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» Ship of Fools   » Things we did   » Chapter & Worse   » 1 Samuel 15:3... Kill both man and woman, child and infant... (Page 3)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: 1 Samuel 15:3... Kill both man and woman, child and infant...
the famous rachel
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I've been thinking a bit about God causing - or at least allowing - all deaths.

Reminding ourselves of this does cast a different light on the passage, I guess. Unfortunately, my limited thinking on this issue has brought me back to what - in a conservative evangelical worldview - this verse tells us about the character of God. God appears to have had no better plan for the Amalekites than their destruction. He created them, placed them in that place and time, and then destroyed them mercilessly. In the same way - again with a conservative evangelical worldview - there are untold millions who God creates without the opportunity to accept Christ, who then die (as and when God ordains) and receive eternal damnation, of whatever flavour your denomination prefers.

If the old testament is full of signposts to the new testament, then I guess we shouldn't be surprised if it signposts the worst of it as well as the best.

I'm not sure why I'm trying to figure this out within an evangelical worldview! Too much time in evangelical churches, I guess, and this thread isn't the place to rethink my entire view if the bible

All the best,
Rachel.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
But, don't we in fact accept that God has, in general, a right to cause death - death of individuals and death of nations? Everyone dies. God, being omnipotent, is involved in each death. He, at least, consents to it.

There is a really big moral difference between not acting to prevent someone dying and actively killing them (or ordering someone to do it for you).

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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This passage of Scripture - and similar passages (e.g. Joshua 6:21 & Numbers 31:17) - is not one that admittedly sits very easily with my understanding of the nature of God. However, I will attempt to explain how this does not undermine my faith in God or belief in the Bible, but I don't expect my thoughts will satisfy some people.

Firstly, those from an atheistic / naturalistic viewpoint may use these passages as a justification for rejecting the God of the Bible. From what I have read of the views of such people, I imagine that even if the Bible were more sanitised they would still find reason to not believe. Are they really offended at God because of these events or are these events merely the pretext for their rejection of him? That is a question that only they can answer.

Furthermore, naturalism, as a philosophy, does not exactly provide a basis for opposing genocide. After all, if one tribe feels that it aids their survival to wipe out another tribe, what is wrong with that according to the ethics of natural selection? So no atheist can scorn the ethics of the Bible without also damning his own philosophy.

I think we need to look at how we view the role of the Bible in our lives. Is the Bible merely a textbook - a manual for good practice? Or is it a revelation of a person?

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; but these are they which testify of me." John 5:39

Suppose we were all able to conclude that the Bible does not justify genocide. So what? So an ancient book tells us what we believe already, namely, that genocide is wrong. Will that suddenly bring us into a relationship with God? I think not.

I'm generalising, but it seems to me that both fundamentalists and a certain kind of "liberal" Christian attempt to use the Bible as a repository of principles of good practice, and then the latter is disappointed that the Bible doesn't comply and the former uses all sorts of tortured arguments to make it comply. My question is: does it need to comply?

Suppose I extracted from the Bible a nice neat set of moral principles by which I live my life. Does that make me a believer? Would that make God real to me?

Given all the repetition and ambiguity in the Bible, not to mention the multitude of variant readings, you would think that God could have done a much better job of editing and general tidying up, don't you think? But he didn't - and clearly for a reason. The fundies and some liberals may want a set of laws to live by. But I see the Bible as an account of God's dealings in the messy reality of life. It's realistic, not idealistic.

I don't exactly know why God commanded the slaughter of the Amalekites. We would really need to know the full context. That is not to say that we should not attempt to understand this event. Those of us who realise that we don't know everything are on a journey, and on this journey I am trying to draw from this passage some understanding of God's ways.

There is the idea of justice applied to corporate entities. There is the question of the necessity of justice in certain extreme situations, and if the judge is forced to take certain undesirable measures, can he really be held morally responsible for those actions, if his hand has been forced by evildoers operating within a certain "corporate context"? (An example of this would be a warmonger attacking another nation from behind a human shield of innocent people. If those innocent people have to be attacked, it is the oppressor who is responsible for their lives, even though he did not kill them. I know full well that this is not the case in this biblical account, but it is just an example of the idea of the necessity of corporate justice.)

Can we, from our individualistic western democratic humanistic vantage point, really understand what was at stake at the time? In our secular mindset we play down the importance of spirituality, so how can we appreciate the devastating effects of idolatry on Israel, and how such influence from other nations required drastic action? Those who sit in judgment on God would do well to analyse their own philosophical presuppositions to discover if they themselves really have a sound moral basis for making ethical judgments.

I am not saying that the idea of corporate justice in any way provides a satisfying answer; it is extremely difficult to understand. But what really worries me is the idea that I can get to the point where I can easily understand everything that's written in God's book. If God were so easy to understand would he really be God? That's not evasion, it's just reality.

But though God may be difficult to understand, the alternative to faith in God provides no answers, as far as I am concerned.

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by the famous rachel on 2009-08-03:
I just can't understand why these verses don't worry people. I've had a quick look at the results of the poll so far, and apparently about a third of those who have voted are not in any way worried by this verse. Why not, guys?

Since reading these discussions, I've been trying to think of a way to explain all my votes that I'm not in any way worried by these verses, by comparing how I view the Bible to an autostereogram. In particular, I've been wondering if they can be made using a series of coherent pictures rather than the usual nondescript dots or blobs and just this weekend, I encountered this one.

At first glance, it looks like nothing more than multiple series of ordinary-looking picture fragments of things like people, tigers, and sharks. Each fragment makes some sense on its own, but there is no apparent reason for the arrangement of them all together in a single whole.

However, if someone tells you that you can see a completely different image of a free-floating 3D shark by focusing on a point about a foot behind the screen, you might give it a try and (I hope) see the hidden image for yourself. (If you have trouble, you can try closing your eyes while looking at the picture, focusing on an imaginary spot in the distance, and then opening your eyes without changing your focus to see if your brain successfully combines the two overlapping images from each eye to pull the 3D image out.)

This provides a nice way of illustrating how I think the stories in the Bible like 1 Samuel 15 can simultaneously present multiple, differing views of God. Although the literal meaning of the text portrays God as sometimes angry, violent, and vengeful, I think there is a internal, symbolic meaning that portrays him as infinitely loving and merciful without the slightest trace of anger, violence, or punishment. This is why I can believe this story is part of the Word of God, written by him and teaching us about him as a loving God: the literal meaning was adapted to people at that time so that they would consider it holy and learn the necessary basics from it, while the symbolic meaning is universal for all people and for all time, presenting us with a very different view from what is presented in the literal story. This difference in views is what I think the autostereogram illustrates so well.

So, to answer your question about why I, for one, am not worried about 1 Samuel 15:3, I think that just like removing any one series of picture fragments in the autostereogram will remove part of the 3D shark, removing this verse, or any other verse, will take away from the symbolic meaning, which is what provides us with a way to approach God directly and personally, and get to know him as infinite love itself.

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Lyda*Rose

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So where does this "fragment" fit in with the symbolic meaning of God being a God of love, exactly? I think it fits in better with the 3D shark. Chomp!

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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sanityman
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I've been puzzling about the autostereogram metaphor, wehyatt. My first thought was that it's more like looking at a photographic negative and trying to see a positive, but I'm not sure I understand you properly. In an autostereogram, the background image is irrelevant, and can be just repeating noise. I'm sure you weren't trying to say that the Bible is a load of repetitive nonsense! ;D

The bits that I'm getting are that it's necessary to stick at it, as the image doesn't immediately "come out." I'm less sure I understand the bit about one story not mattering in the grand scheme of things - seems to be straining the metaphor here. If the Bible was all like 1 Sam 15:3, I'm don't think the argument would hold?

On the positive side, the shark was the first autostereogram I've actually got to work for me, so many thanks for posting it!

- Chris.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
So where does this "fragment" fit in with the symbolic meaning of God being a God of love, exactly? I think it fits in better with the 3D shark. Chomp!

Yes, I see what you mean, but not surprisingly, that's not quite what I had in mind! [Smile]

I think God's primary goal for each of us is to draw us as near to him as we allow him. What creates the obstacles to that goal is all our tendencies to be selfish and materialistic. Being one of Israel's more pernicious enemies, I see the Amalekites as representing the most selfish part of each of us, and I see God's command to destroy them completely as representing his desire to destroy those worst tendencies in us. He can't destroy them directly because we have to freely choose to do it in cooperation with him. However, we generally don't cooperate completely because we like to keep our core selfishness (King Agag) and all the little bits that seem innocuous to us (the best of the sheep, etc.), thinking that surely God can't expect us to completely stop being selfish!

So the literal story has to do with individuals and divinely commanded genocide, but I see the symbolic sense as having to do with me as a single individual at war, by God's command, with my own hellish inclinations. The purpose of his command is to draw me near so he can give me joy.

quote:
Originally posted by sanityman:
In an autostereogram, the background image is irrelevant, and can be just repeating noise. I'm sure you weren't trying to say that the Bible is a load of repetitive nonsense! ;D

I'm glad you liked the autostereogram. You're right that it can use random background images or noise, but I chose this particular one as a rather crude analogy for several reasons:

  1. It shows how the emergent image is independent of the "literal" picture fragments and how each series of fragments contributes in a unique way to the emergent image.
  2. It shows how the "literal" fragments are still visible even while you are observing the emergent image.
  3. It's a way to show that if clever people can do this kind of thing with pictures, then surely God can easily do something analogous with Bible stories.
  4. It shows how seeing the emergent image and understanding how it all works explains the otherwise odd anomalies in the "literal" fragments. Also, it's a happy coincidence that the autostereogram uses repetition in a way that is very much analogous (in my view) to the way the Bible uses apparently unnecessary repetition.

Also, while the autostereogram doesn't show why God would have chosen to use the particular stories we find in the Bible, it does provide an analogy for explaining how he could have chosen the literal stories to serve as a means for some other purpose than the symbolic meaning. I happen to think that his purpose was to get the people of the time to accept the stories as his holy Word, to preserve them for future generations, and to obey the rules he included in them.

Note that there limits to this analogy:

  1. The symbolic meaning is not all-or-nothing like the emergent image in the autostereogram - it is always imprecise, although there is no inherent limit to how far we can progress in seeing it.
  2. The symbolic meaning is highly subjective: What I do see in it is an image of God as I already know him. This subjectivity means that I can't take the symbolic message as authoritative or use it to coerce or even persuade anyone else. If they see the same image, that gives us something to discuss, but if not, I can't point to any particular part to try to prove that I'm right.

In the end, seeing a symbolic sense allows me to see most of Bible as the Word of God, written by God to teach us about all aspects of our relationship with him, and in a way that makes me completely comfortable with all the apparent contradictions and parts that may otherwise be difficult to reconcile with a belief in a loving God.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I happen to think that his purpose was to get the people of the time to accept the stories as his holy Word, to preserve them for future generations, and to obey the rules he included in them.

I would add that I see the Gospels as having the same kind of symbolic meaning, but with the literal stories in them having far more similarity to the symbolic meaning within them than is the case in the Old Testament. I think the reason for this is because people in New Testament times had matured spiritually and were ready to properly handle a more direct revelation.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
  1. It shows how the emergent image is independent of the "literal" picture fragments and how each series of fragments contributes in a unique way to the emergent image.

Note that there limits to this analogy:

  1. The symbolic meaning is highly subjective: What I do see in it is an image of God as I already know him. This subjectivity means that I can't take the symbolic message as authoritative or use it to coerce or even persuade anyone else. If they see the same image, that gives us something to discuss, but if not, I can't point to any particular part to try to prove that I'm right.

I think you've just killed the analogy right there.

This seems to be just how dispensationalists read the book of Revelation - as if a secret message is encoded in all the noise of John's imagination on speed ... or magic mushrooms.

Either way there is too great a dissonance between what the original readers saw in the text and what we are supposed to see.

I don't expect total congruence between readers then as now but surely there has to be some kind of continuity?

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
I think you've just killed the analogy right there.

Oh dear! And here I was trying to eliminate all the killing! [Frown]

quote:
This seems to be just how dispensationalists read the book of Revelation - as if a secret message is encoded in all the noise of John's imagination on speed ... or magic mushrooms.
I can see why it would seem to be somewhat like the dispensationalist approach, but what I'm describing differs in two fundamental ways (if I understand dispensationalism correctly). First, dispensationalism seems to me to be looking for a code that is like what a person would come up with to hide the real meaning or interpretation. What I am describing is a way to look at the Old and New Testaments as divine revelation that uses a consistent and natural symbolism.

The emergent image in the autostereogram is independent of the picture fragments, but the author can choose to connect the two in any way that suits his or her purpose. In the case of God's revelation, I think he consistently connects the inner meaning with the literal text by a kind of symbolism that people often use in everyday language, like when we use "heart" to refer to emotion or "seeing" to refer to intellectual comprehension. The general rule is that the symbolic meaning of an element of the literal text plays a similar role in the overall spiritual message that the literal element plays in the overall literal message. For example, God's command to kill all the Amalekites in the literal text of 1 Samuel 15 symbolically describes his desire for us to completely reject our selfish tendencies symbolized by the Amalekites.

Second, dispensationalists look for a literal fulfillment that they expect to occur in this world, but the symbolic meaning always has to do with spiritual things (like love and faith). In Rev 1:10, it says "I came to be in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a great voice ...." I take this as a strong hint that the prophecies would be fulfilled "in the spirit" as well.

quote:
Either way there is too great a dissonance between what the original readers saw in the text and what we are supposed to see.

I don't expect total congruence between readers then as now but surely there has to be some kind of continuity?

I'm puzzled by your choice of original readers as the reference point instead of the author. What the original readers of Old Testament prophecies saw had very little consonance with what Christians see in them. In fact, this is why I think there is so much difference between the "plain reading" of Scriptures and the symbolic meaning: God adapted the literal text of each revelation for the people of the time, but the symbolic meaning is for people of all time.

BTW, being divine revelation, I think the inner message is a perfect and objective description of God and our relationship to him - the subjectivity I refer to is from our limited ability to see what he describes and from the fact that our limited and flawed beliefs necessarily determine our starting point for trying to see it.

I don't expect my analogy of an autostereogram to convince anyone, I'm just hoping it might help explain to someone like the famous rachel why I'm completely comfortable with texts like 1 Samuel 15 and believe that they are divine revelation.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I'm puzzled by your choice of original readers as the reference point instead of the author. What the original readers of Old Testament prophecies saw had very little consonance with what Christians see in them.

Says who?

We can argue 'til the cows come home over sensus plenior but clearly there was more than 'very little consonance'. The NT writers seems pretty to keen to quote the OT to back up their understanding of Jesus. Sure Jesus changed everything. Certainly the Christians brought a new perspective to the OT texts. But they used OT scriptures to (try to) persuade Jews that Jesus was the Christ. I'm the one who's puzzled as to how that is possible if there is 'very little consonance'.

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W Hyatt
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Indeed you are right, there was very much consonance in that they had a common acceptance of the OT as divinely authoritative, and I accept your correction. What I had in mind was the new perspective you refer to and the fact that the NT writers were trying to persuade the Jews of something that did not already fit with their traditional expectations of the Messiah, although I don't pretend to know a lot about the subject.

As for the continuity you think should exist between the original readers and modern readers, I suspect that this issue boils down to a question I've had in mind since reading IngoB's post in "God told me to do it" a few weeks ago, where he says that Christians "have the final and definite revelation through Christ."* Since I believe that the Second Coming has already taken place and involved a new divine revelation, it would make sense that I see no particular requirement for continuity with earlier readers of the Old and New Testaments. If this is why you object, then I understand. Otherwise, I don't and I'm hoping you can explain it to me some.

* I'm curious about how widespread this idea is among Christians in general and I'd like to know if it's based on specific Scriptural passages. It's a new idea to me and I would like to know more about it, although it might be more appropriate as a thread of its own. Any background on it would be much appreciated.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
IngoB's post in "God told me to do it" a few weeks ago, where he says that Christians "have the final and definite revelation through Christ."

That is quite a common idea. From places like Matthew 5: 17 and Luke 24: 27, 44. Jesus is the fulfilment of all scripture - it is all about him.

Of the course there are various opinions on exactly how much continuity / discontinuity there is between the OT & NT. As far as Protestants are concerned there is a rough spectrum with the Reformed Anglicans, to the right, emphasising the covenantal continuity moving towards the anabaptists, to the left, stressing the discontinuity. But all would agree that there is continuity and discontinuity.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
Since I believe that the Second Coming has already taken place and involved a new divine revelation, it would make sense that I see no particular requirement for continuity with earlier readers of the Old and New Testaments.

That is very similar to the JWs and a common example of the sociological phenomenum known as cognitive dissonance. Throughout 2000 years of church history many Christians have struggled with the delay in Christ's return. Again and again disillusionment sets in forcing some to give up hope while others to spiritualise away Christ's return. Thus our faith is protected from the harsh scoffing of those who point out that he is taking his time.

Jesus said, "I'll be back," and he said that it would be impossible to miss it when he did return. An invisible, subjective return just doesn't cut it for me.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
That is very similar to the JWs and a common example of the sociological phenomenum known as cognitive dissonance.

You disappoint me. I know you're capable of discussing things from a broader perspective than that and I was hoping you would.

quote:
An invisible, subjective return just doesn't cut it for me.
I know enough not to expect anything different, but I do enjoy an intelligent discussion of the ideas.

quote:
That is quite a common idea. From places like Matthew 5: 17 and Luke 24: 27, 44. Jesus is the fulfilment of all scripture - it is all about him.
Yes, I agree about Jesus fulfilling all scripture (we're talking about the OT, right?), but I don't see how that implies that there was to be no further revelation. When I read passages like John 16:12-13:

quote:
I have yet many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear now. But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth ...
and John 16:25:

quote:
I have spoken these things to you in allegories. An hour comes when I will no longer speak to you in allegories, but I will reveal the Father plainly to you.
I naturally see them as prophecies to be fulfilled in new revelation. I think I can see how you would consider them to be fulfilled already (i.e. without any new revelation), but are there scriptural indications that they have been fulfilled? Do you see no room in them for the possibility of fulfillment in new revelation? I'd be interested in a quick summary from you (or anyone) if you care to take the time.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
You disappoint me. I know you're capable of discussing things from a broader perspective than that and I was hoping you would.

I remember a friend of mine responding a bit like this when our Church History lecturer set us an essay on "What caused the Reformation?" He simply wanted to reply - "God did." Which would have led to a very brief essay. [Big Grin]

To discuss some of the sociological and technological changes that led to the reformation does not necessarily call into question whether or not God's Spirit was behind it.

The same is true when discussing the return of Christ. I'm quite happy for all aspects of my faith to be looked at from all sorts of perspectives. Indeed by bringing in the sociological issues I'm deliberately try to encourage a 'wider perspective'.

I'm sorry if this offends you (that is not my intent) but such a defensive reaction is, of course, typical of cognitive dissonance!


quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
Yes, I agree about Jesus fulfilling all scripture (we're talking about the OT, right?), but I don't see how that implies that there was to be no further revelation. When I read passages like John 16:12-13:

quote:
I have yet many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear now. But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth ...
and John 16:25:

quote:
I have spoken these things to you in allegories. An hour comes when I will no longer speak to you in allegories, but I will reveal the Father plainly to you.
I naturally see them as prophecies to be fulfilled in new revelation. I think I can see how you would consider them to be fulfilled already (i.e. without any new revelation), but are there scriptural indications that they have been fulfilled? Do you see no room in them for the possibility of fulfillment in new revelation? I'd be interested in a quick summary from you (or anyone) if you care to take the time.

I think you missed a nuance in my response earlier. Jesus fulfils all scripture. This does not necessarily discount further revelation (although cessationists would argue otherwise) but it does rule out further revelation that flatly contradicts previous revelation.

The New Covenant makes the Old one obsolete by way of fulfilment not by way of contradiction. So the OT cultic and dietary requirements are fulfilled in Christ. Protestants tend to see a trajectory throughout scripture (or like phases of the moon which become progressively revealed) so that what is new does not deny what was former.

However, you seem to be using revelation in a very different way.

Moses says God = black.

Jesus says God = white.

Jesus came last, so Jesus is right. It sounds much more like the Medinan / Meccan priority debate in Islam than a Christian way of handling the debate.

Hence why this verse in 1 Samuel 15 is so problematic. Jesus (and even subsequent revelation) brings fresh insight but if (and it is of course the big 'if') God commanded the genocide of a people in the past then the new revelation can only change how we view it as opposed to writing it off as a mistake.

[ 19. September 2009, 05:12: Message edited by: Johnny S ]

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Indeed by bringing in the sociological issues I'm deliberately try to encourage a 'wider perspective'.

I'd be happy to hear about what leads you to your assertion of cognitive dissonance, I just don't feel particularly encouraged from the assertion all by itself. [Smile]

I'd be more interested to hear what you have to say about continuity because I don't think I'm understanding the term the same way you mean it. My education in mainstream Christian theology and terminology is very limited to say the least, and I'm enjoying the chance to catch up some through the Ship. However, your point about continuity seems to be an important one to you and I don't think I understand it yet. For example, I am wondering if you see any difference between continuity with original readers and continuity with contemporary (or even future) readers. I'm also wondering how much it's an end goal vs. a starting point, or perhaps both simultaneously.

quote:
Jesus fulfils all scripture. This does not necessarily discount further revelation (although cessationists would argue otherwise) but it does rule out further revelation that flatly contradicts previous revelation.
[This cessationist view is what is new to me and what I'm curious about. Anyone care to fill me in?]

But to get back more on-topic, I'm sure it will be no surprise to you when I say that I see the new revelation I mentioned as further fulfillment rather than flat contradiction. We have a large amount of doctrine that addresses how people always understand divine truth only as an approximation, and how there are discreet degrees or levels we advance through as we progress in our understanding (both individually and collectively).

This leads us to the idea that divine truth in the lowest degree appears as it does in the OT, like commandments and rules with material rewards and punishments. In a higher degree, it appears more as moral law with spiritual rewards and punishments as it does in the NT. And in a yet higher degree, it appears more as spiritual law or pure theology with no rewards or punishments, just inherent consequences. (Note that I'm not saying the OT and NT present no theology or that the OT presents no moral law - we need morality and theology at every stage of our development.) Higher levels are better approximations, but each level is still only an approximation.

So to me, the view I've been presenting is not a contradiction of previous revelation, it's a further fulfillment.

When we are very young children, we have to start with the idea of rewards (from our parents) for following the Ten Commandments and punishments if we don't. As we grow older, we can learn that it's more a matter of salvation or damnation whether we obey them or not. But ideally, we eventually learn that following them is just inherently good and to everyone's benefit and not following them is bad and causes us to hurt other people. We're not contradicting our earlier view so much as filling it in with a better and more complete understanding, so that each step builds on the previous one.

I understand you don't see it the same way I do and that you see my view as contradicting the OT and NT, but I'm not just blithely replacing them.

quote:
... but if (and it is of course the big 'if') God commanded the genocide of a people in the past then the new revelation can only change how we view it as opposed to writing it off as a mistake.
Well, that's certainly something we can agree on.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
However, your point about continuity seems to be an important one to you and I don't think I understand it yet. For example, I am wondering if you see any difference between continuity with original readers and continuity with contemporary (or even future) readers. I'm also wondering how much it's an end goal vs. a starting point, or perhaps both simultaneously.

I see truth as objective. So, because we are all finite and culturally bound we will all perceive that objective truth slightly differently, but there must a fair bit of continuity between all readers.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
This cessationist view is what is new to me and what I'm curious about. Anyone care to fill me in?

To put it very simplisticly - BB Warfield and others have argued that the spiritual gifts of the NT (e.g. 1 cor. 12), and especially including the gift of prophecy (hence further revelation), ceased after the NT period and certainly with the formation of the canon of scripture.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
This leads us to the idea that divine truth in the lowest degree appears as it does in the OT, like commandments and rules with material rewards and punishments. In a higher degree, it appears more as moral law with spiritual rewards and punishments as it does in the NT. And in a yet higher degree, it appears more as spiritual law or pure theology with no rewards or punishments, just inherent consequences. (Note that I'm not saying the OT and NT present no theology or that the OT presents no moral law - we need morality and theology at every stage of our development.) Higher levels are better approximations, but each level is still only an approximation.

I understand you here but cannot see the continuity between each level.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
So to me, the view I've been presenting is not a contradiction of previous revelation, it's a further fulfillment.

When we are very young children, we have to start with the idea of rewards (from our parents) for following the Ten Commandments and punishments if we don't. As we grow older, we can learn that it's more a matter of salvation or damnation whether we obey them or not. But ideally, we eventually learn that following them is just inherently good and to everyone's benefit and not following them is bad and causes us to hurt other people. We're not contradicting our earlier view so much as filling it in with a better and more complete understanding, so that each step builds on the previous one.

Okay, so please demonstrate how you do this with the text in question for this thread - 1 Samuel 15: 3. You appear to be saying that God did tell the Israelites to kill women and children but he changed his mind later. I've probably misunderstood you but I can't see how you are not just saying that subsequent revelation contradicts earlier revelation.
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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Okay, so please demonstrate how you do this with the text in question for this thread - 1 Samuel 15: 3. You appear to be saying that God did tell the Israelites to kill women and children but he changed his mind later. I've probably misunderstood you but I can't see how you are not just saying that subsequent revelation contradicts earlier revelation.

Think of it this way. The command is to destroy the enemy, completely. No if, ands, or buts.

Later revelation says the same thing, but leads you to re-examine who and what the true enemy is.

The two are perfectly consistent. It is also true that the first message is barbaric by the standards of the second. Leading us to understand that Israel did not have a clear picture.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Think of it this way. The command is to destroy the enemy, completely. No if, ands, or buts.

Later revelation says the same thing, but leads you to re-examine who and what the true enemy is.

The two are perfectly consistent. It is also true that the first message is barbaric by the standards of the second. Leading us to understand that Israel did not have a clear picture.

Nice one Freddy - that would have made for a great defence at the Nuremberg trials.

Perhaps Hermann Goring or Martin Bormann should have just said, "Sorry, we were mistaken about who the enemy was."

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DagonSlaveII
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I simply see it this way:

1. God > Man. Man is > than all the meat he eats, animal flesh he wears. This is generally not considered genocide.

2. You're dealing with a very different Israel than Christ's Israel. They tended to wander from God to god, and were easily contaminated with polytheism, and were in no way Pharisaical at that time. All other beliefs systems damaged that bond between God and Israel (not unrepairable, mind you).

3. God's on the other side of that veil (as well as here), and what he does with the spirits of the recently departed is his business. Killing the flesh wouldn't be murder for a spirit, but conversion from a fleshly being to a spiritual one. I'd assume that if he orders someone killed, he's got something in mind for them on the other side--and it would be his business, not mine.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
You appear to be saying that God did tell the Israelites to kill women and children but he changed his mind later.

I think the disconnect might be that the story as divine revelation is (to us) not about historical accuracy or about accountability of historical individuals. It's about our current and on-going individual relationship with God.

To say that Israel did not understand the real enemy is not to excuse them or explain away their behavior. It's more that the reason why God gave them 1 Samuel 15 in its literal form as part of his divine revelation is that that was the closest they could come at that time to understanding who the enemy of God was. They needed it to be personified before they would accept it as a holy commandment.

I would put it this way (if you'll bear with me).

To give an approximate summary of the truth God wants us to learn (and live by) from 1 Samuel 15, I think the basic message is "You should stop being selfish."

A rational adult who asks "why" can understand how selfishness directly opposes the ability for God to have them participate in the purpose of creation, which is done by helping other people be happy and being able to receive happiness from God as a direct result.

An average thirteen year old who asks "why" is not likely to be persuaded to fight selfishness with much enthusiasm by such a rational discussion. They are more likely to respond to the idea that in the long run they will be miserable if they don't and happier if they do. Or perhaps that they will end up in hell if they don't or heaven if they do (at least in our theology).

I think this shows up in the New Testament in a story like Mark 10:17-31 where Jesus is asked "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" and his answer includes "Go, sell what things you have." Now I happen to think that this incident probably did actually happen much the way it is described, but the historical accuracy is irrelevant to seeing it as divine a message about the need to give up self for the sake of eternal life. I think the reason it takes the literal form it does is because the people of Jesus' time were just ready to see that the real obstacle to a relationship with God is a self-centered life, although even that astonished the disciples (verses 24 and 26). It seems to me that they were still stuck in the idea that God would enrich you if you followed all the rules and impoverish you if you didn't.

An average four year old who asks "why" is only likely to respond to the idea that playtime can continue if no more toys are taken from other children, but that otherwise it will end. Or perhaps they would respond to the idea of resisting the devil as a personification of their selfishness.

I think this shows up in the Old Testament in a story like 1 Samuel 15, where God is described as commanding the extermination of the Amalekites. I think this story probably has a lot of elements that are based on historically accurate elements (e.g. the main characters), but its role as the literal form of divine revelation is not tied in any way to its historical accuracy. Whether or not it's historically accurate, we can still see in it a message about the need to give up self, as long as we can see the Amalekites as a personification of selfishness. The point is that God included the story in his divine revelation, not that God actually commanded the killing. The story needed to be something that Israel would respond to at the time it was written, but it didn't need to be completely accurate historically in every detail.

So the same truth appears in different forms as it is adapted to the ability of the people who need to hear it. Yet the same, higher approximation of truth can be seen in a symbolic way, even in those different literal forms. I don't imagine it's the kind of continuity you look for, but it is a way to see it all as consistent and free of contradictions as divine revelation.

I look forward to your response.

BTW, thank you for your explanations of continuity and cessationism.

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W Hyatt
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It's a bit ironic considering the thread and board this is on, but after thinking so much about 1 Samuel 15, it kind of getting to be one of my favorite OT stories. [Smile]
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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
To say that Israel did not understand the real enemy is not to excuse them or explain away their behavior. It's more that the reason why God gave them 1 Samuel 15 in its literal form as part of his divine revelation is that that was the closest they could come at that time to understanding who the enemy of God was. They needed it to be personified before they would accept it as a holy commandment.

But your analogy just doesn't work.

It hardly constitutes good parenting if, before your child is able to grasp abstract concepts of sin etc., you teach them to kill people instead.

"Well done little Timmy, now go and wipe your sword and Daddy will explain when you are older why it is really a bit more complicated."

The process you describe of progressive revelation makes sense but it simply does not fit this instance of genocide. How can genocide ever be justified as part of a long-term teaching plan?

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
How can genocide ever be justified as part of a long-term teaching plan?

It can't be justified as part of any teaching plan.

You seem to be implying that the original readers would have been encouraged to kill more than they otherwise would after reading something like 1 Samuel 15. However, I don't think they needed any encouragement at all, given how they seemed to be quite ready to kill each other, let alone a hated enemy.

As I understand it, they even had trouble feeling compassion for their Jewish neighbor next door because they were culturally trained to see blessings as a sign of God's favor and misfortune as a sign of his disfavor - if God wasn't showing compassion, who were they to do any different? It seems to me that expecting them to feel compassion for deadly enemies like the Amalekites would have been way beyond their capabilities.

To anthropomorphize, I'd liken it to God asking them collectively "OK, what's the most evil thing you can think of?" and them answering "the Amalekites!" I can see God mumbling to himself something like "you've got a loooong way to go, but OK" and then launching into a story/myth to show them how they needed to totally reject that thing they saw as the most evil. It's not that he was teaching them to kill (they were already doing that plenty on their own), it's that he was teaching them how to respond to evil using the only terms they knew.

I base this view of the Amalekites on Deuteronomy 25:17-18, which describes the Amalekites as attacking their "feeble ones" from behind, on 1 Samuel 15:33 where Samuel accused the king of the Amalekites of "bereaving women of children", and on 1 Samuel 30:1-2, which is the story about the Amalekites raiding Ziklag and capturing all their women while David and his men were away. I know this last verse comes chronologically after 1 Samuel 15, but I think it illustrates the reputation the Amalekites had, which was that they favored the nastiest kind of raiding rather than straight-forward, open warfare.

I think if God had tried to teach them about having compassion for the Amalekites and forgiving them, they would have rejected God completely instead of accepting such preposterous ideas.

I also think God accepts from each of us a sincere effort to resist and reject our own individual substitutes for true evil every step of our spiritual journey, because we can no more identify true evil in a perfect way than the people of the Old Testament could.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
You seem to be implying that the original readers would have been encouraged to kill more than they otherwise would after reading something like 1 Samuel 15.

Yes, of course. How else can you read it?

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
However, I don't think they needed any encouragement at all, given how they seemed to be quite ready to kill each other, let alone a hated enemy.

This doesn't make sense. God was quite happy to have 'do not murder' as one of the Ten Commandments.

To tell the Israelites 'do not murder' is one thing. To tell them to 'kill all the Amalekites' is another. If they didn't need any encouragement, then why encourage them since it is a universally evil thing to do?


quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I think if God had tried to teach them about having compassion for the Amalekites and forgiving them, they would have rejected God completely instead of accepting such preposterous ideas.

Here it is again. A fair summary of the OT is that it entirely consists of God telling them preposterous ideas - like no murder, adultery, lying, stealing etc. - things that the people never got or achieved. They failed to keep all the others, why couldn't God tell them not to kill as well?

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I also think God accepts from each of us a sincere effort to resist and reject our own individual substitutes for true evil every step of our spiritual journey, because we can no more identify true evil in a perfect way than the people of the Old Testament could.

I agree with this but it is only relevant to our discussion if morality is entirely relative. If genocide is always evil then your argument doesn't stand.
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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
If genocide is always evil then your argument doesn't stand.

Sure it does. Don't misunderstand the message here. This doesn't rehabilitate these ancient perpetrators of genocide. Genocide is always evil. Murderers are murderers.

But killing in combat has always, in all cultures, been justified by circumstances. Even in the Old Testament, and even in the Joshua stories about the blatantly aggressive conquest of Canaan, most of the actual battles are described as Israel defending itself from the attacks of the enemy. Killing in self-defense is excused everywhere. Amazingly there are relatively few stories, such as this one in Samuel, where the aggression is described as such.

The point, though, is not to vindicate the murderers by saying that God told them to do it. The point is to interpret what happened so that the actions of "God's people" can be seen to be in harmony with God's will, and therefore to have a positive message. That positive message is "destroy evil" and has been happily understood that way by generations of Christians and Jews.

We come along thousands of years later and say "Wait a minute! A good God wouldn't really order genocide!" This is a good point, and definitely one that needs to be explained. But it misses the point in not grasping that these brutal stories have always fit into a larger message about good triumphing over evil.

Morality tales from every culture commonly include punishments that go beyond real-life morality. Storybook and cinematic villains generally die in nasty ways, and readers and viewers seldom complain.

The fact that the Israelites were real people and that God either did or did not actually order genocide does make it much more troubling than what Spiderman did to the Green Goblin. But the context and interpretation is very much the same.

Personally, I resolve this dilemma by believing that although these things actually happened more or less the way that they are reported in the Bible, God Himself did not actually order these killings. He merely permitted Israel to believe that He had and permitted it to be described that way in the biblical account. He did this because this was in accord with the cultural expectations of the time, and because the universally understood theme of the triumph of good over evil could be served in that way.

The end result, as is the case for virtually everything in this "Chapter & Worse" section, is a story with an overall positive message but which falls apart on close inspection.

All this means, in my opinion, is that none of this is as simple as it appears. Unfortunately, simple messages are the only ones that work when dealing with bronze and iron age communities.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Sure it does.

Hey, is wehyatt your sockpuppet or something Freddy? Or is this tag-team wrestling? [Big Grin]


quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Morality tales from every culture commonly include punishments that go beyond real-life morality. Storybook and cinematic villains generally die in nasty ways, and readers and viewers seldom complain.

Come on Freddy, when does God kill them or ask for their deaths in these stories? Bad people meet a sticky-end stories are in all cultures, but that is not the same as 'God told the Israelites to kill them.'


quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Personally, I resolve this dilemma by believing that although these things actually happened more or less the way that they are reported in the Bible, God Himself did not actually order these killings. He merely permitted Israel to believe that He had and permitted it to be described that way in the biblical account. He did this because this was in accord with the cultural expectations of the time, and because the universally understood theme of the triumph of good over evil could be served in that way.

We always end up here Freddy - I'm glad that God permitted you to believe that about Israel ... if you want I'll tell you what he really thinks though! [Snigger]
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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
I'm glad that God permitted you to believe that about Israel ... if you want I'll tell you what he really thinks though! [Snigger]

Isn't that just the issue? We are three-millennia removed from whatever happened in these stories. You have no way to know what God really thinks or what really happened.

To me the priority is that there is a rational explanation and a good, morally consistent God.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Isn't that just the issue? We are three-millennia removed from whatever happened in these stories. You have no way to know what God really thinks or what really happened.

To me the priority is that there is a rational explanation and a good, morally consistent God.

Consistent with what? Your definition of morality?

Why bother with scripture at all then? We call these stories 'sacred writings' because we believe that in some sense they are special revelation.

How do you see 1 Samuel 15 as revelation in anyway different to Shakespeare or The Beano?

[ 23. September 2009, 06:01: Message edited by: Johnny S ]

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Consistent with what? Your definition of morality?

Self-consistent. Consistent with the words of Jesus. Not my definition, but rather the definition that emerges from Scripture taken as a whole.
quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Why bother with scripture at all then? We call these stories 'sacred writings' because we believe that in some sense they are special revelation.

That's right. Their ultimate author is a single loving God. So it is important that they be understood in a way that supports that belief.
quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
How do you see 1 Samuel 15 as revelation in anyway different to Shakespeare or The Beano?

God is the ultimate author. That is, God inspired whoever wrote these accounts to write them in the way that they did and using the words they used.

Unlike Shakespeare these verses are God speaking to the reader.

But these words need to be understood rightly, and the reader needs to draw a message from them that is consistent with the rest of Scripture. The idea that God could actually order genocide is not consistent with what Jesus teaches, even though it is quite consistent with things Jesus says in some of His parables.

The overall message is that good triumphs over evil. The question for the reader is both "Which side are you on?" and "You need to trust the Lord in order to overcome evil in your own life."

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Pre-cambrian
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
But these words need to be understood rightly, and the reader needs to draw a message from them that is consistent with the rest of Scripture. The idea that God could actually order genocide is not consistent with what Jesus teaches, even though it is quite consistent with things Jesus says in some of His parables.

The overall message is that good triumphs over evil. The question for the reader is both "Which side are you on?" and "You need to trust the Lord in order to overcome evil in your own life."

Unless you are saying that Jesus's parables don't constitute part of Jesus's teaching, which would be quite unusual amongst Christians, you are contradicting yourself in one sentence. If ordering genocide is consistent with what is said in some of the parables, then ordering genocide is consistent with Jesus's teaching. That has some pretty far-reaching consequences, not least for your beliefs that "loving" is the determining quality of God and that the overall message is that good triumphs over evil.

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Pre-cambrian:
Unless you are saying that Jesus's parables don't constitute part of Jesus's teaching, which would be quite unusual amongst Christians, you are contradicting yourself in one sentence.

And you have a problem with that? [Disappointed]

I am referring to parables such as the following, where the fictional protagonists react aggressively and violently against those who oppose them:

The parable of the Great Supper:
quote:
Matthew 22:6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8
The man without a wedding garment:
quote:
Matthew 22:12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and[a] cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The wicked vinedressers:
quote:
Matthew 21:40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, ...44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

The unforgiving servant:
quote:
Matthew 18:34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

The point is that these little stories, appearing mostly in Matthew, don't seem to reflect a completely loving and gentle mindset.

So is Jesus contradicting His "love your enemies" teachings? That's not the way I read it, but what do I know?

[ 23. September 2009, 21:53: Message edited by: Freddy ]

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
The point is that these little stories, appearing mostly in Matthew, don't seem to reflect a completely loving and gentle mindset.

So is Jesus contradicting His "love your enemies" teachings? That's not the way I read it, but what do I know?

And what about the things he did - like all that violence in the temple and cursing the fig-tree? (Symbolic of the destruction of the temple which included a lot of killing of innocent people when it happened.)

I'm not saying that we read the gospels entirely in the light of these incidents either, just that there is no secret code planted in the gospels that tells us which bits to accept and which to reject the way you seem to be reading them.

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
I'm not saying that we read the gospels entirely in the light of these incidents either, just that there is no secret code planted in the gospels that tells us which bits to accept and which to reject the way you seem to be reading them.

I think that there is, and that it isn't especially hard to see it.

Jesus neither rejects all forms of violence nor embraces them. Each of His statements need to be seen in the context of the rest - just as with any communication. It may be a little challenging to see why He cursed the fig tree, or said the things above in parables, all the while preaching forgiveness.

It is similarly hard to see why Jehovah is described as demanding genocide. But it isn't that hard.

Throughout the course of Christian and Jewish history few have even commented on these things until relatively recently. I have seldom noticed the average church-goer even wondering about these issues - not that they would have coherent answers if challenged. But I think that most people pretty easily accept all kinds of variations of the "good conquers evil" formula.

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
... there is no secret code planted in the gospels that tells us which bits to accept and which to reject the way you seem to be reading them.

The thing is, we accept these passages as divine revelation from and by God, which can't accurately be described as rejecting them.

There are apparent inconsistencies in the Gospels and in the Bible in general that we all have to deal with one way or another. How we approach them has a lot to do with what we believe about their authorship, which is as much a starting point as it a conclusion (if not more). If I believe that they were written by God through human agents, that will lead me to look for a very different kind of resolution than if I don't see God as the real author.

The way you make a categorical assertion that there is no symbolic meaning of the kind we see leads me to guess that you don't see God as the real author, at least not in the same way we do. Is this the case? From your posts, you seem like someone who has given this a lot of careful thought: how do you see the authorship of these passages? How do you approach an apparent inconsistency like Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies and his parables about violent treatment of them?

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Throughout the course of Christian and Jewish history few have even commented on these things until relatively recently.

Exactly. The Bible has become a mirror in which we view our own cultural mores. That is the end result of POMO.

I agree that there is a trajectory throughout the bible (some form of progressive revelation) but it cannot be stored in some secret code - it must be equally accessible to every generation who reads it.

[ 25. September 2009, 03:09: Message edited by: Johnny S ]

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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
If I believe that they were written by God through human agents, that will lead me to look for a very different kind of resolution than if I don't see God as the real author.

I believe this too, but therefore it must rule out any kind of hidden code put there by God - that denies the human authorship. The text must make sense to the culture in which it was first written.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
The way you make a categorical assertion that there is no symbolic meaning of the kind we see leads me to guess that you don't see God as the real author, at least not in the same way we do. Is this the case? From your posts, you seem like someone who has given this a lot of careful thought: how do you see the authorship of these passages? How do you approach an apparent inconsistency like Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies and his parables about violent treatment of them?

Traditionally (although obviously with some range of views) Christians have viewed scripture as having, in some sense, two authors - inspired by God but written entirely consciously by human authors. As I said above, this means that God does not encode things in the bible. There will be 'seeds' - ideas that are only partially grasped but later fully realised - but there will be nothing that is entirely new, a complete and total contradiction of what went before. Hence Jesus' words about fufilling rather than abolishing the OT.
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
I agree that there is a trajectory throughout the bible (some form of progressive revelation) but it cannot be stored in some secret code - it must be equally accessible to every generation who reads it.

Why impose that requirement? The Bible is written in a way that is more accessible to some than others, and to some generations than others. The wise see wisdom in it, the foolish see only foolishness. The Psalmist says:
quote:
Psal, 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
27 For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.

The Bible gives us what we bring to it.

I don't think the "code" is anything that complicated. Words and phrases are used in certain ways in the Bible in repeating patterns and contexts. An intelligent person who becomes very familiar with the Bible as a whole will intuitively recognize most of it without even realizing it.

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Why impose that requirement? The Bible is written in a way that is more accessible to some than others, and to some generations than others. The wise see wisdom in it, the foolish see only foolishness.

Yes, but that discrimination is based only on an attitude of heart. some form of 'secret code' means that intelligence is necessary to crack the code.

quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
An intelligent person who becomes very familiar with the Bible as a whole will intuitively recognize most of it without even realizing it.

But God is impartial. Personally I don't see any difference in your sentence above to saying, "Any white person who becomes familiar with the bible ..."
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
... this means that God does not encode things in the bible.

Your post seemed reasonable when I read it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really don't understand. If you have the patience to respond to some more questions, I'm hoping you can explain (and I mean that sincerely). I know this discussion has dragged on to the point where hardly anyone cares to read it, but I think we pretty much have this board to ourselves now [Big Grin] and I think the subject is important enough to warrant pursuing it further (if you care to).

You say (or imply) that you believe that scripture is inspired by God. I don't understand what this would mean if there is nothing more to the text than what author was aware of. I imagine you have done plenty of preaching - haven't you had people draw valid insights from your sermons that you did not have in mind when you wrote them? If a brilliant playwright wrote an inspired, serious drama, couldn't the audience draw insights from it that go well beyond what the playwright was consciously thinking of while writing it? Isn't that why we call such a play inspired?

I understand that the biblical text must have made sense its contemporary readers (in general), but if it was inspired by God, then why is it impossible that the texts hold more of a message than the authors were aware of?

Perhaps we mean something very different by God's inspiration. Do you see scripture as being in a unique category, above and beyond works of "normal" human inspiration? If not, then I think that would explain our differences. But if so (and your point about revelation not contradicting itself makes me think we mean something at least somewhat similar), then what does God's inspiration mean if it doesn't mean there's something more to the text beyond what the author consciously put into it?

As for your objection about the message requiring intelligence, wouldn't divinely inspired text contain enough for everyone to keep learning from, no matter how intelligent they are and no matter how much they study it? There are already parts of the Bible that are nearly impossible for readers to make any sense of unless they are very intelligent, capable, and able to devote a lot of effort to the task. Or unless they depend on the efforts of such scholars. This is especially true of things like the visions of Daniel and other prophecies. Wouldn't such texts contain more than the author was aware of? Some texts are easy enough for just about everyone to understand, such as "You shall not murder." But doesn't even that reveal more to the intelligent scholar than to the average reader or to the simple-minded? How about Isaiah? Doesn't that take more intelligence to understand? God may be impartial, but that does not mean the Bible is uniformly meaningful to everyone.

You may be referring to the non-prophetical parts of scripture, but as you point out, Jesus is the fulfillment of all scripture. Doesn't that make all of the Old Testament a prophecy of a sort, one that was not completely understood by its authors? Luke 24:27 says "And beginning from Moses, and from all the prophets, He explained to them the things about Himself in all the Scriptures." Was he not explaining things that the original authors did not have in mind? Or are you saying that there is nothing beyond the author's original thoughts, except for the final fulfillment in Jesus (which I can understand since Jesus brought new revelation)?

I can see why you would believe that a story like 1 Samuel 15 does not contain more than meets the eye. But I can't see why you believe that it's impossible for it to do so. Could the author not have had in mind a literal illustration of God's intolerance of evil, and with God's inspiration then worded it in such a way that it also contains deeper illustrations of the same principle? Not by what you refer to as a "secret code," but by the imagery of the literal story itself?

Also, since you object so strenuously to the apparent contradiction you see between the text of God's command to destroy the Amalekites in verse 3 and the symbolic meaning that I'm suggesting can be also be seen, I'd be interested to know how you reconcile the text with other passages about how merciful and loving God is, and with the New Testament message about loving your enemies.

I hesitate to hit that "Add reply" button, but I am very interested in understanding your views, and I know I don't quite get it yet.

[ 26. September 2009, 05:23: Message edited by: wehyatt ]

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quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
Your post seemed reasonable when I read it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really don't understand.

That's because you haven't got the code. [Razz]

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
You say (or imply) that you believe that scripture is inspired by God. I don't understand what this would mean if there is nothing more to the text than what author was aware of.

I didn't say that. I said earlier that there may well be a sensus plenior to scripture. What I said was that any 'deeper' meaning cannot contradict the author's intent.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I imagine you have done plenty of preaching - haven't you had people draw valid insights from your sermons that you did not have in mind when you wrote them?

All the time. Often better than my insights!

Not contradictory though.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
I understand that the biblical text must have made sense its contemporary readers (in general), but if it was inspired by God, then why is it impossible that the texts hold more of a message than the authors were aware of?

This is where the notion of 'secret code' comes in. I'm quite happy with texts holding more of a message than the human author was consciously aware of. However, a code is different. The only connection between the deciphered message and the original message is the letters used. However, I am arguing that (for it to be divine revelation with genuine human authorship) there must also be a connection with meaning too.

e.g.

If the text of 1 Samuel said, "God ordered David his assistant to exterminate states - killing in lines, liquidating in groups."

And then I pointed out that the first letter of every word spells out ... God hates killing .... then I could argue that the secret code undermines the original authorial intent.

However, we have no evidence at all of the early Christians reading the OT like that. There are some pretty strange uses, I agree, but I don't see anyone using the OT to say the direct opposite of what the original author meant.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
As for your objection about the message requiring intelligence, wouldn't divinely inspired text contain enough for everyone to keep learning from, no matter how intelligent they are and no matter how much they study it? There are already parts of the Bible that are nearly impossible for readers to make any sense of unless they are very intelligent, capable, and able to devote a lot of effort to the task. Or unless they depend on the efforts of such scholars.

Absolutely - but this also demonstrates why the notion of secret codes must be ruled out. Of course a learned theology professor goes far deeper into the text than a 5 year old child, but my point is that the message they both gain should not be mutually incompatible.

So when my children read that, "God so loved the world" they marvel at the width of God's love that he should love the whole world. I, on the other hand, knowing some Greek and some background knowledge know that 'kosmos' in John's gospel is not so much about the size of the world but how it is set against Jesus and God the Father. So I see that the emphasis is more on the marvel that God should love the whole world when it is so bad rather than because it is so big! Now, does that mean that my children do not understand God's love? Not at all. Their deduction is a good one, just there is more there.

So I'm not saying that everyone will get the same out of the bible, just that there should be a connection between different readings.

quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
Could the author not have had in mind a literal illustration of God's intolerance of evil, and with God's inspiration then worded it in such a way that it also contains deeper illustrations of the same principle? Not by what you refer to as a "secret code," but by the imagery of the literal story itself?

Ummh, possibly - although that would only make sense if the literal illustration was just that ... i.e. that God did order this genocide.


quote:
Originally posted by wehyatt:
Also, since you object so strenuously to the apparent contradiction you see between the text of God's command to destroy the Amalekites in verse 3 and the symbolic meaning that I'm suggesting can be also be seen, I'd be interested to know how you reconcile the text with other passages about how merciful and loving God is, and with the New Testament message about loving your enemies.

The short answer is that I can't reconicle them, not fully. I mean that. This passage genuinely troubles me and I have no neat answers. While it is impossible to live with wholescale logical contradictions everywhere, I have learnt to live with some dissonance. I try to let the voices of scripture speak for themselves and not be too quick to neatly harmonise them - while I do still hold onto their being ultimately one voice to scripture, namely God's voice.

The longer answer involves stuff mentioned on this thread already. The Amalekites had been given hundreds of years to repent and God was using the Israelites to judge them. I don't like that but that is what the text says. I don't see any support for genocide here though - God uses nations as instruments of judgment and holds them accountable for their actions at the same time ... Assyria in Isaiah 10 is a prime example of that.

Also I hold to a PSA framework and so I am able to see God acting both in judgment and love at the cross ... hence it is logically possible for 1 Samuel 15 to be true and for God to be merciful and loving towards those who repent, and also patient towards everyone.

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Why impose that requirement? The Bible is written in a way that is more accessible to some than others, and to some generations than others. The wise see wisdom in it, the foolish see only foolishness.

Yes, but that discrimination is based only on an attitude of heart. some form of 'secret code' means that intelligence is necessary to crack the code.
quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
An intelligent person who becomes very familiar with the Bible as a whole will intuitively recognize most of it without even realizing it.

But God is impartial. Personally I don't see any difference in your sentence above to saying, "Any white person who becomes familiar with the bible ..."

By "intelligent" I do primarily mean an attitude of heart. As we read in Luke:
quote:
Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.
By "babes" Jesus meant the ordinary, the simple, the trusting, the open.

He in fact specifically criticized the so-called intelligence of the religious authorities:
quote:
John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

Matthew 23:24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Matthew 16:3 Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.

In other words, these people didn't get it, even though they were the learned authorities.

So by "intelligent" I don't mean scholarly but perceptive - someone who "gets it".

If you get it you will see that God is a God of love, that He is infinitely fair and merciful, and that descriptions of any apparent lack of mercy in the Bible cannot be taken at face value.

Not that there is a "secret code" so much as that there is a point of view and a systematic use of imagery to convey meaning adapted both to the wise and to the simple.

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
If you get it you will see that God is a God of love, that He is infinitely fair and merciful, and that descriptions of any apparent lack of mercy in the Bible cannot be taken at face value.

So close, and yet so far.

I was right with you up to this last statement.

It's not that I disagree with your description of God as a God love or of his great mercy.

Rather it is the massive leap you make from saying all that stuff and then going straight to the definitive statement of revelation that relatives all others ... and you do it without passing go and without collecting £200.

Where does Jesus say (or indeed anywhere in scripture) that the statement you make about God relativises all other statements?

[ 26. September 2009, 12:34: Message edited by: Johnny S ]

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Where does Jesus say (or indeed anywhere in scripture) that the statement you make about God relativises all other statements?

The way that you understand God does indeed relativise all statements. Everything hinges on Him.

John points this out when he says:
quote:
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
That is, if you don't understand that God is love, you miss the point of Scriptural statements such as I Samuel 15:3. And if you don't love you won't understand that God is love, or what that even means.

Jesus frequently points to the people's misunderstanding of Scripture along these same lines. Hosea said:
quote:
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Jesus rues the people's lack of understanding of Hosea's words:
quote:
Matthew 12:7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
If they had understood the relative importance of this statement, and how it fits with the many statements that seem to support and even demand sacrifices, they would not have been in the sorry condition they were in.

Again, this goes back to what the Psalmist said about our understanding of God:
quote:
Psalm 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.

Your view of God really depends on you.

The many statements that Scripture makes cannot be reconciled when taken at face value. So either you nullify them by denying their source in God, or you interpret them according to assumptions you make about the meaning of Scripture.

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
The way that you understand God does indeed relativise all statements. Everything hinges on Him.

John points this out when he says:
quote:
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
That is, if you don't understand that God is love, you miss the point of Scriptural statements such as I Samuel 15:3. And if you don't love you won't understand that God is love, or what that even means.
Er, Freddy, in the very same letter John says:

quote:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1 verse 5

So already you have 'God is light' to put alongside 'God is love'. There is no one simple factor that defines everything else in scripture. Or at least, as you say, God is that one thing, but there is no one defining characteristic for God. There are several that we have to hold together - e.g. God is love, God is light, God is holy (1 Peter 1) ... just for starters.

quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Your view of God really depends on you.

The many statements that Scripture makes cannot be reconciled when taken at face value. So either you nullify them by denying their source in God, or you interpret them according to assumptions you make about the meaning of Scripture.

[Confused] So there is no such thing as revelation. You are saying that scripture is just a mirror where we see God's image as our reflection?
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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
So already you have 'God is light' to put alongside 'God is love'. There is no one simple factor that defines everything else in scripture. Or at least, as you say, God is that one thing, but there is no one defining characteristic for God.

That's right. The point is that God's qualities are not mutually exclusive. They come together to form a single whole. So it's possible to have a more complete or a less complete concept of God.

A more complete concept involves understanding that God does not order genocide even though His Divine Word says that He did.
quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Your view of God really depends on you.

[Confused] So there is no such thing as revelation. You are saying that scripture is just a mirror where we see God's image as our reflection?
Revelation is more complex than simply words on a page. God actually interacts with each person individually as we interact with the written Word of God.

There is certainly revelation, and we can legitimately point to the consistent teachings of Scripture as revelation from God. But the message that we grasp and the lessons that we draw from it depend on our own interaction with it - our personal and private interaction with God.

This is why Jesus explained His reasons for speaking in parables the way that He did. He said:
quote:
I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

It sounds like Jesus doesn't want to heal them for some reason. But I think the meaning is that they don't want to be healed. The point is that understanding, hearing and sight depend on our own willingness to receive.

So, yes, revelation is like a mirror where we see what we bring to it. But it is a very complex sort of mirror. It takes into account that apart from God we are nothing, and it enables us to see what we otherwise would never know.

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
A more complete concept involves understanding that God does not order genocide even though His Divine Word says that He did.

Freddy we are just going round in circles here - we hit this earlier on the thread.

Who says a more complete concept involves this?You obviously don't get it from scripture because you've failed to demonstrate why it must be so from scripture.

You clearly have objective criteria that you appeal to above scripture - where do they come from?

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
Who says a more complete concept involves this? You obviously don't get it from scripture because you've failed to demonstrate why it must be so from scripture.

Yes I have demonstrated why it must be so from Scripture. It is clearly implied by the quote from Psalm 18:
quote:
Psalm 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.

A complete concept of God, if there is such a thing, would see God as He really is.

He's not genocidal.
quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
You clearly have objective criteria that you appeal to above scripture - where do they come from?

My Swedenborgian faith certainly contributes to this, as does your Baptist faith for you.

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
Yes I have demonstrated why it must be so from Scripture. It is clearly implied by the quote from Psalm 18:

Sigh.

No you haven't. You've just given yet another proof text of what God is like. You've admitted that some hold in tension with one another. You have not justified why some should trump the others.

I'm not arguing that God is genocidal. I'm just saying that none of your reasons for saying so actually come from the bible.

Of course we are all influenced by our backgrounds and our traditions. But if the reason you think God is not genocidal is just because Swedenborg said so then admit to that.

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
The only connection between the deciphered message and the original message is the letters used. However, I am arguing that (for it to be divine revelation with genuine human authorship) there must also be a connection with meaning too.

Your objections seem to boil down to two related issues: that any deeper meaning must be connected to the literal meaning and that therefore the deeper meaning cannot contradict the literal meaning. If someone were to suggest to me that God encrypted a secret message inside the literal text so that the text had nothing to do with the secret message and that one needs the secret key, then I would have a similar reaction. I would see no value in such a view for helping me understand either the text or God.

However, our view of God's inspiration for divine revelation is pretty much the opposite. I would say that not only does the text need to make sense to the culture in which it was first written, the culture itself actually determines the literal text because it is a cultural expression of the deeper meaning.

Our view is based on seeing the effect of God's inspiration in revelation as being similar to what happens commonly when two people communicate. If one person is trying to present an idea that is unfamiliar to the listener and that is difficult for the listener to understand, then the listener very naturally translates the concepts into terms he or she already understands. This happens, for instance, when a parent tries to express to their young child how much they love them and the child responds with something like "you mean you love me more than ice cream?"

With any concept that God wants to give to us in revelation, the effect is similar. It's not that God is encoding the concept as a secret message, it's that the human recipients translate it into terms they understand. When God was giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the idea of them being something holy and from God was translated into the cultural terms of being written on a mountain because a mountain was up high and inaccessible. It might have actually happened that way, or it might not have. Either way, we see the story as divine revelation because it is a universal divine message (for all people and all time) illustrated symbolically by a story that expresses that message in a cultural context.

And when God inspired the author of 1 Samuel 15 about the idea of entirely rejecting evil, it was translated into a divine command to destroy the Amalekites. But it was not God doing the translating, it was the author receiving the inspiration. The reason we still consider it divine revelation is that we believe God inspired the author to write it in a way so as to preserve the deeper meaning in the story's symbolism.

Today, we can argue about whether 1 Samuel 15 contradicts the idea of a loving God who could never endorse genocide, but at that time, I don't think that the Israelites would have had the slightest question that it was in full agreement with what God desired. To them "God wants us to fight against evil" meant "God wants us to kill the Amalekites" so that's how they translated it. A revelation of the same message from God to a different culture would have been translated by that culture into a different form, and if that culture was better able to understand the message it would not have taken the form of a divine command for genocide.

So our comfortableness with the apparent contradiction between 1 Samuel 15:3 and our view of God is not because we see an arbitrary symbolic message that is unconnected to the literal message. It's because we see it as a divine message within a story that made perfect sense as an adaptation of that message for and by the people of the time.

I know I won't persuade you to agree, but I do hope you can see that we're not talking about arbitrary symbolism and that calling it a code the way you mean is inaccurate.

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

Posts: 1565 | From: U.S.A. | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged



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