Monday, September 06, 2010

God is Imaginary: #22 Count all the People God wants to murder

Count all the people God wants to murder.

I'm going to start with the last two paragraphs first, and then hit the two examples I'm interested in addressing.

In the penultimate paragraph, they say, "Second, there is this fact: If God is an all-powerful being, he would kill them himself." I'm pretty sure they're just taking a cheap shot, but let me take it at face value. If God killed everyone who deserved to die, who would be left? James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." There goes the neighborhood.

So why should God have human agents carry out His will? Is part of being good opposing evil? Should we expect God to keep us from evil with well-timed lightning bolts? Would such an ersatz electric fence keep us from sinning? How would that make us desire to do good? We as humans serve God not that he needs our help, but because we need to help.

And in the final paragraph, it says, "Notice that believers completely ignore these parts of the Bible." I'm afraid that they were misinformed, because (as is pretty much always the case with their objections) they ignore who was the intended recipient of a message. I am not building an ark because I was not commanded to build an ark. I am not stoning sinners because I am not commanded to stone sinners. I am instead commanded to let my light shine before men.

On to their examples:

Honoring the Sabbath

This question puts me in mind of 2 Kings 5:13 "If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” It's such a profoundly simple thing to do! Why not honor the Sabbath? It's not like He's asking you to whip yourself with blades.

But it gets much more profound than that. Let's turn to Luke 14:5 “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” This seems to be a conundrum, doesn't it? On the one hand, you're failing to honor the Sabbath by working for a rescue, but on the other hand, you're willfully allowing suffering if you do honor the Sabbath. Which option is sinful? I argue both. You sin by either neglecting your duties or by breaking the Sabbath. Trusting to our own strength, we are hopelessly sinful. That is why Isaiah said in 64:6 "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags". When you consider the difficulty in keeping the incomparably easy command of honoring the Sabbath, all you can do is to have faith in God's mercy.

As an aside, Billy Graham was asked about Luke 14:5 by a young man who claimed he HAD to work on Sunday. Billy Graham purportedly said, "If your ox falls into a well every Sunday, you need to tie up the ox, cover the well, or get a new ox."

Rebellious Teenagers

I have heard it argued that this was a liberal idea for the time. According to Wikipedia, the head of a household could execute a family member, or sell them into slavery. When I was reading the Kanun, it concurred that this was a common privilege. Bringing a civil authority in to arbitrate a dispute which would otherwise have automatically led to the death of the rebellious teenager is a vast leap forward. However, the last sentence demonstrates that this was pretty darn rare (if it happened frequently, why would it be news?).

As always, it's best to place this in context. If you were attempting to preserve a remnant from corrupting influences, who is most likely to partake of these "corrupting influences?" We can understand this law as God's mercy on future generations through the chosen people.

Always remember 2 Corinthians 3:6 when discussing the Old Testament: "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Back to the 50 reasons.



Blogger Noumenon said...

Somehow I totally missed your link to the Kanun (maybe I figured it was a Wikipedia link and didn't care enough right then?) I might have clicked it if the link had covered reading the Kanun, which would be more of a signal that it was a link to one of your posts. As it was I composed a complaint about having to go to Wikipedia and them not mentioning anything about executing your children, and now I've had to delete it.

If God killed everyone who deserved to die, who would be left?

"Deserved to die" is different from "wants them killed." There's no question why I haven't killed my neighbor even if I think he deserves to die, but if I've actually instructed my subordinates to kill him on sight it's perfectly legitimate to ask why I don't do it myself. In this case, the answer is as you say -- it's for the benefit of the believers carrying out the orders. Apparently murder builds character.

I too think he's wrongheaded in trying to apply these rules to modern-day Americans. He's going for relevance, but the right way to do that would be to say "Imagine living in the original Hebrew society. Imagine how frequently people today work on the Sabbath, commit adultery, or are rebellious sons. Imagine stoning everyone who works at Wal-Mart on the weekend or shows up on the police blotter. Then ask yourself, 'Why am I comfortable worshiping a God who acts nice now, but in the past basically presided over a reign of terror?'"

And that "It's logically impossible to keep the Sabbath but that's still your fault" is bullshit, as I've said before. That's the system designer's fault, not the occupants'.

The target audience for these entries is Christians who don't like God is Imaginary and google for counterarguments, so I'm sure this post will be fine for them. It made me like God less, though.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

See the reply here.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Roger Kovaciny said...

Wikipedia is wrong. There is nothing in the passage about selling a wicked son into slavery.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Not in the context of rebellious teenagers, but you could sell a child into slavery (Exodus 21:7-11).

2:52 PM  

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