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Pope Benedict on the “Dark Passages” of Scripture

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Filed under The Bible

dark-passages

There are certain Bible passages, particularly in the Old Testament, that are disturbing. The question of how these are to be interpreted has been with us for a long time, and apologists and Bible scholars--not to mention Church Fathers and theologians--have made many suggestions.

A while back, former Pope Benedict provided some guidance. Here's what he had to say . . .

 

Verbum Domini

The document in which he made his remarks is titled Verbum Domini, which is Latin for "The Word of the Lord."

It was prepared as an exhortation following the 2008 meeting of the Synod of Bishops, a select group of Catholic bishops from all over the world who meet periodically to discuss particular issues.

In 2008 their topic was the word of God in the life and mission of the Church, and as is customary following such synods, the pope prepared a concluding document offering his perspective on the results of the meeting and how it can benefit the Church.

 

God's Plan Unfolds in Stages

In referring to the "dark passages" of Scripture, he began by saying:

42. In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult.

Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history.

God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.

In other words, when reading the Bible we must bear in mind the particular stage of God's plan that a passage deals with. We cannot simply take a passage at random and claim that it is a direct expression of God's will for all ages or for our own.

This is what Pope Benedict means when he stresses (the italics are in the original) that biblical revelation "is deeply rooted in history" and that God's plan "is manifested progressively . . . in successive stages."

 

Man Resists God's Plan

Pope Benedict also notes that God's plan is accomplished "despite human resistance."

In other words, men resist God's plan, and this has left traces in Scripture as well. Therefore, if we read a passage in the Bible that is disturbing, it may be a result of man's resistance to God, not an expression of God's ultimate will.

As we will see in coming posts, there were a variety of practices in the Old Testament that we would regard today with horror, and the Law that God gives the Israelites is meant to regulate and mitigate these practices--to limit their harmful effects.

They aren't what God ultimately wants, but for the moment he is willing to try to regulate and limit the damage men are doing.

Why would he do this?

 

God's Plan in Outline

The reason concerns the basic outline of God's plan. Pope Benedict explains:

God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them.

In other words, he chose the Hebrew people at a particular stage in their cultural and moral development and met them where they were at.

He did not demand of them instant conformity to the fullness of his will. He didn't ask them to be perfect overnight.

Instead, he was willing to tolerate some of the things they were determined to do, though the hardness of their hearts, and over the course of time educate them to a higher level of understanding and acceptance of his will.

At first, he was trying to simply limit the damage done by some of their practices.

 

Jesus Gives an Example

Jesus himself gives us an example of this in the Gospels, when he is asked about divorce.

At the time, Jewish Law permitted a man to give his wife a written bill of divorce, send her off (i.e., "put her away"), and then he could marry someone else. Here is what happened:

Mark 10

[2] And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

[3] He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"

[4] They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away."

[5] But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

[6] But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.'

[7] `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

[8] and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh.

[9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

Jesus thus teaches that lifelong monogamy was God's intention for marriage. Nevertheless, because of the hardness of the Israelites' hearts--the fact that they were determined to divorce their wives and marry other women--God was willing to tolerate this practice for a time.

But he regulated it. He insisted that a man arrange for his wife to have a written bill of divorce. This meant that a simple, verbal repudiation of one's spouse did not constitute a divorce.

There were not to be offhanded remarks--or ambiguous offhanded remarks--that would be read as legal divorces. What a nightmare that would result in!

If divorce was to happen at all, there was to be proof of the divorce: an unambiguous, written statement.

And since many people were illiterate at the time, that would mean going to a scrivener and paying him to write out the document.

Having to write out the document would give the man a chance to think twice about the divorce, and even moreso if he had to pay a scrivener for his services.

The net effect of all this was to make women less at-the-mercy of their husbands. They could not simply be cast off in the instantaneous, casual manner that is permitted in some societies (including under Muslim law).

Eventually, though, even this practice was disallowed, and Jesus now proclaims the permanence of marriage for his followers despite what Moses said.

(And, it's worth noting, that even though civil divorce is permitted today for adequate reasons, remarriage is not. A valid, consummated, sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved by anything but the death of one of the parties. It is a lifelong union.)

 

Pope Benedict Offers Examples

Although he did not stop to dwell on particular passages, as we just have, Pope Benedict went on to illustrate the kinds of "dark" passages and how they must be understood:

Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things.

This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day.

Here Pope Benedict points out that the Bible is written according to the cultural and moral level of the periods it deals with. It records what people did in these periods but "without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things."

There are two important points here: First, as we have already noted, the progressive nature of God's plan may mean that the time had not yet come for an explicit denunciation of the acts. If you were living between the time of Moses and Jesus, when divorce followed by remarriage was tolerated, the time for the explicit denunciation that Jesus provided had not yet come.

But secondly, Pope Benedict notes that there is not an explicit denunciation of the acts. Sometimes, if you are sensitive to the way the text is written, there is and implicit denunciation of them.

This is clear, for example, in the book of Judges, where the judges of Israel are presented as very flawed figures. God may have worked through them to help protect Israel, but they are not presented as paragons of virtue and there is an implicit denunciation of some of their actions.

 

Historical Comparisons

Pope Benedict also notes that a modern reader may be taken aback if he "fails to take account of the many 'dark' deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day."

In other words, all ages of history contain dark deeds, including violence and massacre. Even our own day does, with the many slaughters that we hear about in the news (or that we don't hear about because the news media isn't interested in them).

And the ancient world was even worse (with the exception of abortion, which has become refined to a high-tech, industrial process in our own day).

By accurately reflecting the violence and crime of the ancient world--by honestly recording what people in biblical times did--the Bible holds passages that can cause us to be taken aback--particularly if we forget the violence and crime that occur in all ages, including our own.

But this is honesty on the biblical authors' part about the ages in which they lived.

 

Stage Two

The majority of the "dark passages" that people are taken aback by are in the Old Testament, and the majority of those are found early in the Old Testament--either in the Law of Moses (at the nation's founding) or during or very early after Israel's entrance into the Promised Land (Joshua, Judges).

They thus represent "stage one" of God's dealing with the Israelites, when he had not yet led them far down the path of understanding the fullness of his will.

But he did not leave them there. As Pope Benedict explains:

In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel.

Pope Benedict thus names "stage two" of God's process--the period of the prophets, in which God sent messengers to denounce injustice and violence and further educate his people in his ways.

A classic example of this is in the book of Jonah, when God sends the prophet to the pagan city of Nineveh (now Mosul, in modern Iraq) to preach against it. When the people repent, God spares the city, and Jonah pouts. But God tells him: "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons?" (Jonah 4:11)

This represents a dramatic broadening of horizons for one brought up in the Ancient Near East, where the system of tribal loyalties led to bitter group rivalries.

The thought that God would care about--and spare--the enemies of his chosen people, the ones who had conquered his people--this was a dramatic thought!

And it was a further broadening of the moral horizons of God's people.

But the matter did not stop there . . .

 

Stage Three

Pope Benedict notes that the prophets did their work as "God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel.

The Gospel announced by Christ thus represents the end point of God's program of revelation. As the book of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 1

[1] In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;

[2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

[3] He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, thus represents the definitive revelation of God's will, and so Jude refers to the faith as having been "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

There are now no more moral principles to be revealed to mankind.

Throughout the Church age, God has led his people to reflect more deeply on the moral principles embedded in human nature and revealed to us through the public revelation he has given us, but the principles themselves are complete and are meant to guide us until the Second Coming.

 

Pope Benedict's Conclusion

Pope Benedict finishes his remarks on the "dark passages" of Scripture by saying:

So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic.

Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.

I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.

 

More on the "Dark Passages"

Given the nature of the document he was writing, Pope Benedict could not do more than sketch some of the principles involved in understanding the "dark passages" of Scripture, and he could not deal with individual passages and how they should be interpreted.

The principles he articulated don't deal with all the kinds of "dark passages" that there are to be found, but they provide important guidance on how to approach the issue in general.

In coming blog posts, we're going to take a look at some of the problematic passages and see what we can make of them.

I can't promise to get to all of them (that would require a book), but we'll look at some representative cases.

What Now?

If you like the information I've presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club.

If you're not familiar with it, the Secret Information Club is a free service that I operate by email.

I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

He had a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com or use this handy sign-up form:

Just email me at jimmy@secretinfoclub.com if you have any difficulty.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Jimmy Akin

Written by

Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • kuroisekai

    Great post, Jimmy! Though, I'll play Devil's Advocate a bit here, if you don't mind... This seems an inelegant solution to a dilemma (if such a dilemma even existed), since it off-handedly solves the problem by saying "God meant for it to happen all along". Of course, as a Catholic, this makes perfect sense to me as I have come to the same conclusion as our former pope. The problem though is that I don't think people will buy it.

    A lot of people here at the comboxes of Strange Notions repeatedly point to the condoning of salvery in the Bible, and we counter with "It never condones it... Read it in context - God allowed the people to have slaves because the people wanted to have slaves etc" and we are countered with "but god could have abolished slavery right then and there!". My concern is we'll be beating up the same old drum here. A drum that people don't seem to listen to quite well enough.

    • Andre Boillot

      Kuro,

      First, condone: [verb] accept and allow (behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive) to continue.

      In no way have you (and I would argue others here who have tried similarly) shown that there is no condoning of slavery in the Bible. The attempt to rephrase it as "God allowed the people to have slaves because the people wanted to have slaves etc" shows that you misunderstand the meaning of the word 'condone'.

      Second, I would invite you to replace 'slaves' in your example, with any other objectionable behavior present in the Bible, and see if your explanation holds up. For example:

      'God allowed the people to [murder/lie/steal/blaspheme] because people wanted to [murder/lie/steal/blaspheme] etc.'

      Hopefully it's apparent what a terrible rationalization this is. This, along with the idea proposed by Akin and others - that god only gives us laws that we're ready for - seems to beg the question of why we need gods laws? He seems much more worried about social stability than he is objective morality.

      So, before you admonish those of us that don't seem to listen quite well enough, perhaps consider that the drum (or the rhythm) you are beating isn't nearly as good as you think it is.

      • felixcox

        Yes, these are exercises of telling us the text doesn't really mean what it actually says, because then it would go against the orthodox interpretation. Starting from certain assumptions then going back and interpreting everything from that viewpoint.
        It's just an embarrassment to any clear-thinking believer that god ordered genocide and other moral abominations- so then comes the fallacious "well, they weren't at that post-genocidal stage yet," or, "genocide was the least worst option because those people were really evil..."
        As someone just posted, if god's commands are limited by culture and time, then god is not very useful (or powerful).
        Of course, this is not the topic of the post, but the idea of interpreting the old testament in light of Jesus is also problematic because there is absolutely no indication that OT authors thought that way. It's more post hoc rationalizations.

  • David Nickol

    Pope Benedict has always struck me as an extremely subtle thinker, so either this post doesn't do justice to his thought, or in at least this one respect, his thought is not as subtle as one would hope. He is not, after all, primarily a biblical scholar.

    What troubles me about this approach is that, as I understand it, God does not merely overlook and tolerate, saying, "I'll bring them up to speed on that later, but for now I'll concentrate on this. He actually commands evil actions, such as the slaughter of all men, women, and children of the Amalekites—not to mention the cattle! God is not seen as tolerating evil behavior, but as requiring it.

    What makes this all the more difficult to accept is the utterly arbitrary nature of many of the commands God does expect the Israelites to obey—"eat this, not that"; don't wear clothes woven of two different kinds of thread; menstruating women are unclean, and anything they touch is unclean for seven days; and in God's very words, "When two men are fighting and the wife of one intervenes to save her husband from the blows of his opponent, if she stretches out her hand and seizes the latter by his private parts, you shall chop off her hand without pity." The last is not a matter of overlooking something. It is God commanding to chop off a woman's hand "without pity." Did God really want women's hands chopped off "without pity"? Is Deuteronomy 25:11-12 really a direct command of God, in God's own words, recorded by someone inspired by God and intended to be passed down as God's very words?

    • robtish

      That was my reaction, too. Akin isn't addressing the core of our horror at Biblical genocide, which is not merely that the Bible fails to condemn it, but that God actually orders it.

    • Stallbaumer

      In order to fully understand the "genocide" in the Old Testament, it is important to start from the realization that our lives are on loan from God.

      An example I've heard is that if I were to lend you my lawn mower, it would not be considered stealing for me to drop by and pick it up. Also, it would not be stealing for me to send a friend to pick it up for me. It would however, be immoral for someone to come and pick it up without my permission.

      In the same way, our lives are given to us freely as a share in God's life. He is perfectly justified in sending the Israelites to "repo" any life that He wants, just as He would be justified in striking any one of us down with lightning. Our claim on our own life is second to the claim of the one who lent it.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        This is a horrible interpretation of God's action. You are saying God is a murderer or is hiring hit men. No wonder atheists reject this! If I'm wrong, please cite the appropriate passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

        • John Bell

          Your god is the most vicious murder in history.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You conception of "my god" not God *actually.*

        • Randy Gritter

          Saying God is a murderer is strange. Murder is when we take matters of death into our own hands when they belong with God. Every death is ultimately preventable by God. He has given us death as a punishment for sin but also transformed it into a way to enter heaven. So God does choose to allow death in a way we are not permitted to. I would not compare human life to lawn mowers but God's authority to take life is different from ours.

          • Andre Boillot

            I think we should keep track of the 'Indian-giver' defense for killing done or commanded by god.

            Current count: 2

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Dude:

            “These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must
            not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

            “Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account
            of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned is thus the last enemy of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

          • Susan

            death entered the world on account
            of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.

            Death precedes anything remotely resembling humans by hundreds of millions of years.

            Death was not introduced by human "sin".

            In 1008, even the wisest couldn't have been expected to know better.

            In 2013, that explanation holds no water.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, This passage is referring to human death. (1008 refers not to the year the statement was made but its number in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

            Perennial Catholic teaching is that human beings would have been preserved from suffering and death by a preternatural gift, not that death never existed in the universe before humanity. Human beings in a state of innocence would not have had to experience those evils.

            One example of this teaching is in the Summa of Thomas Aquinas (First Part, Question 97, 1): http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1097.htm#article1

          • Susan

            (1008 refers not to the year the statement was made but its number in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

            Thank you for clearing that up. Rookie mistake. ;-)

            Perennial Catholic teaching is that human beings would have been preserved from suffering and death by a preternatural gift, not that death never existed in the universe before humanity. Human beings in a state of innocence would not have had to experience those evils

            The evidence for this is... ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The evidence for this is the soundness of one's grounds for believing it is (1) derived from Divine Revelation and (2) well reasoned from it.

            This of course rests on the evidence for believing Divine Revelation is divinely revealed.

          • Susan

            This of course rests on the evidence for believing Divine Revelation is divinely revealed.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "evidence for believing". I'm going to infer that you mean evidence that divine revelation is divinely revealed.
            And then ask for some evidence.
            Got evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You did catch my meaning. I should have said "being sufficiently *rationally* convinced that what the Church claims is Divine Revelation is divinely revealed."

            Catholics do not claim (as some Protestants do) that people must believe the Bible is Divine Revelation because the Bible says so. That would be circular reasoning that is rightly rejected.

            The grounds for making the rational judgment to make an act of faith (which cannot be made without grace) are called the preambles of faith.

            Fr. John Hardin, S.J., defines these as follows:

            The main premises of reason on which the act of divine faith depends as on its rational foundation. They are mainly three: 1. the existence of God; 2. his authority, or right to be believed because he knows all things and is perfectly truthful; and 3. the fact that he actually made a revelation, which is proved especially by miracles or fulfilled prophecies performed in testimony of a prophet's (or Christ's) claim to speaking in the name of God. (Etym. Latin praeambulus, walking in front: prae, in front + ambulare, to walk.)

            A good resource for "evidence" that these grounds are reasonable is Fr. Robert Spitzer's website here: http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/

          • Susan

            A good resource for "evidence" that these grounds are reasonable is Fr. Robert Spitzer's website

            I clicked on your link and was taken to a home page.
            It would be helpful if you linked me directly to good evidence for this first of the premises you listed:
            1. The existence of God
            (which I must insist be rephrased as the existence of Yahweh and a reasonable explanation supported by real evidence. How does Yahweh earn passage from the mythological realm to which all or at least most of the other tens of thousands of gods have been consigned?) I DO mean evidence. Not much to ask. It's fundamental.
            Even better if you put it in your own words. I'm afraid that every link I've been sent to on this site by catholics has been rampant with presuppositional assertions.
            But I'd settle for now for a more specific link.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, you are asking for *a lot*! More than any single comment box could provide.

            If you read *all* of Robert Spitzer's book "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy" you will encounter two proofs of the existence of God from contemporary physics and three from contemporary philosophy. I think you will find "reasonable explanation supported by real evidence," that is, if you can accept deductive arguments as valid.

            The Tractatus in New Apologetics also provides an ontological argument for God based using modal logic, but I don't understand it. Maybe you will:

            http://newapologetics.com/the-tractatus

            (Scroll down to Part I, Article 3: WHETHER THERE EXISTS A LOGICALLY NECESSARY GUARANTOR OF PERFECT JUSTICE to find it.)

            Part three of Spitzer's book provides a philosophical link between qualities of God and the Christian conception of God via the transcendentals.

            What you ask for in parenthesis is actually Hardin's third question and Spitzer lays the groundwork for answering it.

          • Susan

            Actually, you are asking for *a lot*! More than any single comment box could provide.

            I am asking you to link me to something specific on Spitzer's site that addresses our discussion more specifically.

            There is lots of room in a comment box for that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure.

            Here is where in the "encyclopedia" section he takes up the existence of God:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Why_Believe_in_God%3F#Unit_D:_Is_there_Evidence_of_God_from_Science.3F

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Spitzer encyclopedia article just on cosmological arguments is here:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Cosmology

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            These are not strong arguments. Any of them. This is a repackaging of standard, unconvincing arguments.

            There is nothing "new" about Spitzer's arguments, as far as I can tell. Can you tell me what he wrote that isn't just reassembled from standard cosmological and "nothing comes from nothing" chestnuts?

            Now, we are in combox trouble.

            If you'd like to choose what you think is the strongest argument on that link, I'd be happy to discuss it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You originally asked for evidence and I have given some.

            Are Spitzer's arguments evidence? At all?

            How about this? Would you be willing to identify what you consider Spitzer's *strongest* piece of evidence and then explain briefly why you think it is so weak as to not constitute evidence at all?

          • Susan

            Are Spitzer's arguments evidence? At all?

            For what?

            I asked you tell me what YOU think his strongest argument was.

            Better yet, please watch this and tell me why Spitzer is making a strong argument.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFp5PPSTiDc

          • Kevin Aldrich

            YOU WROTE
            [Evidence] For what?

            KA
            Evidence for God's existence.

            I'll watch the video. I have seen other videos in this series and respect what they are doing. It might take a bit to get back to you because the video is almost an hour long.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            Fair enough. I'll be interested in your responses.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is actually the second time I’ve watched this entire video and the Q&A video after.

            Here are some reasons I don’t find Carroll convincing when
            he argues against God.

            He dismisses metaphysics as “armchair thinking,” invalid
            because it is not connected with empirical evidence. Natural science is predicated on metaphysical forms of thinking, like logic and mathematics, and philosophical fields like ontology and epistemology. These give us the basis for judging whether any kind of knowledge (for example, scientific knowledge) can be valid.

            Thus, he dismisses every argument about anything that is not based on empirical science. At the same time, Carroll engages in philosophizing about whether God exists using evidence from empirical science. The facts he brings forth *are* based on science, but he uses metaphysics to make those facts useful to the logical argument he is building.

            Metaphysics asks a question like, “why is there something
            rather than nothing?” as well as what concepts like something and nothing mean. Carroll—being, I think, a bad philosopher—sets propositions like “The multiverse can account for the existence universe” and “God can account for the existence of the universe” side by said, as if they were on the same level. In reality, in my view, he is begging the question. The existence of *any* kind of universe is what requires an explanation. A better formulation would be “the universe just is” vs. “the universe needs a adequate cause.” These are both metaphysical questions which come before physical science.

            Another line of argument Carroll likes which does not move
            me at all is the one that says, “If God exists, I or science, would expect him to be like X.” He seems to think that because there is vastly more in the universe than just a little place for human beings, *that* somehow disproves God exists.

          • Susan

            Sorry Kevin. I've been out of town for a few days. All I've done is drive and work. Apologies for the delay.

            He dismisses metaphysics as “armchair thinking,” invalid because it is not connected with empirical evidence.

            He doesn't dismiss it at all. He addresses it. He actually takes great pains to distinguish between the "passive" Abrahamic deity behind "God" claims, the "active" claims. and the "emergent" claims. The list of attributes is found around 4:45.

            He says, "These different conceptions of 'God' have different justifications for them."

            "The passive notion of 'God'... can be attempted to be justified just on purely logical grounds, just by thinking how the universe might be."

            "The more active conception of 'God' is going to be essentially an empirical argument (me: the second being the one that you are trying to make through Spitzer) that the best way to explain the universe we see is to imagine that 'God' is doing these things in an active sense..."

            He dismisses the emergent notion. He doesn't see the need to deal with the emergent conceptions. I don't blame him. You might. But you would have to make a case in a different discussion.

            Anyway, you claimed to provide "evidence". Then, you accuse S.C. of dismissing metaphysical arguments. Which is it? Or at least address each of your claims one at a time.

            The first six minutes of the video are him sorting the endless claims about your Abrahamic deity into categories that can be addressed philosophically.

            Then, he addresses the metaphysical argument (the passive one) with yes, the caveat that he sees a huge problem with a priori metaphysics, sitting down and thinking about all the possible ways the world can be and concluding that those ways must somehow involve a deity. There is no step in that process that involve your deity. There is no step in that process that involves going out and looking at how the universe actually works.

            All this happens by the 7 1/2 minute mark. Were you making popcorn or just reverting to the pat responses that the theologians give?

            (I am now quoting huge chunks of SC's lecture, because I am tired of putting in quotation marks and astonished that you've watched it twice and seem to have missed most of it. I am also going to post this and continue. I hate super long comments but what'reyagonnado? )

          • Susan

            I tried to continue my post but it got annihilated by the internet.
            I haven't even made it eight minutes. I'm not going to deconstruct the entire video. It's as though you haven't watched it. He spends the next few minutes explaining the value of a priori thinking as an exploration (specifically in the case of mathematics) as the "consequences of axioms". Does not dismiss it.
            THEN, in the next few minutes, he addresses the metaphysical Abrahamic god claims. He plays along. Did you watch that?
            It doesn't really matter. I asked for evidence. You said Spitzer provided evidence. What Spitzer gave us was recycled apologetics using physicists' use of the word "beginning" as has been done a thousand times before followed by an illogical leap to metaphysical nothingness for which he has no justification and because it's all dressed up in fancy sciencey terms, claims to have evidence for Yahwheh.
            Now, you're trying to leap to "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
            Let's go back to the original point.
            Got evidence?
            So far, you don't.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree there is no need to discuss Carroll’s “rhetorical” category C.

            I want to make the claim that Carroll is not being a scientist
            here but a philosopher and so must be judged on that basis.

            He says that the way scientists judge theories in the most broad way is to look at them as ideas about the universe that may or may not be true.

            His claim is that God as a theory does not do a good job of
            explaining things in the universe.

            Something I’ve learned recently that I think makes great
            sense is the distinction between exact science and reasoned discourse. I learned this from Stacy Trasancos who learned it from Stanley Jaki.

            Jaki defined science precisely as “the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of objects in motion.” He called it “exact science” because in some fields not everything is quantitative. Physics is the most exact science, but evolutionary biology, for instance, is exact only so far as it measures quantities and mechanism. Anything beyond quantification is “reasoned discourse,” and such reasoning should stand on its own merits. The benefit of this definition is that it allows you to identify what is exact in any science and what is owed to the much greater power of reasoning beyond quantities.

            Source: http://stacytrasancos.com/why-religion-matters-more-than-science/

            Strictly speaking, a scientist should judge a theory on the basis of whether it makes predictions about quantitative aspects of objects in motion that can be born out by quantitative study. Beyond that the scientist is engaging in reasoned discourse and his *arguments* not his *evidence* are what makes this discourse valid.

            I want to reiterate that Carroll does dismiss the purely metaphysical arguments about God (the ones he calls passive) in his charge that these arguments never look at the real world and that they cannot “reveal interesting things about the real world.”

            He makes the false claim that philosophers who make
            metaphysical arguments say they cannot imagine a world in which God does not exist. That is not true. Then he makes the argument that to disprove that (false) claim all he has to do is imagine a possible universe in which God is not necessary.

            In reality, Carroll has said nothing of value about metaphysical arguments. Whether those arguments have value simply has not been touched by this video, in my opinion.

            Arguments for or against the existence of God based on
            science are always *not* scientific arguments but philosophical ones in this sense: They use findings of science (very strong findings based on quantitative results and weaker findings concluded from reasoned discourse) as evidence in philosophical arguments (more reasoned discourse) to conclude that God exists. I think this would be the proper way to conduct what Carroll calls his category B arguments. Whether Carroll’s evidence and reasoned discourse are superior to Spitzer’s is up to each of us to judge.

          • Susan

            I want to reiterate that Carroll does dismiss the purely metaphysical arguments about God (the ones he calls passive) in his charge that these arguments never look at the real world and that they cannot “reveal interesting things about the real world.”

            I'll bite. What interesting things about the real world do these arguments reveal? How would we know that without subjecting them to evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you okay with limiting the discussion, for now, to one or the other, either purely metaphysical arguments (Carroll's category A) or philosophical arguments that uses findings of science (category B)?

            If so, which one would you like to examine?

            And before we go on, could you define or describe what you mean by evidence?

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            This all began with you saying

            This of course rests on the evidence for believing Divine Revelation is divinely revealed.

            That is when I asked you for evidence. You linked me to Spitzer's site and eventually to his cosmological arguments.

            I explained that his cosmological arguments were not good arguments and did not constitute evidence. I explained why. I can explain why again, if you'd like.

            Everything you say on this site (including ach! advocating the argument that the hundreds of millions of years of brutal suffering by sentient species on this planet is the result of DEMONS) begins with the assumption that Yahweh is real.

            I'm asking you to demonstrate the existence of this being.

            That requires evidence.

            Got evidence? Spitzer doesn't.

          • Susan

            That is to say, yes. Category B. That's what you began with.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You have been asking for evidence that God exists. So, for you, a valid argument does constitute evidence?

          • Susan

            So, for you, a valid argument does constitute evidence?

            Of course not. A valid argument simply says that the argument is set up in such a way that if all the premises are true, the conclusion must be true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I asked you what for you would constitute evidence.

            How about a valid argument with sound premises?

          • Susan

            Do you mean a valid argument with true premises (that is premises that are necessarily true)?

            Do you have one?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you afraid to commit to a definition of evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A category A argument would have necessarily true premises since it would be a purely metaphysical argument.

            A category B argument would have falsifiable premises, since they would be based on empirical evidence.

            Right now we are considering a B argument.

          • Susan

            Right now we are considering a B argument

            Yes. We are. Which is why I'm confused about you suggesting a valid argument is evidence for anything. "Valid argument" is short for "deductively valid".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A B argument will be a philosophical argument. It will use both arguments drawn from physics and deductive arguments to reach a conclusion.

          • Susan

            No. It is an inductive argument.

            And neither a new one nor a good one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wrote this above and you haven't responded:

            In his argument here:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index....

            Spitzer provides evidence from contemporary physics that in every inflationary universe, there must be an absolute beginning.

            Is that what you mean by not new or good?

          • Susan

            What do you mean by absolute beginning?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Spitzer writes:

            There are three pieces of evidence arising out of space-time geometry proofs which indicate a beginning of our universe or any speculative multiverse in which our universe might be situated. It also indicates a beginning of oscillating universes – even oscillating universes in higher dimensional space. These proofs are so widely applicable that they establish a beginning of virtually every hypothetical pre-big bang condition which can be connected to our universe. They, therefore, indicate the probability of an absolute beginning of physical reality which implies the probability of a Creator outside of our universe (or any multiverse in which it might be situated).

            An absolute beginning means before which there was no physical reality of any kind.

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Cosmology#Evidence_of_a_Beginning_from_Space-Time_Geometry_Proofs

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,
            If you're really interested in the subject, I suggest you look into what the people in the field have to say on the subject.
            Spitzer is cherry picking in order to make a point, conflating our intuitive notions of "beginning" with the ways in which cosmologists use it. that he fails to make anyway

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In his argument here:

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Cosmology

            Spitzer provides evidence from contemporary physics that in every inflationary universe, there must be an absolute beginning.

            This, if true, is a fact about our universe. Is his conclusion not true?

          • Steven Dillon

            As Alexander Pruss summarizes probability theory: "If an event or state of affairs is more to be expected under one hypothesis, h1, than another, h2, it counts as evidence in favor of h1 over h2 - that is, in favor of the hypothesis under which it has the highest expectation. The strength of the evidence is proportional to the relative degree to which it is more to be expected under h1 than h2." - William Lane Craig and James Porter Moreland's The
            Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p. 206

            Let's stipulatively call the position that God exists 'theism' and the position that God does not exist 'atheism'.

            The existence of consciousness is more to be expected under theism than it is under atheism. Why? Because theism *entails* that there be consciousness, whereas atheism does not. A *host* of highly contingent evolutionary conditions must be satisfied before consciousness arises on atheism.

            Thus, the existence of consciousness is evidence for theism. How good is it? That depends, maybe there's counter-evidence. ;)

          • Susan

            Let's stipulatively call the position that God exists 'theism' and the position that God does not exist 'atheism'.

            How about we call the position that a god exists theism and the position that the existence of a god is unjustified atheism?

          • Steven Dillon

            How about we call the position that a god exists theism and not believing that any gods exist atheism?

            Because we're trying to compare mutually exclusive hypotheses to determine which is a better explanation of some set of phenomena. The positions that a god exists and of not believing in any gods are not mutually exclusive: one concerns the existence of gods, the other lack of belief in them.

            Only to the extent that it asserts that an incoherent, unevidenced conscious being exists. Not very impressive. I can assert all kinds of things.

            You make a lot of question-begging claims such as that there is no evidence for any of these gods, or that God is incoherent.

            In any case, you don't seem to understand how we determine whether something counts as evidence for a hypothesis. Check out my citation of Pruss again, there's a reason why it matters that God's existence would require there to be consciousness while God's non-existence would not.

            As far as defining consciousness, if you're not sure what consciousness is, perhaps a discussion on whether or not God exists should come later.

          • Susan

            Because we're trying to compare mutually exclusive hypotheses to determine which is a better explanation of some set of phenomena

            No need to mislabel, then. You could simply state the two hypotheses.
            A) Consciousness is more probable (therefore, better explained) by a deity, the attributes of which, will be specifically laid out for the purposes of testing this hypothesis.
            and
            B)

          • Every death is ultimately preventable by God.

            If that is true, then God is responsible for every human death. This makes God a moral monster of the sort I would want to oppose in any way possible. Of course, God being who he is, my opposition will not count for much.

            Maybe he doesn't care.

            I suspect that God, if he exists, can't stop death. He's just doing the best that he can.

          • bbrown

            So immortality on this earth would be a good thing? I am not sure everyone would agree with that.

          • Is death a good thing? I think not. But we don't need to make it so esoteric. The painful deaths of children from cancer is a subset of all the death that God allows and that, according to Randy, he could prevent.

            If God is responsible for every human death, he's responsible for those deaths too. If he can prevent human death, he can prevent those deaths too.

          • bbrown

            But maybe there's a reason that for these that we could never understand. At least not yet. As a physician I've been deeply involved and present at the deaths of many children with cancer. Let me just say that it is not what you seem to make it out to be. There's a lot more going on - and many of these children are quite joyful and they are actually ministering to the adults. There is very strong evidence for an afterlife.

          • I can only speak about my own experience, witnessing the effects of cancer on those whom I love. There is nothing joyful about cancer. The fact that someone can be happy in spite of having cancer does not mitigate how terrible cancer is, in the slightest.

            There is very strong evidence for an afterlife.

            What is the evidence?

        • Stallbaumer

          Sure: CCC 2280 "Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of."

          If the taking of a life is not permissible within the scope of a direct order from God, then why is Abraham commended for his willingness to sacrifice Isaac? Also, why was Saul punished for sparing Agag and the livestock (contrary to his order from God) in 1 Samuel 15?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To give life and to preserve it is not to take it or dispose of it.

            Quoting these again:

            “These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must
            not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

            “Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned is thus the last enemy of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

          • Stallbaumer

            Yeah, I read them the first time. My focus was on the phrase "We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of." It is God's to dispose of.

            Also, you failed to respond to the Scriptural references.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's engage in a close reading, S. Does the Catechism say God disposes of us? No. It is very carefully written. Death is a consequence of sin. It is a natural consequence of sin. I don't think it is sound Catholic doctrine to aver that God kills us.

            In the story of Abraham, our father in faith was severely tested and his faith was accounted as righteousness. God would not really ask a father to kill his son and in this case he did not.

            As for Saul, I'd ask you to find one Magisterial statement which confirms that God wants enemies annihilated.

          • Andre Boillot

            God would not really ask a father to kill his son and in this case he did not

            Absent some allegorical interpretation of this story, your claim is simply *not* correct. Not only did God really ask father to kill son, but Abraham firmly believed that was the case. That he was not allowed to go through with it is another matter entirely, but let's not mistake what Abraham was led to believe, and willing to do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In a test, there is a difference between what one says and what once intends to do.

            Yes, in the story, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son.

            And yes, Abraham intends to obey God.

            I can also believe that Abraham believed God had the right to demand his son's life from Abraham, since Abraham lived in a world in which "gods" demanded things like that all the time.

            Abraham can be our father in Faith and the one entrusted with universal promises, and still be dead wrong about a lot of things.

            Does that make sense?

          • Andre Boillot

            Does that make sense?

            Well, yes - once you concede that "God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son", after having previously stated that "God would not really ask a father to kill his son and in this case he did not", it all makes sense.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, I should have written *really* in the first post.

          • DannyGetchell

            If Abraham had told God "No, I will NOT sacrifice my son". would he have been less wrong??

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Abraham told God he would be wrong to destroy Sodom if there were innocent people in it, so, I don't see a problem.

          • Stallbaumer

            There is a difference between pleading with God as an intercessor on behalf of a group of people and "telling God he would be wrong." We see eye to eye on most things, Kevin, but you're digging yourself a hole here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Abraham is telling God he would be doing wrong:

            23 Then Abraham drew near, and said, "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:23-25).

          • It does not make sense unless you accept the character of God embraces sadism.

            God is not taking lives in the case of Abraham, the amalkites. He is telling others to kill for him. It makes no difference that he has the "authority" to take human life. It is psychological torture of the worst kind to tell a parent to kill his child in these circumstances.

            God had already chosen Abraham and established the covenant with him. Surely God knew what Abrahams character and nature was and that he was worthy of founding the nation of his chosen people. But God still needed this test?

            If you actually believe the literal interpretation of this story, you must accept that this God is cruel.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I understand why you are interpreting the episode in this way, but I don't agree with it.

            One reason is that my understanding as a Catholic is that God, as he really is, does not need anything from anyone. He does not need to test Abraham.

            Another reason, again from my understanding of Catholic teaching, is that God is love, so sadism would be directly contrary to God's nature and thus impossible.

            If this event literally happened--that is, if this passage in Genesis is an accurately preserved historical event--then another interpretation is that Abraham needed the test--and maybe Isaac, too.

            I think the best way to interpret this episode is to read it in the light of Christ and of a Father allowing his Son to give up his life to redeem the world.

          • Even if this story is fictional, it must be saying something about the level of commitment and surrender the followers of God must have to His commands.

            The only interpretation I can conceive of is that it must mean that one's faith must be so strong as to be ready to kill your child if God asks and does not provide a reason.

            I don't think you or any Christian believes that and if you were writing the story you would have ended it with Abraham refusing to do it saying he knows the character of God is love and kindness and would never ask his most cherished follower to kill his most cherished child. God would agree or it would have been Satan asking this sacrifice.

            Anyway, I can see why you interpret the way you do, but tell me if this story was from the Hindu religion, would you really read it and think that the God was the God of love?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your comments are reasonable.

            I have been trained to analyze literary texts. If this story was from Hinduism, I would try to understand it on (a least) three levels. First, what the story itself seems to be saying as a self-contained set of ideas. Then, I would try to read it in light of everything I know about Hindu culture. Then I would try to bring everything I know about everything to the reading.

            I would do the same thing as a Catholic. First as a self-contained story, then within the Pentateuch and the entire OT, then from the perspective of the entire Catholic Faith. Personally, I see it as one of the richest and most profound stories in the entire Pentateuch.

          • Stallbaumer

            I agree that death is a consequence of sin, as is suffering. However, both are redemptive. (ie. fasting, mortification, Good Friday)

            God did ask Abraham to kill Isaac. Abraham, who can be considered one of the OT's more virtuous figures, was willing to comply.

            I would never assert that "God wants enemies annihilated." This is far too general of a statement. My assertion is that:
            a. God wants us to conform to His will.
            b. He ordered Saul to kill and punished him for not complying.

    • Randy Gritter

      You need to understand that God is imposing a plan of salvation onto the world. He is intervening in a world of violence and making space for His covenant community. So wiping out the Amalekites is simply God doing things the way they are done in that time. He will change the way things are done eventually. Right now this particular problem with the world He chooses not to change but rather to engage the world on its own terms. So it can be seen as tolerating because the Israelites simply are not advanced to the point yet where they can overcome evil with good like we are commanded to do in the New Testament.

      • Andre Boillot

        Randy,

        All respect, but what you propose here:

        So wiping out the Amalekites is simply God doing things the way they are done in that time. He will change the way things are done eventually.

        seems at odds with this notion here:

        Right now this particular problem with the world He chooses not to change but rather to engage the world on its own terms.

        It would seem to me that either god goes with the flow, or he does things on his own terms, but claiming he does both is confusing when dealing with questions of condoning immoral actions.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I agree that what Randy says makes no sense. God is love. He is against death. He doesn't order the slaughter of innocent people.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm not going to go down the semantic rabbit hole of what was and wasn't considered an "innocent person" according to god's commands. Suffice to say that it seemed to include a lot of what we would now term 'innocents'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By innocent people, I mean just about everyone. The woman caught in adultery. The disrespectful prodigal son. The baby boys in Bethlehem.

      • felixcox

        Wow, I've never seen so many justifications for genocide than I have since I've been reading the forums on this website. I bet the only competitors are pro-nazi sites. It confirms that it takes religion for a good person to do/advocate evil.

        Randy, and omnipotent god wouldn't have to resort to genocide.

      • David Nickol

        So wiping out the Amalekites is simply God doing things the way they are done in that time.

        This implies there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. If murdering babies is wrong today, it was just as wrong in Old Testament times. And as for the argument that all life comes from God, and therefore God has the right to take it away, I wouldn't argue with that. But it is one thing for God to take a life (as in, say, the Flood) and quite another thing for God to command an army to kill innocent women and children. To argue that it is acceptable for a human being to do anything God commands effectively does away with all of objective morality and makes good and evil into what God "decides" at any given moment is good or evil. It is right to kill babies if God says so. It is right to chop off women's hands if God says so. Why would it not be right to rape and torture if God says so? And why would it not be wrong for me to rape torture and kill if I am sincerely convinced God wants me to do it?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This is what Benedict wrote about that in the *long* document Akins draws from:

      "We should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages
      requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the
      texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective
      which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal
      mystery.”

      It is a very precise but meaning-laden principle which I tried to develop above.

  • Andre Boillot

    The net effect of all this was to make women less at-the-mercy of their husbands. They could not simply be cast off in the instantaneous, casual manner that is permitted in some societies (including under Muslim law).

    First, let's say that Mr. Akin's characterization of Muslim divorce law is wanting (and telling): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_(Islamic)

    Second, in a tradition that has routinely featured women as part of the spoils of victory (well, if they were virgins), instituted a death-penalty for adultery and witch-craft, I find it strange that denying a women the ability to appeal for divorce is viewed as making them less at the mercy of their husbands.

  • vito

    what about the cruel killing of 40 kids on direct orders from God? Oh, I see, perhaps the society of that time was not ready for beasts not eating impolite kids.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    An important implication of what Benedict wrote is that obviously unjust and evil actions, which certain Old Testament passages attribute to God or which the writer says are on God's orders, are actually *contrary* to God's will.

    The writers are recounting traditions of people who are certain they are right or are carrying out God's will, but in fact they have a very flawed understanding, which is gradually being corrected.

    In fact, at the time of the final writing of the Torah, which contains most of the "dark passages," those events were already part of a mythological past which the writer(s) preserved and which may never have actually happened.

    This is why Catholics never ought to have to defend Old Testament morality which conflicts with the morality of the Gospel, or conceptions of God which conflict with the revelation of who God is in the New Testament. It is also why atheist apologists should not demand that Catholics do so either.

    • Sqrat

      An important implication of what Benedict wrote is that obviously unjust and evil actions, which certain Old Testament passages attribute
      to God or which the writer says are on God's orders, are actually
      *contrary* to God's will.

      The writers are recounting traditions of people who are certain they
      are right or are carrying out God's will, but in fact they have a very
      flawed understanding, which is gradually being corrected.

      The atheist position is that there can be no "correct" understanding of God's will, for the simple reason that there is no God with a will to understand.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If you did not think that you would not be a respectable atheist.

        • Sqrat

          Indeed. And thus neither Pope Benedict's understanding of God's will nor Jesus' understanding of it are any more correct than that of the Old Testament writers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You would be expelled from the ranks of respectable atheists if you did not affirm this.

          • Sqrat

            Oh, we squabble a lot among ourselves, but we actually have no formal procedures for excommunication.

            I would just note here for the record that it is almost exclusively in the Old Testament that God is purported to speak for himself. In the New Testament he is almost entirely mute, while others simply presume to speak for him -- much like the present day.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God the Father is speaking through his Son, about whom he says, "Listen to him."

          • Sqrat

            Where does he say that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            At the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River and on the mountain of the Transfiguration.

          • Sqrat

            Ah, got it. He does not say "Listen to him" at the baptism, though he does say it at the transfiguration. Although I suppose "listen to him" is not quite the same as "I am speaking through him."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right, but this is exactly what the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews claimed:

            "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our
            fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb 1:1-2)

          • Sqrat

            Did God say that he was speaking through the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. The author of Hebrews claimed that.

          • felixcox

            Wait, you are implying that his son is distinct from the father, which is a pretty good case for polytheism. oops!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The doctrine of the Trinity, fc.

          • felixcox

            Right- the doctrine of the trinity is one of the most illogical doctrines ever conceived by man. Father and son are the same; yet they are not the same.
            This is like me asserting "kevin Aldrich and Felix Cox are the same; yet they are not the same"
            You would probably not want to be equated with me, and since we have distinct wills, an outsider should not conclude we are the same. Jesus has a distinct will, therefore he should not be equated with the father. Also, in heaven, he's going to sit at the right hand of the father, so unless he's sitting next to himself, it's logical to say it's polytheism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's really great you have figured out something that the greatest minds of the past 2000 years have overlooked. (Sorry for the sarcasm.)

    • robtish

      Kevin, in that case Catholics should never base their doctrine on the Old Testament -- in fact, they may as well jettison it completely, if it's that unreliable.

      • Andre Boillot

        I thought the Marcionist train had already left the station.

        Maybe Kevin is leading a comeback :)

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It's not Marcionism at all. It is not that the OT God is evil. It is that early passages reflect the mentality of the sacred writers or the traditions the sacred writers preserved which are very imperfect but on the way.

          • Quanah

            Kevin,

            This seems to suggest that some things in the Old Testament are inspired by God while others are only a reflection of the sacred authors themselves or their traditions. While the human authors are real authors who truly contribute to the writing of Scripture in all their humanity, it is also the word of God in its entirety. Your above wording makes it sound as if it is second class. We base our doctrines on divine Revelation of which the Old Testament is a very significant part. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church throughout the centuries, especially in the first few, explained Catholic doctrine by way of the Old Testament, including those "dark passages."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According to the teachings of the Church, you are right that God is the author of every book and every part of every book of the OT along with the human sacred author(s) who is a true author, not one who just takes dictation.

            Yet everything that God preserved in these writings have to be understood and interpreted.

          • felixcox

            "Yet everything that God preserved in these writings have to be understood and interpreted."
            i'll fix it for you: "yet everything that man preserved in these writings have to be rationalized in light of our better understanding of morals"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, that is the *truth* issue, isn't it?

          • felixcox

            Fascinating that the buddhist tradition got it right centuries before the Judeo-christian tradition!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Could you explain?

          • felixcox

            Yes, several buddhist traditions arrived at peaceful solutions to conflict hundreds of years before jesus's big revelation.
            This historical fact certainly muddles the notion that mankind was not ready for the radical pacifism of jesus until the year 0 AD.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Church sees elements of truth in every religion and even in atheism. Since peaceful solutions to conflict is something that can be discovered and valued through reason alone, it should not be surprising that others could arrive at it independently. The "silver rule" of don't do to others what you don't want done to yourself is also found all over.

            Why do you assume that the reason for the Incarnation was to promote radical pacifism?

          • David Nickol

            radical pacifism of jesus

            Who ever said Jesus was a radical pacifist? The Catholic Church has never said so. A radical pacifist church would never come up with something called "Just War Theory."

          • Andre Boillot

            In fairness, how the Church ends up behaving isn't necessarily indicative of whether or not Jesus was a radical pacifist.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Catholics *don't* base their doctrine on the Old Testament, although there are incredibly good things there all over the place which are part of the treasure. I could give examples if you want. We read the OT in light of the new.

        • Andre Boillot

          Kevin,

          Maybe your zeal is getting the better of you. Perhaps you should have phrase it:

          "Catholics *don't* base their doctrine on the Old Testament [alone]."

          When so much of the NT is meant to be fulfillment of OT prophesies, I don't know how you can say that Catholic doctrine isn't based in part on the OT.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I stand corrected or at least clarified, Andre.

    • Ben Posin

      I second robtish. Speaking a little cynically, for a moment, what's the benefit to the Church in continuing to cling to the old testament? Catholocism and christianity in general would seem to have a much better time of it if they said something to the effect of: the old testament is really old, and may not be reliable, but the good news is that it's not such a big deal because Jesus came much more recently and put us on the proper path. It would seem to make for a better religion, I'd think. Who cares about Adam and Eve, Elisha and the bears, the tribes the Jews slaughtered, even the creation story: the bit that we're sure of is Jesus/heaven/etc.
      I guess tradition is just that hard to get away from? Or it's a desire to be consistent with church history and past positions?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        We hold to the OT because they were the Scriptures which God gave through Sacred Writers to his Chosen People, culminating in the Incarnation of God as a Jew. The OT is a treasure-trove of prayer and wisdom. Along with the dark passages.

        When the NT writers refer to the Scriptures, the OT is what they mean.

        • felixcox

          I know believers here get quite defensive and annoyed when asked for evidence (despite the ostensible purpose of this blog), but just how would you prove to an outsider that the OT writers are "Sacred Writers," or that just those texts are sacred at all? And if they are sacred yet imperfect, then what about the religious texts of other religions? Are they also sacred yet imperfect? Or not sacred at all? Who's says the Magisterium is the final arbiter? What's the process to ensure that their judgment is correct?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you really want to know the answers to those questions, rather than launch a barrage, you can *read*. It's all in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (free and available on-line) and in many other places.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            Let he who is not the #1 commentor on this site, by a wide margin, accuse others of launching barrages. ;)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I try to keep each post to one issue. Also, as I've said before, David N's posts are #1 in quality.

          • Andre Boillot

            I try to keep each post to one issue.

            An important maxim to live by when attempting to respond to every post, I would imagine :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you want to get rid of me, pray I find a job so I don't have the time!

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm sorry you *interpreted* me this way, it wasn't my intent (which will become clearer when you are ready for it).

            I was merely criticizing your response to felix as being somewhat hypocritical. Post away good sir.

            [and good luck with the job hunt, sincerely]

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks! (What is the mysterious statement in the parentheses?)

          • Andre Boillot

            I'll let you know in a few hundred years (when I release volume 2).

          • Mikegalanx

            They are, apparently, according the OP, sacred, dark,and false.

      • David Nickol

        I guess tradition is just that hard to get away from? Or it's a desire to be consistent with church history and past positions?

        Jesus was a Jew, not a Catholic! He did not claim to correct the image of the Old Testament God by replacing it with a New Testament God. Jesus's announced purpose was to bring "sinners" (nonobservant Jews) back into the fold of Judaism. If one could go back in a time machine and propose to Jesus disavowing Hebrew Scripture (particularly the Torah), it would have been unthinkable to him.

        • Ben Posin

          I wasn't talking about Jesus. I was talking about the Catholic church in later centuries/millenia, wondering where there interest lies, if they were to think about this cynically. But I guess one answer would be that some of Jesus' supposed statements make it hard to get away from the old testament.

          • David Nickol

            No, I would say that who Jesus was believed to be make it impossible for the Church to jettison the Old Testament. The New Testament interprets Jesus as the "fulfillment" of the Old Testament. Jesus is understood in terms of the Old Testament. The "Father" of Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. From the Christian point of view, it is wrong to think of Jesus as founding a new religion. Christians may be wrong if Jesus wasn't whom Christianity believed him to be, but Christians believe Christianity to be (roughly speaking) the proper continuation of Judaism, and consequently the Old Testament is an integral part of Christian Scripture.

    • felixcox

      The problem, or at least one problem, with this is that Jesus never explains how the Torah got it wrong. If Jesus was omniscient and omnipotent, his brief time on earth was a pretty darn good opportunity to clarify just what the torah got right and what it got wrong. The simplest solution to this problem is, of course, to assert that Jesus was neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Of course, that would mean abandoning tradition, so I'm sure we'll see yet more rationalizations...

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If you read the Sermon on the Mount, Chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel, you can read a number of examples of how Jesus clarifies, corrects, or amplifies the Torah.

        http://jmom.honlam.org/rsvce/

      • ziad

        I am guessing you mean the Gospels do not tell us if Jesus said anything about what is and what is not wrong with the Torah. After all, couple of the Gospels do mention that Jesus said more things and did more deeds that are not mentioned.

        Since not all what Jesus said is in the Gospels, we need Tradition (capital T) that the Catholic Church accepts as part of the Deposit of Faith.

    • DannyGetchell

      which may never have actually happened

      Kevin, is there a guide in Catholic doctrine which separates the "OT truth - really happened" passages from the "OT mythology - may never have happened" passages???

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Do you mean is there a principle or criteria by which to make that judgment?

        • DannyGetchell

          It would be facile in the extreme to suggest that each OT passage which leaves a 21st-century mind feeling queasy about God's goodness can be rendered inoffensive by moving it to the "mythology" section of the book.

          Because I do not believe that you intended your comments to be taken in that simplistic way, I assume that you have a more sophisticated analysis in mind.

          You have used the term "mythological" to describe parts of the OT. Which parts do you have in mind, and is your selection method grounded in Catholic doctrine?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I hope I don't leave anything out, but the Church would say that we should interpret each book and passage of the Bible in light of the entire Bible (especially in light of the Gospel), in light of Sacred Tradition, in light of the entire Deposit of Faith, in the light of what the Magisterium has already defined, and in light of the best principles of historical literary interpretation we can bring to the task. An important modern development in Biblical interpretation is the understanding of genre, which if it can be determined, has a big effect on interpretation.

            For example, is the Book of Jonah a book of history or is it a kind of novel?

  • Peter Piper

    The idea of multiple stages of the law, with early laws being imperfect because they are accommodated to the values of the time, and later laws improving and overriding the earlier laws, is directly contradicted in the Bible itself: Psalm 119:160 says `All your words are true, all your righteous laws are eternal'.

  • Andre Boillot

    Okay, since this is ultimately about dialogue, let me perhaps shed some light as to why the non-believer (or non-Christian) might find it so hard to reconcile the Old and New Testaments, especially the approach of the Catholic Church takes doing so - reinterpreting any passages that seem to conflict with the notions of love, redemption, forgiveness, etc. that we see espoused in the Gospels.

    Essentially, it's that it ends up feeling like retconning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroactive_continuity

    Even if you accept the idea that God is trying to communicate his message to the world through both the OT and NT, one might wonder why he would have done so in a way that requires:

    a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”

    This might seem like a naive notion, but it does really seem problematic that one require the work of theologians centuries after the fact, to correctly discern the will of god. To others, it can seem like a great many lives needlessly lost, not to mention souls, due to this chosen method of communication.

    • "it can seem like a great many lives needlessly lost, not to mention souls, due to this chosen method of communication."

      Which lives are you referring to? And which souls have been lost? And how have you determined them to be "a great many"?

      • Andre Boillot

        Brandon,

        I'll help catch you up. It is being argued, by several here in these comboxes, that the killings often ascribed to god, or god's command, were misinterpretations of his will - done against his will. Though this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of lives lost due to mis-communication, it will hopefully answer the "which lives" part of your question.

        As to the souls (for those who believe), I would list a portion of those who, as a result of mis-communication, have turned away from the Gospel message.

        As to how I determined "a great many", as regards to the souls - that I can obviously never know. As to the killings...well, at this point I wonder if we've been engaging in honest dialogue.

      • DannyGetchell

        With apologies to Andre, I would restate what he's saying as follows -

        What a pity that, on the morning when the swords were being sharpened to slaughter the Amalekites, there was not a seminary-trained catechist on hand to speak up and say, "Hey guys, you're doing it wrong."

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If it's any help, the NT writers, the Fathers of the Church, and everyone else up to today, have merrily launched into doing just this: interpreting the OT in light of the New and finding the NT in the Old. It has never been a practical problem.

      • Andre Boillot

        "interpreting the OT in light of the New and finding the NT in the Old."

        I understand that's how you see it, I'm letting you know what it looks like form the outside.

        "It has never been a practical problem."

        I don't know what you mean by this. That so much writing has been aimed at addressing the issue seems to make it a problem of some sort, practical or otherwise.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "Not a practical problem."

          What I mean is, from the beginning, nobody said, "Shoot, we need an adequate scholarly hermeneutic before we can start work."

          Instead, from the beginning we get this kind of thing: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1-2).

          • Andre Boillot

            "What I mean is, from the beginning, nobody said, "Shoot, we need an adequate scholarly hermeneutic before we can start work.""

            Is it possible that part of that reason nobody was wondering was that society had not yet progressed enough to notice an issue with these passages?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure. Lot's of people in all kinds of societies have not have a problem with a "kill them all" attitude.

  • DannyGetchell

    It's amazing how Christians and Jews tie themselves in rhetorical knots trying to rationalize what God commands of us humans with what he does in his own right.

    How much simpler and devoid of potential hypocrisy it would be simply to say:

    "Look. He's God. He's the boss. He does what he wants, when he wants, in the way he wants it done."

    "We have no standing whatever from which to judge him. If he commands life, that's his way.....if he commands death, that's his way, too. We just have to suck it up and deal."

    • I do suck it up. I deal with it by deciding not to worship, pray to, love, or care about such a pathetic and useless God as that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Danny, I hope you don't take this wrong by you have just described the Muslim conception of Allah, not the Blessed Trinity.

      The true God is not arbitrary. He commands what is good for us because it is good. It is not good because he says so.

      • My own response might then well be a short version of "Why I am not a Muslim."

        I agree that Danny's conception of God presented here (hopefully not one he himself adopts) is far worse than even some caricatures of the God of the Torah.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think it comes from the line of reasoning that goes, "It's in the Bible ... the Bible is the Word of God ... it must be good ... there must be some justification ..."

        • DannyGetchell

          That's not my conception of God (I am neither Jew, Christian, or Muslim), but if I did believe that the Bible was essentially correct in its description of God's conduct, it is the conclusion to which I would reluctantly be drawn.

          • I prefer to draw the conclusion that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is incorrect in its description of God's conduct and nature. I hold out great hope for the New Testament conception of God.

      • DannyGetchell

        He commands what is good for us because it is good. It is not good because he says so.

        If everything commanded by God is "good", then there is no discernible difference between the two.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Everything *really* commanded by God is good because it *really* is good. So, for example, God commands us to honor our parents not because he has arbitrarily chosen to have us "honor them" when he could just as easily commanded "dishonor your parents."

          I think there is a profound difference between arbitrary and inherent.

        • David Nickol

          If everything commanded by God is "good", then there is no discernible difference between the two.

          There is a huge difference between saying that (1) everything God commands is good and (2) things are good if God decrees them to be good. If the first is true, then God says helping little old ladies across the street is good because it is good, and deliberately running them over with your car is not good. If the second is true, God could decree that running down little old ladies is good, and helping them across the street is evil.

          If it is good to slaughter innocent children when God says one should, and evil to slaughter innocent children when God says one shouldn't, then there is nothing inherently good or evil about slaughtering innocent children. Good and evil would be purely arbitrary. In one age or culture, God could make rape and torture things that virtuous people do, and feeding the hungry or caring for the sick something that only the wicked would even contemplate.

      • robtish

        "He commands what is good for us because it is good. It is not good because he says so."

        So there is some standard of "good" that is independent of God? If "good" is not whatever God says it is, then where does the criteria for "good" come from?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          robtish, to clarify, it is more true to say that what God commands is not good *simply* because he commands it but that it is also really good for us.

          God creates us with a human nature, and that nature determines what is good for us. God commands us to live according to our human nature, as determined by right reason.

          This is what it means to say that God commands what it really good for us.

          • robtish

            That's just begging the question, so I'll rephrase it:

            So there is some standard of "nature" and "good" that is independent of God? If "nature" and "good" are not whatever God says they are, then whence come the criteria by which "nature" determines what is "good"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's put it this way, is it good for horses to eat grass and run around and bad for them to crawl and eat hamburgers because God says so or is because of their horse nature?

            When they act according to their nature, they are doing good for them. The same is true of human beings. When we act according to our nature we are acting according to our true good.

            Is that any help?

          • robtish

            No, it's not helping me, because you're acting as if this horse behavior were self-evidently good. I mean, sure, it helps their health and survival, but how do you know that health and survival are good (just because you want something doesn't make it good, right?).

            So we end up with it being good for them to eat grass rather than hamburgers because it's better for their health...which is good because...God says so?

            Again, if "nature" and "good" are not whatever God says they are, then whence come the criteria by which "nature" determines what is "good"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            YOU WROTE

            How do you know that health and survival are good?

            MY REPLY

            Isn't that self-evident? Experiencing the opposite should convince you.

            Determining "good" for a creature is done by considering the nature of that creature. Doing what you are made to do is good for you. This is Aristotle 101.

            "Made to do." Directly or indirectly creatures are "made" by God in a certain way to live a certain kind of life.

            We human animals are social beings so it is good for us live in society. We are also persons, ends in ourselves, so sometimes it is good for us to be in solitude.

            Do you every watch Cesar Milan the Dog Whisperer. He is great at showing what dog nature is.

          • robtish

            " Doing what you are made to do is good for you."

            And who decides what you are made to do? God. So we're back to the good simply being whatever God says it is. Perhaps made you to thrive and me to suffer. And if that was His intent, then according to this reasoning, who am I to say that isn't good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No, Rob. What is good for you is the same thing that is good for me (tastes aside), like to thrive and not to suffer.

            It is just that what makes human beings thrive is different than what makes dogs or horses or plants thrive.

            I don't think it is God's "intent" for anyone to suffer.

          • Susan

            I don't think it is God's "intent" for anyone to suffer

            You believe that Yahweh made the entire universe, including the hundreds of millions of years of sentient life on this planet, with great big gobs of evidence that suffering is an inherent part of the whole scheme.
            Let's assume that this (as far as the evidence suggests) imaginary character were real.
            If it was not "his" intent for anything to suffer, then why is intense suffering such a huge part of the picture?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, that is a very important question I could not answer before, so I became silent on it, but your question led me to New Apologetics. Here is something relevant they say.

            How can the Christian view of the world be true if suffering and death preceded the appearance of man in the world?

            Answer: Evidence suggests that suffering and death pervaded the natural world before man arrived in creation. In the material order, there is both tremendous beauty and artistry combined with a horrendous cruelty and disregard for life. The order of the animal kingdom follows the pattern of the strong victimizing the helpless, and (even though it involves non-personal creatures) it is difficult to reconcile this with the intentions of a good God.

            In accord with the delegation of power given in divine chastity, authority concerning the unfolding of the material order was given to the angels. With power over the material world, the fall of the rebel angels would necessarily register in the material order in serious ways.

            God’s will is to create life, but the will of the rebel angels is to
            countermand this at every opportunity. Hence, there is an interplay between life (which is facilitated in obedience to God by the good angels) and death (through the work of the evil one and his allies).

            Ultimately this discord (through the mechanism of survival of the fittest life forms) was directed providentially (through the guidance of God under the co-operation of the good angels) towards the creation of more advanced life, and ultimately the body of man emerged despite the best efforts of the evil angels to destroy life absolutely through mishap and omission.

            Possibly, as the union of matter and spirit, it was man’s role to redeem the material world from the effects of the angelic fall. Though the material order was good in itself, it seems that man (through the use of preternatural gifts) was originally commissioned to subdue and reorder the world in a way that would cause it to reflect the glory of God more perfectly.

            Quote: “Notice also that the world is out of joint before man arrived in it. Somewhere in God’s universe there is a crack, a fissure. Something has gone wrong, and it has gone wrong because someone did not use freedom rightly. Someone used freedom in the sense of ‘the right to do whatever you please’. Look back over the evolution of the universe. See all of the prehistoric animals that have come into being and passed away. Everywhere in the unfolding of the cosmos there have been biological sprouts that came to dead ends. Everywhere, there are blind alleys. But you ask, “Why should the sin of the angels affect the universe?” Well, one reason might be that lower creation was put under the supervision of some of the angels. And when they rebelled against God, the effects of it in some way registered in the material universe. Nature became dislocated. Look at a complicated machine: Disturb one of the big wheels, break a cog, and you will also disturb all of the little wheels. Throw a rock into a pond, it will affect, in some way, through ripples, even the most distant shore. It could be, therefore, the fall of the angels accounted for maybe the chaos that was on the earth as described in the Book of Genesis. There is every indication that something went wrong before man was made.” (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Original Sin and Angels)

          • Susan

            Forgive me Kevin but this just seems like making stuff up.
            Why should we accept that angels exist any more than we accept that leprechauns exist?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your objection isn't offensive at all.

            This "explanation" of what philosophers call "natural evil" is theological (the use of reason to draw out the implications of Divine Revelation).

            So the more basic question is why should anyone think that what Catholics call Divine Revelation is not just "made up stuff"? And a second question is, if it is not, then to what extent is the reasoning about it sound?

          • Susan

            the more basic question is why should anyone think that what Catholics call Divine Revelation is not just "made up stuff"?

            I agree. That is the more basic question.

          • DannyGetchell

            If a God who created the universe entire had desired to create horses as carnivores, he certainly could have done so.

            I see no reason why he could not likewise have created theft and rape as virtues, at his command.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Theft and rape are intrinsically unjust and so because God is perfectly just he could not make them good.

          • DannyGetchell

            Since God apparently has no power to make the immoral moral, in what way could he conceivably be said to be a "moral lawgiver"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you would like to read about the Catholic conception of the eternal law, natural law, and divine revealed law, you can find it on line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church beginning with point 1949.

  • David Nickol

    Note: This post will have to stand alone, since the post it is responding to has been deleted by the moderator. I will not quote that post.

    To be fair, in making accusations that God "murders," one has to look at things
    "from God's point of view"—or, alternatively, if one is an atheist, the complete picture of God as he is conceived of by believers. Death is not the end of existence. And it is
    also inevitable. All the people God allegedly "murders" were (a) going to
    die at some point anyway and (b) in "dying" were making the transition
    from one very short stage of existence to an
    infinitely long second stage which (depending on the worthiness of the
    person) is potentially happiness too great to even imagine that goes on
    for ever and ever, without end.

    We think of death as the worst
    thing imaginable, but "from God's point of view" (or from the point of
    view of a truly committed believer), death is one inevitable and
    absolutely necessary step on the road to our ultimate destiny. It is absolutely not something to be avoided at all costs. In fact, never dying a human death is a horrifying thought.

    God
    requires that everybody must die. This is relatively easy to take in
    stride. What is not acceptable is the idea that God orders human beings
    to kill other, purely innocent, human beings. If God strikes a person
    dead for whatever reason, that does not make God a murderer. But if God
    orders me as a soldier to attack a town and kill all the women and
    children, God is ordering me to do something which is evil for
    me.
    Getting an order from God to do something which is
    evil for me does not render it not
    evil for me. Consequently, I would have to say that anywhere in the Old
    Testament where God appears to order a human being
    to do something evil (like cut off someone's hand as punishment), there
    must be an explanation as to how such a thing—which God could never
    will—is presented as the will of God. If that can't be done, then the
    Old Testament cannot be accepted as the inspired word of God, since it depicts God as condoning evil behavior. Toleration would be one thing. Henry Higgins did not transform Eliza Doolittle into a proper lady overnight. But he didn't instruct her to behave in an unladylike fashion, ever.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Well said, sir.

      As I've written before, I may have the most posts, but you have the best. (Not that I always agree.)

      • mriehm

        If that is "well said", then I would hate to see a poor post. Andre Boillot points out the elephantine flaw in that room.

    • John Bell

      You can rationalize all you want but it will not change the fact that the catholic god is history's greatest monster.

    • Andre Boillot

      "All the people God allegedly "murders" were (a) going todie at some point anyway and (b) in "dying" were making the transition
      from one very short stage of existence to an
      infinitely long second stage which (depending on the worthiness of the
      person) is potentially happiness too great to even imagine that goes on
      for ever and ever, without end."

      The same of which could be said about all murders. This makes it seem like murders are actually helping people skip to the good bits.

      • David Nickol

        The same of which could be said about all murders. This makes it seem like murders are actually helping people skip to the good bits.

        Well, you have to ask yourself why murder is considered wrong. I think traditionally it has not been considered wrong because the murdered person loses his or her future life. It has been considered wrong (at least by those who believe in God) because except under certain limited circumstances, it is not up to human beings to say who gets to live and who must die. That is why it has long been considered wrong to practice mercy killing or to commit suicide. If people are terminally ill, suffering terribly, and want to die, it has traditionally been considered wrong to kill them. It would be just as wrong to kill them knowing they would go straight to heaven because humans traditionally have believed no one has the right to play God. It is up to God to decide who lives or dies, even in extreme circumstances.

        We are having something of a shift currently, with attitudes changing regarding suicide and euthanasia. But, as I said, traditionally it was thought that only God had a right to say who should live and who should die, because it was believed that a person didn't belong to himself or herself. Holding that point of view, it is nonsense to accuse God of "murder" for taking a person's life. So I think it is nonsense to use the story of Noah and the Arc to try to prove God is cruel (and it is rarely done). If God created all life, he has the right and the power to give it or to take it away. What he does not have a right to do—in my opinion—is to command human beings to kill other (innocent) human beings.

        From the atheist point of view, an individual (not God) owns his or her own life. The individual may commit suicide if he or she no longer wishes to live, or may ask to be assisted in dying. There is no higher authority over life and death than the individual whose life is at stake. So it really doesn't make sense for atheists to call God a "murderer" for taking human life because (a) they don't believe there is a God, and (b) they approach the question of who owns a person's life from an entirely different angle than believers. They are trying to make a judgment from outside a system they cannot possibly subscribe to. They are like umpires brought in to referee a football game who insist on applying the rules of baseball.

        • Mikegalanx

          "What he does not have a right to do—in my opinion—is to command human beings to kill other (innocent) human beings. "

          Why not? I don't see how this follows- or does it come from a separate point?

          "So it really doesn't make sense for atheists to call God a "murderer" for taking human life because (a) they don't believe there is a God, and (b) they approach the question of who owns a person's life from an entirely different angle than believers.

          They are trying to make a judgment from outside a system they cannot possibly subscribe to. They are like umpires brought in to referee a football game who insist on applying the rules of baseball."

          On that principle,we can't call Hitler or Stalin or even Charlie Manson "murderers".

          • David Nickol

            On that principle,we can't call Hitler or Stalin or even Charlie Manson "murderers".

            Of course we can. Neither Hitler, Stalin, nor Manson was the creator of the universe and the "author of life." They may not have thought of themselves as murderers, but we are under no obligation to judge them by their own standards.

            For those who believe in God, he grants it and has the right to take it away. It is only because atheists believe they own their own lives, and that each individual owns his or her own life, that they feel they can accuse God of "murder." Theists and atheists are in disagreement over a fundamental principle—who has the power of life and death over an individual human being. Theists would say God does, but atheists would say the individual owns his own life. Since atheists don't believe in God, they can't accept God as the "author of life" and the being who has the right to take life away.

            What atheists are saying is that there is no God, but if there were a God, he would not have the power of life and death over his creatures. They may be right that there is no God, but they are wrong that if there were a God (the "God of philosophers," in any case) he would have no right to take a human life.

            Why not? I don't see how this follows- or does it come from a separate point?

            I am just going to have to assert that while God make take any or all human lives without it being murder, he cannot require human beings to take innocent lives. I think it is a defensible position, but it would take a lengthy argument. Basically my argument would rest on the belief that things really are right and wrong; they are not just right or wrong because God says so, and if something is wrong, it is always wrong. God can't "change his mind" and make something right that he made wrong. It is always wrong for a human being to take the life of another (innocent) human being. That is not an arbitrary law God invented that he can suspend.

            My argument, then, would be that if God really did command the slaughter of all men, women, and children of the Amalekites, he commanded men to commit murder, and that would have been immoral. My conclusion would be that God did not command the slaughter of the Amalekites, and that particular "dark passage" must be dealt with by explaining how the Bible could attribute to God something he did not do. Otherwise, the Bible must be rejected.

        • Andre Boillot

          That is why it has long been considered wrong to practice mercy killing or to commit suicide. If people are terminally ill, suffering terribly, and want to die, it has traditionally been considered wrong to kill them.

          I suppose that by using "traditionally" here, you mean 'traditional Judeo-Christian' or some equivalent. There's no universal tradition concerning suicide or euthanasia, you can look at many cultures (Japanese, Inuit, etc.) for examples of traditional (highly ritualized in Japan's case) suicide and euthanasia.

          So it really doesn't make sense for atheists to call God a "murderer" for taking human life because (a) they don't believe there is a God, and (b) they approach the question of who owns a person's life from an entirely different angle than believers.

          Somebody else may have already touched on this, but I would have thought it obvious that when atheists do this, it's implicitly hypothetical.

      • vito

        exactly

    • mriehm

      It is ironic that the worst mass murder in the bible is also a classic children's tale. Ahh, the nice animals peacefully entering the ark, two by two, before God drowns babies and, well, just about everyone. It's actually quite a horrid tale.

      Ditto for the exodus - surely God could have found other ways of convincing Pharoah to let the Israelites depart? Aside from killing innocent babies?

      There is a lot of immoral behaviour in the old testament, and God's chosen people just have to look to Him for their example.

      • David Nickol

        I agree that the story of the Flood and the story of the plagues sent against Egypt are disturbing stories, but then again, so are many folk tales and fairy tales that are traditionally for children. But as I have argued elsewhere, it does not make sense to accuse God of murder. If you believe in God, taking human lives is not murder if God does it. If you don't believe in God, it doesn't make sense to accuse him of murder, since he doesn't exist.

        Even if you consider the Bible to be fiction, you have to judge fictional characters in terms of the fictional world in which they exist. In the fictional world in which God exists (even if you are an atheist), God cannot commit murder. The concept makes no sense.

        • Susan

          Even if you consider the Bible to be fiction, you have to judge fictional characters in terms of the fictional world in which they exist.

          That makes perfect sense in literary analysis. I could talk about freely about Yahwheh, Zeus, Krishna and the Wizard of Oz with people who regard these characters as mythololgical and/or literary characters.

          But it doesn't work in discussions with people who claim that this deity DOES exist, especially when their beliefs lead to moral and empirical claims that affect the real world.

          In the fictional world in which God exists (even if you are an atheist), God cannot commit murder. The concept makes no sense.

          Which means it's OK for Yahwehists to claim that Yahweh is good, even assert that to non-Yahwehists, but they get to use the loophole that Yahweh is the essence of good and any of our shared intuitions about "good" don't apply to Yahweh.
          Yahwehists insist on having it both ways.
          It's not evil no matter how cruel if Yahweh does it and Yahweh can commandeer as many bloodbaths as Yahweh wants. It's not murder if Yahweh does it.
          Now Zeuson the other hand....

          • David Nickol

            . . . . but they get to use the loophole that Yahweh is the essence of good and any of our shared intuitions about "good" don't apply to Yahweh.

            It is not my position—in fact, it is the opposite of my position—that if God says something is good, that makes it good, or if God does something, it is automatically good because all of God's actions must be considered good.

            It's not evil no matter how cruel if Yahweh does it and Yahweh can commandeer as many bloodbaths as Yahweh wants. It's not murder if Yahweh does it.

            I think many accusations can be reasonably made against the God of the Old Testament—for example, cruelty and injustice. My point, however, is that it makes no sense to accuse him of murder. I would say that God does deserve the title of "moral monster" if he actually commanded the Israelites to slaughter the women and children of the Amalekites. However, I would also say that God wiping out humanity with a great flood is not murder. You can only accuse God of murder if, once he gives a person life, he has no right to take it away.

            I would say it is perfectly acceptable to apply our "shared intuitions about 'good'" to the God of the Old Testament and to judge him accordingly. However, the charge of murder doesn't hold up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "[T]hey ... use the loophole that Yahweh is the essence of good and any
            of our shared intuitions about "good" don't apply to Yahweh."

            I agree with your demand that our shared intuitions about "good" should apply to God. The Catholic Church agrees with you.

        • DannyGetchell

          I can with perfect equanimity say, "I believe in God. I just do not believe in the Christian God of the Bible."

          Which is not essentially different from the Christians who, when faced with a Bible that explicitly depicts their God as a callous killer, draw a curtain of "interpretations" and "magisteria" over those depictions.

          • David Nickol

            I can with perfect equanimity say, "I believe in God. I just do not believe in the Christian God of the Bible."

            If by "the Christian God of the Bible" you mean a God who would order the slaughter of women and children, or a God who would keep "hardening Pharaoh's heart" so that Pharaoh would keep saying "no" when the whole point of the exercise was to get him to say "yes," then I think it is perfectly reasonable not to believe in that God. But I don't think Christians are obliged to believe in that version of God, either.

          • mriehm

            So what it comes down to (for Christians in this discussion, anyway), is that the nice stories in the bible are accepted, and the not-so-nice ones are rationalized away by this convenient "gradual enlightenment" argument. The preconception of a just and loving god is thus justified both ways.

            This is not exactly an intellectually rigourous approach...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Danny, you seem to be saying that the only valid interpretation of the Bible is that everything in it must be read literalistically. In this way, you are Biblical fundamentalist; you just don't believe any of it.

            Why do you think this is the only valid way to interpret the Bible and that it trumps the approach that Benedict outlined above?

          • DannyGetchell

            I don't think that the Bible must be accepted literally or not accepted at all. For example, I would certainly agree that a six day creation, six thousand years ago, is a mythical retelling of the origins of the universe. I would not accuse any Christian of hypocrisy in refusing to take that literally.

            Where I have a problem with Benedict is his statement that "those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult".

            I find the violent passages no more inherently "obscure" than the benign passages.

          • DannyGetchell

            Follow up -

            What Benedict (and by extension Akin) seems to be saying is: "This passage conflicts with what we believe about God's nature. Therefore, the passage is obscure and requires analysis."

            That seems to me to be not inherently sounder than the position "This passage conflicts with what we believe about God's nature. Therefore, we need to revisit our understanding of God's nature to determine if it is in some way inadequate."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I see your logic. Then the question is, "What is sounder, the Church's understanding of God's nature or her understanding of how to interpret every passage of the Bible?"

          • DannyGetchell

            I think that they both have changed over the last two millenia.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In degree or in kind?

          • DannyGetchell

            In degree or in kind

            Hate to ask you to do my research here, Kevin.....but I suspect you are much more experienced in accessing the historical doctrine than am I.

            Are there cases prior to, say, 1700, of popes or church councils expressing the same degree of discomfort with the "dark passages" of the OT as Benedict evinces today? An affirmative result would help establish an "in degree" status.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm trying to find an answer to your question. I know that very early on the Church Fathers dealt the anthropomorphic way God is depicted in the Torah.

            This from St. Augustine's "The City of God:

            Chapter 25.— Of the Anger of God, Which Does Not Inflame His Mind, Nor Disturb His Unchangeable Tranquillity.

            The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin. His thought and reconsideration also are the unchangeable reason which changes things; for He does not, like man, repent of anything He has done, because in all matters His decision is as inflexible as His prescience is certain. But if Scripture were not to use such expressions as the above, it would not familiarly insinuate itself into the minds of all classes of men, whom it seeks access to for their good, that it may alarm the proud, arouse the careless, exercise the inquisitive, and satisfy the intelligent; and this it could not do, did it not first stoop, and in a manner descend, to them where they lie. But its denouncing death on all the animals of earth and air is a declaration of the vastness of the disaster that was approaching: not that it threatens destruction to the irrational animals as if they too had incurred it by sin.

            In this section of "The City of God," Augustine presents an elaborate allegorical reading of the Deluge as foreshadowing the Church. But he also defends the literal reading that it really happened.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Danny,

            I asked Scripture scholar Jim Papandrea question, "has the Church had struggles with the "dark passages" of the OT historically or is this more of a contemporary issue? I did a quick search of St. Augustine's "City of God," and while he corrects an anthropomorphic reading of God's actions in regard to the Flood and provides an allegorical interpretation of it, he also defends a literal reading. I didn't see any horror in God causing a huge "kill off."

            HERE IS HIS RESPONSE
            Someone asked me the same question just this morning
            after a Bible study I taught.

            I think the answer lies in the way that the Church fathers interpreted the OT vs. the NT. They read the NT mostly literally, believing it to be historical (and I agree, though they also understood that depending on the genre, one might have to interpret the Book of Revelation, for example, non-literally).

            So on the other hand, they tended to interpret the OT allegorically or by typology, so that those passages become more about human perception of God's activity and will than a direct account of what God was actually thinking at the time.

            Why God would cause the flood or require the killing of innocent people (or even whether God actually wanted that to happen) is a mystery. The OT is more the record of how the people of Israel made sense of it at the time.

            I hope that helps! You can get more of my take on how the early Church fathers interpreted Scripture in my book "Reading the Early Church Fathers."

          • DannyGetchell

            That's a reasonable response, Kevin.

            But I remain of the opinion that Benedict's concern about the "dark passages" is largely a reflection of the fact that he, you, and I live in a culture which at least purports to reject mass brutality.

            The Church of a more brutal society does not seem to have been afflicted with the sort of self-consciousness about the worship of a brutal OT deity that is expressed in Benedict's article and the posts to this thread.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            About your opinion, we could ask two questions: (1) is it the case and if it is (2) why it is the case.

        • mriehm

          Well the folk tales are not touted as being inspired by a perfect, loving god. They're just tales meant to titillate.

        • mriehm

          "Murder" is just a label, subject to definition. You define "God" and "murder" such that they're incompatible with each other.

          So rather than saying that God "murdered" these innocents, how about we say that he caused them to suffer and to die, with no good reason?

      • vito

        Maybe they should also add the Holocaust to the list of children's tales too. If they like genocide so much. Too bad the Holocaust actually happened.

        • Mikegalanx

          Yea- that's a perfect example of what can happen when these ancient tales are allowed to fester and create evils based on

          " the Jews killed our Lord"or "the Jews rejected the new revelation (Christian or Muslim , your choice)".

  • robtish

    This article allows an interesting spin on Obama's "evolution" on same-sex marriage. Perhaps God decided previous generations hadn't advanced enough to permit same-sex marriage, but now we're ready, and those communities that forbid it do so simply because they haven't made sufficient progress in God's eyes.

    I'm being satirical, of course, but this is perfectly consonant with Akin's reasoning, which opens the door to the idea that NONE of what the faithful *currently* regard as God's moral teaching actually represents God's "real" morality, and that any (of all) of it could be overturned as time progresses.

    • Mikegalanx

      Why not? After all, a few hundred years ago papal bulls were allowing torture of heretics and perpetual slavery for non-Christians.

    • DannyGetchell

      any (of all) of it could be overturned as time progresses

      I believe you have nailed it. It's one of those "pick two of three" conundra:

      1. The Bible (OT and NT) accurately depicts the nature of God.*
      2. Nothing in God's nature is not good.
      3. God's nature is eternal and unchanging.

      It appears to me that you have to pick two out of three, or go crazy trying to reconcile them.

      Catholic doctrine as described to me here seems to solve the conundrum by chipping away at (1).

      * I said "nature of God" here, not "scientific and historical inerrant fact", OK?

  • nannon31

    I'm going to take issue with the very idea that the dooms of certain groups were simply in the Old Testament. The worst (and last) doom quantitatively was in 70 AD and was announced by Christ who said it would include preborns within the women of Jerusalem (Luke 19:44) and He said it would happen because Jerusalem did not know the time of its visitation (ibid). Josephus gives a figure of 1.1 million killed in that Jerusalem doom and Tacitus gives 600,000. There is no God guided doom after that in the "certainly willed" sense that we can know of since Revelation closed. The Romans did the slaughter of Jerusalem but God willed it and Christ gave its real reason in the mentioned Lucan verse. Exodus 20:5 says that God punishes down to the third and fourth generation physically not as to guilt of sin...hence the preborns.
    Fr. Barron in his video and Pope Benedict in section 42 of Verbum Domini both shrink from mentioning the 70 AD doom announced by Christ; and neither seems to know Wisdom chapter 12 ( only canonical with Catholics) which tells you that God first punished the Canaanites slowly and lightly to give them space for repentance ( Wis.12:10) for four hundred years until their sin was complete or filled up in God's eyes ( Gen.15:16) before He resorted to the dooms. Jerusalem is also not doomed until its sins are filled up or complete ( Matthew 23:32). The dooms by God were God's last resort with people...not His first measure.
    The answer is that God is taking humans into the next world everyday of the week...including women and children (c.150,000 per day). Read your newspaper. Fifty one people in a bus in Peru went over the edge of a cliff just days ago and were all killed hundreds of feet below. That can only happen if God permits it and He permits such things weekly. Christ said that a bird does not fall to the ground without your Father's permission. Did God bring the Peru incident about by actively choosing it rather than permitting it? We have no idea because Scripture no longer tells us when God wills such things actively as He did the dooms. In scripture both God and the devil bring deaths to humans. God killed Herod in Acts 12 and the devil used a storm to kill Job's relatives (Job1:19) and used men to slay Job's servants ( Job1:15).
    So both God and the devil can be the active source of a death but only God permits both deaths...and we cannot know outside scripture usually whether God or the devil actively willed a death.
    The Biblical dooms had several purposes: punishment of the Canaanites but only after four hundred years of lighter punishments; protection of the Jews from the corruptive Canaanite culture of child sacrifice and cannibalism ( Wisdom 12:5)...which the Jews repeatedly followed anyway later. The Jews did not have sanctifying grace though they had sporadic actual grace. Hence they were weak from that and from Christ not yet having reduced the devil's power...ie possession cases multiple in Christ's time are minuscule now vis a vis a given population context.

  • Paul Sho

    'Jesus thus teaches that lifelong monogamy was God's intention for marriage.'
    Just curious. Was anything condemnatory said about the polygamy of some of the Patriarchs?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Lamech, the first polygamist, was also a murderer. I don't recall any OT writers commenting on the polygamy of the patriarchs, but in Genesis itself it is depicted resulting only in conflict.

      • mriehm

        Not too surprising, that! As any of us married folk might surmise. ;)

      • Paul Sho

        What of levirate marriages? any ideas?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Ideas in what regard?

          • Paul Sho

            my point is that a case can be made for polygamy based on the experience of some the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. However, celibacy remains the highest state to be in terms of our service to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How would you make a case that didn't end up saying that celibacy is the highest form, monogamy is below that but acceptable, and polygamy is the lowest form but still okay?

          • Paul Sho

            Celibacy, Heterosexual monogamy and Heterosexual polygamy in that order. As for the secular society's push for legitimization of homosexual acts: let just say may that day not dawn in the Holy Church founded by the Son of the Most High God. Amen.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How would you *unmake* the case that polygamy is intrinsically immoral?

          • David Nickol

            How would you *unmake* the case that polygamy is intrinsically immoral?

            According to the old online Catholic Encyclopedia, polygamy is not intrinsically immoral.

            Neither polygamy nor divorce can be said to be contrary to the primary precepts of nature. The primary end of marriage is compatible with both. But at least they are against the secondary precepts of the natural law: contrary, that is, to what is required for the well-ordering of human life. In these secondary precepts, however, God can dispense for good reason if He sees fit to do so. In so doing He uses His sovereign authority to diminish the right of absolute equality which naturally exists between man and woman with reference to marriage. In this way, without suffering any stain on His holiness, God could permit and sanction polygamy and divorce in the Old Law.

            You have made the point a number of times that polygamy in the Old Testament is frequently a cause of difficulties. That does not make it intrinsically immoral. It makes it impractical, and under ordinary circumstances, its impracticality may render it morally offensive. However, suppose there were some catastrophe—a serious disease that killed only men, perhaps—that left the world with ten women for every man, or a hundred women for every man, or a thousand women for every man. For the sake of the continuance of the human race, and also for the good ordering of society, it might very well be the case that polygamy would be not merely permissible, but the best arrangement until the world was sufficiently repopulated with men.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha! Many men would not mind surviving that catastrophe.

            You may be right (although the 1914 Catholic is not a Magisterial document), but this view has to be harmonized with the CCC (which is a Magisterial document):

            2400 Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free unions are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage.

            1610 Moral conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage developed under the pedagogy of the old law. In the Old Testament the polygamy of patriarchs and kings is not yet explicitly rejected. Nevertheless, the law given to Moses aims at protecting the wife from arbitrary domination by the husband, even though according to the Lord’s words it still carries traces of man’s “hardness of heart” which was the reason Moses permitted men to divorce their wives.101 (1963, 2387)

          • Paul Sho

            Testimony of Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Paul, do you mean what they *did* is testimony that whatever they did was right in God's eyes?

            You mean like Abraham's testimony of twice offering to give Sara to another man for sexual favors to save his own skin? Or Jacob deceiving his father and taking Esau's birthright? Or David killing a man do cover up his adultery?

          • Paul Sho

            Even St. Thomas Aquinas asserted that polygamy does not go against the Natural Law

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church disagrees:

            2400 Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free unions are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage.

            1610 Moral conscience concerning the unity and indissolubility of marriage developed under the pedagogy of the old law.

            How would you harmonize your view with the CCC (assuming you are a Catholic and so, need to).

          • Paul Sho

            The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: ' the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.'
            i give you the opportunity for the last word

          • Paul Sho

            The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: 'the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.'
            The God of the Law-giver Moses.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Paul, How is this a reason supporting polygamy?

  • vito

    When I hear people explaining the dark passages of the Bible along the lines "it's OK, because it's God, because he can because he wants because he's God and then its good...", the dark just gets darker and darker... Why some people do not get it that what troubles an honest and moral reader is not is not that (the alleged biblical) God can, but that he wants to?

    If you like that kind of explanation, you'll definitely like what Tim Minchin has to say about the Good Book

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr1I3mBojc0

    • DannyGetchell

      Vito, I posted that exact view - "he can because he wants" as a hypothetical here and received the answer I expected from Catholic apologists, to wit, if the Bible says God wants to do something evil, then the text of the passage is "obscure" and needs to be reinterpreted in a different way so that it no longer says that.

      • Randy Gritter

        Surprisingly close. Scripture is always interpreted with key texts driving the theology and other texts that are harder to fit are read in a more analogical way. For example, we say God never changes is a key text. We accept that truth. Then the passages that say He changed His mind get read another way. He didn't really. It is just an manner of speaking.

        The question then becomes which are the key texts and which are the ones we need to learn to read differently in light of what our key texts say. That we get from the church. So yes, Catholic interpreters will say these texts are not key texts. We need to understand that they are not saying God does not care about all people or God does not value life. We know from the key texts that that is not true. So we bring that knowledge from scripture and tradition to the more difficult passages of scripture.

        • DannyGetchell

          What's your take on the book of Job, Randy?

          Historical fact?

          Fable which nonetheless expresses God's true nature?

          Or a flawed description of God's relationship to man?

          • Randy Gritter

            Is the conversation between Satan and God literally true? I would say No. I don't think the reasons why bad things happen are that simple. Job is one of the oldest book s of the bible. It is not intended as an answer to why bad things happen but more of a sense that God is not going to tell you the reason and if He did it would not make a lot of difference. That we need to simply walk through it. Not assume we are being punished for some sin. Not assume God has forgotten us. Not even assume God has made some deal with the devil that we don't understand. Just trust that God remains good and that all this makes sense.