Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Does the Bible contain lies?

If you answered (with a shout), "No!", you're a bit overzealous. Let me demonstrate how the Bible does, in fact, contain lies.

One story I like a lot is the story in 1 Kings 22 where (evil king of Israel) Ahab asks (godly king of Judah) Jehoshaphat to go to war with him against the Arameans for some disputed property. Jehoshaphat agreed, but required Ahab to ask the Lord. So Ahab asked his prophets and they said really cool things, but concluded "Go up, for the Lord will give it into your hand." The truth is that the Lord said no such thing. These prophets lied, and the Bible accurately records those lies. Jeshoshaphat didn't buy it and asked for a second opinion ... you know ... from a real prophet. Micaiah was called and ordered, "Speak favorably." So he showed up and said, "Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." Again, God said no such thing and the Bible accurately records the lie. Micaiah goes on to tell the truth (which is why we know it was a lie), tells the king, "The LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you." And, if you finish the story, the latter was the truth and Ahab dies. You can see, then, that in a historical narrative such as the books of the kings, the Bible is accurate if it accurately records a lie as a lie.

The suggestion has been made that this same sort of thing occurred over in 1 Samuel.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey'" (1 Sam 15:2-3).
Is it possible that this text, though clearly written as a historical narrative, accurately represents the prophet Samuel telling a lie? Is it possible that God said no such thing, and Samuel was making it up for his ulterior motives?

First, given the 1 Kings 22 passage, you have to admit that it's possible. The Bible does record lies. So, how do we determine if this was such a lie? Well, the fact that Saul acted on it is no indication. The Bible records people acting on lies. What is interesting is that Saul did not obey the full command. According to the account, "Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed" (1 Sam 15:9). But the result of Saul's choice not to carry the command through is telling, as it Samuel's response to God's response.
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands." And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night (1 Sa 15:10-11).
Here we have a historic narrative that is presented not as a public display. In the first instance, Samuel told everyone that God had said such and such. In this instance, it is a private conversation between God and Samuel. Further, in this private conversation (which, therefore, isn't Samuel lying), God accuses Saul of having failed to follow His commands. If the command given in verses 2 and 3 were lies, then Saul didn't fail to follow God's commands. No, in fact, this would make Saul more of the hero. He recognized a false command when he saw it and didn't carry it out. Further, if Samuel intended to gain some power or achieve some ulterior agenda, why did he spend the night crying out to God?

I'm afraid this passage will not work as a recorded-but-accurate lie. The only conclusion that makes sense given the context of the events is that God actually spoke to Samuel when He gave the command to strike Amelek. Since that appears to be the only reasonable conclusion, we're left with only two possible choices here. Either the Bible is accurate in what it represents as historical narrative, or it is not. If it is not, we're left to our own devices to decide what we like or don't like as "true", and since the Bible presents itself as "the Word of God" ("God-breathed"), we would have to agree that this won't quite be the case. That whole sola scriptura thing, where the Bible is our sole source for matters of faith and practice is out. On the other hand, if we accept this account as a truthful account of an actual historical event, complete with God's words on the matter, we're left with serious questions regarding God, His motivations, and His goodness.

Now, I choose the latter. I believe that the Bible is true, that even this account is accurate, and that there really are good answers to these questions regarding God, His motivations, and His goodness. But feeding you answers isn't a good teaching tool. You'll have to think about this yourself for awhile and see what you come up with.

49 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

Are you not wanting me to offer an opinion?

Stan said...

On the post? Why not?

Dan Trabue said...

Well, because you're not posting my comments or addressing my on-topic questions on the previous two posts. I figured you must be too frustrated with me to post my comments for reasons that I can't fathom.

Stan said...

I'm not aware of not posting comments. Nor am I aware of not addressing questions.

Dan Trabue said...

I've sent one more at the end of the day on the "Are you sure you want to go there V" post and I sent one in response to David on the "Discipline and culture" post. There are at least those two that I know of.

And I had several unanswered questions about the topic of human rights and the Bible. You had asked specifically for us to "Find a basic list of human rights from scripture," and I had asked, "How do you define human rights?" That seems like a pertinent question to the topic at hand. I can't really answer the question unless I know what you mean by "human rights."

Among other questions that were on topic or related to things you had asked me or said about me.

Stan said...

Is it your aim to carry on a discussion about discussions and comments? If so, how about waiting until I post something on the topic of discussions and topics? (Hint: You'll be waiting a long time.)

Someone else sent me an email saying, "I'm having trouble posting." Perhaps what you attribute to me is a product of blogspot.

I already explained what I believed "human rights" meant -- how I ought to treat others. But it's not as if I'm the only one not responding to everything said ... now is it?

But surely you can see that 5 (now 6) comments on making comments is not at all related to the topic, is it?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan, I just did not know if you were posting my comments and so I asked before commenting. I don't find that unreasonable and hope you don't either.

On topic then. You said...

Either the Bible is accurate in what it represents as historical narrative, or it is not. If it is not, we're left to our own devices to decide what we like or don't like as "true", and since the Bible presents itself as "the Word of God" ("God-breathed"), we would have to agree that this won't quite be the case.

As in most things, I don't think there are only two choices. When you say, "either the Bible is accurate in what it represents as historical narrative, or it is not," I would think that yet another option is that the Bible is not making the claim that this is a perfectly accurate historic narrative.

Hence, we could have at least three choices:

1. The Bible presents a story that sounds historical in nature and it was intended to be a historically accurate representation and it is historically accurate.

2. The Bible presents a story that sounds historical in nature and it was intended to be a historically accurate representation and it is NOT historically accurate.

or,

3. The Bible presents a story that sounds historical in nature but it was NOT intended to be a historically accurate representation and it is not.

I guess even a fourth possibility is there...

4. The Bible presents a story that sounds historical in nature but it was NOT intended to be a historically accurate representation and yet it IS.

I lean towards three in many cases in the Bible, 4 in others and 1 in yet others.

In any of the four cases, we are left to our own devices (ie, we must use our reason) to discern what is God's Will.

Seems to me.

Stan said...

Let me see if I follow you here, then. You say in your third case that it is possible to look like a historical narrative (but "looks are deceiving" as we all know) and it's actually not so it's not necessarily accurate. I claimed "Either it's accurate or it's not" and you are saying, "Well, it's possible that it's not accurate" with the apparent caveat "it didn't intend to be." Did I get that correct? (I'm sorry, but I don't even get the 4th one at all.)

Now, I used a specific event, so we might as well keep to that event. I say "It's either accurate or it's not." You say, "Well, maybe it didn't intend to be." If you could, then, fill me in on what it did intend?

Dan Trabue said...

When I tell a story to my children to impress upon them the importance of crossing walking instead of driving, I might tell a story about how the people of Rapa Nui over-consumed to the point of self-destruction. Now, Rapa Nui were a real people and they really did disappear and there is even evidence that they DID consume themselves to death, but I don't know that.

Nonetheless, I might tell the story to my children to get the point across. I wouldn't be telling them that "THIS is a historically accurate story with a moral," which may or may not be true (three or four), but I'm telling it to them to get a point across.

Some of the Bible stories strike me that way, in context of what I know about them.

Reasonable?

Stan said...

Okay ... so I'm guessing that's your explanation for your #4. The Bible writers may have accidentally gotten it right. But back to #3.

Dan Trabue said...

The Bible writers may have accidentally gotten it right. But back to #3.

? I'm not sure I understand. My story mostly represents #3. It is a story partially based on real history but with details filled in to provide a moral. The Truth of the story is what I was trying to get across, the facts matter less so.

Dan Trabue said...

As to the story from 1 Sam...

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey'" (1 Sam 15:2-3).

Is it not possible that God inspired the writer to put this story down as a reminder that God IS with them? That God IS looking out for the oppressed? That God understands this ugly desire for revenge - even when it goes so far as to call for killing innocent children?

Given the rest of the Bible and what it clearly says about not killing innocent children and about loving our enemies, I don't see how you could make that a literally historically accurate story without disregarding other clear Truths from the the Bible.

As I've stated before (and as I believe you agree) one of the criteria for studying the Bible is to use the clear to understand the obscure.

The Bible is quite clear that we are to love our enemies, that we are to overcome evil with good, that we are not to shed innocent blood, over and over this theme is pounded into our heads and hearts in God's Word. That Truth is clear.

This story, on the other hand, is obscure. God commands Israel to slaughter children?? Really??

Well, when we use the clear to understand the obscure, it would dictate away from that sort of reading. I'll be honest and say I'm not sure what sort of reading to put on it, but having read that people back then don't record history as we do now (ie, context - how DID they record history back then?), that they often told history with an eye to a moral lesson, for instance, it seems most logical to me that this does not indicate a literally historically accurate rendering of God's will.

Seems to me.

Stan said...

That was #3? Okay, so here's what I'm asking. You gave Option #3 as "The Bible presents a story that sounds historical in nature but it was NOT intended to be a historically accurate representation and it is not." (How you would argue that it is not accurate and disagree that I was right when I said it was either accurate or not accurate I'm not sure, but we're moving on now.) Here's the question. Addressing the story I did in my post and assuming it was not accurate, what was the story trying to say? It appears that the story (historical or not) tells about God ordering the destruction of an entire group of people as a good thing. You are arguing that it didn't (historically) happen. So what is the point of the story if it is not a historical account of an actual event?

Stan said...

Very good. You gave me your reasons as to why you came to your conclusions: "the criteria for studying the Bible is to use the clear to understand the obscure."

Now, why would you not conclude (as seems transparently obvious given your certainty that God's command, if it were true, was evil) that, in the story, Saul was the hero? I mean, he recognized that killing everyone was a bad thing and didn't do it while this "God" who (and it's nice, I suppose, that He's looking out for His people, but is a bit bloodthirsty) commanded it. I'd take Saul as the hero of that story over either God or Samuel. Why don't you?

Dan Trabue said...

I'd take Saul as the hero of that story over either God or Samuel. Why don't you?

Well, for one thing, I'm well aware of Saul's history (ie, the REST of the stories about Saul).

You are arguing that it didn't (historically) happen. So what is the point of the story if it is not a historical account of an actual event?

1. In using the clear to understand the obscure, I am relatively certain that God does not order people to kill children.

2. Beyond that, I can't say for sure what it means, other than it can't mean what is obviously discounted elsewhere clearly in the Bible.

3. I am content with saying, "Hey, I don't understand every story in the Bible. What I DO understand are the clear teachings, such as we ought not kill children."

4. Beyond that, I would guess that it probably gets to the Moral Truth that God is with us. That God is with the oppressed. That those who oppress "get what's coming to them eventually." Those all seem to be reasonable truths to conclude from the story without rejecting the clear truths we know from the Bible.

Dan Trabue said...

I'd take Saul as the hero of that story over either God or Samuel. Why don't you?

In the real world, though, I suspect that most of us would HIGHLY commend Saul's actions, if it were to happen today.

Consider this:

A man of God (supposedly - let's assume a wise and respected preacher who has always spoke truth before) approaches you and says that God wants you to go and wipe out all the people in the next town, even the children and puppies.

What does the wise and discerning Christian do in that case?

Would the wise and discerning Christian look to this story in 1 Sam and say, "well, there IS a precedent for it and Saul WAS condemned for NOT doing it, therefore, the best thing to do is to go wipe out the town, including the children..." Is THAT the right conclusion to draw from this story?

Why not?

And this IS a critical question to ask in regards to your post. IF you are saying that God sometimes commands people to kill children and IF you are saying that people are condemned for not following the word of a preacher/teacher who told them God wanted him to do this - even if THEY have not heard from God to commit this action, they should trust the word of this other person! - that has some serious ramifications and reasonable people can rightly expect some reasonable explanation, don't you think?

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "I would guess that it probably gets to the Moral Truth that God is with us. That God is with the oppressed. That those who oppress 'get what's coming to them eventually.'"

As my junior high teacher from Pakistan used to say, "I'm not being understanding." I don't get it. The author(s) were apparently inspired by God to present a story that radically misrepresents God in order to teach them that "those who oppress get what's coming to them eventually". The story (in your view) completely misrepresents God and completely misrepresents anything approaching justice while painting God in the role of "good guy" and Saul in the role of "bad guy". This says to you in some sense that "God is with the oppressed".

If I told my kids this story with the intent of teaching them that message, I'd have to call CPS for the abuse I inflicted. "Well, no, kids, God is not at all like that. And, no, that's not at all a good thing. Oh, no, no, that didn't actually happen. No, no, I'm just trying to show you that God is with you." "You mean the God in your story that commanded the deaths of everyone is with me?" "Yep! Pretty cool, eh?" "No, thanks, I think I'll avoid that God!" "No, no, you don't understand, it's just a story. He isn't actually like that. There's nothing actually true about it at all. You're taking it the wrong way." "Stan, we're here to take these kids away from you. Your stories are way too bizarre and frightening and sick."

Kidding aside, do you really find some sort of comfort in that story? Is it really your idea that God's inspired writers correctly totally misrepresented God to teach His people that everything will be okay?

Dan Trabue said...

Kidding aside, do you really find some sort of comfort in that story? Is it really your idea that God's inspired writers correctly totally misrepresented God to teach His people that everything will be okay?

To be clear, it is a troubling story and that is why I have repeatedly said, I'm comfortable with admitting I don't know exactly WHAT it means. The only thing more troubling than trying to explain away that story is to try to explain it saying that it DOES mean that God commands people sometimes to kill children.

You think THAT is a more reasonable conclusion? You think CPS ("I'd have to call CPS for the abuse I inflicted...") or reasonable people wouldn't be MORE disturbed that you're teaching your children that God sometimes commands people to kill children?? You don't think your children would question your god who sometimes commands killing children, in direct opposition to the bulk of clear biblical teaching?

Dan Trabue said...

Look, can we agree that it is a disturbing story however you interpret it? It seems we have at least two ways of looking at it (keeping in mind the rest of the Bible)...

1. That the story represents God's ACTUAL position that sometimes God commands people to kill children.

2. That it does NOT mean that (it can't mean that, since the rest of the Bible teaches clearly against such an interpretation), so it must mean something else.

Which seems most reasonable, moral and biblical to you? The first one? Okay. I disagree strongly.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "What does the wise and discerning Christian do in that case?"

Well, of course, the wise and discerning Christian would recognize that there are no more judges/prophets on the order of Samuel, ordained by God as God's mouthpiece to God's people. (I'm sorry, but a modern preacher compared to an Old Testament prophet is apples to oranges.)

Dan Trabue: "The only thing more troubling than trying to explain away that story is to try to explain it saying that it DOES mean that God commands people sometimes to kill children."

Well, since I believe that no such position of judge/prophet ordained by God as God's mouthpiece to God's people still exists, I would have to modify that to "God has in the past commanded people to kill people (of all ages)."

Dan Trabue: "You think CPS ... or reasonable people wouldn't be MORE disturbed that you're teaching your children that God sometimes commands people to kill children?"

Just kind of a side question: Would you recommend someone call CPS on parents who teach their kids this? (I brought up CPS as a joke. I think I made that clear.) Since I taught my kids that humans are sinful and deserve God's wrath, they weren't too disturbed by the notion that He had (in the past) made such a command. It would appear from your perception of god is that we have nothing at all to fear from him/her/it. Is that your perspective?

Look, we beat this whole "Original Sin" thing to death ... over and over ... without any type of resolution, so I'm not going there again. But, as you are so fond in pointing out, it is recommended that "it can't mean that, since the rest of the Bible teaches clearly against such an interpretation" would be better stated "it can't mean that, since the rest of the Bible from my understanding teaches clearly against such an interpretation." It doesn't teach any such thing from my perspective.

Dan Trabue said...

No, no need to call CPS over either position. I was just using that as a reference since you brought it up.

You stated...

the wise and discerning Christian would recognize that there are no more judges/prophets on the order of Samuel, ordained by God as God's mouthpiece to God's people. (I'm sorry, but a modern preacher compared to an Old Testament prophet is apples to oranges.)

To be clear: Is this a Biblical teaching or merely your opinion?

I am wholly unaware of any biblical teaching that suggests that the flawed saints of the Bible are in any way different than the flawed saints of today, in regards to their humanity or their understanding of God.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

we beat this whole "Original Sin" thing to death ... over and over ... without any type of resolution, so I'm not going there again.

I'm not sure how Original Sin plays into this conversation.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Is this a Biblical teaching or merely your opinion?"

It is my opinion that this is a biblical teaching.

Dan Trabue: "I am wholly unaware of any biblical teaching that suggests that the flawed saints of the Bible are in any way different than the flawed saints of today"

Well, I won't disagree with you there (wholly), but it has always been my understanding that when the flawed prophets of the Bible rightly spoke the Word of God they were without error. I would also say that Paul probably made mistakes and Peter and ... well, of course they did ... but the postion is that when God inspired (breathed) His Word, they wrote that without error. Of course, I suppose you can disagree. You disagree that the God-breathed Word is not without error.

Dan Trabue: "I'm not sure how Original Sin plays into this conversation."

As has ever been when this topic (God commanding His people to kill) comes up, if you are right and there is a group of people who are wholly innocent, then it would be wrong for God to do so. On the other hand, if I am right and there is no one genuinely innocent before God, then it would not be wrong for God to do so.

Dan Trabue said...

On the other hand, if I am right and there is no one genuinely innocent before God, then it would not be wrong for God to do so.

? If there were a 10 year old boy who DID understand right and wrong and was not wholly innocent, you think it reasonable to assume that God might really tell someone to go slaughter them?

Aside from the whole Original Sin thing, I find that to be poor exegesis.

Dan Trabue said...

Is it related enough to this post if I were to ask you if you think God might STILL tell people to slaughter children today? And if not, what biblical reason do you have for thinking something has changed?

(I apologize if I've asked this question before, my memory is not so good.)

Stan said...

I'd like to repeat my question in question form. (OK, it was question form before, but I'll try again.) In your view of what god is like, is there anything at all to fear from him?

Note: The term "slaughter" as used in your comment has certain connotations. In terms of people (as opposed to animals), the idea is either a massacre (large numbers) or to kill with brutality. Since you were referencing one 10-year-old, it can only be a reference to brutal killing. It would appear, from your choice of words, that you would believe that God is not allowed to do that. Is it the age factor ("God is not allowed to brutally kill anyone under the age of ___") or is it anyone at all? (I think you can see that this question is related to the previous.)

Dan Trabue: "[Do] you think God might STILL tell people to slaughter children today?"

The last time God ordered such an event was at the very end of a very unique moment in time. Samuel was the last of the judges, the last one between God and His people when Israel was still a theocracy. It started in Moses' day and ended when Samuel died. As such, I don't believe that God would do such a thing again (just like He wouldn't do a Flood again).

Dan Trabue said...

In your view of what god is like, is there anything at all to fear from him?

I think the Bible teaches that...

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."

And...

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

The word "fear" (as in "fear of the Lord") is used often in the Bible, sometimes meaning respect, sometimes meaning something closer to actual fear, as we think of the term.

I think what we are to fear are the consequences of rejecting God/God's ways. Sin has awful consequences - death, destruction, guilt, separation, anxiety, pain, etc - these consequences are to be feared, loathed. God WILL let us suffer the consequences of our actions.

But in God, there ought be no fear. God is perfect love and perfect love has nothing of fear in it.

So my best answer would be to echo John - there is no fear in love, we have nothing to fear from God. We DO have something to fear in rejecting God and God's ways. The Bible often reads that we ought to fear the Lord, but I think that is more of a metaphor for fearing the consequences of rejecting the Lord.

God loves us and wants only the best for us. God is not willing that any would perish. God invites us lovingly to God's community. There is no fear in that.

Stan said...

So, in your view, God allows us to suffer consequences, but He doesn't actually impose any. It would be wrong of God to kill a sinner. Is that your understanding?

Dan Trabue said...

Who am I to say that God is wrong for doing anything? God is God and not one to be boxed in like a caged lion.

I am just standing by what WE ought to do and not do. We ought not kill children. I may not know much definitively, but I am certain of that and I find that any biblical exegesis that says God sometimes commands us to do so suspect, from a biblical, moral and logical point of view.

For what it's worth, I don't think your guess about "pre-Samuel" God used to do this, but "post-Samuel" God changed God's approach to be very convincing, biblically. IF one assumes that God actually DID command people to kill children, THEN there is no place in the Bible where God said, "I don't work in that way anymore," and you have set up a precedent: God JUST WELL MIGHT command someone to ask you to kill children and you are apparently to take them at their word... or not? I'm not sure where you come down on that point.

I am not convinced that this is a good biblical position. It seems to me to discount clear biblical and logical teaching/thinking that we ought not kill children. In other words, it seems to discount the clear in order to accommodate the obscure, which is bad biblical exegesis.

starflyer said...

I'd also like to know what Dan's "minimum age" requirement is for entrance into hell? Assuming Dan, that you believe hell is an actual place. (I won't assume that!)

In other words..."God truly wouldn't send a child under the age of ____ to hell."

Dan, I think you need to consider the Holiness of God. We are so depraved (yes, even infants), that compared to God we (all of us, infants included)are deserving of hell. Even infants...Dan, do you think God could/would ever send an infant to hell? I'm just asking...

Also, if He did, would He be justified? And would He still be a loving and just God?

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "It seems to me to discount clear biblical and logical teaching/thinking that we ought not kill children."

Okay, I guess I'm confused. You've specified in this series of questions that this is not an innocent child. You also said, "Who am I to say that God is wrong for doing anything?" Yet you say that God would be wrong for ordering deaths. If He's not wrong for doing anything, why would that be wrong? If God would be just in condemning those who are not innocent, why could He not command someone to carry out the sentence? I'm really, really lost here. It all seems rather inconsistent, contradictory.

Dan Trabue said...

SF asked...

I'd also like to know what Dan's "minimum age" requirement is for entrance into hell?

I, like most Baptists and many evangelicals and, if I were to guess, most Christians, believe in an age of accountability. That one has to be able to discern right from wrong in order to truly sin, thus infants, children up to a certain age and some mentally challenged people can't actually sin and therefore are under God's grace with no need to confess what they did not know to do and they do not need to decide to follow Jesus when they did not know they needed to make such a decision.

This "age of accountability" is not a specific age, but a condition of being able to discern right/wrong.

It is your opinion that infants are "depraved"? I'd have to wonder what definition you're using. MW has, "marked by corruption or evil" and online dictionary has "Morally corrupt; perverted."

A child who does not know right from wrong can't be morally corrupt, one has to have awareness and ability to choose wrong in order to be morally corrupt.

But, I don't imagine Stan wants us to go down this rabbit trail, so we'd better drop it. Unless he says it's okay (I have a hard time telling when something is and isn't off topic here).

But no, since you ask, I do not believe that God would ever send an infant to hell. That would not be the God of the Bible, nor a moral or just God. That would be more of an anti-christ sort of God, seems to me.

Surely you don't think thusly?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said/asked...

Yet you say that God would be wrong for ordering deaths. If He's not wrong for doing anything, why would that be wrong? If God would be just in condemning those who are not innocent, why could He not command someone to carry out the sentence? I'm really, really lost here. It all seems rather inconsistent, contradictory.

God can do anything. WE can't. And if someone TELLS us that God is telling us to do something that God has said we ought NOT to do - something as obviously evil as killing children - we can know, based upon the Bible, upon logic and upon God's word written upon our hearts that it is not of God.

God CAN do anything. God WON'T command evil.

If you prefer to think of it this way, we can probably agree that God can't (or won't) command evil. Whichever you prefer. Surely you agree God won't command us to rape puppies or rip out baby hearts, yes? There are some things God won't do because it is not in God's nature. Commanding us to do evil is one of those things.

Stan said...

Oh, look! A point of agreement. I agree that God will not command evil because He cannot command evil because it violates His nature. Of course, that doesn't help a whole lot because you see it as evil for God to command a human executioner to put a sinner to death, but at least it was a point of agreement there for a brief, shining moment.

Dan Trabue: "A child who does not know right from wrong can't be morally corrupt."

A short while ago I wrote a post on sins of ignorance. Biblically, human beings are guilty of sinning without intending to do so all the time. (Most of the Old Testament sacrificial system was aimed at those sins.) It appears, however, that you believe that the only way to sin is to sin intentionally. Is that your view? What then do you do with all those passages on sins "committed in ignorance"?

Stan said...

Side comment:

Dan Trabue: "But in God, there ought be no fear"

I wrote a post on this some time ago. I think it's interesting that some people take a single verse like 1 John 4:18 and stand it up against the vast numbers of other passages warning us to fear God (and the Hebrew and Greek words are not "reverence" -- they are "terror") and say, "See? All those verses are wrong because this verse says 'If God loves you perfectly, there's no need to fear Him'." (These same people tend to do the reverse as well. "Oh, sure, just because you find a few verses that contradict my view you make a doctrine out of it! That's wrong!")

starflyer said...

Dan, I used to believe in an "age of accountability". I'd certainly like to, but as I learn more and more about my own condition, and the condition of mankind...I am realizing we are all so deeply depraved, that yes, even an infant is...and thus the child is also deserving of hell. That's very disturbing I know. Like I said, I want to cling to an "age of accountability" argument...but I am not sure I can any longer. Dang it! Does that make me a Calvinist? Stan?? Help? Is something happening to me??? Okay, I get a little tipsy on Fridays.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said/asked...

It appears, however, that you believe that the only way to sin is to sin intentionally. Is that your view? What then do you do with all those passages on sins "committed in ignorance"?

I absolutely agree with you that there is something to the notion of sinning in ignorance. Thinking it is okay to nuke a nation or fly an airplane into a building and doing so without realizing how sinful that action is, that would be an example. They may have a totally clean conscience, and yet they HAVE sinned. It can happen.

But an infant, a child up to at least some reasoning capability does NOT have the ability to meaningfully sin. The infant who, for instance, rolls over in his crib and in so doing accidentally harms his sibling - breaking his arm somehow, for instance - is not guilty of any "sin," even though that infant caused harm.

The difference is that the infant does not have the reasoning ability to deliberately choose to do wrong. The bomber who kills innocent people in an act of violence may THINK he has done the right thing, but the thing is, he HAD the ability to reason it out and he just reasoned it out wrongly and horribly. He DID sin, even though he did not know it, and the fault lie in his reasoning.

The infant/child up to a certain age has no such reasoning available.

Thus, that is why a JUST God could/would not condemn an innocent human, it's contrary to biblical Truths about the nature of God.

Stan said...

and the Hebrew and Greek words are not "reverence" -- they are "terror"

In the research I've done, there are some of both, fyi. That is, sometimes, when the Bible is talking about fear of the Lord, it is using a greek/hebrew word for respect. Other times, it is using a term for actual fear.

Dan Trabue said...

SF brought up...

I am realizing we are all so deeply depraved, that yes, even an infant is...and thus the child is also deserving of hell.

Since he brought it up, do you mind if I ask in what possible way does he (or you) think a child is "deeply depraved," and what the child had done to be "deserving of hell"?

For most of us, when we think of guilt and being held accountable for something, it involves the conscious choice to actually DO something wrong. Since I think we are all agreed that babies DO nothing wrong, what are they guilty of? How are they deeply depraved or corrupted?

I understand that the Bible uses some terminology which you all then take to mean what you're suggesting (that babies are guilty, depraved sinners, deserving of punishment), but these terms do not fit the normal English meaning of the words, at least as most of us understand them, which is why we have such a hard time understanding your viewpoint, I think.

I mean, think about it: If you have an infant who flips over in the crib and happens to knock over your cup, which you had laid nearby, do you "punish" that babe for that horrible crime? Or do you recognize that no harmful intent was intended and do not punish the babe or hold it against her?

I think for many of us, the words of Jesus apply, even though they're not directly talking about this topic...

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

If you know how to rightly treat your infant, who has done no wrong - CAN do no sin - how much more does our God in Heaven know how to treat that infant?

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "meaningfully sin"

I'm not even sure what such a phrase would mean.

The problem with the "baby rolling over" example is that an adult rolling over and, say, smothering her baby (to use a biblical example) has not sinned (knowingly or not). But clearly, in your mind, sin can only be done by intent. If someone is always told, for instance, that hating people of another race is right and never told it was wrong, they haven't sinned by being a racist because they never knew right from wrong -- they're ignorant.

Dan Trabue: "In the research I've done, there are some of both, fyi."

The singularly most common term in the Old Testament describing "the fear of the Lord" or something like it is yare' (and its near relatives). The word means to fear or be afraid, to be in awe, to terrify. In terms of "awe", we may derive "reverence", but our current use of the term "awesome" loses something because of misuse. The original definition of awe is "dread; great fear mingled with respect." In that sense it fits perfectly with "reverence" as long as you keep in mind that this "respect" part of "reverence" is mixed with "great fear".

After that we find pachad, defined as alarm, dread, fear, terror. You can see these (in reference to God) in places like 1 Sam 11:7, 2 Chron 14:14, 17:10, 19:7, 20:29, Psa 36:1, and Isa 2:10. After that you'll find mora. It is actually derived from yare' and is defined as dread, fear, terribleness, or terror. I found two uses (in reference to God): Psa 9:20 and Isa 8:13.

The New Testament is quite a bit easier. There is one and only one word used when referring to the fear of God or the fear of the Lord. That word is phobos (and its near relatives). I'm pretty sure that the casual observer will see that this is the root of our term "phobia", and this is not "reverential awe". It is defined as "alarm, fright, exceeding fear, terror".

The words used for "the fear of God" or "the fear of the Lord" (or their related concepts ... like "Fear God" and so forth) are exclusively intended to convey fear -- genuine, honest-to-goodness fear. It is possible that we will have simultaneous fear and respect ("awe") so that will fit as well (in some cases), but this "fear of the Lord" referenced more times than I could count easily is not simple "respect" or "reverence". It is always intermingled with very real fear. So when we work our way down to "There is no fear in love", one has to ask, "What happened to change every single command throughout the whole of Scripture from 'fear God' to 'no fear'?"

You might suspect something changed. I suspect a failure to properly read the text. If you read 1 John 4:15-21, you'll find that the entire notion of "God loves us perfectly, so we need not fear" is not what is in mind. Here's the question. When John speaks of "perfect love", of whom is he speaking? If you follow the text, he is speaking of us. Verse 17 talks of God's love ... perfected with us. Verse 19 says, "We love because he first loved us." The "perfect love" that casts out fear is when we love God perfectly. Why does it cast out fear? "Fear has to do with punishment" (1 John 4:18). When we love Him imperfectly, we need to fear His chastisement. When we love Him perfectly, we no longer have anything to fear from Him. Now, you see, we don't have John contradicting nearly every author of the Bible who said we need to fear God.

Stan said...

Starflyer: "Dang it! Does that make me a Calvinist? Stan?? Help?"

I'm afraid I can't help you there, man. You're well on your way. (Read the Bible while following the thinking through to its logical conclusions and, poof, you're a Calvinist!) You're on your own, pal.

Stan said...

Dan,

FYI, "marked by corruption" is precisely the idea behind "Total Depravity" and "Original Sin". Human beings are born spiritually dead, corrupted. (I know, I know, "That can't be!!!", but that's still the idea.)

Dan Trabue said...

But clearly, in your mind, sin can only be done by intent.

No, I have already addressed that. One can CLEARLY sin unintentionally (I gave examples).

No, in my mind and I think the minds of all rational adults, one can only sin if one has the ability of to understand wrong/right or the ability to reason.

Why do you think that courts won't try someone if they are underage or have extremely limited IQ? Because there is nothing to judge - even reasonable atheists recognize that it is wrong to punish someone for something when they have no cognitive ability to discern right from wrong.

You don't like my rolling over analogy, how about this: IF you leave a handgun on the floor and a baby manages to pull the trigger and fire it and kills someone, we don't even begin to think about punishing the baby. It is a ridiculous concept: They would have no notion that moving their hand that way around that thing on the floor could hurt anyone, or even much notion of what it means to hurt someone.

On the other hand, if an rational adult with a regular IQ were never told that it was wrong to shoot a gun in the house and they do and accidentally kill someone, they WILL be charged with a crime, for negligence if nothing else.

The difference is in the ability to make rational choices. If our secular courts recognize this, why is it you think God would think differently?

Dan Trabue said...

Human beings are born spiritually dead, corrupted.

I rather doubt you can support this biblically or logically.

Ephesians 2?

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world

Doesn't say or hint that we were born spiritually dead or corrupted.

Colossians 2?

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Him...

Doesn't say or hint that we were born spiritually dead or corrupted.

The story of Adam's fall?

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

"On the day you eat of it," some texts say, "you will die." That is, WHEN you reject God (or refuse to accept God, if you prefer), that is your spiritual death.

I don't believe you can even begin to support that notion biblically.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "I don't believe you can even begin to support that notion biblically."

Aw, shucks, you got me. Yeah, I pulled that notion out of thin air to see if you were paying attention. Oh, wait! That's not right. We have Scripture like "in Adam all die" (1 Cor 15:22) and "one trespass led to condemnation for all men" (Rom 5:18), classical orthodoxy like this from the London Baptist Confession (which is echoed in every major confession), an entire paper on it from Jonathan Edwards, and then there's that cool post from Dr. Mohler. (Amusingly -- to me -- back then you didn't like his stuff -- bad Baptist and all that (London Baptist Confession not withstanding) -- but you thought he agreed with you when he said, "Adam's sin and guilt, imputed to every single human being, explains why we are born as sinners." The doctrine of Original Sin is exactly about imputed sin and guilt.) Then there's the entire history of the Catholic Church that held that position (and was never refuted, even by the Reformers). Hmmm, maybe I didn't make that up.

Look, you don't actually believe that anyone is genuinely dead in sin, so why would you care if I said everyone is? If humans were dead in sin, they'd be unable to respond to the Gospel until they had new life, and you most certainly reject that notion.

But, look, we're not going down this path again, are we? I know that no matter what Scripture I offer, logic I use, and other backing I give, you'll say, "I rather doubt you can support this biblically or logically." Which is why I said way back when, "Look, we beat this whole 'Original Sin' thing to death ... over and over ... without any type of resolution, so I'm not going there again."

Dan Trabue said...

Um, Stan, you provided no scripture to back up the claim that we are all born spiritually dead. You know that, right?

You said:

Look, you don't actually believe that anyone is genuinely dead in sin, so why would you care if I said everyone is?

Because you're preaching bad doctrine and, as a Christian, I care about that? If I think you're preaching bad doctrine, I have an obligation to at least share that with you, right?

Stan, you're a pretty hard stickler for the Bible, right? Well, don't you think that you ought not make claims (like "babies are spiritually dead") if you can't support it with scripture? Or, if you're going to make the claim, to admit that it's just a hunch you have, not based on scripture?

Stan said...

Sigh. You're right. I neglected to include Hezekiah 5:3 that says, "we are all born spiritually dead." I could have included 3 Peter 2:7, but that's just a quote from the Hezekiah passage.

Dan, I included Scripture. You don't accept it. As I said.

Dan, if I'm preaching bad doctrine, I'm preaching bad classical, orthodox doctrine. You make it sound like I made this stuff up.

It's there. You don't like it. Fine. You don't accept that Eph 2:1 says all humans are dead in sin. Fine. You don't accept the 1 Cor 15 passage or the Rom 5 passage. Fine. You call it "bad doctrine". Fine. But let's deal with the truth. It is not entirely accurate that I didn't get this out of the Bible. It is accurate that you don't accept it as such. Fine. Now ... move on. Another topic. (You understand that "Uh, uh!!" isn't a biblical argument, right?)

Stan said...

By the way, if you'll google "are we born spiritually dead", you'll find I'm not alone ... by a long shot.

Dan Trabue said...

I didn't say you were alone. There are a lot of people apparently who think that people are born spiritually dead - that babies are guilty of something. I don't know how many or how central a thesis that notion is (that infants are spiritually dead) because I've rarely run across any who thought thusly, even in my conservative background.

I'm not speaking right now of your whole Original Sin thesis, just that aspect of it that suggests that infants are spiritually dead and guilty of something (some intangible "thing" that you can't name out loud, just that they are guilty of the condition of being human and, thus, "sinners" even though they have not yet committed a sin).

You all just think that contrary to anything in the Bible, since that idea is not found in its pages.

And you're welcome to think that. Just know that I'd prefer that you didn't say, "God says infants are spiritually dead," or even "the Bible says infants are spiritually dead," and instead made it clear that it's just the extrabiblical hunch of some christians.

I think it would help, too, to keep in mind that I don't think your argument is with me so much as with the Merriam and Webster.

Stan said...

Alright, Dan, last time and then we can stop ... you can stop. I gave you references. I gave you more than references ... other sources than me. So ... you have decided that I'm a liar, apparently an intentional liar who is saying I draw my belief from the Bible but am only operating off of some "extrabiblical hunch".

And, apparently your source of genuine truth on whether or not humans are born spiritually dead is ... your Merriam Webster dictionary?

Last time. You've gone beyond "friendly conversation" to implying unavoidably that I'm a bald-faced liar. If your best argument is "the dictionary says otherwise", I guess we're done. Since you haven't responded to the Scriptures I've offered, I guess we're done. Yea ... we're done.