God hardened Pharaoh's heart

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Comments

  • mousethief wrote: »
    I have.

    The first shall be last and all that jazz.

  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    How do we deal with this?
    If you try to corral the problem with your categories have you not tried to reduce it to a problem of mental assent. The issue of Pharoah is not a mental challenge to worry.
    KarlLB wrote: »
    MPaul - you seem to be saying "turn your critical faculties off. Call injustice justice. Call genocide fair and just. Pretend you can cope with thousands of babies being killed in a night because they committed the terrible deed of being the first son of an Egyptian family. Pretend it's fine and dandy for God to orchestrate that so he can play the Rescuer. Pretend you can't see how twisted that is."

    No. A thousand times no. It's not even possible, not for anyone with a functioning brain and conscience, anyway. If I have to explain to you why punishing a group for the sins of some is wrong, then I don't think it's I who has the problem.
    I kind of wonder who is the real literalist here. The Bible is pretty unequivocal about sin and its consequences. If you describe what God states is righteous judgement as unrighteousness you are putting yourself in the place of one who sits on his throne. If you think you can honestly do that then you have taken a stance of pride.

    Genocide is what happened to Jews at the hands of Nazis and what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rawanda. It was motivated by fear and hate. You dare to judge what Israel did to The Canaanite by that standard..really?

    We know enough about the story to state several important aspects. The Canaanites had 400 years to repent after the judgement call. Similarly in the later judgements on Israel and Judah by Assyria and Babylon. God gives chances to repent. If you study the story you always see this and you see that sin, if left to itself would completely destroy humanity unless God intervened.

    There are other things to notice about the story. One was the corrupt human sacrifice practices in their idolatry. There was also the presence of the nephilim suggesting a situation where a corruption of human genetics hand once again occurred as it had prior to the flood. God’ s response there was anhialation as well.

    Sometimes We don’t have all the facts Karl and to take yourview is not just disrespectful of God and his revelation, it is blasphemous and only excusable because of a total lack of discernment. You do not know all the facts and you are out of line in attributing evil motives to God himself. Well, sooner you than me! As Paul states unequivocally, ‘The natural mind can never apprehend spiritual things’
  • You surprised me by having (a) in your mix.

    Been here for 9 years. Been to 7 churches. Encountered people from that many more locally. HGM rules. Magic rules.

  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Host hat on

    Gamma Gamaliel, I asked the posters on this thread to cut out the tripe. Did you read my post? That applies to certain other posters also. If you don't have anything to contribute to the discussion about Pharaoh, don't post.

    Host hat off
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    MPaul wrote: »
    How do we deal with this?
    If you try to corral the problem with your categories have you not tried to reduce it to a problem of mental assent. The issue of Pharoah is not a mental challenge to worry.
    KarlLB wrote: »
    MPaul - you seem to be saying "turn your critical faculties off. Call injustice justice. Call genocide fair and just. Pretend you can cope with thousands of babies being killed in a night because they committed the terrible deed of being the first son of an Egyptian family. Pretend it's fine and dandy for God to orchestrate that so he can play the Rescuer. Pretend you can't see how twisted that is."

    No. A thousand times no. It's not even possible, not for anyone with a functioning brain and conscience, anyway. If I have to explain to you why punishing a group for the sins of some is wrong, then I don't think it's I who has the problem.
    I kind of wonder who is the real literalist here. The Bible is pretty unequivocal about sin and its consequences. If you describe what God states is righteous judgement as unrighteousness you are putting yourself in the place of one who sits on his throne. If you think you can honestly do that then you have taken a stance of pride.

    Genocide is what happened to Jews at the hands of Nazis and what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rawanda. It was motivated by fear and hate. You dare to judge what Israel did to The Canaanite by that standard..really?

    We know enough about the story to state several important aspects. The Canaanites had 400 years to repent after the judgement call. Similarly in the later judgements on Israel and Judah by Assyria and Babylon. God gives chances to repent. If you study the story you always see this and you see that sin, if left to itself would completely destroy humanity unless God intervened.

    There are other things to notice about the story. One was the corrupt human sacrifice practices in their idolatry. There was also the presence of the nephilim suggesting a situation where a corruption of human genetics hand once again occurred as it had prior to the flood. God’ s response there was anhialation as well.

    Sometimes We don’t have all the facts Karl and to take yourview is not just disrespectful of God and his revelation, it is blasphemous and only excusable because of a total lack of discernment. You do not know all the facts and you are out of line in attributing evil motives to God himself. Well, sooner you than me! As Paul states unequivocally, ‘The natural mind can never apprehend spiritual things’

    The Bible is not God. We sit in judgement of that work of men. Thanks be to God. We have all the facts we could possibly need. The facts of science. The facts of empiricism and rationality. The facts of physics, evolutionary biology and psychology and anthropology. The Bible disrespects God and His revelation. The Bible endorses human sacrifice. And fallen angels didn't breed. The destroyer of humanity is the God of Bible. From Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is blasphemous and you too are utterly excusable in your ignorant Bibliotary. The Bible is out of line in attributing evil to God Himself. And that is only spiritually discernible.
  • I'll leave others to assess my performance. Did I derail the thread or simply put a few obstacles on the course?
    I like to think in terms of both/and rather than either/or.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    The Bible is not God
    Martin 54, The Bible is our only reliable means of knowing him. It is the medium of revelation.
    It is the rock that cannot lie.


  • MPaul wrote: »
    The Bible is our only reliable means of knowing him. It is the medium of revelation.
    A deist god, maybe. Christianity's God is still capable of speaking to His people.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    OK. I’ll climb back on this horse. I’ve read the whole thread again. It’s very good.

    I think I’ve probably read @Gamma Gamaliel wrongly on occasion, so I’ll try to engage his points more fully, although they can seem a bit vague to me at times.

    That’s probably as much my issue as his because my theological tradition tends to idolise things like “clarity” and “rigour”, rather than mystery and ambiguity. But that’s no reason to stop listening or talking.

    I’ve also re-read the whole Exodus narrative and I have to agree that there are some real apparent problems in there, particularly with what God directly says about himself and with the reasons he gives for what he does.

    However, I’m still theologically inclined to see those problems as residing in me and the effect of the comfortable, permissive, therapeutic and essentially rather toothless version of 21st century western Christianity which is seeking form my thinking, rather than in the text itself.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    The Bible is not God
    Martin 54, The Bible is our only reliable means of knowing him. It is the medium of revelation.
    It is the rock that cannot lie.


    The Bible is as innocent as you. As naked, as blind. The only thing reliable about it is its feeble, slow, contradictory epicyclic evolution on the long moral arc.

    The Bible reveals how little we know of God except qualitatively most in faithful ignorant Christ.
  • Who will rid me of this turbulent layman? 🙄
  • I suppose the deep underlying issue is how we deal with being tied to scripture we see as being flawed in some way.

    One approach is to point it out and say it is disgusting.

    Another is to try to rationalise it away. We know better now.

    Another to attempt to redefine words. Maybe it is only "flawed" because we only perceive part of the picture.

    I'm not sure any of these are really unreasonable positions - they are just different, starting and finishing in different places.

    Personally, I think MPaul's position is far more attractive than Martin's. The latter just sounds like a load of hubble-bubble to me.

    But then Mousethief sounds even worse in a way.

    I have to say that if these are all the available options then the most attractive is to ignore the passages altogether. If there is some truth buried beneath this much dirty packaging, then I'm probably not going to get much of a reward in attempting to unpack it.
  • Ok, I get that magnilo.

    I'm glad you've re-engaged. I didn't and don't want to fall out with you and some of my more flippant posts haven't been helpful.

    If I sound at all vague it's because I've been working through a lengthy process of re-evaluating my theology, although that sounds more considered and deliberate than it's probably been in practice.

    I can live with fuzziness and ambiguity and in instances like this where I'm not convinced that there are clear cut answers and explanations, I'll take refuge in the mists.

    I can fully identify with your reaction against wooly and toothless forms of Western Christianity but I'm sure there had to be a Third Way as it were. I do appreciate the intellectual rigour of the medieval Scholastic tradition and that of the Reformed traditions but can't help but think that they ratchet things up too far when it comes to defining positions and joining the dots.

    Which is why we end with the Five Points of Calvinism, the so many Solas, the 16.7 points of whatever else.

    It's why, in MPaul's tradition, we end up with inerrancy and with what are, to my mind, eccentric views on Dispensations and eschatology.

    Conversely, when people react against that we find some of the opaqueness I struggle with in Martin's posts - bless 'im.

    There must be some way between the Scylla of inflexible literal fundamentalism and the Charybdis of toothless, wooly liberal theology.

    I'd like to think that's the way I'm trying to steer.

    Ok. Preamble over and apologies for making waves and splashing people or messing about in boats.

    On the Exodus thing, was it one of Kipling's characters who said, 'Ain't the Pentateuch queer'?

    Not half.

    I think it was Kwesi who said that one of the problems is that we don't necessarily understand or share the worldview of those for whom it was written. I've found it instructive to hear how Jewish commentators deal with it all. It's strikes me that there's no more single monolithic take on it there than there is within Christianity.

    I'm all for accepting that the 'problem' lies with us to some extent, but I don't think that's the whole story.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    OK. I’ll climb back on this horse. I’ve read the whole thread again. It’s very good.

    I think I’ve probably read @Gamma Gamaliel wrongly on occasion, so I’ll try to engage his points more fully, although they can seem a bit vague to me at times.

    That’s probably as much my issue as his because my theological tradition tends to idolise things like “clarity” and “rigour”, rather than mystery and ambiguity. But that’s no reason to stop listening or talking.

    I’ve also re-read the whole Exodus narrative and I have to agree that there are some real apparent problems in there, particularly with what God directly says about himself and with the reasons he gives for what he does.

    However, I’m still theologically inclined to see those problems as residing in me and the effect of the comfortable, permissive, therapeutic and essentially rather toothless version of 21st century western Christianity which is seeking form my thinking, rather than in the text itself.

    We only blanche at innocent babies being killed for Pharaoh's faults because we're modern softies, and that's our problem, so we shouldn't be so soft and should accept that this sort of killing is actually fine?

    I can't see how that can fly. The problem is in the text.
  • Ah, but Karl, if I understand MPaul correctly, he's saying that it's alright for God to do that because he's God and who are we to question him.

    It was alright for the Israelites to massacre the Canaanites because God told them to do it and they were bastards anyway because they sacrificed their own children and had 400 years to mend their ways beforehand.

    But it isn't alright for anyone else to commit genocide.

    Presumably, MPaul would say that it was wrong for the Puritans of New England to justify the killing of Pequod non-combatants, women and children, during the 'Pequod Wars' of the 1630s by reference to these same texts.

    Which begs the question, why was it alright for the ancient Israelites to do that sort of thing but not 17th century Puritans who saw themselves as the 'New Israel'?

    Why is it wrong then for Cromwell to write, 'God gave them as stubble to our swords,' to describe the way the Earl of Newcastle's 'Whitecoats' were cut down during their last stand at the Battle of Marston Moor?

    Surely he was simply following biblical precedent?

    Is the problem in the text or in the interpretation of the text?

    I don't see why Mousethief's viewpoint is 'even worse in a way' than anyone else's here. I'm be interested in mr cheesy's view of why that should be the case.

    I'm not actually sure what Martin's position is, other than he likes Steve Chalke and can't find anywhere in his home city which has the same kind of approach as the kind of metropolitan post-evangelical one that is becoming increasingly prevalent across evangelically flavoured congregations in London.

    Seven out of the nine churches he's sampled in his own provincial city may prefer HGM, but he doesn't appear to have looked much further than the evangelical-ish ones (he can correct me if I'm wrong).

    I don't think we can say, 'let's ignore these problematic passages' either. They're part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Jews still celebrate Passover. The incident with Pharoah in Exodus is cited by the Apostle Paul in Romans. We have to engage with it and magnilo is right to insist that we do.

    There are problems all ways round, if we spiritualise the whole thing away or whether we take it all literally. The problems remain and we do need to unpack them, as far as we can. I can live with the mystery, but I also like to try to unravel the plot.
  • Of course, I hasten to add that as far as MPaul is concerned the 17th century Puritans, medieval Catholics, early Church or whoever else would have been wrong to consider themselves as the New Israel, as it were.

    His Dispensationalism enables him to iron out some of the problems by consigning all these things into neat packages.

    It's an approach that will take us so far, but is fraught with all sorts of problems in itself.
  • I think it simpler than that.

    I think it's actually a reasonable position

    1. God is good
    2. God doesn't do evil

    Therefore

    3. If we read something that suggests to us that God did something evil, we are wrong.

    I don't think one has to unpick exactly what is happening given one has already pointed to the problem being ignorance at root.

    We don't understand, therefore we've got things a bit messed up.
  • Ok, but the text says that God killed first born Egyptian babies simply because they were Egyptian babies.

    Are we wrong? Is the text wrong? Is our interpretation of the text wrong?

    Is God wrong? Or is it ok for him to do that but we're just modern namby-pamby squeamish types who think that it's not fair to kill babies who've not done any harm to anyone else?

    So, no, it's not that simple at all.

    Far from it.

  • MPaul wrote: »
    Genocide is what happened to Jews at the hands of Nazis and what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rawanda. It was motivated by fear and hate. You dare to judge what Israel did to The Canaanite by that standard..really?

    Yes. The only alternative is to have a morality which boils down to "whatever God says or does is Good, regardless of anything He has said or revealed about it previously".

    So the sixth Commandment becomes "Thou Shalt Not Kill (Unless God Tells You To Do It)".

    It should be obvious that this is not a moral code that has any consistency or universality at all. It is, in fact, an entirely arbitrary code that says there is absolutely nothing that is off limits so long as you earnestly believe God has told you to do it. There can be no commandments, ethics or strictures because the whole of morality has been boiled down to whatever God happens to feel like doing today. It's a morality that's been entirely built upon shifting sands, and against which "God told me to do it" is an absolute defence.

    By this argument, the holocaust would have been absolutely fine and dandy if it had been commanded by God. But how do you know it wasn't? Without a consistent moral standard what criteria can you possibly use to discern whether something is of God or not? You can't say "God would never tell someone to do that", because He already has. You can't say "God is always the same", because in one book of the Bible He's ordering the total extermination of a whole civilisation and in another He's saying "love your enemies".

    I feel it's far better to believe that God is consistently a particular way and then wrestle with those parts of the Bible that show Him acting otherwise than to abandon all pretence of divine consistency as you do. The latter does have the advantage of meaning you don't have to do the difficult work of wrestling with passages such as this, but the cost is far too high. As for how I decide which particular way to believe God is - for that I turn to Jesus, the only Incarnation of God in this world who said "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father". Jesus is the standard by which I discern if something is of God, and against which I measure all other revelations, including the Bible. And I just can't see Jesus hardening Pharaoh's heart in order to justify the subsequent murder of an entire generation of Egyptians. Can you?
  • Well that's the rub; how do we do other than read these passages to say that God says so is a license to ethical genocide? How do we answer the person who claims God is saying "Go and do likewise"?

    I don't know. Personally, I'd rather not think about it - and if you ever hear me saying something similar, call a psychiatrist.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    KarlLB wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    OK. I’ll climb back on this horse. I’ve read the whole thread again. It’s very good.

    I think I’ve probably read @Gamma Gamaliel wrongly on occasion, so I’ll try to engage his points more fully, although they can seem a bit vague to me at times.

    That’s probably as much my issue as his because my theological tradition tends to idolise things like “clarity” and “rigour”, rather than mystery and ambiguity. But that’s no reason to stop listening or talking.

    I’ve also re-read the whole Exodus narrative and I have to agree that there are some real apparent problems in there, particularly with what God directly says about himself and with the reasons he gives for what he does.

    However, I’m still theologically inclined to see those problems as residing in me and the effect of the comfortable, permissive, therapeutic and essentially rather toothless version of 21st century western Christianity which is seeking form my thinking, rather than in the text itself.

    We only blanche at innocent babies being killed for Pharaoh's faults because we're modern softies, and that's our problem, so we shouldn't be so soft and should accept that this sort of killing is actually fine?

    I can't see how that can fly. The problem is in the text.

    I think this a a bit of a caricature of what I'm saying, but yes I do think that it's fair to say that our current cultural circumstances do affect the degree of latitude that we're prepared to allow God in terms of his involvement in history, both retrospectively and prospectively.

    It may sound rather obvious but we are, after all, dealing with a God whose way of relating to time and events is very, very different from our own. If, for example, we were to put ourselves in the shoes of an Israelite of the time: being forced to kill our babies; being put to hard slave labour; being generally oppressed, abused, and humiliated, then we might be a bit more open to the idea of God being involved - in some inscrutable way - in in a set of circumstances that our current cultural moment will not easily allow.

    Now, one might argue that God himself may not actually have been involved in those circumstances but rather that the writer of Exodus was simply more willing to attribute those actions to God because they were coming from a place of incredible victimhood and social injustice. That is possible, I grant you.

    However, I think it's also possible and desirable to engage with idea of God's sovereignty and omnipotence in a way which maintains his essential goodness without resorting to a deistic theodicy in an attempt to protect God from accusations of injustice. The question of course, is how? For some people, the answer appears to be that you can't.

    For others, like myself, the answer is more like we must keep trying even though it's incredibly difficult and mysterious. For my part, I prefer to admit that I don't currently know but am still willing to accept that scripture really is describing the actions of a good and loving God but inscrutable God, rather than write scripture off as a deeply flawed and inaccurate guide to knowing the God whom I worship.

  • magnilo wrote: »
    Now, one might argue that God himself may not actually have been involved in those circumstances but rather that the writer of Exodus was simply more willing to attribute those actions to God because they were coming from a place of incredible victimhood and social injustice. That is possible, I grant you.

    It goes without saying (I hope) that this is where I am at.

    As for God's omnipotence, I sometimes think that Calvinists worship God's omnipotence more than they worship God himself. Their hard line on this issue leaves no room for the kenosis that Paul ascribes to Christ, and leads to a puppet show in which God does everything. For us to have any agency at all, God must forego part of his omnipotence. Once that is admitted, omnipotence's war with compassion is over.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    However, I think it's also possible and desirable to engage with idea of God's sovereignty and omnipotence in a way which maintains his essential goodness without resorting to a deistic theodicy in an attempt to protect God from accusations of injustice. The question of course, is how? For some people, the answer appears to be that you can't.

    For others, like myself, the answer is more like we must keep trying even though it's incredibly difficult and mysterious. For my part, I prefer to admit that I don't currently know but am still willing to accept that scripture really is describing the actions of a good and loving God but inscrutable God, rather than write scripture off as a deeply flawed and inaccurate guide to knowing the God whom I worship.

    We absolutely must keep trying, but ultimately ISTM that when the unstoppable force of God's Goodness meets the immovable object of scripture saying He murdered (or ordered the murder of) thousands of innocent children then the only way to resolve the situation is to realise that the object isn't quite as immovable as first thought.
  • Magnilo, you are putting me in the place of Winston Smith. You are insisting I must keep trying to see five fingers, when quite clearly what is before me is four.

    How twisted is your theology getting when it leads you to consider the murder of babies is right and good? And for seeing the four fingers, MPaul accuses me of blasphemy.

    Killing innocents is bad. There are four fingers. Grass is green. Oceania used to be at war with Eastasia.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    mousethief wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    Now, one might argue that God himself may not actually have been involved in those circumstances but rather that the writer of Exodus was simply more willing to attribute those actions to God because they were coming from a place of incredible victimhood and social injustice. That is possible, I grant you.

    It goes without saying (I hope) that this is where I am at.

    As for God's omnipotence, I sometimes think that Calvinists worship God's omnipotence more than they worship God himself.

    I can understand that, but I think it's not a fair representation of my particular theological position. I'd be more inclined to say that the Reformed approach to knowing God isn't prepared to compromise on the attributes of God which we, in all good conscience, see presented in scripture.

    I think this probably, at least in part, arises from the deep suspicion that Reformed Christians have concerning the influence of sin upon the human intellectual faculties, including our theological engagement with scripture. We understand ourselves to be simply too vulnerable to deception to write off huge swathes of the bible as simply wrong or misguided.

    So, from my perspective, it sometimes seems as if certain non-evangelicals worship a version of God so heavily redacted as to be unrecognisable from the one who is revealed in the scriptures. It's almost as if the "one true God" is just a bigger, nicer version of themselves plus the bits of the bible which they happen to find sufficiently appealing.
    Their hard line on this issue leaves no room for the kenosis that Paul ascribes to Christ, and leads to a puppet show in which God does everything.
    I think it's a matter of both/and, not either/or. And yes, I do realise that I'm stealing @Gamma Gamaliel's lines. Sorry.
    For us to have any agency at all, God must forego part of his omnipotence. Once that is admitted, omnipotence's war with compassion is over.
    I'm not convinced that this is true, or at least I'd have to better understand in what sense "God must forgo part of his omnipotence" before I could agree with you. I'm not saying he hasn't or mustn't or doesn't or can't; I'm just saying that I can't agree to that without understanding more fully what you mean.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    MPaul wrote: »
    Genocide is what happened to Jews at the hands of Nazis and what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rawanda. It was motivated by fear and hate. You dare to judge what Israel did to The Canaanite by that standard..really?

    And I just can't see Jesus hardening Pharaoh's heart in order to justify the subsequent murder of an entire generation of Egyptians. Can you?

    Well, yes I can see it because the incident you're talking about is the one we "see" in described in Exodus. Surely, it's the fact that we actually do see exactly this described in the pages of Exodus that's so problematical? I mean, what the heck?

    So, the actual problem is this: we're struggling to agree with something described and, perhaps more importantly, explained in the bible. We struggle to agree with the explanation; we just can't "see" God doing that. And I agree. I do struggle to see God doing that and I certainly don't respond to it with glee, even if I do accept it as speaking some kind of truth.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Actually Marvin, I didn't read your post properly. Sorry. You asked if anyone could see Jesus doing what's described and explained in Exodus, which is a different question. I'll get back to you on that one.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    I suppose the deep underlying issue is how we deal with being tied to scripture we see as being flawed in some way.

    One approach is to point it out and say it is disgusting.

    Another is to try to rationalise it away. We know better now.

    Another to attempt to redefine words. Maybe it is only "flawed" because we only perceive part of the picture.

    I'm not sure any of these are really unreasonable positions - they are just different, starting and finishing in different places.

    Personally, I think MPaul's position is far more attractive than Martin's. The latter just sounds like a load of hubble-bubble to me.

    But then Mousethief sounds even worse in a way.

    I have to say that if these are all the available options then the most attractive is to ignore the passages altogether. If there is some truth buried beneath this much dirty packaging, then I'm probably not going to get much of a reward in attempting to unpack it.

    Then I'm in good company.

    And you've flipped. When did that happen?
  • magnilo wrote: »
    Actually Marvin, I didn't read your post properly. Sorry. You asked if anyone could see Jesus doing what's described and explained in Exodus, which is a different question. I'll get back to you on that one.

    Well if He were the God of the OT (not that He could remember much about it), He HGM-well did didn't He?
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    Mr Cheesy: how do we do other than read these passages to say that God says so is a license to ethical genocide? How do we answer the person who claims God is saying "Go and do likewise

    I think we first rule out all slurs on God’s character.

    Secondly, as you point out, we acknowledge that the potter has rights over the clay.

    Third, we acknowledge the evil, intrinsic in human kind, and acknowledge that there are a variety of scenarios of divine judgement in scripture. Every one only occurred after a tipping point of evil had been reached that if left unchecked would threaten the redemptive process and endanger our species. It is akin to cutting the dead wood from a fruit tree.

    Fourth, we stop applying expectations to God that we rightfully apply to each other. He has more wisdom and knowledge than we do.

    Fifth, we cease making stupid logical errors such as ‘God did it to the Sodomites so we can do it to a bunch that offends us’ What God does in judgement is not a license for human judgement unless he says so in scripture. And he does not do that in the Christian Era. We cannot extrapolate that because the canon is closed. No one nowadays has a warrant for genocide and if they claim divine approbation they are wrong a priori.

    Lastly, we do not confuse categories by equating human actions with divine actions except if we see in scripture, a situation where God commands a human agency accordingly.

  • The greatest slurs on God's character are found in the pages of the Bible. And in the fear paralysed minds of Bibliolaters. Literal Bibliolaters, equating the Bible with God in Jesus.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    Mr Cheesy: how do we do other than read these passages to say that God says so is a license to ethical genocide? How do we answer the person who claims God is saying "Go and do likewise

    I think we first rule out all slurs on God’s character.

    Secondly, as you point out, we acknowledge that the potter has rights over the clay.

    Third, we acknowledge the evil, intrinsic in human kind, and acknowledge that there are a variety of scenarios of divine judgement in scripture. Every one only occurred after a tipping point of evil had been reached that if left unchecked would threaten the redemptive process and endanger our species. It is akin to cutting the dead wood from a fruit tree.

    Fourth, we stop applying expectations to God that we rightfully apply to each other. He has more wisdom and knowledge than we do.

    Fifth, we cease making stupid logical errors such as ‘God did it to the Sodomites so we can do it to a bunch that offends us’ What God does in judgement is not a license for human judgement unless he says so in scripture. And he does not do that in the Christian Era. We cannot extrapolate that because the canon is closed. No one nowadays has a warrant for genocide and if they claim divine approbation they are wrong a priori.

    Lastly, we do not confuse categories by equating human actions with divine actions except if we see in scripture, a situation where God commands a human agency accordingly.

    So you are saying that we can be sure we are not hearing God commanding us to genocide - because he wouldn't do that...?
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Magnilo, you are putting me in the place of Winston Smith. You are insisting I must keep trying to see five fingers, when quite clearly what is before me is four.

    I'm really not insisting that you do anything Karl. I'm explaining my approach to theology. You are free to your approach too.
    How twisted is your theology getting when it leads you to consider the murder of babies is right and good? And for seeing the four fingers, MPaul accuses me of blasphemy.
    This is a very challenging question, which I'm struggling to answer, but I think my answer would likely be that God relates to time and reality in ways which are impossible for his creatures to comprehend. For example, in some inscrutable way all things happen in him, through him and to him because he upholds the universe in which all things exist.
    Killing innocents is bad. There are four fingers. Grass is green. Oceania used to be at war with Eastasia.
    Yes, what you say is true. And I do not have an explanation.

  • magnilo wrote: »
    However, I think it's also possible and desirable to engage with idea of God's sovereignty and omnipotence in a way which maintains his essential goodness without resorting to a deistic theodicy in an attempt to protect God from accusations of injustice. The question of course, is how? For some people, the answer appears to be that you can't.

    For others, like myself, the answer is more like we must keep trying even though it's incredibly difficult and mysterious. For my part, I prefer to admit that I don't currently know but am still willing to accept that scripture really is describing the actions of a good and loving God but inscrutable God, rather than write scripture off as a deeply flawed and inaccurate guide to knowing the God whom I worship.

    We absolutely must keep trying, but ultimately ISTM that when the unstoppable force of God's Goodness meets the immovable object of scripture saying He murdered (or ordered the murder of) thousands of innocent children then the only way to resolve the situation is to realise that the object isn't quite as immovable as first thought.

    This is a fair point. I don't like it; but it's a fair point.

  • I think this is one of the most difficult passages in scripture, one of many it's true, but for my money one of the hardest to grapple with.

    That applies whether we take the Exodus story as literal fact or whether we see it in a more 'mythic' way. Because either way it appears to show God acting in a capricious way. Sure, the Israelites were oppressed, they were suffering the murder of their male children - all that.

    Yet we don't get the impression in Exodus - or at least I don't - that Moses's murder of the Egyptian should be regarded as anything other than a sinful act, irrespective of how much it was provoked.

    It would appear the Protestant Reformed Churches in America's official website thinks differently:

    http://www.prca.org/resources/publications/cr-news/item/1643-did-moses-sin-in-killing-the-egyptian

    '... his act of killing the Egyptian was not murder but an act of faith.'

    I can remember being shocked to find a Scottish Presbyterian writer from the 1860s using a similar argument to justify the Covenanters' murder of Archbishop James Sharpe in 1679.

    See: https://www.covenanter.org/reformed/2017/3/22/was-the-bishops-death-murder

    Ok, these sites may be seen as extremist outliers by the mainstream Reformed tradition but we can't duck out of it. These things are there and they are justified by Reformed writers. Just as some of them justified Apartheid.

    Of course, that's not to tar the entire Reformed tradition with the same brush, but it does seem to me that the same kind of cold, calculating Calvinist logic exemplified by Cromwell at Marston Moor - 'God gave them as stubble to our swords' - and to justify the massacre of priests and religious as well as other non-combatants at Drogheda and Wexford doesn't bode very well at all.

    Sure, Cromwell's actions were justifiable to some extent by the rules of engagement at that time, a garrison that continued to fight on after walls were breached had effectively given up any right to quarter - but that didn't apply to non-combatants. Yes, he regretted the loss of life but he saw it as a necessary evil.

    One might say the same about the bombing of German and Japanese cities in WW2. But it becomes quite another thing, it seems to me, if we claim divine sanction for such things.

    I'm not vilifying the Reformed but I do think they have a problem on their hands. I speak of one who used to be fairly Calvinistic - although I used to stumble at the L in TULIP. So that meant I wasn't a proper Calvinist as far as the rigorists would be concerned.

    What are we saying? The Egyptians were killing Hebrew babies therefore it was fine for God to kill theirs in response?

    That doesn't make the problem go away.

    Sure, we have the NT and turning the other cheek and so on, 'love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you ...'

    But it's still a problem. Saying that it's our intrinsic sin and we sinful human beings shouldn't really question the Almighty doesn't really solve it either.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    However, I think it's also possible and desirable to engage with idea of God's sovereignty and omnipotence in a way which maintains his essential goodness without resorting to a deistic theodicy in an attempt to protect God from accusations of injustice. The question of course, is how? For some people, the answer appears to be that you can't.

    For others, like myself, the answer is more like we must keep trying even though it's incredibly difficult and mysterious. For my part, I prefer to admit that I don't currently know but am still willing to accept that scripture really is describing the actions of a good and loving God but inscrutable God, rather than write scripture off as a deeply flawed and inaccurate guide to knowing the God whom I worship.

    We absolutely must keep trying, but ultimately ISTM that when the unstoppable force of God's Goodness meets the immovable object of scripture saying He murdered (or ordered the murder of) thousands of innocent children then the only way to resolve the situation is to realise that the object isn't quite as immovable as first thought.

    This is a fair point. I don't like it; but it's a fair point.

    What, you'd prefer that the object were unmoved? You'd like it better if God were a Bronze Age savage? I have I must admit.
  • @Gamma Gamaliel said:
    I'm not vilifying the Reformed...
    Yes you are. That’s what your whole post is specifically designed to do.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    magnilo wrote: »
    .
    Yes, what you say is true. And I do not have an explanation.

    [/quote]
    There is an explanation but no one here likes it. It is that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's judgement. This is why the cross is the key to it all and the atonement has to be so radically understood.

  • FFS magnilo. Give it a rest. I'm outlining some problems I have with some aspects of Reformed theology. Aren't I allowed to do that?

    Did you actually read my post? I've made it clear that some of the more whacky views may not be mainstream. I don't anticipate that Nick Tamen would advocate those sort of Taliban-esque hyper-Puritan, hyper-Calvinist views. Far from it.

    Listen. I have a problem with some - but not all - aspects of Reformed theology. I am being open and upfront about that.

    I wouldn't be fair on you, Nick Tamen, Jengie Jon and other Reformed posters here if I tried to elide that in some way.

    It doesn't mean I think Reformed Christians are stupid or wicked and evil. No, but it does mean that I think that some Reformed emphases, taken to extremes, can lead us into some very dodgy territory.

    I'd say something similar to the hyperdox among the Orthodox.

    And about their nationalism.

    Ivan the Terrible was a complete psycho who would attend the Liturgy, receive communion and then go out and hack people down in the street.

    Yet some Russians would like to see him canonised.

    No Christian tradition has a monopoly on whackiness or nut-jobs.

    You've asked me to engage with this thread and that's what I'm doing and I speak as I find.

    If I've said anything that can't be substantiated then the onus is on you to demonstrate that I've misunderstood or got the wrong end of the stick.

    The floor is yours.
  • MPaul wrote: »
    There is an explanation but no one here likes it. It is that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's judgement. This is why the cross is the key to it all and the atonement has to be so radically understood.

    I would say that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's mercy and grace. God's interest is not in punishing us for that evil, only in saving us from it.
  • He created it. It's up to Him to fix it.
  • W Hyatt wrote: »
    MPaul wrote: »
    There is an explanation but no one here likes it. It is that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's judgement. This is why the cross is the key to it all and the atonement has to be so radically understood.

    I would say that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's mercy and grace. God's interest is not in punishing us for that evil, only in saving us from it.

    My problem with MPaul's theology is it implies evil has a tap root within us that requires putting terrified children to the sword together with their terror-stricken mothers whilst dragging their babies from their arms and killing them too.

    It's absolutely warped.
  • MPaulMPaul Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    W Hyatt wrote: »
    MPaul wrote: »
    There is an explanation but no one here likes it. It is that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's judgement. This is why the cross is the key to it all and the atonement has to be so radically understood.

    I would say that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's mercy and grace. God's interest is not in punishing us for that evil, only in saving us from it.

    My problem with MPaul's theology is it implies evil has a tap root within us that requires putting terrified children to the sword together with their terror-stricken mothers whilst dragging their babies from their arms and killing them too.

    It's absolutely warped.
    This is a master class on missing the point which has nothing to do with innocence. If an innocent dies as a consequence from her parent driving drunk the that innocent is still the recipient of grace if innocence is not an illusion you somehow associate with age. God can be trusted to take that innocent spirit to himself. No one has God's omniscience to judge innocence but we can have faith that the judge of all the earth will always do right. If one insists on the fact that one knows and is qualified to evaluate God's judgements from one's present knowledge, then the potential within, for faith, for trust, is undermined.


  • Nonsense, MPaul.

    I can't speak for anyone else but I've certainly got a strong concept of the seriousness of sin and the need for atonement. The effects of sin are all around us. The world is a broken place because of it. We are all broken people because of it.

    'Who shall deliver us from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!'

    Yes, our understanding is limited, our spiritual faculties dimmed by sin. We need the cross. We need grace.

    All that doesn't mean that we don't struggle to understand some of the harder issues we're talking about here. They pose real problems that proof-texting and special pleading can't and won't resolve.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    @Gamma Gamaliel Do you really think that dragging Oliver Cromwell and Ivan the Terrible into this conversation is helping?

    I mean, what’s your point? Reformed and Orthodox Christians do evil things, and more than just occasionally? Yes, Refirmed and Orthodox Christians have done lots of evil things.

    But more to the point, I think are you commiting the fallacy of guilt by association simply because at least two of the contributors on this thread, one of whom is me, come from those particular Christian traditions.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    MPaul wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    W Hyatt wrote: »
    MPaul wrote: »
    There is an explanation but no one here likes it. It is that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's judgement. This is why the cross is the key to it all and the atonement has to be so radically understood.

    I would say that evil has a tap root within us so deep that it requires God's mercy and grace. God's interest is not in punishing us for that evil, only in saving us from it.

    My problem with MPaul's theology is it implies evil has a tap root within us that requires putting terrified children to the sword together with their terror-stricken mothers whilst dragging their babies from their arms and killing them too.

    It's absolutely warped.
    This is a master class on missing the point which has nothing to do with innocence. If an innocent dies as a consequence from her parent driving drunk the that innocent is still the recipient of grace if innocence is not an illusion you somehow associate with age. God can be trusted to take that innocent spirit to himself. No one has God's omniscience to judge innocence but we can have faith that the judge of all the earth will always do right. If one insists on the fact that one knows and is qualified to evaluate God's judgements from one's present knowledge, then the potential within, for faith, for trust, is undermined.


    And that's a masterclass in handwaving the horrors of a bloody massacre because God will somehow sort it out. By that same token, the Holocaust doesn't matter because God will receive the souls of the innocents sent up the chimneys.

    All this attempting to justify religious violence demonstrates the pernicious ability of religion to cause otherwise good people to contemplate, accept and in the worst cases, perpetrate, the most appalling evils.
  • So? I know Mousethief well online here aboard Ship. His Orthodoxy is robust enough to take criticism. He'll say far more critical things about Orthodoxy than I ever have or probably will do. It's a Tradition for which I have a great deal of respect.

    I have a lot of respect for the Reformed traditions too. I'll embarass Nick Tamen by saying that he's a Shipmate I hold in high esteem.

    I've come across several ministers and lay people, as it were who've been more than capable of handling mystery and living with uncertainty. Two of whom have had to deal with the most tragic circumstances it is possible to conceive, the death of a son in one instance, that of a son, daughter in law and unborn grandchild in another.

    How they coped I just don't know. I can't imagine the pain and anguish even though I'm facing the prospect of my wife's untimely death from cancer.

    What they haven't done is thrown cliches, proof-texting and special pleading at the problem to make it go away.

    All Christian traditions have their flaws and weak spots. I've cited some that pertain to aspects of the Reformed and the Orthodox traditions. I could go on to list others, within Pentecostalism, within Catholicism, within liberal Protestantism. Where would you like me to start? Where would you want me to stop?

    Equally, all those traditions produce people of great depth and character. It's been my privilege to meet some of them.

    Let's face things, warts and all.

    That's all a bit of a tangent though.

    What I'm trying to do is show how inadequate the response of some - I said some, not all - evangelical or Reformed believers can be to the trickier issues.

    'Ah, well, we can't really think straight because of our sin ...'

    'Ah, well, it looks bad to us but we aren't seeing it from God's perspective ...'

    'Yes, it does sound harsh but they'd had 400 years to put their house in order ...'

    Sincere attempts. How far do they get us?

    You've asked to engage. I am doing. No holds barred. I'm trying to wrestle here and you don't seem to like the spectacle. Why's that? Isn't your tradition robust enough to deal with it?

    Engage, my friend. Let's have some robust theological reflection not proof-text sound-bites and clichés, which is where some of the stock responses lead.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited November 2018
    Martin54 wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    magnilo wrote: »
    However, I think it's also possible and desirable to engage with idea of God's sovereignty and omnipotence in a way which maintains his essential goodness without resorting to a deistic theodicy in an attempt to protect God from accusations of injustice. The question of course, is how? For some people, the answer appears to be that you can't.

    For others, like myself, the answer is more like we must keep trying even though it's incredibly difficult and mysterious. For my part, I prefer to admit that I don't currently know but am still willing to accept that scripture really is describing the actions of a good and loving God but inscrutable God, rather than write scripture off as a deeply flawed and inaccurate guide to knowing the God whom I worship.

    We absolutely must keep trying, but ultimately ISTM that when the unstoppable force of God's Goodness meets the immovable object of scripture saying He murdered (or ordered the murder of) thousands of innocent children then the only way to resolve the situation is to realise that the object isn't quite as immovable as first thought.

    This is a fair point. I don't like it; but it's a fair point.

    What, you'd prefer that the object were unmoved?

    Not prefer, I just believe that it is.
    You'd like it better if God were a Bronze Age savage?
    No, but it’s fair to say that some fairly savage Bronze Age people have believed in God.

    The issue being discussed is whether God’s actions in Exodus can be explained entirely in terms of Bronze Age anthropomorphic propaganda, or whether perhaps our objection to certain aspects of said narrative are due to similar anthropomorphising tendencies on our own part on the basis of our own cultural sensitivities and agendas.

    On the face of it, the former would appear to give God far too much latitude in terms of his conduct, the latter perhaps a tad too little.
  • On the face of it that's special pleading. Of course we all anthropomorphise. To an extent I'd argue that it's impossible to engage in any discourse about God without engaging in anthropomorphism.

    Does God really have a 'back' that someone could peer out at from a cleft in a rock? Does he really have a hand?

    Well, in Christ He does, yes, and there's a lot more to the Incarnation as one Shipmate memorably put it, than God dressing himself up in a 'meat suit.'

    You appear to be saying that we limit God in some way if we take away his 'right' to kill babies and that if we have a problem with that then tough, it only goes to show how namby-pamby and culturally effete we are.

    Of course we are all culturally conditioned, whether we lived in the Bronze Age Middle East, 16th century Russia ('Hello Ivan'), 17th century England ('Hi, Ollie. That's another fine mess ...'), or the 21st century.

    You appear to be saying that it's worse - or at least as bad - not to entertain ideas of God as a vengeful, wrathful deity killing innocent babies in order to prove a point, than to accept such a possibility.

    Or am I being unfair?
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