Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club discussion

The Table - Group Book Reads > Is God A Moral Monster? Chapters 12-14

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments This was my favorite part of the book. What do others think of this quote:

Even when the terms buy, sell or aquire are used of servants/employees, they don't mean the person in question is "just property." Think of a sports player today who gets "traded" to another team, to which he "belongs."

Do you think this is an accurate comparison? For Israelite slaves, I think it's a helpful analogy. Not so much for Gentile slaves. Yet, I'm glad Copan pointed out over and over that the Hebrew law was a marked improvement.

No other ancient near Eastern law has been found that holds a master to account for the treatment of his own slaves

And I am impressed by the progression of the Law, how it became more humanitarian as time went on. This discussion is found near the bottom of page 148.

message 2: by David (new)

David I think this comes back to your assumptions about who God is and how God relates to us.

If you buy the progressive revelation (Copan's argument) then it makes sense that God would lift people above their surrounding culture.

If you think that God would/should just give the ultimate ethic right away, this sort of condescension to culture, meeting people where they are at, will make no sense to you.

In other words, I wonder how convincing this would be to hardcore skeptics because so much of it is decided before you even hear the arguments (based on who you assume God is and how God would work).

Anyway, I loved his point on p. 132 that if the American south had followed the three clear OT laws (anti-kidnapping, anti-harm and anti-slave return) then slavery as we know it would not have happened. I think that is a good point.

I thought his argument that "membership has its privileges" was kind of crass and even mean-spirited. How does it relate to Abraham being called to bring blessing to all nations? Saying you can treat foreigners worse seems disturbing to me.

On p. 148 he talks about the change, progression, just from Exodus - Deuteronomy. I noted that apologists (evangelical ones) can get away with stuff that evangelical theologians cannot. I am not sure if the point on 148 fits this best. But it made me think of open theism.

An apologist can use open-theism type arguments with a skeptic and no one minds.

A OT scholar (John Goldingay, for one) can say "this scripture seems to imply God does not know the future" and no one minds.

A theologian or pastor (Greg Boyd, John Sanders) says, "open theism is true" and people go nuts.

At any rate rate that point is probably more for the thread "what's the point of apologetics?"

Finally, I thought his point on p. 153 where he said radical abolitionists like John Brown were in the wrong and made emancipation even more difficult was way too simple a point. I'll take the progression idea and that God met people where they were at, allowing some form of slavery back in OT times. I have a harder time giving a post-Jesus "Christian" nation a break in the 1800s.

message 3: by Justin (new)

Justin | 37 comments Hello all.

Lee, regarding the quote you asked about: i'm not much of a historian so I won't try to evaluate whether Copan is accurate in that comparison, however, I will say that it seems prima facie plausible given the little that I do know about OT bondservants. I think the issue of slavery in the Bible is a lot less problematic that it often appears through American eyes because the whole concept of slavery is tinged in our minds by our own history, and what slavery looked like in this country. But the more I learn about Hebrew bondservants the more dissimilar to American slavery it appears. Three major differences that really strike me are the relative voluntariness of slavery in the OT, the fact that the institution of slavery in the OT seems to have existed in part as an aid to those in society who have no other option rather than some cruel imprisonment, and finally, it wasn't racist in the way that American slavery was.

On the other hand, I have never seen a truly satisfactory treatment of this verse:

20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property."

It sounds at first blush like a master is permitted to beat his servant to the point of near-death, such that the servant is unable to get up for a couple of days, and as long as he doesn't die, the master goes unpunished, because the servant, after all, is his property.

Have I interpreted the passage correctly? If so, what do we think of the morality of this law?

message 4: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments I seem to think that another goal of this book is trying to project a loving deity and give justification for God evil acts. When I get to much love sermons I go and watch an old friend of mine on YouTube who, after getting a degree in theology from Liberty University converted to Karaite Judaism and preaches it like an evangelical. All his videos tell me how much God hates us and has been most helpful. One video that you apply to the topics we are reading in at the link below. Just wondering what you all think and how this would apply to the apologists message.

God Murders Children - Worship Him In Truth

God Hates You!

Because I know the Reb from way back I know he amps this up for the camera and audience in retaliation to the message of evangelicalism. And he defiantly has a good scene of humor.

message 5: by Lee (last edited Jun 18, 2012 08:14AM) (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments I didn't get far into the videos before it became clear he reads the Bible far differently than I do. That black-or-white approach reminds me more of Zoroastrianism than Judaism.

Justin, I interpret that verse just as you do. Here's a thought-provoking quote from a book I just reviewed:

"Every time that you find in our books a tale the reality of which seems impossible, a story which is repugnant to both reason and common sense, then be sure that the text contains a profound allegory veiling a deeply mysterious truth; and the greater the absurdity of the latter, the deeper the wisdom of the spirit". --Moses Maimonides.

Right or wrong, some of the stories in the Bible are strikingly human, and it may be our job to dehumanize them...if we wish to keep the Bible on an elevated plane.

message 6: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments Lee wrote: "I didn't get far into the videos before it became clear he reads the Bible far differently than I do. That black-or-white approach reminds me more of Zoroastrianism than Judaism."

The Reb is a Karaite dystheist, which I find fascinating. Simply because it is so far to the opposite of what we are use to today, and our views of the Christian God of love and forgiveness. The videos are very hard to sit through but I did find the take interesting. Your right, this is not the mainstream Judaism. But a form of Jewish fundamentalism.

message 7: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments He seems to be influenced by the writings of David R. Blumenthal who wrote Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest, The Place of Faith and Grace in Judaism, and The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition (Moral Traditions series). I believe the Reb just was overboard. I do think it's good to get this view along with the others simple because it is a view that everyone tries to reconcile.

message 8: by David (new)

David More and more I think we find what we want to find. Want a loving God? You can find it. Want a vicious God? You can find it.

How do you balance the passages on either side is the question.

I do think (and I don't know you all personally nor your life situations, so don't take this the wrong way) that we living in comfortable 21st century Western culture find things offensive that others might not. We read of God judging evil and destroying people and we're like, "oh how horrible, such a mean God." But to a woman in Sudan who was raped and watched her family murdered, or a girl in India being raped a dozen times a night, or any number of other oppressed people...well, to them I imagine the thought of God's justice on evil sounds pretty loving.

That does not explain all the questionable passages. But if God will not eventually punish or remove or judge (or whatever term you want to use) evil, how is said God loving?

I like this quote from Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace:
“If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence – that God would not be worthy of worship...My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God's refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die.”

message 9: by David (new)

David I realized after I posted that what I said has more to do with God's character then with slavery. Sorry.

message 10: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments :) I don't think the quote will hold up through the remaining chapters about genocide and ethnic purging.

message 11: by David (new)

David Fair enough. I don't think the quote or the statement is as much about what we are talking about (very specific gruesome acts of God) as much as about a general mindset that a loving God would never judge anyone. So call it a tangent...

message 12: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I enjoyed that David. Good way to look at it. I think that whole approach does apply to slavery as well.

message 13: by Rod (last edited Jun 28, 2012 07:45AM) (new)

Rod Horncastle I think this whole life is partially a test. Just like Job's...and many other Bible characters.

Do we glorify God?

I meet many Christians who think life is for blessings, and revelation, and general niceness.

So can we glorify God in slavery? Sure we can. Do thousands of missionaries in China glorify God while in prison? Sure they do.
Slavery and prison are not the issue or the problem: Our glorifying God is. And its not for God's sake or knowledge - it's for ours. It inspires us throughout history.

I think death is a bigger problem than slavery, yet God has had NO PROBLEM allowing many Christians to die horrible deaths for his glory. I agree with God: the end is worth it. I think William Tyndale and John Huss agree.

message 14: by David (new)

David Sorry Rod, but I only half-way agree with what you said.

Can we glorify God in slavery? I assume you mean can people who are slaves have relationship with God and be okay. I guess I would say you CAN do so.

But to just throw that out there and leave it makes you sound like those who justified slavery in the 1800s. Lots of white slaveowners told their slaves to just worship God and be content with their situation in life.

To tell someone, anyone, that they can be a Christian and go to heaven when they die so their horrific situation in life here and now is no big deal is just wrong. Jesus' kingdom is one of justice and healing and peace. We don't tell the slave (whether the slave is on a plantation in Alabama in the 1800s or in a brothel in India today) that its okay because if they believe in God they'll go to heaven when they die.

Besides which, neither Tyndale nor Huss were slaves. They weren't forced to work on farms their whole lives with no pay. They weren't raped over and over and over again each night. So not sure using them as an illustration holds.

Sorry to sound harsh. But I think the continued existence of slavery in our world today is one of the worst things going. Yes, I agree that in the end those who suffer can find healing and comfort in God. But that does not justify the horrors of slavery now.

message 15: by Justin (new)

Justin | 37 comments Plausibly a slave can glorify God in serving his master with a godly attitude and so forth. Less clear is whether a slave owner can glorify God by having slaves.

message 16: by David (new)

David I agree in theory Justin, "plausibly" a slave can do this.

But there is a huge danger in these sorts of discussions in that we get so stuck in hypotheticals and theories that we miss the real world implications.

Are we really saying, "well, you've been raped by your master, you've worked the fields hours and hours each day with no pay, you have no freedom, your kids can be sold any time...but you can glorify God."

Are we really going to say, "hey, you're an 11 year old girl in a brothel in Calcutta being sold for sex 15 times a night, but if you serve the pimp who beats you when you don't make your quota, if you have a godly attitude to the men who rape you, you can glorify God."

I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but to me, when you say a slave can "plausibly glorify God" that is what you are saying. Apologetically, you've already lost the argument.

message 17: by Justin (new)

Justin | 37 comments Yes, that is what I'm saying. In fact, I'll go even more extreme: A person can glorify God in any circumstances.

That, however, does not mean that it is good that the person is in those circumstances.

message 18: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle You missed the heart of the matter David. This is about God's slavery. The slavery allowed by the Israelites in the Old Testament.

There were NO sex slaves in the Israelite camp or society (there wasn't supposed to be anyway.) There were NO kidnapped slaves in Israel.

We must never confuse historical slavery with what God allowed. God gave us alot of very specific rules for dealing with slavery.
If a slave owner asked his slave to do something immoral - now that is a problem that should be dealt with by God's people.

Nobody wants to be an abused slave. The Bible even says get OUT if you can. But it also says there's such thing as a good slave life.

message 19: by David (new)

David Fair enough. Go back up and read my post 3 - I said what I liked most about Copan's chapter was his argument that had the South obeyed the Bible, slavery as they had it would not have happened. So I do realize there is a difference between slavery in ancient Israel and slavery in the 1800s and today.

Maybe I am guilty of getting off topic. My point is that to throw out phrases like "People can glorify God in slavery" or "there is such a thing as a good slave life" is a poor choice apologetically.

It may sound good in a philosophy classroom, but it does not sound good pastorally. As I understand it, apologetics bridges those two things. I am trying to press us to the pastoral side of things.

To use a different example: I suppose a woman can glorify God in an abusive relationship. That could be a good philosophical discussion. But if that woman comes to you and you tell her that, I think you failed as an apologist. I think you tell her - get out now.

The best apologetic books I've read in recent years are by Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission and Rich Stearns, president of World Vision. They weren't marketed as "apologetics" but the argument they make with how they live their lives and run those organizations is more influential (to me) than much else.

message 20: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Interesting point David. I see the problem with Pastoral apologetics and absolutely truthful apologetics.

Kind of like telling someone: You are fat - stop eating so much and exercise.
A Pastor would have to say it nicely and encouragingly with time for step by step self motivation and realization of emotional needs and limitations.

I would suck as a Pastor. I'm more like Martin Luther. Although he had his issues as well.

message 21: by David (new)

David LOL, Martin Luther was a pastor!

It is not about being nice. Its the difference between saying:

"If you continue the heavy intake of bad calories, especially monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats you may recognize one day that your largesse has become uncontrollable"

as opposed to

"You probably should watch your weight"

message 22: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments An answer by Hector Avalos to Copan's answers in this book. In a video by TheBackyardProfessor talks about the topic in this video Bias in religion, ignorant of logic: All of us are Guilty

He makes some excellent points in relation to the topic. Thought you all might enjoy this.

message 23: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I know Martin Luther was a Pastor. He was one that made alot of people angry and insulted many who disagreed with him. I'd be like him. :D

That's why I'm glad I don't work for a church. Makes life easier.

message 24: by David (new)

David Thanks Alford, that was a good video.

That's where I find myself - wanting to defend the Bible because..well, its the Bible. But must I try to defend the killing of infants?

I stick with Jesus because I find Jesus so unique and compelling. If God ordering the killing of infants is really what the Christian God is like (rather then being most clearly revealed in Jesus) then our religion is no different then any other violent religion. It is just a question of which God commanding murder is the real God. Either way, that God does not look like Jesus.

message 25: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Actually the Jesus of the New Testament is about to Kill most of the human race: twice. Revelation 19 and 20.

Same as God killed Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. Same as the people in the great Flood. Same as Elisha and the 42 youths and 2 bears. Same all the Prophets of Baal. Same as the Canaanites...

I say: YES, you must indeed defend the killing of infants. God, Jesus, the Trinity is very consistent throughout all scripture. So is Hell. Yet God's love is present in everything he does.

The God of the Bible is Holy and Just. This makes him very different than every other god.

message 26: by David (new)

David That's what I struggle with Rod. It seems that an assumption in many ancient religions was that whatever happened on earth reflected what happened in the heavens - so the winning army had a more powerful god. A powerful God gave us victory over our enemies by killing them.

This is why Jesus was so shocking - he said love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

But if Jesus is just going to come and whack his enemies then what Jesus said in the gospels is NOT REALLY WHAT JESUS IS LIKE. If Revelation is God destroying everybody then the gospels are contradicted and we just have another religion about killing those in the wrong.

Muslims have a God they believe is holy and just. I don't see that as different. What I see as different is the God who dies on a cross for those killing him. Again, if that is not really how God is then Christianity is just another religion that is okay with killing its enemies.

message 27: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle Jesus told us to love our enemies. He didn't say he was going to. There's a challenging thought. (Maybe he did - prove me wrong. That would be okay.)

How many people did Jesus walk away from? Or remain silent with? Or call children of Satan? Or say to wipe the dust off your feet?

God said; "Vengeance is mine."

God is capable of doing things we are not. Therefore so is Jesus.
Actually Christianity is the ONLY religion that is fully Just and has a God that destroys those who are wrong. All the other gods can be bartered with...appeased by our amazing good deeds.

Our God is not cruel: like the Islamic god who can alter justice any way he wants - he can also torture endlessly people who go against his very ambiguous rules. Allah is going to burn the skin off people in Hell and endlessly replace it so they are always screaming in pain forever.

The God of the Bible is very specific about Justice. And his rules for forgiveness and Salvation are very clear and simple.
This is some deep stuff eh?

message 28: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments Rod wrote: "Jesus told us to love our enemies. He didn't say he was going to. There's a challenging thought. (Maybe he did - prove me wrong. That would be okay.)

How many people did Jesus walk away from? Or r..."

Maybe I'm reading the wrong biblical text that has been heavily edited to appeal to some theological construction. But when I read the whole thing it seemed that the Divine did not care about Justice, only when it benefited him. He even told the Just and righteous Job to sit down and keep quiet when he made protest.

The Divine and nature attacks the just as much as the unjust. Did not God Alter Justice to attack or allow Job to be attacked? Is it not better to suffer injustice and to commit injustice? So that is why believers like Job say "God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him." Job 13:15 Babies below the age of accountability died in the flood.

God does not destroy those who are wrong any more then those who are right. I know that both Muslim , JWs, and Mormon teachers, die from cancer just as much as the Baptist minister.

Rob maybe your pulling a theological line rather then one that is more realistic. I just looked out my window.

message 29: by David (new)

David "Jesus told us to love our enemies. He didn't say he was going to."

If you really believe that, then God becomes completely untrustworthy. If God can say one thing and completely do another, how can you trust anything God says?

Is Jesus the only way, truth and light...or did God just say that but actually there are many ways?

If you trust in Jesus will you be saved...or did God just say that but might actually smack you if the whim strikes?

That one quote you gave gives us a God whom we cannot trust.

Let me be clear - I do believe God executes justice, sooner or later. But I believe this justice goes on those who perform unrepentant evil, it is not random willy-nilly on infants or anyone else God just feels like blasting.

God is a God of justice, but our clearest picture of God is a crucified Jewish peasant which shows me that love triumphs over justice (love wins! haha)

message 30: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I can't wait to respond. This is fun. Later.

back to top