Sunday, August 06, 2006

Biblical Morality

Some Criticis of Christian morlaity 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But in this thread I want to ask each and everyone of you speicail, pease do not quote an massive profussion of texts in a vien attempt to show "how bad the bible is."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.


Mithrandir24 said...

Hey Metacrock,

As is the case with most of your posts, this was very interesting and informative. While I understand that the morality expressed in the Hebrew Bible was rather progressive for its time and the New Testament has been the inspiration and/or basis of much of the more advanced ethical theories in Western philosophy (Kant's categorical imperative being one as you pointed out), I have a few problems.

Surely you would agree that some of the laws in the OT are rather unrealistic in the punishments they prescribe for transgression, and in many cases just barbaric (e.g. Deut. 21:18-20; Num. 15:32-36). Now, my problem lies in the fact that Jesus seemed to affirm and condone the law of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17). It's hard for me to believe that stoning children to death for disobedience (see the Deut. passage) is compatible with the character of Jesus Christ, who seemed to love children very much (Luke 18:16-17) and opposed those who wished to impose the death penalty on the adultress (John 8:1-11).

My question is, how do we make sense of this? Do you think evangelicals are wrong when they argue that Jesus saw the Law as infallible?

J.L. Hinman said...

thanks man. Your comments have inspired me to write a major blog peice answering this question so be sure and look for it. The working title: "Does Jesus endorse everything in the OT?"

Mithrandir24 said...

Wow, I'm very're welcome! LOL Anyways, I'm glad you're going to do this because this is something that has been nagging at me for a LONG time. I'll look forward to reading your post.