What we have learned
Here are a few statements that I think all my readers, and indeed almost everyone in Britain would agree with:
- If you’re ill it’s often a good idea to go to the doctor;
- Devoting your professional life to improving other people’s lot on earth is a noble calling;
- If you treat children harshly, their chances of living a happy and virtuous adult life are greatly reduced;
- Laughter and fun, other things being equal, are good things and to be encouraged;
- Freedom of religious belief is a good thing – this includes the freedom to change the religion you were raised in;
- No one has the right to own another person;
- If something really extraordinary happens, it is a good idea to check out possible human or natural causes before assuming it’s divine intervention with a message;
- Since government decisions affect the lives of all the people, it is appropriate that the people should be consulted in the choice of a government;
- In war, targeting of civilians, killing of prisoners, and torture of anybody should be avoided;
- Marriage and sexual intercourse should always be consensual – no exceptions.
Do you agree with these statements?
At the risk of seriously annoying some of my readers, are these opinions taught in the Bible?
I think you’d struggle hard to find any of them. What you find, in several cases, tends towards the reverse.
[Under 1), see 2 Chron 16:12 and Mark 5:26. Poor King Asa is actually criticised for seeking medical advice; this is contrasted with what he should have done, ie repent. Under 3), see Proverbs 13:24 (teach morality by beating) and Deut 21: 18-21. There is admittedly the much-quoted Eph 6:4, but it is outnumbered by the verses commanding stern discipline. Under 5), see Deut 13:6-11 (execute those who want to worship other gods). Under 7), see Amos 4:7-11 (people should respond to disaster by repentance as a matter of course) and many many other passages. Under 9), see 1 Sam 27:9 (killing of Agag) etc.
I accept that 10) is more problematic. I think it’s clear that the Bible disapproves of rape (or at least rape of unmarried women with whose people one is not at war.) This can surely be deduced from Gen 34:2 (Dinah), 2 Sam 13:12 (Tamar), and even Lev 19:20. But it’s odd, when Leviticus gives over so much of chapters 18-20 to sexual mores, that the Bible never states this surely most obvious and essential sexual rule. And are there any women in the Bible, except Ruth and the Bride in the Song and possibly Rebekah, who are given any choice at all in whose wives or concubines they are?]
Way back last June http://www.penelopewallace.com/gods-responsibility-2/I pondered that two thousand-ish years (and counting) have passed since the Resurrection, and the Second Coming has not happened. We are still living in what people sometimes call “the now and the not yet”.
I speculated that God might have intended us to use this time to learn things or do things.
The human race has been quite busy learning things: DNA structure; Newtonian and then quantum physics; how to kill large numbers of people at a time; how to communicate instantaneously over large distances, etc.
And we’ve learned, most of us, to approve of fun and play, and disapprove of slavery and capital punishment for heresy.
In other words, we’ve learned to disagree with the Bible.
Of course, you may object that I am cherry-picking verses above, finding the most hard-to-defend verses, and to some extent I am. But with the one exception of Eph 6:4 (“Do not provoke your children…”) where are the Bible verses that one can cherry-pick on the other side? Where are the Bible verses saying that women have the right to say no, that scientific investigation, even scepticism, is valuable, and that parents have a moral duty to tell children they love them even when they’re naughty? (Maybe you can find some.)
Of course (2), the Bible was written a long time ago in a very different culture. Yes, it was. God, like Moses (Mark 10:5) had to adapt Himself to where people were at, and their hardness of heart. (We aren’t less hard, just hard in different areas.) So things have changed, but what has changed? (The services provided by the medical profession have improved…)
Of course (3), the laws of the Old Testament were given to Israel, and we are in the New Covenant. The commands to kill apostates, and the assumption that any plague or earthquake is necessarily a divine message may have stopped applying at some point. This is convenient for us to believe, but I don’t think the Bible actually gives us this option anywhere. The early Christians didn’t kill those who abandoned the faith, but then they weren’t in a position to.
Of course (4), if people study the Sermon on the Mount and Galatians 3:28 and indeed Gen 1:27 (“God made man in His own image, male and female He created them”) long enough, they may eventually come up with radical ideas like “all men are created free and equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights”. They do. It takes a long time, and it means prioritising those bits of the Bible over the other bits.
I’m not saying that you can’t deduce my statements 1) to 10) from some of the Bible. But I’m saying that we’re reluctant to admit that to do so (as we desperately want to) is quite difficult, and often means choosing one nice verse and rejecting a lot of other less nice ones. In a democracy of Bible texts, 21st century values wouldn’t prevail.
Of course (4), it may be that statements 1) to 10), and others like them, are actually wrong. You never know.
All the above is me being provocative, I suppose, but not dishonestly so. These thoughts give rise to several theological and moral issues, of which perhaps more later.
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS I’m sure you can all refer me to books and websites that address these issues?