July 16, 2014

As Eternal As The Changeable Tides:
God's morality shifts depending on your perspective



I ran across a Charisma News piece, and I really felt moved to do a post on it. The title of the post is "Four More Sins That Are Also Okay If You Ignore the Bible on Homosexuality". That's a Do Not Link.

This quote in particular stuck out to me:
One of the problems with this argument is if you look at Leviticus 18, you will notice that it also prohibits other sins including incest, bestiality, adultery and child sacrifice. Of course, Leviticus is not exactly an instruction manual on Christian life under the New Covenant, but it is clear that this portion of the book is teaching universal moral principles—reflecting the heart of a holy God.
Obviously, I disagree with the idea that these are "universal moral principles" that reflect "the heart of a holy God", because I don't believe that there is a holy god, but perhaps that's beside the point. I've done a lot of reading lately, and my view of morality has shifted accordingly.

This quote brought to mind a quote I read about Søren Kierkgaard from Fear and Trembling, written in 1843:
If anyone found a man today who was taking his son someplace to murder him because a voice told him to do it, we would attempt to stop him and we would despise the fellow. 
Kierkgaard makes it clear that, today, we would consider such an action publicly indefensible. I believe this is quite accurate when you look at the case of the Texas mother that drowned her five children--while some of us may feel sympathetic for what is clearly a mental illness, the vast majority of us also acknowledge that the action is indefensible. This woman needs serious help. And yet, a vast majority of people in our nation look at the story of Abraham and Isaac and believe that it is not only the literal truth, but that it represents the will of an almighty, just God. It simply boggles the mind.

Do you know who ordered parents to kill their children in recent history? Jim "I Hope You Like Grape Kool-Aid" Jones, that's who.

But I digress.

The issue here is the idea of God's unchanging morality.


Mark Twain came up against the same issue. He said:
If it was fair and right in that day it would be fair and right to-day, because God's morals are supposed to be eternal and unchanging. 
If God's morality changes, from moment to moment, how, exactly, can he be considered to have universal moral principles? How, exactly, can he be considered the arbiter of universal morality?

Clearly, Charisma News and I have divergent points of view.

Consider incest: What is incest? It is a near universal taboo within humanity--but mostly because we all define it differently. Incest is a taboo, but the structures that create incest? Those are social.

And to us, Abraham and Sarah were, in fact, committing incest. Genesis 20:12:
Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
Most of us would say marrying your half sister was, indeed, incest--and yet God was okay with it here.

 Child sacrifice? Well, we have the example of Abraham again. From Genesis 22:
22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.22:3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.22:4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.22:7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?22:8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.22:9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
While God stopped Abraham, he never says that killing the child was wrong to begin with. If lusting after a woman is the same as having sex with her...how much more so is intending to murder someone actual murder?

As for the four sins in the piece, they are lying, murdering, gossiping, and worshipping idols. While two out of the four of those you could argue God never really contradicts, the murder one he most certainly does, and the lying one...well, take a look. There's many examples, but perhaps one of the best comes from Genesis 34. Here, one of Jacob's daughters is defiled by a man of the land they are living in, and her brothers respond like this:
34:24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.34:25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.34:26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.34:27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.34:28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,34:29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
Not only did they deceive and kill all of the men of the land, who came to them in good faith, but they also took their wives and children captive. What's life without a little lying and slavery, amirite?

And yet, they don't face anymore than a bit of a "Gee, guys, what'd you do that for? Now everyone is pissed at us," from their father.

If God's morality is universal and unchanging, would this fly today? If it is universal and unchanging, shouldn't it?

I'm sorry, but I'll take my human reasoning any day of the week. It tells me that people are indelibly endowed with certain rights, not because anyone says so, but simply because they are people. It tells me that my rights end where someone else's begin (and vice versa). It tells me that I am not broken, that I am most certainly worthy, and that I can be good--all on my own. I am not incomplete.

Yes, I will take that any day.

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