towards God.

Hmm I still think 9/10 of it was what they desired God to decree.

Jengie

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shamwari
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Exactly Jengie. It was what they wanted / expected God to decree.

But I think that Jesus taught God's love was indiscriminate ( as opposed to any idea that God loves one people more than others).

Jesus overturns what humans expect or want.

IMO the OT was preliminary to Jesus. I am not surprised in the least that Samuel thought God wanted the massacre of the Amalekites. It would have been surprising had he thought otherwise.

But between Samuel and Jesus a thousand plus years elapsed. And Jesus, whom we believe to be God incarnate, evidenced a very different belief.

So I say that the command in 1 Sam 15 is what Samuel believed God to require. In the light of God's command in Jesus he was patently wrong. Which is not to blame Samuel. It is to say that he was honestly and sincerely mistaken.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
ISTM that the difficulties lies less with a definition of love than with the extent of the Covenant, because that has great implications for relationships between ethnics groups and their relationship to God. Once God's favour extends to the Amalekites then his love for them will be no less than his love for Israel.

For me the problem is that I find it difficult to believe that the extent of God's love have ever been less than universal.

This is a useful strand of thought, Kwesi – easy to lose sight of the covenant forest for the verbal trees. The impression I get from the bible on this is that, yes, God's covenant is universal. It began that way – a covenant with all creation simply by virtue of his act of creation. I think, too that the writers saw the same principle applied with Noah post-flood (Gen. 9). The rebellion of Gen. 3 and its parallel in Gen. 10-11 suggests, it seems to me, that the Israelite theologians (the good ones!) were grappling with the issue of creation-covenant versus contemporary reality: that there were quite clearly nations / peoples who did not have allegiance with the universal creator God. The solution provided for an offer of covenant. “Return” was the cry.

Incidentally (and I really should stop these tangents) the idea of “Return” implies that covenant was always intended to be universal – it is not a case of God's people taking the good news to people who were not part of God's creation. It isn't “Come to God” as a new thing, it's “Come back to God.”

Anyway and so, Yes, covenant was intended to be universal. Important thing is, though, that the bible qualifies our sue of the word “unconditional.” In fact, I'm not sure the bible ever actually promotes the idea of unconditional love. The love of God is unconditional in the sense that if the Returnee accepts the conditions of return, then God will forgive (which of course also implies there is something to be forgiven) and re-establish the covenant. It's a conditional unconditional love.

In that sense, of course, the the covenant is not unconditionally universal. The offer is universal, but dependent on an act of return. [Pause to allow time for Calvinists to bellow “Arminian!!!”]

So, in brief, God's love is universally offered, but is “to all who believe.” Door open there to less than universal receipt of offer. Thus from there to sanctions for failure to accept offer. Thus from there to herem – offer put, put many times indeed, warnings of what will happen if not accepted, judicial approach to all this, and so on.

We are at the point where we have to question, “Can true love survive is there is no justice?” Indeed, can it ever be true love at all without justice? What is weak love worth? Cue ethical exam questions about watching a man rape your wife and not intervening because that would not be to love him... (anyone else remember those questions?!)

quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
I believe we have both the right and the obligation to read the OT in the light of the NT

There's a element of circularity in what we've been discussing here, isn't there? In order the understand the OT we need the NT. But, in order to understand the NT we need the OT!

It's not easy, I know; and I am not sure how one starts on that circle. I think one way would be for Christians to ask themselves when reading a NT passage, “Where did he get that from?”

RE: the Joel 2 passage. Joel puts the Spirit outpouring in the context of the Day of the Lord and this from verse 32...
quote:
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
...which, of course, sets up the conditional call / offer setting. In that respect Joel is very similar to Samuel. Perhaps we should ask whether Luke (as author of Acts as well as his Gospel) understood anything different when he quoted Peter's use of the Joel 2 passage in Acts 2. I'm not so sure he does, because he also confirms the conditionality of what God was offering (Acts 2:21).

It just seems to me that wherever we look there is a consistency of message and a reinforcement of message in the face of incorrect interpretations.
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
I could ask if you regard Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" an absolute moral teaching (one that has always held and is true for all parties, including God) or one that is either only appropriate from that time on (a dispensationalist view?), or more realistically applies to us but not to God? It certainly is incompatible with Samuel's actions.

Actually I am arguing that it is not incompatible, Chris. It presents part of the covenant conditions – the offer - and we can trace that theme through the whole bible. 1 Sam. 15 presents the linked part of covenant conditions – the sanction – and we can also trace that theme through the whole bible.

I think that approach dissipates the need for a moral conundrum over the extent of application. If we do bracket out 1 Samuel from the record, then we are faced with the questions I posted in the last post about the Canon.
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
...on a slightly more board-appropriate note: how much consistency are we right to demand from the bible? Is it a block given to us by God and effectively 'written' by him, or is it more like a library of different books recording man's encounter with the diving, in which the Spirit may be seen moving; like a family album rather than a constitution, complete with the occasional mad uncle?

Wow! What a massive topic!!!! I'll go for a good British compromise – it is in between the two options. God's Word in human words – which is more about the language capability of humans to describe God in the way God authorised them to do so – even if they were not completely aware of that authorisation.

I find helpful the linguistic approach that builds on speech act theory here: meaning lies in paying attention to the words used by the authors in the way they used them. That can apply to both the human writers and the divine.

Another way to look at it – from a theological base rather than a linguistic one – is incarnational. God 'births' the message through the lives of the theologians who studied him so well.

An yet another model: Scriptural angle this time. God has a purpose to his message which, to use the metaphor in Isaiah 55:10f - “...as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

It's possible to marry those three models together – all pay attention to purpose in communication. So – what was the purpose of 1 Samuel 15 from a divine as well as human authorial point of view?

Nigel

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sanityman
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[ETA: complete crosspost with Nigel M! My apologies, haven't had the time to read it at all, and far too late now...]

It's far too late for me to attempt a full response to Nigel M. If I might just pick out a couple of points that sprang out?

1) You wrote:
quote:
Jesus' confrontation with another popular saying, “Love your neighbour – but hate your enemy!” In both cases the prophet promotes a true meaning of what has gone before, displacing the incorrect one. It doesn't negate what went before, it merely prunes out the distortions. In Jeremiah (and Ezekiel) the idea of a new covenant is not a negation of an old covenant, it is a confirmation of the old. The 'new' is the way of its working, not a change in its conditions. Equally, the series of Jesus' “You have heard it said...but I say to you...” paragraphs is prefaced by his assertion that his role is to confirm the Jewish Scriptures, not negate them (Matt. 5:17).
I'm somewhat confused then: are we to love (Gk 'agape') our enemies or hate them? Saying that Jesus is 'removing distortions' here really isn't good enough: he's overturning the original meaning and replacing it with its polar opposite. It almost sounds like your 'complementarian' view of the bible is dictating your exegesis here. If you do believe that the bible is a divinely-dictated constitution, then obviously it must be consistent and be read as giving the same message throughout. However, I don't believe that this is the right way of looking at the bible.

2) your covenant use of 'love' doesn't seem to bear much relationship to the meaning of 'agape' (the word used by Jesus, and also in 1 John) as preached in numerous sermons or in Wikipedia: " divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love." I recognise that Wikipedia is scarcely a theological dictionary, so please give a better definition of 'agape' if that's appropriate.

Jengie: excellent thought. I'm reminded of an essay by CS Lewis where he said words to the effect that the love of God is terrifying because it's so much stronger and more pure than anything we can conceive.

- Chris.

[ 26. June 2010, 22:50: Message edited by: sanityman ]

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Bullfrog.:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Exactly - favouring one over the other is a lessening of Love. How an we say 'For God so loved the world' if God commands/sanctions/demands that one tribe be exterminated?

It makes no sense and (imo) rises out of a need to see the people/prophets of the OT as infallible when they thought they were led by God.

They weren't infallible , any more than we are.

Are you implying that John the Evangelist was infallible?
He was also as fallible as you or I, but he speaks of the same God Jesus demonstrates. You can't love and slaughter your enemies.

1 Samuel is a part of the backdrop, imo, so I don't worry so much about how inspired or confused those who thought God was asking them to commit genocide. I just don't believe (or need to believe) that he was. Why the need to reconcile scripture which is contradictory on the most important point there is?


There are still people today who say 'God is telling me to kill them all and will reward me in heaven' [Frown] That doesn't make it so.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
...your covenant use of 'love' doesn't seem to bear much relationship to the meaning of 'agape' (the word used by Jesus, and also in 1 John) as preached in numerous sermons or in Wikipedia: " divine, unconditional, ...

I think the answer to this point may lie in my last post (cross-posted with your last post) in the reply to Kwesi's post (this is getting confusing!), to wit the aspect of unconditional offer of 'love', which can be consciously rejected, leading to sanctions. Happy to discuss further...

On the use of agape in the NT, I would go with my my earlier conclusion that the background lies in its OT context, the linguistic link for which lies helpfully in the various versions of the Septuagint (there is also a theological link between OT and NT – I referred to that earlier).

Perhaps it would help to use Lev. 19 as a test case here, given that it forms the background to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5. Here is the immediate co-text (using the NET version):-
quote:
You must not deal unjustly in judgement: you must neither show partiality to the poor nor honour the rich. You must judge your fellow citizen fairly. You must not go about as a slanderer among your people. You must not stand idly by when your neighbour's life is at stake. I am the Lord. You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord. You must keep my statutes. You must not allow two different kinds of your animals to breed, you must not sow your field with two different kinds of seed, and you must not wear a garment made of two different kinds of fabric.
This is addressed to the community of God (“fellow-citizen”, “your people”, your neighbour”, your brother”). This passage does not deal with a universal application to all creation. The neighbour here is not someone outside of the community. Now, this does not necessarily mean that it can't be applied universally, but we would need to justify this. What it does argue for is consistent justice within the community – the three little proverbs at the end seem to be grouped together for just this reason, to point out that you should not apply two inconsistent principles in your way of life. Jesus picks this up in Matthew 6 with his “No-one can serve two masters...” saying. Notice in the above passage that such consistency includes demands for justice: being just, not being partial, “judge your fellow-citizen fairly”, “reprove your fellow-citizen” ... There had to be a process for judgement among the People of God. That was all included in the “love your neighbour context.”

So, agapao (the verbal form of agape) includes judgement in its context where it is necessary. Does this context appear in the Sermon on the Mount, or does Jesus sweep all the aspects of judgement aside? Well, apart from the clear point Jesus made about not abolishing the Jewish Scriptures (Matt. 5:17ff), we also have restrictions on entry into the Kingdom, hell for those show contempt for their fellow-citizens in God's community (5:22, 27-30), reciprocal judgement for false justice (7:1ff), rejection of those who fail to match up to God's will (7:21ff), and so on.

Jesus, it seems clear to me, was offering a sermon on the meaning of Leviticus. What he condemns is not the uncomfortable readings, rather what he does is reinforce the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He sweeps away not the judgement, but the false interpretations of Leviticus. If we wish to apply a tooth extractor to the painful passages in Leviticus, then we would also, to be consistent, have to jemmy out a good 50% of Jesus' teaching.

If I had to offer a translation of agape in Matthew 5-7, then on the basis of the above I would go for something like showing “justice to your fellow-citizens in God's Kingdom.” That seems to summarise the context. The argument as to whether we can extrapolate this across creation (and thus outside of God's community) will have to await another time – but I would just note that Leviticus does also deal with non-citizens in its work (e.g., the immigrants in 19:33f).


Broadening out to tackle the point being raised (Jengie Jon and others) about a developmental understanding of God. Again, let me repeat that different understandings of God do not necessarily mean incompatible understandings of God. I hope I've offered enough evidence to show that the NT teachings were not incompatible with those of the OT. I would need more counter-evidence to consider here, if it can be provided.

It's important also to note that we are dependent on the relative dating of texts, here. It may well be that the events recorded in 1 Samuel were 1,000 years prior to Jesus – or even 500 years prior to Isaiah – but the record may well have dated from the same time as Isaiah. I find it highly improbable that the theologians who had devoted their life to understanding God and who had written and collected together the documents that have passed the test of time, would have been unaware of the existence of incompatibilities. I get the impression from this developmental argument that, surely, by the time of Isaiah at least, they would have cottoned onto the fact that God was now demonstrating a universal love and not a tribal one? Yet they were happy to place the documents on love and justice side by side. They did not see an inconsistency – and I think this is because there was no inconsistency.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
quote:
Originally posted by Bullfrog:
Are you implying that John the Evangelist was infallible?

He was also as fallible as you or I, but he speaks of the same God Jesus demonstrates. You can't love and slaughter your enemies.
I think Bullfrog may have been slipping John's Book of Revelation in under the radar here, Boogie. I would certainly agree that Revelation speaks of the same God Jesus demonstrates, and that therefore logically must say that God/Jesus will 'love' and 'slaughter' enemies.
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
There are still people today who say 'God is telling me to kill them all and will reward me in heaven'

I see I need to clarify something else here in case there is any confusion. Herem, like Kingship, is a function defined in respect to God's character. He may have permitted it within certain tightly regulated parameters, but it is not a function that God's People needed themselves. Kings were permitted and regulated, but when they disappeared that did not prove fatal to God's People. Sacrifices were permitted and regulated, but when they disappeared it did not prove fatal to God's People. Anyone wishing to restore herem, or kingship, or sacrifice, to a human function would have to justify it from the bible as being a universally human necessity. I would be highly interested to see what arguments are put forward in so justifying herem!

A better question to ask, I think, it why God did not place herem behind the red line. He did so place child sacrifice. Why would the laws that forbade child sacrifice at the same time permit (albeit in restricted circumstances) herem?

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Boogie

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Nigel M said -

Anyone wishing to restore herem, or kingship, or sacrifice, to a human function would have to justify it from the bible as being a universally human necessity. I would be highly interested to see what arguments are put forward in so justifying herem!

So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

--------------------
Garden. Room. Walk

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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
Nigel M said -

Anyone wishing to restore herem, or kingship, or sacrifice, to a human function would have to justify it from the bible as being a universally human necessity. I would be highly interested to see what arguments are put forward in so justifying herem!

So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

If I were to throw out a hypothesis, it might be that God had to start somewhere. You had to build a loving community within a shell before you could break it open and show it to all peoples. This fits well, I think, with the gospel and with the prophetic tradition. The rules that govern "good" or fitting behavior at the beginning of something may not necessarily be useful throughout.

I'm sometimes fond of quipping (and I have yet to see an exception, including the modern ones) that you can't build a nation without wiping out a few peoples. It's always seemed a tad hypocritical for Americans to get morally superior when our own nation was founded with a genocide; and we still profit from stolen lands.

Some might say that God could've hypothetically made another world where nobody had to compete with anyone and we'd begin with the eschaton, but that might be another argument.

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

The point has been that herem has always been justified by God - that is what the record says. I think the onus is the other way round: what evidence is there that then entire corpus of biblical writers only thought they were justified - presumably incorrectly?
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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

The point has been that herem has always been justified by God - that is what the record says. I think the onus is the other way round: what evidence is there that then entire corpus of biblical writers only thought they were justified - presumably incorrectly?
Tiptoing around a certain dead horse...

For some it's easy. The bible is in some ways a human artifact. These folks were victims of their space and time, just as we are, writing from their own particular context.

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Bullfrog.:
For some it's easy. The bible is in some ways a human artifact. These folks were victims of their space and time, just as we are, writing from their own particular context.

Absolutely no problem with that, Bullfrog; God's Word in human words. I tend to concentrate on this board far more on the human element, because I think this has been a neglected part of Christian reading and has much to offer. Looking at the text as a human product, of course, does not invalidate the possibility that it is consistent throughout. I pray in aid the fact that it has been retained and passed down the generations, that fact that the texts we have demonstrate a high degree of linguistic competence (they are not the product of a "I woz here" chiseling!).

What I am challenging on this thread is the assumption - imported from a western reader-response stance - that the varied texts must have been a presentation of incompatible principles across time. I have not yet been presented with any decent evidence to the support this.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

The point has been that herem has always been justified by God - that is what the record says. I think the onus is the other way round: what evidence is there that then entire corpus of biblical writers only thought they were justified - presumably incorrectly?
Yes, incorrectly - in my view.

But who am I ?

--------------------
Garden. Room. Walk

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Bullfrog.

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
So why do you seem to think they were justified by God in ancient times? (As opposed to the prophets/kings thinking they were justified by God)?

The point has been that herem has always been justified by God - that is what the record says. I think the onus is the other way round: what evidence is there that then entire corpus of biblical writers only thought they were justified - presumably incorrectly?
Yes, incorrectly - in my view.

But who am I ?

And what is the Bible? And who are those ancient people, anyway?

Nigel: I think the trouble is partly that Jesus is thought to have fulfilled the messianic prophecy that someday all the gentiles would worship God in spirit and in truth.

Before that, it was necessary to protect holy Israel from the profane gentiles. After that, it changed and the gentiles were supposed to be welcomed. Whether this means God changed, people changed, or something in God's plan for reality changed, but I think it's hard to read the OT and the NT and come to the conclusion that nothing changed.

[ 27. June 2010, 16:18: Message edited by: Bullfrog. ]

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Bullfrog.:
I think the trouble is partly that Jesus is thought to have fulfilled the messianic prophecy that someday all the gentiles would worship God in spirit and in truth.

Before that, it was necessary to protect holy Israel from the profane gentiles. After that, it changed and the gentiles were supposed to be welcomed. Whether this means God changed, people changed, or something in God's plan for reality changed, but I think it's hard to read the OT and the NT and come to the conclusion that nothing changed.

That certainly is the option being touted - but again the universal aspect of the offer appears in Genesis 1 - 12 (among other places), so I query where the evidence is that supports an exclusive to inclusive view? On a narratival reading (the presentation of the history in its order) it would be inclusive - exclusive - inclusive. On a possible compositional reading (date of compilation) it would appear to be inclusive all the way, with occasional focus on the role of Israel in the wider covenantal inclusivity. But an exclusive to inclusive reading appears to completely misread the order of narrative and composition. At the least, it certainly should be questioned. I certainly have some questions!!!

I would, for example, suggest that the messianic prophecy did not appear out of nothing, but that had its root in the understanding that Israel had a role vis-a-vis creation generally. The Garden of Eden lurks heavily in the background.

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sanityman
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Yes Nigel, sorry about the confusion. I'm afraid I'm off on holiday for a week now, with limited/no internet, but if this is still going when I come back I look forward to seeing what everyone has been saying. In the meantime, best wishes to all,

- Chris.

--------------------
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only the wind will listen - TS Eliot

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
Yes Nigel, sorry about the confusion. I'm afraid I'm off on holiday for a week now, with limited/no internet, but if this is still going when I come back I look forward to seeing what everyone has been saying. In the meantime, best wishes to all,

- Chris.

Have a great break, Chris! Enjoy...
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Pooks
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[Tangent]

Reading this thread has made me think about why so many Christians (myself included) would take the love/nice bit of Christ's teaching as something that is real and reflective of God, (and therefore we should follow), but somehow think of the warning passages as symbolic only therefore can be discarded. Perhaps we see the warning passages as Victorian and out of date or perhaps it's because the warnings are something that we can only read about but can not actually 'do' much about (or more likely we don't like), that's making us having this slightly schizophrenic treatment to the overall message. Personally, I think the danger with this practice is that I probably have ended up with either a distorted or an incomplete view of Christ.

There is much to learn, I guess. Thank you all for making me think. (A rare occurance.) Heh.

[/Tangent]

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Bullfrog.

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That a passage is symbolic doesn't mean that it's empty, just that it requires a different kind of reading. A lot of what Jesus said and did was symbolic.

--------------------
Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
So – what was the purpose of 1 Samuel 15 from a divine as well as human authorial point of view?

I like this way of framing the question, especially against the background of covenant that you keep reminding us of. I would think the divine purpose would have to be contained within the human authorial purpose in some way, but not necessarily in such a way that the human authorial purpose is a complete and exact expression of the divine purpose within. Instead, the human authorial purpose can be seen as relating to God's covenant with the nation of Israel with regard to the promised land of Canaan in the same way that the divine purpose relates to God's covenant with us as individuals and collectively with regard to heaven and the Kingdom of God.

With 1 Samuel 15, the human authorial purpose might be to remind Israel of the need for absolute obedience to God in order for them to be assured of defeating their enemies and enjoying the fruits of the land. Similarly, the divine purpose might be to remind us of the need for our absolute obedience to God in order for us to be assured of defeating our own tendencies toward evil and enjoying the fruits of heaven. The two purposes don't need to be identical. The human authorial purpose can contain the divine purpose just by being in a similar form or shape as the divine purpose, but expressed in a specific historical/social context.

The difficulties come from looking for divine purpose in the textual description of a relationship between God on the one hand and the individual Amalekites on the other. If instead one looks for divine purpose by viewing the Amalekites as a textual substitution for some evil tendency in us as individuals or as a society, there is no conflict to resolve. The human authorial message can be a key to understanding the divine message, but it doesn't have to actually be that divine message.

However, something tells me that other people's mileage will be somewhat different.

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A new church and a new earth, with Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Bullfrog.:
I think the trouble is partly that Jesus is thought to have fulfilled the messianic prophecy that someday all the gentiles would worship God in spirit and in truth.

Before that, it was necessary to protect holy Israel from the profane gentiles. After that, it changed and the gentiles were supposed to be welcomed. Whether this means God changed, people changed, or something in God's plan for reality changed, but I think it's hard to read the OT and the NT and come to the conclusion that nothing changed.

That certainly is the option being touted - but again the universal aspect of the offer appears in Genesis 1 - 12 (among other places), so I query where the evidence is that supports an exclusive to inclusive view? On a narratival reading (the presentation of the history in its order) it would be inclusive - exclusive - inclusive. On a possible compositional reading (date of compilation) it would appear to be inclusive all the way, with occasional focus on the role of Israel in the wider covenantal inclusivity. But an exclusive to inclusive reading appears to completely misread the order of narrative and composition. At the least, it certainly should be questioned. I certainly have some questions!!!

I agree with Nigel.

Even in the darkest and most unfathomable parts of the OT, like Joshua, the reading is inclusive. I read Joshua 2 to say that if the whole city of Jericho had responded to their 'fear of the LORD' in the way Rahab did they would have been welcomed into the covenant community.

Same message in the OT as in the NT, ISTM.

It is an exclusive message (you have to come to God, he won't just leave you where you are) to be sure, but it is always inclusive to any who would come.

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shamwari
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W.Hyatt wrote

"If instead one looks for divine purpose by viewing the Amalekites as a textual substitution for some evil tendency in us as individuals or as a society, there is no conflict to resolve."

I dont get this.

Spiritualising the 'Amalekites' to represent some evil tendency in us, thus making room for them to be destroyed on moral grounds, is opening a Pandora's box.

To my mind genocide can't ever be excused. It is immoral. Full stop. And a moral God would be a monster to stoop to that level. If the Cross of Christ tells us anything it is that the God who was in Christ did not take that line of retaliation against the Romans who could also be regarded as representing an evil tendency in all of us. Are we not supposed to "overcome evil with good"?

I also find the idea that God is defending His Chosen People and being loyal to the covenant established with them as being a reason for permitting the massacre of their enemies very sub-Christian. If not totally un-Christian.

And I find the concept of one favoured nation being given the promise of a land at the expense of those already inhabiting it unacceptable. Is not God the God and Father of all humankind?

There are moral issues raised here which I think originate in the mistaken attempt to prove that the whole of scripture is divinely inspired. I see the OT (and it is the record of a nation's history written up from the point of view of its 'faith') as preliminary to the NT revelation in Christ. I take the revelation of God in Christ to be definitive and all else to be evaluated with respect to that.

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shamwari
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Following on:

Do we not believe that all people are "created in the image of God" and therefore to be respected and accorded dignity and worth?

And does not God love all people with the same indiscriminate love?

And, when it comes to the Amalekites ( who were no worse sinners than any other of their time) may I be allowed to misquote -:

Hath not an Amalekite hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick him, does he not bleed? If
you tickle him, does he not laugh? If you poison him, does he not die?
And if you wrong him, does he not revenge?

For me every human being is equal in the sight and favour of God. The more so by virtue of creation and redemption. Hence engaging in wholesale extermination (which the 'herem' requires) is not on.

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