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Source: (consider it) Thread: Kerygmania: A Sovereign God
W Hyatt
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Actually, although we have different views about the nature of the Old Testament, I agree with everything else you say in both posts from this point on:

quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
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. ...

By "textual substitution" I mean that I think that there was no actual divine command for any killing - only an illustration of a divine command to reject evil in ourselves. I'm not sure how you are understanding my post, but I'm certainly not suggesting there's any room for destroying the Amalekites on moral grounds. However much the human author might have been intending to record actual history, I think God used the results as nothing more than a story to illustrate the relationship between obedience and evil - somewhat as an allegory or parable. I don't take it as a description of how God actually viewed the real Amalekites.

ETA: a response to shamwari's post:
quote:
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.


[ 28. June 2010, 15:57: Message edited by: W Hyatt ]

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shamwari
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My response is to say that I believe the writer of 1 Sam was recording history and he really did believe that God had commanded the massacre.

Allegorising the passage ( which it seems to me you are doing) resolves the difficulty but, in the context of this part of the OT, I dont think that allegory plays any part at all.


But maybe I am not getting the point you make.

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Kwesi
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quote:
Shamwari: My response is to say that I believe the writer of 1 Sam was recording history and he really did believe that God had commanded the massacre.
Spot on, Shamwari! Let's not beat about the bush, Samuel literally meant what he said, and Saul lost his mandate for not fulfilling the command to the letter. Spiritualising an event such as that creates the mentality which leads religious people to assent to atrocities of the most appalling kind, for by demonsing opponents any action against them is not only justified but welcome, indeed, mandatory. Let the crusades, the inquisition, apartheid, and the dispossession of the Palestinians etc. attest.

If I am told that the God of Samuel, who issues a command to commit a war-crime, is also the Christian God, then I have no desire to worship him. The God of Samuel divided humanity between Jews and Gentiles, and people like us were lumped together with the Amalekites, so I guess that God is not looking out for us anyway.

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W Hyatt
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Wow - there must be something about my original post that I'm totally unaware of. I can agree with both of these:

quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
quote:
Shamwari: My response is to say that I believe the writer of 1 Sam was recording history and he really did believe that God had commanded the massacre.
Spot on, Shamwari! Let's not beat about the bush, Samuel literally meant what he said, and Saul lost his mandate for not fulfilling the command to the letter.
But I'm really perplexed about how I gave any impression of something even remotely like this:

quote:
Spiritualising an event such as that creates the mentality which leads religious people to assent to atrocities of the most appalling kind, for by demonsing opponents any action against them is not only justified but welcome, indeed, mandatory. Let the crusades, the inquisition, apartheid, and the dispossession of the Palestinians etc. attest.

If I am told that the God of Samuel, who issues a command to commit a war-crime, is also the Christian God, then I have no desire to worship him. The God of Samuel divided humanity between Jews and Gentiles, and people like us were lumped together with the Amalekites, so I guess that God is not looking out for us anyway.

I take it you're saying that I sound like I'm using the Bible to justify ill treatment of other people, but that's the opposite of what I'm doing. My approach to reading the Bible leads me to look inside myself to identify and reject anything that leads me to judge, condemn, or look down on anyone else - I see the Amalekites as representing something inside me that I need to wipe out, not as representing anything in other people that I need to do anything about. I do not identify with some people in the Old Testament stories and not with others - I take them all as representing various aspects of my own mind. It's not for me to concern myself with any else's spiritual state or their relationship with God.

If you (or anyone) could point out how I gave such a negative impression, I would greatly appreciate it because I'd like to be able to avoid doing the same thing again in the future.

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shamwari
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I must say that I feel for you in your rejection of the impression you have given.

But, in all honesty, I have to say that it is an impression which is wide open to the kind of objections raised.

I do not think that it is legitimate to 'spiritualise' the difficult (and immoral) OT passages and relate them to internal conflicts between good and evil within ourselves.

Sure there is evil within us (as Paul emphasised in Romans 7) and it needs to be eliminated.

But the OT writers are recording history as they saw it in a quite literal sense. Lets just accept that. To allegorise and spiritualise that is to court the objection which Kwesi raised and with which I agree wholeheartedly.

As he implied in a contemporary context, to allegorise the "Palestinians" as being indicative of an evil within us is to legitimise their ill-treatment if 1 Sam is taken as authoritative.

As Kwesi said; Lets not beat about the bush. Samuel's understanding of God ( 1000+ years before Christ) led him to advocate the 'herem' of Israel's enemies.

We know differently now, in the light of God's definitive revelation in Christ. I am simply pleading for an acknowledgement of something that is historically true; namely that we accept that Samuel's understanding was partial and cannot be justified in the light of Christian understanding.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
As Kwesi said; Lets not beat about the bush. Samuel's understanding of God ( 1000+ years before Christ) led him to advocate the 'herem' of Israel's enemies.

We know differently now, in the light of God's definitive revelation in Christ. I am simply pleading for an acknowledgement of something that is historically true; namely that we accept that Samuel's understanding was partial and cannot be justified in the light of Christian understanding.

Thanks for your response. I completely agree with what you say here and I'm surprised by the idea of applying a similar approach to any contemporary context because that would never even occur to me, let alone as a legitimate thing to do. I have no objection to seeing the Old Testament the way you do, but I'm still puzzled about how allegorizing or spiritualizing can be connected to misapplying the stories it contains. I'm left wondering if my words sound superficially like what people have said in the past to justify their detestable treatment of others because I see no danger in my approach leading me to anything at all similar. To the contrary, it leads me closer to a concept of God as pure and infinite love.

In any case, I apologize for triggering this tangent because I would really like to see the previous conversation continue.

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Kwesi
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H Hyatt, let me associate myself with the contents of Shawari's reply, and sincerely apologise for any unfair criticism- I certainly did not wish to imply that you held any of the negative attitudes listed. My object was to keep the focus on whether or not the God revealed in Jesus Christ could possibly have ordered the elimination of the Amalekites. In my view discussions of definitions of love, covenant, and spiritualisation of the story in a number of posts have tended to obscure the reality of the indiscriminate dismemberment and disembowelment of women and children, let alone men and animals, systematically hacked to death by swords and knives etc.. That's what the story is about, and what has to be addressed. It's about blood and guts not semantic definitions and inner spirituality.

Where I would take issue with you is where you write I see the Amalekites as representing something inside me that I need to wipe out, not as representing anything in other people that I need to do anything about. Can I suggest (a) that the Amalekites are not an evil that need to be wiped out, and (b) that the Amalekites are other people you need to do something about, but not in the manner ordered by Samuel? They are the Ninevites who so concerned the God of Jonah, and the Gentiles turned into God's friends in Paul's letters.

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W Hyatt
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Thank you, Kwesi. That helps me understand how my post came across. I understand your suggestions and agree that they are the way Christ would have us treat all people. I also agree that Christ revealed to us a God who could never have ordered the elimination of the Amalekites. I'm not convinced that I need to give up my way of reading the Old Testament, but you have helped me understand the problems it can cause when I try to argue that it has divine authority.

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Kwesi
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W Hyatt, thank you for your gracious reply. I think it important to remember that for Christians it is Christ who is the measure of all things, and that includes scripture, both Old and New Testaments. As Paul reminds us: 'God's secret is Christ himself. He is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God's wisdom and knowledge.' (Col. 2: 2a-3).
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Nigel M
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Kwesi, re: your view on semantics. Semantics and meaning are crucial here, even though they are by no means the only issue. They cannot be swept under the carpet. This is because:

* Ultimately this thread has been about one's view of God.
* One's view of God is determined by one's view of the Messiah, Jesus.
* One's view of Jesus is mediated by the bible – and therefore by one's view of the bible.
* The bible is wordy.
* The only criterion I have seen on this thread (and elsewhere when this discussion opens up) in support of rejecting certain passages of the bible is that of 'love.'
* Now as soon as that word was used as a criterion, it becomes absolutely necessary to define that word. Failure to do so risks a distortion of meaning – as anyone who has had their words taken out of context will tell you!
* A distorted meaning will lead to a distorted understanding of the bible, ergo of Jesus, ergo of God.
* That, in turn, will distort one's way of living.

Semantics is everything in this context. It will determine the course of faith and life one leads, whether one realises it or not.

Here, it seems to me, it's now either a case of accepting that 'love' in the bible does not mean what you want it to mean, or of seeking a new criterion to use. When this stage is reached the only recourse tends to fall back on something that amounts to little more than gut-feeling: the biblical record on blood and guts doesn't 'feel' right. Is that because we have been brought up in a time of human rights and universal declarations? Is that the presupposition that drives the gut feeling? What is the presupposition? What is the evidence?

Alternatively, one can argue that it is the Spirit that leads us in deciding on the truth. That's a whole new argument, worthy of a thread in its own right, but it only leads us back to the relationship to Jesus and from there to the bible – back where we are now.

I've pointed out that the bible is consistent in its approach on the balance between 'love' and judgement. The criterion of love – and therefore the criterion of God – demands that we take seriously genocide in the NT as well. I have always been interested to see what criterion is used to lever those passages out of the way.

Additionally, as pointed out before, the 'love' criterion fails to answer questions raised about canon, tradition, and community. As you can see, this whole debate involves far more than an approach to a few passages in 1 Samuel 15. The implications run far and wide!

On a separate note, I know that there must be a number of issues that W Hyatt won't see eye to eye with me on over the interpretations and readings I end up with, but we both have in common a belief that the Bible has a consistency across all its pages. This doesn't trump individual human styles when writing, but if the assorted human writers see a common thread across the ages, even if they express it in different ways, then surely that consistency is a factor that has to be taken into consideration when seeking knowledge of God and how God wants us to live?

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
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.

It's a common and understandable argument for rejecting those parts of the bible, but these days everything needs to be justified; full stops don't hack it any more!

RE: the evidential points you helpfully raise.

[1] The cross as an example of non-retaliatory action. The cross means quite a few things, but one of them is the aspect brought out by Luke at Jesus' trial (22:69) - “From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God”, which puts the whole crucifixion event in line with Daniel's vision (chapter 7) of the setting up of a court of judgement, with God as the senior Judge, and then one like a Son of Man approaching in vindication. It is extremely hard to extract 'love' in action from the purpose of that action – to pave the way for justice.

[2] Overcoming evil with good. Again it's worth placing this in context because although Paul talks about love in this section (Romans 12:9-21) he does so with these comments alongside:
“Hate what is evil”
“Leave room for God's wrath”

However we cut it, we cannot divorce 'love' from judgement. Overcoming evil with good can, in this context, mean not being overcome by evil (which is what Paul says in v.21), but remaining loyal to God and not giving in to any desires to be disloyal. There is a line in the sand that God marks out, across which he will not permit people to cross without sanction. There is room for love, yes, but always within bounds. The bible is consistent about that.

[3] Covenant loyalty and massacre as being un-Christian. Sadly this cuts both ways. If the bible is consistent about linking 'love' with judgement, then surely anything that cuts out the latter part of that equation is, in fact, un-Christian. It may be religious, but it cannot be Christian. As mentioned in earlier posts, the weight of evidence is important here. Which aspect is more biblical? More on this below under the image of God theme.

[4] Land as a gift – taken from the possessor. We probably need to address this in a separate thread, as it is a big subject that risks stalling the current topic. I'm also not sure whether Kerygmania would be the appropriate place for it, as Land is as much a theological battleground as biblical. A biblical response, though (and very briefly) would have to take account of Land – all land – as possessed by God, and the role of humans as God's image in it. It's a good starting point.

[5] God as Father of all humans. Absolutely no issue with this. It's biblical, consistently biblical. On its own, however, I don't see how it can get us to universal acceptance without constraint. Even the prodigal son had to return before his Father met him. The Father in that parable did not travel to the far land to try and convince his wayward son by sheer love to return with him. I can only here refer back to what I said before: 'love' is presented in the bible as a conditional offer.

[6] Arguments against 'love' stem from a false presupposition: that Scripture is inspired. Thus far I have attempted to prove only that the text that has been transmitted down the centuries is consistent. I've deliberately avoided any reference to inspiration, inerrancy or any other inn on the way. This is because such arguments do not cut ice with non-Christians and I have tended over the years to focus more on the missional aspect of biblical defence, rather than the 'churchy.' In any event, the argument that belief in inspiration will colour one's interpretation is, I'm sure, correct. This does not prove, though, that such belief necessarily distorts interpretation. The colour may turn out to be the right pigment all the way through the cloth. It may equally be argued that a lack of belief in inspiration will distort one's interpretation, because, after all, one would not want to see in the text a God who does not conform to one's own image.

[7] The revelation of God in Christ is definitive. I hope I've answered this sufficiently in earlier posts with reference to the fact that God's revelation in Christ includes judgement. All else must then be evaluated with that in mind as well.

[8] Humans are the image of God – and worth dignity. The image of God theme is one of my favourite watering holes! The image of 'image' in the ancient Near East had less to do with dignity (that was merely good manners) and much more to do with the role of ruling under a higher suzerain. The junior ruler was described as being in the image of his overlord. He was to rule as though the overlord was doing the ruling. This snaps into place with the role given to Adam and Eve in the Garden, to rule creation. Paul understood it this way, too, when he described the role Jesus had/has as God's image (Colossians 1:15-23). It wasn't about worth or dignity (God had that anyway), but was about just rulership (for those who continue in the faith, that is).

Of interest here in respect of 'image' (to pick up point [3] above) is the role of the bible in all this. If Christ is the perfect image of God, is our point of contact for defining the way we live (and what we believe), and if the predominant route of access to this Christ is via the record in the bible, then is not the bible the “image of the image” (to coin a phrase)? And if we rely on that bible to gain understanding of the image, then surely we need to ensure we have as correct an interpretation as possible in case we distort the image?

[9] God loves all with the same indiscriminate love. Again, I've answered that in earlier posts. There is a discrimination at the point of acceptance, according to the record. Some return, some don't. Indiscriminate love applies at the point of offer.

[10] Amalek is as equal in God's sight as any other being. Yes, that is consistent with Paul's assertions (neither male or female, slave nor free....), though this has to be seen in the context of God's offer. All are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26-29) if they belong to Christ Jesus. God does not offer salvation on the basis of partisanship, but does distinguish between those who follow Abraham, and those who do not when it comes to who accepts the offer.

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shamwari
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Posted by Nigel M

"Here, it seems to me, it's now either a case of accepting that 'love' in the bible does not mean what you want it to mean, or of seeking a new criterion to use. "

Am I missing a trick here?

It is often said that those who use the criterion of 'love' do so because they want to believe in a 'nice' God. And to remove all the offensive genocidal material.

Not so. There is nothing 'nice' about the Love incarnate in Christ. I would much prefer not being commanded to love my enemies. Nor do I prefer being told to offer an unlimited forgiveness ( 70 x 7). And I dont find it comfortable to know that love absorbs evil into itself (thus transmuting it) rather than retaliates.

The fact that to love is a command to do rather than feel not only removes it from the emotional context, transferring it to the volitional, but makes it that much harder.

That kind of 'niceness' does not fit with my predelictions. If I really wanted a 'nice' God I would look and believe elsewhere.

But the fact remains for me. The 'love' which I see incarnate in Jesus precludes all semblance of eliminating ones enemies by massacaring them.

And why, I ask, does the Bible have to be consistent in its message from Joshua to Jesus? It isn't.

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shamwari
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Nigel M's last post crossed with mine.

It raises an issue.

I do not say that love excludes judgement. But Nigel seems to identify judgement with condemnation and punishment which, IMO, is quite wrong.

Moreover there is a sense in which John's gospel (Ch 3) gets to the heart of the matter. He says that there is a judgement but then makes it clear that it is a judgement we bring upon ourselves rather than one inflicted upon us.

And, when it comes to punishment, I believe we are punished BY our sins and not FOR our sins.

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Nigel M
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I agree about the 'nice' bit, shamwari; I'm not sure the bible even has a word for 'nice.' I doubt even the most loyal of loyal subjects would ever have described a suzerain as 'nice'!

John 3:16-18 makes the point – in addition to the loving giving of God's Son – that those who do not believe are condemned. Again, the context of love is always shot through with limitation. I would qualify your conclusion that people are punished BY their sin: sin, after all, is inanimate, but the person who deliberately rebels against God (which the meaning of 'sin') is condemned by God. The sin is just the output of that person's decision. I agree 'judgement' is not the same as 'condemnation' (thought the word can mean that in places in the bible). More often the process is presented as judgement which may mean a guilty or a not guilty verdict.

I'm not pulling a doom and gloom message because that's all I believe, but it is sometimes necessary to state something clearly so that it balances an imbalance. The balance is that God sent his Son into the world to make a universal offer. However the outcome is twofold: salvation and condemnation. It's really hard to see otherwise when all the texts are in. This is exactly the same process that applies to herem. The offer is made and if rejected then there is condemnation.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
And, when it comes to punishment, I believe we are punished BY our sins and not FOR our sins.

And who created that cause and effect world in the first place?
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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
And, when it comes to punishment, I believe we are punished BY our sins and not FOR our sins.

And who created that cause and effect world in the first place?
The cause-and-effect world in which babies are killed in earthquakes not of their own making? What's your point?

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
And, when it comes to punishment, I believe we are punished BY our sins and not FOR our sins.

And who created that cause and effect world in the first place?
The cause-and-effect world in which babies are killed in earthquakes not of their own making? What's your point?
1. Most of the time we are punished BY other people's sins.

2. God made this cause-and-effect world in the first place so if he made it in such a way that we are punished BY our sins then he is still the first cause.

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Kwesi
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As I understand it, Nigel M is resistant to the notion that there is a paradigm shift between Samuel's understanding of God and that of later prophets and the New Testament. In Nigel's view his critics are mistaken because they have an inadequate understanding of 'love', and have an aversion to the harsher aspects judgement.

Even if one accepts that there are circumstances in which it is necessary to bash out a baby's brains against a stone, there remain fundamentaL problems between judgement in Samuel and the NT.

In Samuel 15 the Amalekites of the day are to be punished not for their own sins but for those of their ancestors, and the punishment is collective. In the New Testament the principle is that it is no longer the case that 'the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge'. The notion of individual guilt and personal responsibility underpin condemnation to fire and brimstone, and a saint is not disadvantaged by the failings of an ancestor.

What amazes me about this discussion is that if the treatment of the Amalekites was recounted in any other context than the bible it would not cross any Christian mind to defend such primitive behaviour. If one's approach to scripture leads one into defending what God-given natural justice regards as indefensible, one is entitled to ask whether the problem lies with that approach.

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shamwari
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Agreed Kwesi. Similarly, would anyone today get away with pleading "God told me to" when had up on a charge of attempted murder?

Somehow it is acceptable in the case of Abraham.

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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi
Even if one accepts that there are circumstances in which it is necessary to bash out a baby's brains against a stone...

Are you referring to Psalm 137? If so, I don't think this can be interpreted as an instruction from God. I'm not sure it's even a human intention. I think it is someone venting anger by proposing actions that he does not intend to carry out. It's a simple expression of rage.

Remember that while Samuel purports to be history, Psalms does not.

Moo

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Kwesi
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Moo, of course you are correct with regards to Psalm 137. I merely used that phrase because it was appropriate to what Samuel claimed God was recommending re the Amalekites.
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Nigel M
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It's worth having a bit of a recap here because the discussion has a habit of drifting. If I have understood the arguments correctly (beginning on page one of this thread), then I think they can be boiled down thusly:-

Assertion one was: Much of the text (the bible) does not reflect the character of God.

In support of this assertion, two supporting assertions were made:-

Assertion two was: The character of God is perfectly revealed in the character of Jesus.

Assertion three was: the character of Jesus is incompatible with much of the text (i.e., the text is un-Christlike).

If assertions two and three are correct, if would follow that assertion one is correct.

This could be set out diagrammatically by way of an equilateral triangle, three corners 'A', 'B', and 'C'. It could be so set out, but I have not idea how to do so with the formatting available here, so this is where the power of your imagination comes in. Now pay attention, Class.

Let's call the apex 'A' and label it “God.” Left-hand corner (as you look at it in your imagination) 'B' is labelled “Jesus” and the third corner 'C' = “Text.” These labels are shorthand for God's character, Jesus' character, and the textual character embodied by the example of 1 Sam. 15.

You won't have failed to notice in your imagination that there are lines joining the three corners: 'A' – 'B', 'A' – 'C', and 'B' – 'C'. In this setting, assertion one above breaks the 'A' – 'C' line to make the point that there is an incompatibility (so, 'A' --/-- 'C'). The same idea applies to assertion two: it breaks 'B' – 'C' (so, 'B' --/-- 'C'). Line 'A' – 'B' however remains unbroken. If the above assertions are followed, then 'A' --/-- 'C' stands on the basis of the state of the other two lines.

I don't think I have had so much fun since Year 6 at school.

One of my queries in this discussion has been whether there is, in fact, evidence to support the 'B' --/-- 'C' line (linking “Jesus” with “Text”).

My counter-assertion is that, on the evidence provided to us in the text, line 'A' – 'C' is not in fact broken. There are a number of ways of getting to this and one of them has been to make the point that 'B' – 'C' is not broken. Following the triangular logic, if 'B' – 'C' stands unbroken, then so does 'A' – 'C'.

Ok. Letting the image of a triangle disappear in the puff of reality, this boils down to the fact that you can't there (assertion one) from here (assertion three). I've no problem with assertion two, so I'll leave that on the shelf.

Basically, the evidence does not support assertion one. The character of Jesus involved far more than was being assumed, and therefore the character of God involved more.

The evidence from the record does support the view that both God (and Jesus) have a consistent approach to creation – one that is maintained throughout the record itself. That record – the entire text of the bible – are the data. It has to be accounted for. Some of the data, in fact a major proportion, deal with aspects of justice and judgement. They are not ruled out of the biblical text at any point, they do not die away, they have to be accounted for. The compilation of the data attests to the fact that generations of thinking people regarded each and every part of the texts as important and coherent. The output was not only consistent internally, it fitted with the external worldview of covenant. Even the words 'love' and 'mercy' fit within that context.

Now note that in all this I have not discussed whether and / or how the herem principle might be applicable to Christians today. That is entirely another subject and another triangle. This discussion is about the character of God. Perhaps another thread is needed about the significance and applicability of the herem passages in both the Old and New Testaments, but before that it would be necessary to accept that herem is indeed compatible with the character of God across the whole bible.

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Kwesi
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Nigel M, I have faithfully copied out the diagram you describe in your post!


IMO you have complicated a rather simple question: To what extent does the bible reveal the character of God?

Your critics start from a Trinitarian position that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and follow the kind of theology set out explicitly in John's Gospel that the Father and Son are one. (The danger of your triangle, by the way, is that it appears to separate God and Jesus).

It would seem to follow, therefore, that those parts of the bible which tell us about Jesus are the most reliable in describing what God (Father, Son and Spirit) is like. Consequently, the Gospels, principally, followed by the rest of the New Testament are closest to telling us what the Godhead is like. (Personally, I would have certain reservations about Revelation, as it is difficult to interpret, and it was touch and go whether it was to be included in the first place). Moving to the Old Testament, those parts which are most compatible with what we know of Jesus from the NT, such as the servant passages of Isaiah, also command especial respect. (Isaiah 53, for example, was almost certainly a central part of the discussion on the Road to Emmaus, and critical in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip). It seems not unreasonable to conclude from these examples that the early Christians placed varying importance on various parts of the OT text.

Your critics in this post, therefore, would not deny that there is an essential link between the text, the bible, and our understanding of the Godhead, but would argue that the text is not the integrated unity you seek the present, and that there are parts of the Old Testament which are egregiously sub-Christian and incompatible with the Christian revelation. More charitably, the OT might be regarded as a spiritual journey begun by Abraham leading to the manifestation of God in Jesus.

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Martin60
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My simplistic premiss: Jesus is the humanized person of God who ordered the temporally merciless killing of every Amelekite man, woman and child. Who swallowed Dathan and Abiram with the maw of the earth and any who stood with them. Who stayed his wrath against Israel due to Phinehas' butchery of the lovers in the Heresy of Peor. Who drowned the Earth. Who nuked the five Cities of the Plain after negotiating with Abraham. Who assassinated Ananias and Sapphira for being financially prudent. Consumed Herod with worms for accepting grandiose praise. Zotted some poor guy for steadying the Ark. Warned the disciples not to fear being martyred more than fearing Him who can annihilate them forever.

Who abandoned His race to rain as black fat over Belsen.

Is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Gut curdlingly pragmatic. Insouciant with human lives since creating them and letting a supernatural egotist loose on them: Prior to the Resurrection life is cheap.

The Amelekites' next conscious moment is in full family reunion after a bit of a hoolie, with NO hangover in Paradise, along with the final inhabitants of Sodom.

We judge God in our holier than He liberalism and He STILL lifts us ALL up to Himself regardless of what depraved little psychos we've ALL been. Somewhat exacerbated, catalysed by a supernatural psycho admittedly. Cosmic aversion therapy. The next time He says, 'Believe me. Trust me.' we'll ALL wipe His feet with our tears of gratitude,

Human suffering is mind robbing. We all pose for Edvard Munch often. Until we're the thing being looked at.

There is obviously NO other way. Because if there's a God - and their obviously, empirically is - He'd do it nice and nice. But He CAN'T.

Ther is no other way including the way of submitting Himself to our inevitable insanity to clean that slate. In OUR minds.

Love is sovereign. Love goes through the twelve step recovery program of its justice and restitution with us. In the Resurrection. Come Judgement Day. That's called the gospel. That's our job. Tell it.

When the gurgling of Amalekite babies will join with those of a third of one hundred billion souls - the average age of humanity at death being four. Let alone the three quarters of humanity that died before they breathed air.

God DIED for the Amelekite babies He ordered slaughtered.

What's the problem ?

We think we could have done better ?

Jesus !

[ 01. July 2010, 21:22: Message edited by: Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard ]

--------------------
Love wins

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IconiumBound
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I think your triangle diagram does put the argument into concrete terms for what is a abstract concept. However, I would also add that the connection bewteen Jesus (B) and the Bible (C) is not broken but actually paramount to Jesus' whole character. He was a Jew of the first century and as the Gospels portray him, well steeped in the Torah and did not change 'one dot or tittle'.

The connection of Jesus to God, if not actually 'begotten' or not was essentially an extreme closeness to God, a true reflection of the infinite. That connection per the triangle may be argued as 'true' or 'unbelievable' but it does stand as being as being essential to following in his path.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
IMO you have complicated a rather simple question: To what extent does the bible reveal the character of God?

I think that is the question acting as an umbrella over the holy huddle underneath here. What I see has been happening is that, in order to answer that question, we have had to first locate a criterion or criteria that we can work with to get from the word 'bible' in that question to the word 'God.' We need something against which we can measure the sliding scale of 'extent.' Yes, we've looked at Jesus and also separately at the concept of 'love' as possible criteria. I should clarify that I am quite content with the trinitarian model, but I am aware that not all are. Perhaps using the model of Jesus as the 'image' of God for the purposes of this discussion is more comfortable for some (not sure if that is what IconiumBound was getting at?).

With respect to the four Gospels as a witness to the character of Jesus, the links to our OT go much wider than just a few passages. I'd argue for the pretty much the entire Jewish Scripture corpus available to Jesus and his followers as being part of “all the Scriptures” that Jesus interpreted in, e.g, Luke 24:27 and 44-45, where Luke refers to “Beginning with Moses and the Prophets...” and “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” To my mind, this was a way of saying the entire collection of scrolls – Torah, Prophets, and Writings. That doesn't necessarily mean each and every verse was plucked out by Jesus for explanation (“Here's one of me on Mount Sinai – and one of me scaling the walls of Hazor...”), but there was a mix of set texts and wider principles.

It seems that Jesus' approach to the Jewish Scriptures caught on and was understood by his followers. Matthew – to take just one of the gospellers – has about 55 direct quotations from the OT, in addition to numerous allusions. I'm sure a canter through an analysis of the OT use in the NT (e.g., Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament) would flesh it out quite well. No doubt there are peaks in usage in the NT - Isaiah is a favourite hunting ground, but even Isaiah comments quite a bit on the Torah, so threads are always running.

With regard to the book of Revelation, Jesus himself quotes from Daniel 7 which plays a significant role in the background to Revelation.

All in all, I think it's fair to say on the basis of the evidence that Jesus took seriously all of the Jewish Scriptures. There's no hint that I can see of him dividing and ruling texts; rather he sets about interpreting them all. The OT is compatible with Christian revelation – again, according to the evidence.

I understand that there is discomfort with certain texts. I just can't agree, on the basis of the evidence, that there is a discontinuity in the character of God. To get back to the question: “To what extent does the bible reveal the character of God?” the answer would be “Sufficiently and consistently.”

The issue that arises from that would be, “What then is my stance over against the bible?” Three key options apply here, I think:
[1] Accept it all;
[2] Reject it all; or
[3] Cut out certain parts.

Each option raises yet more questions which would need tackling, e.g.,
[1] How then do I live in the light of this record? How do I apply all those texts that sit uncomfortably with me?
[2] What system am I know going to use in order to know God and how he wants me to live? What justification would I use for rejecting the bible, when faced with Creed and Community?
[3] What criteria do I use for this? How would I justify that criteria?

Anyway – I must pause there, though I would like to come back later when I get a chance to Kwesi's earlier point about the Amalekites being punished for the sins of their ancestors, compared to the later principle combating 'the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge'. That's a good point and I would love to take a look at it.

Nigel

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Jamat
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:
My simplistic premiss: Jesus is the humanized person of God who ordered the temporally merciless killing of every Amelekite man, woman and child. Who swallowed Dathan and Abiram with the maw of the earth and any who stood with them. Who stayed his wrath against Israel due to Phinehas' butchery of the lovers in the Heresy of Peor. Who drowned the Earth. Who nuked the five Cities of the Plain after negotiating with Abraham. Who assassinated Ananias and Sapphira for being financially prudent. Consumed Herod with worms for accepting grandiose praise. Zotted some poor guy for steadying the Ark. Warned the disciples not to fear being martyred more than fearing Him who can annihilate them forever.

Who abandoned His race to rain as black fat over Belsen.

Is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Gut curdlingly pragmatic. Insouciant with human lives since creating them and letting a supernatural egotist loose on them: Prior to the Resurrection life is cheap.

The Amelekites' next conscious moment is in full family reunion after a bit of a hoolie, with NO hangover in Paradise, along with the final inhabitants of Sodom.

We judge God in our holier than He liberalism and He STILL lifts us ALL up to Himself regardless of what depraved little psychos we've ALL been. Somewhat exacerbated, catalysed by a supernatural psycho admittedly. Cosmic aversion therapy. The next time He says, 'Believe me. Trust me.' we'll ALL wipe His feet with our tears of gratitude,

Human suffering is mind robbing. We all pose for Edvard Munch often. Until we're the thing being looked at.

There is obviously NO other way. Because if there's a God - and their obviously, empirically is - He'd do it nice and nice. But He CAN'T.

Ther is no other way including the way of submitting Himself to our inevitable insanity to clean that slate. In OUR minds.

Love is sovereign. Love goes through the twelve step recovery program of its justice and restitution with us. In the Resurrection. Come Judgement Day. That's called the gospel. That's our job. Tell it.

When the gurgling of Amalekite babies will join with those of a third of one hundred billion souls - the average age of humanity at death being four. Let alone the three quarters of humanity that died before they breathed air.

God DIED for the Amelekite babies He ordered slaughtered.

What's the problem ?

We think we could have done better ?

Jesus !

There are things about God we don't know but look away from the Amalekites to Hezekiah.

He was attacked by Assyria, God rescued him. He prayed when he was dying. God healed him and extended his life. In this a master plan was combined with a personal touch of love.

I think God is both kind and dangerous.

Jesus.

--------------------
Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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shamwari
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The Hezekiah incident is a red herring.

He was heir to the Nathan promise in 2 Sam 7 that Davids Kingdom was unconditionally guaranteed for all time. A dangerous promise which fitted nationalistic aspirations perfectly.

When plague struck the Assyrian army and they packed their bags for home Hezekiah saw in this the unconditiional guarantee fulfilled.

The other prophets stood in the Mosaic covenant tradition which was far from unconditional.

[ 03. July 2010, 09:04: Message edited by: shamwari ]

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Martin60
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What's your point shamwari ?

To have God on your side is nearly as dangerous as having Him against you ?

We don't like Him. At all. Unless we're King David on a rare good day. When He kills the right people for us.

He doesn't care.

He loves us ALL any way. Every last AmAlekite baby.

How will we ALL feel about Him standing before Him in Paradise ? Knee deep in babies ?

He has killed ALL of us one way or another, whether by continued mortality from Eden, by changing His mind: drowning the world and other quantitatively very rare but qualitatively terrifyingly significant direct interventions and directions.

He has killed us ALL to save us.

Could He have been 'nicer', more 'moral' about it ?

Ohhhh, perhaps He WAS but we just misinterpreted His in/actions ? He's just this Guy waiting for us to evolve to rhetorical perfection. How advanced the great and good of this site are in that! How cool. Sorry about all the pain and madness and blood and and cruelty and oppression and horror and helplessness and mindless injustice guys, shrug. I'm just this Guy.

In other words if He WERE moral in our nice, deluded, liberal, modern, aberrant self image theodicy is at least just as difficult.

How does one reconcile God being prefectly morally nice and our experience ?

Unreal isn't it ? That such a nice Guy is as constrained by evolution as the pagan-Calvinist God is constrained by His meaningless 'Sovereignty'.

Funny how those Gods meet at the top.

Happy Judgement Day.

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Love wins

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Kwesi
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Is it somewhat surprising that our discussion on the sovereignty of God has not included a consideration of Job?

As we recall, in answer to his wife's command to 'Curse God and die', Jonah says, 'Shall we not receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' (Job 2: 9-10). Now there may be a problem of translation, but there seems to be a clear indication that God, at least from our perspective, is capable of evil. More securely, the book as a whole questions the capacity and presumption of humans to second guess the Almight'y ways.

A defense of the treatment of the Amalekites from this approach would be that those, like myself, who regard it as a great evil are judging God in pride and ignorance.

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Boogie

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I have no idea what you are saying Martin PC - but I can see that you are very angry in saying it.

What is making you so angry, could you be clearer?

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Martin60
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You ain't seen me angry Boogie! [Hot and Hormonal] ) I do ion-ee. Inadequacy. Curmudgeonliness. And guerilla fly fishing. Clarity doesn't come in to it: all will be revealed regardless.

Love is Sovereign.

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Love wins

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
In Samuel 15 the Amalekites of the day are to be punished not for their own sins but for those of their ancestors, and the punishment is collective. In the New Testament the principle is that it is no longer the case that 'the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge'. The notion of individual guilt and personal responsibility underpin condemnation to fire and brimstone, and a saint is not disadvantaged by the failings of an ancestor.

In a way the fact that there was a generational gap between the Amaleks who harassed the Hebrews in the wilderness by picking off the weak and the stragglers (Deut. 25:17-19) and the Amaleks who were placed under the herem (1 Sam. 15:3) doesn't really take us much further, because we are still faced with the issue that God is credited with being the author of the policy to kill all.

Still, is it the case that the Amalek of Saul's day were punished for the sins of their ancestors without regard to their current stance? If the new generation were 'saints', would they still have been destroyed? There does on the face of it appear to have been a blanket decree against Amalek: Exodus 17:14-16 records a promise from God that he would “completely scratch out the very name of Amalek from the memory of the people” (my paraphrase) and that God had “declared war with Amalek for as long as it lasts.”

Now I know some will argue that these texts were written much later and were probably not rooted in real history, they were theological constructions. Even on this view, though, we are still faced with texts that have survived the critical view of generations of God's People and which allocate responsibility for destruction to God. Anyway, I'm going to stick with the text as is, even if it is 'narrative' time rather than 'historical' time, so this may be the time for others to wander off and dead-head the roses for a while.

Ex. 17 gives us a picture of Yahweh as a warrior-king, something 1 Sam. 15 picks up on with its description of Yahweh as the head of the military forces, a Chief of the General Staff, (Yahweh Tsev'ot), a title that appears regularly in Samuel / Kings and, interestingly, regularly in Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The record is that Amalek had been a thorn in the side of Israel for some time, right down to the time Saul took them on. In fact, they continued to be a problem thereafter. 1 Samuel 14:48 indicates that Amalek had been plundering Israel and that warfare was already under way before the incident in 1 Sam 15. So they weren't saints.

So what about Jeremiah and Ezekiel? Both of them challenge the popular cynicism that if the father of a household puts himself under stress, he takes it out on the rest of the family (Jer. 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18. No doubt a good quip to extract a chuckle from the villagers sitting under the tree in the middle of their village, but also now being used as an argument against what was happening to them politically: “Isn't this just the same,” you can hear them saying, “with God? Isn't he punishing us at the hands of the Babylonians when the real culprits were our predecessors? Why are we getting it in the neck just because God had a contretemps with our fathers?”

May I suggest that the quip the prophets' focussed on was not a summary of the theological character of God in previous times. It was only a popular proverb. What the two prophets are doing is combating the association of that little piece of human psychological observation to God. God is rejecting the claim that he is – or had ever been – a God who judged individuals on the basis of their ancestors' proclivities. In Ezekiel's fuller treatment of the argument, God makes the point that he prefers the wicked to turn from rebellion rather than be killed. This is not presented as a new policy; it is how he is. Jeremiah certainly maintains this alongside the 'Yahweh-as-Military-Chief' image (Jer. 31:35).
quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
What amazes me about this discussion is that if the treatment of the Amalekites was recounted in any other context than the bible it would not cross any Christian mind to defend such primitive behaviour. If one's approach to scripture leads one into defending what God-given natural justice regards as indefensible, one is entitled to ask whether the problem lies with that approach.

The problem is not with the behaviour, which frankly has a long history across the ages, but that it is somehow compatible with the character of God. If there had been no such attribution in the biblical record, Christians today would do no more than lump it together with the likes of David's sexual indiscretions as being something to demonstrate the humanness of all heroes.

Incidentally, where did the 'natural justice' argument suddenly come from??!! Surely nature demands we get by “red in tooth and claw”!!!

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Kwesi
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Nigel M, are you seeking to deny that the Amalekites were to be eliminated because of the sins of their ancestors, and that the judgement wasn't collective?

You ask the question,' Still, is it the case that the Amalek of Saul's day were punished for the sins of their ancestors without regard to their current stance?' Well, following your maxim, 'I'm going to stick with the text as is,' my answer is 'Yes, that's what the text unequivocally says.' The fact that the Amalekites were causing trouble at the time may enter into the political context but not the judicial pretext.

Your remark, 'May I suggest that the quip [about the parents eating sour grapes....] the prophets' focussed on was not a summary of the theological character of God in previous times,' is simply not tenable. As you, yourself, demonstrate there existed a continuing decree against Amalek (Exodus 17: 14-16), and judgements 'unto the umpteenth generation' were quite a feature of the early books of the OT.

I found your statement, 'The problem is not with the behaviour, which frankly has a long history across the ages, but that it is somehow compatible with the character of God. If there had been no such attribution in the biblical record, Christians today would do no more than lump it together with the likes of David's sexual indiscretions as being something to demonstrate the humanness of all heroes,' both astounding and somewhat confusing. To put genocide on a moral par with sexual indiscretion is quite unacceptable. When you say, 'The problem is...that it is somehow compatible with the character of God,' what do you mean? I would agree it is a problem if you think genocide is compatible with the character of God. Or do you mean genocide is difficult for Christians to defend? If it is, I'm more than happy!


Respecting 'natural justice', I was careful to use the pre-fix 'God-given' . God-given natural justice is based on a knowledge of God which is know to both Gentiles and Jews. (Romans 1:19).

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Martin60
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Genocide is obviously fully compatible with Love.

Love has no problem with it.

We do.

There'd be something wrong with us if we didn't.

So what's special about God committing genocide ?

If He hadn't done that then drowning the world would be OK ?

Nuking the Cities of the Plain would be OK ?

Causing unimaginable suffering and pain and terror and grief to Egypt was OK ?

Plaguing and burning and burying alive Israelite rebels would be OK ?

Assassinating Ananias and Sapphira would be OK ?

Butchering an Asian army of two hundred million will be OK ?

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Love wins

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Pooks
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I am rather bemused by the modern sensitivities being displayed on this thread to the wars that were recorded in the Biblical texts. It seems to me that to use the term ‘genocide’ and apply it to these records is somewhat missing the context and the point of what these Biblical texts are about. The purpose of the Bible was and is primarily theological, not moral - although morality does comes into it. The Bible exists for the propagation of faith in Yahweh. Whether the writers rightly or wrongly attributed the atrocities to God or not, their primary concern was to make the theological point that God is sovereign over all and he is faithful to his people.

I find it rather baffling that anyone who thinks the God who sent Jesus - a human being - to the cross to die a brutal death, is a God of love and worthy of praise; can also think that this same God is somehow morally reprehensible because he was prepared to help his faithful people to win wars. Blood was spilled in both cases, presumably the difference is in numbers. But since the argument is based on the moral ground of killing the innocent, I can see no difference in the character of the OT God and the NT one. The way I see it, the Bible has its own set of moral codes. Holiness and faithfulness were two that all things were measured by, which does not necessarily gel with the way we think today. On balance, I think it is better to read the text in its own light rather than impose our own morality into the text and make it into something that it is not.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Pooks:
The purpose of the Bible was and is primarily theological, not moral - although morality does comes into it.

Then you will have to throw out the prophets, and the Psalms, at the very least. Proverbs too, I think. All of these are concerned very much with justice -- a branch of morality -- rather than theology. Actually there's precious little theology in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel --- in fact when you take the Bible as a whole (even the Protestant subset), theology is rather thin on the ground. It's mostly about history (and that's mostly in terms of God's favouritism vis-a-vis the Jews) and justice. Theology comes big into play in the gospel of John and the NT epistles, of course. But when God is described or invoked in the OT, it's very often if not mostly in the context of a cry for (or thanks for, or justification for, or description of) justice or favouritism.

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This is the last sig I'll ever write for you...

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Pooks
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Pooks:
The purpose of the Bible was and is primarily theological, not moral - although morality does comes into it.

Then you will have to throw out the prophets, and the Psalms, at the very least. Proverbs too, I think. All of these are concerned very much with justice -- a branch of morality -- rather than theology. Actually there's precious little theology in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel --- in fact when you take the Bible as a whole (even the Protestant subset), theology is rather thin on the ground. It's mostly about history (and that's mostly in terms of God's favouritism vis-a-vis the Jews) and justice. Theology comes big into play in the gospel of John and the NT epistles, of course. But when God is described or invoked in the OT, it's very often if not mostly in the context of a cry for (or thanks for, or justification for, or description of) justice or favouritism.
Good morning, Mouse. [Big Grin]

I don’t disagree with you if you define theology along the lines of what we find in John’s gospel. I also agree with you that there are many different genres in the Bible. But I am thinking of theology as how people express their understanding of God; people use different genres to do that. The Psalms are full of people talking about God. The OT writers talked about the Lord and the ‘Way of the Lord‘. By the ‘Way of the Lord’ they mean how they were to live each day (i.e. morality) according to their understanding of the Lord and not anyone else. In other words, morality is secondary to the discussion of the Lord, (i.e. theology).

I hope that clarifies what I was getting at.

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shamwari
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I think that morality is subsequent to a discussion about the Lord, not secondary. The two are inextricably linked.

So why not lets just go out and obey 1 Sam 15.?

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Martin60
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Why, are we Saul and it's 1000 B.C.?

And you're absolutely right the Lord IS morality.

[ 06. July 2010, 13:14: Message edited by: Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard ]

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Love wins

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mousethief

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I wouldn't go so far as to say the Lord is morality (in part because I'm not sure what that means), but I don't think you can slide such a wide sabre between theology and ethics in the Bible. God is hardly talked about without talking about morality. "Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone!" theology, is immediately followed with, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, etc." In the decalogue, you get theology (and a big heaping of favouritism), "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," followed immediately with a bunch of rules.

In the Psalms you can hardly stand on a description of what God is like (theology) without being in spitting distance of several pleas for God to act to enforce morality or show favouritism.

There is no shortage of descriptions of what God is like (theology) in the OT. Granted. But there is a metric buttload of pleas for, descriptions of, or exhortations to morality, and pleas, descriptions, and thanks for favouritism. I'm just saying that saying the Bible is mostly theology is overstating it.

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sanityman
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Well, I'm back, and trying to catch up! I find Nigel M's monster post in response to shamwari above very constructive. If I could just pull out one point, it would be:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
[5] God as Father of all humans. Absolutely no issue with this. It's biblical, consistently biblical. On its own, however, I don't see how it can get us to universal acceptance without constraint. Even the prodigal son had to return before his Father met him. The Father in that parable did not travel to the far land to try and convince his wayward son by sheer love to return with him. I can only here refer back to what I said before: 'love' is presented in the bible as a conditional offer.

In the parable of the prodigal son, was Jesus' point that the father did not start loving the son until he returned? I would rather put it that that father's love for the son remained constant, notwithstanding the actions of the son, but that reconciliation was only achieved when the son returned. I view your point about covenant being one of relationship - which can be broken by the son - not of conditional love, which is somehow 'turned on and off' by the father: an image I find somewhat disturbing.
quote:
Can a woman's tender care
Cease toward the child she bare?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.

- 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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Martin60
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Is morality something separate from love ?

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Love wins

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Pooks
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I'm just saying that saying the Bible is mostly theology is overstating it.

Not sure who are you replying to here, but if you were still replying to me, then what I said was the PURPOSE (as opposed to the contents) of the Bible is primarily theology.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
I think that morality is subsequent to a discussion about the Lord, not secondary. The two are inextricably linked.

I would agree with you there. Except, of course, if it’s a sequence then it is secondary in a sense. The point that I was trying to make though was that morality in the Bible is subject to an understanding of the Lord (i.e. theology), while the absence of theology in today’s society means that our views of morality often do not conform to the same standard of morals and ethics. To use our standard as the measuring stick, apply it to biblical history, and then claim it’s ’genocide’ is, in my view, missing the point of what the story was about.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
So why not lets just go out and obey 1 Sam 15.?

Ok. Let’s. ...Umm, where are those wicked Amalekites again?

Joking aside, the boring answer surely is because most of us learn to read the text with its context in mind. Sure, there are lessons that we can learn from 1Sam 15, but that is not the same as taking everything that happened in the Bible as a literal command from the Lord to everybody at all times.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
Nigel M, are you seeking to deny that the Amalekites were to be eliminated because of the sins of their ancestors, and that the judgement wasn't collective?

No, only to point out the whole of the context, in case it was being missed: The group under the herem were not saints. This is useful because it accords with the way Paul sets out his understanding in Romans – all have sinned. It's not that some of the Amaleks were better than others, or some were ignorant of their actions vis-a-vis the God of all creation, rather it is that no one has an excuse. Same understanding across two Testaments. I know it's an argument that has been waved around to the point of banality, but mere repetition doesn't mean a reduction in the truth of the statement.

The Amaleks were punished for the sins of their forefathers, but they were still committing those sins when Saul set his ambush.
quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
Your remark, 'May I suggest that the quip [about the parents eating sour grapes....] the prophets' focussed on was not a summary of the theological character of God in previous times,' is simply not tenable. As you, yourself, demonstrate there existed a continuing decree against Amalek (Exodus 17: 14-16), and judgements 'unto the umpteenth generation' were quite a feature of the early books of the OT.

How so untenable? The 'sour grapes' texts do not read as approved theological summaries any more than the saying that Jesus was confronted with about 'hate your enemies.' The saying is a proverb – a mashal – and Ezekiel's complaint is that it is no longer being applied solely to humans, but to what God was doing to the Hebrews and their land. The saying was opposed exactly because it was not an accurate summary of the character of God. Notice how Jeremiah handles it: he tackles this proverb and then refers to something new. What is new? A new character of God? A new way of dealing with the world? No – it is a reinforced knowledge of what had been there all the time. No change to content is referred to.

Just quickly on that ' umpteenth generation' point. Beware of hyperbole – some people will think you are being literalistic! A reasonably common saying in the OT was along the lines of God “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Three or four generations was the most a man could hope to see of his offspring before he died. Punishment on the elder of the house would impact on those of all ages in the household, and the implication of the statement is that the whole house was in opposition to God. They had refused to accept him. Remember to keep this in the social context of the times (which is not actually different to large swathes of community living in the world today). A family would not wish to make a decision until they knew the way their elder was going to vote. The crucial thing to add here is the balance to the statement, which has God promising faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who accept him. And there, I think, we are entitled to let the hyperbole flow.
quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
I found your statement, 'The problem is not with the behaviour, which frankly has a long history across the ages, but that it is somehow compatible with the character of God. If there had been no such attribution in the biblical record, Christians today would do no more than lump it together with the likes of David's sexual indiscretions as being something to demonstrate the humanness of all heroes,' both astounding and somewhat confusing. To put genocide on a moral par with sexual indiscretion is quite unacceptable. When you say, 'The problem is...that it is somehow compatible with the character of God,' what do you mean? I would agree it is a problem if you think genocide is compatible with the character of God. Or do you mean genocide is difficult for Christians to defend? If it is, I'm more than happy!

I was distinguishing between those acts attributed to God (or at least, believed by the writers to have been authorised by God), and those which are not. I wasn't bothered to go further and adopt a sliding scale of unacceptability in the 'not from God' category. I think that would probably be a waste of time anyway, as the NT writers did not seem to do this; Paul – to hark back to the Romans point – was content to leave it at 'God is angry at all godlessness' and “...all have sinned and fall short...”

Someone once did a study among convicted offenders to ascertain how they justified their crimes. The common reply was along the lines of, “Yes, I know I did wrong, but at least what I did was not as bad as...” The researcher found out that the convicts uniformly placed child abusers at the bottom of the moral pile. It wasn't too long ago that a criticism of the Christian belief was made that the belief in God sending his Son to die was a classic example of child abuse. So all in all, I think I won't travel down the route of classifying sin according to acceptability!
quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
Respecting 'natural justice', I was careful to use the pre-fix 'God-given' . God-given natural justice is based on a knowledge of God which is know to both Gentiles and Jews. (Romans 1:19).

What evidence is there that Natural Justice (NJ) is God-given? It operates on the assumption that God is a hypothesis the user has no use for. There is certainly nothing uniquely Christian about it. It isn't the same thing that Paul was talking about. He refers to creation – the visible and tangible creation – as the basis for his argument that no one is without excuse. The philosophy of NJ on the other hand starts from the a priori “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, in other words, “We haven't a shred of tangible evidence for this, but we're going to go with it anyway.”

It's certainly a third option to add to the list of criteria relating to discerning God's character:-
[1] The character of Jesus;
[2] Love; and
[2] Natural Justice.

We've still got problems with these three, though:
[1] The character of Jesus – according to the textual record – accords with the character of God in the OT;
[2] 'Love' (an English word) still needs to be defined;
[3] NJ is an external concept. One does not have to be a Christian (in fact it helps if one is not a Christian!) to rely on this concept for lifestyle guidance (even the tax collectors do that!). We would need a justification for taking this concept into Christianity for use here, though. It feels anachronistic, especially if we are taking about the developments Hobbes and his followers took. We also have to take into account the knock NJ took under Darwinianism. All rather Purgatorial, rather than Kerygmanial.
quote:
Originally posted by shamwari:
So why not lets just go out and obey 1 Sam 15.?

To add to Pooks' post – I would say that that's the second question – but it can't really be asked until the first one about the character of God has been answered. If one accepts that the biblical record is consistent in its attribution of herem to God, then one can go on to ask that question. I've already mentioned the options available concerning one's stance towards that record and the issues that arise from that stance. Although I did say there were three options (Accept, Reject, Be Picky), I suspect that in the end it will boil down to two: Accept or Reject. I think this because I'm beginning to realise that it is going to be excessively difficult to untangle the 'love' from 'hate' passages in their contexts. Never mind trying to find a justification for doing so...
quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
In the parable of the prodigal son, was Jesus' point that the father did not start loving the son until he returned?

Probably not, Chris (welcome back, by the way!). I don't think there is an issue with this; the point is just that a decision to return was needed before the Father demonstrated his love in action. The love was universal, but constrained by the requirement of 'Return.'
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shamwari
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Said Nigel M

"I would say that that's the second question – but it can't really be asked until the first one about the character of God has been answered. "

And to my mind it has been answered once and for all and definitively.

God is like Jesus. For Jesus was God incarnate.

And no way did Jesus ( or would Jesus) have approved the elimination / genocide of His ebemies.

QED.

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Martin60
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He does in my Bible.

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Love wins

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
Is it somewhat surprising that our discussion on the sovereignty of God has not included a consideration of Job?

Sorry Kewsi, I forget about this.

I guess the answer would depend on how one views the reactions of Job for much of the book: is he presenting an accurate view of how to respond to God, is he presenting a wholly inaccurate view, or is he perhaps giving a view of just one side of the coin?

I think the Hebrew word translated 'evil' by some English versions in 2:10 may probably mean only 'trouble', 'calamity' or 'disaster.' That seems to be the understanding of the Greek translators of this passage in the Septuagint. Still, given the close proximity of the Satan in chapter 2, perhaps a link to him as a secondary cause was intended.

Martin makes the point on this thread that one reaction to the difficult passages in the bible is to take the lead from Yahweh in chapters 38-41: "Who are you to question me?!"

Which perhaps should be a fourth criterion...

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:
He does in my Bible.

And mine, too!

The Bible shows that Jesus' character is consistent with the God of the OT. That is where the evidence leads. Where is the evidence otherwise?

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shamwari
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Maybe I am thick.

But in what way was Jesus attitude towards his enemies consistent with God's command to Samuel?

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