Thursday, 7 June 2007

Samuel and Saul, Pt.3


The issue in 1 Samuel 15 is a genocidal God. It takes special pleading to retrieve some decency from this disturbing tale, and the fact that some people even try indicates that their bibliolatry has long since moved beyond harmless wackiness into an apologetic for evil.

If we can cross our fingers and whistle through passages like this, what else will we ignore? They brought it on themselves? They were immoral? God has the right to take the life he has created? One is reminded of the advice the papal legate gave to the commander of the assault on the city of Beziers in 1209. How, the officer asked, are we to distinguish between the good Catholics and the wicked Cathars when we take the city? The legate reportedly replied: Kill them all, for God knows his own.

It is in revulsion to that kind of obvious evil that many of us fled from mainline Christianity to find something finer, more idealistic and truer in a sectarian community like the Worldwide Church of God. That quest may have ultimately proved a delusion, but the question remains: how can we make sense of sociopathic prophets like Samuel?

Some comfort might be found in the discovery that the historical books of Judges through Kings are relatively late creations, known to scholars as the Deuteronomistic History. The consensus is that they were created around the sixth century BCE, and that many of the events they relate are pure fiction. Not that most scholars were keen on the idea at first, but the archaeology of Israel just doesn't support the stories. Jerusalem was, for example, not a great city at the time David and Solomon were alive and the text is full of anachronisms such as the armour Goliath is described as wearing. At best David was a local warlord and Solomon a relatively minor figure. Saul? Who knows. A historical figure may well underlie the stories, just as real institutions like Opus Dei and the Louvre appear in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. But history it is not, and nor are the Deuteronomist's accounts. The idea of history as an objective retelling of the past was still far in the future when 1 Samuel was written, or Homer's Odyssey for that matter.

The Samuel stories are, however, powerful narrative, and Saul is a tragic character: arguably the only truly tragic character in biblical literature. The man who is singled out - against his own will - for the honor of being Israel's first king, is again singled out as the enemy of God, rejected without hope of redemption, tormented with an evil spirit from the hand of Yahweh. The shy young man who hides from the kingmaker is fated to die, along with all his descendants, and be replaced by a brigand, protection racketeer, adulterer, mercenary and murderer who - in the final insult - will be described by the Deuteronomist as "a man after God's own heart."

For Saul it is, to say the least, tough luck. Reading these books in a literal, fundamentalist sense is to feel the need to call evil good. But on another level they are an invitation to grapple with some pretty intense issues, and that, I believe, is their abiding genius.

33 comments:

DennisDiehl said...

Instead of claiming to know what terrible sin Samuel was flipping out over with Saul or speculate on how Kings never were intended but rather Priests and prophets were (argh) understand the stories are politico/religious conflicts between the two groups. King David having won. Once you understand the cobbling and editing of several accounts of everything and why, you'll get it. If you believe in inerrancy, you'll never get it.

The Saul doing sacrifice version was probably during a time when Kings did do sacrifice without nut cases like Samuel missing the bus and provoking the sacrifice. One can redact a text to make it appear that what followed was a violation of somekind. It would be an attempt to make Saul, the King, look stupid and evil by those who wished to profit from that happening. Much the way that deliberately false prophecies (Tyre, Destruction of Egypt etc) were inserted into the major Prophets by the Levits in captivity to prove them liars and fulfill the Torah injunction about the need to kill false prophets and those that listen to them. (We'd all be dead by now huh?)

Note the typically contradictory story of David and Goliath in the next chapters and the editing to try and fix it. You'll never understand the Bible until you understand the politics and antics of those who wanted the power. Sound familiar? Sorry it is long posting but the topic requires some examples. The typical COG explanations of what "God" is doing and how it all matches are wrong to the purpose of the story. Finding World Tomorrow meaning is silly.

Like Jesus, Abe Lincoln, Geo Washington and many famous adults, David is given an amazing childhood to match....

David, Saul and Goliath...

Saul had an evil spirit tormenting him 'sent by God'. (1 Samuel 16:14)

Someone recommended David to play the harp, calling him,
"a brave warrior, a mighty man of war." (1 Samuel 16:18) .

"David came to Saul and entered his service."
(1 Samuel 16:21)

Saul took a liking to David and told his father,
"'allow David to enter my service,' for, 'he loved him dearly.' " (1 Samuel 16:21)

The second version of their meeting is found at the end of 1 Samuel Chapter 17 . David spoke of killing Goliath, and his words were reported to Saul. (1 Samuel 17:31) Saul did not want to let David fight Goliath, for David was not a trained warrior. David was just a lad and out tending sheep, and his job was to deliver lunch to the soldiers. (1 Samuel 17:18)

"You are not able to go to war against the Philistines. You (David) are just a boy, and Goliath is a man of war."
(1 Samuel 17:33)

Saul relented, and

"clothed David with his armor and said, 'go! May God be with you.'" (1 Samuel 17:37)

David killed Goliath. David took Goliath's head to Jerusalem, but he kept his sword in his tent. (1 Samuel 17:54) No sooner had David cut off Goliath's head than Saul asked,

"who is that young man?" (1 Samuel 17:55)

David was introduced to Saul

"with the Philistines head still in his hand,"
(1 Samuel 17:57)

and Saul asked,

"who are you?" and David replied, "the son of Jesse."
(1 Samuel 17:58) "That same day Saul kept David and would not let him return to his father's house."
(1 Samuel 18:1)

Rather than a harp player the young adolescent boy was made

"commander of the fighting forces," (1 Samuel 18:5)

an act which pleased everyone, including Saul and his officials.

A few verses later an editorial comment is inserted in a futile attempt to harmonize the compounding contradictions and multiple inconsistencies.

"David played the harp for Saul, as he had done before," (1 Samuel 18:10)

for an evil spirit was tormenting Saul. In this variant David was removed from Saul's household and

"made a commander" (1 Samuel 18:13) because, "Saul was afraid of David for he saw that God was with him." (1 Samuel 18:12)

Note that David was living at home and tending sheep just before killing Goliath, and was not living with Saul, and 'playing the harp for him as he did before', as this weak editorial excuse would try to suggest.

When David killed Goliath, they do not know each other. 'That same day' David entered the service of Saul. It then follows that David could not have 'played the harp for Saul, as he did before.' The comment was inserted by an editor well aware of the inconsistencies between the two stories, in a futile attempt to reconcile the multiple versions of events and fuse them into one (pseudo- consistent) manuscript.

Also note that another editorial comment was included for the same purpose.

"David occasionally left Saul's house (where he was the resident harp player) to feed his father's sheep in Bethlehem." (1 Samuel 17:15)

This futile excuse is intended to explain why David was not 'living with Saul' and 'playing the harp for him as before' but rather living at home with his father and tending sheep just before killing Goliath.

Note that David is both a 'skilled warrior' and 'a young boy, untrained for war.' David is both 'living at home' and 'living with Saul'. Saul knows David, as his personal harp player, even outfitting him to battle Goliath. Saul does not know who David is, and must be introduced to David after he kills Goliath ("who is that young man?') David enters Saul's service as a harp player, and as 'commander of the fighting forces', on two different occasions.

We need to get over the idea that the Bible is an inerrant Sunday School story, a "unique text" and not subject to the all too human and ongoing power grabs between prophets, priests and Kings.

Sorry it's long..wanted to show the things people miss in the Goliath story since we all grew up on it and never would notice. Time to notice....

Charlie said...

Dennis - The contradictions and inaccuracies are probably the real reason that armstrongists love to use Isaiah 28:10 as way to interpret the bible. It allows them to avoid the problems...temporarily.

BTW - I never found playing hopscotch with the scriptures a very pleasant way to listen to a sermon. I spent more time writing scriptures and flipping pages that I did listening to the sermon - At one point I started leaving the damned briefcase at home and just brought my bible. It was more bearable that way but only for a couple more years.

Parting Shot - Is it possible that Samuel pushed Eli off his stool?

DennisDiehl said...

Well the "here a little, there a little" is also grossly applied. I read a really good explanation of that from the Jewish side of the coin, (it is there book after all) but it escapes me at the moment.

I find the "argument" of calling the Bible a "unique book" smoke and mirrors. It implies that it is impervious and unavailable to criticism or observation and when push comes to shove, all the questioner is left with is "the wisdom of man is foolishness with God" and the Bible is off the hook.

Built within the text are way too many "you ain't from around these parts are you boy.." defensive statements that tell one when they have crossed the line and are asking things one ought not to ask.

"there is a way that seems right to a man, but ...."

"God does not see as a man sees..."

"God will confound the wise...."

"In the last days, scoffers will come..."

It's all insulation.

DennisDiehl said...

May as well include the one last embarassing edit to the David kills Goliath story. Sounds more like the time my dad caught a big fish and said I could say I helped and caught it when we got back to the dock. Dads are like that.

"With stone and sling shot David slew Goliath of Gath." (1st Samuel 17:50)

Uh oh...

"Elhanan son of Jair of Bethlehem killed Goliath of Gath, whose spear had a shaft like a weaver's beam." (2nd Samuel 21:19)

whew..we can fix that!

"Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, brother of Goliath of Gath, whose spear had a shaft like a weaver's beam."
(1 Chronicles 20:5)

papal said...

Dennis Diehl said, "Well the "here a little, there a little" is also grossly applied. I read a really good explanation of that from the Jewish side of the coin, (it is there book after all) but it escapes me at the moment."

If you read Isa 28:1-13 and couple it with Ezek 20:1-32, where drunken Ephraim is also mentioned, you will see, as Charlie said, " I never found playing hopscotch with the scriptures a very pleasant way to listen to a sermon. I spent more time writing scriptures and flipping pages that I did listening to the sermon." that actually teaching in a hopskotch manner, here little and line upon line was a curse sent from God!

I'd love to see some discussion on these two cites after you have read all of the verses mentioned--did WCG or splinters ever continue on and read what is actually said by God????

Corky said...

Charlie said...
"Parting Shot - Is it possible that Samuel pushed Eli off his stool?"

Well, is it possible that Elisha lied about Elijah being taken up into heaven, leaving his mantle to Elisha?

Isn't it a bare possibility that Elisha caught Elijah's back turned to him in the wilderness and laid a big rock upside ole Elijah's head and left his body to rot in a gully somewhere?

If that happened these days, do you reckon someone might, just out of curiosity, go and see if maybe Elijah might have been murdered?

Those religious men sure were trusted and taken at their word in those days, weren't they?

DennisDiehl said...

Isaiah 28:10 was never meant as the formula for proper Christian Bible study. It's like saying "poo poo, peee peee, caaa caaa" "God" is reversing their mock of Isaiah for being warned Assyria was going to smush them.

Isaiah 28: [9-10] The words of those who ridicule Isaiah. The Hebrew of Isaiah 28:10 by its very sound, conveys the idea of mocking imitation of what the prophet says, as though he spoke like a stammering child: SAU LASAU, SAU LASAU, CAU LACAU, CAU LACAU, ZE'ER SHAM, ZE'ER SHAM.

11
Yes, with stammering lips and in a strange language he will speak to this people (the sing songy "line upon line" above...)

But in v 13 God repeats these words in deadly earnest, putting them in the mouth of the victorious pagan army.

The equivilent of saying..

"Go ahead Ephraim, poo poo, pee pee, cah cah Isaiah all you want. Make fun of his stammering lips. But Assyria is going to "poo poo, pee pee, cah cah" you to destruction and in their own language."

Hardly the "lets flip through the whole freaking Bible to prove whatever list of scriptures on one topic I can amass to prove my ideas of what is truth."

Ok, sorry to hog or beef the posting, depending on what "here a little, there a little" you use to show real Christians can beef about something, but never hog the topic..:)

wolf_track said...

If there are two different accounts about the same event in the Bible, it is easy to commit a logical fault of the following sort. If the first account explains facts A and B and the second account explains facts C and D, it does not mean that the first account contradicts the second. It means that the full account is A and B and C and D.
A contradiction is to assert both A and not A. To assert A and B is not a contradiction.

Is God genocidal? Would he kill someone just because they are of a certain race? Absolutely not. But he has never been bashful about killing people who are committed to evil.

The Amalekites were those kind of people. But this implies that God is the judge of the hearts and intents of people. And of course that is exactly what the scripture asserts in other places. Being a judge is God's principal role and it presumes that there is, in fact, good and evil. And that some people, sadly, are committed to being evil. Samuel would have been a sociopath if he had not executed God's directives.

DennisDiehl said...

Wolf Track said:

"If the first account explains facts A and B and the second account explains facts C and D, it does not mean that the first account contradicts the second."

However, if there are two sets of opposing facts "A" and two of opposing facts "B" then we have the wishful thinking of a bible reader needing it all to be one big harmonious non- edited, or non-theo/political tale. We simply need it all to be of Sunday School quality. Or see...it's all like four people seeing the very same accident....

WT: "But he (God) has never been bashful about killing people who are committed to evil....The Amalekites were THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE (emphasis Dennis). ...And of course that is exactly what the scripture asserts in other places."

Of course he's not bashful, he's also jealous, cultic and petty. So just who and what are the OTHER KIND OF PEOPLE God would not be troubled by. Oh, the Israelites! The chosen kind! Like Dogs after the dog kind, skunks after the skunk kind and "THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE, after those kind of people kind. I still maintain that if one did not have the Bible to go by, we'd all like the Egyptian kind and the Pharisee kinds in real history, but alas, we need them too to be "THOSE KIND" to tell the story of the Chosen Kind.

WT: "Being a judge is God's principal role"

Pretty sad role for the creator of all things "very good." I guess I have moved too far along to be even able to comment on this type of thinking...

God's Plan for Mankind: Love me or I will kill you...I wouldn't sweat Samuel being a sociopath for not executing (hey good word) God's directives...

Douglas Becker said...

"Vengeance is mine saith the Lord."

The Amalakites did evil to Israel previously. Of course, it did not have to start there. After all, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated".

So we get to the place where Hannah had no children, and Elkanah's other wife made fun of her for not having any. So Hannah was tearful in the temple and Eli thought she was drunk [are we on to something here?]. When Eli learned that she was sad because she had no children, he blessed her and sent her away in peace, giving her hope that the God of Israel would grant her petition.

Lo and behold! Samuel was born to her. What does she do? As soon as he is weaned, she goes up to the temple and gives him to Eli to raise.

It was shortly after that, that Samuel started to hear voices. That's awfully suspicious and it's convenient to claim the voice is God. Remember that Eli is raising Samuel. Later on, Eli's sons went religiously AWOL in a serious way and Eli was killed off for it. Eli's legacy: Samuel.

By adolescence Samuel should have been really confused.

Later in life, Samuel's sons do essentially the same thing as Eli's sons, but maybe worse, but God is just fine with Samuel, where He wasn't with Eli. What's with that? Ah, the ways of the Lord are mysterious and beyond our understanding. Even today, we don't have the smarts to build a fully functional quantum computer which can attain full sentience, so why would we be able to understand God, for heaven's sake? For that matter, we don't even build the EV-1 electric cars any more, even though there is a global crisis over something or other.

Now we get to Saul.

Now we are past Saul, sort of wondering why Jonathan, a stalwart and righteous man was weed-whackered in favor of sexy sensual manly David who could do no wrong in the eyes of the people?

There's no accounting for public tastes.

Now this story, allegorical or not, has elements of a familiar ring to it for those of us who have endured the church of gods as hapless victims with the powers and forces in abstract places playing us all like chess pieces where we are the pawns.

And that's the value of the Old Testament: To understand what has happened to us as we helplessly repeat the same history as was written millennia ago for our instruction today.

More than a vague suspicion: Them that's gots the gold has the Scribes that writes the history.

Charlie said...

Dennis - I agree - That is what I see in Isaiah 28. We were taught something different and completely out of context in the WCG.

Wolf Track - Not really. If account #1 has person A doing something to person B and account # 2 has person F doing something to person B then it IS a contradiction, and unfortunately the bible has numerous examples. Wishing it were not so does not make it go away.

It is fully possible to believe in God and still admit that the writings purported to be God breathed come up well short of perfect. Forest and trees....

DennisDiehl said...

Douglas noted:

"When Eli learned that she was sad because she had no children, he blessed her and sent her away in peace, giving her hope that the God of Israel would grant her petition.

Lo and behold! Samuel was born to her. What does she do? As soon as he is weaned, she goes up to the temple and gives him to Eli to raise."

Blessed schmeshed...since she seemed drunk, it would indicate to me that Eli boinked Hannah and then sent her home to sleep with pappa much as David did to Uriah...after...well you know...Just kidding I think, but sounds suspicious to me. After all, she did take the baby right back to Eli and pappa Hannah seems not to have cared much for the miracle.

How come in the Bible infertile women (Hannah and Elizabeth) give birth to human prophets but it takes a 12+ year old fertile virgin to give birth to a god? Well, I think we know what the gods have always preferred.

All these things are written for our admonition...

Interesting enough that according to most textual scholars the prayer of Hannah actually refers to the birth of Saul, with Samuel's name having been substituted awkwardly for Saul in the preceding narrative.

The text is generally considered by biblical scholars to be more likely to have originally been a song of praise directed at a king than a prayer referring to the birth of a prophet.

Its seemingly non-prayer-like nature was noticed by classical scholars, who believed that Hannah's prayer was silent and unrecorded, and that the Song of Hannah was what was said afterwards about Saul not Samuel.

If you read the prayer, it's not much of a "thank you Lord for my nice baby Samuel."

Uh oh, more editing of OT material and politics and not facts....

paladin said...

Charlie wrote:

"It is fully possible to believe in God and still admit that the writings purported to be God breathed come up well short of perfect. Forest and trees...."

Many of us in the former WCG are wrestling with the fact the scriptures are very flawed. Both the OT and the NT.

The NT is the worst of the two.

Many of us will have to go through the pain and the instability of questioning where God is in all of this. There is no way around it.

Some of us will reject all of the Bible, some of us will reject God, and some of us will try and find God in the mess that people have made of are called "the scriptures".

As much as hate to admit it, this type of forum can help. So can looking at others who have gone through this process.

I think there is profit in looking at the history and approach of Reform Judaism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_judaism

"Reform Judaism can refer to (1) the largest denomination of American Jews and its sibling movements in other countries, (2) a branch of Judaism in the United Kingdom, and (3) the historical predecessor of the American movement that originated in 19th-century Germany. Contemporary Reform Judaism movements share most of the following principles:

* The autonomy of the individual in interpreting the Torah and Oral Law, as well as in deciding which observances one is thereby prescribed to follow,
* Applicability of textual analysis (including higher criticism), as well as traditional rabbinic modes of study, to the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature,
* Learning Jewish principles of faith through non-religious methods, as well as religious ones,
* Embracing modern culture in customs, dress, and common practices, and
* Complete gender equality in religious study, ritual, and observance.
* Emphasis on tikkun olam ("repairing the world") as the dominant means of service to God."


That being said, I have to agree that much of the history in the Tanakh is contrived.

But God is in the Tanakh... He is there! And one must interpret the writings as best as one can and find Him there.

Good luck!

BambooBends said...

So many great postings...I was going to stay out of this one, but I'll chime in on a few thoughts...

dennisdiehl said...

WT: "Being a judge is God's principal role"


Pretty sad role for the creator of all things "very good." I guess I have moved too far along to be even able to comment on this type of thinking...


It does get harder to get back into that old mindset that "God is everything the Bible says he is".
Its a form of idolatry really. OEM God in a neat vacuum sealed can, ready for your church retail label.

I gave up trying to jump a pet God through hoops of ancient texts. The inconsistencies are such, you only end up thinking God is a blood thirsty monster. That kind of God belongs in a hell.

The only people that profit from the belief in Biblical inerrancy are preachers wanting your tithe money. Certainly not the people.

Is there a God even if no scripture existed? I think there is plenty of evidence a God exists as the ground of all being. I think we come from God and when we die we go back to God.

Some people draw the opposite inference, if the scriptures are not infallible, there is no God. Hey its a free country. Atheists pose no threat.

God's Plan for Mankind: Love me or I will kill you......

That is what WCG preachers taught. Abraham and Isaac were held up as the grand example of obedience to God. We were told Isaac was a type of Jesus.

As a thought exercise I sat down one day and asked myself, if Issac is a forerunner of Jesus, what would I think of my next door neighbor if he came over to me and said "....you know, I'm going to kill my kid so that I can forgive you....."

We'd rightly think he's nuts. You'd call the cops and have him locked up.

The God who is bound and shackled by his own Laws. For Law is greater than forgiveness! He must have blood to escape this conundrum!

All this so we can return to Eden where we all had health care insurance and Walt Disney designed our neighborhoods, and June and Walt Cleaver were our parents.

Death occurred long before Adam. The planet has had millions of years of carnivores. Death didn't start with Adam. Death is just the planets way of recycling animals.

There never was a golden age man fell from, unless it was some historical epoch a comet wiped out all record of existing. And even if that were true, no religion is going to bring back that era.

DennisDiehl said...

Paladin and Bamboobends...

Good and thoughtful comments. Is there a God? To me, nothing like the anthropomorphic cultic "Bible God" as they say. However, a benevelont spirituality or spirit that resides not up but in...I have hope.

Quantum physics informs us that everything is connected in a way that is real with no space and no time intervening. Add to that that all we see is not all there is and all being of the one same one thing, and perhaps it's a wonderful thing we get to look for, not just have presented to us by others to be accepted or rejected upon pain of eternal death.

To me, the Bible is a way for a culture to attempt an explanation. It's one way to see and one way to believe. Whether it is the only way is debatable even though the book says it's the only way. That's the something being true because it says it is problem. You know, Like Dave Pack wearing you out with a four hour sermon on why he is now an Apostle formerly known as Watcher?

"A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. (Albert Einstein, 1954)

After all my knowing what I don't believe any more and the need, at times to explain why I don't, I'd like to believe that I don't have a spirit, but am a spirit, trapped for now, as I have often said, in a limited five sensed way of experiencing all that is, until the carbon based wetsuit falls apart and I get to see what is.

Never mistake my rancor for Religion as a rejection of true spirituality free of fear, guilt and shame as that which motivates.

What tends to annoy is "here's how it all is" which is why sometimes saying "as if you know," seems appropriate.

My passive/aggressive ways come out most quickly when I read of the smugness oozing from some who say things like "sadly and of course, they are wrong and we are right." or "Here is what God is doing,thinks an meant..heellllooo!"

But in my heart the Buddhist thought that "sometimes there is nothing left in life to do but have a good laugh," seems more of what I wish to be.

PS I think we have better postings when this type of material comes out to consider rather than the antics of petty religionists who don't deserve the energy they suck from us and my saving others from following them may not be what those followers need to learn for themselves.

Anyway, I know I get into these things and do not mean to over post. It's been a freaking lonely 9 years with all that has been done to and cause by me depending. By the time a "best friend in the Church" tells me before a crazed psycho kills me at the hospital, (mothers day alert at work) it might be God telling me I have one last chance to repent...Somehow, that one got to me as a good example of the smuggness people who just know don't see, yet feel obligated to inflict.

amen

Douglas Becker said...

it might be God telling me I have one last chance to repent

Sigh.

Unless the church of gods repent, they shall likewise perish... slowly... over decades... painfully.

Which is what you get following an alcoholic false prophet setting an example through his dysfunctional failed family....

And then, to top it off, misinterpreting unquestionably questionable Scriptures, like the one in I Samuel 15:23. Let's see now, the false prophet is totally wrong and none of his predictions signed "in Jesus' name" ever came true in his lifetime, that Islam, not the RCC seems to be the religion of perdition, he can't even tell the King of the North from the King of the farther Northwest.... And then when someone has the audacity to rebel against the madness of the prophet, what with his crazy doctrines that he had to give up in the early seventies, like racism, the skeptic is resoundingly shouted down by those nimnuls who never seem to have read Deuteronomy 18:22 let alone II Timothy 3:5. And they seem to think that by following the teachings of an heretic, they shall be blessed -- without a view at all to Malachi 2:2. "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft", the Armstrongists shriek like parrots. Maybe it's a recording left in place of their brains as they go on a mental vacation.

So maybe you should repent. Of what, I'm not sure.

But first, wouldn't it be great to have a good example for a change?

wolf_track said...

"I guess I have moved too far along to be even able to comment on this type of thinking..."

Where have you gone that makes this fairly straightforward and generally understood principle so difficult to think about? Have you gone to a good place or a bad place?

The Judeo-Christian God is a judge of the state and intents of the heart. He is jealous but he is not cultic and petty. He created people with a certain expectation that they would behave themselves. When they choose not to, all kinds of bad things happen. A lots of the bad that happens is the natural outcome of Evil. Some of the bad that happens may be the result of God's intervention. In the New Testament we find this algorithm altered by Grace.

"Love me or I will kill you.."

Makes all the sense in the world if you understand the difference between good and evil. If there is no good and no evil, then the statement above, of course, becomes arbitrary.

My overall impression of this thread is of a group of people who have already concluded that God is bad based on some unmentioned personal problem and are now desperately trying to pile on whatever "proofs" they can pull out of the air with a lot of mutual congratulation.

When this approach is followed by religionists, it is referred to as "proof texting". It is amazing how Armstrongism does not die, it just appears in different forms, in this case, a secular form.

DennisDiehl said...

Douglas, I swear if the posting was about the Rose of Sharon, you'd find a way to ferment it and turn it into a drinking problem in the COgods.

znowz said...

back to gavin tank

BambooBends said...

DennisDiehl said...

.....Is there a God? To me, nothing like the anthropomorphic cultic "Bible God" as they say. However, a benevelont spirituality or spirit that resides not up but in....



I agree. There's only one spirit,
and its in all life.

Its hard to come to see that unless you drop the idea of intrinsic human wickedness.

And most of that thinking results from some early church fathers rebelling against the raunchy outrageousness of pre-Christian Roman morals. When in Rome, be Bulimic!


Quantum physics informs us that everything is connected in a way that is real with no space and no time intervening.

Quantum physics also tells us everything is either energy, matter or information. Every molecule, every photon, every electron is either exchanging, calculating or storing information as qubits. The universe is computational.

After that little discovery, it shouldn't be surprising that sentience survives physical death.


To me, the Bible is a way for a culture to attempt an explanation. It's one way to see and one way to believe.


Exactly. I've come full circle with the Bible, I even went through a phase (a useful one at that) of just staying away from the bible for 5 years. Coming back to it fresh, devoid of those earlier preconceptions, its actually a more interesting book. I see the men in it, their humanity, the politics, the forces of that society, and what they deemed important. As well as the assumptions they made that we no longer make about life.


Wolf Trak wrote:

The Judeo-Christian God is a judge of the state and intents of the heart.



Hebrews do not refer to their God as being Judeo-Christian. In fact they don't like being called Judeos. Its just a pop word Christians invented to say "we really believe the same thing - or at least you will when God forces you to accept Jesus as your Savior".



He is jealous but he is not cultic and petty.



A God capable of jealousy would by definition be cultic and petty. In fact what does an omnipotent being who has everything need with people sucking up to him? Approach the throne of God boldly! Its no wonder Armstrong churches are so cultic if they really think God is jealous. Each little church is jealous of each others flocks.
The Bible does say that God is jealous. But I for one wouldn't want to accuse God of that trait. See the kind of problem you run into taking scripture literally?
Fortunately for Bible writers and the rest of us, God isn't nearly as thin skinned as they make the Deity out to be.


He created people with a certain expectation that they would behave themselves.


When they choose not to, all kinds of bad things happen. A lots [sic] of the bad that happens is the natural outcome of Evil.

Babies are born into the world with empty love batteries. You gotta cuddle them, love them, diaper them, and inject all kinds of love into with no return for 3-5 years.
If you do that, you get a kid that knows love, operates from love, and gives love. If you don't do that, you get a criminal who steals, kills, and commits atrocities.

It all stems from parental love. Sure an occasional kid will go bad for a while even from good homes, but they eventually straighten up.

Evil is a bit like concept of cold. Cold is just the absence of Heat. Evil is just the absence of love.

Some of the bad that happens may be the result of God's intervention.

You mean like Hurricane Katrina? Weather just happens. God's got nothing to do with it except for the underlying physics of heat transfer in the atmosphere.

Or are we speaking of the wheel-o-karma in the Christian sense? What about Jesus saying the rain falls about the good and the bad?


In the New Testament we find this algorithm altered by Grace.

"Love me or I will kill you.."

Makes all the sense in the world if you understand the difference between good and evil. If there is no good and no evil, then the statement above, of course, becomes arbitrary.



That's a straw man. Nobody will argue their isn't good and evil behavior in the world.

There is no dualism. Evil is not an external being. Although there are evil intentioned beings. Just drive any freeway during rush hour.

The capability to do right and wrong comes with the ability to reason consciously. That's what the metaphor of the tree of life is all about. Man was no longer part of nature operating from instinct.


My overall impression of this thread is of a group of people who have already concluded that God is bad based on some unmentioned personal problem and are now desperately trying to pile on whatever "proofs" they can pull out of the air with a lot of mutual congratulation.


That's unfortunately short sighted.
I won't deny there might be an atheist, agnostic or whatever in the crowd. But most of take very seriously the concept of a God. And its taken us years of scraping Armstrong barnacles from our brains to begin the appreciate the awesome mystery that is this life.

Don't be to hard on atheists. Most atheists are not that way because they take God lightly, they are that way because they take God so seriously. The God presented by much of religion is so hideously odious and full of foul emotions that its as bad as staring at wooden idols.

DennisDiehl said...

Bamboobends said:

"Don't be to hard on atheists. Most atheists are not that way because they take God lightly, they are that way because they take God so seriously..."

You understand what few here do...What we have repeatedly on this and all religious blogs are types of people with various ways of being and knowing. For some it is so easy to just find the appropriate "and God said..." in the book and that's that, along with their personal spin and prooftexting. It's why we have so many sects, cults and denominations.

For others, when you see the book is not unique and not dropped from heaven by the ever evolving
being(s) contained in it, it's a more of a search and as you noted as well, can end you up in the realm of quantum physics and the fact that all matter is frequencies, waves and other amazing things.

In the Bible, the soul that sins will die. In quantum physics, consciousness is trapped at the moment learning about its world through only a few openings in the skull and some sensors on the fingers all connected to a receiver. The observer behind the eyes if you will.

The Bible contains a very narrow focus on the evolving beliefs of a very illiterate people in a very small area of a very large planet a long time ago. Truth was not more evident back then then now anymore than the Fourth Century was the epitome of Christian theological understanding. Early Church Fathers, just as Old Testament figures were probably just as goofy, ill tempered, political, arrogant, sexually repressed, emotionally damaged and flat wrong about "how it all is" as any would be at any time in history. We tend to idealize those in the past that if we knew them today we'd say they were some or all of the above.

I can only speak for myself, but precisely as you noted, don't let dismissing mythologies, personalities and the alleged uniqueness of the Bible as any indication that one is not seeking truth.

This is the point where somone usually says..."well, yeah you'll think differently in hell." :)

Douglas Becker said...

Reading Roger Penrose again?

Hope you can do the math.

paladin said...

Actually I am glad that the Bible is flawed! I am now on a quest to understand who God is and what the real Historical Jesus taught.

I am genuinely excited!

Orthodox Christianity does not have the answers; and they will try and stop you from finding the answers. That includes our Evangelical friends who would have us return to Sunday keeping.

You can't live as a fundamentalist Christian and be normal.

If you live as a fundamentalist you will allow men to take your wealth, men will tell you how to live, and you will give them control of most every significant institution that impacts your life.

You will bring back the dark ages, at least in your own life.

That is what happened in the old WCG and that is what is happening among those who join the current Evangelical revival.

The NT was edited by men who hated woman, sought wealth, and wanted to control society.

So I am genuinely excited! I really am free to seek God and Jesus... and Buddha and Mohammad for that matter. I think they were all prophets.

In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus

(2) Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]"

(5) Jesus said, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised."]

You don't the scriptures. They can be helpful, but they can also hurt you. You need to look at the world and seek to make sense of it.

God is out there and so is Jesus.

Douglas Becker said...

Perforce, the book of First Samuel is more about the basic theme of the Bible begun with the first book written, the Book of Job.

The Book of Job reads like a Cosmic Chess Game, God rendering the opening Gambit with his protagonist Satan with, "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?". Satan, drawn into this game counters with a few moves of his own. After this we are off and running: The Bible not so much an exposition of God, Angels, Demons and Man or Good and Evil as it is this giant Game of Cosmic Chess. Satan loses the first game and is defeated by God in Checkmate. Job [and the other humans] are pawns to be sacrificed in the game.

The Book of First Samuel also seems to be such a Chessboard: Eli, Samuel, their sons, Saul, David and the people [who are traded as pawns in this struggle].

Without explicitly stating it, Samuel was rejected by his father, Elkanah and had to be placed in the foster care of Eli. This may well have set up a dynamic of narcissism well formed by the end of adolescence, reinforced by hearing voices and being told that he was special in hearing the voice of God. This does not bode well for mental health at very minimum.

While it is not necessarily a foregone conclusion that Samuel was a narcissist, it seems logical. The Book of Samuel is all about him, after all. He is ever confident that God is behind him and takes matters into his own hands.

What is this you say? Takes matters into his own hands?

Yes indeed. Samuel insisted that Saul wait until he came to give a sacrifice. It was one of those weird narcissistic "weird time schedules" that narcissists are prone to keep -- they don't wear watches, they wear calendars. Since everything is about them, they expect you to wait no matter how overdue they might be.

But here's the deal, if we are reading the Scripture correctly, Samuel was of the tribe of Ephraim! He was not of the tribe of Levi and hence had no business giving sacrifices! Telling Saul he was to wait is like the pot calling the kettle black -- Samuel was presumptuous!

Not only that, Samuel seems to be manic at places and gets all upset when things don't go the way he envisions them. He clearly picked Saul, but later rejects him. Then he goes off and anoints David to replace him before the ink on Saul's contract is even dried, so to speak.

Now here it comes.

Scripture clearly exposes "the drunkards of Ephraim". Hence we have the ancient equivalent of Herbert Armstrong, overseeing, as it were, a disaster of the Church in or near the wilderness. The same problems existed back then as generated the basis of the problems of the church of gods today: The leader was:

1) Narcissistic;
2) Manic;
3) An alcoholic.

Ah, the symmetry!

That handily explains the Book of Samuel, even as it provides the acid test of the Worldwide Church of God: If these components did not exist, would we expect the same results. The answer is obvious: Obviously not. Without these three things, there would not have been any Book of Samuel, nor would there have been a Radio Church of God or Worldwide Church of God.

Now if you really want to go weird, there is yet one more thing to consider: The Book of Enoch. This remarkable book of the Apocrypha was written by at least the Second Century Before Christ. It is widely referred to in the New Testament and one can find more or less direct quotes in the Epistles of Peter and Jude. The Book of Revelation seems like an updated rehash of the book and there are suspicious references by Jesus which might be interpreted as coming from the Book of Enoch.

So if you really want to dig, an investigation of the Book of Enoch may be in order. For all we know, it too may have predated the Book of Samuel and some of the references there may be compatible [such as the Witch at Endor]: Spirits and wonders, the two trees, mountains, the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, mysterious things indeed.

Of course this may all be a parody by someone who was bored....

Douglas Becker said...

Of course you know that Job was not the first pawn in the Cosmic Chess Game:

"And when Isaac was thirty-seven years old, Ishmael his brother was going about with him in the tent.

"And Ishmael boasted of himself to Isaac, saying, I was thirteen years old when the Lord spoke to my father to circumcise us, and I did according to the word of the Lord which he spoke to my father, and I gave my soul unto the Lord, and I did not transgress his word which he commanded my father.

"And Isaac answered Ishmael, saying, Why dost thou boast to me about this, about a little bit of thy flesh which thou didst take from thy body, concerning which the Lord commanded thee?

"As the Lord liveth, the God of my father Abraham, if the Lord should say unto my father, Take now thy son Isaac and bring him up an offering before me, I would not refrain but I would joyfully accede to it.

"And the Lord heard the word that Isaac spoke to Ishmael, and it seemed good in the sight of the Lord, and he thought to try Abraham in this matter.

"And the day arrived when the sons of God came and placed themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with the sons of God before the Lord.

"And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? and Satan answered the Lord and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

"And the Lord said to Satan, What is thy word to me concerning all the children of the earth? and Satan answered the Lord and said, I have seen all the children of the earth who serve thee and remember thee when they require anything from thee.

"And when thou givest them the thing which they require from thee, they sit at their ease, and forsake thee and they remember thee no more.

"Hast thou seen Abraham the son of Terah, who at first had no children, and he served thee and erected altars to thee wherever he came, and he brought up offerings upon them, and he proclaimed thy name continually to all the children of the earth.

"And now that his son Isaac is born to him, he has forsaken thee, he has made a great feast for all the inhabitants of the land, and the Lord he has forgotten.

"For amidst all that he has done he brought thee no offering; neither burnt offering nor peace offering, neither ox, lamb nor goat of all that he killed on the day that his son was weaned.

"Even from the time of his son's birth till now, being thirty-seven years, he built no altar before thee, nor brought any offering to thee, for he saw that thou didst give what he requested before thee, and he therefore forsook thee.

"And the Lord said to Satan, Hast thou thus considered my servant Abraham? for there is none like him upon earth, a perfect and an upright man before me, one that feareth God and avoideth evil; as I live, were I to say unto him, Bring up Isaac thy son before me, he would not withhold him from me, much more if I told him to bring up a burnt offering before me from his flock or herds.

"And Satan answered the Lord and said, Speak then now unto Abraham as thou hast said, and thou wilt see whether he will not this day transgress and cast aside thy words."

A quote from The Book of Jasher.

Stan said...

"If you live in the Tyler/Jacksonville, Texas area, be sure to catch a live interview with Greg Albrecht on radio station KBJS, Monday, June 11th at 7:30a.m (Central Time). The 40-minute interview will take place on the Mornings with Randy show. Greg will discuss his latest book and the work of Plain Truth Ministries."

Listen live on KBJS internet Audio Feed:

KBJS

If there is a 1-800 call in segment for the radio interview, Greg should enjoy fielding some relevant questionings.

With any luck at all, he may distinguish himself as Tkach did during the Larry Mantle radio interview.

Q. Where do the PTM bylaws provide nearly one million in cash reserves go if Albrecht has to close down PTM's "Christianity Without The Religion"? Back to Tkach?

XCGMouse said...

Gavin,

The inalienable right to an abortion is also not a historical fact; it's based on a myth too.

Yet, you call the genocide of the Amalakites evil, but denued the genocide of the unbon of any moral content.

What gives?

DennisDiehl said...

While unsure of what "denued" means and before Gavin might answer, I have never found Bible God to be particularly pro-life..

Hosea 9:11-16

Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

Numbers 5:11-21

The description of a bizarre, brutal and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife SUSPECTED of adultery. This is considered to be an induced abortion to rid a woman of another man’s child.

Numbers 31:17 (Moses)

“Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words: women that might be pregnant, which clearly is abortion for the fetus.

Hosea 13:16

God promises to dash to pieces the infants of Samaria and the “their women with child shall be ripped up”. Once again this god kills the unborn, including their pregnant mothers.

2 Kings 15:16

God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”.

Sorry, just don't see a pro life God here. Maybe the difference is that he seems to need to kill the woman for sure as well...

It's probably just the way I misread the text....

But I do know He gets even sometimes after they arrive as babies...

1 Samuel 15:3 God commands the death of helpless "suckling" infants. This literally means that the children God killed were still nursing.

Psalms 135:8 & 136:10 Here god is praised for slaughtering little babies.

Psalms 137:9 Here god commands that infants should be “dashed upon the rocks”.

Boy, hope this God is not the one who became the "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but He is strong..."

Actually, as Dr. Winnail noted, the Bible is a unique book...on this topic at least.

paladin said...

Dennis wrote

"Sorry, just don't see a pro life God here. Maybe the difference is that he seems to need to kill the woman for sure as well..."

Remember that the Tanakh was written mostly by men, and certainly edited only by men. It is extraordinarily Patriarchal.

Women were without question viewed as less then men and they were controlled by men. Just read the Law of Moses. IMO much of the Law of Moses was written not by God but by men; with absolutely no input from women.

A significant question is "would God place woman in a subservient role to men"? The answer is no.

Men did this and wrote it into the Tahakh; they wrote it into the Law of Moses. They did it to control women and to control society.

One of the reasons Jesus was so despised by the leaders of Judaism, was that he taught differently. He taught otherwise. He put woman on the same level as men.

That really upset their world.

IMO anything in the Tanakh that places men over women is not from God. That is one of the rules to read the OT by...

Another question is "does a woman have the right to do with her body as she chooses, or can men legislate what a woman can do with her body?"

Abortion is not a good thing. But how does God view women? And does he give men the right to rule over women in this way?

XCGMouse said...

Right. If you take away the right of the unborn to become historical characters, they become tragic mythological characters.

Gavin said...

xcgmouse,how do you factor in a relationship between pro-life issues and the Amalekites? You can be pretty sure there were pregnant women among their numbers, yet the Eternal [supposedly] commands their murder - along with their unborn children.

I don't pretend to have a lot of insight into the abortion debate. My own thinking follows (reluctantly, as I'm no fan of Anglicanism) Archbishop Peter Carnley's (Australian Primate). At a later stage I may post a precis of his position, which I think is well thought out and informed by both Christian belief and current medical knowledge. Like Dennis I find that the OT God is anything but pro-life... though that simply proves that the concept of God in much of the Tanakh is a woeful one. Bring back Marcion!

Corky said...

Another question is "does a woman have the right to do with her body as she chooses, or can men legislate what a woman can do with her body?"

In my opinion, YES, she does and NO, they can't.

Should a woman be forced to marry or live with a man she can't stand or hates? No? Well, what about having his baby so that he can hang around forever?

That a "soul" is given to the zygote at conception is religious foolishness. It can't be claimed as a dependent on your taxes, can it? No? Well, it can't be a person then, can it?

Then there's the fact that men don't die in childbirth and neither does it wreck their health. No, it's the woman's decision - it's her body, her health, her life and she's the one who has to live with it.

Douglas Becker said...

Someone should have challenged me. Elkanah lived in Mount Ephraim, but according to I Chronicles, he was apparently of the tribe of Levi, and thus qualified [obliquely] to offer sacrifices, I guess. So I am wrong there.

However, both Genesis 49 and the Book of Jasher confirm that Judah was granted the scepter over the other children of Israel by Jacob, himself.

That being the case, Saul, as a Benjamite, was not of the royal line to bear the scepter.

It was a setup from the beginning: There was never any intention of establishing the line of Saul even through righteous Jonathan. Instead, it was always earmarked for David as being from the royal line of Judah.

The Scroll of the Book of Samuel does indeed seem to be another case of whoever pays his scribe the best scrip gets the best histories written about him. And the losers get nothing.