Wednesday, December 30, 2009

116: Our God is an Awesome [a Local and Relatively Powerless] God

2 Kings 15-17
It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires." - 2 Kings 17:26

Chapter 15 continues the endless listing of kings. They are all bad and none of them do anything particularly interesting (or really anything at all). They are all assassinated or otherwise debilitated because they are naughty in the eyes of God.

All of chapter 16 is about Ahaz, one of the kings of Judah. Ahaz gets attacked and besieged by Israel but they cannot overpower him. To end the siege, Ahaz sends messengers to the king of Assyria and offers him money to save him from Israel.

Assyria not only saves Judah from Israel, but invades Israel and takes over the promise land. The bible says that this is all taking place because Israel didn't follow God. How is God anywhere in this equation? The people of Judah didn't want to be slaughtered so they asked for help from the Assyrians. The Assyrians used the opportunity to invade Israel. God had nothing to do with it.

The king of Assyria takes people from all around and settles them in Israel. These people are not worshiping the "correct" God (because they've never heard of him). God is not pleased by this and sends lions to eat some of them. God doesn't even give them a chance to worship him, he just slaughters them for being disobedient of rules they've never heard.

The people living in Israel send a message to the king saying that they "do not know what the god of that country requires". The god of that country? Sorry American Christians, the god you worship is only the god of Israel.

The king of Assyria sends a priest from the Israelites to show the people how to worship in Israel. The people start worshiping the "correct" God, but also worship their own gods. God does nothing. No more fire and brimstone, these people are worshiping other gods and he is doing nothing.

Again, an all powerful God fails to make sense. Either God has changed his mind about killing people for not worshiping him, or he is incapable of killing them. Both of which spell doom for his all powerful/all knowing status.

Are you normal? Not if you aren't a perfectly mainstream Christian.

An article in Times-Herald spells out how you should be a "normal" Christian. According to this article, when you're a Christian you have four privileges: prayer, being led by the holy spirit, being punished (yes, this is a privilege), and your Christian family. If you don't have these you're not normal.

First, you must pray:
If you don't pray, you don't have a normal relationship with God.
You can't figure out how to relate to God in your own way if you're a Christian?

Second, you must be led by the holy spirit:
You might be spinning around in circles spiritually -- you jump from church to church -- calling it "church shopping," which is really laziness. The Spirit leads us in obeying God and guiding us as children of God.
That's right, if you can't figure out what church you want to go to, you're an abnormal lazy weirdo.

Third, you must be punished:
When a believer is going through sickness and trials, that person must ask, "Is this a result of my disobedience?"
What? So you're either miserable because you're being punished, or miserable because this guy is telling you that you're not normal if you're not being punished.

Finally, you must like your church "family":
If you're not connected to a church family, you're out of God's will and are missing this privilege.
If you don't have a divine connection with your peers in church, you're not normal. Great, now you're lonely and God hates you.

Being a Christian sounds miserable. If you have any stray feeling that doesn't line up with the beliefs of the church, you are branded a freak not worthy of being a Christian. There is no such thing as "normal". Stop trying to be normal and be your self.

(via Times-Herald)


  1. Ah but you see God caused Assyria to invade Israel - they were just his pawns in the great game of "torment the Israelites" that God loves to play. Well that, or the bits of the book that you're reading now are propaganda from Judah crowing about how much Israel sucks and God hates them. I tend to subscribe to the latter - right now you're slogging through the portions of the OT that are ancient propaganda. Which is why various kings are declared unfit to rule even when they rule for a very long time and it's their children, or their grandchildren, who seem to receive "punishment" for misdeeds of their elders.

    And yeah, that form of Christianity well and truly does suck. It's all about the guilt. Feel depressed? It's not a chemical imbalance that might be treatable with medication and counseling - it's because you aren't doing enough for the church! Feel like you can't relate to anyone in your church? It isn't because you really have nothing in common with them outside of the fact that you attend the same church - it's because YOU are trying to do something that doesn't involve the church! It's your lack of love for the church and the community that is the problem, not anything else. So you need to volunteer more and give more money and spend more time at church.

    I've seen it. It's a horrible scam. Especially for people who actually have real issues that can't be solved by either peer support groups or the placebo effect. And before I even clicked over I assumed it was written by a pastor, and lookee-here it IS written by a pastor. When you read something like this it's ALWAYS written by a pastor or a priest - but usually a Protestant pastor. It's basically the same pitch as a commercial for beer or axe body spray - it's advertising that tries to convince you that all of your problems can be solved if you just buy what they're selling. And what a pastor is ALWAYS selling is "more church" - because butts in the pews means more jingle in the collection plate.

  2. 2 Kings 17 is summary of Israel's (the northern kingdom) demise. Over 500+ years had elapsed between the initial giving of the covenant to the people and the account here. So, after all those years, and all the warnings, and the prophets, and the signs for Israel to take a different path, the covenant curses were poured out upon the northern kingdom just as promised in Deuteronomy. God kept His word. The people did not keep their word.

    Now, Jer, how could this be a piece of Judah propaganda when Judah is indicted also? And, the end of the story records Judah's same fate. I don't deny that 1-2 Kings was probably compiled by a southern kingdom man (probably Jeremiah who himself was persecuted by Judean leaders) but Judah does not come out smelling like a rose in the text.

    What is totally remarkable is the way Jewish people have preserved these texts as sacred scripture--considering that on every page the scriptures indicts them. Who keeps a list of their failures as sacred inspirational scripture?

    Bryan, you seem to be disturbed by all the death and dying in the OT. Here is a line of questions to consider: Why is it so surprising that "death" and "dying" permeate the OT scriptures especially after Genesis 3? What is the significance of all this death? Moreover from an evolutionary perspective why is there death anyway? Is there a clear answer to "Why death?" in an evolutionary framework?

  3. Just doing some back-reading, and noticed Brent's comment from above.

    Really I just want to highlight his comment:

    What is totally remarkable is the way Jewish people have preserved these texts as sacred scripture-- considering that on every page the scriptures indicts them. Who keeps a list of their failures as sacred inspirational scripture?

    This struck me deep, an important comment to make. I think I can say I totally agree with you here, as long as it is understood that this does not mean we can ultimately conclude this is some sort of evidence for their veracity or authority. Several valuable lessons have been lost or nearly lost due to the trampling nature of civilizations over civilizations.

    As far as who else keeps a list of their failures as sacred or inspirational?
    Well, some scientists, to some extent. Inventors, certainly (Edison?). Historians have always held a certain pious attitude in this vein, despite our repetitions of the old mistakes. Such a sacred text for Christians (we have 2000 years now so this volume could be made) would do Christians some good. Not that we should by any means stop at Christians...

    It is a beautiful testament (couldn't resist)to the Jewish people and does deserve some attention and respect.

  4. Hello there
    Doing too some back reading after the holidays.
    Bryan, keep up the good work!

    Brent asks: Is there a clear answer to "Why death?" in an evolutionary framework?

    Unless you unpack this a little, there is no way to understand what precisely you want to know. The question makes little sense to me.
    The first possible answer coming to my mind, anyway, is this: no death, no evolution ;)




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