Responses to Genocidal Mercy

I wrote on the Israelite genocides a couple posts ago and am going to respond to a few of the response here.

First, Zippy responded, to others and possibly me, in two posts, here and here.

When the Bible tells us that Samuel said “Thus sayeth the Lord of Hosts”, it is entirely possible that it is giving a literal account of words actually spoken by the actual prophet Samuel. I rather expect that it is; although that is not the only possible interpretation, and inerrancy only really guarantees that true and accurate interpretations exist, it doesn’t guarantee that I have it right.

But Samuel saying those words as a formal preliminary to issuing commands doesn’t necessarily imply what folks think it implies. We know that, as Popes do now, prophets had authority from God. But the fact that Papal authority comes from God doesn’t imply that every word and deed of every Pope is tantamount to a literal act of God. In reality Papal infallibility is something very rarely invoked, and the use of a formal introduction for the words of a Prophet doesn’t convert those words into a set of axiomatic syllogisms from which a positivist theory of everything can be constructed. Samuel’s formalism could conceivably mean that God actually spoke those words from a burning bush; but in the full context of the OT that seems less than likely. At best we can say that we don’t really know whether the formalism “thus sayeth the Lord of Hosts” is a formality – like the wearing of a crown – when the prophet gives orders.

This is intellectually untenable.

To argue that a prophet of the Lord when saying he is proclaiming the will of the Lord is not proclaiming the will of the Lord, ruins any ability to take anything from the Bible. If we can not trust a God-anointed prophet of the Lord to be proclaiming the will of the Lord while saying he is proclaiming the will of the Lord, how can we trust the words of any of the other prophets or teachers? Why would we give heed to Isaiah? Why would the words of John the Baptist be trustworthy? Why would we trust the revelations of John? For that matter, why would we trust the words of Jesus? (Not to mention, for the Catholics, why would we trust Peter or those who claim to be the successors of Peter?)

It is also not just Samuel’s introduction, but Samuel’s pronouncement of judgment on Saul where he also directly claims to speak for the Lord. Saul accepts Samuel’s judgment as being from the Lord, and, as far as I know, no one in the Bible argues that this judgment was ever outside the Lord’s will. Given that Samuel’s appointing of David as king, and, ultimately, the birth of Christ through the lineage of David hinge on this event, it is hard to argue God wasn’t behind this.

And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. (1 Samuel 15:17-20 ESV)

To add to this, without accepting Samuel’s words, we have no reason for why God rejected Saul. David’s crowning and 1&2 Samuel lose their meaning and coherency if this event does not take place as written.

What is being pitted against each other is some folks’ personal interpretations of the OT against the intrinsic immorality of murder.

What is being pitted against each other is Zippy’s personal interpretation of natural law against the direct words of the God-ordained prophet of the Lord on a mission from the Lord directly commanding the people of the Lord as the voice of the Lord to destroy the Amalekites. Then the prophet of the Lord stripping Saul of His kingship over the people of the Lord in the Lord’s name for disobeying the Lord’s commandments.

There are 5 ways this event could be interpreted: God commanded the destruction of the Amalekites, God lied to Samuel, Samuel lied to Israel, some other spiritual force deceived an anointed prophet of the Lord and the writer of a book of the Bible in such a way that influenced that entirety of the Christian story and the prophet was never corrected, or the Bible is lying to us (or being metaphorical, which in the case of a book purporting to be history recounting a historical event would be functionally equivalent to a lie).

The second is blasphemy, the third renders the words of the Biblical prophets meaningless, the fourth renders God ineffectual, and the fifth essentially makes the Bible impossible to decipher. Any but the first would make any attempts at understanding Christian natural law impossible.

If you read the Bible and come to the conclusion that a bedrock Christian doctrine such as the absolute prohibition of murder under the natural law is wrong, this doesn’t demonstrate a problem with bedrock Christian doctrine.

The claim is not that murder is okay. The claim is (or in fairness, if this was a criticism of someone else, my claim is) and was specifically ‘Murder is unlawful killing and God’s law is the highest law. If God orders a killing, it is by definition lawful, and is therefore, by definition, not murder.’

God ordered the genocide of the Amalekites, therefore it was not murder. It  has not demonstrated that this was murder; the argument ‘murder is wrong’ misses the point entirely.

In the comments Zippy states the following:

I am equally intolerant of an approach that is unwilling to start with what we actually know – e.g. that slaughtering infants is intrinsically immoral, always wrong, and therefore not something God would ever command – and work the problem from there.

Zippy should prove, not assert, not simply repeat ‘natural law’, but show logically and scripturally that 1) God would never command the slaughtering of infants (despite His prophets specifically commanding the slaughter of infants in His name) and 2) the slaughter of infants is wrong even if God does command it.

The only way to know apodictically that God is ordering it is if you are God. Otherwise it is always possible that you are deceived: that you are wrong. So we can’t escape from comparing how likely it is that we are deceived that murder is always wrong versus how likely it is that it is actually God telling us to do it.

We might not be able to know for certain and no matter what we think we might, but we can and shold reason out the most likely answer. If we follow through on Zippy’s argument how can we know God orders anything? We aren’t God. We can’t know anything of His will apodictically. In that case and what Zippy’s position implies in the context of this debate why even bother trying to ascertain God’s will on any issue? We’ll never know apodictically and it will always be possible we’re deceived.

We can’t escape from comparing how likely is is that Samuel as recorded in the word of the Lord, speaking as a prophet of the Lord in the name of the Lord to the Lord’s people who accepted his words as being from the Lord was deceived or deceiving versus how likely it is that Zippy’s interpretation of the natural law is wrong?

****

malcolmthecynic asked:

Something claiming to be the voice of God commands you to kill children.
Do you obey, or are you convinced this was the voice of Satan, and refuse?

I would test the spirits:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

If after a period of prayer, fasting, consultation with trusted Christian leaders, and testing the spirits I understood the spirits were those of the Lord I would obey. Depending on the ‘level of wrongness’ (for lack of a better term springing to mind), this period would be longer and more intense. I might also try to bargain with God as per Abraham.

****

Anonymous Coward stated:

This is the same argument that the Muslims make: we cannot put man’s law above God’s law, and man has no right to judge God. Anything Mohammed did is good by definition.

So clearly your argument is wrong, because it defends and promotes the great evil of Islam.

The Muslims are wrong in that their god is not God and Muhammed is not God’s prophet.

****

Aeroguy stated:

I’m not sure you guys really appreciate the full implications of Euthyphro’s dilemma. Defining god as good either denies god agency, the ability to choose, or it makes good relative, not absolute. I didn’t take you for a moral relativist. God could have never sent the angel to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and it would have been equally good as sending the angel. If right and wrong are absolute and not apart from god then he has no will of his own. The temptations of Jesus would be meaningless since he never had the capacity to sin in the first place.

Bottom line, you can’t use god to justify something. Either justice stands on its own or is rendered meaningless.

You seem to mistakenly think you can separate justice and God. God is just. He is the yardstick by which justice is measured; morality is relative to God. I am unsure how would that render justice meaningless.

110 comments

  1. There is far far more going on with the Most High’s command then what appears in plain English, look into the backgrounds of the Amalekites and think in a DNA perspective and it becomes rather clear why He said it.

    Think Nephillim and Anakim

    This is one of the areas that Reason and Rationality fall down at times when applying scripture

  2. @Padre55

    Those are the behavioural traits of the amalekites:
    “[Gutians] not classed among people, not reckoned as part of the land…people who know no inhibitions…with human instinct but canine intelligence…” (The Curse of Agade) ”

    “[Amorite] a tent dweller…who eats raw meat…who has no house during the days of his life, and is not buried on the day of his death” (Myth of the Wedding of Amurru)

    “Since that time the Amorites, a ravaging people, with the instincts of a beast… like wolves; a people which does not know grain” (Inscription of Shu-Sin)”

    http://christianthinktank.com/rbutcher1.html

    Perhaps this is due to genetic corruption. Although i am not sure.

  3. FN:
    It is true that I was mainly responding to others, not to you.

    Any but the first would make any attempts at understanding Christian natural law impossible.

    IOW, you must be right because you must be right: otherwise you’d have to re-think your whole approach to Scripture and religious authority, among other things.

    A sixth possibility is that you haven’t exhaustively thought of all the possibilities. Inerrancy is a characteristic of the Bible, not of you.

    If we follow through on Zippy’s argument how can we know God orders anything?

    “We can’t escape from comparing how likely it is that [FN’s personal interpretation of the Bible is wrong] versus how likely it is that [slaughtering children is intrinsically immoral]?”

    Also the other commenter is correct that your concept of God appears to be essentially the radically voluntarist (Muslim) concept of God. That is no surprise, since Protestantism is on one view the adoption of Muslim theology (sola scriptura, voluntarism, etc) by Christians.

    “From this book, accordingly, we see that the religion of the Turks or Muhammad is far more splendid in ceremonies — and, I might almost say, in customs — than ours, even including that of the religious or all the clerics. The modesty and simplicity of their food, clothing, dwellings, and everything else, as well as the fasts, prayers, and common gatherings of the people that this book reveals are nowhere seen among us — or rather it is impossible for our people to be persuaded to them. Furthermore, which of our monks, be it a Carthusian (they who wish to appear the best) or a Benedictine, is not put to shame by the miraculous and wondrous abstinence and discipline among their religious? Our religious are mere shadows when compared to them, and our people clearly profane when compared to theirs. Not even true Christians, not Christ himself, not the apostles or prophets ever exhibited so great a display. This is the reason why many persons so easily depart from faith in Christ for Muhammadanism and adhere to it so tenaciously. I sincerely believe that no papist, monk, or cleric or their equal in faith would be able to remain in their faith if they should spend three days among the Turks. Here I mean those who seriously desire the faith of the pope and who are the best among them.”
    — Martin Luther, preface to the Tract on the Religions and Customs of the Turks, published in 1530.

  4. God said A, but Zippy doesn’t like A, so Hod must have anticipated Zippy’s objections and meant something else.

    Zippy is holier than God.

    You need to reconsider your approach to scripture because you consider God to be the source of morality, instead of Zippy.

  5. Lars Gorbian:

    God said A

    No, Free Northerner argues that God said A. He doesn’t argue that completely without warrant: he does appeal to Scripture, etc. FN presents an argument that God said A: but an argument that God says A is not the same thing as God saying A.

    He then oppose his argument to the traditional understanding of the fifth commandment. WordPress usually only allows one link without dropping a comment into moderation, but all you have to do is look up “Thou Shalt Not Kill” on Wikipedia.

    Folks need to own their own assertions rather than attributing them to God. Personal interpretations of Scripture and extrapolations from those interpretations are not God’s voice speaking. They are your (and FN’s) voice speaking.

    Voluntarism isn’t a mandatory Christian doctrine. It isn’t in any of the creeds.

    My own view is that attempts to break God up into analytical parts that the human mind can grasp, as if it made sense to talk about things being good because he wills them versus him willing them because they are good, is to step beyond our human capacity to predicate things to God.

    Modernity has a tendency to propose a theory and then insist that it is correct unless a ‘satisfying’ alternative theory is proffered. That’s what FN and others have done here. But it is better to have no theory at all than to adopt a false and misleading theory — especially when dealing with moral questions of nontrivial gravity like genocide.

  6. Peter Blood:
    As far as I know, there is no ‘official’ view. (Though as I said in the W4 thread, this isn’t a subject on which I’ve done lots of due diligence).

    Folks are free to speculate as they see fit, so long as their speculations stay within the confines of established doctrine. The ‘boundaries’ as I understand them are that Scripture is inerrant (true and correct interpretations exist, though of course false and incorrect interpretations are also possible and even commonplace) and that killing the innocent (a category over which there is controversy at the boundaries but which would certainly encompass newborn infants and small children) is intrinsically immoral.

  7. Zippy,
    You are grossly misrepresenting FN when you assert FN said “Gos says A,” but really FN is just saying A. Let,s be honest, it was Samuel who said A; FN just quoted him, which means your real argument is with Samuel, which in turn means you have put yourself in the same boat with King Saul, spiritually speaking. I’ve followed this thread through both posts, and the only argument you’ve made is that the Bible doesn’t actually mean what it says because you don’t like the consequences. You have set yourself above the Word, which is pride, the first and deadliest sin.

  8. Okrahead:

    your real argument is with Samuel

    Nonsense. Samuel isn’t here for me to disagree with, and he didn’t even speak the language we are using in our argument.

    My argument is with the people who are actually arguing, and who in the course of the argument are pretending to speak for God.

  9. Ah contraire, Samuel’s words are still very much here, and an appeal to the fact that they were originally spoken on another language is an irrelevant straw man.

  10. What is being pitted against each other is Zippy’s personal interpretation of natural law…

    You call it his “personal interpretation of natural law” as if it wasn’t manifestly obvious for pretty much most of human history, in all cultures, that killing infants is intrinsically wrong.

    What you call “untenable” is merely an attempt to play God, acting as if the fact that Prophets made orders which they said were on God’s behalf means that everything we know about moral theory is wrong. THAT is untenable.

    Do you think killing infants is intrinsically immoral? Would you trust something that claimed to be the voice of God if it told you to kill innocent infants?

  11. Ah contraire, Samuel’s words are still very much here,

    Well then I’d love to see Samuel’s thoughts on what Zippy is saying.

    No, quoting verses we all already know about and that are under question to begin with does not count.

  12. God gets to ‘play God’. He can and has decreed the extermination of entire cultures and bloodlines. It is a serious failure of imagination that most of us can’t conceive that this is the most just outcome possible in certain cases.

    Imagine a nation that held the entire world hostage to cobalt jacketed doomsday bombs, demanding a huge tribute in blood sacrifices and wealth every year from every other nation to their dark ‘gods’. I personally thank God for His Holy Genocides. He quite deliberately removed certain cultures from even our memory and I trust His Wisdom in doing so. Most of us can’t conceive of a culture that is bad enough to justify total eradication—so that even the future archaeologists would scratch their heads. But it isn’t outside of my imagination, and I wager it isn’t outside His Experience either. This isn’t an isolated incident of Amalek either—Sodom and the cities of the plains, the entire pre-flood world, the Amorites—God can and does cut the team when He needs to, and it is to us to trust that His actions were the best possible under the constraints He has elected to work within.

  13. Jehu:
    What is at issue isn’t ‘moral boundaries’ on what God can do Himself. Personally I think such talk degenerates into nonsense rather quickly.

    What is at issue is whether it is ever morally acceptable for human beings to slaughter children because they are under the impression (like ISIS in Iraq, in the current headlines) that they have warrant from God to do so.

  14. FN:

    If after a period of prayer, fasting, consultation with trusted Christian leaders, and testing the spirits I understood the spirits were those of the Lord I would obey.

    Are you saying that it is conceivable that you could go through a spiritual ‘testing of the spirits’ process and conclude that you are being commanded by God to slaughter innocent people?

    I would think that the correct conclusion would be that there must be something wrong with your “testing of the spirits” process, whatever it happened to be. Or that you were having a mental breakdown of some kind, perhaps.

    At the end of the day you have to weigh your faith in your ‘testing of the spirits’ process against how convinced you are that slaughtering the innocent is wrong.

  15. Zippy,
    God can and has used human beings as implements of His Holy Genocides. Amalek and Amorite are two examples. He provided in all such cases the necessary authentication that He was who He said He was. Notice also that He never ordered the slaughter of children as such, but rather as part of collective absolute extermination. It is a testament to the efficacy of Holy Genocide that we find it nearly unthinkable with any presently existing cultures.

  16. FN,

    God can do what he wants. Humans are a different matter. The fact is, you need to be MORE SURE that the voice in your head is really God than you are sure that killing babies is wrong. You have a blind, unthinking faith that is willing to throw rational thought out the window if it means not admitting that your worldview might, somehow, be wrong.

    I doubt anybody who reads this blog would kill infants no matter what the voices in their head say (well, abortion aside…who know how many pro-aborts read here). I am quite happy about this state of affairs.

    God can and has used human beings as implements of His Holy Genocides. Amalek and Amorite are two examples. He provided in all such cases the necessary authentication that He was who He said He was. Notice also that He never ordered the slaughter of children as such, but rather as part of collective absolute extermination. It is a testament to the efficacy of Holy Genocide that we find it nearly unthinkable with any presently existing cultures.

    All you did here was repeat what has been originally claimed. You certainly didn’t respond to any of Zippy’s points.

  17. > The Muslims are wrong in that their god is not God and Muhammed is not God’s prophet.

    Of course they are.

    But your argument is the same as theirs is. The strength of your argument, as does theirs, rests upon you being right about the True God and His True Message. That is where your argument fails.

    Your argument fails not because you are wrong about Who the True God Is, and what His Message Is, but because it cannot and will not convince skeptics — people who do not already agree with you.

    Your argument is intellectually (and spiritually) vapid. Your conclusions are correct, but your argument is worthless.

  18. Zippy,
    It’s not just Samuel you have a beef with. Moses and Joshua, also stating that they were speaking the words given them by God, commanded the annihilation of the Canaanites. Your assertion that God never commanded such makes liars of Moses, Joshua and Samuel, amongst others. The path this leads you down is to deny that these books are God’s inspired Word, because natural law. Please understand that I do believe that natural law exists, and that it helps us understand God and His nature; however the revealed Word of God trumps whatever we believe natural law to say and mean. If our understanding of natural law leads us to contradict what the revealed Word says then we must change our understanding of natural law, not the revealed Word. As for any concern about repeating this today, I would say no… we are not under the same law as the Old Testament nation of Israel, and the Law of Christ nowhere proscribes such actions.
    The Canaanites had completely rejected God, even though He had made Himself available to be known should they choose to seek Him (see Balaam). God used Israel to make an example of the Canaanites so that all people, for all time, might understand how He viewed their depravity. In addition, he ordered their extermination to prevent their evil from spreading to Israel. The Bible clearly, explicitly teaches that when Israel exterminated the Canaanites they were following a direct command from God. To say they were wrong because natural law is to reject the Old Testament as the revealed word of God.

  19. Coward,
    An argument that is correctly framed and logically consistent cannot be vapid; perhaps you should do a refresher course on logic 101. Your complaint is against the major premise of the argument; namely that Samuel was speaking the Word of God when he ordered the annihilation of Amalek. You may, of course, reject the Bible as God’s inspired Word should you so choose; the argument FN makes is still correct. I say that FN did not go far enough because not only is the god worshiped by mohammedans a false god, and not only is mohammed a false prophet, but the koran is a false gospel as well. Were I to believe otherwise I would, of course, be compelled to decapitate you. Fortunately that is not the case.

  20. okrahead:

    The path this leads you down is to deny that these books are God’s inspired Word, because natural law.

    Not at all. If Moses and Samuel and others were in the wrong sometimes – and the Bible is actually quite explicit that they were in some cases – that doesn’t call into question the inerrancy of the Bible. It just calls into question your interpretation of the Bible. That a true and correct interpretation exists doesn’t imply that your particular interpretation is true and correct.

  21. I wrote:

    That a true and correct interpretation exists doesn’t imply that your particular interpretation is true and correct.

    This goes for me too, BTW and of course.

    I am confident that true and correct interpretations of the Scriptures exist. I am not confident that anyone involved in this discussion actually knows a true and correct interpretation of (say) Deuteronomy 20 though. That doesn’t call into question the inerrancy of Scripture: it calls into question the inerrancy of those of us who are participating in the discussion.

    I am further confident that interpretations and hermeneutics which extrapolate to call into question the traditional Christian understanding of the fifth commandment are wrong. It is a classic case of pitting Scripture against Scripture, divorced from Christian tradition and the living Church.

    But that some interpretations are wrong doesn’t imply that true and correct interpretations don’t exist.

    What is being called into question isn’t God, or the inerrancy of Scripture. What is being called into question is you.

  22. Zippy,
    ” It just calls into question your interpretation of the Bible. That a true and correct interpretation exists doesn’t imply that your particular interpretation is true and correct.”
    That Moses, Joshua, Samuel (and others) commanded the annihilation of the Canaanites is not my “interpretation”, it’s black-letter text. Nor is it my “interpretation” that each of that the Bible states each of these men was repeating what God told him when he gave the command, it’s black letter text. The fact that I am able to read does not mean that I am engaged in “private interpretation” when I quote the text.

  23. okrahead:

    That Moses, Joshua, Samuel (and others) commanded the annihilation of the Canaanites is not my “interpretation”, it’s black-letter text.

    I haven’t disputed that. (It actually is still an interpretation, because the meaning we get from a text is always an interpretation; but in any case I am not aware of any of the various ‘players’ in this muti-blog discussion disputing that interpretation).

    Nor is it my “interpretation” that each of that the Bible states each of these men was repeating what God told him when he gave the command …

    That actually is your interpretation, and it isn’t as manifestly correct as you seem to think it is.

  24. “16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
    17 but thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Per’izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
    18 that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.”
    Deuteronomy 20:17-18 KJV

    Zippy,
    I look forward to your explanation of my own, special, private interpretation above.

  25. As an extra-special side note, perhaps we should consider the case of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham, at God’s command, was completely prepared to kill Isaac. There was no doubt of his intention (mens rea, if you wish). If killing Isaac would have been a sin, then Abraham surely sinned, for he had already put Isaac to death in his heart. Yet Abraham was not condemned for his action, he was lauded for his faith. Yet of course this must be wrong, because natural law.

  26. okrahead:

    I look forward to your explanation of my own, special, private interpretation above.

    Who is recorded as actually speaking those commands?

    As an extra-special side note, perhaps we should consider the case of Abraham and Isaac.

    What message did Abraham take away from the encounter? What did God reveal about Himself in the encounter?

  27. okrahead:
    I’ll give you a hint: it is right at the beginning of Deuteronomy (Rheims):

    These are the words, which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan, …

    (emphasis mine).

    That Moses gave the genocidal order hasn’t been disputed. That his motivation was to protect the Israelites from the idolatries and blasphemies of the pagans has also not been disputed.

    Moses himself directly attributes to the Lord two specific things in your own KJV citation.

    1) “the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance”

    2) “as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: 18 that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.”

    Moses himself doesn’t directly attribute the means he chose to God.

    Mind you, I don’t buy into this whole way of approaching and parsing Scripture to begin with. To understand revelation correctly it is necessary to understand it through the interpretations of the Church and the Tradition. Otherwise it is quite literally meaningless. The Old Testament without Christ is empty.

    But even under a naive literalism it doesn’t actually say what you insist that it says in “black-letter text”.

  28. Re: what so we learn from Abraham & Isaac: James 2:21, 22. Abraham was justified because he obeyed in faith. What command did Abraham obey?

  29. Moses does, in fact, attribute the command to kill them all to God. Samuel and Joshua attributed the same command to God. It really is a simple matter of whether you believe the men to be true prophets or delusional liars.

  30. Okrahead:

    Moses does, in fact, attribute the command to kill them all to God.

    Now you are just stamping your feet. Again this whole approach isn’t my “thing”, but even on your own literalist terms your interpretive approach to the specific text in question doesn’t make sense.

    I suggest you sit down and read the entire book of Deuteronomy. You will find that Moses attributes some things to the Lord, and many more things to himself. He doesn’t explicitly assert any claims of infallibility for himself. Here is the first bit (DR), into which I have inserted the referent in [square brackets] in a number of places:

    [1] These are the words, which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan, in the plain wilderness, over against the Red Sea, between Pharan and Thophel and Laban and Haseroth, where there is very much gold: [2] Eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Cadesbarne. [3] In the fortieth year, the eleventh month, the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel all that the Lord had commanded him to say to them: [4] After that he had slain Sehon king of the Amorrhites, who dwelt in Hesebon: and Og king of Basan who abode in Astaroth, and in Edrai, [5] Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab. And Moses began to expound the law, and to say:

    [6] The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough in this mountain: [7] Turn you, and come to the mountain of the Amorrhites, and to the other places that are next to it, the plains and the hills and the vales towards the south, and by the sea shore, the land of the Chanaanites, and of Libanus, as far as the great river Euphrates. [8] Behold, said he, I [The LORD] have delivered it to you: go in and possess it, concerning which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would give it to them, and to their seed after them. [9] And I [Moses] said to you at that time: [10] I [Moses] alone am not able to bear you: for the Lord your God hath multiplied you, and you are this day as the stars of heaven, for multitude.

    [11] (The Lord God of your fathers add to this number many thousands, and bless you as he hath spoken. [Moses speaks a blessing]) [12] I [Moses] alone am not able to bear your business, and the charge of you and your differences. [13] Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I [Moses] may appoint them your rulers. [14] Then you answered me: The thing is good which thou [Moses] meanest to do. [15] And I [Moses] took out of your tribes men wise and honourable, and appointed them rulers, tribunes, and centurions, and officers over fifties, and over tens, who might teach you all things.

    [16] And I [Moses] commanded them, saying: Hear them, and judge that which is just: whether he be one of your country, or a stranger. [17] There shall be no difference of persons, you shall hear the little as well as the great: neither shall you respect any man’ s person, because it is the judgment of God. And if any thing seem hard to you, refer it to me [Moses], and I [Moses] will hear it. [18] And I [Moses] commanded you all things that you were to do. [19] And departing from Horeb, we passed through the terrible and vast wilderness, which you saw, by the way of the mountain of the Amorrhite, as the Lord our God had commanded us. And when we were come into Cadesbarne, [20] I [Moses] said to you: You are come to the mountain of the Amorrhite, which the Lord our God will give to us.

    The entire book of Deuteronomy is like this, recounting the words and deeds of the man Moses, as spiritual and political leader of the Israelites, interspersed with specific things attributed by Moses to the LORD. We are given no recounting of how in particular the attribution is made, etc — whether it came in a dream or was recorded onto an SSD recorder at the site of the burning bush or whatever.

    But in general it makes no sense in reading Deuteronomy to attribute things to God that Moses himself doesn’t attribute directly to God. (I am sure that God could alone actually could ‘bear their business’ if He chose to).

    But that is what you are doing at least in the specific KJV passages you cited: attributing things to God that Moses doesn’t directly attribute to God. In the passage you cited he attributes two specific things to God; and genocide isn’t one of them.

  31. Ummm, God committed genocide on nearly the entire human race including infants in the flood. Wanna take a crack at that, Zippy?

  32. Barnabas,
    That didn’t really happen, and you’re being too naive and literal, and God didn’t really say that. Because natural law. Now quit stamping your foot and go back and re-read the entire Pentateuch.

  33. Equating God wiping out the earth in the flood to fallible human beings committing genocide because they think they have a warrant from God to do so is a category error. I’ve explained why elsewhere. Very cursorily: natural law arises from the nature of human beings; murder is an irrevocable act; God has the power to create and resurrect and redeem and therefore can no more murder as an irrevocable act than he can create a rock too heavy for himself to lift.

    In general, trying to equate human acts to God’s acts is a category error.

    go back and re-read the entire Pentateuch.

    I thought actually reading the Scriptures was supposed to be a virtue here. But I’m guessing this discussion has gotten about as far as it can in this venue.

  34. I do appreciate the illustration of this particular route to heresy. Who knew that natural law was such a snare? I’ll take it to heart like I have Bruce Charleton’s fall into Mormonism through the search for the most adaptive form of Christianity.

  35. It seems that FN’s interlocutors have two major points.

    1. That God commanded Israel to kill all the Canaanites including innocent children, is only one possible interpretation. There are other interpretations, and it’s possible FN didn’t list all the possible ones.

    2. Natural law forbids the killing of innocent children.

    3. It’s possible (even probable) that the message to kill the Canaanite children was not a message from God.

    I’m willing to hear out the interlocutors. But here’s my question: If the words in the text do not have their plain and ordinary meaning, then what do they mean in light of tradition and the Magisterium? I’m willing to consider that a true meaning hasn’t yet been set out.

    If no one has yet stated the “correct” interpretation, then what IS the correct interpretation?

    Will Zippy et al accept that there must be at least one correct interpretation (or, even, one and ONLY one correct interpretation?

    And if there isn’t a correct interpretation, then why is the text there? And if the text does not mean what it says that it means, then how can we be sure that anyone can know the true meaning of any of the text, even with Tradition and the Magisterium?

    I for one find it difficult to believe God speaks to His people through the Bible in riddles. It’s hard for me to accept that God might say, essentially, “here’s the text, but I won’t tell you why it’s there and you all will have to guess at its correct interpretation and it will be an insoluble problem for all of you. Its true meaning cannot ever be known.” God doesn’t stick out His tongue at His children and say “nyah nyah nyah” or “Gotcha! (at least I don’t believe He does)” It would seem there must be at least one correct interpretation; and that that interpretation can be known or revealed to human understanding.

    Can we at least agree there is at least one correct meaning of this text; and that that correct meaning can be known?

  36. deti,

    Will Zippy et al accept that there must be at least one correct interpretation (or, even, one and ONLY one correct interpretation?

    I have no idea what discussion you’ve been reading.

  37. I do appreciate the illustration of this particular route to heresy. Who knew that natural law was such a snare? I’ll take it to heart like I have Bruce Charleton’s fall into Mormonism through the search for the most adaptive form of Christianity.

    Self-righteous smugness aside, natural law as a snare to heresy is literally nonsensical. If you believe that, you have no idea what natural law is and in fact you’re even going beyond posters like Cane Caldo, who at least TRY to deny that they’re going beyond natural law.

    Because that comment doesn’t even work as a self-righteous pat on the back. It literally makes no sense. You might as well say that you had no idea fire burning your hand was such a snare.

  38. Malcolm:

    What is the “correct”interpretation/meaning of the text? If the text means something other than the plain and ordinary meaning of the English words used to convey it, then what does it mean?

  39. Zippy:

    ” IOW, you must be right because you must be right: otherwise you’d have to re-think your whole approach to Scripture and religious authority, among other things.”

    I think that my explanation is most likely right and have yet to see a logically and scripturally strong enough argument to warrant changing my opinion on that matter. If someone provides such I will rethink my position.

    Until then I will trust the words of Samuel, Joshua, and Moses’ over your interpretation of natural law.

    “Also the other commenter is correct that your concept of God appears to be essentially the radically voluntarist (Muslim) concept of God.”

    I do hold to divine command theory.

    “He then oppose his argument to the traditional understanding of the fifth commandment.”

    You speak repeatedly of the fifth commandment. This again misses a key point I have repeatedly made: it is not murder if God commands it, so the fifth commandment would not apply.

    In addition, from a reading of Exodus 19-20:

    “And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them. And God spoke all these words, saying,…
    You shall not murder…
    Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

    From this verse it seems as though God only spoke to Moses, and possibly Aaron, directly when giving His commands. Given this we only have Moses’ (and the writer of Exodus’ if he was not Moses) word that God commanded the fifth commandment. By your very own arguments, how can we know this commandment was not Moses’ error? (Not that I am advocating it was his error, merely pointing out the contradictory nature of your argument).

    “Personal interpretations of Scripture and extrapolations from those interpretations are not God’s voice speaking. They are your (and FN’s) voice speaking.”

    Just so there’s no mistake, everything I write is my own interpretation excepting where I am quoting someone else. I do not, and hope I never have to, speak for God, for a prophets life is not usually a pleasant one.

    “Are you saying that it is conceivable that you could go through a spiritual ‘testing of the spirits’ process and conclude that you are being commanded by God to slaughter innocent people?”

    Exceedingly unlikely given that there are maybe a dozen or so cases in the entirety of human history, but not entirely inconceivable.

    “I would think that the correct conclusion would be that there must be something wrong with your “testing of the spirits” process, whatever it happened to be. Or that you were having a mental breakdown of some kind, perhaps. ”

    That would be a far more likely probability, yes.

    “At the end of the day you have to weigh your faith in your ‘testing of the spirits’ process against how convinced you are that slaughtering the innocent is wrong.”

    Indeed.

    Malcolmthecynic:

    “You call it his “personal interpretation of natural law” as if it wasn’t manifestly obvious for pretty much most of human history, in all cultures, that killing infants is intrinsically wrong.”

    All culture? Most of human history?

    We abort our children by the millions. The Germans sent how many Jewish children to the camps? The Russians, Chinese, Koreans, etc. killed how many children in their revolution zeal? The Romans made an entire plant species go extinct in their destruction of their own children. The Greeks exposed their children to the elements to die. Herod destroyed every Jewish male infant. The Ammonites and other assorted tribes sacrificed their children to Moloch. Throughout much of history it was standard practice in war to destroy your enemies’ tribes in their entirety.

    Look at the Wiki on infanticide: more cultures throughout history have supported it than have prohibited it. There has been no ‘manifestly obvious’ agreement that infanticide is wrong.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide

    “Do you think killing infants is intrinsically immoral? Would you trust something that claimed to be the voice of God if it told you to kill innocent infants?”

    I believe God prohibits the killing of infants, but He may issue a particular command that may, in that specifically outlined circumstance, override the more general command. If that meets your bar for ‘intrinsically’ then yes.

    If a prophet arises displaying the power of God and professing that Jesus has come in the flesh, whose prophecies are always proven true, and whose words are consistent with scripture and he commands a specific case of infanticide in God’s name for holy reasons, I will obey God’s commands as given through His prophet.

    “You have a blind, unthinking faith that is willing to throw rational thought out the window if it means not admitting that your worldview might, somehow, be wrong.”

    Really? I have put forth scripture and reason and have been met with cries of ‘natural law’ and ‘some interpretation exists somewhere but its not yours’. But even so:

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
    Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
    It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

    Anonymous Coward:

    “But your argument is the same as theirs is. The strength of your argument, as does theirs, rests upon you being right about the True God and His True Message. That is where your argument fails.”

    Why would a Christian theological discussion be of interest to someone who does not believe in God?

    “Your argument fails not because you are wrong about Who the True God Is, and what His Message Is, but because it cannot and will not convince skeptics — people who do not already agree with you.”

    The Holy Spirit convicts skeptics, not I. The watchman’s duty is to cry out; if the people don’t listen their blood is on their own hands.

    “Your argument is intellectually (and spiritually) vapid. Your conclusions are correct, but your argument is worthless.”

    If one accepts the presuppositions of God and the inerrancy of scripture, my arguments are at least valid (although not necessarily correct), if one does not then a discussion of Christian theology is rather worthless.

  40. This thread needs so much popcorn. I’m gonna do random potshots.

    malcolmthecynic said:

    You call it his “personal interpretation of natural law” as if it wasn’t manifestly obvious for pretty much most of human history, in all cultures, that killing infants is intrinsically wrong.”

    This isn’t even close to true about ANY human cultures. Not even modern ones, though they’re a little more sticky about certain aspects of it.

    Please, name one culture which has consistently asserted the killing of infants, their own in peacetime or others in a conflict, is wrong outside of ardent high Catholic influence?

    We have the full range of ‘sacrifice infants to deities for blessings’ to ‘leave inconvenient infants to be exposed or picked up by slavers’ to merely ‘kill the them before they’re born and brush it off’.

    We essentially never have entire cultures that think of infantacide on the same level as murder.

    That’s not saying it’s wrong or right. That’s saying your an idiot for confusing ‘my crude and highly personalized perception of modern western sentimentalites’ with ‘pretty much all of human history.

    Coward said:

    “But your argument is the same as theirs is. The strength of your argument, as does theirs, rests upon you being right about the True God and His True Message.”

    God have mercy on you… Someone using a false syllogism doesn’t prove that syllogisms are false… People too stupid not to realize that are too stupid to be appealed to intellectually anyways making :

    “Your argument fails not because you are wrong about Who the True God Is, and what His Message Is, but because it cannot and will not convince skeptics — people who do not already agree with you.”

    A discussion of the finer points of the nature of theology is for theologians, not for self proclaimed skeptics. Nor should any argument be re-tooled for people who are know-fully and will-fully ignorant under the guise of a one sided ‘skepticism’, which is really the only sort of person that would declare themselves a skeptic anyway. One who honestly doubts will doubt both this and that, and not readily dismiss information.

    “Your argument is intellectually (and spiritually) vapid. Your conclusions are correct, but your argument is worthless.”

    Your line of reasoning is blatantly irrational. Please learn to think before lobbing such criticisms at others.

  41. Hey Zippy,

    “But Samuel saying those words as a formal preliminary to issuing commands doesn’t necessarily imply what folks think it implies. We know that, as Popes do now, prophets had authority from God. But the fact that Papal authority comes from God doesn’t imply that every word and deed of every Pope is tantamount to a literal act of God. In reality Papal infallibility is something very rarely invoked, and the use of a formal introduction for the words of a Prophet doesn’t convert those words into a set of axiomatic syllogisms from which a positivist theory of everything can be constructed. ”

    So, are you saying that Samuel announcing ‘thus saith the Lord of Hosts’ isn’t tantamount to invoking infallibility, or that infallibility isn’t a thing in that it shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

    The side note that ‘infallibility is rarely invoked’ doesn’t get you away from ‘Samuel clearly invoked at least that here’.

    Now, if your ‘Samuel just invoked something like infallibility’ theory is the case here, then he could still not possibly be wrong about his commands to kill, and seeing that the command was right and protected by God from error, it still has the moral force of being a right and good command sanctioned by God.

    As it sits now you seem to be banking on getting away with the stance that ‘Samuel was just bullshitting around with this speech and it doesn’t really mean anything’. Which is kind of idiotic. At least take a stance.

  42. I believe the point of contention is: Was it God’s command to use the Israelites to totally destroy Canaanite cultures?

    We know for a fact that God/the Holy Spirit issues righteous judgment on whole cultures, cities, and individual people (non-exhaustive):

    1. the flood,
    2. Sodom and Gomorrah,
    3. Lot’s wife,
    4. Er (son of Judah)
    5. Onan,
    6. first born of all Egypt,
    7. Egyptian army
    8. Nadab and Abihu (sons of Aaron)
    9. Plagues on the Israelites
    10. 10 spies
    11. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and households swallowed by the earth
    12. Followers of Korah
    13. Nabal
    14. Uzzah for touching the Ark
    15. Child of David and Bathsheeba
    16. 70,000 Israelites for David’ taking a census
    17. Prophet eaten by lions who was told by another ‘false prophet’ not to obey God.
    18. Jeroboam’s son for his sins
    19. Prophet eaten by a lion for not striking another prophet with his weapon (Ahab).
    20. Ahaziah
    21. Soliders mocking Elijah
    22. Priests of Baal
    23. Youths eaten by lions by mocking Elisha’s bald head
    24. Israel exiled and settlers eaten by lions because they didn’t worship the Lord
    25. 185,000 of the army of Assyria
    26. Jeroboam
    27. Jehoram
    28. Ananias and Sapphira
    29. Herod with worms

    The point of contention is two fold:

    1. if God issues orders through humans hands to execute His judgment (e.g. “killing”).
    2. if God issues judgment on seemingly “innocent” parties as consequence for other’s actions (e.g. “infantcide”).

    It’s clear that God has no issues with executing judgment on seemingly “innocent” parties seeing as how the flood obviously destroyed a lot of children and infants, Sodom and Gomorrah likely had a lot of children and infants, Korah’s rebellion households likely had children and infants that were swallowed up by the ground, and David’s child with Bathsheeba died for his sin, Jeroboam’s son as well, etc.

    So the question merely becomes does God issue orders through human hands to execute His righteous judgment?

    Obviously, there seems to be a precedent set by Joshua, David, and the like for their invasion and destruction of the surrounding cultures in Canaan. David, as described by the Scriptures, was a man after God’s own heart but we did know he was still prone to sin.

    The Scriptures mention that God told David he was not to build the temple because he had so much blood on his hands that his son should build it. By that measure the shedding of blood does defile humans even though he was commanded by God to execute His judgment on the surrounding nations (1 Chronicles 22:1-10).

    All of this evidence leads me to believe that I think the answer is somewhere between FN’s and Zippy’s position. God did command humans to execute righteous judgment even on seemingly innocent parties, but because humans are imperfect it is still defiling for humans to kill other humans. Not so with God though because He is perfect.

  43. prariepolyguy:

    So, are you saying that Samuel announcing ‘thus saith the Lord of Hosts’ isn’t tantamount to invoking infallibility, …

    I don’t know what words Samuel actually spoke in Hebrew, nor do I know what kinds of formalities and literary forms were common to the Jews at the time or the sacred writer who wrote down the history, nor do I have a magic formula for determining when a prophet was asserting his juridical authority versus when he was pronouncing doctrine (though I know that there are clearly cases of both — see the beginning of Deuteronomy I cited above).

    Not knowing doesn’t trouble me the way it seemingly troubles the positivists here, because my tradition is the Christian tradition not Islamic theology applied to Christian Scripture.

    There is no question that God ‘can’ command what he chooses to command. A father “can” pimp out his daughters. At issue is whether a loving father actually would pimp out his daughters, given what we know about him and the other things he has said and done.

    FN has stated that a suitably convincing prophet could convince him (FN) to slaughter the innocent:

    If a prophet arises displaying the power of God and professing that Jesus has come in the flesh, whose prophecies are always proven true, and whose words are consistent with scripture and he commands a specific case of infanticide in God’s name for holy reasons, I will obey God’s commands as given through His prophet.

    Welcome to Islamic Christianity.

  44. I will once again ask zippy, Malcolm et al: What do they believe is the correct interpretation/meaning of the scripture in question?

    This is a very simple query. The answer might not be simple, but since disagreement is so important to the interlocutors and they believe their opponents to be wrong, they MUST have an answer. So if you do have an answer, by all means, out with it.

  45. Deep Strength:

    I believe the point of contention is: Was it God’s command to use the Israelites to totally destroy Canaanite cultures?

    There is a subtlety you may be missing.

    God writes straight with crooked lines, so He sometimes uses a wicked people performing wicked acts as (e.g.) a chastisement of His own children: for example consider the Babylonian captivity. It is part of the ultimate eternal defeat of evil, that God redirects it to achieve good things.

    But the fact that God uses wicked people to achieve good ends doesn’t morally justify the wicked acts of those wicked people. If God uses Islam to chastise the West, as He may well do, that doesn’t turn Islam into a good and true religion.

  46. deti:
    I’ve proposed a number of alternative interpretations, which folks have dismissed because they require too much actual reading of Scripture rather than sound bites. See how folks yukked off my citation of Deuteronomy above, where Moses clearly gives a history mostly to himself and his own actions and only occasionally things said and done by God. I’ve made other suggestions in other discussions, and I’m sure I could come up with more possibilities if this sort of Scriptural positivism were my thing.

    But I don’t claim that my interpretations are correct: I just use them to illustrate that alternative interpretations are possible. The suggestion that interpretations other than their own personal ones are possible seems to be an unacceptable outrage or laughable, depending on the interlocutor.

    All that Biblical inerrancy guarantees is that a true (corresponds with reality) and correct (corresponds with the intended meaning) interpretation exists. It doesn’t guarantee that any of my, or your, or FN’s interpretations are true and correct.

    You seem to be insisting that any theory of the meaning of a particular passage is better than no theory. But that isn’t really true. It is better to have no theory of the meaning of some particular passages than it is to have a bad and deceiving theory that leads you astray. Especially when it comes to serious matters like genocide.

  47. @ Zippy

    There is a subtlety you may be missing.

    God writes straight with crooked lines, so He sometimes uses a wicked people performing wicked acts as (e.g.) a chastisement of His own children: for example consider the Babylonian captivity. It is part of the ultimate eternal defeat of evil, that God redirects it to achieve good things.

    But the fact that God uses wicked people to achieve good ends doesn’t morally justify the wicked acts of those wicked people. If God uses Islam to chastise the West, as He may well do, that doesn’t turn Islam into a good and true religion.

    Yes, God can use people who do wicked things for good. The problem with this is that God does not command people to do wicked things — “This is what the Lord says…”.

    If God commands people to do evil then he is not good. God can only command people to do righteous things. Thus, what I believe FN and others are saying is that in this instance God’s command to destroy the surrounding people groups is righteous because they were doing wicked things.

    My ‘theory’ per se is that because killing is carried out imperfectly by imperfect people they are defiled by killing much as David was prohibited from building God’s temple because of bloodshed even though he was used as God’s instrument in righteously eradicating various people groups.

  48. Moses was wrong…. Because natural law
    Joshua was wrong… Because natural law
    Samuel was wrong… Because natural law
    David was wrong… Because natural law
    Anyone who thinks the OT means what it says about destroying the Canaanites is wrong… Because natural law
    Thus speaketh Zippy da Druid

  49. Deep Strength:

    Thus, what I believe FN and others are saying is that in this instance [what they interpret to be] God’s command to destroy the surrounding people groups is righteous because they [including the infants] were doing wicked things.

    Right.

    At issue is how tenable that interpretation is in the full context of Christian revelation.

  50. “Moses was wrong…. Because natural law”

    I am under the impression that you can only handle an argument that is six words long.

    I would advise that you abandon the argument altogether if you can only manage such truncation and misrepresentation of arguments.

  51. Zippy,
    Perhaps you should read the work on this matter done by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Washington Diocese. It might improve your understanding of Catholic doctrine.

  52. Okrahead wrote:
    “It really is a simple matter of whether you believe the men to be true prophets or delusional liars.”

    And your solution to this is to repeatedly call Yahweh a baby killer . . . because Okrahead=infallible interpreter. So, let’s see. We have on interlocutor (Zippy) who approaches this with a good dose of humility regarding his ability to command scriptural meaning versus other interlocutors who approach the discussion with extremely hubristic claims to infallibly command scripture. Gee, who should I take seriously?

  53. Okrahead:
    “It might improve your understanding of Catholic doctrine.”

    I’ve been arguing against the modern idolatry of scriptural literalism for many years, Okrahead, and your treatment of Holy Scripture obviously reveals a complete disregard for Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church does not treat the Bible the way you do. Your treatment of it resembles Islam and Protestant sola scriptura much, much more closely than it does Catholicism.

    But don’t let that stop you from your continuous claims of personal infallible authority over scriptural interpretation. Because that argument is so, so convincing.

  54. Zippy

    No, I am not insisting that a bad interpretation is better than none. Please remove the master rhetorician hat for ailment and read carefully.

    I’m willing to accept that “God told the Israelites to kill Canaanite children” might not be the correct interpretation.

    I also believe there is a true and correct interpretation.

    Here’s my point:

    If there is a true and correct interpretation, it should follow that that interpretation can be known to human understanding.

    But if I am wrong about that and the true interpretation cannot be known to humans, that raises the question of why the story is in scripture in the first place.

    If a true and correct interpretation exists, then that means that that true and correct interpretation can be known and understood.

    What is the true and correct interpretation?

  55. Deti,
    Ailment was probably the right word considering the general tenor of this discussion. I will now return to my allegedly Islamic foot stomping.

  56. The Islamic view of Allah is that Allah can will anything to be good or evil. Whatever Allah wills. To say that Allah can’t do something is to “chain Allah” which is wrong. So if Allah says today that slaughter of Christians, down to the infants, is a positive good, then it is good. If tomorrow he says it is wrong, then it is wrong. Whatever Allah wills.

    Our (Christian) God is not like that. He is not a being of pure will, he has intrinsic goodness, so some things in creation are good because God is good. God cannot will something good to be evil, and he cannot will something evil to be good. In that way, it is impossible for God to tell a lie, and he doesn’t tempt man with evil. And many other things like that.

    So Zippy’s point is that killing infants is evil, and is not something God could will into being something good.

  57. Deti:
    Why do you keep asking a question which has already been answered – which was actually answered before you even asked it? Is it just for some imagined rhetorical effect?

    Peter Blood:
    Good summary. A minor clarification:

    So Zippy’s point is that [human beings deliberately] killing infants [or other innocents] is evil [human behavior, that is, murder], and is not something God could will into being [good behavior].

    Some folks might find this more clear if we substituted fornication or rape or some other moral category in the place of murder.

  58. Zippy

    No, actually you didn’t answer the question. Peter answered it. Thanks, peter. In truth, your role has been more or less saying how everyone else is wrong — which is fine; but it’s not setting out what you think is a true and correct interpretation.

  59. We essentially never have entire cultures that think of infantacide on the same level as murder.

    Looking at your examples, I’ll say point conceded. BUT – for a Christian to hold this position leads to all sorts of problems and lots and lots of bullet biting when it comes to things like abortion, euthanasia, and objective morality in general.

    deti,

    You are far too interested in discovering a correct interpretation. I know one exists. I don’t know what it is, though there are several possibilities. But who cares? What we DO know is that any interpretation that forces us to conclude that it’s sometimes okay to kill babies is wrong.

  60. Not only that – just because the correct interpretation out there is possible for us to figure out, just because somebody HAS figured it out, doesn’t mean everybody’s going to agree – this thread is a fine example of that.

    Your whole line of discussion is a massive red herring, and it misses the point of the criticisms made entirely.

  61. Zip,

    “I don’t know what words Samuel actually spoke in Hebrew, ect ect”

    It’s recorded, and readily available. If you’re really, really paranoid and don’t trust the skill of translators by all means study Hebrew.

    It’s still absolutely ignorant to try to make a counter-argument based on how wilfully ignorant you are.

    Thankfully, Catholicism as a whole is not so ignorant.

    Haydock for example said on the chapter:

    ‘Destroy, as a thing accursed. (Haydock) — Child. The great master of life and death (who cuts off one half of mankind whilst they are children) has been pleased sometimes to ordain that children should be put to the sword, in detestation of the crimes of their parents, and that they might not live to follow the same wicked ways. But without such ordinance of God, it is not allowable in any wars, how just soever, to kill children. (Challoner) — The Israelites were now to execute God’s orders with blind obedience, as he cannot be guilty of injustice. — Nor covet….his, is omitted in Hebrew, &c. (Calmet) — Amalec is stricken when the flesh is chastised—He is destroyed when we repress evil thoughts. (St. Gregory) (Worthington)’

    These sentiments are practically identical to what FN said he would do, and what you deem to be ‘Islamic Christianity’…

    Honestly, you’re bad at being Catholic Zippy. Catholics do and have done theology in many of the same ways protestants have for longer than protestants have. There is more to being Catholic than saying ‘nya apostolic secession so I don’t have to listen to anyone’.

  62. Malcom,

    My point was that it is, in fact, a personal interpretation of natural law to say that such a thing is intrinsically wrong.

    I’d point out that neither opposing abortion nor opposing euthanasia is an artical of faith for a Christian, it’s not only non-christians on the other side of those debates. For example I’ve never been able to see the crime in voluntary euthanasia under desperate circumstances myself. Preserving life at any cost is not a Christian value, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Foremost becasue death is not an end to us.

    And while I oppose abortion it’s generally on different grounds than the norm, at least it’s rather more than just preserving life for life’s sake.

    Because, as I said, life for life’s sake isn’t a Christian value, it’s a modern one modern Christians happen to hold. Even Christians traditional involvement in medicine is to help those that are hurting and follow the commands of Christ, not to ‘save lives’ per se, merely to help those in need.

  63. prariepolyguy:

    It’s recorded, and readily available. If you’re really, really paranoid and don’t trust the skill of translators by all means study Hebrew.

    You’ve mistaken me for someone who thinks like you do.

    I’ve already said many times that the passages don’t trouble me personally, and I’ve explained why many times. As FN guessed, my posts weren’t even in response to him or his postings, of which I was scarcely aware until he linked to me. I’m only here because he linked to me and criticized my own posts.

    I didn’t get involved in the discussion at all until people started using it as an excuse to argue that murder isn’t always intrinsically wrong – sometimes by trying to push slaughtering infants out of the category and claiming that it isn’t murder, when it actually is murder.

    I don’t know why you think it is surprising or revealing that people disagree about the subject though. Citing someone with a different view does nothing except show that someone has a different view; and Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism have been influencing each other for a very long time.

    Nevertheless Peter Blood is right, above, that the voluntarist God is Allah, not Christ. If you serve a voluntarist God you serve Allah.

    For example I’ve never been able to see the crime in voluntary euthanasia under desperate circumstances myself.

    It is nonetheless condemned unequivocally by the Church, despite your personal sentiments.

    life for life’s sake isn’t a Christian value

    It is also a straw man. A significant part of what makes murder wrong is what it does to the murderer. In general the problem with sin is what it says about and does to the sinner.

    And people in this thread are already committing murder in their hearts and minds, e.g. FN positing a hypothetically convincing prophet of Allah who would convince him to personally slaughter children.

  64. Zip,

    “You’ve mistaken me for someone who thinks”

    If you end the sentence there then you have analyzed my problem entirely. Thank you.

    Two Catholic theologians have been cited on the matter already. This isn’t a Catholic\Protestant, Christian\Islamic, or any other issue of that sort, its a you\sane herminutics issue.

    It isn’t even an issue of volunteerism, it’s merely an extension of the ‘is war murder’ question. Christianity of any sanity would say that war is not the same as murder. Not even civilian losses in the course of war, though that is FAR touchier with post-industrial idealization of war.

    “It is nonetheless condemned unequivocally by the Church, despite your personal sentiments.”

    You’re not really one that cares what the church or its people say unless they happen to agree with you… Hence you actively ignoring citations showing that own party tends to disagree with you on this verse…

    So, you’ve got me for disagreeing with a group I don’t identify with, while we’ve got you on disagreeing with the group you DO identify with, and still trying to use said group as your attempt at a moral high-ground. Hmm, who’s being inconsistent? HMM? I wonder.

    Oh, but yeah ‘people disagree, so what?’

    “It is also a straw man. ”

    It’s funny how often people fail to comprehend what that fallacy actually entails. But please, cry tears of misrepresentation while keeping your core assertion as meaningless and fluid as possible. If you’re stances where different you’d probably say ‘homophobe’ a lot judging from your discussion tactics here.

    Regardless I was replying to Malcolm assertion, which is a pretty fair one to be honest.

    Beyond that it’s funny how you’re obsessed with voluntarism being part of Islam as well as Protestantism. It’s not really that meaningful of an assertion. It’s quite like the atheist that says ‘Christianity and Islam both have a god, they’re really the same thing’. It’s pretty dumb. Even pointing out that they may have common origins or influences on each other is just an extension of the same ignorance. Having things in common isn’t tantamount to being the same.

  65. “If you end the sentence there then you have analyzed my problem entirely.”

    Wow. You think somehow that acting like a child strengthens your case? Whatever else you say about Zippy, saying he doesn’t think is just ignorant and moronic.

    You also haven’t done your homework. There is a huge difference between the discussions of theologians and Catholic doctrine. You can find hundreds of theologians out there with a hundred opinions, and playing a game of battling theologians is just folly. On the other hand, the morality against killing innocents has been firmly established as doctrine. So you might consider refraining from making a fool out of yourself by repeatedly saying Zippy is ignorant when you are obviously the ignorant one.

    But, you know, if reliving your days of calling little susie a dumbhead in the first grade gives you more satisfaction, have at it. I’m sure you’ll win a lot of people over that way.

    “Christianity of any sanity would say that war is not the same as murder.”

    Right. And if you would do your homework instead of pretending not to be ignorant, you would find that the Catholic Church also distinguishes between them. Taking that to the conclusion that it is morally okay to deliberately kill innocents or babies is insane.

    “So, you’ve got me for disagreeing with a group I don’t identify with,…”

    Right. Which is why you are so completely unanchored that you happily rationalize the licitness of killing innocents and babies in the name of God.

    “…while we’ve got you on disagreeing with the group you DO identify with,…”

    That’s your stupidest assertion yet. Zippy has not identified with your cherry-picked theologians in any of his writing. Your method of trying to pin him to it is sloppy, ignorant, and with your current level of snark, probably disingenuous.

    Now–are you ready to grow up, yet?

  66. My point was that it is, in fact, a personal interpretation of natural law to say that such a thing is intrinsically wrong.

    What IS a personal interpretation of natural law? There’s no such thing. It’s either wrong according to natural law or not. You can interpret baby slaughter not to be murder until you’re blue in the face, but the mass genocide of infants is murder regardless.

    Your argument that it’s not murder is that God ordered it, but that’s the exact point of contention here. “God ordering it” doesn’t reverse natural law, because natural law is just reality. It’s like reversing the fact that God exists. Atheists try to find ways around it, but they’re still wrong.

    If you want to try to use natural law to prove that killing infants isn’t murder, be my guest, but you’ll be arguing on the outside of over 2000 years of Christian theology and morality. I highly doubt you’re going to win that battle.

    All of the voluntarists here are using some form of the old Sherlock Holmes maxim “When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The problem is that God ordering people to slaughter babies is part of the impossible. The fact that the verses can be interpreted that way requires us to immediately throw away that interpretation as impossible.

    Interpretation of a Biblical text is EXTREMELY different from “interpreting” natural law because there are several possible interpretations of verses that can be equally orthodox or equally unorthodox. Whereas if you claim that killing babies is moral you’re either right or wrong. There’s no way to finagle it without changing the basic question.

    The verses that are continually cited here are not meant to answer the question of the morality of slaughtering babies besides.

  67. So,

    Silly says calling someone ignorant childish, then finished the paragraph by calling me ignorant.

    There is a certain serendipity to that first paragraph. It’s a work of art on it’s own.

    Continue to call yourself childish all day, I will not dispute you on that mark. You must indeed be childish be so readily offended by banter.

    It’s really a pity your post doesn’t get better from there.

    Zippies own assertion is that catholic doctrine says nothing in particular regarding the ‘thus says the lord of hosts’ part of this scripture. Naturally so, this is not really the topic of bulls and councils.

    Regardless, the point is (since apparently it needs to be said even more clearly) that FN’s POV isn’t subject to the catholic\protestant division of the church. If you look at old, reputable, Catholics they’ll come to the same conclusions as FN, not so much as zippy.

    “Right. And if you would do your homework instead of pretending not to be ignorant, you would find that the Catholic Church also distinguishes between them. ”

    I would not find it you ignoramus, I know well its stances. The main points of that paragraph where the first and last sentences, the middle was just there to fill in information.

    Allow me to help you to learn to read and look at the whole paragraph, that paragraph was about Zippies continual assertions about volunterism.

    In English, usually a paragraph, even a short one, has a topic or primary assertion, body of supporting information, and final point. Let’s examine this paragraph shall we?:

    “It isn’t even an issue of volunteerism,”

    What is this paragraph about? It’s about volunteerism.

    ” it’s merely an extension of the ‘is war murder’ question.”

    What is the assertion of this paragraph? That if war is not murder and Samuel was at war then Samuel assertion to kill everyone was not a volunteristic one but merely an extension of some form of the just war theory.

    “Christianity of any sanity would say that war is not the same as murder. ”

    This is a statement, not a question. It is in fact stating that all major branches of Chrisitanity, Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic, all say that war is not murder. So note, that you actively accused me of being ignorant of something I blatantly stated. This is why you need to learn how reading works.

    “Not even civilian losses in the course of war,”

    This is the closing assertion of the paragraph. Adding civilian casualties to the ‘war is not murder’ It adds that ‘civilian casualties’ are not murder in war.

    “though that is FAR touchier with post-industrial idealization of war.”

    This (though less clearly) points out that the civilian\military distinction as we know it in warfare is not one of antiquity.

    Now, this is how we read and analyze a paragraph in English. Please try to learn to do this before saying stupid things that have already been preempted, things like :

    “Taking that to the conclusion that it is morally okay to deliberately kill innocents or babies is insane.”

    Babies are civilians as much as any other, and as much or more subject to being civilian casualties of war, even today. Deliberate or not civilian casualties are part of war, and not ‘murder’ in the sense we talked about before.

    “Right. Which is why you are so completely unanchored that you happily rationalize the licitness of killing innocents and babies in the name of God.”

    Actually, I just don’t cower before scare language and think situations out. But if scare language is all that works on you can I just call you a homopobe or something and have you cry and run away? You seem to like to cry a lot.

    Yes, people get slaughtered in war, yes God sent people to war. It’s very straightforward. Being ‘unanchored’ would be the one that cannot make heads or tails of a passage of scripture because they have so many conflicting suppositions.

    “That’s your stupidest assertion yet. Zippy has not identified with your cherry-picked theologians in any of his writing. Your method of trying to pin him to it is sloppy, ignorant, and with your current level of snark, probably disingenuous.”

    Zippy has identified FN’s position as a Protestant specific one many times now, and implicitly identified himself with Catholic thought in general (because per his assertions Protestants have this problem and Catholics don’t) Pointing out that Catholics come to the same conclusion as FN derails this entirely.

    “Now–are you ready to grow up, yet?”

    Please, take an English and literature course or something. Your comprehension is abysmally low. I expect you’re not a raging teenage keyboard warrior, but you could pass for one easily.

  68. Malcolm,

    “What IS a personal interpretation of natural law?”

    It is literally just what it sounds like. It is what an person interprets natural law to be.

    “There’s no such thing.”

    Yes, people make personal aspirations on what is natural law all the time. I’ll give you an example:

    “You can interpret baby slaughter not to be murder until you’re blue in the face, but the mass genocide of infants is murder regardless.”

    “It’s either wrong according to natural law or not. ”

    Not at all, you seem to misunderstand what ‘natural law’ is. It is ‘an ethical belief or system of beliefs supposed to be inherent in human nature and discoverable by reason rather than revelation’. However the method people use to reason vary, and peoples ability to self-discover also varies. Natural law is the most fickle of all concepts of ‘higher law’.

    And given how natural law works, most cultures would say that killing infants is in fact NOT against natural law. You’re barking up the wrong philosophy of law for this discussion. We have already established that most cultures do not in fact naturally understand this as being wrong. It cannot properly be part of ‘natural law’

    “Your argument that it’s not murder is that God ordered it,”

    MY argument? Have I made one on that specific topic in discussion with you?

    If I was going to make an argument it would be that murder is an unlawful premeditated killing of someone. Accidentally killing someone is not murder. Executing someone for a crime is not murder. Killing an enemy combatant is not murder. Killing someone who is an immanent threat to you or those around you is not murder.

    In fact the overwhelming majority of killing is not ‘murder’. Murder is a specific thing, not merely causing death in any way, shape, or form.

    Yes, non-combatants are killed in war. Even children. No, God didn’t sign the Geneva conventions. Sometimes you can work to minimize losses, often Israel did. This was not a case for that.

    There is absolutely no problem with the plain reading of the text aside from post-industrial sentiments regarding war. War isn’t required to be nice.

  69. Oh, no. I can’t believe I fell into that. I did not see that coming. Instead of doing what I thought was the wise thing and refraining from childishness, you doubled down on personal insults removing all doubt of your abject puerility and then you ramped it up with a Pee-Wee Herman “that’s what you are, what am I?”

    Devastating. I.AM.DEVASTATED.

    I cannot live with this. You are right. I am crying uncontrollably. I cannot go on. I try to remember the words of my mother. . . sticks and. . . sticks and. . . I CAN’T REMEMBER THE WORDS! Oh, how can I stop from sobbing!? How can I withstand the suffering and pain you have inflicted upon me without remembering the soothing song of my childhood and without my long-lost binky?

    And I certainly did not count on your supreme parsing! I had no idea I was bringing it to someone with such skill—such *mastery* of parsing. I was doomed from the start!

    I cannot recover from this. I will be bawling for weeks, nay months! That is the power you have over me. Yes, that is how relevant and important to my life that you are—why, oh why did I ever dare to tamper with the center of my universe and the source of all my calm!?

    Stupid, ignorant me will never be able to oppose such supreme tactics as yours. I will never be able to persuade with such devastating hurty insulty self-superiory power against me. Oh, no. Never.

    And, yet, with all that in your favor, you still proved yourself a child by insulting Zippy and saying he didn’t think. When I pointed that out, you then used misdirection to say I called you childish for saying Zippy was ignorant, which I did not—ignorance has far different connotations than saying someone doesn’t think. You say that so that you could imply I was a hypocrite for pointing out your ignorance, thus proving that you are either deliberately dishonest or you have extremely poor reading and comprehension skills—the very same skills that you criticized about me with your parsing extravaganza and elsewhere.

    Your self-condemnation is apparent to anyone who reads.

    Just a couple points for those still reading for substance relevant to the argument.

    1) prariepolyguy wrote: “Deliberate or not civilian casualties are part of war, and not ‘murder’ in the sense we talked about before.”

    In war, accidental killing of innocents are casualties of war and not murder. That is well understood, but it is not a way to justify deliberate killing of innocents, though many are anxious to do so. Deliberately killing innocents is murder whether it’s in war or not. War is not an excuse for murderous cowards to hide behind in order to justify the deliberate slaughter of infants.

    2) prariepolyguy wrote: “Pointing out that Catholics come to the same conclusion as FN derails this entirely.”

    Only if you are completely ignorant of Catholicism and human nature. By your logic, a professor of physics who came to the conclusion that quarks were purple Mexican jumping beans would prove that it is a valid part of the theory and would present the entire body of physicists with the problems it causes. Differences of discussion—especially when it includes those who disagree with doctrine—do not change the nature of Catholicism just because they count themselves as a member. There’s not a church or institution in the world where that is true. To say it derails Zippy’s position is silly.

    So—kin anybuddy drect me to a gud Egnlesh an’ litterchur class? I is so dumb, I needs to do sompfin to git smrter. Anywun?

  70. Free Northener,

    I congratulate you.
    When I was not a Christian, and brought up passages like these the backpedalling from Christians trying to convert me was astounding.
    Now I am a Christian, I accept that God is the standard and not man.
    The answers Zippy and others give show why Western Christianity has grown so contemptible.

    God kills people in the bible Himself, like 2 of Judah’s sons he had with Canaanites.
    Two innocents.
    Just like that.
    Jesus said a man was born blind just so He could show His glory and heal him.
    There are many incidents in the bible like this.

    God is sovereign.
    Just like that.

  71. “God is sovereign” does not equal “God–as defined by the interpretation I choose to impose upon him–is sovereign.” But that’s really what you are saying because none of us have questioned God’s sovereignty.

    You do not have sovereignty over who God is. . . Just like that.

  72. My understanding of natural law, in the case of conflicts between groups, is that Xenophon was correct. If the group as a whole gives just cause for war, you can justly make war on the entire group.

  73. “The group as a whole” invokes the idea of collective responsibility. Is a feudal serf responsible for the actions of his monarch?

  74. “You are far too interested in discovering a correct interpretation. I know one exists. I don’t know what it is, though there are several possibilities. But who cares?”

    I care, and you should too, because it’s important to know what God says to His people in His Word. If you don’t know what the Word says, and what it means (if it is something more than or beyond the text), and why the passage is there, you probably should find out. Or else, you might become embroiled in discussions like this one where there are no easy answers.

    “Your whole line of discussion is a massive red herring, and it misses the point of the criticisms made entirely.”

    No it isn’t, and no it didn’t. Whether there is a correct interpretation for a difficult text is pretty important. There is a true and correct intepretation and meaning for a text, particularly the one under discussion, else it wouldn’t appear in the Bible. It’s not hard to understand a correct interpretation once you go at it from the correct bases. That’s all I was saying. That you didn’t seem to understand that is your issue, not mine.

  75. Silly,

    You’ve done excellent work here. I’m not sure you are getting through to anyone, but in case there are those who still want to learn a bit more about the Catholic position on these issues, I suggest Ed Feser’s blog. Here is a good post to start:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

    I also think “prariepolyguy” is confused about what the natural law is as a philosophy. Just because certain individuals or even cultures have a tough time understanding the natural law doesn’t mean there isn’t a law in the first place that says the deliberate slaughter of infants in wrong. And the voice inside your head telling you otherwise is not God ;-)

  76. I care, and you should too, because it’s important to know what God says to His people in His Word

    In the context of THIS discussion, it does not matter that I don’t know the correct interpretation, because we’re discussing whether or not this interpretation is incorrect. And it HAS to be.

    I’m fine discussing things to discover a correct interpretation. But this is not it.

    There is a true and correct intepretation and meaning for a text, particularly the one under discussion, else it wouldn’t appear in the Bible.

    deti, you are clearly not following the discussion. I have said this SEVERAL times, as has Zippy.

  77. And given how natural law works, most cultures would say that killing infants is in fact NOT against natural law.

    I’d love to see somebody argue for this, because it’s an untenable position.

  78. Silly,

    Crying about banter is childish. Not realizing you self-insulted yourself within three sentences shows you don’t really think about what you’re saying.

    I’d assert that the deliberation is moot when we’re talking about something that is not modern warfare, but that’s a longer conversation dealing with more advanced topics than we’re covering right now. I may go into it with someone else.

    If a reputable physics professor made said assertion about quarks it would make quite a stir. It would be either verified or he’d be thown out of whatever circles he was in. I’m thinking you don’t know how peer review sciences work?

    Theology isn’t different. The catholics we’re citing are neither new nor fringe of any sort, and their views are quite orthodox.

  79. God kills and commands Israelites to kill.
    God
    The scriptures also record many modern day “sins” as God-approved.
    There is sexism, racism (Jesus – Syro-Phoenician woman, God, Paul – Cretans, John – nations vs. Israelites, Ezra and Nehemiah- mixed-race marriage, etc.), homophobia, plus there are rules for slavery etc.

    For years, Christians have been trying to out-holy God as this discussion shows – lots of fancy words, and clever discussion to disguise how they know more than God.

    Result? Christianity being spat on and trampled underfoot.
    I assume the universal cure for know-it-all saints is coming; the fire that gives the salt back its flavor – persecution.

  80. Marlon:

    Result? Christianity being spat on and trampled underfoot.

    Because worldly success is the measure of holiness.

    (Close captioned for the understanding impaired: this doesn’t imply agreement with the characterizations which preceded it).

    … clever discussion to disguise how they know more than God.

    But unlike those awful people who affirm that murder is morally wrong, you know what God is really like. Allahu Akbar!

    I assume the universal cure for know-it-all saints is coming; the fire that gives the salt back its flavor – persecution.

    There always have been and always will be, until the end times, those who slander and persecute Christ and His Church. In the end those among the persecutors and slanderers who do not repent will go into the unquenchable fire.

  81. Marlon,

    Amen, well said.

    James,

    I quite agree. Sometimes if you don’t do the job thoroughly you’re set up for intergenreational conflict, which is nasty. This may be what the idea was here.

    Exfernal,

    If said feudal lord serves his king he is culpable with him for his decisions. He may defect of course, which changes matters.

    Rahab was part of the enemy as a whole, but was saved with her family for defecting. Everyone who was loyal to the city died.

    You passively accept being part of any culture you are part of, and are in some ways accountable for what it does, even when those things go on over your head. It’s actually a very important concept to keep in mind because it applies to us personally as well as to abstractions like this.

    Fake,

    If you’d actually study what the idea of natrual law entails you’d realize I’m the only one who has a concept of how it actually works and what those words actually mean… It IS the idea that there are absolute laws, but those laws are able to be naturally understood through human nature and (primarily) human reason.

    If you’re talking about something specific, like Aquinas’s conceptualization of natural law, then we are talking about something different. If we’re talking about the idea of natural law in general, from Aristotle to Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī (who lived before Aquinas, and whos commentary on Aristotle influenced Aquinas {I’ll take a leif from ziggs here, OMG NATURAL LAW IS SO ISLAMIC YOU ISLAM WORSHIPPER YOU} to Locke and Hobbes then we wind up talking about something far more subjective than the any individual theory works out to be.

    For something to be a natural law from reason or nature it has to be generally agreed upon across cultures over time. If you’re counting on religious doctrine to be the be all and end of of the theory of natural law you have a thee legged stool with one leg left, and don’t really understand the point of the philosophy of natural law.

  82. Malcolm,

    Natural law essentially asserts that people just naturally know some primary things are wrong. They know it from nature, reason, and religion. Things like the law of reciprocation (the golden rule) more or less show up independently in different cultures, as do territory and land laws in different forms, laws against murder, laws against theft (even when goods are communal there is usually regulation on how things are used, and at very least you can’t take from other groups).

    The theory of natural law in Christian theology exists to use reason to give grounding for divine law.

    Things that most cultures in fact do not recognize can’t be, by someone elses religious doctrine alone, be classified as part of the ‘natrual law’.

  83. ppg:

    Natural law essentially asserts that people just naturally know some primary things are wrong. … Things that most cultures in fact do not recognize can’t be, by someone elses religious doctrine alone, be classified as part of the ‘natrual law’.

    That is pretty much completely wrong. Google can’t replace an actual understanding of things.

    Natural law morality arises from the nature of things and is knowable to human reason. Physics also arises from the nature of things and is knowable to human reason, but appealing to popular understanding as a way of falsifying the natural law prohibition of murder (which is also reiterated in the decalogue and in thousands of years of Christian tradition, e.g. the Didache) is as ridiculous as appealing to popular understanding as a way of falsifying quark confinement.

    Silly Interloper has your number on this completely.

  84. “prariepolyguy”:

    My job in these debates is usually just to act as cheerleader and help others seek out additional resources. Once again, I urge readers to dig into Professor Feser’s archive, or better yet, check out his books on these topics. If you don’t have time, here is another particularly relevant post on the subject of natural law:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/10/whose-nature-which-law.html#more

    His concluding paragraph:

    “So, for the natural law theorist, certain things are “natural” for us in the sense of tending to fulfill those ends the realization of which constitutes our flourishing as the kinds of thing we are. But perhaps it is also natural for us — in a different sense, the sense of being a weakness to which we are prone given the limitations of our nature — for us to want to deny that we are subject to natural law. To that extent at least we are all natural lawyers, but of a rather sleazy kind — seeking, not justice, but to find any way we can to get ourselves off the hook.”

  85. PPG: “Not realizing you self-insulted yourself within three sentences shows you don’t really think about what you’re saying.”

    Oh, I’m fully aware that I am a complete idiot. Why do you think I’m conversing with you? You’re obviously all over my turf, dude.

    PPG: “It would be either verified or he’d be thown out. . .”

    So. . . the analogy goes completely over your head because of an obvious exaggeration that was made for comedic effect? And your lack of perception somehow translates into my ignorance about peer reviews? Wow.

    PPG: “The catholics we’re citing are neither new nor fringe of any sort, and their views are quite orthodox.”

    Gratuitously asserting that they are orthodox gets you nowhere. You have soundly demonstrated that you haven’t the slightest clue the role theology and theologists play in Catholicism. It’s like you walked in on a football game completely untrained, completely ignored the referees, and insisted they were playing incorrectly after you read a commentator’s sportsmanship article advocating bazookas on the field. And then, of course, you insulted all the players because you are so superior and smart.

    You’re just full of ignorant nonsense and have no clue about the status of things you are reading and attributing to Catholic doctrine. Maybe I need that lit class—but you’ve got a lot more work to do than me.

  86. Zippy,

    You’re confusing what the philosophy of natural law claims itself to be, and what it’s foundations and purpose are. You seem to also think Aquinas’s views on it are the only ones that exist.

    It exists to prove the existence of absolute morals on the basis of them being generally recognized by people. It IS an appeal to popular understanding of morality. It uses that appeal to popular understanding to try to establish an absolute.

    You’re using it backwards in a way.

    It’s like if someone asserted the Christian God should naturally be considered God because the whole world saw him as God. This view of a ‘natural God’ may still be something you’d cling too when it was pointed out that not everyone sees it this way, you may make excuses for the theory, but it’s still a dead-in-the-water idea on that topic. Not that every aspect of natural law is like this, but the underlying idea of this, even in Aquinas, is that cultures will recognize natural law. It’s not something you can invoke without popularity.

    But I don’t think you understand this, so I’m just going argue on your level and point out that Islamic theologians had natrual law before Aquinas, so by invoking that idea you’re clearly worship Allah and not the Christian God, and leave it there.

  87. Fake,

    You’re still not really getting the scope of what I’m talking about…

    Ok, first of all, being able to be derived from reason is a part of the philosophy of natural law, it’s more dominant in it’s post-‘enlightenment’ incarnations.

    What you’re talking about is along the the lines of the individual a culture making excuses for themselves when they are in deference to law those around them in their culture know. I’m talking about cultures as a whole that generally never did have scruples about a certain thing.

    I understand you’re talking about individuals ability to set the bar just a little below them.

    I’m talking about the aspect of the philosophy of natural law where it tries to establish that absolute morals exist because there are some things virtually every human culture recognizes (via reason, necessity, or religion).

  88. Silly,

    “Oh, I’m fully aware that I am a complete idiot.”

    If only that where true, you could work to be better. The facetiousness belies the true ignorance.

    The analogy doesn’t go over my head, it doesn’t work becasue it’s an idiotic analogy that doesn’t understand how thought in general works. One does not simply work entirely out of the boundaries of their field and stay in that field. Weather the supposition is an absurdity or not is moot.

    I’d be very entertained to see as to what role you think theologians play in Catholicism. I’d be even more entertained to hear what you think they do in Protestantism.

    Yet FN’s conclusions do fit in the framework of Catholic theology as well as Protestant despite Ziggies raging about the difference. This was the actual assertion (reading lessons, eh?) and one you haven’t broached (nor could you, as it’s pretty blatantly clear).

    Can you at least truely and humbly concede the idiocy of your complaints about insults and banter followed by your own insults and banter. Truely, you destroy yourself for lack of real introspective.

  89. PPG: “The facetiousness belies the true ignorance.”

    The profundity of your perception doesn’t cease to astound. The abject embarrassment you are making of yourself is really going straight over your head, isn’t it?

    PPG: “One does not simply work entirely out of the boundaries of their field and stay in that field.”

    Let me try to be gentle here. The point of the analogy was that scientists or theologians or (third area selected for humorous effect dropped to avoid confusion for the perception impaired) will always include discussion that stretches beyond the boundaries of accepted theory or doctrine (and sometimes the ideas are pretty far out there), and such discussion does not become categorized as any essential part of the institutions, nor does it become a source of problems that they must face. There is not an institution in the world where such criteria as yours are true. To insist on the application of cherry-picked theologians to Catholicism as if they were infallible and ex cathedra doctrines is utterly ridiculous, and to continue to insist they should be is just ignorant stamping of feet.

    Sorry if the analogy and the humor therein was too much for you to get there, but that was the intention of it.

    PPG: “I’d be very entertained. . .”

    When you continuously make things up and twist everyone’s words for the sake of gratuitous insults, I’m sure you would very easily be entertained. For my purposes, after all your childish shenanigans, I’m reminded of the scripture: “. . .don’t throw your pearls to swine.”

    PPG: “. . . and one you haven’t broached (nor could you, as it’s pretty blatantly clear).”

    Sometimes you make me laugh out loud. That is really, really precious in a slug squirming on the ground avoiding the magnifying glass sort of way. You assume because I have not addressed specific issues that I am unable to? Wow. You really are making a complete fool of yourself when you try to read people’s minds and pretend you know things about them that you have no way of knowing.

    Here is a little lesson in comboxing for you. Some people choose to focus on particular items, and when they see other participants adeptly handling different items, they let them continue and even refrain from contributing to avoid too many chefs overwhelming the stew. The fact that this little insight into human nature has eluded you is very humorous, especially when you try to turn such prudence and efficiency around as a put down.

    Seriously, PPG, you seem like a mirthless child who will take every opportunity to throw mean-spirited insults at people and gratuitously trumpet how superior you are—and I’m starting to believe you might actually be completely unaware of how pathetic this behavior truly is. I really, really feel sorry for you, man. I hope you can climb out of that pit of yours, because it can’t be a happy place to be.

    PPG: “Can you at least truely and humbly concede the idiocy of your complaints about insults and banter followed by your own insults and banter.”

    Read carefully, my little friend. If you go back and reread everything, you directly insulted Zippy as a person by telling him he doesn’t think, you directly called me an ignoramus, and you characterized me several times in personal ways as crying and sobbing (oh, woe!), you continuously said I didn’t know how to read and comprehend (while embarrassing yourself with your complete lack of comprehension as I demonstrated above), and you compared me to a “raging teenage keyboard warrior.” All these things are attacks aimed at the person, and there were several more.

    Now pay attention to the difference in the things I said. Pretty much everything I said was directed at things you said, not your person. For example, when I said you are “full of ignorant nonsense” about the nature of theology discussions, I did not insult your person like you did when you called me an “ignoramus.” Rather, I qualified the condition of the particular bilge you were spouting. When I told you that saying Zippy didn’t think was “ignorant and moronic,” I was qualifying the statement, not your person. Read through all the comments and you will find that I really didn’t attack you personally that way at all.

    It is really quite humorous how you continuously say you are so much smarter and more perceptive than everyone else, while simultaneously proving that you are not. This is only one example of many.

    About the most personal thing I said to you (before this post) was to ask you if you were ready to grow up, which isn’t close to as mean-spirited and uncalled for as your barrage of insults—and, besides, such gratuitously insulting and self-superior behavior is indeed in need of growing up! Considering how horrible you have been, I’m pretty happy with my level of restraint.

    In this post I get a little more personal with the “mirthless child” comment, but it’s an honest attempt to let you know how you are presenting yourself, and it is really very, very mild compared to your continuous shower of bile (I just reread it, and I even use the word “seems” rather than directly characterizing you as you do to the rest of us).

    Anyway, goodbye, my friend. You have my pity. There’s really nothing you can say at this point that is going to help your case or win any points with anyone with half a brain, and for me to continue would really be a waste of time and border on cruelty.

    PPG: “Truely, you destroy yourself for lack of real introspective.”

    As everyone can see, I am truly, truly vanquished.

  90. Silly,

    What we have cited are not ‘fringe theories’. But fairly normative explanations of the chapter. If you’re asserting they are fringe please address the individual works.

    What you’re doing is along the lines of saying ‘fringe theories exist therefore I don’t have to listen to anyone’.

    Response too “and one you haven’t broached”

    And you still don’t broach the topic, though you typed three paragraphs of somewhat random insults while still decrying how bad it is to insult in a conversation.

    What is it like to slap yourself in the forehead like that constantly?

    And you try to justify yourself yet again with semantics. I told Ziggy he does not think in the context of what he wrote.

    Also, you should understand the words used (English lessons, again). Ignoramus means you actively and wilfully ignore information. It’s pertinent to this discussion.

    But the veil of separation you’re trying to assert exists between what one says and who one is is a farce. Beware the tongue. I insult you and have no issues with the banter going either way. You take offence constantly but wont see your own actions are rather the same as what you’ve taken offence too.

    Nothing too it.

  91. Detractors ect.

    The skill at taking offence and avoiding specific questions here is far and beyond what I’d expected. It’s akin to debating hard-line feminists really. We have the professional offence taker that rages back even harder than she was raged at in silly. We have the evader in External who finds one difference in phrasing and ignores the rest (which covers what the question was) to declare a false victory and leave. And we have a whole slew of “OMG X!?!?!?! BUT HOW CAN YOU JUSTIFY X OMG WHYYY!?” as a means to avoid actual discussion.

    It’s exactly the same tactics. It’s interesting to see here.

    Do you usually get these fems FN?

  92. Huh? What are you smoking? I didn’t convince you, you didn’t convince me. From my POV it’s a draw. I would advise you to stop putting your thoughts into posts of others, but it’s asking too much.

  93. While I accept the same premise of divine voluntarism as the Free Northerner, that God has the right to take away the life of children which he gave in the first place, whether direct or through any other creaturely intermediaries including humans, but I think there are ways to “soften the blow” as it were of the Amalekite genocide by placing it within a broader moral context of the procedures of a just war which the Israelites would likely have observed in their “genocide”.

    There is an article in the Reformed Anglican journal The Churchman which discusses the genocide in detail. To sketch out some of its points.

    The author of the article notes that God foresaw that the Amalekites would be in perpetual enmity against Israel, and thereby that tribe must be completely obliterated. However, and this is an important point, while the group must be destroyed, but it is not necessary that every individual within the group needs be purged, but only those who identify with the group. In the Bible the Amalekites freely mingled with the Kenites whom the Israelite spared, furthermore, we have the examples of the Egyptians who left with the Hebrews in the Exodus and thereby abandoned their Egyptian identity and integrated with the Hebrews. Thus, this allows us some room to maneuver in the genocidal command, that only those who identify themselves with the group, whom God has already passed his sentence of judgement, will be wiped out.

    The next step in the author’s argument is to consider this passage from 1 Samuel 15:6 where Saul approaches Amalek and addresses the Kenites among them:

    Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.”

    Thus, it seems that any God-fearing Amalekite, who knowing the judgement of God against their tribe, seeks to leave Amalek along with the rest of the Kenites and cease to identify themselves as an Amelekite, they would be spared the genocide. If however they refuse the believe that the Lord is with Israel, then their blood is on their own heads.

    Finally there is this passage from Deuteronomy 20:10-13 to consider

    When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword …

    Now, we do not really know whether Saul obeyed this command when he attacked the Amalek, however, it maybe possible that Saul first offered terms of peace to it, to be completely subjugated to Israel and to cease to be a people. However, we may note that God’s command does not include hunting down every last Amalekite on the face of this earth and killing them, it’s command simply pertains to all the Amalekites in the land. Thus if at the approach of the army of Israel, the woman and child or any other persons flees the city or land first, they could be spared. It is those who stubbornly remain behind, despising the judgement of God, who would richly deserve their punishment.

    The article can be found here:

    http://archive.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_124_3_Allister.pdf

    While again this does not preclude the fact that God did command a genocide, however, I think a consideration of these other biblical facts may go some way towards mitigating its “gristly” character and locating the actual execution of the command within a broader context.

  94. Exfernal,

    You remain unconvinced only by pointing out something I’ve already covered.

    Serfs are also culpable to the king and high preist they hail unless they rise against him. And many did. This is what made the Anabaptist and their decedents a third party in the reformation, neither the Catholics nor the reformers would have them but they too stood against what they would call corruption.

    Everyone who connects to serve a ruler should flourish with that ruler and fall with them. Everyone who associates with a culture will flourish or fall with that culture.

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