The Courage to Say ‘No!’ When the Bible Counsels Otherwise


(Spectrumbot) #1

For many of us, the Sabbath School hour is the most anticipated and enjoyable part of church ritual. I am a member of the “best” Sabbath School class anywhere in the Adventist universe. I know that’s hyperbole, but you’re welcome to believe that yours is better. My class is small to medium in size, composed mostly of retired Andrews University professors from different academic disciplines plus a handful of current AU teachers. Also included are a few brave souls like myself, who have no affiliation to the AU teaching cadre.

The class’s uniqueness is rooted in the varying perspectives of the seven or so core teachers. Every week is an adventure and feast, where all are surprised by the joy of discovery, or learning a new twist to an old familiar idea.

In some ways, though, my class is no different from the multiple thousands of others meeting around the globe from Sabbath to Sabbath. We often stray from the lesson focus or take long detours that make topic reconnection difficult. But we do one thing well: we try to ground our discussions in human experiences which in turn transforms the Bible into a living, breathing document – one that is immediate, accessible and relevant. So, as I pen my maiden article as a Spectrum columnist, I would like to give a nod to this class.

With that shameless plug out of the way, I would like to offer a few thoughts on some uncomfortable passages from the epistle of 1 Peter. And I invite you to reflect on any reactions to those Biblical instructions that give us pause, or at least should. So consider the following example:

“In the cities of the nations which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes” (NIV)

or this;

“[W]hen the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then, you must destroy them totally…and show them no mercy” (NIV)

For me, the jaw dropping parts of the two quotes – do not leave alive anything that breathesandshow them no mercyare that we have Christians among us who defend them sorely because they appear in Holy writ.

Do you see what murky waters this lead us into? If a Biblical directive seems to legitimize what we, through painful experiences (think slavery) or sheer heightened moral outrage, have come to consider wrong and subhuman, does the fact that such behaviors appear to be endorsed in the Bible trump our desire to outlaw them? In other words, does our tolerance of evil increase if the source of the evil is perceived as divine?

I am particularly struck by the imperative to be merciless in victory, advanced by the Deuteronomists, and can’t resist juxtaposing this strange idea with Shakespeare’s conception of the power of mercy:

The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

---

It is an attribute to God himself.

To a considerable degree, the show-no-mercy approach has been the story of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Each generation has bequeathed nothing but hatred of the other to its children, leaving in its wake nothing but an unhealthy dose of mutual fear and loathing. We have had enough time to evaluate the outcome of this sad experiment and can thus draw a contrast with the approach taken by the Allies after World War II.

If there is any conflict in our era where the victors had the “right” to show no mercy to the vanquished, it might arguably be reserved for the countries who conquered the Nazi regime. Instead, not only did the victorious governments show their defeated adversaries mercy, they rebuilt the tattered remains of Germany and Japan. The result of this novel experiment has been continued friendship and alliance between Germany and Japan on the one hand, and that of Europe and the US, on the other.

The writer of 1 Peter makes some startling statements that challenge contemporary Christian belief. Consider two examples from the so called “submission” passages:

Submit yourself… to every human authority who was sent by him to punish those who do wrong.

Slaves… submit yourselves to your masters not only to those who are good and considerate but also those who are harsh

Before tackling the issues raised by these texts, we should recognize the central argument often given to cushion the jarring impact of these statements. One such defense argues that any reading of such currently objectionable texts should consider the historical setting that produced them. Which means we should recognize the context and situations that gave birth to these declarations. If we apply this to 1 Peter, we are reminded that the writer’s instruction was given under two prevailing circumstances: (1) Christians were under severe political pressure from Domitian’s (or Pliny the Younger‘s) unfriendly rule; (2) the writer and his audience believed in the eminent return of Jesus which then called for a different calculation relative to earthly power brokers.

So, what if we apply the contextual reading – which almost always makes the most sense in understanding the background of a given statement? In this case, such reading comes with a price – a de facto consignment of some sections of the Bible onto the heap of irrelevance. Some say this is sensible and even long overdue, contending it asks too much to permanently impose the mores of a past era onto succeeding generations. Others rebuff such reading and its resultant implications, maintaining that the cost is too high.

The second idea, which is really an extension of the contextual argument, is that the writer of 1 Peter was advising his audience to do everything necessary to stay alive and advance the Lord’s work because His return was at hand. If you believed that Jesus was returning in your life-time to set up the everlasting kingdom, then submitting to brutish rulers and masters was a small price to pay to ensure that that hope became a reality. But the eminent return argument and its justifying need for an accommodative relationship to authority must answer the question of what to do when Jesus’ coming is delayed. If special rules are necessary because of His soon return, do these rules remain operative if the reappearance does not materialize as anticipated?

Now consider some implications of the “submission” passages, beginning with the counsel to submit to “every authority instituted among men.” Throughout history, the powerful and the privileged have used such passages to justify perpetuation of the status quo whenever the oppressed attempt to rise above their sordid circumstances. These statements are not benign, however. Unimaginable atrocities have continued for far too long, because well-meaning Christians have tacitly, if not openly, pointed to such admonitions as reason to stay the course.

The first Prime Minister of my ancestral country of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, was harshly criticized for “agitating for freedom and independence” by the colonial masters as well as the leaders of the native clergy. They both opposed Nkrumah’s drive for independence by quoting from the Bible, the latter unwittingly supporting the savage colonial system. Nkrumah did not relent, and in 1957, Ghana was born out of the ashes of the Gold Coast, the first independent British colony south of the Sahara. This ushered in the “epidemic” of independent African countries of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, culminating in the effective demise of Britain as an empire.

It is true that colonization is not comparable to slavery, though you will be hard pressed to convince the colonized that, because they were not physically shipped in shackles to a foreign country, they should be contented. If this were so, America would still be a British colony as would India and many other ex-colonies.

Often, to moderate the perception that the Bible endorses perpetuation of indefensible positions, we point to a Bible writer’s larger intent which, in the 1 Peter passages, appear to be a desire for order. It is true that the Christian is called to good citizenship, which is partly what Jesus suggests with his admonition to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesars” (KJV). A nation will be thrust into unending anarchy if its citizens refused the rule of law. But it is a different matter, when Biblical authority is coopted to defend leaders who have plainly squandered their legitimacy by using mass murder to retain power. It is this aspect of the author’s world view that is troubling. By ruling out exceptions for “harsh” sovereigns and masters, he seems to give carte blanche to bad and evil minded rulers to continue with injustice. Once leaders ascend the throne, the author seems to suggest, they become stand-ins for God, to do as they please. This comes dangerously close to conferring divine legitimacy and favoronall leaders.

But do Biblical pronouncements like these impact our lives? That depends on whether we live in a democratic or a totalitarian state. In a democracy, the Christian’s answer to bad or unjust rulers is the ballot box. Here, in theory, elections could be a means to stop bad governance, and the courts, could check leaders who behave badly.

If, however, the Christian lives in a dictatorship or pseudo democracy, whose leaders – the Mugabes, the Assads, the Hitlers – are instruments of carnage, does the Petrine advice to submit even to bad leaders still hold? Elder Wilson seems to believe so. In a 2012 address to an Adventist gathering in Zimbabwe, the GC President is quoted as saying: “Let us pray for the leadership of this country. The Bible requires us to do so. We should respect and submit to the leadership of this country because all leaders are appointed by God”. This is the same Mugabe that Human Rights Watch and many other humanitarian organizations reported to have committed such heinous crimes as extrajudicial killings and forced labor. It cannot be said with any credibility that the GC President was unaware of Mugabe’s reputation. So his decision to use this text was one of choice. Elder Wilson sacrificed the difficult option of speaking truth to power in favor of showering unrighteous blessings on a dictator’s regime, all the while citing scripture.

Are there alternatives in these situations? Is it legitimate for a Christian to resist what is manifestly evil? If the answer is yes, as could be argued for the organizers of the American Underground Railroad or the Nazi Resistance movement in Europe, what then do we make of these Bible statements today? We are not too far removed from the nightmare that was Auschwitz, or Rwanda’s 100 days of butchery, to pretend that all leaders deserve our unquestioned allegiance.

There is a subtle hint of inconsistency in our writer’s insistence that the Christian should obey all laws from those in power, even when these rulers are unjust. He points to Jesus’ example as the model to emulate – He did no wrong and yet never protested when subjected to inhuman cruelty.

The apparent contradiction concerns his inspiration to new Christians to “Live as free people”. There is no cherished human desire greater than freedom: from slavery, oppression, viciousness. Nor can I think of a better affirmation to humanity that increasingly finds itself in one bondage or another, than the advice to “Live as free people”. Yet how does one live free if one must accept the imposition of cruelty? Does James not call on us to “resist evil”? What is more evil than practiced domination by the powerful over the vulnerable and powerless? Worse still, how does normalizing such evil, by compelling the victimized to accept their lot, help to make them free?

1 Peter’s author seems to argue for servile acceptance of cruelty under the mistaken idea that even evil authorities are God’s instruments of order. For me, this is as a bridge too far. We should dare to teach our children that, regardless of its origins, any advice to accept slavery, brutal governance, wife beating, etc. is wrong today and always.

At some point, we should come to a simple understanding of who God is, or should be: either totally good or not at all. We cannot postulate a God who is sometimes good, and sometimes not so good. This means we should start reevaluating those ungodlike passages in the Bible – whether attributed to Him or “spoken” by Him – in the light of God’s goodness. If we do this, we discover that throughout the Bible, we, His spokespersons, have never understood God fully and consequently have portrayed Him through human representations. The problem lies not with God, but with the faulty depictions of Him by His all too human messengers. A good God never resorts to unkindness to show His power. A God worthy of our worship, by definition, always points us to the highest ideals and not to man’s basest instincts. Therefore, we should always be suspicious of the origins of those instances in the Bible where God’s behavior or purported statements make us cringe.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

If you respond to this article, please: Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8022

(Peter) #2

Thank you for pointing out that not *every word or passage in the Bible is really applicable today, or even God’s actual intent. Or perhaps what God intended for His people 3,000+ years ago is not what He wants or intends now. Another example: People who selectively apply Levitical laws but cannot or will not try to explain how they decide which are still applicable and which are not. Truthfully, no one truly follows every seeming command in the Bible, yet some are quick to use selective passages in the Bible to condemn others.


(Herold Weiss) #3

Reading your initial column makes me wish you a most happy and blessed time continuing to enrich our lives with your thoughts. I look forward to your future columns and hope they continue to run for a long time. I am delighted to see that you take the Bible seriously.


(Sam Geli) #4

Reading this fine article reminded me of many important ideas in my spiritual journey with Bible study that I learned while at _“the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan,”… A few of us would “sneak” away to audit or take courses at nearby St. Mary’s College/Notre Dame in nearby South Bend, Indiana. Three ideas from both places stayed with me regarding this theme of Bible Study and Understanding:

  1. Stop reading the Bible and concentrate on Studying the Bible
    Studying is an all out effort at learning…true learning takes place when there is a change in you.
  2. A text without it’s context is a pretext
  3. Define and treasure the main point of what you study

It’s nice to know based on your fine article that things have not changed that much.


(Sirje) #5

These statements seem to be to the reader with an implied “YOU” - “(YOU) render onto Caesar…” - (YOU) submit yourself …": however, when a Christian sees a wrong being done to another he/she has to choose, either to let the cruelty or wrong be done, or he/she will have to intervene in defence of the defenceless. When Hitler ravaged Europe, it was up to the US to intervene in defence of those suffering. When Isis goes on a murder spree across the Middle East, it’s up to those that can, to intervene and rescue the defenceless.

Jesus asks us to “turn the other cheek” - again, there is an inferred YOU. That does not mean we don’t intervene a mugging or other atrocity if we can. In those instances we have to make a decision - either we side with the defenceless or we don’t, because we want to save our own skins literally or as in "following God’s WORD, as stated in Peter etc. We are responsible for our own response on your own behalf; but we have no God given right to offer up someone else’s freedom or someone else’s life, pleading obedience to the Bible.

When it comes to there OT declarations to “kill everyone without mercy” - well, I’ve never heard God tell me that. Until He does I don’t believe He said it to Israel either. They only wanted Him to say it.


(Harry Elliott) #7

Passages such as the ones quoted are a valuable reminder that the Bible is not a book written by God. It’s a library of books written by we don’t know whom, assembled by others we don’t know. That isn’t blasphemy, it’s common sense.
It’s of great spiritual value…mostly. Ellen White called the Apocrypha the “hidden Bible” and urged us to read it just like the Canon we’re used to. The Apocrypha was part of the scripture referred to in 2 Timothy, but we approach its writings with a degree of caution that should probably be equal for both Bibles. We excuse the problematic stuff by saying the Bible is God’s word but not His words. Clever words that don’t tell us how unruly our kids have to be for us to kill them.

Fortunately, we have living guidance delivered directly by the Holy Spirit, not merely words written in a distant age in distant languages,


(Allen Shepherd) #8

There is much I could write about this, but I will take this last statement as the summary of Mr. Quartey’s views. I might add, having lived in Africa for 8 yrs that some of the native rulers were way worse than the British. But that is an aside.

How do we learn of the goodness of God in a world full of evil? Is it not the Bible? Is that not the only place where God’s true kindness is demonstrated?

But the policy of “…reevaluating those ungodlike passages in the Bible – whether attributed to Him or “spoken” by Him – in the light of God’s goodness” means WE are the ones choosing what is good or evil by our standard. It may be that to submit to harsh treatment is better in the long run than to rebel. Why did not Jesus tell his disciples to work to overthrow the harsh Roman government, whose lands were full of slaves and hands of blood etc.?

Jesus said in Matt 28:18,19 "All power and authority is given unto me in heaven and earth. Therefore go, and make disciples of all men.

If he had all authority, why did he not tell us to right all wrongs, depose all despots and reform all governments etc.? If he had it all, why not? Because he had another more important mission for his followers: make disciples of all men.

Now you could say, well, that is not the most important thing to do here on earth, we need to address injustice, etc., etc., But you are thereby setting yourself up as Lord, and deposing Jesus.

Is there a place for righting wrong? I think so, for the OT points out such actions, even the destroying of the Canaanites was of such a thing. But we do not live under a theocracy at the moment, and to decide that other goals are more important than Jesus command is taking things into your own hands. I would be extra careful before moving in such a direction.


(jeremy) #9

i think a consideration of the historical-cultural setting of “objectionable texts” is the full answer…capital punishment, and the extinction of entire families for one man’s crime, was the way things were done in bible times, not just within israel, but also in the wider world, for example the kingdoms of the medes and persians of daniel’s and esther’s day…when we see divine orders for family extinction - in the case of achan, for instance - they make perfect sense in the social and moral context of the time…even many centuries after achan, the princes who had caused daniel to be thrust into the lions’ den were themselves thrust into the lions’ den, along with their families; and haman, who had sought to annihilate mordecai and the jews, was annihilated instead, along with his ten sons…i don’t see the need to be suspicious about the portrayal of god’s character in these instances…by using the historical-cultural filter, we can see that god is acting in ways that are understood by the people of a particular time and place…

as for the new testament’s oft-cited acquiescence towards slavery, paul says:

“Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” 1 Corinthians 7:21

i think this approach of bettering one’s circumstances if possible has to be considered the apostolic church’s thinking on this subject (this is also the approach egw took towards slavery in her day)…in this light, peter isn’t saying to embrace slavery, either as a master or a slave (and he’s definitely not saying to endorse something like mugabe)…he’s simply saying to bloom where you’re planted if where you’re planted is all that can be done about your circumstances…but even then, i believe peter is really focusing on the narrow question of persecution for righteousness sake, 1 Peter 1: 6; 1 Peter 2:19-20…i don’t think he’s commenting, in either 1 Peter 2:13 or 1 Peter 2:18, on a christian’s responsibility in a secular culture, where persecution for one’s faith isn’t occurring…


(Pagophilus) #10

You make the mistake (as does Desmond Ford) in believing that Peter (and the rest of the apostles) believed that Jesus was coming “soon” as in the 1st century AD. Reading Paul and the prophecies of Revelation it is obvious that this is not the case. We ought to accept what God says (through the Bible writers) even if we don’t understand the reasons for it. And we need to stop looking for excuses to disobey, to take matters into our own hands (as did Abraham with Hagar, and with Abimelech).

The Bible NOWHERE promotes the idea of rebelling against unjust authority; rather it tells us to submit even to unjust authority. We ought to help the oppressed but not rebel against authority. The end does not justify the means, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.


(KKoudele) #12

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Matthew. I, too, am troubled by many of the passages in the Bible that seem to instruct readers to do or accept something that is antithetical to the life and teachings of Jesus. You rightly pointed out the ditches on either side of the road which can lead believers to take the ancient words of Scripture at face value and applicable today and thus ignore/allow suffering and abuse or, at the other extreme, contextualize it all away and thereby “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I am personally looking for principles to guide my understanding of these types of passages, and I think you have provided some of them, i.e. if it is contradictory to the life and teachings of Jesus (the “new” revelation of God), then we must especially take into consideration the historical context in which the passage was written. I will continue to strive with you as serious students of the Bible and I look forward to your future columns.


#13

There is no need of the previous confiscation of bibles to render truth void any longer. All we need now is what we have in this article a “WATERING DOWN” of it is written. Take a pair of scissors and cut out the verses that are offensive and see what you have left. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22 18,19


#14

Thank you for being willing to engage in what is sometimes (perhaps often) a very difficult conversation. It has always been difficult. Whether it was Jesus saying, “you have heard it said, but I say to you” . . . or the author of Hebrews reminding us that in Jesus we have a more complete revelation of God that is clearer and more complete than anything before it . . . or the early church working its way towards fully including gentiles into the community of believers . . . or Ellen White pointing out that while scripture is inspired and trustworthy, it comes to us having been shaped by the language and ways of putting thoughts together that reflect individual people living at a particular time and place. None of which of course detracts in the least from the inspiration of scripture. Even with all of that, it is hard for us sometimes not to appreciate the way God met people where they were, and then led them to the next place they could go, and allowed them, even as His Spirit moved on them through inspiration, to describe what God was doing the best way they knew how. Greg Boyd in his recent two volume work on “The Warrior God” does a nice job of exploring this whole issue, and is good reading for those who are interested in pursuing it. Despite the criticism that you have already received about this being an example of putting what “We” think above what “scripture says,” it is worth noting that that particular statement is itself an example of putting what someone “thinks about scripture” above what scripture actually says when you listen to it carefully and in its own context. In any case, thanks for your willingness (and courage) in encouraging the conversation, though I am sure you will receive as much flack as you do appreciation.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #15

It doesn’t take courage, It Take context. Dispensational for the lack of a better single word. We are the children of Israel that Prevailed With God.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #17

The multitude of "good " Muslims seem to have immense difficulty in emphatically and unequivocally condemning their "radical " brethren.

Probably because these radical elements have overwhelming endorsement for their violent actions in the Koran.

While Christians and Jews may deplore the violence in the Koran, their own scripture is viciously, vituperatively, vehemently, venomously VIOLENT.

The Old Testament deity displays hateful violence to individuals, tribes, nations, and even the animals/livestock of those He despises --" do not leave alive anything that breathes".

He violently destroys almost the entire human race, plus millions of innocent animals in the “world wide” inundation. Drowning is an extremely unpleasant experience!

Both the Old Testament and the Koran leave their adherents groping and grasping to exculpate and excuse their deity.for his violent actions.

Is this because Allah and Jehovah are one and the same?


(Linda Nottingham) #18

“Therefore, we should always be suspicious of the origins of those instances in the Bible where God’s behavior or purported statements make us cringe.”

The author’s words as shown above are truly disturbing to me. To be "suspicious’, as he suggests, seems to assume the position that scripture is not inspired if something doesn’t feel right to me or does not fit my interpretation. How is it that I, or Mr. Quartery, or any one of us can become the ultimate expositor of scripture and its meanings, based on our own reading of a passage?

As a fellow Sabbath School teacher, I find that serious bible study/research and a sincere desire to understand God’s word have helped me grow in my understanding of scriptural passages that I previously disliked or found conflicting in light of my belief in God’s goodness. Why wouldn’t our natural response to questions, be to desire and pray for clarity or deeper understanding, rather than devolving directly to ‘suspicion’?

As a very simple example, I used to dislike the passage in Philippians 4:13, which seemed to be promoting a type of religiosity on steroids…some muscle-bound, over-the-top approach to spirituality which was not consistent with my own Christian experience. Then as a result of a sermon I heard, I realized that if one reads the verses which precede that commonly quoted text, what Paul is really saying is that he’s had good days and bad days, he’s been sick and he’s been well, he’s been rich and he’s been poor, but in all that, his relationship with Jesus enabled him to handle everything life threw at him. Now I like the passage, but my failure to originally understand it did not make it uninspired.

I used to dislike the story of the vineyard owner who paid everyone the same and also the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son. But I have studied…I mean really studied, listened to teachers, heard sermons and otherwise found my understanding of those passages enlightened and better understood.

I frequently remind my class that I am not a bible scholar, but that I pray for the Holy Spirit to influence my thinking and preparation to teach the lesson…to lead the discussion, as it were. And like Mr, Quartery’s experience, we commonly move outside the lesson quarterly in our quest for deeper knowledge. I encourage them to question the lesson author and think for themselves, but only in the sense of developing their own spiritual experience and belief. How in the world could I suggest that they question the inspiration of a particular scriptural passage? What we all should question is our own understanding or lack thereof and get to work doing research and study.


(Frankmer7) #19

How about the idea that God lets his children tell the story from their limited perspective and point of view? This is quite obvious in the OT. YHWH was portrayed by the Israelite writers as a warrior god…in a very similar way to the portrayals one finds in other ancient cultures of their own gods. Military victory was assured because of the favor of their gods, and defeat ensued because of their disfavor and anger. YHWH was described in the same way.

This seems to indicate that the biblical writers did not write in a cultural vacuum, and were not above the influences of the more ancient societies surrounding them. And, those influences caused them to tell the story of YHWH in a way that made sense to them, and to other peoples of their time. They, and those other peoples, were shaping history through narrative, not telling it in a strictly objective manner as we attempt to in the modern world. And…God allowed it. For us to expect modern sensibilities from the biblical narrative, is to superimpose our culture, our priorities, and our perspective onto the text, and to not allow it to speak in its own ancient voices.

This is why Jesus could say things in reference to Scripture such as, “You have heard it said, but I say to to you…” Or why he could reject the idea of calling fire down from heaven on ones enemies, as his disciples wanted to while appealing to the Scriptures for the precedent and authority to do so. His views of Scripture were not bound by past, or as he saw, insufficient understandings of God. For this reason, Jesus not only radicalized the Torah and the Writings in his teachings, he even overturned parts of them, in light of his own authority, and the highest ethic of love that he came to bring.

It is in this sense that Jesus is greater than the Scriptures. This is essentially what the gospel writers and Paul the apostle were all trying to say. Jesus is greater than Moses, greater than the Torah, greater than the Writings, and it is through him that the Scriptures must be reframed, and for God, Israel’s God, and his purpose for all peoples, to be truly understood.

To thus see Peter’s exhortation to submit to all unjust authority as binding for all situations, would be to read the NT with the same wooden disregard for context and cultural setting as we often read the OT. Peter, as far as we can see, wrote under the reign of an emperor, not a world where there are representative democracies. To use this text in a universal way to allow evil government and unjust laws to destroy people without taking a stand, would be to delegitimize the 19th c. Abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, and the drive to end apartheid in South Africa. It would be to say that they were less than Christian.

However, to see Jesus stand up to the corrupt temple system in Jerusalem, to see his bold defiance of its abuse of power, greed for gain, and the hold it had on the people, as it stood on ancient religious text and tradition, is to see one who, while not advocating retaliation or rebellion, did actively resist injustice. For what he deemed the greater good. This is what set in motion the drive to execute him.

This, along with his submission to death, helped define being Christian. It shows that what drove Jesus was greater than the wooden letter of the bible. It was the Spirit that led him to express the love of God in different and often surprising, and risky ways. It is what needs to drive us as well. As Paul stated, “It is the love of Christ that compels us.”

Thanks…

Frank

@mtskeels9496

You misuse scripture to make your point. In context, Isaiah 55:8-9 is saying that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than his people’s, in the way he displays and offers mercy to them. A mercy that they have despaired of being shown in the midst of captivity. It’s not about how a “God ordered” genocide is something that could or should never be questioned or understood by us today.

You are so busy trying to defend what you think is a literal reading of the scriptures, and God’s truth, that you misread it in order to do so. Your insistence on reading the bible in a vacuum, as if cultural and contextual considerations destroy its validity, is something that actually distorts the voice of the biblical text, blunts its effectiveness, and diminishes its credibility as the word of God. It leads to the very thing you accuse others of doing on this thread.

Frank


#20

The passages in question were included to satisy the wishes of Constantine, King of Britain (and later the Roman Empire) . At Nicea #1 Constantine was getting impatient with all the squabbles and back and forth of the assembled prysbeters, and finally ordered submission of all documents in their possession from which he would choose those selected for a NEW testament, standing in competition to the former Jewish Testament. He also gave instructions that the documents must reflect his ideas even if it meant to cut-and paste" better" passages from elsewhere which it was known reflected his personal ideas. The prsybeters present were men often as bloody-minded as a Roman Emperor , and so I believe that the 1 Peter bloody passages, and others of course, were not the commands of God, but brather the brainchild of a desperate warlord Emperor desperate to unify his fractious Empire by means of extreme force, if so neccessary. Constantine was also eager to unify the Empire under ONE GOD, instead of allowing the then c urrent fractious fealty to numerous Gods, whic often descended in violence, which weakened the Empire as a whole. Consequently a vote was taken as to which should be the chief God of the Empire. the second name on the list was Krishna. However Constantine , being British born declared that Hesus ( a Druid deity) be included. From that order we can trace Hesus Krishna later known as Hesus or Jesus Christ. The New Testament is therefore basically a Roman Catholic compilation containing, mostly, documents approved by their leadership. SURELY our learned theologians at AU must know of this, so why have they been allowing the name of God to be sullied with these low accusations of revenge and torture to be applied to “enemies”.


(le vieux) #21

The author can find the answers to his dilemma scattered throughout the writings of Ellen White. Roman emperors were as cruel in their own way as the Mugabes or Idi Amins of today. We are counseled in the Bible to submit to duly constituted authority only when to do so will not cause us to break the law of God. So, if ordered to kill a Hutu or a Tutsi, a true Christian would refuse. If ordered to administer first aid to either, a Christian would be the first to obey.


#22

It has been interesting listening to the various posters rationalizations of the biblical texts.
Culture, perception etc…practically anything except that God may have actually said, instructed or wanted some of those OT things.
Yet the main thing I find interesting is the complete lack of admission that God says in Isaiah 55:8-9

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Yet how many here have effectively placed their own moral senses above Gods by interpreting the passages as they have? The author even references the current middle east problems as if following the biblical instructions in certain OT passages would NOT have effectively put an end to the blood feud he references?
Rather than dressing God up in the clothes that suit you why dont you deal with what it actually says?
A good case in point is the Sabbath commandment where Duet 5:14 says "But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

Why are there no Spectrum pieces showing how different people handle the practical issues of not letting the stranger in thy gates break the Sabbath? Or how Doctors/nurses are fine to work on Sabbath for money but farm animals who have no concept of Sabbath observance or motivational aspects as to why they would or wouldn’t do “work” on the Sabbath completely negates the motivational aspects for why its OK for Doctors/nurses etc?

Yes, far better to pass over the fact that Christians dont even know the answers to the far simpler questions given the explicit instructions they have and jump right over to how God really didnt really mean what he said or instructed in the OT because it doesnt suit your modern sensibilities.


(Sandra) #23

Growing up an Adventist, I struggled a lot with what is divine injunction, versus cultural relevance. For example, I 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, the apostle Paul admonishes women to remain silent in churches… or Deuteronomy 22:25, a woman must not wear men’s clothing …
Growing up in Africa, I frequently heard these texts quoted to keep women in their place. I struggled with the guilt of disobeying God’s word versus my natural wiring to weigh in my opinion in public - contending with men (what a crime!). As I processed the various explanations that sought to explain, justify or dismiss the relevance of texts like these, or those quoted by Matthew, I had to experience a personal “walk” with God where I saw Him as a friend that I was comfortable enough in His presence to question, argue and choose to agree or disagree with certain passages of scripture and still be in a loving relationship with Him.
Some passages, I’ve grown to be more enlightened about by the Holy Spirit and better understand, others, as those in question, I still have squabbles with God over - and I think He is perfectly fine with it. It has helped me to know that Bible authors were God’s spokesmen, not pens.
The privilege of living in this era is the freedom to question and discuss and process and sift through the maize of spiritual information (or any information) and not be told to shut up. I want to believe God is proud of this forum and gives a nod of approval to see that He did not create robots, but rational thinking, questioning, intelligent beings reflecting his divine image.