Kind And Merciful Or Harsh And Cruel?

Mural_painting_celebrating_Pol_PotIn yesterday’s post, “A Look At The ‘Nicer Than God’ Position,” I discussed one aspect of the “a good God wouldn’t do that” accusation leveled by atheists and some progressives against the God of the Bible. The main thrust of my article is that God isn’t guilty of condoning sinful acts or thoughts or wishes simply because those appear in the Bible.

But what about the acts God not only condones but orders which seem unduly harsh, even cruel? Most often those making this accusation have in mind something like God’s command to Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites.

For someone who thinks Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer or Pol Pot should not face judgment for their acts against their fellow man, I have no answer. For those who believe it’s right to hold people accountable for the harm they perpetrate, then it’s simply a matter of looking at history to understand God’s command.

The Amalekites were the people who harassed Israel on their way out of Egypt, sniping at the stragglers who were “faint and weary.” We can surmise the people under attack would be the elderly, the sick, and perhaps the young. For this act, which was also connected to their dismissal of God’s authority over them (see Deut. 25:18-19), they were judged.

In fact, there are two primary reasons God gives for judging a people: 1) they are oppressing others; 2) they have taken a stand against Him.

Psalm 146:7-9 illustrates the former.

[God] executes justice for the oppressed;
[God] gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Clearly God is for the oppressed, which means He stands against the oppressor. For this, people today judge Him. In part it’s in ignorance, but it’s also an assumption–Man is good, so these ancient peoples were innocent victims of a God wanting to wipe them out.

They were not innocent.

Of course, none of us is innocent. None of us deserves to live, and in fact we won’t keep living. We will pay with our lives for the guilt that clings to us. Apart from God’s mercy, we will also pay with our souls. (But thanks be to God who sent His Son to rescue us).

Which brings up the second reason God judges people: He repays those who hate Him (see Deut. 7:10). Their hatred is most often shown in their idol worship, but also in their treatment of other people–orphans, widows, strangers on one hand and God’s people on the other.

Interestingly, God most often gives those who are against Him what they want. He lets them experience the consequences of their own actions:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head (Ps. 7:14-16a, English Standard Version – emphasis added)

The bottom line, I believe, is this: those who hate God can’t accept the fact that He is their judge. They don’t want a judge, any judge, but particularly one who is righteous, as the Bible reveals God to be. See the following, for example:

  • “God is a righteous judge” – Psalm 7:11a
  • “In righteousness He judges and wages war” – Rev. 19:11b
  • “[Christ] kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” – 1 Peter 2:23b
  • “For I, the LORD, love justice . . . and I will faithfully give them their recompense” – Isaiah 61:8a

Those of us who accept God as the one who rightly and righteously judges all He has made, trust His judgment.

Of course, God’s judgment gets muddled with pain and suffering. Suffice it to say for the sake of this discussion, that not all pain, suffering, and death is a particular judgment handed down by God, as opposed to the general and natural consequences of sin. Job’s children, for example, didn’t die as a result of God’s judgment of them.

So the question, is God kind and merciful or harsh and cruel, hinges upon the understanding of Him as a just judge. Someone being oppressed who He rescues, someone lost who He finds, sees Him clearly as abundantly kind and merciful.

Advertisements
Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments (54)  
Tags: , , , , ,

54 Comments

  1. Dear Becky,

    I couldn’t help but recall the Lord’s parable, in Matthew 20: 1-16, especially verses 14-16, when you mentioned Jeffrey Dahmer. It is true that there are people on the earth that we tend to love to hate, because we love justice. However, from God’s standpoint, each person is redeemable, because God’s Grace, Forgiveness and ability to redeem is inestimable. In Jeffrey Dahmer’s case, I understand that he actually repented of his sin, became a Christian, and requested to die, so that he could never again be tempted to hurt another human being.

    Shocking, isn’t it? Even more shocking is God’s extra-mile forgiveness and Grace. The question is, when Jesus asks, whether it isn’t lawful for Him to do what He pleases with all that belongs to Him, and if we are envious, because He Is generous, what will we say? Will we, like some of His early disciples, go away? Or will we realize that God’s track record Is so phenomenal that we can implicitly trust His judgment, even in the things that we do not, yet, understand?

    One of the most extraordinary blessings from God, I think, is that He lets us entertain our questions in His hearing, and bothers to give us many of the answers, so we know we are on solid ground, when the rest of the world assumes our faith is a sink hole! He doesn’t have to.

    Although opinion polls may make or break presidents and rulers, God’s objective Goodness Is the beacon for eternity. Jesus asked the rich young ruler why he called Him “good.” According to Jesus, only One Is Good, and He Is God!

    Don’t you just wish that we could be with Moses, during that scary-wonderful moment in the cleft of the rock? The New King James, in Exodus 33:19 reads: “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

    It probably takes ALL His Goodness to forgive and love some of us! Praise His Name! He has chosen to do it, anyway!

    Like

    • That response helps very much, Peggy, thank you. It’s not good enough to say that the Amalekites deserved it, and to leave it at that; because a lot of people who deserve judgement do not seem to receive it, while many comparatively good people suffer terrible wrong. Other portions of Scripture deal with this, including the Book of Job and Pslam 73.

      I find it fascinating that Jeffrey Dahmer asked to die. He must have come to the understanding that his depraved life was not worth fightinig for. All life is valuable, even Jeffrey Dahmer’s. The other inmate who killed Dahmer did wrong, because it was not his position to execute judgement. However, both justice and mercy resulted from that act of violence. Justice — because Dahmer clearly deserved to die. Mercy — because death was kinder to Dahmer than continued life in this world, probably in many ways.

      I am a depraved sinner. I could have been Jeffrey Dahmer. I could have been one of the Amalekites. Death will be a mercy to me, as well, whether or not it happens to come through unjust violence.

      Still, this does not fully answer the accusation, because God commanded the deaths of the Amalekites. The only answer that I have for that is that God equally “commanded” every single death of every single person who has ever died. I believe that the specific diety of the ancient Jews and the ultimate and universal reality are one and the same.

      This is difficult for Christians, and unbelievers rally around it, because we all believe that life is truly valuable, and that death is evil. But death is a fact that we all have to experience, and Christians believe that God has dealt with death in a more final and universal way than the life or death of specific people during specific times.

      Like

      • Bainespal, good comment. I appreciate you wrestling with this issue along with me.

        I’ve started looking at death not so much as what God commanded but as what He warned against, in the same way a parent might tell a small child not to touch the hot stove. The parent doesn’t command the child to be burned, but warns him of the consequences of his actions.

        God warned Adam and Eve that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in death. Now death is here. It’s the wages of sin. In fact God refers to death as the enemy. As you alluded to, when Christ returned in new life out of the grave, He conquered death.

        When I was a kid, I wanted that to mean that I wouldn’t have to die. Now I understand that there is more to life than keeping our physical bodies going. Leaving this deteriorating clay pot behind is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Being separated from God is far more serious.

        But you’re right–we do value life, in part because we believe judgment comes after death, and we want people to turn from rebellion against God before it’s too late; and in part because Mankind is precious in God’s sight since he created us in His image: what’s precious to Him is precious to us.

        And about those Amalekites–it was at least two hundred years after they attacked Israel that God carried out the judgment against them. He gave them all that time to turn to Him and repent, but as a people they continued to oppose Israel and through them, oppose God.

        In Peter’s first letter he talks about the patience of God that kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark for the people who were disobedient. Elsewhere Noah is said to have preached–meaning that the people who died in the flood could have repented. At every turn, God warned and invited and called. He didn’t capriciously zap a people just because He could.

        Becky

        Like

    • Peggy, I used Jeffrey Dahmer simply to illustrate that mankind seeks justice when there’s a clear act of evil. Here in California just this past week there’s been a “man hunt” for a former police officer who killed out of revenge and publicly declared his intention to keep on killing. He had a list of 50 people and their families who he said he would kill. Rightly so people wanted him apprehended and judged for his actions. He was acting the part of an “oppressor.” Judgment isn’t so much against him as it is for those families on his hit list.

      God’s mercy and grace are a separate issue–a glorious one that sets God apart from the many other religious systems that put the onus on Mankind to earn a right standing. Your mentioning that Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian before he died is evidence of God’s limitless love and compassion and willingness to forgive. Same with Ted Bundy, another serial killer, and countless others of us whose sins may not look on the outside as heinous. God knows our hearts. He knows the blackness that separates us from Him, that necessitated the pure, spotless Sacrifice.

      God’s goodness makes it possible to trust Him to judge righteously and to apply His mercy fairly. Some might think a killer like Jeffrey Dahmer doesn’t deserve God’s mercy. But no one deserves mercy. Others might think the Amalekites didn’t deserve God’s judgment, but we all deserve His judgment.

      The miracle of His love and grace is that we don’t all get what we deserve–in fact, that any who believe on His name and accept His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf can experience forgiveness and new life.

      In light of all He’s done for us, it’s so hard to imagine people accusing Him of wrong doing, yet here we are.

      Becky

      Like

  2. You equate the genocide ordered by God in the bible to exacting justice on the likes of Hitler and Pol-Pot?

    1 Samuel 15:3 “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

    Let me repeat three key words: “INFANT AND SUCKLING.”

    Your argument is invalid.

    Like

    • Pop Guru, thanks for stopping by to voice your opinion on the subject. Your emphasis on the young illustrates your worldview–those little ones, from this perspective, had done nothing wrong. They were innocent.

      The truth is, Mankind is not good or innocent. Talk to any number of parents of a nine-month-old, and you’ll hear their stories of dealing with a defiant, rebellious baby. Not to mention that we all recognize our guilty hearts every time we say, “Nobody’s perfect”.

      On top of that, God is omniscient. He knows the thoughts of a person, what he hopes for, what he plans, before any of it comes about. I certainly don’t know that about someone else. I wouldn’t trust myself or any other human to judge the way God does because we’re limited, finite, and fallible. He is not.

      I mentioned in an earlier comment the situation here in SoCal this past week in which a former police officer killed an engaged couple barely out of college, then wrote a revenge letter listing 50 police officers and their families he would kill. The news for several days showed pictures of him in his uniform. He was also in the military and they showed those pictures, too. I kept thinking, if only his training officers knew .. . Of course they didn’t, but what if they had? Shouldn’t they have stopped him before he harmed others?

      In the same way God stopped people before they could do harm, but we find this offensive because we don’t want to trust His judgment. We want to see the evil and make the determination ourselves. In other words, we want His job.

      Becky

      Like

  3. I agree completely with Pop Guru and add this:

    You cannot be both just and benevolent. Not at the same time. That is like hearing “I love you and this pains me greatly but I have to damn you to eternal torture forever because you neglected to claim to love me”

    That is neither just nor benevolent. It is the action of a psychopath. It is also the foundation of Christian faith.

    Like

    • The foundation of the Christian faith is that God found a way to be both just and benevolent.

      Actually, benevolence is impossible without justice, because the world is broken and unjust. To leave the world as it is would not be benevolent.

      Like

    • I agree with Bainespal that justice is benevolence–it just depends on which side of the coin you find yourself. If someone is abusing me, and they are stopped, the act of judgment against them is benevolent to me.

      But apart from that, God has done the most remarkable thing–beyond anything Mankind could come up with. He Himself satisfied the judgment due Mankind by swapping us out and taking our place. So He’s the just judge but also the merciful rescuer.

      That’s what sets God apart from the false gods and religious systems that require Mankind to do this or that to earn some sort of rightness.

      Becky

      Like

      • Seriously? And why did god have to sacrifice himself on the cross? For sins that he bestowed upon us as a bad parent in the garden? You have a very ‘special’ sense of justice and benevolence. If the god of Abraham exists then that we suffer at all is on his head.

        I trust that you will, of course, continue to think this tyrant who wishes either your eternal enslavement or your eternal punishment is like the best father anyone could ever have.

        Like

        • I don’t believe that God made up arbitrary rules in order to charge us with sin. God simply is goodness, and there is no goodness apart from Him. Therefore, the only way that God can give us goodness is by giving us Himself. When we choose to turn away from God (no matter what that choice may look like externally), evil and death is the natural result. Judgment is not really worse than the natural result of our condition. Maybe judgment is merely the pronouncement of our self-made condition, allowing us the chance to repent if we so choose.

          Like

          • I sure hope you knew this was coming. You should have.

            If the Christian god is both omnipotent and omniscient then he _knew_ that eve would eat the fruit because he was going to put it right there in the garden for her and Adam. He knew this before day 1 and did it anyway. Either he is not omniscient or he purposefully put that tree there knowing that Adam and Eve would fail.

            If he put it there because he had to even though he knew they would eat from it, then he is not omnipotent. If you insist that he is somehow still both omniscient and omnipotent it is quite fair for me to say that the god of Abraham is the progenitor of all that is vile and evil in human experience.

            Like

          • That’s the paradox. We find ourselves in a universe where vile and evil things happen. We know that the vile and evil things are not what should be, or how do we have any right to claim that evil is bad? But if good is really the way that things should be, why did evil happen? This is the nature of the universe. This is the only existence we know. We have no idea what “omnipotence” really means.

            In your view, evil would have to be the Origin. Chaos drives evolution, bringing suffering to the sentient beings that call themselves human. But if Chaos created us, what right do we have to say that our values are really right? Why is genocide evil? Why should it be right that any individual human be given the chance to live a free and healthy and emotionally happy existence?

            Sorry for not replying. I wasn’t going to, but when I saw that Rebecca LuElla Miller and violetwisp were still going at it, I decided I should say something more, even though of course I can’t answer the unanswerable.

            Like

  4. “None of us deserves to live” What a bizarre thing to say! I guess this kind of devaluing of people, preying on their deepest insecurities and offering hope of something beyond is one way to religiously recruit. But do you really believe that about everyone around you – all your friends and family?

    Like

    • I guess that does sound bizarre. The thing is, the Bible says the just deserts of our wrong doing is death. The fact that we all do die–that these fallible bodies will one day fail–is pretty good evidence that his statement is true.

      The cool thing is, that same passage goes on to say that God’s gift is life after life.

      I don’t see anything devaluing in facing the truth. I also have no investment in “recruiting.” I’d really hate other people, however, if knowing the way to escape the coming tsunami, I decided to keep it to myself.

      And my goodness, yes, my friends and family are the ones who cannot hide their true natures from me, no more than I can hide mine from them.

      Becky

      Like

      • Hi Becky, I’m sorry you are surrounded by people you don’t think deserve to live because you believe your nice creator created them to be inherently bad. You clearly don’t even believe we have free will to be good, if all humans are evil and deserve death. I have to comment on a couple of other things that show a complete lack of understanding of human behaviour:
        1. A killer (or someone with the intention to kill) should be apprehended to stop them from hurting others, not to ‘judge’ how ‘bad’ they are. The killers you list are people who had difficult lives and a biological make-up that led them to do truly horrible things. They are not two-dimensional evil monsters. And, my goodness, it does not take a god to understand that life can be unbearable for some people and the emotional tools they have to deal with it are limited. Nobody needs to forgive them and nobody needs to judge them. We should be looking for ways to learn from their lives to ensure that easy mistakes in upbringing, care and the law enforcement system are not repeated.
        2. A nine-month old baby when raised with due love and care only acts in a way you classify as ‘misbehaving’ when tired, hungry or in pain. Does this make them inherently evil? What kind of benevolent creator do you believe in?

        Like

      • Violetwisp, in the end it really doesn’t matter what I think. The reality is all people do die, even those I’m close to. So I can deny all I want that people deserve to die, and believe that the Bible is somehow wrong or even that God is hateful, but it doesn’t stop people from dying.

        You’re right that I don’t believe people are good, but not about the free will part. We make our free choices based on our nature, and our nature is sinful. If that were not so, then we should be able to point to a list of people down through the ages who made the right choices and lived perfect lives so that we could emulate them. The truth is, we say, “Nobody’s perfect” and we all understand this to be true, no matter what belief system we come from.

        Think of it like this: a dog sees what an easy life cats have and decides he wants to be a dog. He chooses to ignore his master instead of barking a greeting and running to the door. But his tail gives him away. He can’t stop making it wag. And as hard as he tries, he can’t make himself purr. The point is, the dog has a particular nature and no matter how he might want to act differently, his nature prevents it.

        That’s the easiest way I can explain our response to our sin nature. There are things we know we shouldn’t do, but we end up doing them anyway. There are things we’d like to do (see New Year’s resolutions), but end up failing to do or, at best, falling short. If Mankind were good, these things ought not to be this way.

        Regarding judging as labeling someone”bad.” I’m not sure I would use that term, but let me clear up one thing: I am just as “bad” as everyone else. So is the Pope and so are you. Our actions may differ (will probably differ), but I have the same capacity in my heart to do what Hitler did or Jeffrey Dahmer or Pol Pot.

        What you’re suggesting is to put band-aids on gaping wounds. We can use education or behavior modification or put people in a monastery or in prison or in some sterile environment away from others, and they will still succumb to their nature. So the only way to “fix” the problem of gun violence, for example, is to fix the human heart that desires to promote self over others. No amount of retraining will get that done.

        I’m not quite sure why you don’t think heinous killers don’t need forgiveness or why they ought not to be judged. If you’re serious about that position, then you ought to advocate we put an end to all court systems and fire all judges.

        Your comments about nine-month-old babies make me think you haven’t been around any. They actually cry when they’re put down but want to be held, when they’re put to bed but want to stay up, when they’re given a bath but don’t want one, when they want to pull on electric cords and are told no (that’s why an industry came about to “baby proof” a house). On and on. They want what they want and aren’t happy when they’re told no, when they don’t get their way. Someone once said, babies come into the world thinking they’re the center of it and spend the rest of their lives finding out they’re not. Pretty true.

        Babies good? Only if stubbornness, selfishness, willfulness, disobedience are good.

        Does this make them inherently evil? It makes them inherently sinful, which I think is different.

        Hope that helps to clarify my position, Violetwisp. Thanks for taking the time to discuss these issues.

        Becky

        Like

        • You’ve made this argument very well, as far as I’m concerned. I think you may be on to something very profound with the thought that being inherently sinful may not necessarily be the same as being inherently “evil.” After all, despite our guilt, it is true that we have the right to live, because God created life and endowed us with His image. This doesn’t negate the fact that we deserve to die because we have chosen death. Nor does that fact negate the other, I think.

          Like

        • Thanks for explaining your point of view. I should explain that I am a mother, an aunt and a friend to many children, but it seems my experiences of their behaviour is rather different to yours. I like to look for reasons behind any challenging behaviour and have yet to write it off as sinful when a child is unable to sleep at a time that is convenient for me, or doesn’t yet understand dangers in the world around them. I would be interested to know if the children you are familiar with were treated to ‘cry it out’ strategies, as I have a theory that the insecurities it creates in the developing brain have long-lasting behavioural effects. I’d be really grateful if you could let me know, as it sounds like they have serious issues.

          You’ve given me a lot to think about with regards to the justice system, as I had never considered your point of view before. I see a court’s role as being to determine if someone did indeed commit the acts with which they are charged (not to judge the person as such) and to determine what recourse of action is necessary to either protect society from further damage or to attempt to rehabilitate the person. I accept this is often a difficult task, but it makes much more sense to me than the idea of abstract punishment. Forgiveness is only an issue if the perpetrator actively seeks it from those they harmed, but a degree of understanding or sympathy for those who are unable to live peacefully in society should be a natural empathetic response. I guess it’s not.

          Like

          • Really, babies are inherently sinful because they cry, are selfish and disobedient? Should I expect my 10 month old daughter not to be selfish and disobedient? She doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand these things. Reading a little less bible and a little more human psychology and human development might help you out here. Remind me not to let you anywhere near my children.

            Like

        • Violetwisp, I like discussions like this because I do think it’s good to understand how people with other views look at basic issues like the nature of humankind, so thank you for continuing to share your thoughts.

          I see now that it make sense for someone who thinks humans are good to see no need for God. Those of us who see humans as intrinsically flawed, however, understand our inability to live life as we want, no matter how much effort we put into it, and realize we very much need God. That’s how I see the differences anyway.

          About the subject of babies, however, I wish I could give you an answer–that all these children had been raised a certain way and that’s why they cry when they don’t get what they want. The fact is, I’ve not only observed it in a closed set of instances, I’ve heard it repeated over and over. Here’s just one example from someone else:

          Do you have to [t]each a child to lie or to tell the truth. Do you have to teach a baby to be selfish or to share? Do you have to teach a baby to hit or to be nice? and on and on – my wife and I ran a day care for 5 years and had children from newborn and up from every different home life you could image from devote God fearing Christians, Hindus to flat out atheist and everything in between and sin nature was crystal clear across the board. From the observation of over a 100 babies and children you couldn’t convince me in a million years that we don’t have sin nature – go work in the nursery at church for a couple of weeks and the case will be settled.

          Josh, who commented below, proved the point when he said a 10-month-old doesn’t have the mental capacity not to be selfish and disobedient. Rather, she does what her nature tells her. She lives for her own need fulfillment. She only knows Me, Me, Me.

          If adults remain in that state, I think it doesn’t take much imagination to see where society would go. Instead, we teach and train children away from what they naturally do. We teach them to not pull the dog’s tail, to not sit on the kitty, to not hit the baby with the toy. Why? In part because they don’t know the harm those actions cause. But if that was all, then we’d only need to tell them once. In reality, we have to train children–ween them away from what they want to do, to something that is safer, less selfish.

          As to your thoughts about our justice system, I think we’re really a lot closer than you might expect. When people talk about God being a judge, for some reason the idea of punishment and cruelty jumps to mind. Yet here you equate human judges with making an assessment about someone’s guilt and determining the best way to bring them out of their predicament and to protect society. I see God doing much the same thing–just from a point of omniscience. He isn’t guessing about someone’s guilt or innocence. He knows. He also isn’t uncertain about what will put them on the right path or what is needed to protect others. He knows.

          Consequently, I trust Him because I understand He isn’t acting in a capricious way.

          I like what you said about forgiveness–“Forgiveness is only an issue if the perpetrator actively seeks it from those they harmed.” Except I think all who wrong someone else need forgiveness. They just don’t seek it.

          Interesting discussion. Thanks for taking the time to explore these issues.

          Becky

          Like

          • I find that quote about children truly frightening and rather horrendous. Someone needs to go on a basic child psychology course (post 1970) before being in a position of responsibility for children. I understand it’s a premise about humanity that some Christians opt for, but whitewashing natural childhood behaviour as ‘sinful’ runs the risk of ignoring the root causes of challenging behaviour and how to deal with it appropriately.

            And I don’t think young humans need to be trained. They need nurturing, encouragement and logical reasons to help them make their own decisions, so they can be confident and considerate in their actions.

            I hope you can one day see the positive in yourself and humanity at large. A preoccupation with a notion such as sin only confuses our naturally evolved moral compass, which you might find lies not far from the basics of Christianity (hence the popularity).

            Like

          • I could probably find you dozens of quotes like that, Violetwisp. But here’s the thing. You think Christians only see the sin in people because we aren’t afraid to say it’s there. The reality is, we also believe we are made in God’s image. In fact that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You don’t think we’re pro-life because we hate babies and people in general, I hope.

            There’s a great disconnect in what the culture at large knows about what people with different views think because not enough people have discussions like this one to learn what the other person believes. So I’m glad we’re having this one.

            You don’t think babies need to be trained but rather encouraged and nurtured and given logical reasons to help them. I also think children need to be encouraged and nurtured and cared for and given logical reasons to help them. But I still won’t let a child run out into the street because he wants to. And I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t either. I will do all I can to protect him, to teach him, to train him not to disobey so he doesn’t die before he’s capable of making those logical choices. And I believe most parents will do the same.

            The fact is, children will disobey, some more than others. And they will make “mistakes”–wrong choices which we Christians will credit to our sin nature–and they will then join the rest of us saying, Nobody’s perfect.

            It’s a fact we all accept, no matter what our worldview, but we ascribe different reasons for it. So far I haven’t heard anyone give a good answer to the question, If humankind is good, why haven’t there been any perfect people down through history we can look to and emulate?

            And a second question: since nobody’s perfect, where did the “not perfect” part of us come from?

            Becky

            Like

          • “If humankind is good, why haven’t there been any perfect people down through history we can look to and emulate?”

            I expect no-one has answered this question because it is completely illogical. When I first starting reading this post and saw you pose the same question earlier, I actually wondered if you were a troll. I realise that you are genuine now, so I’ll try and explain how it reads to other people as best I can.

            ‘Perfection’ is an abstract concept. It is not a tangible thing or precise state that exists. Moreover, it is completely subjective. My idea of a perfect meal or a perfect holiday will never coincide with someone else’s ideas.

            There have been wonderful people down through history that we can look to and emulate. Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Florence Nightingale and even Jesus. To some, these people ARE perfect. To others, perhaps a time they swatted a mosquito is inexcusable. It’s all completely subjective.

            You may think that Jesus was ‘perfect’. As I understand it, this is what most Christians believe, as it is the premise for their belief that he bears their sins. But what about the time he displayed uncontrolled anger, violence and disregard for other people’s possessions and livelihoods? He rampaged through the temple in a petty outburst of indignation. Neither Aung San Suu Kyi nor Mandela behaved like that in the face of much more grievous behaviour that oppressed millions of people. Jesus chose 12 followers. Every one of those was a man. Sure, there are references to a few women on the sidelines, but would God incarnate with a message for the whole of humanity, not understand the basics of gender equality? Would he not be above the societal norms of the day and encourage people to see women as valuable contributors and equal to men? He rose above many other societal norms, why not this fundamental human right? This man was not ‘perfect’ by my definition. He had, at times, a nice message, like many other well-meaning people before and after him.

            The ‘not perfect’ part of us is again an abstract concept and completely subjective. For example, some people believe that homosexual feelings are ‘not perfect’ whereas I believe they are a completely natural biological phenomenon, like any other kind of sexuality. Some Christians believe that people who do any kind of activity on Sundays are ‘sinful’ – not perfect – but, again, many others think this is completely acceptable.

            Obviously, you think your god is perfect. I think that goes without saying. You will see from the many discussions you’ve had here, that there are many people who find the deity that is presented in the Bible to be far from even pleasant.

            I hope that has answered your questions in way that makes sense to you. I would be interested if you have any lingering doubts, as it seems logically watertight to me.

            Like

          • Violetewisp, I believe I understand what you’re saying. The problem is, no matter how abstract perfection may be, we all know we don’t measure up to whatever the standard might be. That’s not abstract, though we may not agree about the things that make us not perfect. Nevertheless there’s an awareness that something within us is flawed–our decision making or our desires or our responses to other people, something.

            As a side note, Jesus was not displaying “uncontrolled anger.” He actually went into the temple, looked around, went out, made a whip, and returned to throw out the people that didn’t belong there. There was nothing uncontrolled about it, no fit of anger. It was purposeful, deliberate righting of a wrong.

            Whether someone outside the Jewish culture thinks that particular wrong did not deserve such treatment doesn’t make it uncontrolled or unnecessarily violent. There was something much greater at stake than the livelihood of a group of merchants who were cheating those coming to worship.

            Violewisp, I’m a little disappointed that you are playing the gender card. I will gladly take you through the New Testament and show you all the places where Jesus or the writers of the letters elevated women. One verse alone ought to be enough, though–when Peter says husbands are to treat their wives as “fellow heirs” or as one translation puts it “your equal partner in God’s gift of new life.”

            I do understand that many people don’t like God. They don’t want Someone else setting the moral bar. They want to set it for themselves. I’ll be honest with you–that makes me sad. You know, when you’ve seen a good movie and you want to tell all your friends to go see it, or read a good book, or you want to show everyone how cute your little tyke is, or whatever the case–my desire for other people to see and know God is like that. More though because He’s more important.

            But to address your final question, saying that perfection is relative is not a satisfying answer because people all still know that what ever perfection might be, they don’t have it. That’s a common human experience. It shows there is a fundamental flaw to our nature, like it or not.

            I’m curious, how do atheists account for this not-perfect part of every person?

            Becky

            Like

          • “I’m curious, how do atheists account for this not-perfect part of every person?”

            I’m puzzled you’re still asking this question after my explanation. But let me put it another way. We are animals, we display certain behaviours. Going back to your assertion that babies are sinful, you said that when they do things we don’t like (like not going to sleep or fighting with each other) this is a display of their sin nature. I say it’s a natural animal behaviour that has a biological or environmental cause. Because it inconveniences me, or because I disagree with it, does not make it ‘imperfect’ or ‘sinful’. My dog has recently taken to digging in the garden – she is well aware I don’t want her to but she continues anyway. Is this sinful? It’s very inconvenient for me and makes her less than perfect in my eyes, but I understand it’s her natural animal behaviour and I need to seek the root causes of her desire to dig in order to try and change her behaviour.

            Being not-perfect is not a state! It’s an objective measure of our desire for things to be different. And these desires change according to our mood, our society, our time in history and our personal preferences. There was a time in history when being ‘perfect’ could include having slaves, and this was justified the Bible. There was a time in history when being ‘perfect’ could include participating in the stoning of adulterers, and this was justified in the Bible. Your god is timeless – why is his definition of perfection not so?

            I completely disagree with your interpretation of what happened at the temple. And pointing out that he made a whip only makes it more violent and unreasonable. A truly peaceful person, with the ability to perform miracles to boot, would have simply explained to the people why their actions were wrong and asked them to leave by their own free will. He was angry and destructive, and he used threatening physical force.

            I’m also confused by your position on women. I’m pleased that you choose to interpret the Bible generously and do not accept that women are second class citizens, as some Christians do. However, it is quite clear that women do not deserve any role of prominence throughout the Bible (two books out of how many? no representation among the chief followers of Jesus). All the important people are men, and there are more than enough passages telling women to be submissive and keep quiet to conclude that your deity places men well above women.

            Thanks for continuing the conversation anyway. Your thoughts are interesting and very well expressed.

            Like

          • Violetwisp, you said

            The ‘not perfect’ part of us is again an abstract concept and completely subjective.

            My point is, if this were so, we couldn’t universally agree that we’re not perfect, and yet we do. We all know we fall short of what we want to be or do. And here’s the critical point: it’s not even somebody else’s estimation of us–it’s our estimation of ourselves.

            You say that children do things “we don’t like” because it’s their nature. I agree it’s their nature, but I disagree with what you identify as the cause–biological or environmental. I believe the cause is spiritual. But at least we agree they are acting according to their nature.

            Without being taught, children call each other names, make fun of people different from them, run in dangerous places when they’re told to stop, pull the dog’s tail even when he yelps in pain, and on and on. You’re absolutely right–these behaviors are a reflection of their nature. If they only needed education, then adults should be able to tell them once what they need to change, and the child would change her behavior. But it’s not quite that easy.

            About Jesus being angry when He chased the swindlers from the temple, it’s just not so. You can read the accounts for yourself–Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17. He actually saw what was going on, then came back the next day to chase them out. What Jesus was doing was enforcing a law they knew. They weren’t ignorant. For one thing, any of the priests who were students of the Torah could have and should have made them leave/kept them from coming inside in the first place. For another, Jesus chased them out of the temple more than once, the first instance with the whip recorded in John 2:13-17. And I wonder how a person would go about chasing out sheep and oxen without some instrument of some kind.

            About women. No place of prominence? Women were the first people to arrive at the tomb to learn that Jesus had risen from the dead. Any number followed Him–Mary and Martha being two of the most well-known. He healed women; protected women, even prostitutes who by Jewish law should have been killed; praised women; entered into theological discussion with women; showed compassion by restoring sick children to women. Women, at least in part, financed His itinerant ministry. Oh, and it was a woman who gave Him birth. The same continues all through the letters of the New Testament. Women were leaders of communities and started churches. Some hosted a church in their house. Some were evangelists, some prophets. Some Paul referred to as “fellow workers” and I already pointed out Peter’s instructions that husbands were to consider their wives as “equal partners” in spiritual things.

            Thanks for your kind words, Violetwisp. I find this discussion to be enlightening and you have explained your ideas clearly so that I think I understand now what you’re thinking.

            Becky

            Like

  5. I’m sorry, but this whole post is a bunch of drivel. As Pop Guru mentioned above, your God ordered, not justice, but slaughter. He ordered the killing of men, women and children. Often the animals also. I find your god to be morally depraved.

    Like

    • Atheism Live, I find it interesting that you make such an accusation against God because it proves my point. Not knowing one person involved, you’ve declared them innocent, not deserving of death, and therefore God\, guilty. This is the thinking of those who believe Man is good.

      But if Man were good, where did evil come from? If you were right and there is no God and Mankind is good, then slavery and abuse, poverty and misuse of the environment came from where? Not society because society is nothing more than Mankind acting in accord. Many good people should bring about much good, not evil.

      I suggest this idea that Man is good is the real nonsense before us.

      Becky

      Like

      • Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my comment. I’m not talking about the people in general, like you mentioned, how would I know their guilt or innocence (although to suggest that every single person in a population is guilty of such a crime strains credulity), but in referencing Pop Guru’s point, I’m concerned with the killing of children, even infants. Are you claiming that the “sucklings” we’re guilty of some sin worthy of death?

        Like

      • The thing is, Atheism Live, whether those babies died when they were two days old or grew up be a hundred years old, they died. In fact, delayed consequences don’t mean no consequences. Your thinking that they shouldn’t have died so young in no way solves the real issue–they were going to die anyway.

        So we love life and love babies (who doesn’t? They’re so cute!), and naturally conclude that they should have a chance to group up to become … what? We have no way of knowing what they’ll grow up to become.

        God, however, does know. Trusting Him to do what’s right is no different than a five-year-old trusting his parent when she takes him to school that first day. The child doesn’t know anything about that place or those people. The parent knows, however, and the child trusts the parent’s decision.

        I’m coming at the issue with the understanding that God is good. Therefore, what He decides in regard to the Amalekites or to Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer or me, I can trust.

        That’s the long answer to your question, Atheist Live. The short answer is, it’s not the things we do that make us guilty. We die, all of us–babies or adults–because we have a nature bent to sin. It is our nature that has brought on death.

        The good news is that death doesn’t have to be the end.

        Becky

        Like

        • What a bunch of drivel! Have you given up all critical thinking skills? Everything you just wrote boils down to, “God did it, so it must be right.” Why not try to think for yourself for a change? Your God is a thug who kills babies for his own purposes, simply because he has the biggest stick.

          Like

        • I wonder if you can tell me: Is what God does right because he says it is, or is it right because he know what it right? To put it differently, is what God does right or moral because God defines what is right and moral, or are there things in our universe that are inherently right/wrong, moral/immoral and God is just smart enough to know all of these things?

          Like

          • Josh, these are interesting questions. I can’t imagine things in our universe that are inherently right/wrong unless something made them so. That would be like saying, goodness is good because.

            So to answer your question, I think God absolutely embodies Right. And Truth, Goodness, Perfection, Purity, and more. What is in opposition to or disagreement with Him falls outside the realm of right, true, good, perfect, pure and so on.

            There’s nothing arbitrary. It’s not like God thought for a while and decided to draw a line this way or that instead of the other way. He simple is, and it is our response to His character that creates the divide.

            Becky

            Like

        • Ha! Josh, I may not be the sharpest pencil in the bunch, but I’m not quite sure why aligning myself with The One Who Knows All is a bad reflection on my critical thinking skills. Nevertheless, there’s a certain amount of truth in what you say. When I don’t understand something, I do defer to God’s way anyway, or at least I want to.

          I’m not sure why understanding Him to be greater than I makes Him a thug. And do you really want to talk about killing babies for selfish purposes? That ought not to come up unless you are adamantly pro-life, a position that would be a logical one for atheists to take, though I don’t find that to be the case. The point being, if we give a pass to a woman who doesn’t want to carry a baby to term and don’t credit her with being selfish, though she has no way of knowing what that child might become, why do we turn around and hurl invectives at God who knows exactly what that child intends?

          Becky

          Like

          • Sorry if I address these points out of order, but here goes: Regarding critical thinking skills, I would like to say that sometimes the best answer to a question is, “I don’t know.” If you or I don’t know the answer, we can look around, read, and discuss, but there is no shame in admitting that we don’t know. There is, however, shame in falling back on an unsupported claim instead of admitting our own ignorance.

            Secondly, I think there should be shame in putting absolute trust in anyone. No one is beyond questioning. Even if your God exists, and is all of the great things you think he is, what if you are misinterpreting? Everything should always be open to discussion. Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean by “aligning myself with The One Who Knows All,” but in my opinion, aligning oneself 100% with anyone is dangerous.

            I’ll be happy to have a discussion about abortion if you want, but that is not my intent on this thread. The fact exists that you feel your God is justified in killing those infants for his reasons, and I do not. I think we can move on from there.

            I would like to thank you for your honest reply regarding the nature of morality. If I understand you correctly, you believe that morality is whatever your God says it is. You wrote, “What is in opposition to or disagreement with Him falls outside the realm of right…” If this is the case, I have another question for you: If your God decreed tomorrow that no one can get into heaven unless he or she has performed at least one rape and/or murder, would that make not raping and murdering (in some situations) immoral?

            Like

          • Josh, I understand that you think believing God is “falling back on an unsupported claim” but that doesn’t make it so. There’s lots of rational evidence for belief in God–no “smoking gun,” I suppose, but a body of “circumstantial evidence” that adds up to make a compelling case for His existence. Obviously scholars have written and debated this subject to a great extent. Just know that those of us who believe in God aren’t closing our eyes, putting our fingers in our ears, and chanting some nonsense to keep reality at bay. I suspect that’s the image a lot of atheists have of us. It doesn’t fit the Christians I know.

            I’m a little shocked that you think trusting someone is shameful. Sports psychologists have exercises teams can participate in to teach them to trust their teammates. Marriage counselors say trust is right up there with communication for a successful marriage.

            Undoubtedly there are a lot of things you trust–the chair you’re sitting in most likely, the car you drive, the lock on your door. Ought there not be a person you can trust, too? But what does that say if people aren’t as dependable as stuff? I conclude that people are flawed. It doesn’t change the fact that I want to have a relationship with someone who won’t let me down, who won’t stab me in the back. That’s what God promises, and that’s what He’s delivered.

            Actually, I’d be foolish not to trust Him, believing as I do that God is all powerful, always right, good, kind, loving, all knowing. You may not believe this, but despite everything I know to be true about God, it is still hard for me to trust Him as I want to. I still, at times, fight to stay in control instead of giving Him recognition as the supreme authority He is.

            Josh, you asked another really interesting question:

            If your God decreed tomorrow that no one can get into heaven unless he or she has performed at least one rape and/or murder, would that make not raping and murdering (in some situations) immoral?

            The answer doesn’t really deal with your point, though, I don’t think. God has given us the Bible that informs us about His character, His plan, His work in the world. In the Bible He tells us there is nothing any of us have to do to “get into heaven.”

            So from my perspective, I can stop reading at “unless he or she has performed.” There is no performance needed.

            But I understand in the context of this discussion, you’re wondering if I think I should do something clearly immoral if I believed God had made it a requirement.

            First, there’s the issue of the Bible and the clear disclosure of God’s character, work, and plan. In a nutshell here’s the story of the Bible.
            God made the first people He created to be His representatives on earth. When they failed, He chose a nation, Israel, to show the other nations, by their obedience and worship, the way to God. They failed, too. So He sent His Son. Because of Him, those who are His followers are now in the position of showing the rest of the world who God is.

            Here’s the salient part that answers your question: Anything else that someone makes up and credits to God is a lie. He wouldn’t contradict what He’s already said.

            Maybe we should table the abortion discussion for another day. 😉

            Becky

            Like

          • I’m not sure if this post will be posted at the appropriate sequential space on the thread; I’m still new to WordPress. I couldn’t find the “reply” link after you last post, so I hope this will do.

            Like the abortion discussion, I think we should shelve the “God is an unsupported claim” discussion for the time being. No sense confusing a discussion by having numerous simultaneous discussion threads. So, unless I am forgetting something, we are talking about “trust” and the origin of morality.

            First of all, I have no problem with trust. Like you mentioned, sports teams and businesses go to great lengths to promote teamwork and trust. Trust is part of the foundation of a strong marriage. It is not trust that I have an issue with, but ABSOLUTE trust. When you read about God killing those babies, do you automatically say, “God had a good reason?” Please forgive (and correct) me if I am overgeneralizing, but in my experience, most believers have an absolute trust in their deity that equates to blindness. Its like a woman who says, “My husband would NEVER cheat on me,” when all of her friends are trying to tell her he is.

            I trust lots of things, including the exercise ball that I use as a computer chair. I trust that it is not going to spontaneously deflate, dropping me to the floor. But I might be wrong. It might pop, the valve might fail, or it might even spontaneously pop out of existence (not likely, but you never know). Everything I trust has earned that trust and all of my trust it tentative.

            Next, I think you misunderstood my point about God demanding rape, or perhaps I didn’t explain it well. I’m not talking about his character or whether or not the particular flavor of the Christian God you believe in would ever command that. It is a hypothetical situation designed to illustrate a point. Let me change it up a little:

            Lets say God (its a hypothetical situation, assume for the purpose of this discussion that you know it is your God commanding this) commanded that all red heads must be killed. All believers hold a moral obligation to kill red haired people. Now my question is twofold: 1) In this situation, is the killing of red haired people moral, and 2) Would you do it?

            Like

          • Josh, I think you’re right–better if we try to narrow the discussion to something manageable rather than following rabbit trails (like I’ve done with Violetwisp. 🙄 )

            Trust. Isn’t there an inherent understanding that if we trust, that’s total? The thesaurus uses words like confidence, conviction, certainty. How can there be any such thing unless there is total surrender?

            Mind you, I’m not advocating a trust that is naive or unmerited.

            Regarding God’s judgment of people, regardless of age, I believe He is a just and righteous judge. I many not know what lies behind His decisions, but He doesn’t owe me an explanation. To use a $100 theological term, God is transcendent. I realize that makes some people uncomfortable. We like to be in charge, or at least think we are. The truth is, we’re not. (See that whole death thing to verify this fact).

            So, yes, I trust God to act consistently with His character as He has revealed it. If something looks inconsistent, I know it’s because I have a limited perspective.

            Let me give you an example. God promised Abraham a son who would be the beginning of a nation. When Isaac was a teen, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son. I don’t get that. A human sacrifice? Elsewhere in the Bible God condemns child sacrifice. But if I don’t get it, what about Abraham? The son God said would be the beginning of a great nation, He now said to kill. Rather than accuse God of unfaithfulness, however, Abraham went ahead with the preparation for the sacrifice. Only then did God stop him and provide a lamb for a substitute. Abraham was convinced that God’s way was right, even when His way seemed to contradictory.

            Your hypothetical situations don’t work because I’m not talking about some hypothetical God. I’m talking about a person who is alive and who has told us what He’s like. Consequently, I can’t say, sure, yes, I’d do such and so when I know that the particular thing is not consistent with who God is. He is not arbitrary, unfair, or partial, so he wouldn’t target redheads. If someone is worshiping a god that is unjust, following an immoral command would be immoral.

            I think I mentioned in my original post that God specifically said He was judging the Amalekites, who everyone’s always so worried about, because they were stalking and killing the weakest and most defenseless of Israel’s people. And because they were opposed to Him. He gave His reasons for judging them–all of them–but people want to reserve the right to decide for themselves whether the Amalekites were really so very bad.

            Why, I wonder, aren’t people at least a little concerned about the vulnerable women, children, and elderly the Amalekites were attacking? Why are the abusers treated as if they’re the victims? They weren’t. They were judged by a righteous judge who knows all about them, what they did, and what they intended to do.

            Becky

            Like

  6. Becky, atheists are useless people and I don’t trust them. Their acts aren’t inspired by God and although they can act collectively, they can never really be anyone’s friend. They lack the inner light the same way a psychopath lacks empathy. Arguing with them is always a bad idea because the argument becomes too often about the people doing the arguing. And we’re not supposed to fight flesh and blood.
    There are better things to do than write long notes to atheists. They thrive on this. Look everywhere online and there they are, the countless interchangeable atheists, unable to get over themselves, nearly illiterate yet pretending to know everything, occasionally using a slightly more intelligent one in their ranks as example while they themselves are of low intelligence. The smart cow principle.

    I’m posting this anonymously because I don’t want to trail these nutjobs home and my only purpose in making this post is to let you know that giving them what they want is to take away from your own life.

    Like

    • I disagree. Atheists are people too. You may be right that debate can sometimes be pointless. Maybe debates with atheists are far more inclined to become pointless, but I think we should still be open to the possibility of discussion.

      Also, to categorically call atheists unintelligent is to fall to their level.

      Like

    • Wow, ever hear about the pot calling the kettle black?

      Like

    • If what you’ve written above is anything to go by, I would be more inclined to think you’re posting anonymously because you realise nothing you say would stand up to any scrutiny. Ignorance is easier to maintain in a bubble. Anyone with anything of integrity to say is always happy to discuss it. This is how humanity and society progress – even Jesus was part of that progression.

      Like

    • Art, I have to disagree with you. I don’t think God makes “useless” people. Of course you’re free to trust or not trust, to interact or not to interact. But the folks who took the time to comment to my posts these last couple days are essentially visiting my house. I’m happy to entertain them, happy to give them a defense for the hope that’s in me, happy to tell them why I believe they are mis-characterizing God. I don’t happen to think there’s a better thing to do. Did God tell us only to talk to people who already believe in Him? Did Paul flee the Areopagus because those Greeks thrived on debate? That’s a non sequitur.

      In addition, your comments about intelligence make it seem as if you think God only came to smart people. How silly. Trusting God isn’t a result of some special mental capacity. Consequently, there can be smart atheists or ones of average or below intelligence just as there are smart Christians and ones of average or below intelligence.

      Your statement is not only illogical, it contradicts Scripture which clearly states that spiritual things are discerned spiritually. It’s not a matter of how much intelligence a person has but whether their spiritual eyes are opened, and who’s to say that can’t happen in a discussion like this?

      On top of that, I learn a great deal from discussions with people who don’t think the same as I do. If nothing else, it shows me how I should pray.

      What I don’t think is beneficial–or Biblical–is insulting people without provocation (or even with provocation, for that matter). How is the love of Christ on display in a comment that belittles a group of people who disagree with your beliefs? I don’t get that.

      You come across as passionate about God, Art. But that needs to include what He said–even what Jesus said about loving our neighbor.

      Becky

      Like

      • Well Becky if you feel that my posting that here was disrespectful towards you in particular I do apologize since it is your blog. I don’t believe you’ll get any of these atheists to ever stand up for you like you can stand up for them but that’s your choice.
        By the way I didn’t insult them without provocation. I’ve dealt with these….people since the dawn of the internet and they’re always the same bag of hate. Sorry I projected my frustration on your blog.
        I don’t apologize to them though, they never apologize to anyone and they do tend to think they’re better than everybody else. I won’t be posting on here anymore.

        Like

      • Art, I’m only “standing up” for the atheists because God does. He says He wishes none to perish. He also tells us Christians to honor all people, something I want to improve in.

        I understand conversations can get tedious, frustrating, seem unproductive. I appreciate you wanting to spare me that, but I’m honestly happy to dialogue with anyone who is willing to dialogue. To what end, only God knows.

        I’m sorry my comment made you feel as if I don’t want you to voice your opinion. In truth I want to dialogue with you as much as with Josh and Violetwisp and Myatheistlife. I hope you’ll rethink your decision and post comments whenever you have something you want to say.

        Becky

        Like

  7. […] Babies good? Only if stubbornness, selfishness, willfulness, disobedience are good. […]

    Like

  8. Hi Becky, I sense you’re wanting to wrap up this conversation but I just have a couple of lingering thoughts. When I described the inconvenient behaviour of my dog, you didn’t answer my question. Like my daughter, my dog doesn’t always go to bed when I want her to and also doesn’t always come when I call her. Is my dog showing willful disobedience and therefore a sinful nature? Or is she just an animal, like my daughter, who has her own reasons for doing things?

    I’m familiar with the fine-combing of the Bible to eke out some references to women. But you cannot pretend that they are given equal representation and the fact remains women are constantly told they should be submissive and keep quiet. Your god is a man created by men.

    Like

    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, Violetwisp. I’m really not in a hurry to end this conversation–just had other things intrude. Also I wasn’t sure if you wanted to continue. I’m happy to discuss whatever you wish.

      I think the issue about your dog’s behavior in comparison to a child’s is helpful. In my earlier answer I said your dog was acting according to his nature and it was caused by physical or environmental considerations where as a child also acted according to her nature, but caused by spiritual considerations. In some ways, that’s a distortion. We humans also do have physical, biological aspects to our nature. We have involuntary reflexes like blinking and breathing and we have instinctive urges such as waste elimination, self-preservation or the need to satisfy hunger and thirst.

      When a child exhibits any of those instinctive traits, she is acting from her humanity. However, should she sit on the dog after she’s been told that it hurts him, she’s not acting from a need but from a willful desire that puts her above others. As much as we love children, we see this bent toward selfishness very early and in many ways–toward animals, things, people. No one has to teach a child how to grab a toy out of someone else’s hands or how to say no to a parent or how to pout. I’ve never seen a parent teach a child how to have a temper tantrum. I’ve also never seen a dog throw one.

      Violetwisp, I didn’t do any fine combing to come up with the interactions Jesus had with women. Those were the ones that came off the top of my head. He healed a woman who had been sick, “hemorrhaging” for 12 years. Jewish men weren’t supposed to talk to women in public according to the Rabbinic law, and to touch one with “an issue of blood” made them ceremonially unclean. When she touched Jesus’s clothing in hopes of being healed, He praised her for her faith rather than condemning her for her actions.

      He purposefully engaged in discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well, commended a poor widow as more generous than all the others who gave in the temple, raised up the son of a woman He passed in the street on the way to the burial, praised the woman who poured perfume on his feet, spared a prostitute the Pharisees had set up to trap Him, cast out the demon from another woman’s daughter because she asked Him to, spoke out against divorce (particularly egregious to women because of their social status in that day).

      He used women in His stories to illustrate the things He was teaching–one who searched for a lost coin, another who was leavening flour, the ten who served as bridesmaids, a woman giving birth.

      This is not exhaustive and doesn’t go into all the ways women figured in the establishment of the Church, but here’s the thing that bothers me, and the thing I think that separates your view of women and mine: I don’t look at the Bible and think the women were victims because they weren’t doing what the men were doing. They were women doing what women did in that day and Jesus praised them for their faith, their generosity, their sacrifice. He offered them forgiveness and healing in the same way He offered it to men.

      He didn’t say, Well, if you’d only start acting like men, then I’d see you as worthwhile, but as a woman, you don’t have anything to teach the world for ages and generations. Just the opposite. One woman in particular He said, wherever the good news about Him would be preached, people would remember her act of worship.

      Mark had this to say as Jesus died on the cross:

      There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. (emphasis mine)

      This idea that women were invisible or not a part of what Jesus was doing, is just not so.

      Women are not “constantly told they should be submissive and keep quiet.” There are perhaps three passages that deal with husband/wife relationships. Peter, whose passage is perhaps the longest, ends by saying “To sum up, all of you [both husbands and wives] be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”

      Yes, according to the Bible, women don’t drive the bus, but they’re in the shotgun. It’s not a lesser role. It’s a different role. “Feminism” today, which is more like masculinizing women, says that what women do isn’t as important as what men do and the only way women can show they’re as good as men is to do what men do. That’s a bunch of bunk! Women are just as good as men and the only ones that can be women.

      Sorry this ended up so long!

      Becky

      Like

      • Hi Becky, thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Based on what you say, I think I’ll have to concede that the New Testament is not quite as sexist as I remember. I do, however, still think it’s telling that the 12 disciplines were men, and I’m not convinced that the calls for women to be submissive can ever be justified.

        I’m still dismayed that you view children (and indeed adults) in such a negative light due to your faith, and can’t just see the basic animal impulses that help them develop and grow. Babies and children are generally lovely little creatures in my experience. Tiredness, hunger and pain can make them display more time-consuming behavioural traits, but it’s completely understandable and acceptable. It’s disturbing that you believe it’s an innate ‘badness’ that generates negative behaviour. Even truly ‘nasty’ children appear that way because of something beyond their control in their upbringing that has knocked their sense of security and self-value.

        I don’t think feminism today says that what women do isn’t as important as what men do. I think it says that women shouldn’t be excluded from the things men have traditionally done solely on the basis of their gender. If they possess the same skills and abilities as a man they should have equal opportunity. I think that’s someone the Jesus of the Bible would have gone for.

        Like

      • Hi, Violetwisp,

        I figured we wouldn’t probably reach an agreement on the women’s issue, but I appreciate your response. One of the reasons these kinds of discussions are good is because it helps us get beyond caricatures we so often have thrust in front of us. (Christians are sexist, atheists are close-minded, or whatever might be the case).

        I agree in theory that feminism today advocates for women to have the same rights to any career that a man has. The practical working out of this, however, is that women who choose the “traditional role” of a woman are inferior. Did you hear about the older feminists’ response to the reported trend among younger women to leave their jobs and stay home to raise their children?

        I found this paragraph in a review of The Ten Year Nap:

        When I entered the work world in the 1980′s, women executives tied little scarves around their necks in a strange homage to men’s neckties. Female veterans of the workplace warned of the danger of appearing too feminine. We should never coo over pictures of other people’s children and should never bring baked goods to office parties. God forbid anyone should visualize us in the kitchen with a mixer and an oven mitt. We were wedging our way into what had been an exclusively man’s world by mimicking as closely as possible the successful man. What our strategy failed to consider was that by modeling ourselves on men, we became conspirators in further diminishing the value of work traditionally considered “women’s.” If the feminist movement was about “self-actualization,” it has failed women who choose home over work. Women have gained status in the work world. But women who discover they want to stay home with their children can’t shake the feeling that they are somehow settling for less than they should. (emphasis mine)

        As far as the issue of women being submissive to their husbands, I wonder why people don’t get up in arms that the Bible also says husbands are to love their wives. In other words, the Bible is identifying the give and take necessary in a good relationship. And think about it, if husbands loved their wives the way the Bible says they should–with the same self-sacrificing love Christ has–what woman wouldn’t be willing to subject herself to him. Oh, the thing you, dear husband, say we should do is whatever makes me the happiest? Well, but I don’t believe in submitting myself to you, so I choose what makes me unhappy.

        OK, tongue in cheek. But I think you can see what I’m saying, what I believe–if men did what the Bible said husbands should do and women did what the Bible said wives should do, women would be a lot happier.

        Back to babies and children. I agree, they are lovely. Yes, tiredness, hunger, and pain do cause them to be irritable from time to time, but so does selfishness. So does their desire to be in control. The nicest, sweetest child, well-brought up and loved, can turn on a dime and demonstrate greediness and egocentric behavior. Where does that come from? It’s beyond our environment. It’s from within each of us.

        When we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that even our best intentions can be tainted with a bit of self-interest and pride. And of course, given it’s head that bit of self-interest turns into Bernie Madoff fleecing retirees out of their savings or big bank execs taking ginormous bonuses as unemployment rose.

        The point is, those adorable little people we love so much, have in their hearts the same root to do great harm that any of us have. We all have it.

        Becky

        Like

        • “if men did what the Bible said husbands should do and women did what the Bible said wives should do, women would be a lot happier”
          I’m afraid I don’t agree with that at all. Rather, I would suggest that a husband who truly loved his wife would never expect, nor wish, her to be submissive.

          Back to babies, you suggested that a nine month old baby could display signs of sin. Even by your definition of sin, I see no evidence of this. The kind of instant gratification urge that you call sin, or the disobedience aspect, doesn’t come into play until they’re at least a year old. And children display greediness because they have no experience of the world, they cannot yet empathise. They are not in possession of the same level of understanding as adults, so they cannot possibly be expected to make the same decisions. They have no experience to enable them to weigh up the consequences of their actions. This in no way makes them bad.

          I’ve just published a post about sin, morality and disobedience that sums up my views on this. I find the Christian perspective very damaging.

          As for feminism, I do agree it’s counter productive when women feel the weight of judgement on their choice to stay at home with children. It’s important that we all have the same opportunities – that in all couples, either partner feels free to stay at home (if that’s a financial possibility) or to work. As long as women don’t feel pressurised to lose their professional identity (if this is something that is important to them) when they become mothers, just because that’s traditionally been the role of the woman.

          Like

        • Rather, I would suggest that a husband who truly loved his wife would never expect, nor wish, her to be submissive.

          Violetewisp, this makes me think you don’t understand the safety and freedom of trusting someone who loves you to the point of self-sacrifice.

          I read your post about sin. It really is interesting to see how you arrive at your position. You bring up things I’ve never thought about before.

          The thing is, I don’t see how anyone can hold your viewpoint simply given the fact that there are people who shoot kindergartners in their classroom. According to your post, as I understand it, the shooter must not have “a reasonable start in life.” But who is responsible for his “confusing models or unpleasant start”? It must have been someone or many someones who also had confusing models or unpleasant starts. But who gave them those? Someone before with similar issues, and so on through history until you reach first humans with no model and only the start they conceive of, responding to their environment from their nature.

          From their nature, then, they turn around and give a confusing model or unpleasant start to their offspring. That nature is the same one I’m talking about–the one that leads a nine month old baby to yank a toy out of the hand of another, not because he doesn’t have toys, and in spite of the fact that he threw down that same toy only seconds ago. He isn’t responding to need. He isn’t lacking empathy. He’s being selfish. He doesn’t want to play with the toy, but he wants to hoard all the good toys in case he changes his mind and decides he wants it later.

          Violetwisp, I love the fact that you have such a hopeful attitude. I’m afraid it’s a little naive, though. If Mankind is good, don’t you think we would have figured out how to do something about murder by now? After all, for centuries all the good people would have faced the fact that they simply needed to give their young better models and pleasant starts.

          Look at smoking as an example. We’ve known for a generation that cigarettes kill, so we should be able to educate young people and they’ll stay away from smoking. But that hasn’t happened. How about driving drunk? That’s been a campaign of decades, and yet logical, well meaning adults still get behind the wheel and drive off impaired by alcohol.

          Plus, your theory doesn’t explain why someone with terrible models and horrific starts can become kind, loving, and generous when others with the same beginning become cruel, heartless, and greedy.

          There’s a greater problem than you realize, Violetwisp, a spiritual problem that you’re failing to recognize.

          Becky

          Like

  9. […] From the observation of over a 100 babies and children you couldn’t convince me in a million years… […]

    Like


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: