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104 Responses to “ Did God Commit Genocide In the Bible? ”

  1. I could have added a fourth possibility to the three above: that the accounts in the Bible are not trustworthy or true. That doesn’t address the question satisfactorily, though, since the question is whether God as he is revealed in the Bible is guilty of the genocide charge. To say that the God of the Bible is a fiction doesn’t help answer that at all, and to say that the incidents under discussion didn’t really happen is also to duck the question. So I’m not putting that option on the table.


  2. Genocide is also wrong in that it:

    * Originates from a heart of hate

    I think it should be pointed out that genocide is wrong whether it includes this and most of the other motivations you listed or not.

    If, for example, some group annihilates a whole race because they believe that the people killed will be sent to heaven as a result of dying by the hand of a “believer” then its no less wrong—-just wrong with an added dose of nuttery on top.

    Maybe you didn’t intend to imply that something isn’t genocide, or isn’t a morally objectionable act, if it lacks these motives. But it wasn’t clear from what you said.


    The reflexive reaction we all have toward mass killings requires more reflection in God’s case.

    But we should also refrain from the tendency to give God a moral blank check, to use Vuletic’s apt term.

  3. Tom,

    I’d guess that what differentiates genocide from murder is what makes it similar to war — it represents the triumph of rationalization over our moral sense. Whereas war is similar, war rarely presents the opportunity for annihilation of a group, only a group’s selected (or inadvertently located) combatants. Genocide, apart from it’s abhorrent outcomes, is also the most horrific example of what occurs when we “turn off” our moral sense.

  4. May I mention two other criteria involved in genocide?

    propaganda and dehumanization

    Israel’s repeated vocabulary of “vermin” against Palestinians is one such example, as well as the spin machine involved in the occupied territories.

    Though you have not yet provided your full answers and explanations, I think bringing up this example would be interesting in relation to the possible “God did it and its ok” idea.

  5. The question is not whether it’s different for God, but how it is different for God, and whether that makes a difference.

    See: The Potter and the clay

  6. This might be a subset of #2: God is not culpable for the deaths he has allowed throughout history, but he is culpable for the deaths he has specifically commanded people to carry out.

    LG

  7. Lou

    \Israel’s repeated vocabulary of “vermin” against Palestinians is one such example, as well as the spin machine involved in the occupied territories.

    Though you have not yet provided your full answers and explanations, I think bringing up this example would be interesting in relation to the possible “God did it and its ok” idea.\

    I am sure that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Hezbolla and Hamas etc. would find any such argument equally useful too.

    If you are going to bring up spin and propaganda don’t at the same time put a spin on it and use it to promote your own propaganda.

    The issue, if it applies here, applies, in some form or other, to both sides. At least that is the only honest and ethical assumption make in order to derive unbiased conclusions – which, BTW, is outside the purpose of this thread.

    Anyway the Old testament does not seem to have any spin or propaganda of the type you make out. If it did, then surely it would never have been written it up but written it out?

    LG excellent point. Indeed the question is only over what God commanded, the other options that Tom proposes are irrelevant or red herrings when it comes to making out the issue is different for God compared to any human.That is Tom has not established that there is any
    difference between God or a a human commanding these acts -yet.

    1. Fallacy of division? Red herring anyway.
    2. Reason listed are red herrings, LG clarifies with his version
    3. Is a conclusion for which argument is required. What a are the odds this is the conclusion that Tom is gunning for?

    So really it is that God is prima facie culpable for the deaths he has specifically commanded people to carry out and it is up to Tom to deny (or not) as to whether God is actually culpable with cogent arguments.

  8. So really it is that God is prima facie culpable for the deaths he has specifically commanded people to carry out and it is up to Tom to deny (or not) as to whether God is actually culpable with cogent arguments.

    I don’t think Tom can, or will, deny that God is responsible for causing the OT deaths – how could he, God commanded it. I think the question Tom is going to address is, is God guilty of committing evil? Do I have that right, Tom?

  9. Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

    Perhaps, if you determine that God, the God “who made heaven and earth and all that is in it”, is ‘guilty’ of genocide then you might want to put Him to death. Oops, too late, that was done 2000 years ago. And while you are busy listing the alleged crimes of God you might want to add the Flood, it certainly was much more thorough than the conquest of Palestine.

    The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”

  10. I might add the thought that ‘genocide’ is arguably the default position of the alleged human ‘moral sense’ in history. I believe it was Herodotus, the ‘father of history’ who commented that when the Greeks conquered a city they would kill every male, down to the smallest infant, and impregnate all the women. The rationale was that a male would always grow up to avenge his father and a female would do whatever was necessary to protect her children, so by killing the males they save future trouble, and by impregnating the females they insured present peace. Add to that the propensity of nearly every civilized, and nearly every uncivilized, nation, tribe, or clan to kill off or enslave their neighbors. (I think it was Uncle Joe Stalin who said, “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”)

    Our modern, western, ‘moral sense’, you know, the one I commented upon in a previous discussion, has been conditioned by nearly 2,000 years of Christian moral philosophy. Not that Christians have been particularly remiss in the killing and enslaving department, but even when killing and enslaving enjoyed support from the established (and consequently worldy church, there was a vocal and influential minority that argued against it, with arguments that were firmly founded upon Biblical revelation.

    One of the things I have learned is that God is God… and I am not God. I have considered the question of the mass extermination of humans recorded in the Bible from time to time. Usually when ia am considering the accusation that God is, as Richard Dawkins so congenially stated, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Mr. Dawkins, of course, is exercising his delightful command of the English language to make a point, but it is a point that is based upon a couple of misconceptions. 1. God is not fiction. 2. Mr. Dawkins, with the exception of some superficial quote-mining, almost wholly ignorant of the text and context of the Old (and New) Testaments.

    Since, as stated above, I am not God, I can only speculate upon the reasons why He might determine that the extermination of some portion of the creatures which He made might be a painful necessity. I think it helps if we think in terms of a plant-breeder ‘creating’ a new variety of grass. After all, if God is real then we must acknoledge that God is much farther above us than we are above the lowest of the plants. Perhaps the distinction could be better understood as the difference between human life and non-living matter, but the horticulturist and the lawn is, perhaps, more suitable if only because we are dealing with an example that shares that ineffable quality we call “life.”

    Anyhow, to continue with the analogy, you have carefully and lovingly crafted a new variety of grass. One day, as you feed and water your new cration, you find an invasive and degenerate strain has contaminated your carefully cultivated lawn. Not wishing to destroy that which you have so lovingly created you quarantine the lawn and salvage whatever you can while simultaneously trying to remove the contagion. First you save some seed and a few sprouts and then RoundupTM the remainder. You replant, your sprouts and seed take hold, begin to grow, and the contagion returns. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera (to plagiarise the King to Anna). Anyhow, you get the picture.


  11. Since, as stated above, I am not God, I can only speculate upon the reasons why He might determine that the extermination of some portion of the creatures which He made might be a painful necessity.

    This is a dangerous precedent to endorse. It is a claim which can, and has, been used to justify mass murder on many occasions—including all too recent history.

  12. Dave

    1.”Everyone does it(or did it)” is not a moral justification.
    2.Whatever Dawkins has said is quite irrelevant to the question at hand.
    3.The existence of God is certainly stipulated here otherwise the question Tom poses makes no sense – we both agree to ignore the “it was a myth” alternative.
    4. Your plant/feed analogy is interesting although really just a restatement of the problem and is not an excusable justification. Most if not all genocides have been justified in equivalent terms such as purity, race and so on that is equivalent to “lets get rid of the weeds” – that is why they are genocides after all!

    Holopupenko

    A very useful contribution to the debate. Keep it up.

  13. “Pro-choice” is a euphemism that has been used to justify the mass-murder as well–the murder of the most innocent and defenseless persons.

    In fact, what Dawkins says is quite relevant: he has, on another occasion, asserted categorically “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (All while railing against God being evil… quite similar to David Ellis condemning God for “permitting” evil while David himself promotes the gravely evil act of killing the unborn.) If there is no evil or good, then NOTHING can stop genocide, can it?

  14. It doesn’t make a significant difference to the question of God’s guilt, but one difference between a natural disaster (as Dave mentions regarding the Great Flood, 10) and the belligerent extermination of a people (as of Jericho) is that we humans are the instruments in the latter. Natural disasters are beyond our specific control, while participating in genocide (or not) is within our control.

    So an additional question comes up: are the human participants guilty if they are commanded by God? Probably not any more guilty than God.

    LG

  15. Hi David

    This is a dangerous precedent to endorse.

    I’m not endorsing anything here, I merely speculate upon the reasons, other than the reasons specifically given in the Bible, there may be for the actions taken by God in history.

    Hi faithlessgod

    1.”Everyone does it(or did it)” is not a moral justification.

    It was not intended as a justification, it is an observation based upon historical facts, used to illustrate the subsequent argument that the ‘moral sense’ of outrage toward genocide “has been conditioned by nearly 2,000 years of Christian moral philosophy.” That outrage is not shared by a large portion of the world’s population.

    2.Whatever Dawkins has said is quite irrelevant to the question at hand.

    Dawkins, if nothing else, is representative of the superficial and peurile attacks on Christianity by second rate intellectuals who haven’t even investigated the exegetical commentaries of the historic church. He has assumed his conclusion and is not interested in anything which might contradict it.

    4. Your plant/feed analogy is interesting although really just a restatement of the problem and is not an excusable justification.

    Thank you. It wasn’t intended as a justification as such, but as an illustration, so I assume it served its purpose well enough. Quite frankly I find the whole question of God and genocide a category mistake, it assumes an equivalency between man and God that is prima facie absurd. Hence my quote above from the book of Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”

    The God of the Bible is not some invention of the human psyche to be shaped and massaged according to our desire. He is the maker of all that is. As far as we are above the grass under our feet, He is farther above us. “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!”

    Most if not all genocides have been justified in equivalent terms such as purity, race and so on that is equivalent to “lets get rid of the weeds”

    No, they are not. The particular word ‘genocide’ was coined in 1944 specifically to describe the organized murder of the Jewish ‘race’ by the Nazis but is now used to describe any mass murder. Another word is ‘democide’ coined by R. J. Rummel to describe murder by government. Do a search on ‘democide’ or ‘death by government’, Rummel has collected an impressive body of data on various genocides/democides in history. A short summary may be found here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide

  16. Hi Dave

    Where one is outraged or not, whether due to a moral sense or not, whether due to Christian or other religious or non-religious moral philosophy or not, whether other groups feel the same or not, are surely all besides the point in this question.

    Have you heard about the pot and the kettle? If you complain about Dawkins assuming his conclusion, then don’t do the same i.e.

    “Quite frankly I find the whole question of God and genocide a category mistake, it assumes an equivalency between man and God that is prima facie absurd.”

    If it turns out to be absurd then that is an argument within the debate not an a priori assumption to avoid the debate as you appear to be using it here.

    Every schoolboy knows the origin of the term genocide so what? Did we float before someone named what sticks us to the earth gravity? Again this cannot be used to avoid the question being asked of God.

  17. Holopupekno

    If there is no evil or good, then NOTHING can stop genocide, can it?

    This is besides the point. We have a transcultural and objective definition of genocide (the UN one) and the question is did God command it in the Bible, was it morally culpable for so doing and LG’s point is important too, what are the implications on those humans who carried it out? (but we can leave that till later).

    Abortion does not fit under the UN definition and is an entirely different question anyway. Also as the saying goes “two wrongs do not make a right”

  18. Hello faithlessgod

    “If you complain about Dawkins assuming his conclusion, then don’t do the same…”

    In your point 4 above you asserted “The existence of God is certainly stipulated here…” I took you at your word and did not ask the question your assertion immediately brought to mind. Now I discover I must ask it after all.

    Which God is it whose existence you are stipulating? What are his/her/its attributes?

  19. Dave

    You ask the question the wrong way around. The issue is what must be excluded in a definition of God to make the debate tractable and a conclusion valid. So really this is only the presumption that God cannot command genocide, as that would be question begging and invalidate any conclusion based on it.

  20. We have a transcultural and objective definition of genocide (the UN one)

    I think you misapprehend the definitions of ‘transcultural’ and ‘objective’.

    The UN is, at best, a transnational organization and could best be described as an instantiation of ‘liberal’ (in the broad sense) culture. That is to say that most of the active people in the UN, the ones who draft the ‘declarations’ subscribe to a transnational liberal doctrine.

    The definition of ‘genocide’ is only objective in the sense that it has been codified in legal declaration. These declarations are the credes of transnational liberalism and are subject to change at the whim of the member states. Furthermore, the application of sanctions has been arbitrary and capricious.

    The member states of the UN could redefine genocide or, for that matter, repeal the condemnation of genocide at their whim. It is another category mistake to think that laws passed by human legislative bodies are somehow ‘objective’ or ‘universal’, they are not. As Britain’s Parliament so proudly proclaims, they have the absolute right to make or unmake any law. Without a moral Creator God, like the God of the Bible, there is no ‘objective’ standard by which the lone citizen may stand before the full might of the law and say, “Stop! You are wrong to do this!”

  21. Dave

    The UNHCHr is sufficient for the purpose of this disucssionand that is what matters:

    In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    Now you could arbitrarily and subjective use the word “genocide” to apply to something else but that is changing the subject. It is not what I believe Tom was intending to do.

    Further the definition makes objective referents as to what qualifies as genocide which all the objectivity that is required here. It is not a matter of opinion as to whether genocide has occurred, it has to be shown to qualify as defined above.

    The UN (as flawed as it is) is not “an instantiation of ‘liberal’ (in the broad sense) culture.” This was signed by the whole assembly both liberal and illiberal states.

    How sanctions are applied or not is irrelevant to this discussion.

    Whatever British Parliament can do is irrelevant to the objective facts of the matter (and they cannot do what you claim, law is made in judgements, that is why it is called common law not civil law).

    You do not seem to understand what objective means when you say

    Without a moral Creator God, like the God of the Bible, there is no ‘objective’ standard.

    Objective is a term used in ratio-empirical inquiry and would reject claims from coming from solely any being that exists – however great – without independent and external confirmation, as by definition being subjective and would reject claims that are dependent on any such being (or group of beings), as being relative, again by definition. So unless there are independent grounds, hence reasons, outside the person (even the gods) and not relative to any such beings, this is not objective.

    If you are, as I am, concerned to be able to make objective moral claims and judgements, then these are reasons to reject your God or any god, let alone or any group of people as the basis for morality since none of these are objective.

  22. Faithless:

    Based on the recent set of exchanges, I get the strong sense you’re deflecting from the problems in your earlier assertions. I mean, come on, really… do you take us for fools? The UN “definition”? By the UN “definition” abortion is reduced to a past time, and homosexuality a mere “lifestyle.” We could also point to the fact that since the UN came into its inception, of more than 150 major conflicts since the Second World War, 130 have been fought in the developing world. Since the 1950s, more wars have started than have stopped. By the end of 1995, wars had been running in Afghanistan for 17 years, Angola, 30; Liberia, 6; Somalia, 7; Sri Lanka, 11; Sudan, 12. These are not my figures: they are from the UN itself (http://www.unicef.org/graca/patterns.htm). But I’ve digressed…

    Dave very nicely cataloged your other errors–and I reemphasize his point of your question-begging. You’re trying, crudely speaking, to compartmentalize God so that mere human constructs can “contain” Him within the confines of your own categories. That’s not to say we humans can’t gain insights into the nature of God… but those insights will always be tiny cross-sectional slices of THE infinite Being. You, per your own limitations, think you’ve grasped the tail of the elephant, and yell, “It’s a snake! All other considerations are ‘quite irrelevant’ .” (Especially those that don’t support your views, eh?) I also repeat Dave’s earlier point from the book of Job: where were you, Faithless, when the foundations of the universe were laid… or is that also ‘quite irrelevant’?


  23. Quite frankly I find the whole question of God and genocide a category mistake, it assumes an equivalency between man and God that is prima facie absurd.

    So what are you saying? That God has a moral blank check? It sounds as if you think we should hold a supposedly morally perfect being to a standard far below the one we expect of imperfect human beings?

    If that’s not what you mean then what exactly DO you mean?

    And how are you to argue against someone who claims that God has communicated to him that the Jews (or Blacks, or Romany or Native Americans or Mormons or heretics or whatever) must be exterminated for the good of the world?

    If one has conceded that God’s ordered the slaughter of whole peoples in the past, and that God does sometimes communicate his will to believers then one has largely uncut one’s ability to raise moral objections to his position.


    “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!”

    What exactly is this supposed to mean in regard to morality and God? What does it mean to say God is good if one cannot raise any moral objection to anything so long as “God did it” is applied to it?

  24. Tsk tsk tsk… faithlessgod… what can I say?

    “The issue is what must be excluded in a definition of God to make the debate tractable and a conclusion valid”

    Perhaps you now see the significance of the question “which god?” Your approach is to exclude those attributes, generally conceded to be attributes of the God of the Bible, which inhibit your intent to indict the God of the Bible for His actions as described in the Bible. This you desire to make the debate ‘tractable’. By ‘tractable’ I can only assume you mean so you can frame your argument in such a manner as to assure a guilty verdict.

    I don’t think this would make the ‘conclusion valid’. If we are looking for the ‘truth’ then we should honestly evaluate all the evidence, even if the conclusion we ultimately arrive at is personally disturbing. That means an honest evaluation of theology and anthropology – who (or what) is God and who (or what) is man – and I can confess from personal experience that many of the things I have learned about God and man in the past decade have been extremely disturbing to my (formerly) secular mind.

  25. Holopupenko

    Your digression which is quite irrelevant to the task at hand – probably why you called it a digression, except I note only one of the principles of debate is principle of clarity “The formulations of all positions, defences, and attacks should be free of any kind of linguistic confusion and clearly separated from other positions and issues.” So we require a suitable definition of genocide and if you think that the UN definition is not (which you do not address in your digression but your digression could be a from of illegitimate ad hominen, however it simply does not matter about anything else the UN has or has not done), then according to the principle of burden of proof it is up to you to argue for a better one and not change the subject.

    You say

    Dave very nicely cataloged your other errors–and I reemphasize his point of your question-begging.

    First of all it was me who explicitly pointed out the issue of question begging wrt to Dave not the other way around. If you are concerned about errors, try not to make them yourself.

    Secondly I have pointed out dubious assumptions, tacit or otherwise, in Tom’s approach here. No-one has yet pointed out any errors in my reasoning rather they just presented a number of points which are not relevant to this discussion. If you think I am mistaken in doing so then you need to make an argument and I have not seen one yet. So these “errors” so far are all in your head.

    You’re trying, crudely speaking, to compartmentalize God so that mere human constructs can “contain” Him within the confines of your own categories.

    No I am not. I am merely trying to keep the focus on the question at hand. This is standard practice in any discussion, it is called the relevance principle.

    You follow with an irrelevant rant and then

    I also repeat Dave’s earlier point from the book of Job: where were you, Faithless, when the foundations of the universe were laid… or is that also ‘quite irrelevant’?

    Yes indeed it is quite irrelevant. if you think ohterwise, then make an argument. AFAICS we are talking about someone ordering genocide, namely God commanding this in the old testament. The question is that God, contra the setup by Tom which I have disputed for the reasons laid out n previous comments, is prima facie morally responsible for it but is it actually morally responsible? I am awaiting to read an answer from Tom, or at least a reformulation of the problem, given my and others comments. Presumably Tom wishes to conclude that that God is not morally culpable (otherwise why would Tom bother to ask this question) but lets wait and see.

  26. Dave

    By “tractable” I only meant to keep this as a rational debate. It was not me who asked the question but Tom on his own blog. We all presume the is likely to derive the conclusion that God is not morally culpable. I am only pointing out that you cannot stack the deck and setup the question so your desired conclusion follows. That is not rational debate, that is question-begging.

    There has to be neutral problem space for which to create competing conclusions and to see which one is more sound and cogent. So you cannot rely on vague ideas so you can introduce ad hoc methods to make things come out your way, which is what you appear to be trying to do and I am pointing out.

    The question is do you want an honest and ethical debate on this topic or are you merely desiring the pretence of one to fit your preconceived conclusion? I do no know what arguments Tom is going to make and would be interested to see what they are, that is all.

  27. Regarding the claim of a category error I think a couple of examples will make the problem we have with that position clear:

    It would, of course, be a category error to say that God is deficient in virtue because he doesn’t worship God. Worshipping is appropriate to the lesser being toward the greatest possible being. The greatest possible being doesn’t have anything greater than himself to worship.

    But it would be no category error to say that God, being morally perfect, wouldn’t torture people for his amusement. Nor to say he wouldn’t, in fact, be morally perfect if he did so.

    So the question is whether we have good reason to think the genocide issue is more like the former or the latter.

  28. David Ellis and Faithless:

    So what are you saying? That God has a moral blank check?

    That pretty much sums up the error both of you are promulgating as a valid question. It’s invalid… full stop. Why? Precisely because YOU are imposing your own personal moral categories upon The Creator. The “blank check” thing is a deflection away from understanding the nature of God. If God is truly God–the necessary Being and First Cause of all contingent existents–then He creates and sustains everything in existence… including those who promote and carry out the evil of abortion (while railing against God as “evil”). Whether you can live with that and accept God for who He is, or whether you try to impose your own personal moral judgments upon Him is ultimately irrelevant. (But it is your ultimate choice.)

    Faithless is doing precisely what Dave has pointed out: setting up the playing field in his favor (with fluffy language: amateurishly employing UN “definitions” to encapsulate God’s obligations to us?!?), and then declaring all statements from those who don’t want to play by his personal rules “quite irrelevant.” It’s one thing to set up the rules when debating issues regarding contingent beings, it’s another thing altogether when trying to discuss The Being… which leads to the next point.

    One thing that is shockingly clear (but par for the course with “naturalists” and atheists in general) is the hyper-dependence on univocal terms (which is what the modern empirical sciences are about) while hiding behind clarity of language as defined by Faithless. Memo: you must employ analogous language when speaking of God–that’s not my rule, it’s demanded by the very subject matter when speaking about The Being. No human term or language can ever capture the full reality of God, so analogous terms must be employed. For heaven’s sake, Shakespeare employs beautiful metaphors to provide insights and truths about love, courage, honor, betrayal, etc. in humans (truths impossible to capture with univocal terms)… So, how much more must our language be expanded when speaking of God be adjusted?

    That’s the game being played here, and it should stop… and the accompanying false humility (with a shade of condescension) is repugnant–lose it. No one should accept such a lack of distinction and univocal approach to thinking about God–especially coming from those who have a priori rejected The Being (God) based on their own self-serving rules.

  29. Holopupenko

    I have not said nor implied any such a thing about “moral blank checkes” in this thread. Are you capable of focused discussion?

    You seem to be making assembling accusation against us to draw attention away from the fact that these are flaws in your arguments. Sorry it ain’t working. I can see through this ploy. For example:

    Precisely because YOU are imposing your own personal moral categories upon The Creator.

    Again I have not argued for any such thing. I have quite specifically argued against the imposition of anyone’s, including yours Holopupenko, personal moral categories and for an objective morality. You have failed to address the points that indicate that yours is subjective and relative, I presume because you cannot.

    The usual irrelevancies that are nothing to do with the question at hand e.g. abortion and some feeble attempts at ad hominems do nothing to help your case and much to to show how empty it is. Yet again you have failed to provide an argument for another definition of genocide. If the best you can do is argument by analogy you really have no more than a subjective opinion. Let us see some evidence and facts. All I see avoidance and distraction from the question at hand. It is part of the terms of this discussion that God exists so your a priori accusation is quite false.

    In addition, in general you cannot assume that God exists nor does not, a priori. This has to be a conclusion (one way or another) otherwise your whole worldview is circular and subjective. You can call it objective but merely calling that does not make it so.

    All in all your last comment was entirely lacking in substance. I will await Tom’s response or future post as at least he is capable of rational debate. In the meantime I suggest you learn about the norms of debates here is an decent example.

  30. Hi David (great name!)

    “So what are you saying? That God has a moral blank check? …”

    If I recall correctly, in another thread, you were somewhat outraged that God would not knock pedophiles unconsious whenever they acted upon their compulsion to assault children. Let us extrapolate that to all humanity, let us assume for a moment that the Biblical anthropology is correct, that “the thoughts of our heart are only evil all the time.” We reject God, we hate our neighbor, we lie, we steal, and we commit adultery and murder. Some of us may proclaim, with self-righteous indgnation, that we are “really pretty good” but any honest appraisal of the moral prescriptions of the Bible and human action will inevitably lead me to conclude that “maybe I’m not so good after all.”

    We look at the pedophile (or the thief or the murderer) and say how wicked he is, how deserving of punishment, thank God I’m not like that. But I am like that. Oh, I may pretend that I am as pure as the driven snow, but whenever I look in the mirror I must emulate Stuart Smalley, “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” As St. Paul said, “There is no difference, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    So how do we stand in relation to God? We are all sinners in thought and deed. We are all deserving of punishment for our wicked, wicked ways. There may be difference in degree of culpability from our earth bound, time bound, perspective, but what difference of degree is there between the infinite and the finite? According to the Bible we are all culpable and deserving of death. This isn’t an arbitrary sentence, it is inevitable consequence of our actions, in the same sense that jumping off a cliff will kill us. We all will die. God has withdrawn His sustaining power to the extent that entropy has entered the universe. That is meet, right, and proper (read Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein for a vision of man’s reaction to extended lifepans).

    God doesn’t have a “moral blank check”, He is the standard by which we are judged and found wanting. As guilty and condemned criminals we enjoy a short reprieve of threescore and ten years in which we might hear His call to repent. He offers this reprieve because He loves the creatures He made and the world He gave them. He loves them so much, so insanely (by human standards), that He put on human flesh and permitted us to murder Him. If that revelation doesn’t shock some sense into us then nothing will.

    “And how are you to argue against someone…”

    God’s command to the Hebrews was limited to a particular time in history, and to a particular place, and to particular peoples. This command was given after 40 years of close interaction between God and the entire Hebrew tribe, so it wasn’t ‘someone’ saying “God has commanded me/us to…” It was the culmination of God’s creation of the nation He had set apart from the world and through which He communicated His forebearance.

    We are called to respond to the forebearance of God, to His self-revelation through the prophets and the Christ, we can find redemption and resurrection. That is Grace.

    “What does it mean to say God is good if one can’t raise a moral objection to anything …”

    I think you misapprehend. You are free to raise all the moral objections you desire. That’s the problem. Adam and Eve were created as free and conscious creatures. In all of the creation account the only creatures addressed directly by God. God gave them instructions on what they should do, instruction which the freely violated, and by that violation introduced a discord into the harmony of creation. This discord has cosmic consequences, not only are we withdrawn from the sustaining power of God, but all of creation is likewise withdrawn. Both moral and natural evil walks the earth.

    We would be like God, knowing good and evil. Knowing, I think, could mean determining good and evil by our own standards, making it up as we go along. We are still free, in the sense that we are capable of acting as agents, but our moral compass is disabled. We invent contradictory moral codes and excuse our own failures. God has revealed to us a proper moral code, but we refuse to consent.

  31. Faithless:

    Ummm… you have noticed, haven’t you, that I have not produced any argument for or against Tom’s initial point of the post. Why? Because I’ve been busy exposing the game you’re playing. You HAVE set up the rules–it’s there for everyone to see which Dave correctly identified… so to now claim you haven’t is dishonest. Point one.

    Point two: it appears that whenever we do point out your errors, you hide behind the label “irrelevant.” Please stop: your credibility is sinking very quickly.

    Where is your response to the ontological distinction between God and His creation? Where is your response to the criticism of your almost exclusive use of univocal language… or perhaps you don’t know what that means? Where is sound argumentation for why we should accept the UN’s “definition” (the onus is on you–you introduced it) which includes a careful distinction of whether and when such a definition should apply equivocally to The Necessary Being and His contingent creatures… or should we just accept it because you say so?

  32. Faithless God pretty well summed up my own thinking on your previous post, Holo, so I have little to add on that.

    I’m simply going to point out that your thinking on this issue can be employed by anyone, of any religious belief, no matter how terrible:

    the Aztecs sacrifice thousands in their worship—who are you to impose your value judgments on the divine and say they are wrong?

    A moslem suicide bomber kills dozens in a crowded restaurant—who are you to say they are wrong when it was an act ordained by God?

    By employing the sort of reasoning you’ve exhibited you lose the ability to consistently claim that religion X’s teachings about God are clearly wrong because they depict God as doing what no just God would.

    Perhaps you’re OK with that. But you shouldn’t be. In effect, it not only gives God a moral blank check—but ourselves as well—so long as we feel God is speaking to us.


  33. Where is your response to the ontological distinction between God and His creation?

    If God’s ordering such killings was morally right then he has some morally sound reason for that order—even if its a morally sound reason which only applies to him as a being of a unique ontological status.

    What is that morally sound reason?

    Or do you believe it to be a divine mystery?

    And could you elaborate on the things you think its morally right for God to do but which would be morally wrong for others to do. I don’t deny that there are some. Like demanding worship. But equally obviously some would be wrong even for him (like torturing people for his amusement).

    Or do you deny even that?

  34. Hi again David

    You have twice today used the phrase “torturing people for his amusment”… what evidence have you that God tortures people for His amusement? Thanks in advance.

  35. David:

    Wait a minute: YOU guys are the ones who set up the rules and then impose them upon us… just like that? Here’s a perfect example from your latest comments:

    you lose the ability to consistently claim that religion X’s teachings about God are clearly wrong because they depict God as doing what no just God would.

    To repeat: I’m not arguing the point Tom raised one way or another. I’m pointing out (see bold face) YOUR imposed vision about the moral hoops through which you feel God needs to be driven.

    If God is God, then why are you playing the imposition game upon Him… and us? Yes, I understand it doesn’t immediately address YOUR point… but if you continue to impose YOUR vision of what and who God is, and if you continue to set up your personal vision of what is morally good, then of course you’re loading the dice… and discussion must end… because even your point will never be adequately addressed.

    Again, if God is God, then you have to focus on that and not exclusively on your personal moral concerns. I’m not saying your concerns are unimportant (they are, in fact, exceedingly important), but they are warped by trying to pigeon hole God into your very narrow and quite personal box. Sorry, but your box is infinitely too small for God.

    And by the way (just to demonstrate how you’re trying to turn the tables), it is He who condescended to being physically encompassed in the tiny, limited womb of of a human mother. It was His initiative–not ours. You’re turning that reality on its head: “here, God, fit inside MY box.” It was He who accepted death on the Cross at our hands. But that’s too terrible for you to even contemplate: you earlier noted that a redemptive sacrifice is morally repugnant. Well, perhaps as applied to humans it is. But applied to God, whose soul purpose was to bridge the gap to save you? Come on… maybe you’ll still reject that sacrifice, but at least understand its origin is not captured by human categories.

  36. Holopupenko

    “Ummm… you have noticed, haven’t you, that I have not produced any argument for or against Tom’s initial point of the post.”
    So no wonder your points were irrelevant. I have sussed you out so to everyone here, if you did not already know this. DNFTT

  37. Faithless:

    Of course–that’s your MO: questions and issues you find difficult are labeled “irrelevant,” while your highlighted errors aren’t addressed. Out of sight, out of mind. Atheism: critical thinking… NOT.


  38. You have twice today used the phrase “torturing people for his amusment”… what evidence have you that God tortures people for His amusement? Thanks in advance.

    I didn’t claim that he does. I presented it, quite plainly and unambiguously, as an example of something which we could all agree would be clearly wrong—even for a deity.

  39. Quite frankly I find the whole question of God and genocide a category mistake, it assumes an equivalency between man and God that is prima facie absurd.

    Ditto. Skeptics don’t like Eurythro’s third horn.

  40. If God’s ordering such killings is morally right then He has some morally sound reason for that order…

    What is that morally sound reason?

    We must then begin with a question, “What purpose do the Israelites, the descendents of Abraham, serve in God’s redemptive plan?” To find the answer we must look at Genesis 12:

    “The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

    God picked a guy, Abram, and his wife, Sarai, and if you read the rest of the book, not even a particularly ‘good’ guy. Abraham made a contract with God and and he and his descendants were set aside (sanctified) for God’s redemptive purpose. It is through them that God will deliver His self-revelation and into this tribe that God will be incarnated. God had picked a land for Abraham to settle, the land of Canaaan, inhabited by several tribes collectively called Canaanites.

    These tribes practiced a depraved polytheism which included male and female temple prostitutes, beastiality, and human sacrifice (well documented both historically and archaelogically). The Canaanites were called the Phoenikes (Phonecians) by the Greeks and Poenus by the Romans. Canaanite emigres in Carthage, 1,000 years after the conquest of Israel, were exterminated by the Romans, in part because of their practice of human sacrifice.

    So these were the inhabitants of the land which God gave the Hebrews, a people so depraved the Bible tells us:

    ” ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” Lev. 18:24-28

    Among the list of vices which precede the above declaration is the following, which may have special significance for you. “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you” Obvioulsy God has proscibed pedophilia and incest, both apparently practiced by the Canaanites.

  41. SteveK

    Ditto. Skeptics don’t like Eurythro’s third horn.

    The issue of liking or not an answer is irrelevant, at least in a rational debate where it is only whether it is well supported or not and whether it leads to a resolution of the question at hand or not. Euthyphro is not the primary question here although it might be relevant. However since there is no third horn, there is nothing to like or dislike.

    Dave

    You have provided no morally sound reason for genocide. Yours is the template for a standard argument to falsely justify genocide just about everywhere it has been done. Of course if you would not admit that any genocide is morally justified, only ones you agree with, still that makes you a person that should be strongly condemned and held in contempt. Such attitudes as yours need to be disouraaged to help prevent genocides occurring again.

    Whatever claimed vices they had, which one has to be dubious off since history has repeatedly shown these are the result of prejudice and bigotry, the vice you endorse is far worse, and so by your own principle you should kill yourself. Lucky for you, you ain’t that rational but then if you were you could not hold such views.

  42. Lucky for you, you ain’t that rational but then if you were you could not hold such views.

    Hi faithlessgod… 8^>

    The last time someone accused me of being irrational it turned out he defined irrational as “believing in God”. It would not matter what argument any theist put forward, he was free to ignore it because it was, by definition, a priori irrational. However, the incident motivated me to study logic and reason… just to be sure I wasn’t irrational. My arguments may not be presented formally, and you may dislike the premises and the conclusions, but your ad hominem hasn’t changed their validity one iota.

    If you have an argument that would refute the premises or the conclusion I would be grateful if you would present it. I am convinced that Christian theism is true and that it is the only rational explanation for the human condition, but I am open to any reasonable proof of error.

    As for killing myself, a friend has a faux Latin phrase for suggestions like this, “illigitimi non carborundum” or ‘don’t let the b——s grind you down.’ 8^>

  43. Thanks for carrying on an interesting discussion here. It’s been another one of those weeks when I couldn’t keep up with everything else, much less this discussion. Dave, I appreciate your joining the discussion as you have been doing lately. Your contributions are right on target, as far as I’m concerned.

    I’m hoping tomorrow morning I’ll have the next installment of this posted on the blog.

  44. Hi Tom

    Thank you. I’m enjoying your blog and the discussions here very much. I like to be challenged and learning, both of which happen here.

  45. Dave,

    You appear to be comfortable with the explanation that Genocide is justified if God says so.

    This is interesting to me in that it openly admits that you would allow or partake in the most terrible act imaginable, and thus any less terrible (cannibalism, incest, bestiality, whatever), if you believe that God willed it.

    This makes you appear very cold-blooded, and I wonder if you would agree to such a characterization.

    Also, would you agree that if a Christian is correct in performing terrible acts according to what he/she believes is God’s will, then a Muslim or follower of another religion is similarly justified in doing the same in what they sincerely believe is God’s will? And given the problem of competing interpretations of Christian revelation among its followers and sects, let alone other religions, do you feel any need to reconcile these conflicting interpretations, and if so, how do you go about it?

    I am convinced that Christian theism is true and that it is the only rational explanation for the human condition, but I am open to any reasonable proof of error.

    I wonder what part(s) of the human condition you find that evolutionary theory does not explain rationally? I have my own definition for what I consider rational (conclusions based on reason AND empiricism), and I am now curious how you define the word.

  46. You appear to be comfortable with the explanation that Genocide is justified if God says so.

    I think the correct understanding is that large scale killings can be justified at times. Genocide implies evil, and evil isn’t justifiable.

  47. I think the correct understanding is that large scale killings can be justified at times. Genocide implies evil, and evil isn’t justifiable.

    I agree with this and want to add from perspective of the just-war tradition, genocide is never justifiable. It violates the criteria of non-combatant discrimination. The other problem of genocide comes from the perspective of just peacemaking in that nations that allow genocide to happen are not advancing human rights.


  48. These tribes practiced a depraved polytheism which included male and female temple prostitutes, beastiality, and human sacrifice (well documented both historically and archaelogically).

    So your answer to the question “what is the morally sound reason for God ordering the slaughter of whole peoples” is:

    they deserved it?

    Well, I suppose that settles it. We can tell Tom not to bother with his next post. The issue has been resolved.

    And, hey, that one works for the POE as well. Everybody deserves hell anyway so if some experience a foretaste there’s no problem. A philosophical question that has perplexed philosophers, Christian and nonchristian, for centuries. Resolved at last.

  49. How about this for a slogan on the level of David’s: Perhaps those who “deserve it” the most are the ones who relegate the most innocent and defenseless of humans being to the status of non-persons, and then subject them to elimination. Sounds to me like that sort of depravity easily comes under the heading “they deserve it.”

  50. Would you agree, Holo?

    Do you think “they deserved it” is an adequate answer?

    That does seem to be what he’s saying. His comment makes no sense by any other interpretation. Feel free to explain what was meant if you disagree.

  51. Do you think “they deserved it” is an adequate answer?

    Do injustices deserve to be reconciled in some way? Yes. Hope that answers the question.


  52. Perhaps those who “deserve it” the most are the ones who relegate the most innocent and defenseless of humans being to the status of non-persons, and then subject them to elimination.

    That’s an odd thing to say from someone who regards as morally right a command which includes mass infanticide.

  53. So that’s another vote for “they deserved it”, SteveK?

    Including the infants?

    I asked/answered a kind of ‘grounding’ question. If injustices deserve some response then it’s not a question of “did they deserve some response?”, it’s a question of “what response do they deserve?”. I hope even you will admit to this. If so, then you also vote for “they deserved it”. Your disagreement is with “it”, not “deserve”.

    To answer your question, I don’t know. Do you? If you don’t know, then you can’t say genocide was committed. If you do know then I’d like to understand how it is you acquired this knowledge.


  54. Do you?

    People typically justify organized mass murder with the claim that it was divinely ordained.

    I think it reasonable to think they’re spouting self-serving rationalizations for brutality unless they can provide hard evidence to the contrary.

    Of course, like anything else, I don’t claim absolute knowledge that this is the case. But I don’t need absolute knowledge to draw a reasonable conclusion.


    If you don’t know, then you can’t say genocide was committed.

    I define a genocide as the destruction, or at least mass murder, of a people (be it nation, ethnic group or religion). Even if it was morally justified it was a genocide.

    But maybe you don’t like the negative connotations of the term.

    Of course any particularly accurate term, like “justified mass killing” doesn’t really make it sound much better.

  55. Gee, go to work for a couple of hours, play a round of golf, and next thing you know I’m ready to;

    “…allow or partake in the most terrible act imaginable, and thus any less terrible (cannibalism, incest, bestiality, whatever), if you believe that God willed it.”

    So Hi! Tony, good to hear from you. Perhaps you should have read an earlier post of mine, #33 which states in part

    So how do we stand in relation to God?… According to the Bible we are all culpable and deserving of death. This isn’t an arbitrary sentence, it is inevitable consequence of our actions, in the same sense that jumping off a cliff will kill us. We all will die. God has withdrawn His sustaining power to the extent that entropy has entered the universe.”

    and in the same post I noted;

    God’s command to the Hebrews was limited to a particular time in history, and to a particular place, and to particular peoples. This command was given after 40 years of close interaction between God and the entire Hebrew tribe, so it wasn’t ’someone’ saying “God has commanded me/us to…”

    “I wonder what part(s) of the human condition you find that evolutionary theory does not explain rationally?”

    Should we start with the human mind, that tool with which we attempt to explain our observations and experiences rationally. Are you not aware that evolutionary materialism has no rational explanation for reason. It is a cliche, from Darwin to Dawkins, that free will and reason are an illusion; that we are, like all material objects, subject to the physical laws of cause and effect. Ipso facto we are machines programmed by our genes and environment. If we are machines programmed by genes and environment, then reason, a power which transcends cause and effect, is impossible.

    Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

  56. Hi David

    “People typically justify organized mass murder with the claim that it was divinely ordained.”

    Do you enjoy hurling elephants? Did Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Lenin claim divine guidance? “People typically make up statistics to bolster a weak argument” is just as valid as your statement above, and probably just as well documented.

    They deserved it…

    And, hey, that one works for the POE as well.

    OK, let’s try this one more time.

    God is God and I am not. God isn’t just another guy who lives within the same neighborhood or nation as us, nor does He live in the same world or the same universe. He is the guy that took nothing and made it into something, that something includes you and I. We are creatures (created things) made by Him for His own purpose. The closeset analogy would be you taking a piece of inanimate matter and shaping it into some tool, to be used or discarded according to your own good pleasure.

    But God is not some creature limited to making dead things with dead matter, He is the source of all being and all life. God made us ‘in His image’, that is, with personality, mind, reason, free will, and self-consciousness. We are selves, persons, and once there is a self, it is possible to put that self before all else… to be ‘selfish’. And the problem of evil arises out of our selfish desires. And our selfishness corrupts, not just ourselves, but everything we touch, everything we do, everything that exists in the world over which we have dominion.

    If your read the 10 Commandments from beginning to end it has an order, it is a prescription from authority through symptom to cause, read them in reverse we have a diagnosis of the human condition. We covet that which is not rightly ours, power, wealth, our neighbors wife, his children, his possessions, even his life. And in our natural state we will do anything to aquire those things we desire.

    And yet, for some strange reason, God loves us. We are made by His own hand, endowed with personhood and creativity (albeit as a pale shadow of Him whose image we share), and He is trying to save us from ourselves. He is like a rescuer in a lifeboat who reaches his hand out to save a drowning man… only to have the hand slapped away.

    Why does He not make us take His hand? I don’t really know, but it appears that God takes free will very seriously. He will not coerce, He will cajole, entice, seduce, a lover pursues the beloved, so God pursues us. The Bible is filled with analogies of love and marriage descriptive of God’s relationship to us. We play the role of the faithless wife, abusing the love we are given; even making gods of our selves, rather than return the love we receive.

    The history of the Old and New Testaments is the story of human depravity, brought to us from God through the people He set aside for this purpose. Even among the people He set aside, sanctified, there are none who good and pure save one. The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ;

    Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!

    This is not a man dying for God, but God dying for humanity. He came down to us and laid down His life for our sakes. How much does God love His creation? Jesus stretches out His arms on the cross, like a little child, saying “God loves you this much!”

  57. Of course any particularly accurate term, like “justified mass killing” doesn’t really make it sound much better.

    You seem to like the term ‘justified mass abortion’. Your justification for that is that one being is different than another being.

  58. Your justification for that is that one being is different than another being.

    Do ya dinna ken, laddie, all have fallen. We are a confused and capricious race. There is discord and depravity wherever we turn. As G. K. Chesterton once noted;

    “Certain new theologians [and nearly every non-Christian] dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

    http://www.catholicfirst.com/thefaith/catholicclassics/chesterton/orthodoxy/orthodoxy.cfm#II–The%20Maniac

    Chesterton was a pretty smart cookie, he didn’t let ideology blind him to the all too obvious deficiencies of humanity.

    The weak point in the whole of Carlyle’s case for aristocracy lies, indeed, in his most celebrated phrase. Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men. But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired. And this doctrine does away altogether with Carlyle’s pathetic belief (or any one else’s pathetic belief) in “the wise few.” There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton

  59. Steve K

    However since there is no third horn, there is nothing to like or dislike.

    Wrong.

    Do you understand what an argument is? A dilemma has two horns, having a third horn is absurd. So you must think there is a trilemma. If you do just list the three horns of the trilemmma 1..,2..,3… and any other answer you give is an admission that you are wrong.

    If you make such a list it does not mean it is correct but at least there is something to discuss – is it a valid trilemma primarily, that can be debated.

  60. Dave said: “God has revealed to us a proper moral code, but we refuse to consent.”

    (He’s said lots else too, but I want to concentrate on a problem that seems present here.)

    Consider my point of view. For most of adult life, I was not a Christian. But a time came when I began to take religion generally and Christianity specifically quite seriously. The question of the proper attitude to Scripture came to dominate my thoughts. Should I think it immune to error, or should I adopt an errantist view? My eventual answer was dictated by the reason I began to take religion seriously. That reason was largely moral in character. The morality of the Gospels – love God and all of your heart and mind and neighbor as self – seemed just right to me. So here was my predicament: what authority I accorded to Scripture came from my recognition of the truth of the moral scheme contained in it. Now, it seems to me quite clear that genocide is inconsistent with the Law of Love. Love respects the infinite intrinsic value of each human being. (Here’s where Dave’s grass analogy breaks down. No plant has infinite intrinsic value.) Thus love cannot command the destruction of whole peoples. To do so it at worst to treat them as mere things, at best to treat them as means to some end outside themselves. So to admit the authority of those passages which seem to attribute genocide to God would for me remove whatever basis I ever had to think any Scripture authoritative.

    When people tell me that I cannot apply my own standards to God, I wonder what might have been their reason to hold that God has done this or that. Yes, I know that they would reply that Scripture tells them. But what I really wonder is why they ever thought Scripture authoritative; and insofar as their reasons seem to have no moral content, for that reason they seem defective to me. If one comes to religion with a moral blank slate and attributes to God whatever one’s holy book seems to say, one has abdicated the God-given ability to discern moral truth. One has a God-given conscience, and one knows that something is of God because conscience approves it.

  61. Dave,

    I had read your post #33 before I asked you my questions. I don’t think your post 33 answered my questions (which was, would you allow or partake in any act so long as you feel that God willed it), and that is why I asked it.

    The first part of your post 33 that you requote mentions that we are all mortal. I am not sure how this relates to my question.

    The second part says,

    God’s command to the Hebrews was limited to a particular time in history, and to a particular place, and to particular peoples. This command was given after 40 years of close interaction between God and the entire Hebrew tribe, so it wasn’t ’someone’ saying “God has commanded me/us to…”

    I don’t think this directly addresses my question, but I can tell you what I think it implies: yes, you would allow or partake in morally repugnant acts (commensurate with the ones listed previously) if you feel that God commands it (similar to how he commanded the Israelites). So it sounds as though there is a scale on which God’s will is to be interpreted – extraordinarily repugnant acts would require extraordinarily unambiguous communication from God, for instance. Nonetheless, that scale includes the command to commit genocide (and any other act we find most repugnant).

    This is interesting because I think that most skeptics (and most people) would say they would never, ever, under any circumstances, allow or commit an act of genocide. (Maybe they’re lying, but they’ll at least say that.)

    With regard to Christian theism being the only rational explanation for the human condition you mention the human mind, and then reason, but I had asked you specifically for a definition of rationality so that I could understand where you consider evolutionary theory fails (and Christian Theism does not). I cannot evaluate your statement without an understanding of how you define rationality.

  62. Hi Franklin,
    It’s great to see you’re still around. I was thrilled when your comments some time ago indicated that you had accepted Jesus as your Saviour. Bless you!

    I had a very similar view of Scripture for most of my life as to the one you are espousing.
    I won’t go into details with the harm that I see in that only now, looking back. But I will tell you that I consider that I was no less a Christian, no less intelligent and no less saved, when I held those ideas.
    Nor am I now.
    What started my move toward inerrancy was apologetics. When I realized, through the work of the Holy Spirit, but by the tool mostly of solid argument, evidence and the brothers on sites like this, that my faith in Jesus had real, objective grounding in historical and logical fact I came to accept the Bible as authoritative. When I realized that it was true in what it said of Jesus, His authority and the truth of His supernatural works I also realized that He treated the OT as authoritative. I’ve read the entire Bible several times, but have just completed a one year run of it in May and, three weeks later, am halfway through 2 Samuel again. I am getting a much clearer picture of that fact, of all of the allusions to Jesus in the OT, and to so many of the sections He was quoting.
    Realizing my ignorance of all of the depths of this Revelation I know I can’t explain even to my own satisfaction everything it says. But that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I am only scraping away the tiniest of layers which my own pride in my own intellect has cast over my interpretation and I realize over and over again that the Bible is right and I am wrong. I just don’t always know how it is right.

    As I have heard many times, it is folly to chastise one another over debatable points but necessary that we hold fast to the essentials. We know that God is all good and all loving. He has solved the problem of evil once for all and reconciled His children to Him by entering into history and covering us with His righteousness.
    He has also ordained for all men to die once, whether in Canaan by the sword or in a nursing home in the 21st century.

    God bless you.

  63. Hi Frank mason

    A nice point. Still I wonder, in your search, why you chose a particular Christian version of religion, remember that this was originally a Jewish text but unless one is chooses to be a member of the obscure and rare Kariast sect, literalism is rejected. Indeed I believe it is taught that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament (or Torah to Jews) is for the young and the stupid. If only Christians understood this, there would be no need to struggle to make sense of stories such as this. Resolving whether God was morally culpable for ordering genocide is a peculiarly Christian issue.

  64. Franklin,

    I appreciate your frank and honest discussion of how you approach this question. I have to say that your approach strikes me as more intellectually engaged than others (present company excepted) I have heard on this topic.

  65. Franklin:

    I think you raise some solid and interesting points, but I also couldn’t help think about some issues that were (to me) conspicuosly absent. Here they are in admittedly stream-of-consciosness order:

    (1) The argument from authority is the weakest (in fact, it’s a fallacy) when acquiring knowledge of the real world. However, the argument from authority is the strongest (in fact, it’s the only correct argument) when acquiring knowledge given to us through revelation. First and foremost this is true because it comes from the Ultimate Authority on issues to which we simply cannot reason (the nature of the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.)

    (2) One MUST then ask: who or what has (or was granted) authority to interpret Scripture? As a distant, fallible parallel note that some instition must interpret the U.S. Constitution. The Scripture do not interpret themselves–that’s a fallacy. I’m not going to “answer” that question, but simply note it is crucial.

    (3) To lay my cards on the table: in matters of faith and morals, the Scriptures are inerrant. I don’t say that from myself, i.e., it’s not something I reasoned to… although my reason helps me to understand that it is correct. I accept it on authority. I do NOT accept on the authority of the Scriptures themselves because, even though retrospectively correct, it would be circular reasoning. In other words, I reject stand-alone arguments of the type “it’s true because the Bible says so.” That type of reasoning is fallacious, intellectually demeaning, and leads to other pernicious errors… such as fideism.

    (4) It seems to me that during these discussions one must first understand something of the nature of God to begin to consider the particular case of “ordering” genocide… but in order to do this one must employ analogous language,(*) negation of all that is not of God(**), and affirmation(***) to obtain truthful insights. (I can’t emphasize enough that to say, strictly speaking, “God is good” is an error: God IS Goodness Itself.) To my mind, while I admit it’s not robust, it is intellectually sound and comforting to understand that God is THE necessary Being, while all other existents (no matter their mode) are contingent. In my personal opinion, I don’t think most people reflect or ponder this enough. The “mileage” one can obtain is, frankly, stunning and extremely humbling. One of the things that flows from such an understanding is the ability to counter claims such as “even if God didn’t directly cause evil, He is ultimately responsible for causing evil because He is the First Cause.” (Hint: Per se causing a privation of good is impossible for The Good–the very formulation of any criticism of this is a non-starter.)

    (5) A theologian I know, while still in school wanted to study Scripture and teach theology. His father very wisely admonished him to first get a degree in philosophy, and then pursue theology. Not only could I not agree more with this advice, but the theologian is now world-renowed in his particular field… and that pattern has repeated itself. I throw this out not to suggest that everyone must/should become a philosopher in order to understand (at some level) Scriptures, but to generally support what this blog is about: thinking Christians. Faith and Reason never contradict each other: they are the two wings upon which we rise to God.

    (*) To say “a dog is healthy,” “a dog has a healthy coat of fur,” “a dog eats healthy food,” etc. means we are employing the word “healthy” in analogous senses: there’s something of a unifying meaning that binds them together, and yet there’s something different about all these. We start with the primary analogate as used in the first case, and then move away from that with the other analogates. In a similar way, the primary analogate (writ large) is God AS Goodness Itself… and from there we understand lesser forms or perfections of goodness in contingent entities. But even here it’s not so simple… nor correct: because we are limited, contingent creatures we must employ logic and philosophy to obtain a correct definition of “good.” But we don’t know God first–we know things in the world through our senses, we establish a primary analogate from the sensible world, and then we reason to the existness of Goodness Itself (or the First Cause, or Perfection, or whatever). In other words, our primary analogate is first understood in the contingent created world, and then we reason to Goodness Itself. Why? Because the order of knowing is tied to the order of being: we are spiritual creatures “tied” to the world, so we have to reason to the immaterial world (none of our senses have access to the real world). That’s why the following principle is so important: while all knowledge comes to us through our senses, not all knowledge is sensory knowledge.

    (**) We say of God He is “immaterial” by negating the material; we say of God He is “infinite” by negating the finite; we say of God He is “immortal” by negating the mortal; we say God is God, He is not man; etc. Clearly, given an Infinite Being (infinity here is note used in reductively in the mathematical sense) the more we negate away from that Infinity, the more insight we gain into what God is not. (As an important aside, this is why St. Anselm’s ontological a priori argument [that than which nothing greater can be conceived] is flawed: we can’t do that: our minds will always be conceiving of greater and greater things.)

    (***) We cannot positively understand the God whose existence we have affirmed. We cannot, as it were, crowd him into a concept in his transcendence he escapes our concepts. Nonetheless, certain things can be affirmed of God: God IS Good; there is nothing potential in God: He IS Actuality Itself; etc.

  66. faithless,

    Why Christianity? The explanation isn’t solely of a rational variety, but it does have a rational component, and that rational component is largely moral in character. The primacy of the love ethic in the gospels seems to me the best expression of the ethic that I’ve always believed. Moreover, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation seem to me to weave the ethic of love into the very fabric of being. The three persons of the trinity are bound up in a continual and perfect love; and that love came down to humanity on the form of Christ (for God so loved the world …).

    I know that this doesn’t amount to anything like a deductively sound argument. (I certainly agree with Holo’s Thomistic view and its insistence that many truths of revelation are immune to rational demonstration.) It is suggestive at most. But something seems to have reached out to me when I’d gotten this far. But I don’t have what one might call certainty, and I most certainly believe that there is much truth in other religions. Where there is genuine compassion, there too is God; and that compassion is of God. For, as I believe, God is love.

  67. Thanks Frank

    It is not my job (nor anyone else’s) to get them to change their personal beliefs. You are entitled to your reasons. Your approach is more of what I call an honest fideist and I have no issue with that. Similarly for most Christians and Jews (as I noted in the previous post) that I know.

    I only draw issue, and this specifically does not include you, with Christian literalists who have to deal with issues such as God commanding genocide. By contrast, I have asked the equivalent extremeley religious Jews, the ultra-orthodox Chabad this question and they gave the answer I already knew that I noted above (and held by moderate Jews too).

    Still the fact that Tom is exploring this topic is to be commended but lets see how it progresses. It is certainly a deep difficulty for literalists. For example, William Lane Craig’s answer is truly appalling, but I do not think (I hope that) Tom is as extreme as that.

  68. Holo,

    Extraordinary. I agree with almost everything you say. The one point of disagreement concerns appeal to authority. It does often yield knowledge of the “real world”. (And I would assume that this is the only world there is.) Indeed much that I know about the world I know only because I have quite rightly taken it on authority. I know that the planets move in (roughly) elliptical orbits, and I know this only because I’ve taken it on the authority of the relevant experts (the astronomers, I suppose).

  69. Tony, you asked Dave this morning,

    I had read your post #33 before I asked you my questions. I don’t think your post 33 answered my questions (which was, would you allow or partake in any act so long as you feel that God willed it), and that is why I asked it.

    My answer is absolutely not. I would not partake in any act as long as I feel that God willed it; not as long as we’re talking about anything remotely questionable.

    That’s because you used the word “feel.” That’s such a common word to use with respect to religious discussion, I’m sure it didn’t occur to you there might be any other word to use. The real question, and the question to be rightly applied to the OT situations, is, “Would you allow or partake in any act so long as you knew God willed it?”

    But here we face a wholly different problem. Can we know that God wills anything at all? It’s too big a discussion to get into here (though Dallas Willard has just published a book on it, that everyone has been telling me I really need to read!). The short answer is yes, we can know what God has willed. That knowledge comes to us today in a manner entirely different from the way it came to the OT nation of Israel as we have been discussing it: it comes by way of his written word, the Bible. Anything that is affirmed in there as the will of God in context of the whole, is something I can know to have been willed by God.

    If I ever had any kind of impression that God was directing me to do something questionable, I would have to test that feeling against the knowledge I have of his will in his word, which I know he will not contradict.

    You also asked Dave about reason and the human condition. You might look here, as well as at the answers Dave produces.

  70. Tom

    You are very much addressing my concern over this issue. This is quite distinict to Craig’s arguments which could too easily to used to justify a genocide today. Your approach, from what I have seen so far, on this point is much better.

    In Rabbincal Judiasm they derived the Halackah which were God’s commandments to Jews in the Torah, applicable today as then (many conditional on things such as whether there a temple or not) so there is no way to derive whatever one thought about such commands, even taken literally, that this could apply to day. The Halackah is not without problems – to name but one it has a genocidal commandment “Kill all Amelekites” but then they no longer exist so this can never be invoked. On the other hand it banned any extra-judicial killings (and made the level of evidence far higher than a US court for executions too).

    I do not know how the murderer of George Tiller could justify his action but is there anything in Christianity that bans extra-judicial killings? Maybe this is wandering off topic too far. I note this because the Bible is open to a variety of interpretations and what you read from it may not be the same as someone elses – such as killers of abortion doctors.

  71. Hi Franklin

    I too have moved from atheism to Christianity, and for much the same reasons, although I tend to highlight the concept of “justice” more than “morality”, however the two are closely linked. Without objective “morality” there can be no “justice”.

    “So to admit the authority of those passages which seem to attribute genocide to God would for me remove whatever basis I ever had to think any Scripture was authoritative.”

    Franklin, please realize that I am a lay convert to Christianity and some of my thoughts are probably (definitely?) not orthodox. I use blogs such as this to challenge my own thinking and to learn where I am wrong, so please do not consider anything I might write as authoritative. Whenever I discover a doctrine that discomfits me I dig deeper to find out why. I may very well be, and often am, quite wrong.

    As for the genocide ordered by God in the conquest of Israel, I think there are some misconceptions that we, as modern westerners, whether Christian or not, are susceptible to. I have argued the point, several times, that God is a completely different order of being from humanity, and noted as well, the example of the Flood as a ‘genocide’ per extraordinaire. The difficulty with citing the complete ‘otherness’ of God is that most modern westerners, myself included, tend to conceive of God as a mental construct, and conceive of the Flood as a mythical invention.

    I am of the opinion, whether we hold the ‘modernist’ view or not, that we must learn the theology of the Bible in context if we are to have any hope of understanding what it tell us. The Bible, read literally, tells us that we have betrayed God’s trust and are deserving of death. That He should, in the interest of “justice”, wipe everything and start over.

    This is the point of Genesis 1-11 where we are told of the Creation, Fall, and Flood. (I am presently reading “Original Sin: a Cultural History” which covers the doctrine and consequence of Original Sin). You may disagree with the doctrine, but it does have a place in Biblical exegesis and much of what the Bible teaches cannot be properly understood without it.

    We are, no matter how “morally” we may act, under sentence of death, and we will die. That is an indisputable fact, even if the biotechies or computertechies discover a way to prolong life, the universe itself is mortal. Our lives are a gift from God, and we live at the sufferance of God. He may “justly” call the debt of death we each owe Him at His discretion.

    God, out of mercy and love, determined to redeem the creation He had made. He values and loves it, even though it is corrupted, and initiated a program to bring the intransigent world back into the fold. That program included setting a people group aside from the rest of the world and using that group to transmit His message of redemption.

    One has a God-given conscience and knows that something is of God because conscience approves it.

    Again, we need to read what the Bible says in context before we can apply our judgement to the content. The Bible tells us that our conscience was corrupted, along with the rest of creation, at the Fall. Conscience can be a guide to our morality, and sometimes it can be a goad to immorality. I am posting a link to an essay by J. Budziszewski, “The Revenge of the Conscience” which summarizes a book by the same name. He does a better job than I of explaining it.

    http://leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9806/articles/budziszewski.html

    BTW, don’t let my coldbloodedness put you off. Challenge me wherever you think I have erred. I need it.

  72. Franklin:

    Very observant of you and correct… but with an important nuanced missed: of course I view (for example) Einstein as an authority on special and general relativity. But his authority stems from the point I made: he didn’t rely on authority to arrive at this theories–he relied on reason tied to observation… observations that have subsequently been verified. That’s a different kind of authority from that employed to interpret Divine revelation (which is, actually, a teaching authority). On the level of human beings, technically speaking the authority to interpret Divine revelation is per se (essential) authority, while the authority to explain knowledge of the real world is per accidens (contingent) authority. Why did I preface that with on the level of human beings? Because on the level of or from the perspective of God, HE is the per se authority… which harkens back to what I noted about starting from our order of knowing primary analogates based on our order of being.

  73. Hi Tony

    would I allow or participate in any act so long as I felt that God willed it?

    Short answer… No. Long answer to follow 8^>

    The explanation of an event does not imply the ‘aproval’ (in the sense that Franklin used regarding conscience above) of that event, nor does it imply and desire or capacity on my part of partaking in such an event, nor does it imply any believe on my part that God would order such an event again. it must be read and understood, not only in the context of the Old Testament, but also in the context of the New Testament which together comprise the full revelation of God.

    Even the Hebrews, who were instructed by God to kill all of the Canaanites – men, women, and children – did not, in fact, do as they were instructed, a deriliction the consequences of which lead to the apostacy of Israel, the adoption of many Canaanite cultic practices including child sacrifice to Molech, and the Babylonian Captivity. The Hebrews could not bring themselves, for whatever reason, to do what God instructed them to do, and they could not, as God presumably could, see the ultimate consequence of their failure.

    I think it implies: yes, you would allow…

    As noted above, the New Testament changes everything. Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) tells us to love our neighbor, to forgive our neighbor, to protect our neighbor, to suffer indignities for the benefit of our neighbor. He does not tell us to take up the sword and kill our neighbor. He also left us with a very broad answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” I would be very skeptical (as noted above) that God should ever again issue such an order after He had, in the person of Jesus Christ, so clearly spoked the contrary.

    This does, of course, leave open the question of how far we should go to protect our neighbor when he/she is threatened, but the concensus is “No farther than necessary to prevent harm.” Just War theory as Augustine, Aquinas, et al.

    “I cannot evaluate your statement without an understanding of how you define rationality”

    The capacity to observe, analyze, and aquire knowledge. a capacity that transcends cause and effect. C. S. Lewis explains the difficulty in the link below.

    THE CARDINAL DIFFICULTY OF NATURALISM

    Chapter Three of C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947)

    http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/Intro/csl3.html

    Alvin Plantinga takes a shot at it here

    An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism
    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/an_evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism.pdf

    And Wikipedia summarizes it here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_(book)#Argument_from_Reason

    and for a very light-hearted, yet accurate, look at the problem I suggest you watch “Dr.” John Cleese here

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvijJTjZ8Rg

  74. “Resolving whether God was morally culpable for ordering genocide is a peculiarly Christian issue.”

    faithlessgod, this is a singularly ‘peculiar’ statement.

    Could you perhaps enlighten me on what you mean by it?

  75. I believe it is taught that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament (or Torah to Jews) is for the young and the stupid. If only Christians understood this, there would be no need to struggle to make sense of stories such as this. Resolving whether God was morally culpable for ordering genocide is a peculiarly Christian issue.

    The implication that all literal interpretation is for the young and stupid is theologically ignorant and personally derogatory to a large number of people. (A literal interpretation of Scripture, when appropriate, actually precludes certain ilicit attempts to “interpret away” difficulties: “Well, Jesus really wasn’t born to a virgin, He can’t be both human and God, He really fainted on the Cross–He didn’t die, Jesus never really rose from the dead,” etc.. ad nauseum) The second is amazingly pompous: an atheist suggesting to Christians how to interpret the Scriptures so that things work out nicely. The third is sloganeering–hence why it’s “peculiar.”

    Tom?

  76. Dave,

    You tell me to turn to the Bible. But how am I to read it? As a conversation partner with extraordinary depth but faults nonetheless, or as the inerrant word of God? If the latter, what is the key I will use to translate difficult passages; and what is the rubric I will use to tease a complete, coherent world-view out of it?

    It seems to me that no matter which way I go, my own critical faculties will be drawn upon; and if those are totally corrupt, there’s no hope that I’ll even be able to recognize God even if I encounter him. I am a fallen creature, yes. But not completely so, for if I were my redemption would be impossible. As you say, God wishes us to freely choose Him; but how is this possible if three doesn’t lie in me some spark that will flare up when I encounter him?

  77. Dave,

    and for a very light-hearted, yet accurate, look at the problem I suggest you watch “Dr.” John Cleese

    That’s a good video…I’ve seen it before. I learned about another ‘scientific’ discovery, here. I think Dawkins would agree with that one.

  78. Hi Franklin

    “You tell me to turn to the Bible. But how am I to read it?”

    I don’t recall specifically telling you to turn to the Bible, but that’s probably a good idea. You should read it as a story, after all, that’s what it is. Suspend your disbelief for a short time and read it as if it was a novel. Consider it an alternate history, a Terry Goodkind, sword and sorcery adventure.

    …what is the rubric I will use to tease a complete, coherent world-view out of it?

    Perhaps the question you should ask is “Does this story present a coherent worldview? Can it stand on its own merits as a story?”

    It seems to me that no matter which way I go, my own critical faculties will be drawn upon;…

    Yes, they will. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. God has presented us with evidence that He is real and He is there. It is for us to seek them and test them, but we must test them fairly, and be willing to accept a conclusion that we may not like. I wasn’t always a Christian, and I didn’t really welcome the transformation of my life, but I won’t close my mind to the evidence.

    …and if those are totally corrupt,…

    I din’t say they were totally corrupt, they are corrupted, like a hard drive with failed sectors. Most of it can still be read, but the program has glitches. We should be aware of this corruption and be skeptical of our capacity to reason correctly, but we may look at evidence and form conclusions nonetheless. We can do no other.

    …there’s no hope that I’ll even be able to recognize God even if I encounter him.

    You might not recognize Him, but He will recognize you and make His presence plain. Not that HE will tap you on the shoulder and say “Hi Tony!” more like a certainty that your own nature cannot be understood without reference to Him. “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Are we nothing more than matter in motion? a bag of chemicals?

    Or are we more? Do we not seek the true, the beautiful, and the good. How long is truth, how high is beauty, and what does goodness weigh? These are not physical things. How large is wisdom, and what is the breadth of justice? How is it that we can conceive an idea in our minds and turn that immaterial thought into a physical thing. What strange powers have we that we can discuss the nature of God and the universe?

    Is it all chance and necessity, happenstance, matter in motion, no design, no purpose, nothing but blind pitiless indifference?

  79. Dave

    “Resolving whether God was morally culpable for ordering genocide is a peculiarly Christian issue.”
    faithlessgod, this is a singularly ‘peculiar’ statement.

    Could you perhaps enlighten me on what you mean by it?

    As I said the Halackah has its own range of problems, but in Judaism the Bible is not taken literally, the surface meaning is for the young and the stupid, it is all about messages beneath the surface.

  80. Holo

    “The implication that all literal interpretation is for the young and stupid is theologically ignorant and personally derogatory to a large number of people.”
    This is not my argument, the literal reading is the theological ignorant one according to Judaism. Its their book!

    “(A literal interpretation of Scripture, when appropriate, actually precludes certain ilicit attempts to “interpret away” difficulties: “Well, Jesus really wasn’t born to a virgin, He can’t be both human and God, He really fainted on the Cross–He didn’t die, Jesus never really rose from the dead,” etc.. ad nauseum)”
    The Jews are talking about their book not yours! It is all base don interpretation -what the call the oral law, which is a guide to intepreting the Torah and not reading it literally.

    “The second is amazingly pompous: an atheist suggesting to Christians how to interpret the Scriptures so that things work out nicely.”
    You need to understand in debate that one can take relevant argument from however makes it. That is not pompous but quite standard in argument. The Jews are certainly qualified to have a view on their own book, to dismiss it because it is reported by an “atheist” (your label not mine) is, ad hominem and prejudice. And I do not think things work out nicely with the Jewish interpretation, just differently.

    “The third is sloganeering–hence why it’s “peculiar.””
    It is just is different that is all. It is peculiar since the Christians (and others) seem to be oblivious of this fact, as you are. Literalism is specific to an obscure and uninfluential sect called the Karaists, look it up.

  81. Hi faithlessgod

    but in Judaism the Bible is not taken literally

    Do you mean that if I simply declare that you are being too literal when you accuse God of genocide then the debate is over? You miss the underlying symbolism of human mortality that finds its expression in our “lives of of quiet desperation.” We conceive that the end of man is death, and unable to rationalize our own meaningless and arbitrary lives, we dignify it as the vengeance of an (imaginary) deity for (imagined) transgressions. Therefore, the slaughter of the Canaanites is a typology representative of the mortality of man and in no way indicates an actual historical event.

    Or did you have something else in mind?

    …the surface meaning is for the young and the stupid…

    In the immortal words of Al, “I don’t think so, Tim.” But it is comforting to know that you have such a high regard for the mental acuity of your interlocutors.

  82. Dave

    Those links fail to address my point. Jews do regard this as a sacred text and the word of God, that is not what I was saying. Just that there are levels of meaning within the text and the surface meaning is just one of many. It was because After all since the Jewish commandment of “studying the Torah” is about discovering the real (hidden) meaning of the word of God, that it is we we ended up with ridiculous results such as the Bible codes! That is not something literalists would have come up with but is more due on the very long tradition of Jewish Torah interpretation such as the Gematria (sp?) taken to an absurd degree.

  83. Dave

    “…the surface meaning is for the young and the stupid…

    In the immortal words of Al, “I don’t think so, Tim.” But it is comforting to know that you have such a high regard for the mental acuity of your interlocutors.”

    And what do you based this thought on? What evidence to support your case?

    It is nothing to do with a regard for my interlocutors, I am just stating facts that I think are interesting in this discussion. Listen, I was forced to study this cr*p for years, so I do know what I am talking about. In particular I tried to criticise Judaim because of the horrors in the Torah and was barraged by Rabbis with numerous references from a wide variety of Jewish sources, that all point to this same conclusion that I have noted. Their arguments were supported by the fact that when we studied the Torah, we studied the commentaries and the surface meaning was always dissected, never taken literally, no exceptions. This is bog standard practice in Rabbinical i.e pretty much all Judaism (the more reform ones just no following the laws so much etc.) It is certainly an interesting point that most others seem to be oblivious to. Like I said before, Judaism has plenty of other flaws.

    Fundamtentalism does not mean literalism in Judaism. You want Jewish literalists, speak to the Karaists, look em up.

  84. “…I was forced to study this cr*p for years…”

    As someone once told me, in a different context, “You only have to do it until you want to do it… then you don’t have to do it any longer. Judging by your participation in these discussions you have arrived at the point where you want to do it. 8^>

    One question I often ask myself is, “If this is nothing but foolishness why has it so consistently occupied the greatest minds in history?” very little, if anything, written on these pages has never been written before. Much of it, including allegedly ‘modern’ materialism and evolution can be found in the writings of pre-Christian Greeks.

    There are two components to the human being, the physical in which we recognize our affinity to other animate creatures, and the spiritual, in which we recognize our distinction from all other creatures. It matters little whether we acknowledge the distinction, the spiritual side so distainfully dismissed by modern naturalism obstinately returns to haunt us. Like it or not we transcend the mundane, we think in terms of true and false, good and evil, beautiful and repulsive and, try as we might, we cannot quash our moral perceptions.

    We cannot even think in terms devoid of moral judgement, we judge everything, from the thoughts of our peers to the quality of our food. Everything is categorized into good or bad, true of false, beautiful or repulsive. These qualities transcend the material, the natural. A rock is a rock, it can be not other, and in itself it is neither good nor evil, true or false, beautiful or repulsive, it is a brute fact. It is the human spirit that imparts those attributes to otherwise amoral matter.

    david ellis refers to genocide as the “most terrible act imaginable” which, aside from illustrating the paucity of his imagination, leads me to wonder, “From which standard do you draw your moral judgement?” If it is founded on personal and subjective feeling, our internal moral sense, then what elevates your feeling that an act is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’ over someone else’s feeling that it is ‘appropriate’ or even ‘good’? If it is culturally determined, why should the feelings of a major aggregate of a given population trump the feelings of a minority, or even a single individual? We could, of course, ask the same of a transnational body such as the UN. In each case we are using subjecive and transient feelings to determine what should be objective and discernable truth.

    There must be an objective standard and source or we will, like the drunken peasant, forever be climbing up one side of the horse only to fall off the other.


  85. david ellis refers to genocide as the “most terrible act imaginable” which, aside from illustrating the paucity of his imagination….

    I don’t recall saying that and don’t, in fact, think that.

    There are worse things even than genocide. Condemning people to eternal agony for example.


    ….leads me to wonder, “From which standard do you draw your moral judgement?” If it is founded on personal and subjective feeling, our internal moral sense, then what elevates your feeling that an act is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’ over someone else’s feeling that it is ‘appropriate’ or even ‘good’?

    A question which I already answered, at length, in a previous discussion.

  86. My apologies David, it was Tony. I get a trifle dislexic from time to time and then I think my doG is sending me messages from beyond.

    Condemning people to eternal agony for example.

    One man’s heaven is another man’s hell. There is an ancient theological hypothesesis that God doesn’t condemn you to hell, you choose it freely for you cannot abide the presence of God. Consider the type of man, so depraved, that when he encounters something pure and good, he tries to corrupt it. It is the good that he hates and cannot abide. He has made his own hell and will not give it up.

  87. Dave,
    One man’s heaven is another man’s hell. There is an ancient theological hypothesis that God doesn’t condemn you to hell, you choose it freely for you cannot abide the presence of God. Consider the type of man, so depraved, that when he encounters something pure and good, he tries to corrupt it. It is the good that he hates and cannot abide. He has made his own hell and will not give it up.
    The first thing that jumped into my mind was the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man doesn’t care that he’s in hell and calls out to have Lazarus wet his (the rich man’s) tongue.

    david ellis:
    You asked me on my blog what I believed about hell. I would say this is probably the closest to what I believe. That one chooses hell (because God gave us free will) and that God, being a God of love, respects that choice.

  88. Tom,

    Thanks for stating your own position on my question to David. I agree that knowing something to be God’s will is a higher threshold than “feeling” it. As I’m sure you’d guess, I’m quite skeptical that one can ever “know” God’s will. (“Hold the presses,” I can imagine you thinking in astonishment…)

    Dave,

    I’m not a big fan of Plantinga’s EAAN, but I appreciate your pointing me to the C.S. Lewis chapter that preceded it (and I gather the argument has a longer history than that); I haven’t read enough C.S. Lewis, and it was a fun read.

    I thing the argument for the incompatibility of rationalism and naturalism is flat out bizarre. Many of its proponents appear immune to the numerous valid criticisms of the argument, have an odd understanding of evolutionary theory, and seem to ignore the discoveries of cognitive science, among other problems.

    When I originally asked the question I thought maybe you were basing your position on something else, and that’s why I asked. I don’t think the EAAN is relevant to this post, so I’d just as soon not pursue it.

  89. Tony,

    (“Hold the presses,” I can imagine you thinking in astonishment…)

    No, I’m not astonished. Even if you meant it dead seriously I wouldn’t be astonished, though of course I know you were being very tongue-in-cheek here, considering your overall metaphysical position.

    The reason I’m taking time to say this, and to respond to you as if you were being serious, is because this issue of being able to know religious truth, as opposed to believing or feeling is one on which non-atheists and sometimes even believers get confused. Christian belief has been relegated to just that, mere belief hanging haplessly in midair; when it is in fact belief with respect to knowledge.