Friday, November 13, 2009

69: Moses Dies (Finally) & Deuteronomy: In Review & Torah: In Review

Deuteronomy 32-34
God makes Moses memorize a song about how he's going to kill everyone when (not if) the Israelites rebel. Moses makes everyone else memorize this song, then God decides that it's time for Moses to die. He tells Moses to go the top of Mount Nebo.

Before he leaves, Moses blesses some of the tribes. These are all random, rather non-interesting, blessings.

Moses hikes to the top of the mountain and God shows him the promise land. God pronounces that this is the land he had promised Moses' forefathers, but Moses will not set foot in it. Then God seems to kill him, just like Aaron. The bible doesn't explicitly say that God does the killing, but it says that God told them to go to the top of the mountain to die, and it says that Moses was perfectly healthy. So what else could it be?

The bible says that Moses was 120 years old when he died. Because that's not a ridiculous number.

Joshua inherits the "spirit" and the chapter (and the book) ends.

Deuteronomy: In Review
Deuteronomy is the book of repeated law, and it definitely succeeded in reiterating that God is a terrible being. The down side to Deuteronomy being a book of repeated law is that I don't have very much to review. Essentially the entire message of Deuteronomy is that you should follow all of God's laws no matter what. So, Christians, I challenge you to follow all of God's laws like the bible tells you to. Which means that if you are a female and get raped, that you should marry your attacker. What? That doesn't fit your definition of morality? Then sorry, you don't get your morality from the bible.

Torah: In Review
I haven't talked about this yet, but I'm sure some of you are familiar with the "Torah". This refers to the first five books of the old testament (namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). So this is something of a milestone, and a good chance to summarize the bible up to this point. Needless to say, I see some problems.

1. Why so sexist?
I know I'm supposed to be reading this in the "spirit of the time", but if you're going to make this the moral tenant of your life, you can't just write off the sexism. On the contrary, I've seen more than a few Christians embrace biblical sexism (not all of these people were men). This is a situation where biblical logic is holding back the advancement of our society. You can't claim that the bible is your sole moral compass unless you also embrace sexism. Which includes, but is not limited to, men raping women to marry them, men only being able to divorce women, not the other way around, and women being unable to speak in church, among many other things.

2. Where's Satan?
For getting blamed for so many bad things happening, he is conspicuously absent from the Torah. When the Israelites rebel, they never explain it away by saying "Satan made me do it", which seems to be an excuse I hear constantly from modern Christians.

3. Where is heaven/hell (or the afterlife)?
Not only is there no Satan, there is no hell. Not only is there no hell, there is no heaven. Not only is there no heaven, there isn't any afterlife even mentioned. Why are the first five books of the bible completely inconsistent with any form of belief that exists today? Isn't an afterlife at least worth a mention? You'd think that would come up in the conversation. The bible seems to imply, at least in the first five books, that when you die, you die. That's not very good for church attendance though.

4. Why the Israelites?
The Israelites are obviously not a better people than anyone else, yet God "loves" them and clearly hates everyone else. Ok, maybe Israel is the chosen people because God promised their forefathers he would care for them. But that just pushes it a few generations back, why did he choose Abraham, why did he choose Isaac?

5. Why does God hate everyone?
I hear stories about this "all loving God". He is seen nowhere in the beginning of the bible. In fact the bible points out the exact opposite. If you don't follow God's laws carefully, God abhors and detests you. I only saw mentioned once or twice that God loves Israel if they follow his laws to the letter. God still hates everyone else. This is so far from "all loving" it's ridiculous.

I'm going to get ahead of myself again and speculate on Jesus. The reason I hear for God loving us is that he sent Jesus. God hates us before Jesus, that is determined (the bible says so). But what does sending Jesus change? Jesus shields us from being punished for our sin, but God is still in the background hating us. This gets even worse; because Christians take great offense when you imply that they aren't monotheistic, God and Jesus have to be lumped into one being. So God hates us, and can't forgive us for sinning, but Jesus loves us and forgives us, but they're the same being. Something isn't working out here.

Needless to say, I'm unconvinced.

8 comments:

  1. Bible 365, your questions deserve a stab at answers so here are my attempts.

    1. Why so sexist?

    Bible 365, in Genesis 1:26 it is clear that male and female on ontologically equal. This means that God designed male and female as equal in essence. Genesis 2:18, which I believe is a complementary account of creation, adds that men and women have different roles or functions. Thus, male and female are equal in essence but different in function. If the definition of equality ends up being male and female must always have the exact same roles and functions then we have an essential problem. What about reproductive biological equality? Male and female are not then “equal” reproductively according to this definition. Men cannot have a baby, nor can they nurse. Biology (even in a natural selection framework) does not suggest that every living thing has equality of function. So I would ask you to be precise in your definition of “sexism.” Does not even biology suggest that male and female have different functions?

    From the Biblical perspective, the introduction of deviancy from God’s design (i.e. sin. Gen 3:16) perverted the valuation of male and female roles among mankind. The physically stronger sex tended to be “valued” greater. This is played out in history and in Scriptures as the effects of sin, not a God condoned value system.

    Let me push back a little if I may. The claim of “sexism” from a Darwinian perspective is interesting. Natural selection doesn’t discriminate between the value of beasts—a dog versus a human. If we can own dogs or any pets and subjugate those beasts, why can’t we own one another and subjugate the human beasts? What is your warrant in a natural selection framework to distinguish the value of one life (human) over another (animal, insect, bird, fish)? You do make a distinction don’t you? Do you eat meat? Did you ever have a pet growing up? If therefore, you discriminate against other life forms, why is discriminating among human life forms—male/female/ethnicity/weak/strong—wrong? So, there is no tension in a natural selection framework, if let’s say, a female human has a male slave and treats him as one would treat a dog? Right? Or, at least can somebody explain to me why natural selection apparently “selected” millennia of sexism among the human species which was good for the perpetuation of the genetic stock?

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  2. 2. Where’s Satan & 4. Why the Israelites?

    Bible365, the Torah contains no “Devil made me do it” type of theology. You have observed correctly in that respect. When Christians use that justification for their behavior, it is simply a cop-out. However, you do seem to be missing the overall plot line that started in Genesis 1-3 that sets in motion the rest of the redemption story. Let me explain.

    Genesis 3 initiates a battle between the seed of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (who is later revealed to be Satan) and the seed of women (Gen 3:14-15). But God promises in Gen 3:15 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (first foreshadowing of the ultimate seed- Jesus Christ). However, starting in Gen 4 – 11, the seed of the serpent seems to be thoroughly overcoming God’s promise. Starting in Genesis 4, the first seed of the woman, Cain, kills his younger brother. Then, seven generations later from Cain’s loins, Lamech takes two wives and boasts about killing a boy. Gen 5 is replete with the refrain, “then he died… then he died…then he died.” Gen 6 indicates that the seed of the serpent has corrupted the entire world with only one family seemingly in good standing with God. Thus the seed of the serpent appears to be “winning.” What would come of God’s promise that the “seed of the woman” would crush the “head of the serpent?” The seed of woman is thoroughly corrupt.

    In Genesis 12 then, God takes an idolatrous nomad family (cf. Joshua 24:2) that has “no seed” (barren Sarah) and promises to bring blessing to them and through them to the nations. Why is Abraham (i.e. ultimately Israel) chosen? There is nothing inherently righteous or worthy within Abraham that motivates God gracious choice. You have observed in your writings that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. were not especially “righteous” people. They did not “earn” God’s favor. So why did God reach down and select anybody? God is concerned about His creation and desires to bring blessing to His creation. God chose one family that did ultimately respond in faith to God’s call. God redeemed Abraham and Sarah and then made an oath that through this family the world would be blessed. God would create “life” out of barrenness (just as He did by BTW in Genesis 1—creation ex-nihilo) by giving Abraham and Sarah “seed” to a family without “seed.” And Abraham would respond in faith. God desires a people for His own possession and one of the first characteristics that He is creating in them is one of Abrahamic type faith in Him.

    Deuteronomy 7:6-8
    6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.7 “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    But moreover, through this “seed” of woman (from Sarah, and back to Eve), God would bring the seed that would crush the serpent of Genesis 3. Who might that be?

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  3. 3. Where is heaven/hell?

    Excellent question. This is answered again by considering the plot line of the Bible.

    Did you make the literary connections between the tabernacle and the Garden of Eden? What was the tabernacle representing? What was the Garden of Eden? Did you know that the end of Scriptures in the book of Revelation has a “garden” type scene? You might want to read Revelation 22 before day 365 :).

    Note the parallels between the Garden of Eden and the Tabernacle:

    The Garden “Sanctuary” of Eden where GOD’S PRESENCE DWELLS:
    1. Garden surrounded by lands of gold and precious jewels (Gen 2:12)
    2. In the middle of the Garden is a tree of life (Gen 2:9)
    3. God is described as walking about in the midst of the garden with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8)
    4. Innocence and Intimacy and Life were in the Garden Sanctuary (pretty obvious)
    5. Cherubim were at the entrance to the Garden (Gen 3:24)

    The Tabernacle “Sanctuary” where GOD WANTED TO RESTORE DWELLING AMONG HIS PEOPLE:
    1. The tabernacle is surrounded in and out by instruments of gold and precious jewels (Ex 25:7; 28:9,20)
    2. In the middle of the tabernacle is the menorah shaped like a tree (Ex 25:31-37)
    3. God is described as “walking” about in the midst of Israel through the tabernacle (Deut 23:14; Lev 26:12))
    4. To be Intimate with God in the Holy of Holy required cleansing (innocence), and close to the “camp” of the tabernacle there was “life” outside the camp was death (all the sacrifices and cleansing from sin)
    5. Cherubim were embroidered on the curtain walls around the tabernacle (Exodus 25:18-22; 26:31)

    What is the point? From the beginning of creation God desires that mankind dwell with Him in “sanctuary” where innocence, intimacy and life exists with God. The Tabernacle was an echo of paradise lost but a real symbol that God still desired for His people to dwell with Him in paradise. The ultimate expulsion from the presence of God (end of Gen 3) and being cut off from the presence of God with the tabernacle for eternity is “Hell.” Yet the entire sweep of the Torah is for God to reestablish His presence with His people. God is working a plan that results in a “Paradise like” restoration of Him dwelling with His people for eternity—i.e. in imprecise language “Heaven.”

    You might want to read John 1 real quick now

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  4. 4. Why does God hate everyone?

    I certainly understand why you could come to this conclusion. What you have chosen to emphasize in your critical review is God’s judgment upon sin. As I have mentioned before in a previous post, God is “holy.” His first and foremost attribute is not “love” but “holiness.” Holiness is His attribute of being unlike anything or anyone else. If God is the self-existent creator, then obviously God is unlike anything else. As totally unique, then God is unlike anything/anyone in His love and compassion but also in His justice and wrath and power(i.e. ability to create the universe and bring life out of deadness or vice versa).

    The main “sin” issue in the Torah is the failure of mankind to acknowledge and follow this God who designed him and sustains him. Practices and heart issues that lead away from God and his good order for his creation are condemned. There ARE consequences for disobedience and deviation from His designed order. That is clear from the text. And, this is what you tend to focus upon to warrant the claim of an unloving God. If you take anything from the Torah you do see man’s utter inability to keep God’s commandments faithfully. And, the result of the disobedience over and over again is chaos and “death.” This started in Genesis 3. The seed of woman doesn’t seem like it will ever crush the head of the serpent as promised in Genesis 3:15.

    However, I do believe you are missing a vital aspect of the story line. God still obligated Himself to stay in relationship to His people because of His love for them. The entire sweep of the Torah is to re-establish a community of people with whom God will dwell that echoes “paradise lost.” You did also observe his loving shepherding of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph despite their unrighteousness. You did also observe His gracious redemption of Israel from Exodus because of His faithfulness to His promise. And it was only after he “redeemed” his people from slavery that he asked them to follow His law which would result in goodness to them. Yet His people still rebelled, grumbled, etc. But, there is “grace” in the end and all throughout. Keep reading.

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  5. @ Brent Aucoin: Wow! Great response. I want to start off by letting you know where I'm coming from: I'm a 25 year old atheist, currently working on a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. But, please don't take my compliment as facetious or sarcastic: I honestly think you took the time to carefully, honestly and humbly respond to Bible365. I'd just like to take the time to understand your responses, and also answer some of your questions. (Don't take my questions as attacks, I honestly would like to know what you think).

    Question: What do you mean by 'equal in essence'? It's just not clear to me.

    Response: "So I would ask you to be precise in your definition of “sexism.” Does not even biology suggest that male and female have different functions?" - Certainly, looking at males and females biologically, we can see that they are not the same.

    R: "If we can own dogs or any pets and subjugate those beasts, why can’t we own one another and subjugate the human beasts?" - I feel like this depends on what you mean by subjugate. First of all, yes, we 'can' own one another, just like I 'can' go out and murder someone, kidnap someone and keep them as a slave, etc. as long as I don't get caught or I guess if society accepts it (as human history attests to), but this doesn't mean that that's what would be best for ourselves and society. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. Society shouldn't look to biology for how it should act. Should it not behave in accordance with giving everyone the basics towards creating a meaningful and fulfilling life? If so, I believe that each person, regardless of sex, class, race, etc. should have the freedom to control their own lives, to be treated as ends in themselves, the right to personal autonomy.

    R: "What is your warrant in a natural selection framework to distinguish the value of one life (human) over another (animal, insect, bird, fish)?" - Personally I distinguish beings by their mental capabilities, an important one being their capability to suffer. For example, I would probably value almost any human desire over that of an insect's…if we can even speak of insects as having 'desires' (I wouldn't grant them that, btw).

    R: "You do make a distinction don’t you?" - Not necessarily (strongly emphasize necessarily). I don't ALWAYS place humans over other animals: I would not value a human's desire to beat a dog over the dog's desire to not be beaten.

    R: "Do you eat meat?" - I would if I knew that the meat came from an animal who was raised and slaughtered with care for it's welfare (i.e. humanely: without torture, without suffering). Unfortunately that is difficult to find, and so I don't eat meat.

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  6. R: "Did you ever have a pet growing up?" - I did! I had many. I had a Dalmation, a Husky, a couple cats, a couple dachshunds, and my parents currently have a cockatoo, and a Jack Russell / Basset Hound mix.

    R: "If therefore, you discriminate against other life forms, why is discriminating among human life forms—male/female/ethnicity/weak/strong—wrong?" - I've answered this question. However, I would like to point out that it seems as though you use 'discriminate' and 'distinguish' interchangeably…and I don't think you meant to do that (I hope you didn't).

    R: "So, there is no tension in a natural selection framework, if let’s say, a female human has a male slave and treats him as one would treat a dog?" - erm, are you asking if the universe cares about these? I guess I would say no. Well, no, I wouldn't say no, just like I wouldn't answer no to the following: "Does the couch care if you sit on it?" I mean, this is a category mistake. I cannot say yes or no to what the couch 'desires'. The couch is in a category completely outside that of a category of things that can 'care'.

    R: "Or, at least can somebody explain to me why natural selection apparently “selected” millennia of sexism among the human species which was good for the perpetuation of the genetic stock?" - If we're going to speak about what natural selection chose over millennia, we are talking about before agriculture, yes? I only make this distinction because since agriculture our species has gone through tremendous change, but that change was due to cultural factors (farming, formation of complex societies, writing, etc.), not genetic ones. Right, so before 12,000 BCE, I'm not sure sexism was even indeed selected for. I'm certainly no expert on that. However, I think it is safe to say that natural selection certainly didn't select against sexism, violence, rape, genocide, etc. Which is too bad, cause it would have made the world a better place. Fortunately, as a species and culture, we've come a very long way over the past 12,000 years (I'm not suggesting it has been all progress all that time), and some of us have been able to view other human beings as similar to ourselves, with desires to not be discriminated against, to be treated with respect, etc. That is, we've viewed other beings with compassion. And if similar minded people continue to fight for these values, then I think we can make the world a wonderful place.

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  7. Good cop, bad cop. "I want to forgive your signs, but my partner wants to force you to eat your children."

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  8. Late comment, but to add to the discussion...
    The first poster, when speaking of men and women being equal but different, is talking about complementarianism. There are two views of Christian marriage: egalitarianism (both are equal) and complementarianism (both are equal but have different roles). While said NOT to be sexist...it is, because with a little digging, these are how the roles differ:
    Men can do anything, except be pregnant.
    Women can do anything...except, in doing so, they must submit and be subservient, because men are first and women's roles are to be secondary to them.
    And these are not roles we can choose. They are assigned from birth. No ifs ands or buts. (and if you choose to be genderqueer, you're in a whole other mess)

    As for Heaven vs Hell--there was only Sheol at that time. Heaven and Hell, as well as the other dualities, God vs Satan, etc came later...and only due to a Persian influence of religion.
    The Torah, here, is the purest of the Judeo-Christian religion. Everything after that, that brings up more...was likely borrowed from some other religion.
    As we can see...this isn't all that lovely.

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