Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You'll Never Hear Abba Speak.....

This is another edited post, originally birthed on a thread at The Beautiful Heresy. It is in response to a newcomer and their questions about UR and the discrepancies and inconsistencies we find in the Bible. Go to any skeptics/atheist site and you will find lists of them. Trying to reconcile them literally will lead to twisting scriptures or ignoring scriptures or explaining them away because everything really cannot be made to fit. This is such an important issue in how we see God. If we get him wrong in the OT then nothing really fits after that. My prayer is that everyone seeks his leading with an open mind and open spirit....

A long time ago on the Tentmaker forum someone posted (about scripture) that you can read the Bible in the King James, the NIV, the Concordant….but unless you read it in the spirit, you’ll never hear Abba speak. I always remembered that. It is alarming and scary to read about the tamperings, the missing chapters, the JPED theory of the OT etc. etc. etc. You can go to any atheist site and find hundreds of discrepancies pointed out as proof that the Bible is worthless. I so disagree, but truly, Jesus did not promise that he would send us a book, leather bound with 66 chapters to lead us into all truth. He promised us the Holy Spirit…the comforter…..and through his guidance and leading he will (eventually) lead us all into all truth. I also heard (or read…can’t remember) someone say that Jesus is the Living Word of God. The Bible is the written word of God. Since we know that Jesus was fully man and fully God (so that there were aspects of humanity in his Living Word) so also we should expect to find aspects of humanity in the written word.

I don’t for one moment believe that all the atrocities in the OT were ordered by God. I believe he was ultimately responsible, because, truly, the buck stops with God but he didn’t whisper in Joshua’s ear….”hey….see Jericho over there…..this is what I want you to do”. There are several theories about the who and the why in the OT….but it is too broad of a topic to go into in this post. (There are several articles on this blog about that very topic. Most of them are under the tags of OT/Sacrifice/Girard)

I find those who insist that scripture is inerrant, still discount, dismiss or explain away verses that do not fit their theology. They might not admit they do…but it seems apparent to me. I can tell you my method. I filter everything through Jesus, the image of the invisible God, if you’ve seen the father, you’ve seen me. We have four gospels that tell virtually the same story….with minor variations. A pretty good picture of how Jesus thinks, reacts and interacts. I think we can clearly see, in the words of the Gospels, what his character and nature is like...and NOT like. (which is the exact representation of God’s character and nature)

His behavior does not fluctuate wildly…from forgiving and loving to wrath filled ragings. He seems to declare that people have some responsibility in all of this and calls for their repentance. He seems pretty up front and honest, in spite of the fact that he often speaks in parables. He told his disciples that there were many things he longed to tell them but they were not ready (could not bear them) so that seems a good reason he disguised much for the masses. Since Jesus' character never seemed to falter or change….and since he is God….and since God never changes, the only option that makes sense to me is that the stuff in the OT that does not fit with what I see of Jesus…just is not God.

Why the discrepancies? I’m not sure. I’m inclined to think that if scripture could be totally reconciled with itself we would be more inclined to worship the book. I think some people worship the book now. And I think he wants us to come to him. He wants a relationship with us….not just a Bible Study session. On Tentmaker someone said recently that we sometimes forget that the “author” of the book is right here with us….yet we ignore his presence sometimes and “read the book.” She wondered if he was with us in the flesh sitting there beside us…if we would ignore him and read the book. I thought that was a gem. How true it is.

That reminds me of the words of Jesus himself when he said in John 5:39-40.

"You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Does Total Determinism Make God a Liar?

I think one mistake determinists make in their"determination" of those who don't think every thought, wink, blink, move, hiccup is predetermined is that those who believe in limited "free will" believe God is standing back, wringing his hands agonizing over his next move. "Oh...look what they did now!!!! "HOW will I EVER fix it?" Their God is so small. He has to have every single little detail figured out or he can't pull it off.

I've always liked my friend annie's quarantine idea. This life/realm/earthly existence is a quarantine for humans to be made into his image and likeness, to become immune to sin...and yet nothing that happens here can taint eternity. That would work for the total determinists point of view as well. You know...put us here...determine every single move in order to accomplish his purpose as quickly as possible...and perhaps even with as little pain as possible. There would be no wasted horrors or atrocities because of man's carnal nature...and no unnecessary acts of goodness that we might be moved to perform because of the spirit living within us, Unplanned acts of kindness might drag out the process of learning good and evil etc. He could manifest his sons in the most efficient manner possible. Sort of like training to be a navy seal. Intense, but efficient. I could buy that. I don't think I would necessarily like it...but I could buy that.

But then what does that do the Bible? What does that do the the hundreds of verses that would become nothing more than lies?The verses about sacrifice, the verses that declare we have some choices to make in this life and can resist his will. The verses that go on about the children of Israel and their stiff necked rebellions? It makes so much a lie. And I guess at the root of that is the fear that if God would lie about so many things (unless you have the total sovereignty decoder ring and understand that what he says is not necessarily what he means and that you need that relative/absolute understanding and that he says one thing but really means another...but that's okay...because he is God afterall and does not have to live by his own laws or according to his own nature) So if he would flat out lie about so many things...then how do I believe the promises of eternal life, universalism, that he will never leave me or forsake me? If scripture plainly says he did not command the children of Israel about burnt offerings when they came out of Egypt...but he really did....then how can I believe the other stuff? And that verse is of course one of many, many verses made into nothing but a sham by the God of total complete determinism.

Picking and Choosing

Some of my next few posts will probably continue to be edited versions of things I've written on a message board (Beautiful Heresy) in a discussion about sovereignty, free will and the OT atrocities.

I would never argue that there are not verses throughout scripture that proclaim that very thing. But I fully believe we ALL choose which verses we will embrace and which we will ignore based upon our own particular theology.

George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying:
"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what HE means."
I think he might have hit the nail on the head with that one.

Those who proclaim total determinisn and the accuracy of the OT atrocities might say:

"Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?" Lam.3:38

And I can volley back the verse that declares:
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. (Psalms 5:4)

I could also point out that their verse is a question…and the verse preceding is also a question (Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?)
But that might be splitting hairs.

I could also point out that another infamous total sovereignty proof text is also a question.
Amos 3:6 asks the rhetorical question shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

A better choice might be:
I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.' Isaiah 45:7

Or they could say:
The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of thy prophets. II Chronicles 18:22

And I could toss back:
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Hebrews 6:18

To which they might reply:
God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false. 2 Thes 2:11

And not to be one upped I might say:
God is not a man, that he should lie. Num 23:19 (the lie in this verse also means “deceive”)
And I might even add for good measure
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. James 1:13

So, my point is that we all edit scripture….we all choose what we will believe and what we will ignore. We might devise elaborate explanations and complicated reasonings to explain it all away but what it really boils down to is we pick and choose to fit our theology.

I know I have said this before….but I base my view of scripture on what the four gospels show us about Jesus and on the witness and guidance of the holy spirit who resides within me. If it does not fit with the image of the invisible God portrayed in Jesus then I don’t accept it as being of my Father (someone on TM said in a post….Jesus came to RE-present God since mankind’s view of his true character and nature had become so distorted). I’m going to go with the character and nature I see presented in all four gospels. Jesus did not command atrocities. Jesus did not preach judgment. Jesus did not demand “justice”…but rather mercy.

As far as evil, I'm not sure. I will say that even though the mystery of iniquity is after all a MYSTERY….I do believe God is responsible for evil. The buck stops with him. But I also acknowledge that he declares he created the destroyer to destroy…and in so doing takes one step back from actually doing evil. Believing in at least a limited amount of free will for satan and for mankind (and there are a whole lot of verses there that could be volleyed back and forth on THAT issue but again, everyone would pick and choose based on what we want to see) I do not necessarily have to see God orchestrating each and every detail of all the rapes and murders and horror that abound in our world today and that have abounded down through history to believe he is sovereign. For some reason outside of my scope of knowledge….looking through the glass darkly, I acknowledge that there must be a darn good reason God allows evil and suffering to continue in the world because I know he is a good God and since he does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men for now it must be unavoidable.

In The Desire of the Everlasting Hills Thomas Cahill said “In the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Job, God refuses to explain why good people must suffer. In the New Testament, he still does not explain, but he gives us a new story that contains the first glimmer of encouragement, the only hint of an explanation, that heaven has ever deigned to offer earth: ‘I will suffer with you.”

And he promises that he will work all things together for good…and I believe he will.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Clothed in the Attributes of Satan

A quote by Helen G. White:

The understanding of the people of God has been blinded, for Satan has misrepresented the character of God. Our good and gracious Lord has been presented before the people clothed in the attributes of Satan, and men and women who have been seeking for truth have so long regarded God in a false light that it is difficult to dispel the cloud that obscures His glory from their view."

This quote seems to apply to those who adhere to a strictly literal view of the Old Testament. They cling to the words in scripture, afraid to let go of anything contained in those 66 leather bound chapters no matter how heinous or downright WRONG they appear. I have been pondering a lot of late about the OT. Well, actually...not just of late. It has been a source of frustration for me ever since I began to really question the theodicy issue. The problem of evil...against the backdrop of a good God. Something is amiss in that equation...but that is for another post, another time.

I think the quote by Helen G White applies to the standard Christian party line belief of the OT, the sacrificial system and the atonement. God has been clothed in the attributes of Satan.

Justifying Murder?

There is a discussion going on at The Beautiful Heresy about the atrocities in the OT...and whether God ordered genocide....whether "god" ("satan") commanded it (and empowered it)...or whether it was the carnal nature of the Israelites mixed with their desire to possess the land that spurred them on to jihad. I'm definitely (surprise) of the opinion that the first option is not an option. God is not the author of the OT atrocities. I sway back and forth between the other two choices. Anyway...since my time is sometimes so limited, I am going to post excerpts from the thread, edited just a bit, here on my blog.

One of the posters took issue with the idea that it was equivalent to condoning murder if one believes the genocide in the OT was right because "God commanded it." I don't see it that way.

I think you justify murder when you justify the killing that occurs amidst all the rape and pillage and plundering in the OT….killing everything that breathes….oh….and take the gold and silver for “me” because God “ordained” it. I think that was indeed murder. When I watched the movie Apocolypto, it occurred to me that those scenes of horror give a glimpse of what the Israelites did to all the “ites” when they stormed into the cities they had “dedicated” to God. And that carnage is attributed to God. “Surely God is fighting for Israel” they declared….and perhaps he was. He declared in several places he would send the “hornet” before them and drive the nations out little by little. But hey…why dink around….the land was theirs…..it was the PROMISED LAND….and who cares about all the people who lived there beforehand. Perhaps God’s plan was more along the lines of a migration…..little by little would indicate that.

Perhaps the purpose of the God ALLOWED jihad in the OT was to show them what was in their hearts and to show us what is in our hearts. Granted, God has final responsibility because he allowed it to occur. The buck stops with him…..just like the buck stops with him when a premature infant dies or a teenager is killed in a car crash or a young mother dies of cancer. He alone grants life, and he alone has the right to take it. It is when fallen humans enter the picture and they “hear God” tell them to wipe out civilizations or individual human beings (Achan comes to mind here….although his is only one of many) that I think man’s carnal nature or satan or whatever name you want to attribute it to takes over and causes man to take matters into his own hands.

When I lived in Cleveland there was a horrible story about this really religious guy….who took his young son….under two to the foundry where he worked. “God” told him to sacrifice the boy in one of the blast furnaces. He did. That was about fifteen years ago and I don’t remember all the details….but there is a more recent case that describes a mom in Texas who actually killed her daughter by cutting off her arms because she thought God was telling her to (and I guess if you believe in total determinism it WAS God telling her to since he ordains and plans each and every detail of each and every little thing that happens) I originally read about the story in the Religion News Blog. There are several posts about Dena Schlosser, the Texas woman who sacrificed her ten month old daughter to God by cutting off both of her arms a few years ago. r. She also tried to sever her own arm at the shoulder. I think it serves as a chilling example of just how far a religious belief in the killer god of the OT and mental illness can plummet someone into a macabre world of horror. It is not a pretty story. The baby died. Donna Schlosser was deemed insane and is in the same mental institution as Andrea Yates. As a side note, in another article on the site called Women Who Killed Kids Form Friendship it talks about the friendship these two women share.

Some disturbing excerpts from the article:

Dena Schlosser saw a TV news story about a boy being mauled by a lion and thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, a delusion that led her to sever the arms of her baby Margaret, Dr. David Self told the jury on the sixth day of Schlosser’s capital murder trial.

“She felt she was basically commanded, in essence, to cut Maggie’s arms off and her own arms off, and her legs and her head, and in some way to give them to God,” said Self, who evaluated Schlosser in the months after her arrest.

Self said Schlosser remembered being at an electronics store with her husband the day before the killing. The woman recalled John Schlosser mentioning Maggie’s “little arms,” and she thought of him as a Biblical patriarch planning “something big” because he was buying a clock radio, Self testified.

Self also said Schlosser felt compelled to dress Maggie “as finely as possible” because she planned to give her to God or Doyle Davidson, the pastor of Water of Life Church in Plano, which the Schlossers attended several times a week.

“It is layer upon layer of this craziness, this psychosis,” Self said.

“She didn’t understand why she was being locked up in jail for following God’s will,” Self said.

This extreme example is the concern my friend annie voices when she asks, “who is going to make the "correct" determination of who heard the voice of "God" commanding them to kill and who is just a classic paranoid schizophrenic?” If we believe everything that happened in the OT was the will of God…which Dena Schlosser obviously did….and we believe in a God who orders jihad…..and in penal substitutionary atonement….and revels in sacrifice….well….the belief that he wants us to cut off our baby's arms as a sacrifice to him is not unthinkable. And who knows....what "types and shadows" might come out of it to teach future generations of Christians. And let’s not even go into the story of Andrea Yates, the other mother who drowned her six children…..

I believe God's character is perfectly displayed for all to see in the image of the invisible God described in four gospels. If we've seen him, we've seen the Father. I find little resemblance between Jesus and the "god" who commanded the atrocities in the OT. And so I have no problem attributing the atrocities in the OT to Satan or satan or fallen man....but not to the God we clearly see in Jesus.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Abraham and Isaac - Maccoby's View

I came upon a web site...don't ask me how....that might have spurred on this "series" about the binding of Isaac. I think it was during some googling...I mean research... on human sacrifice. The web site featured quite a bit of the text of the book called The Sacred Executioner by Hyam Maccoby. The part about Isaac piqued my interest. Just for the record, I am not saying that I believe what Maccoby has to say...but I will admit it got my thinker going. First of all, he is an atheist...and he looks at much of scripture as myth. Girard believes that scripture uncovers the truth of sacred myths but I think Maccoby believes most of scripture is simply myth...made up stories of legend and folklore... meant to teach a specific lesson.

The purpose of the story is to show that God Himself ordained that animal sacrifice should be substituted for human sacrifice. At the same time, the story contains no moral revulsion from the very idea of human sacrifice. On the contrary, it is imputed to Abraham as extraordinary merit that he was willing to sacrifice his favourite son, Isaac, at the behest of God. We see here the dynamics of the historic move from human to animal sacrifice: on the one hand, this is a revolutionary step, by which a higher morality is brought into effect; on the other hand, the benefits of human sacrifice cannot be lightly relinquished, and the transition from human to animal sacrifice must appear plausible in the sense that animal sacrifice must acquire the same aura of reverence and holiness that previously belonged to human sacrifice.

He goes on to say:

In the Abraham-Isaac story as we have it in the Bible, the double aim is secured by having a father willing to sacrifice, but a merciful God who forgoes the sacrifice, allowing the substitution of an animal. In the original story, in which the sacrifice actually took place, there was no doubt some resurrection motif, by which the foundation of the tribe was miraculously renewed. Some traces of this original story, as we shall see, have been preserved in the Midrashic legends.

So Maccoby believes that it was the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac that prevents the move to animal sacrifice as something second rate. Since this event "marks" the beginning of a new society...there could be no event that would require a bigger, better sacrifice. Maccoby says it this way:

If the universal God was willing to accept an animal sacrifice on such a cosmic occasion (for the founding of the Israelite tribe was an event of cosmic importance, set as it is against the background of the Creation of the universe and the choice of Abraham from all the nations and families of the earth), then there was no need to require human sacrifice on any subsequent occasion whatever, and the institution of animal sacrifice can be relied on to do anything for which human sacrifice was previously held to be efficacious.

Maccoby also seems to believe that the sacrifice of Isaac actually occurred but that the "myth" in scripture was cleaned up a bit.

More on that in the next post.....

Fatherhood of God..the end...

I can't believe I've actually completed a "series." This would be Part 7...but I am calling it "the end" because it is the final post.  It's been in my drafts for a while...forgot to actually post it.  I wanted to post a link to an online devotional patterned after the well known writing called "The Father's Love Letter"The Devotional is an online version of the book.  It has a short writing for each of the 53 or so points of the Father's Love Letter.   It's been around for quite a while but it is very touching and heart warming. 

Monday, February 11, 2008

Binding of Isaac - A Different Kind of Test 2

I've mentioned the God Quest web site in previous posts. There are two writings there that I have mentioned before which look at the story of Isaac and Abraham along the same lines as Paul N from the Girardian Lectionary....the subject of the last post.

The Voice of the Good Shepherd says:

In the story of Abraham and the command to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham heard two “voices”—one voice demanding that Abraham “do it” and the other voice countermanding thusly, “do not lay your hand on the lad…” Abraham should have known something was up, as he could think on all the pagan nations who engaged in this vile practice. I have read many commentaries on this event—most filled with theological gyrations used to justify the ugly command to human sacrifice—but the fact remains, such a command does not fit with the nature of God, as we know it. The true God would never ask us to do something that is unlawful or destructive. Those who insist otherwise are the ones MacDonald referred to as those who “are in terror of contradicting the Bible. They make more of the Bible than of God, and so fail to find the truth of the Bible.”

And in another writing which also explores the "two gods in the OT" way of looking at things called "A Grand Experiment" the same author mentions the story briefly:

It took a while for Abraham to hear the true voice of God, duped before into believing it was “the Lord” who commanded him to murder his son.

I know this view is controversial and it can really get conservative Christians in quite an uproar. There are points made in these two articles (not specifically about the near sacrifice of Isaac but about the two voices of God/god in the OT) that are hard to ignore.

Binding of Isaac - A Different Kind of Test 1

Paul Nuechterlein of the Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary has a transcript of a sermon that he preached about the binding of Isaac called Binding and Releasing. His web site is excellent and looks at all the Lectionary readings from a Girardian/Peace Church perspective. He, too, sees it as a test...but a test of an entirely different kind. In his view, the test was to discern the true voice of God who spared Isaac (at the end of the story) from the god of this world who ordered him sacrificed (at the beginning of the story) As I mentioned in my first post in this series, child sacrifice was no big deal in Abraham's day and age. In spite of Biblical prohibitions against it, the Israelites continued to do it throughout much of their history. The prophets vehemently spoke against it. The Lord called it detestable.

He begins by saying:

What I want to suggest to you this morning is that, well over two thousand years later, we are in a position to see that the story-teller in Genesis simply had this wrong: God does not, and never has, asked us to do anything so terrible as to sacrifice our children. The true God didn't ask Abraham, either. No, the voice of the true God is the one telling Abraham to stop!

He goes on to explain what he sees as a clue in the text.

In verses one and twelve, for example, the verses where God has asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the Hebrew name for God is Elohim. In verses eleven and fourteen, however, the Hebrew name for God is that name, Yahweh, which became so special that Jewish people won't even say it aloud. Instead, they will say, "Lord," Adonai in Hebrew. What's significant about this? Let me briefly explain. Yahweh is the name that Moses receives before the burning bush. He is trying to make every excuse in the book not be the one to go to Pharoah and say, "Let my people go!" So among other excuses, Moses tells God, "I don't know what name to call you when I go to Pharoah." So God tells him, "Yahweh!" This is the special name for God that Hebrew people have in telling the world of the one true God.

Elohim, on the other hand, is the earliest Hebrew word for "God." Its simplest form is El, which you find in many Hebrew names, such as Beth-el, "House of God." Most significantly, Elohim is the word used to talk about all gods, even the other false gods. When the First Commandment says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," elohim is the word for gods.

So by providing that all important clue (the two different names for God/god in the original language) Paul N believes that it enables us.....

to see that Abraham first followed the voice of the tribal gods of the cultures surrounding him. We know from anthropology that it was common to sacrifice children in the Canaanite cultures of those days. Abraham thought he heard the voice of the God who had called him out of all that, but was now telling him to do the same thing. Then, at the last second, Abraham passed the test by finally hearing the voice of Yahweh, the voice of the one true God, telling him to stop.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Binding of Isaac-Traditional View

A few years ago, I read an article on the Christian Think Tank web site explaining the traditional view of the near sacrifice of Isaac. It was called Why did God punish the Canaanites for child sacrifice, when He personally ORDERED Abraham to do it?!

It made a lot of sense to me at the time and there are aspects of it that still make sense that I mull over from time to time. Some of the points that the article makes :

* The construction in the original over-emphasizes that it was GOD who initiated this test, and that it was GOD who spoke to Abraham. The author wants his readers to have no doubt that Abraham knew it was God speaking.

* There is a word in the verse that is often used in the OT but only 4 times is it used by God. Every time it is used it is in conjunction with a staggering directive from God. The word is the Hebrew word "Na" and pretty much means "please". 3 of the 4 times "God uses" the word in the OT it is in a request to Abraham. The author of the article believes it was a vital clue for Abraham which would have amounted to God saying:

"Take, please, your son, your precious one who you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, where you shall offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the peaks I will identify for you"

* Abraham solved the apparent contradiction between "sacrifice Isaac" and "Isaac will have many descendants" by concluding that God would raise him from the dead.Isaac

* Isaac is often depicted in artwork as a little kid who could have easily been dragged up the mountain against his will. According to Jewish tradition Isaac was probably between the ages of 23 and 37. If he had not been willing he could have overpowered Abraham. Instead he carried the wood up on his back (which some commentators believe foreshadows Christ carrying his cross)

This article gave me some peace about this story in Genesis for quite a while....but I ran across other explanations that seemed to make sense also...and some troubling questions as well. Stay tuned for those views....coming up.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Binding of Isaac....

I have gone back and forth several times on the story of the Akedah....and how I see it....what I think was God's purpose and how it should apply to my life. I have three kids afterall, and the thought of being willing to sacrifice one of them no matter how loud God shouted is incomprehensible to me....and so we think that it was incomprehensible to Abraham as well. Not necessarily. In Violence Unveiled, Gil Bailie says the following:

Far more than we moderns generally realize, human sacrifice was a fact of life among the peoples of the ancient Near East in tension with whom Israel first achieved cultural self-definition. Israel's renunciation of the practice of human sacrifice took place over a long period of time, during which intermittent reversions to it occurred.

What we must try to see in the story of Abraham's non-sacrifice of Isaac is that Abraham's faith consisted, not of almost doing what he didn't do, but of not doing what he almost did, and not doing it in fidelity to the God in whose name his contemporaries thought it should be done. (Violence Unveiled

Or from Wikipedia ....

...according to Rabbi J. H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually "rife among the Semitic peoples," and suggests that "in that age, it was astounding that Abraham's God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it." Hertz interprets the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent. "Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required." In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech "had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination."

And abomination is right....this quote from Wikipedia as well...

The 12th century rabbi Rashi, commenting on Jeremiah 7:31 stated:

Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.

A different rabbinical tradition says that the idol was hollow and was divided into seven compartments, in one of which they put flour, in the second turtle-doves, in the third a ewe, in the fourth a ram, in the fifth a calf, in the sixth an ox, and in the seventh a child, which were all burnt together by heating the statue inside.

And one more Wiki quote about child sacrifice in Carthage and Phoenicia

Consensus among scholars is that Carthaginian children were sacrificed by their parents, who would make a vow to kill the next child if the gods would grant them a favor: for instance that their shipment of goods were to arrive safely in a foreign port.[6] They placed their children alive in the arms of a bronze statue of:

the lady Tanit ... . The hands of the statue extended over a brazier into which the child fell once the flames had caused the limbs to contract and its mouth to open ... . The child was alive and conscious when burned ... Philo specified that the sacrificed child was best-loved.

So...for the next while (and how long a "while" is...I'm not sure) I'm going to post some thoughts and links and musings on this very important Biblical story. To my way of thinking, however, Abraham probably saw human sacrifice in a whole different light than we do in the 21'st century......

Why Are We Here?

In the comments section, Jack asked me what I thought about our "sojourner status" on this earth. The age old, why are we here? A question theologians and philosophers, Christians and Atheists, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, New Age...Fundie....have been asking themselves for eons. What is the purpose of our life on this earth? Well... the answer that made the most sense to me came from by friend annie...a lifelong Christian Universalist...my best online buddy. She believes this life is a quarantine...a realm that cannot affect eternity. Following is an email I saved from when she and I first started to write back and forth.

here's my synopsis. i believe we're here because God wanted children to love. can you imagine having all of that love pent up inside with no focus? think of the longing of women who are infertile and multiply that to the nth degree... and i believe that God wanted children, as he states, "in his own image" (not "adopted" ones some folks interpret adoption). you know i believe in pre-existence. but, i believe that in our previous state, there was no true choosing. in order for us to have true self-governance, to truly be of the same substance, nature, will - we had to go through this life experience, this time of separation - near enough that we're never forsaken, but with enough distance between us that we can actually choose - kind of like getting far enough away from the magnetic pull of the earth that one is no longer bound by the law of gravity. in this endeavor, we are co-laborers with God. i believe that each of us agreed to come here and be who we are to help fulfill God's plan and purpose (i hope i can remember that next time i feel like complaining - LOL). however, i agree with gary sigler that part of "the fall" is sort of an amnesia - we don't know who we are. yet, God left a "seed" within us that is reawakened by the Holy Spirit. when we have that "metanoia" as mike would say, we realize that all this time we thought that we were ugly ducklings, but now we realize that we were swans all along. i do believe that "the fall" was purposed. i don't believe that adam was the first person created. if you read the genesis acct, man, as "male and female" (and i believe they were the embodiment of both) was created on the 6th day. then, God rested on the 7th. i believe that adam was created after that - call it the 8th day if you want to. a careful read of the passage shows that God didn't say "there are no men on the earth", but "there was no man to tend the garden". i believe that the 6th day folks were nomadic. adam was created for a specific purpose - to be more of an agricultural sort, tend the garden and "have dominion" over the animals. i believe that part of the whole "fall and redemption" thing is about God being All in all. in Jesus, God was able to experience all of the frailties that we possess. how is One who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent supposed to experience any sort of limitations? anyways, back to the "free will" thing. if God was indeed going to grant us free will, it is necessary that we have a safe place to fail - enter our realm of time and space. as i've mentioned before, i see it as a sort of quarantine. God created us as finite beings so that a mistake made by us in our choosing didn't allow sin to enter in perpetuity - can you imagine God's grief at creating children who were sinful AND immortal? i believe he would have had no choice but to destroy such a one. but, given his plan in this earthly realm, our sin condition is only temporary, not fatal. as i see it, all of this time, God is continuing the creation process (perhaps peter is speaking literally when he says that with God a day is as a thousand years) in the same way that when you were little and your sibling had chicken pox, your mom makes you kiss them or something so you can "have it and get it over with". we don't have a fatal disease (sin). we have a temporary disease with a permanent solution (Jesus) and once we're all reconciled, the "quarantine" will no longer be necessary. even if sin still exists "somewhere out there", how do you re-infect folks who are immune, holy as God is holy? i think God's plan is pure genius!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

You Thought That I Was Altogether Like You

I've heard it said that we become like the God we serve, but I am not so sure that is the real gist of it. Perhaps rather than BECOMING like the God we serve, we make God into OUR OWN image. Sort of like the scripture that declares...to the pure you show yourself pure but to the froward...you show yourself froward. (or as the NLT words it in Psalm 18:26 ....To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile) I've read Psalm 40 and Psalm 50 over a few times the past week or so. Not sure why I've been drawn to them. There is a verse in Psalm 50 that stuck out and has been going through my thoughts since then.

You thought that I was altogether like you.

Although we recite verses that express the sentiment that "his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not his our thoughts," I suppose we are still inclined to make him in our own image....at least subconsciously. Part of traditional fundamentalist teaching is that while we may recoil at things like eternal hell, the penal substitutionary view of the atonement, the OT atrocities and the animal sacrifice system...it is because his ways are higher than our ways and we cannot understand the depth of his justice and judgement. You know...as in..."yes God IS love but he is also JUST." They believe these things seem heinous to many of us because we are fallen human beings and might be inclined to err on the side of leniency. Since God is JUST, well....then he extracts the justice we would be too wussy to demand.

But that is not how I see it at all. I think the part of us that recoils at these things is his spirit within...not our carnal nature. We are all too happy to extract eye for an eye justice. Mercy is what we have the problem with. But if we listen to that voice within, and don't squelch it when something rises up in us that declares, "I'm not like that."...then perhaps we are seeing him as he is...which is anything but "altogether like us."

In his sermon entitled Light, George MacDonald says:

He cannot make the meanings change places. To say that what our deepest conscience calls darkness may be light to God, is blasphemy; to say light in God and light in man are of differing kinds, is to speak against the spirit of light. God is light far beyond what we can see, but what we mean by light, God means by light; and what is light to God is light to us, or would be light to us if we saw it, and will be light to us when we do see it. God means us to be jubilant in the fact that he is light--that he is what his children, made in his image, mean when they say light;

Living Light, thou wilt not have me believe anything dark of thee!

In proportion as we have the image of Christ mirrored in us, we shall know what is and is not light.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Listen Up!!!

My buddy Brian from EU pointed this out in a post he wrote a while back during a discussion about the inerrancy of the OT.

There is an interesting example in the bible itself where a prophet explicitly contradicts an account written in an earlier book of scripture. In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha anoints Jehu as king and tells him to "strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets"

(2 Kings 9)
4 So the young prophet did as he was told and went to Ramoth-gilead. 5 When he arrived there, he found Jehu sitting in a meeting with the other army officers. "I have a message for you, Commander," he said."For which one of us?" Jehu asked."For you, Commander," he replied. 6 So Jehu left the others and went into the house. Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu's head and said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the LORD's people, Israel. 7 You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the LORD's servants who were killed by Jezebel. 8 The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out – every male, slave and free alike, in Israel. 9 I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 Dogs will eat Ahab's wife, Jezebel, at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her." Then the young prophet opened the door and ran.

Jehu got the Samaritans to wage war on Ahab and to bring him the heads of Ahab's 70 sons in baskets. Then Jehu marched into Samaria himself and "killed all who were left to Ahab in Samaria, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah"

(2 Kings 10:17)
And when he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed them, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah. NKJV

According to the story in 2 Kings, God was pleased with this outcome :

(2 Kings 10:30)
The Lord said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel."

But the prophet Hosea was having none of this : he declared that God would "punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and...put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel"

(Hosea 1:4). And the LORD said, "Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu's dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel.

So who heard God right? Elijah/Elisha or Hosea? This is the point I've been trying to make. When scripture declares the Lord said to kill/avenge/wipe out...it might not be the voice of the Lord and that we might most clearly see the character and nature of God viewed through the lens of WWJD. What would Jesus do? Any thoughts?

Whose Voice Did They Hear?

If we believe that the Israelites and others did the bidding of God when they wiped out entire nations and stole or destroyed and burned their belongings, imo it provides an excuse to do likewise in his name....because "he" told us to. Is that not the basis for jihad...holy war....and the witch hunts and the inquisition etc etc? I see examples of that down through history and even into the present day. I read somewhere this weekend that the God of the OT and Allah are virtually the same. Main difference is the people he's commanded his followers to exterminate. The infidels...or the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Jebbusites etc. etc. etc.

I've been preoccupied with this issue for months...for several years on and off. A thought occurred to me yesterday at work. I do understand the objections of those who express concern over picking and choosing what scriptures we will disregard and those we will not. It occurred to me that God is the author of life....and as such only he has the right to take a life. He did plainly tell us THOU shalt not kill but scripture says that he "kills and makes alive." He also "tasted death for every man" so that "through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" So as the life giver and death destroyer and the one who holds the keys of death and hell....he has rights we as human beings do not have. He has the power of life and death.

If we believe in UR, we don't think death is the end of his dealings with us or the end of his grace. "We ALL die." In God's "economy" death is not really that bad of a thing. So if scripture declares that God drowned all of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea....I'm not so sure that I have the insight to tell him he should not have done so....or to declare that he did not do so?? That is on an entirely different plane than the methods used by the Israelites to "posses the Land." I am just musing here...since I don't have all the answers.

I guess the part of the OT that really makes my spirit rise up and say that is not of God is where it declares he uses mankind to do his bidding...commanding them to wipe out entire nations etc. He tells them to violate the "thou shalt not kill...and thou shalt not steal" commandments in the Ten Commandments and he orders them to violate the summation of the Law that Jesus declared...."love your neighbor as yourself". (not to mention...do good to your enemies) So, I simply cannot believe that Joshua and Sampson and Moses and all the others truly heard the voice of the good shepherd telling them to rape and pillage and plunder. I'm not sure if the voice was that of "satan" or their own carnal, violent, coveting nature....but imo it was not the voice of the Father.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Katrina? Tsunami? God's Judgment on Sin?

There is a discussion going on at the TM forum about the OT God. As should be expected, there are two main schools of thought...

Those who want to hang onto every word of the OT no matter what....and those who are willing to at least explore that everything in the OT does not represent the true God we see in Jesus. Following is a post I made there this morning prompted by the following remark:

The weekend of Katrina the mayor, city council, and police had approved an event called "Southern Decadence." They expected to make many millions of dollars from 100's of thousands of attendees (sorry I forgot the exact #'s.) The organizers had already done as they promised when demonstrating in Washington, D.C., perform gay sex-acts everywhere in public as much as possible. This they were promising for New Orleans.
In Thailand the Tsunami struck where there had grown up a local "thrill kill" culture. People were casually shot for sport. This I learned from someone who lives in that area.

In case there is any confusion...he is one who insists on hanging onto every act in the OT no matter how heinous...and actually seems to be bringing the OT into the times in which we live with his talk of judgment in New Orleans and Thailand. (Doesn't he know God "got saved" somewhere between Malachi and Matthew...totally repented of his wicked ways...or so it seems since he appears to be a completely different God) Anyone who has read anything on this blog probably knows I very much disagree with this guy and so following is my reply:

You forgot the bridge collapse this summer...remember....the bridge on Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Surely that was God's wrath displayed against all those who cross the bridge perhaps listening to their "satanic" death metal hard rock music....or to Howard Stern (is he still on the radio?) or on those who worked on the bridge with God knows what evil habits or perversions....perhaps lusting at some woman passing by in a car.....or worse...

Perhaps Minneapolis is a particularly evil city...with those homosexuals...and people with guns shooting each other for sport (like they do in gang violence all over the nation including the small town where I live in Central Pennsylvania). That makes as much sense. Did not God chastise one of Job's miserable comforters for suggesting that Job brought his calamities on himself by wickedness?

This discussion has centered mainly on the OT...but perhaps we should move into the NT and see God, in the person of Jesus, interacting with sinners.

How about the woman caught in adultery? You know, the one to whom Jesus said in John 8:
"Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"
She said, "No one, Lord."
And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
(and to my way of thinking, the whole experience and the words of Jesus EMPOWERED her to repent and change her ways. We have no way of knowing if that is what occurred but we do know he did not condemn her)

How about the woman at the well in John 4? What an unlikely missionary she was....what with that life style of hers...... ....but that is what she became when her encounter with Jesus so changed her that she hurried back to become a "missionary" to her own people. And let's acknowledge that she is no goody two shoes....which Jesus clearly illustrates when he says:
"You have well said, "I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly."

This is the part where he condemns her, right? Lambastes her for having had FIVE husbands (talk about making poor choices ) and tells of the judgment to come if she does not change her ways. How could she even rectify her situation when she has committed adultery five times? So does he withdraw his offer of living water? Does he condemn her?


It should be also pointed out that his disciples are dumbfounded that he is even talking to her.....a woman...a Samaritan....and to their way of thinking so damaged by her lifestyle as to not be worthy of his time which goes to show that the disciples did not get it either. They did not understand the character and nature of God that Jesus was trying to show them. Actually the followers of Jesus were so steeped in OT judgment they could not see what was as plain as the nose on their face which was clearly illustrated in the following exchange in in Luke 13....

1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

I think (and so do quite a few Bible commentaries) that Jesus is calling them to take a long hard look in the mirror and see the dirt on their own faces. Sort of like the lesson we are to take from the Pharisee in Luke 18 who "stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican."

And what about clueless James and John....when they came to the Samaritan village....the village that wanted no part of Jesus because he had "set his face toward Jerusalem" and would not even show him the hospitality of one night's stay....and the disciples (still influenced by the judgment they perceived in the OT) said..... Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"

And Jesus turned to them and said...."Absolutely...they are worthy of judgment....burn everything that has breath and take their gold for me"?????????????


"He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."

And so I cannot help but wonder if those who are intent on bringing an OT mind set into this day and age...and see judgment everywhere....in earthquakes and natural disasters really know what spirit they are of. I mean no disrespect to anyone who believes this way, but I think to take it upon oneself to lay blame and assign the wrath and judgment of God to modern day catastrophes is wrong. Perhaps those who are steeped in the judgments of the OT need to look squarely in the face of the expressed image of the invisible God we see in Jesus and get to know HIM...because he shows us he is not about judgment or wrath. In him we clearly see that it is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance. The Amplified renders Romans 2:4 this way:

Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repent ( to change your mind and inner man to accept God's will)?