Saturday, September 28, 2019

"Sorry Guys, It's Still Immoral" - A Response To CMI (part 3)

This blog post is part 3 in a series responding to the Creation Ministries International article, "Is The Bible Immoral?", where I take a rational look at the claims made by one of the more prominent Christian apologetics organisations in its defence that the Bible is not an immoral book.

Part 1 and Part 2 can be found at the links.

The next paragraph I will be responding to is headed "Was Sabbath Keeping Serious?".

Thus begins the next instalment of my reply:

(Note: CMI have a plethora of articles available to peruse over at https://creation.com/qa, including some which may already answer points I have made in this series. Head on over, have a read, compare both sides of the argument!)

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The first law is a parody on Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath-keeping only applied to Israel and other signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant (i.e. converts to Judaism), including the Deuteronomic Treaty.

It's hard to know if Cosner is accurately paraphrasing or describing the content of the video she is criticising, because CMI haven't (or maybe even won't) share the link to the video in question so that you can see for yourself.

I hope that this is an editorial oversight because it would be such a shame, positioning yourself as having the answers to defend the truth of God's inerrant and timeless word - but being so thin-skinned and petty that you won't even link to anything contrary to your opinion.

[On the contrary, when I write a blog post, I provide links to the original source material and references, and I also email the organisation or individual where I got the source from to let them know that I have used their material]

Anyway, on to the point at hand - did the laws of the Sabbath apply only to the Jews? 

Well, no. In Mark 2:27, Jesus is quoted as saying "The Sabbath was made for man", not as saying "The Sabbath was made for Jews - Gentiles are not obligated". Thus Jesus' words would indicate some sort of universal obligation.

We also see that the New Testament writers believed the Mosaic Law was applicable to all mankind, as Romans 3:20 states:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This seems to be an acknowledgement that the Mosaic Law (which incorporated laws about the Sabbath) was applicable to all humans, as standard theology states humans are all under the curse of sin, and Paul is writing in Romans that knowledge of that sin comes through the law.
The text isn't "since through the law comes knowledge of sins for the Jews, and for the Gentiles yet another law that reveals another set of sins".
This would be some really weird-beard theology if it were.

Also, we see that the Sabbath was begun in the very first week of Creation as per Genesis 2:3 - when there were no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and there was no covenant to specifically apply the laws of Sabbath to. Sabbath applied to everyone!

[GodSabbathTruth.com have a handy rebuttal to the claims of CMI that you can read more at here.]

But then this concept that the Old Testament laws only applied during Old Testament times, to a very specific people group, is dismantled by the following:

1. If the Old Testament laws no longer apply, why do Fundamentalist Christian groups still quote the Old Testament when they want to demonise something (or someone) and they can't find verses caustic enough to back up their opinion from the New Testament?

2. If the Old Testament law was only for the Jews, then why did God punish the non-Israeli nations, as we see throughout the prophets? For not following the law that apparently was not applicable to them? Or did God just arbitrarily decide to eliminate anyone he wanted for vague and non-specific reasons?
I know which one makes more sense from a plain reading of scripture...

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The man who was picking up sticks on the Sabbath was not ignorant of the reasons behind this law, nor the penalty involved for breaking it. By gathering sticks, he was essentially saying, “I reject Yahweh’s Lordship, and I want to return to the way of life I had in Egypt.” This was treason, which in almost all law codes throughout history has been a capital crime.

Firstly, this was simply not treason. I really don't know how the author came to that conclusion (unless I start being cynical).
Treason is typically defined as betraying one's country by either attempting to overthrow the head of state, or by acting as a covert agent/spy for another country. 
I don't think picking up sticks constitutes spying, so for Cosner to assert this act constituted treason, she is then saying Yahweh is so hair-trigger sensitive that picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week constitutes a threat to his sovereignty. If this is the case, Christians seriously need a god who isn't insecure.

Secondly, if this man had spent all of his life in Egypt as a slave where they were required to do back-breaking work each day under pain of torture, why do his fellow Israelites, Christians and even his God hold him culpable?

It is well-known in human psychology that people who have been in life-long abusive situations (such as slavery under pain of torture) have a tendency to repeat the behaviours they carried out for a long time after the abuse stops. It is pure fantasy to think that once abuse stops that a person is instantly psychologically recovered - some people stabilise quickly, some people take a long time to stabilise, and some people mask their trauma with destructive behaviours, but all in all, recovering from being in a life-long abusive situation only starts when the abuse stops.
And I can pretty much guarantee that debriefing, counselling, therapy and healing weren't high on Moses' to-do list, so when we see that a guy who was a slave all his life was caught doing slave things - wouldn't the more merciful thing to do with an ex-slave be to counsel him and help him be a productive member of society? Obviously not in God's economy.

Thirdly, even if he rejected Yahweh's lordship over his life, so ******* what? In no decent morality system does that warrant execution! Isn't God big enough and patient enough to give us free will to decide if we want to truly follow him or not? Not by the looks of it.

God killed this man simply because he exercised his free will in a non-harmful way - he wasn't killing people, he wasn't abusing people, he wasn't inciting riots - which means he simply didn't have free will.

Imagine an abusive husband who physically assaults his wife because she did something heinous like speak to another man, or eat food her husband doesn't like, or go to work on the weekend.
If the husband in this hypothetical scenario isn't giving his wife freedom to exercise her free will, then neither is God giving that freedom to us.

And if we don't have the freedom to exercise free-will, the consequence of Christian theology is that you and I are moral robots.


Fourthly, didn't the author say the majority of the Old Testament was built on case law, administered by judges? If that was the case, did the accused in this instance get a chance to defend himself? Was he afforded something like natural justice? Was there a trial brought about by the testimony of two witnesses as the law prescribed? Was the trial even held before Israeli judges (so they had leeway to apply appropriate punishments)? What exactly happened in this case?

Numbers 15:34-36 (NKJV):
 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.

The fact that God said to Moses that this man had to die shows that the case was not brought before community leaders - the case went directly to Moses and God himself.

This means there was no trial. There was no defence statement. There was nothing like the western concept of natural justice.
This was simply a divinely-ordained summary execution, which means there wasn't even a proportional punishment for the crime. So much for God being a god of fairness.

All this means that the author is simply wrong when she states that violations of the Mosaic Law were decided by community judges under a framework of case law. They clearly weren't because this clearly wasn't.

But fifthly, if what was in the Bible was decided by friendly and flexible case law, someone clearly forgot to tell the Jews that.
Jews all across the world, in this modern day (you know, the ones who are custodians of the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmuds, etc), take Sabbath so seriously that they deliberately buy electronic appliances that come with Sabbath Mode built in to them - for one day a week, these appliances cannot be turned on and have their buttons and lights disabled (amongst other features)!

If God is so flexible with the commandments regarding Sabbath that violations were dealt with on a case-by-case basis and only the most flagrant breaches were dealt with by execution, why are Jews so afraid of offending their God that they dare not even turn a fridge light on?

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Another element of case law is relevant here: Ancient Near East (ANE) law codes many times specified the most severe penalty for a transgression, assuming lesser ones, giving the judges leeway to decide which penalty was most appropriate. 

Hold on - by referring to the practices of the ANE, doesn't that validate the criticism that the Bible is not original?

Because if the Bible was original in its morality or in its teachings, we wouldn't be a need to resort to comparing Jewish practices to that of her neighbours - we would be comparing the neighbours to Jewish practices instead.

So first the author defers to the Mishnah, and now they bring up the practices of the other ANE civilisations?

This defence of the Bible so far isn't going so well.

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It is not reasonable to assume that all, or even most, cases of Sabbath-breaking were punished with the death penalty...

Actually, when we're strictly discussing the Bible (which, in a discussion of the Bible, it should be fairly strict), it is reasonable. Remember, we're not discussing if Jewish society on the whole was immoral or if the corpus of the Jewish law was immoral, but we're focusing on only the Bible.


And you can't argue using examples you don't have - the Bible has only one OT example of someone who broke the Sabbath, and that person was dealt with by execution.

So to dismiss the idea that all Sabbath violators in the Old Testament were executed as unreasonable, when indeed all the examples of Sabbath violation in the Old Testament ended in execution, is wishful thinking.

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...only that this was an option when the case was particularly flagrant and serious—as in the Numbers 15 case, which was essentially treason.

Nothing
 in the Bible suggests that anything other than execution was an option for punishment, especially in light of multiple verses in the Old Testament where God directly commands Sabbath violators be executed!


Numbers 31:15 - For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.

Numbers 35:2 - For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.

So to suggest that the Numbers 15:32-36 example was treason is firstly wrong, but also makes God out to have a character so weak that he is threatened by someone picking up sticks.

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I want to pause and state that I really wish apologists would be a lot more honest with how they present and discuss the Bible.

It seems that atheists and liberal scholars are the only ones who actually take a look at the scriptures with a degree of skepticism and let the evidence make its own case - the exact opposite of apologetics.

I'm almost at the conclusion that apologists aren't trying to convince atheists with a logical and well-reasoned argument - they're just trying to make Christians feel better about themselves.

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A good modern-day example might be if someone made a threat against the leader of a nation...

So CMI agree that God feels threatened by someone picking up sticks?

Wow. So God can apparently make a universe out of nothing, cause the sun to stand still, split a sea in half and lead hundreds of thousands of people to walk out from one side to the other while they're carrying possessions and walking livestock, but picking up sticks on the wrong day of the week is enough to cause him to want you dead?

Yikes!

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So, was Sabbath-keeping serious? Let's look at the data:

1. In two verses, God commands the death penalty for those who violate the Sabbath.

2. In one passage, God personally commands a Sabbath-violator to be executed.

3. According to CMI, violating the Sabbath is tantamount to treason, no less!


4. Orthodox Jews, in this day and age, with access to more information and science than at any other time in history, purchase deliberately-modified electronic appliances that help the owner avoid offending God because a fridge light turned on.


Was Sabbath-keeping serious? The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

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In the next post in the series (told you it would be a long one!), I tackle the topic "Is God A Homicidal Maniac?".

Until next time, stay healthy!

-Damien

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