Statesboro, GA, USA
But near as I can tell, God punishes the innocent as well as the wicked, and allows the wicked as well as the innocent mercy, and that when we pretend to impose understanding upon this, we merely look silly.
I don't disagree with what you say about God “punishing” his people, or extending mercy to those who are not. Though I would say there is an important Theological distinction between chastisement and condemnation (though that point was not even addressed in the general discussion between Essorant and myself) Nor am I pretending to have all understanding of these dynamics, as I have ever admitted mystery. I was only making the point that faith inevitably involves an element of trust and authority and personal commitment, alongside whatever may be rationally understood. Hence, one can look at Old Testament passages of divine punishment and come to an orthodox understanding, or decide that either God is unjust or that these passages are merely human claims to divine words. I choose to believe that the passages about God’s punishment are as real and as true as those which more obviously set forth his mercy, and that all of it fits within the portrait of divine love. Since pragmatically we all impose punishments, boundaries, or limitations on others to varying degrees and kinds (even sometimes with those most loved by us) my argument is that the concept is not a foreign one, nor one to be rashly condemned ipso facto. In fact, the whole difficulty is imposed by our fallen human nature clashing with divine light.
No God, however, that I could believe in, would allow the Bible to be used in the fashion that I see you using it, as a sword against those that you should love.
Bob, could you quote something I said that makes you think I’m using the Bible as a sword against “those I should love” (implications of ‘should’ being that I am showing contempt?)
I think you’ve slipped off the rail a bit, either in your reading of my replies, or in your perception of my intent, or in your understanding of Biblical Theology. Firstly, even the extreme example of punishment, hell itself, is never portrayed as due to a lack of God's love. But rather, it is the effect that absolute love has on whatever humanity will not ultimately accept grace. Secondly, belief that divine punishment is just, does not mean that I think it is my place to punish. The New Testament did introduce a radical change in what role God's people play in the drama of sin and punishment, not to mention the role of God himself in the incarnation. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” “And the greatest of these is Love”. If you only knew how pacifist I am. Of course, what I have been opposing in this thread is a specific idea and position, not a person. Don't confuse not maligning God (God as the Biblical text presents) with maligning people. While you may call my Theodicy a rationalization, I would call the view I am addressing as a defamation of character based upon partial information and distortion. If a lack of understanding renders me silly, then know that my main point was to show that defaming God's actions is silly for the same kind of reason. If it comes down to a wager, if our agnosticism says anything about caution and prudence, I’ll be with Pascal on this one. (Though you know I don’t believe it’s all so nebulous to warrant a blind leap ... neither did Blaise).
The Bible used in this way becomes its own form of idol in the way my heart sees the world, and I don't believe the the Bible or any Holy Book is meant for this sort of use.
I am the first to admit that Bibliolatry is a real danger, especially when it comes to pet doctrines. But the belief that God is just, even in his punishments, is orthodox to Judaism, and both orthodox and dominical to the Christian Faith. And all we're talking here, Bob, is whether God has been just when he has punished according to the Bible itself ... not whether its okay for me to smite or even insult my enemies (much less my piptalk friends whom I sometimes disagree with). On the latter, we are in harmony. Unless of course you would like to quote me, where specifically you think I've breached your sensibilities?
This is not the sort of discussion I enjoy engaging in, I'm sorry to say, and I'm trying to put it in as respectful a fashion as I can
Should I point out that the particular interchange you are responding to (as far as I can tell) was between Essorant and myself? In particular I was responding to Essorant's premise that the Bible has recorded actions on God's part which are less than moral and without justification ... that we should accept the "imperfections", grow past them, and have a more enlightened democratic view of God. I have been responding to that problematic Theological idea only, not maligning Essorant or anyone else.
because I do respect you and the way you lead your life, and because in so many ways I do see you as a model for others.
Bob, it is mutual, as far as I can see. Don't feel that you must offer praise on the heels of every sharp disagreement. I already feel and know this respect you give. And it is appreciated, if not altogether deserved. God is good.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (01-24-2009 12:33 AM).]