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« Never Read a Bible Verse: Jeremiah 29:11 (Video) | Main | Never Read a Bible Verse: Romans 2:4 (Video) »

July 08, 2010

Comments

Wow, it sure is a good thing that Christians in the US *never* try to shape the popular culture to promote hatred of people who don't share their religion! And they would certainly never commit violence against people who don't share their views.

Oh, wait. What about
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abortion_violence
or
http://www.politico.com/blogs/thecrypt/1008/GOP_Rep_Liberals_Hate_Real_Americans_That_Work_And_Achieve_And_Believe_In_God.html
or
http://redblueamerica.com/blog/2008-03-28/todays-obama-muslim-smear-10-percent-voters-2077
or
http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/2010/06/9408/
or plenty more where that came from.

Deuteronomy 13 (NAS):


6 If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known,

7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end),

8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him.

9 "But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

The God of the Hebrew Bible commands his followers to kill those who entice them to serve other gods. To a non-Christian, Jesus would be considered one of these other gods. So someone enticing a follower of God to serve Jesus, would fall under the terms of this commandment.

Perhaps we can all agree that we should not get our moral guidance from such sources. If we all seek to minimize superstition and magical thinking, perhaps we will see fewer crimes such as these.

This all assumes that the author, John F. Cullinan, is correct in his opinion that the murder was religiously motivated. According to AP, "Turkish authorities charged Padovese's driver with murder and said the motive was personal, not political or religious". So far, the only evidence I have seen supporting this as a religiously-motivated crime is that the victim was a priest.


An interesting fact that I learned, from the article's description of the film Valley of the Wolves, (“It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich.”), is that The Passion of the Christ did not do as well in Europe as in the US.

Eric, you quote Deut 13 and then state: "Perhaps we can all agree that we should not get our moral guidance from such sources."


This is reflective of how seriously you have looked at the Biblical narrative. Thanks for exposing your ignorance.

kpolo,

If you think my interpretation of the passage is not reasonable, would you care to point out my error? Does the passage say something other than that one should kill those who attempt to persuade one to serve other gods?

I'm not sure precisely what your criticism of my comment is.

That's a real apples to apples comparison, Eric. Thanks.

Christian persecution is always underreported. It’s very inconvenient. See, death is highly marketable in the news, but when they are liberal dissidents, political prisoners, or Christians, well – that ruins everything.


Evidence for that assertion, KWM?

"The God of the Hebrew Bible commands his followers to kill those who entice them to serve other gods."

The passage applies to the folks who were brought from the land of Egypt as it states in the following verse 10 and well, God did not bring me from the land of Egypt. So, it is nor proscriptive for me to kill those who attempt to entice me to serve other gods. However, look at the Qur'an and you will see that it is proscriptive for any Muslim at any time.

Just a small addendum to my post...the Hebrew Bible does not command God's followers to kill those who entice them to serve other gods. It commands his "people" to do so under a theocracy in those times.

Louis Kuhelj,

There are many things throughout the Bible that are told to a particular set of people, but are interpreted to be general principles (e.g. the Decalogue). Is there something in the text, relevant to Deuteronomy 13, that would lead us to conclude that this commandment is restricted to a particular time, place, and group of people? I may have overlooked it it.

Why yes there is; it is commonly known as:

con·text   –noun
1. the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect: You have misinterpreted my remark because you took it out of context.
2. the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

context. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved July 08, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/context

I hope that this is helpful for informing your future examinations and conclusions.

>>Is there something in the text, relevant to Deuteronomy 13, that would lead us to conclude that this commandment is restricted to a particular time, place, and group of people?

Yes, Deuteronomy is a covenant between God and the Israelites, given in the Suzerain Treaty form of the day. There were issues specific to the creation of a nation for the purpose of nurturing a culture focused on God that would bring about the Messiah. Paramount to the whole project was their recognition of God as King and respecting the covenant He made with them. Anyone breaking this covenant by committing treason against God (the other member of the covenant) was doing something very serious.

Today, God has not made a covenant with our nation. Instead, the people in covenant with God are in the New Covenant through Jesus, regardless of national boundaries. We have no rules under this covenant to enforce the covenant by destroying those who are not following Jesus because those who are not following Jesus are outside the covenant.

But in Israel, everyone, whether they loved God or not, was in covenant with God simply by being part of that nation. Therefore, there were specific rules in place for enforcing that covenant for the nation.

As for understanding how we relate to the Law today, I recommend this PDF as a good place to start.

RS,

"I hope that this is helpful for informing your future examinations and conclusions."

Of course, it is not helpful. You cannot simply plead "context" and leave it at that. You need to explain what the context is, in in what way it alters the interpretation of the passage. What is it about the context of one passage that tells us we are being given a general principle, versus another passage that is something that only applied to one group of people at one place and at one moment in time?
What leads us to conclude that Deuteronomy 13 is not speaking to us today?

Thank You, Amy.
I will read the sources you provided.

Eric,

Please take time to read the outline below, your assertions are listed in their corresponding sections. The accuracy of your assertions will either be consistent or inconsistent within the context of the book of Deutoronomy.

Deuteronomy 1 – Introduction, Departure from Horeb, Leaders for the Tribes, Israel's Disobedience at Kadesh-barnea
Deuteronomy 2 - Journey past Seir, Journey past Moab, Journey past Ammon, Defeat of Sihon the Amorite
Deuteronomy 3 - Defeat of Og of Bashan, The Land of the Transjordan Tribes, The Transfer of Israel's Leadership
Deuteronomy 4 - Call to Obedience, Worshiping the True God, Cities of Refuge, Introduction to the Law
Deuteronomy 5 - The Ten Commandments, The People's Response
Deuteronomy 6 - The Greatest Commandment, Remembering God through Obedience
Deuteronomy 7 - Israel to Destroy Idolatrous Nations
Deuteronomy 8 - Remember the LORD
Deuteronomy 9 - Warning against Self-Righteousness, Israel's Rebellion and Moses' Intercession
Deuteronomy 10 - The Covenant Renewed, What God Requires
Deuteronomy 11 - Remember and Obey, A Blessing and a Curse
Deuteronomy 12 - The Chosen Place of Worship, Slaughtering Animals to Eat
Deuteronomy 13 - The False Prophet, Don't Tolerate Idolatry


Deuteronomy 13 (NAS):

6 If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known,
7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end),
8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him.
9 "But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

>>>Your assertion: The God of the Hebrew Bible commands his followers to kill those who entice them to serve other gods. To a non-Christian, Jesus would be considered one of these other gods. So someone enticing a follower of God to serve Jesus, would fall under the terms of this commandment.
Perhaps we can all agree that we should not get our moral guidance from such sources. If we all seek to minimize superstition and magical thinking, perhaps we will see fewer crimes such as these.

Deuteronomy 14 - Forbidden Practices, Clean and Unclean Foods, A Tenth for the LORD
Deuteronomy 15 - Debts Canceled, Lending to the Poor, Release of Slaves, Consecration of Firstborn Animals
Deuteronomy 16 - The Festival of Passover, The Festival of Weeks, The Festival of Booths, Appointing Judges and Officials, Forbidden Worship
Deuteronomy 17 - The Judicial Procedure for Idolatry, Difficult Cases, Appointing a King
Deuteronomy 18 - Provisions for the Levites, Occult Practices versus Prophetic Revelation…

RS,

Are you saying that something about this means that Deuteronomy 13 does not relate God telling his followers to kill those who attempt to persuade them to serve other gods? I am not seeing your reasoning.

2 hours. Does your watch concur, Eric?

By the way, you have no grounds to call anything wrong. ;)

NFQ,

If you follow world news, that’s like asking for evidence that the grass is green.

A few of you may want to go back and watch the July 5th video again.

See Michael Rubin's "Turkey, from Ally to Enemy":

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/turkey--from-ally-to-enemy-15464

Amy,

If I'm following you, based on the sources you provided, it is your position that the commandments of the Old Testament no longer apply. I have two general areas of comment regarding this.

1. It is not reasonable to expect everyone to have the same interpretation as you. It is not even reasonable to expect everyone to have any level of deep understanding of the text and its varying interpretations. When we are dealing with people being motivated to murder on the basis of these texts, we have to consider the level of analysis that they are likely to attach to it. Someone is raised being repeatedly and consistently told that everything good and right is to be found in this book. Then they open the book and see something like Deuteronomy 13. The logical conclusion for this person is that it is good for them to kill someone who attempts to persuade them to serve another god. The Quran has the problem and the Bible has this problem.

It would be better to avoiding teaching people that all the answers to right and wrong can be found in these books.

2. Accepting the interpretation that the we are no longer bound by the Old Testament commandments, but are not involved in a New Covenant, there is still a problem with passages such as the Deuteronomy 13 passage cited above.

From the second source you provided:

"In Romans 5:20 we read: And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly. Here again the Law was given so that trespasses might be made very clear. How does one know he has sinned? He knows because the Law said, “You do not do this,” but you did it. Or the Law says, “You will do this,” but you did not do it. That is how you know you have sinned"

and:

The Law is there and can be used as a teaching tool to show God’s standard of righteousness and man’s sinfulness and need of substitutionary atonement

This does not say the the commandments are no longer good to follow, only that there is no longer a requirement to follow them. The problem with the Law was not within the Law itself, but was Man's inability to obey the Law. If we are to learn of God's standard of righteousness from the Law, then we must agree that it is righteous to kill someone who attempts to persuade you to serve other gods.

The believer is free from the Law of Moses, but he is also free to keep parts of it. Thus, if a Jewish believer feels the need to refrain from eating pork, he is free to do so. The same is true for all the other commandments.

Again, while we are no longer required to follow all of the Old Testament commandments, we may choose to without doing anything wrong. So, it would not be wrong for a Christian today to kill a friend who suggests they consider a different religion.

The problem that decent Christians face today is that they have advanced morally beyond the authors of their scriptures. They must attempt to argue away the implications of these ancient writings. This is especially difficult for those decent Christians who, rightfully, wish to condemn muslims who adhere too closely to their scriptures.

Daron said--"By the way, you have no grounds to call anything wrong."

Daron, I don't know if you understand logic but that is a self refuting argument.

If you don't believe in transcended values then everything is just opinion and you have no grounds for criticizing anyone for anything.

Les,

It's a little bit of an in joke. Daron is not advocating subjective or relative morality. He's just having a good fun (I presume) dig at me.

eric,
No belief system can prevent people from taking statements out of context and using them to do horrible things.

To illustrate, in the Deuteronomy 13 passage, an important portion is a couple of verses down: "You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. (Deut 13:9)" "All the people" means that it wasn't individual assassination or mass murder, but the judgment of the community on an individual. Israel was a community of people who had sworn to treat God as their King. Someone preaching against God would be a traitor on a similar level to the Russian spies recently captured, and in most countries treason merits the death penalty. No modern nation has a similar status of having made a treaty recognizing God as their King, thus the command was for that specific time and place. For us, it illustrates with deadly precision the importance of only worshiping God: God will not share us with any other deity.

As Christians we are forbidden to murder not because of the Old Testament command, but because Jesus echoed and strengthened the command in the New Testament (Matthew 5:21-22). The command we as Christians are to follow is to not even be angry with someone. So, in order to misunderstand Scripture in the way you state, a person would have to pick Deuteronomy 13:6 while ignoring verse 9 and Matthew 5:21-22.

Finally, in order to "advance morally" we have to have a standard to measure against. What is that standard? Who is to say one standard is better than another? If the standard is our present society, does that mean that any change from the way things are now would be moral decline? If the standard is what you personally believe to be right and wrong, what makes your belief any better than that of a terrorist?
Ultimately, in order to conceive of moral advancement, we need to have a standard to measure against that is outside of the opinion of one person or a group of people.

Newbietu,

You seem to agree that there are passages (or at least one passage) in the Bible that promote religious hatred. As with Amy earlier, you are not arguing that Deuteronomy 13 does not promote religious hatred, rather your point is that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because for these people, at that time, and in their circumstances, religious hatred was a good thing. In the situation that existed then, it was morally good to kill someone for the crime of suggesting that you consider a different religious system. Am I capturing your meaning accurately?

No belief system can prevent people from taking statements out of context and using them to do horrible things.
...
So, in order to misunderstand Scripture in the way you state, a person would have to pick Deuteronomy 13:6 while ignoring verse 9 and Matthew 5:21-22.
The nearest hard copy Bible I have handy is a KJV. Deuteronomy 13:6 is on page 209 and Matthew 5:21-22 is on page 934. Is it very hard to imagine that someone might read something on page 209 and form an understanding of it without first reading the next 725 pages? Even accepting your particular interpretation that the OT Law no longer applies, it is not reasonable to expect everyone else to come to the same understanding as you. I find it quite incredible that the clarifying context needed to properly understand a passage is found 725 pages later, in a different book written by a different author in a different language hundreds of years later.

It would be better to refrain from teaching people that the Bible is the ultimate authority (or even an authority at all) on moral questions, until and unless you can be certain that the individual has a sufficiently thorough understand of the entirety of your interpretation. I'm sure you are aware that your interpretation is not universally accepted. I don't have a dog in this doctrinal fight, but just before Matthew 5:21, in Matthew 5:17-19, we have Jesus saying (NAS),

17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

19"Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


(I find this especially interesting, as one of the articles Amy pointed me towards earlier in this thread provides several lines of "evidence for the annulment of the Mosaic Law".)

My point with this is not to argue for one interpretation or another, but to establish that there are multiple interpretations out there. You cannot reasonably expect everyone to agree with your interpretation.

Jesus trumped several OT rules with NT teaching. Israel waged war but now she (NT Church) doesn't. He said my kingdom is not of this world, If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight.

Also capital punishment is unnecessary in NT teaching since Jesus forgave the capital offense of adultery.

The Decalogue is a moral guide but can actually damage faith when practiced as a condition of salvation.

dave,

Also capital punishment is unnecessary in NT teaching since Jesus forgave the capital offense of adultery.

Are you referring to the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8? It is my understanding that this passage is now widely thought to be a later insertion, and not an original part of the text. The Christians here can correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I think this passage is no longer considered part of the divinely-inspired text, and is not thought to relate a true story about Jesus and his teaching. The original text has been adulterated.

Newbietu,

At the risk of getting into this dance again...

Finally, in order to "advance morally" we have to have a standard to measure against.

That's true, and we do have a standard to measure against. That standard is decidedly not the standard we find in the Old Testament. This is why people find many of the things in the Old Testament to be horrific on first reading, and must be conditioned to begin to accept them as somehow being 'good'.

eric,
Assuming my workplace is quiet, I'm always up for a challenge. Shall I tell the band to lead us off with a tango? :)

I suppose part of the problem is that we need to define religious hatred. I have been defining it like this:

Religious hatred is when one person wants to kill or hurt another exclusively because they have different systems of belief.

Thus, my definition excludes people who may want to kill one another for reasons of race, political systems, class, etc. and also have religious differences. So if an Arab Muslim kills an American Christian because he's an American, that would not be a crime of religious hatred. If an Arab Muslim kills an American Christian because he is a Christian, that would be religious hatred.

So, with the definition out of the way, here's a re-statement of my interpretation:
People outside of Israel were free to worship whomever they pleased. However, Israel was by definition a community of people who had chosen to acknowledge Jehovah God as their King, and thus any action against their King would be considered treason. The command does not tell the people of Israel to go out and track down people who worship other gods and kill them, it is quite directly phrased to refer to treasonous members of the community or spies from outside. In that sense, it is no different from a country defining treason as suggesting the King be removed from his throne. If you abandon the country and disavow your citizenship, you can say whatever you want, but as long as you are benefiting from citizenship in the kingdom you are not allowed to speak against it.

In a broader sense, I will agree with you that practically any religious material can be taken out of context and twisted to the service of horror. However, any document can be twisted from its intended purpose if sections are taken out of context.

For example, say I'm the Speaker of the House in Washington, DC. I decide I'm tired of hearing people talk about how amazing the Constitution is as a guide for government and decide to read some of it. I randomly flip it open and my eyes happen to catch the first clause of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law"
I am dumbstruck. I thought my purpose was to come to Washington and make laws. Now I discover that this amazing book that is the guide for our government forbids Congress from making laws. I immediately resign my position and go home in despair, telling my constituents that I couldn't do anything to help them because Congress is not allowed to make laws.

Hopefully you realize the silliness of this little example, but you also see the point. Context is crucial for a proper understanding of any statement in any document. Arguing that a document is useless because someone might take a statement out of context is absurd. If I am told a document is the moral authority you can bet every cent you have that I'm going to put in the effort to try to understand the entire document.

Generally, people who take a statement from religious literature out of context are not looking for guidance, they already know what they're going to do, they just want to justify their position with a verse or two.

Finally, where do we get this moral standard you are referring to from? Is it written down somewhere? Is it just what "feels right"?

"You seem to agree that there are passages (or at least one passage) in the Bible that promote religious hatred."

Eric, I would just like to deal with this small portion of your statement. Yes, actually as shocking as it may seem to you, the bible as a whole does promote hatred, but with a qualification. It promotes the hatred of evil and that is one of the reasons that it exposes it within its pages and commands the ancient Israelites to be the tool with which God roots it out of the world. There are several things you have to be aware of. One that the people God commanded the destruction of were intent on spreading evil throughout the world and destroying the means by which the world would be rescued by God. It is quite possible if they were not destroyed the rescue would never have occurred some two thousand years ago.

>>It would be better to avoiding teaching people that all the answers to right and wrong can be found in these books.

It would be better to teach what the Bible actually says.

>>This does not say the the commandments are no longer good to follow, only that there is no longer a requirement to follow them.

I explained the context of that particular command, given for a particular purpose in a historical context. One can determine from that context, because of the reasons I explained, that we are not commanded to do this. Who would we possibly apply the punishment to? As I explained, only those who follow Jesus are part of our covenant. Israel was enforcing their covenant. If those who do not worship Jesus are outside the covenant, why on earth would we enforce a covenant they're not part of?

On that ground alone, it would be an absurdity for Christians to apply this punishment to non-Christians. I don't know of any Christian who would disagree with this, regardless of their general view of the relationship between the Law and the Christian. This is because it's a question of historical context (the narrative surrounding the Law) and Christian theology (who's in and out of the covenant) more than it is a question of the nature of our relationship to the Law in general. The need to enforce our covenant is simply no longer in existence.

Important: The Law is not a list of moral and immoral things, it's part of a historical narrative, and it's the Constitution of the nation of Israel, with laws for behavior given with the prescribed rewards and punishments for breaking those laws. So the words of Deuteronomy need to be understood in light of this, not interpreted as a mere list of behaviors.

In other words, the prescribing of a punishment for a specific act in a time and place (the stipulations of the covenant) does not mean that act will always be morally correct in every situation (as if it were merely a list of moral things).

Consider this: Would any reasonable person determine that it would be morally correct for him to lock someone in his basement just because the law of our land says that if you break the laws, the government will lock you up? Don't we understand the difference between (1) a list of moral and immoral things for all people and situations and (2) punishments enacted by governments alone, in particular situations? Or should we throw out our prescribed punishments for breaking the law just because someone might be confused and think he must enact those punishments against people on his own?

(In Israel, of course, the community was empowered to enforce the Law as a community, but the government would be the analogous authority today.)

I don't think this is as difficult to figure out as you think. Atheists have a difficult time understanding it when it comes to the Bible, but that's because they don't know the Bible. They only know bits of unrelated, out-of-context pieces. (And probably also because they have a stake in making it look foolish or trying to scare people concerning it.)

You simply don't need to be concerned. Christians (or at the very least, the Christians who have any influence on other Christians) tend to read the Bible more and have a better picture of what's going on, and they're able to apply these familiar concepts of government/punishment/covenant.

>>then we must agree that it is righteous to kill someone who attempts to persuade you to serve other gods.

No, we must agree that Israel was commanded to enforce the covenant their nation had made with God. Since our nation does not have a covenant with God that gives rules, rewards, and punishments, our nation is not under this prescribed punishment for breaking a non-existent covenant.

This doesn't mean that suddenly it's moral to try to persuade a person not to believe in the true God. It's still immoral. It just means that such a person is not breaking any covenant and so it's not an analogous situation to that described in the OT.

"You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. (Deut 13:9)"
There is more to this yet. The death penalty was not decided by the offended, or by his community. It was decided by judges in a trial. The accuser had to have witnesses and the accused was allowed to defend himself. Once the sentence was determined then the accuser had to "cast the first stone". In part this injunction helped to ensure that the accuser was sincere and willing to see the matter through. Were he or his witnesses found to be lying they were subject to the same penalty that the defendant was facing.

Hey Eric,

It's a little bit of an in joke. Daron is not advocating subjective or relative morality. He's just having a good fun (I presume) dig at me.
Thanks for the defence.
You have the rare characteristic of being able to critique your allies and commend your opponents. Kudos to you (on that ... not on your exegesis, though. )

Several people have responded since my last post. In these responses, I don't see any disagreement with my claim that the Bible promotes religious hatred. I think you all realize that you can't argue with that, because it's right there in the Deuteronomy passage I quoted. Rather, you wish to justify this religious hatred as acceptable (or even positively good), and/or that it no longer applies. That's a different matter.

What this means is that if you wish to criticize someone else, you cannot do so simply on the basis of their promotion of religious hatred, because you support religious hatred in some cases. You have to argue that there are some criteria by which your religious hatred is judged acceptable and their religious hatred is not.

Specific replies to follow (time permitting).

Newbietu,

I think your definition of religious hatred is pretty good. The one change I would consider would be to say,

Religious hatred is when one person believes another should be hurt or killed exclusively because they have different systems of belief

This would cover people who wouldn't actually commit the acts themselves, but would support them being committed by some third party.

People outside of Israel were free to worship whomever they pleased.
That's debatable.
The command does not tell the people of Israel to go out and track down people who worship other gods and kill them,
This command may not, but this is the same God as in Exodus 23 (NAS),
23 My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.

24You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.

In case the reason for this is not clear enough, He emphasizes again a few lines later,

33"They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you."

I believe this easily qualifies under our definition of religious hatred.

Getting back to the Deuteronomy discussion,

it is quite directly phrased to refer to treasonous members of the community or spies from outside. In that sense, it is no different from a country defining treason as suggesting the King be removed from his throne.
If your neighbor came to you and suggested that you go with him to a presentation on the benefits of living in Iran, and that you consider moving from the US to Iran, do you think the proper response would be to insist upon his execution? Do you believe in freedom of thought and discussion, or do you believe that governments have the moral right to kill people for thinking or saying the wrong thing?
If you abandon the country and disavow your citizenship, you can say whatever you want, but as long as you are benefiting from citizenship in the kingdom you are not allowed to speak against it.
This may have been the de facto reality in many times and places, but surely you don't think that is good and just. If so, then then are you planning to head down to the next nearby Tea Party gathering and gun down the participants? If you are not preparing to do so yourself, would you support Obama if he sent in the National Guard to do so? Would that be just?
Arguing that a document is useless because someone might take a statement out of context is absurd.
I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that the fact that a document can be so easily taken out of context means we shouldn't teach people that it contains the basis of all morality. I don't know where you live and what kinds of cultures you have been exposed to, but where I live the local school kids can opt-out of gym class and instead go on the "Bible Bus", which parks across the street from the school to get around the legal issues. Here, these kids (and we are talking elementary students) are taught to "Pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's unchanging word" (they really recite this, standing with hand-over-heart facing the instructor who holds aloft a Bible). They are told that "Every single word of it is true and good." You can bet that these kids are not taught careful historical and textual analysis. You can bet that they are not taught that if something they read in there doesn't seem right, they should carefully question it and think about it really hard. No, "God said it, I believe It, That settles it". Now open that book up and show them where God says "But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people." Then try to tell them, "That doesn't mean what you think. You have to consider the Suzerain Treaty form of the day and apply proper exegetical and hermeneutical analysis".
If I am told a document is the moral authority you can bet every cent you have that I'm going to put in the effort to try to understand the entire document.
And you are in a very small minority. I would not, as a rule, take that bet, because I would loose many more times than win. I don't understand the thinking of someone who believes that a particular book is authored by the creator of the universe, but can't be bothered to read the book, but that is a surprisingly common position.
Finally, where do we get this moral standard you are referring to from? Is it written down somewhere? Is it just what "feels right"?
Are you expecting a treatise on moral philosophy? We can start from axioms and then use logic and evidence to determine the proper, or best available, actions in different circumstances. I am not claiming that I can personally accomplish this for all possible situations, but this is how it would work. In short, the same way gain knowledge of all things that are real.

>>I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that the fact that a document can be so easily taken out of context means we shouldn't teach people that it contains the basis of all morality.

I'm having trouble understanding why that follows. If the document, when correctly understood, does contain the basis of all morality, why should a person deny that just because someone might not correctly understand it? I just don't see how that follows. We certainly wouldn't do this with any other true text in a different field.

Now, if what you really want to say is that it's not really the basis of morality, therefore we should not say it is, that's a different argument altogether. But that first argument really does not make sense.

Second, if it's so easy for Christians to take this out of context to mean that we ought to kill non-Christians who try to proselytize us, why is it that I don't know a single Christian who advocates this interpretation, not even one?

What seems to me to be the case is that you're trying to find a roundabout way to get Christians to stop advocating the Bible as being completely moral even though they actually think it is completely moral. You're trying to save yourself the step of convincing us that it really isn't the word of God and skip directly to convincing us not to tell other people it's the word of God.

It's a gutsy tactic, but it really is not legitimate. If you think the Bible is not the word of God, then convince us it's not the word of God, and then we'll stop telling other people it is.

Amy,

I'm having trouble understanding why that follows.

Perhaps I am not making my point with sufficient care when I say, "we shouldn't teach people that it contains the basis of all morality." I mean we should not teach this, and leave it at that. We should not teach this primarily, without ensuring that the people to whom this is taught are led carefully enough through some moderating interpretation. Adding to the confusion, when I say "we", I don't mean to include myself, because I wouldn't be teaching that in the first place.


Second, if it's so easy for Christians to take this out of context to mean that we ought to kill non-Christians who try to proselytize us, why is it that I don't know a single Christian who advocates this interpretation, not even one?

Of all Christians who have ever lived, with what percentage do you estimate you have had personal contact? Do you expect that your personal interactions with Christians are representative of the entirety of Christianity? Are you really going to argue that no one has interpreted passages in the BIble to mean that they should kill people? And you will base this argument on the fact that you haven't known anyone who has done this?

Have you heard of witch hunts? If you think they are old news, look at Uganda. Keep looking at Uganda for more Biblically-inspired murderous hatred in the form of a law making homosexual behavior a capital crime. Will you deny that the Bible was used in justifying witch hunts? Will you deny that the Bible was used in justifying the death penalty for homosexual behavior?

The case I have presented is silent on whether or not your interpretation is true. Whether your interpretation is right or wrong, plenty of people gain inspiration for their criminal acts from passages in the Bible. Even if you are correct, your interpretation is a particularly nuanced view requiring careful analysis and a desire to find an interpretation that avoid attributing bad moral teaching to the Bible. Even if you are right in your interpretation, you still see that the Bible is promoting religious hatred (you haven't denied this, despite being given multiple opportunities). You just think that it's alright that the Bible does this, and you frame the troublesome passages with interpretations that render that hatred impotent in current times.

Even with your interpretation, you should realize the ease with which these texts are used as justification for vile acts, and you should take care not to promote your views in a way that encourages this.


What seems to me to be the case is that you're trying to find a roundabout way to get Christians to stop advocating the Bible as being completely moral even though they actually think it is completely moral.

I am doing two things. The first is pointing out the hypocrisy in the initial post here. I completely agree with condemning religious hatred, but I am not simultaneously revering as perfect a book which unabashedly promotes religious hatred.

The second thing I am doing is saying that Christians who do believe that the Bible is true, but do not want to see criminal acts being inspired by it (even by misreading of it) should be more careful in the way they promote it. There are very simplistic slogans that are used, with the apparent expectation that most people hearing the slogans will never bother to read the text itself. There's nothing wrong with saying something like, "There is valuable wisdom and truth in this book, but it need to be approached carefully and thoughtfully, and if you are not careful it could be dangerously misused in your hands."

I think you ought to be on board with this second point. It's really in the same spirit as STR's "Never read a Bible verse". Even if the Bible is true, it can be dangerous if misused.

If you think the Bible is not the word of God, then convince us it's not the word of God, and then we'll stop telling other people it is.
I don't think it's the word of God, and I don't think it is completely true, but that is not a point I am arguing in this thread. (At least, I don't think I've argued it here.) The points I am making are valid regardless of whether or not the Bible is the word of God.


It's a gutsy tactic

That word… I don't think it means what you think it means. But I appreciate your effort at restraint.

@ NFQ -

"Wow, it sure is a good thing that Christians in the US *never* try to shape the popular culture to promote hatred of people who don't share their religion! And they would certainly never commit violence against people who don't share their views."

Yep. It's good we don't. Good thing you are aware of that.

Sounds a little like the media in the U.S. They will ignore thousands of acts of charity and kindness by Christians, but broadcast our faults as if we were all like the 1% of whack jobs that give us a bad name. When someone does something really bad from another religion, the media will usually not mention they are Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, etc.

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