Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Big Picture on Biblical Morality

Atheists are always getting us to lose slight of the big pictue. They put so many little knit picking aruments like "in Passage X God cammands themt o kill so and so,and so and so didn't do anything that wrong."

They will present a massive profussion of such passages, most of which (thinking of the OT now) are based upon the fact that people over 2000 years ago looked at things very differently and had different standards of what constituted morality, truth, compassion and brutatlity. So natuarlly a great deal ancient world morality will seem very brutal to us.

But the atheists always distract us form the big picture. Everytime I try to demonstate one or two major princples that oversweep the whole field and tie up all the problems into one neat little point that can esaisly resolved, they just go "Yea? well abotu here, where x got stoned for blowing his nose?" "what about about where God tells them to wipe out the Pedestriakites and kill even the bateria on their dinner plates?!! that's bad, God is BAD BAD BAD!!!"

But never will they just face the central point and take it like real thinkers. They want this massive profussion of problematic verses to stand in the way of rally understanding or thinging about Biblical moralty; and often much what passes for their problematic verses is misunderstood.

DD prestens a lit of what's wrong with Jesus' morality, here's what he does:

(a) doubles up on synoptic passages so he can present them like four different enstances, instant multiplicty of examles. Now Jesus dint' say "pluck out your eye" once, but four times! four times as bad!

(b) mostly misunderstood because no attempt is made to watch for figurative language so he sees "i come to bring not peace but a sword" as a litteral statment that Jesus likes war! I can't even begin to comment.

But in this thread I want to ask each and everyone of you speicail, pease do not quote an massive profussion of texts in a vien attempt to show "how bad the bible is." Let's stick to the two central poinkts that I want to get at.Please?

Point 1: OT morality is progressive.

that's right. It doesn't seem so because it is brutal and unfair in many places. But:

(a) still better than sourrounding committies that had infant sacrafice and no ruels for freeing of slaves in jubalee year, no prohabitions agaisnt raping slave women, or civil recompense for rape or anything of the kind.

(b) Points to advancements in moral thinking over and above what the others had in terms of; written code, basic rights for slaves, expectation of humane treatment, laws to help the poor, ect.

The point; God told Israel they would be a light to the gentiels, they were. Their example led to better morality on a progressive scale; but it took time of course. Yet the standards did change.

Now of course atheists will argue that this is not indicative of a divine plan. On the other hand it meshes perfectly with my view of inspritation. It's not a memo from God but a collection of writtings that are inspired by divine/human encoutner.

Moreover, remeber the principle of shadow to substance!

the Moseic law was impossed to show how bad bad could be. It was a measuring stick to demonstrate and clearly define sin. It was not the solution to sin. So it shows how hard it is to live perfectly and how difficutl it is to keep a benchmark of righteousness, it's suppossed to be hard and unreasonable; because trying to live a holy life under our own effecists is hard and unreasonable.

But in the NT we find God entering history as a man, and we have a direct example of what to do, just follow Jesus' charater. which leads to point 2.

Point 2: Jesus anticipated the Categorical imprative.

that gives us a logical modern framework in which to play out Christian morality in a deontolgoical fashion.

The imprative of Kant anticipated (and tha's where Kant got it) in the golden rules do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The "as you would hagve them do unto you" cluase is what makes it clever, because it is both objective and flexible at the same time.

These two points explain the basis of Biblcial morlaity and they make up for all the little picky verses where God appears to be a rotter, because they explain why the context of OT morality is so culturally bound, and demarkate a sense in which OT morality is progressive. It also explians NT as modern, advanced, loigcal and Kantian.



tinythinker said...

But the arguments you are complaining about are typically used to combat the literalists who claim they *know* exactly what "God thinks" about everything and who claim that their hotline to God gives them a superior set of moral imperatives.

J.L. Hinman said...

so? I'm not allowed to combat litteralists?

tinythinker said...

Sure but your post was peppered with 'atheists do this' and 'that'. But often they are reacting to the literalist camp. So then you're reacting to the atheist reaction to the literalists?

ref said...

I don't think so, tiny. I'd say that 9x% of atheists that argue in the terms meta described are the atheistic side of the fundie fence.

I think meta's just against all fundies. ;)

tinythinker said...

I'm not saying he isn't. My point is that to be complete we should recognize that many Christian fundies say the very things that some atheists claim Christians believe. I recently saw a post on a message board where a Christian "corrected" Metacrock by claiming that God did (justly) kill babies, which is one of the objections often heard regarding Biblical morality.

J.L. Hinman said...

you are rigth Tiny. I should learn to qualify my comments. I've had that problem for years, you've pointed it out for years, I thank you for your patience.

tinythinker said...

Eh? Well, I don't mean to be picking on you. Not that you said I was, but, if I have been correcting you about something for years it must be annoying by now. I have enough of my own faults to worry about without constantly harping on yours, it's just that I felt you left your arguments open to easy broadsides by the 5% on internet atheists who don't fit your projection.

I can appreciate why you get fed up with people who go by the label atheist on message boards and prefer to mock and presume the inferiority of your arguments (as opposed to those atheists who take them to read and provide reasonable counters to your arguments). I will not be as pushy in the future about qualifying your statements, it will just be (mostly) implied.

I really felt bad for you having to explain your position while fending off the Christian fundies who were basically justifying the general atheist argument about Biblical morality vis a vis the Amalekites. I appreciated what you said on your DOXA page: "I am more appualed (sic) by some Christian answers tahn (sic) I am by the atheists constant harping." Of the various issues I where I disagree with "mainstream" Christianity one of the most perplexing is idea that Christians should suspend morality to defend the Bible.

J.L. Hinman said...

thanks Tiny you have always been a very understanding friend.