Friday, November 20, 2009

76: God Won't Forgive You & Joshua: In Review

Joshua 22-24
In chapter 22 Joshua sends the people back home who didn't want to cross the Jordan river. They have done their fighting duty and are no longer needed. Upon returning home, these people build an altar. Joshua, and the rest of the Israelites that are still on the promised land side of the Jordan, see the altar, and think that they are building an altar to another God. Their first instinct, of course, is to kill them. Joshua and his army cross the Jordan and prepare to attack. Before they kill them they decide to ask why they built the altar. They built the altar to show that they were still part of the Israelite tribe even though they were on the "wrong" side of the Jordan. What's the lesson here? Maybe your first instinct shouldn't be to raise your army and go to kill everyone over an altar.

Joshua 23 seems like it's going to be uninteresting. It's titled "Joshua's Farewell to the Leaders". It starts out with the same old lines, follow God's laws, if you follow him you can slaughter all of your enemies, if you don't follow God you're going to die. Fine, I've already talked about this, till the last paragraph.

Joshua says that he is going to die. He tells the Israelites (I guess so they will keep the faith after he is gone) that God has kept all his promises. Ok, that's fine. But Joshua goes on to say "just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you." Oops, we forgot a conditional statement there. I think the bible meant to say "if you are naughty" God will wipe you from the land. That is not, unfortunately, what it says. It just says that God will bring down all of the "evil" he has threatened on the Israelites, no matter what, end of sentence. Equally frightening is that his sentence admits that the things God does (in punishment) are "evil". How can a being that is completely good be capable of doing something evil? I'm commonly told that God cannot do things "against his nature", if this is true, then at least some part of God's character is evil. I would argue that it's a rather large part.

Chapter 24 is called "The Covenant Renewed at Shechem". Why do they have to keep renewing the covenant? This is at least the sixth time they've done it.

The beginning of the chapter pretty much lists all of the "wonderful" things God has done, which generally include slaughtering people. The chapter is not without interest though. Joshua just needs to keep his mouth shut, he's being the Joe Biden of the bible. Here's his next unfortunate quote:
Joshua said to the people, 'You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.'
Uhh, what? If we are incapable of serving God then what are we talking about this for? Give up now is apparently the takeaway message from this chapter. That sounded a little crazy, but Joshua isn't done yet. He renews the covenant, then he takes a rock and puts it at the base of a tree. This is then what he proclaims:
'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.'
The rock heard everything you said? The rock is going to be a witness against the Israelites? I think it might be time for the nursing home Joshua. I guess God can make rocks talk too, along with donkeys.

At the end of the chapter, and the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua dies at the ridiculous age of one hundred and ten. At least God didn't kill his disciple this time.

*Joshua: In Review*
Joshua is a book of conquest. Of course, it's "righteous" conquest if you're a Christian and easily believe these things. I have personally been to bible studies where we read some of the nasty passages from Joshua and the Christians in the room laughed off the blatant atrocities. This is far from something that can be lightly dismissed. Your God and your morals don't line up.

I'm not sure how people can read this and have no empathy for the people being ruthlessly slaughtered. God is destroying these people for arbitrary reasons, and arbitrary sin that humans commit regularly, that you commit regularly. These people were born at the wrong place at the wrong time, they attempted to retreat, they attempted to surrender. God hardened their hearts and would not allow it. On top of that, we can only assume that since God didn't like them they are eternally in hell. Why? What did they do to deserve eternal torment? How much do you have to twist the definition of "love" to match the tyrant you observe in the bible?

Sorry, that was more of a rant than a review, but that's pretty much all that happened in Joshua. God commanded the Israelites to kill people.

*News*
As I'm sure 99% of you have heard, Ray Comfort and his minion have been (for the past couple of days) passing out the Origin of Species with a 50 page intelligent design introduction. As a side note, I may review that introduction in my more general purpose blog. I've already read it, it was painful. Now, every promenant blogger alive has already covered this story, so I won't talk too much about it, but I will share with you my personal story of confronting some of Ray Comfort's minion. This discussion turned into bible debate, so seems to be relevant for this blog.

The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue staged a counter protest for the Ray Comfort books. We handed out fliers with some good pro-evolution anti-stupidity info to anyone getting the defaced Origin of Species. We split up because there were several people in multiple locations. By the time we came back together Jen (over at Blag Hag) was talking to a few of the creationists. The conversation had apparently shifted from evolution to the bible, once the creationists figured out that she knew a lot about evolution and very little about the bible. Interesting (dishonest) debating tactic. I know at least a little about the bible so I was thrown into the fray.

The most interesting part for me was when they said "God has never killed anyone". Which was a major foot in the mouth moment, anyone following my blog for any length of time knows that God has killed people. For example here, here, here, here, here, here, oh and here (this isn't anywhere near a comprehensive list). God hasn't killed anyone? Really?

They went on to clearly admit their circular reasoning. Here is a paraphrased exchange.
Us: "How do you know that the bible isn't a fake?"
Them: "Because it's the inspired word of God"
Us: "Ok, how do you know God exists?"
Them: "Because the bible says so."
Us: "That's circular reasoning, don't you see the problem with that?"
Them: "That's where the faith comes it."
They then went on to tell us that we had faith as well because we don't know where the universe came from. It doesn't take faith to say "I don't know". If someone asked me the circumference of the earth, I would say "I don't know". What do I have faith in, in that situation? Yet we apply that same "I don't know" to the beginning of the universe, and suddenly I have blind faith in science. No. I don't. End of story.

This seems like an arbitrary goal, but I feel like if I have a religious person say "Well, you just have to take it on faith", then I've won that conversation. There's nothing you can say to contradict "I believe something based on no evidence". I just have to wonder what goes on in someone's head that believes something based on (admittedly) nothing.

6 comments:

  1. Prominent blogger, eh? I think you may be biased ;)

    Thanks for making me relive that mind numbing conversation

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  2. If Google Reader recommends your blog based on what I've already subscribed to, then I'd say "prominent in the atheist circle" at least.

    As for the "take it on faith" argument, this is basically how all conversations with religious nuts end up. It usually signals the end of the debate as effectively as them closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their ears, and screaming "la la la la I can't hear you!"

    You can't debate people who refuse to be debated.

    Which is also why they throw the "you too have faith" lie into the mix. It's their way of admitting that you can't argue against blind belief. Except they're putting the onus of overcoming that heel onto you, and not themselves.

    Sure, you win the debate when they do that, but it's a hollow victory when they don't accept it and continue thinking they've got one over you.

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  3. I got into a debate with my (Catholic) father, and ended up asking him if he would obey the Pope if the Pope told him to do something he knew was evil. The answer? "I'd have to think about that."

    Needless to say, I didn't get my morality from my parents.

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  4. That's always one thing that gets to me, Adrian. It's like when the Catholic church recently (probably a few years ago now) abolished limbo for babies by decree. Surely the bible isn't so ambiguous as to leave such an important element open for interpretation … and surely the pope's authority couldn't overcome the bible's … surely ...

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  5. Bible365,
    A while back, you thought that Joshua was going to be the “prophet like Moses” that Deuteronomy 18 predicted. Do you still think that after reading Joshua? How was Joshua similar/different than Moses? Moses was very unique in that he spoke with God as a man speaks with his friend. Moses was a giver of the law. Moses was a mediator between God and God’s people. Moses was the “meekest” man as the text pointed out. But yet even Moses did not enter the Promised Land because of His failures.

    Joshua performed a different function than Moses. Joshua was an instrument of something called “the Day of Yahweh” or, “The Day of the Lord.” This is a time period where God breaks into human history in such a way that certain nations/people are judged but the meek/humble/His people are exalted (massive redistribution of ‘fortune’). You have now seen at least three of these days: 1) The Flood and 2) The Exodus and 3) now The Conquest. There will be more. And there will be times also when God judges His own people (as He has promised) and not the nations. At the end of all time there is one of these “days of the Lord”--note Revelation 19:11-21. Who is the “Joshua” figure in Revelation 19:11? What pattern is Joshua foreshadowing for later history? These are really “bad” days for some and really “good” days for others : ).

    In Joshua, God has fulfilled His oath toward Abraham. In fact, Joshua 1:8 serves as a thematic outline for the book suggesting how that fulfillment would take place. Read Joshua 1:8 again in light of your now having read the entire book. In the bigger picture, Abraham’s once non-existent seed has become numerous. God has "multiplied them and made them ruitful." And God has given Abraham’s seed the Promised Land. There are still aspects of the promise not yet fulfilled. But Joshua and God’s people have tasted and seen that the Lord fulfills His promises made centuries earlier.

    But as you remember, there was a covenant made between God and His people (at Sinai with Moses). You wonder why it had to be renewed several times. Well, it was broken several times—not by God but by the people. And, at various stages of fulfillment of God’s oath to Abraham (i.e. on the verge of the Promised Land and after its conquest) it is reaffirmed. And, each new generation of people must commit themselves to the covenant. You have seen now three generations 1) the Exodus generation that Moses led, 2) the children of the Exodus generation that Joshua led and 3) the generation that comes after Joshua about which you will begin to read next.

    For your future reading, after a good start for God’s people in the beginning part of Judges, you will see a deterioration of His people’s willingness to keep the covenant. Specifically the people will struggle with the very first stipulation of the covenant regarding idolatry--just as Joshua predicted. God will be patient. He will work with His people and deliver them countless times. But there will come a day when He does bring all the curses of Deuteronomy (same thing as Joshua’s promise of “evil/calamity”) upon His people because of their unwillingness to keep the covenant.

    At the end of 2 Kings God brings the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer His people and take them into exile (586 BC). This will be the fulfillment of “all the evil/calamitous” words that Deut/Joshua promised. The fascinating thing is that Israel regularly struggled with idolatry prior to 586 BC. After the “calamitous/evil” discipline God brought upon Israel in 586 BC, the Jews (to this day) have never again struggled with physical idolatry.

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  6. The bible would make a lot more sense to you if you just replace the word God with Satan throughout.

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