Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Matt Powell has continued the discussion that began here in a post on his blog. Here begins what is addressed to me:

You, like DarkSyde, keep switching the argument in the middle. If Moses simply claimed that God told Him to destroy the people of Canaan, but God did not tell him to, then Moses is just another bloodthirsty madman. Make that argument all you like. It won’t convince anyone of anything. The whole difference comes down to whether or not you accept that God told him to. Half the time in your argument, youíre trying to prove that the moral system of the Bible is repugnant, and therefore assuming for the sake of the argument that God actually did tell Moses that. The other half of the time you assume that God didnít tell Moses that, and we should just judge Moses like we would any other bloodthirsty maniac.

I have made my position on this very clear. I do not believe that God ever told Moses, or Omri, or anyone else, in the bible or elsewhere, in any setting, at any point in history, for any reason, to commit genocide or that slavery was acceptable. Period. That I don’t bother to put “allegedly” into every single sentence when discussing biblical morality doesn’t mean that I’m contradicting myself. When I’m analyzing biblical morality, it really doesn’t mean much to me whether God actually told Moses that or not. I believe that genocide and slavery are wrong in all circumstances, regardless of whether God agrees or disagrees. I know that’s a shocking statement to true believers, but oh well. Matt’s response again is not terribly responsive. In fact, he ducks into the punch, so to speak, when he says:

The question you’re trying to ask is, does the God of the Bible act in a moral way? And my question in response is, by what standard could you judge? If He exists, will you judge Him, who were created by Him? There is no external standard of righteousness that we could use to judge what God does. He is the standard.

But this is irrational if God can command two opposite things, because then both things are “moral” because God commanded them. Any moral code that allows that opposite behaviors, in the same circumstances, can both be moral, is the height of moral relativism. And the David and Bathsheba example that I gave is the perfect example of this.

Comments

  1. #1 shulamite
    July 25, 2004

    What a wonderful blog, it is such a pleasure to find it. I come to the discussion late, though.
    can you give me an update?

    What is the precise contradiction in what God says to do? It seems to involve killing. This is a confusing point: There certainly seem to be moments when killing other men, even vast numbers of them, is at least not obviously morally wrong (say war or capital punishment)

    Is this a fair hypothetical: IF the state had the power to do these things through chosen representatives, would not God also have that power to a more preeminent degree?

    do you dispute a.) that the state, or any power, has such authority, and/or b.) there is a condition for the use of such power, and God failed to meet the condition.

    Thanks for speaking of the higher things.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    July 25, 2004

    shulamite-

    The discussion is not over who has the authority to commit genocide or order slavery. The discussion is over whether it is ever moral to do so. I maintain that it is not, ever, for anyone.

  3. #3 Matt Powell
    July 25, 2004

    Ed,
    You’ve assumed your own conclusion. If the God of the Bible did not tell Moses to kill the Canaanites, then of course it was wrong for Moses to do it. Your statement illuminates nothing. You already believe the Bible to be false, therefore you believe it to be false. Thanks for enlightening us.

    If you want to say God contradicts Himself, then I think that would be a fruitful area of discussion. I don’t accept that God ever contradicts Himself; the Bible says that God never lies. I agree that if you could prove a contradiction, you’d have a strong case against the morality of the Bible. But you’re going to have to do better than the David and Bathsheba story.

    Killing David’s son was punishing David, not David’s son. David’s son is innocent of sin, and goes to heaven. Scripture in many places says that the effects of sin roll down the generations: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me.” (Exodus 20:5)

    So the effects transfer, but the guilt does not. I am not guilty of the sins my father committed, but I certainly feel the effects in my life. So, there’s no contradiction. Deut. 24:16 is talking about judicial punishment by the state, and Ezekiel 18:20 is talking again about guilt before God. Neither of these passages deny that a son can suffer the effects of a father’s sin. But that’s not the same thing as the eternal punishment for sin.

    And I’d ask you the same question that DarkSyde and I have been so energetically discussing- what standard do you have to say it’s wrong? And I forget which case you’re making. Does morality evolve, in which case it might be OK for Moses to kill the Canaanites? Or does it not evolve, in which case you’ve contradicted the post that started this whole discussion? Or does it just evolve on some points and not others? And how would you know? If genocide is always wrong, as you say, then that kind of implies, does it not, that morality DOESN’T evolve?

  4. #4 Jon Rowe, Esq.
    July 25, 2004

    Reading what Ed has written I am reminded of the great Christian existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard. From what I have read of him, although he was a believer, he understood that, based on the kind of moral reasoning that Ed has laid out, there is no reason or rhyme to many of these stories, or to the Bible taken as a whole. You just have to take that leap of faith and accept it, if you are a believer.

  5. #5 eon
    July 25, 2004

    Shulamite:

    I feel you’ve stepped ahead a bit by saying that war and capital punishment are not obviously immoral. Certainly, reasonable people can disagree, but what they’re apt to disagree over is context. The “obvious” modifier you’ve used is a somewhat gross generalization when one accounts for the historical practice in some societies of executing a person for petty theft, for example.

    The Old Testament is problematic as a referent for moral inquiry for a number of reasons, most broadly for the fact that the morality reflected therein is quite barbaric when compared to the norms of more than a few societies today. The questions with which Ed and Mr. Powell have been dealing reflect one narrow context in a larger set of dilemmas that present themselves when considering ancient norms.

    E

  6. #6 andrew ti
    July 25, 2004

    If genocide is always wrong, as you say, then that kind of implies, does it not, that morality DOESN’T evolve?

    uh, wasn’t your reaction to Ed’s initial post that morality DOESN’T evolve? That Christian morality is constant because your god is never wrong? You’re being awfully careless with the accusations of switching arguments. What do you believe, that there is, or is not an absolute morality (and for the love of god, please don’t claim that whatever you think god is saying at any one time is absolute. why didn’t he just tell the Jews the right thing the first time round?)

  7. #7 Matt Powell
    July 25, 2004

    Andrew,
    I’m trying to understand Ed’s argument. I believe morality is absolute, originating in the nature and decree of God as revealed to us in the Bible. My argument has never changed.

    But Ed started out by saying that morality did evolve, and now he’s saying genocide is always wrong (implying that morality does not evolve), and I’m just trying to figure out which way he wants to play this.

    Matt

  8. #8 Bill Ware
    July 26, 2004

    Good morning all.

    There are moral absolutes.

    Societies’ moral standards evolve towards these absolutes over time. The Bible is a starting point in our search for moral values, but taking the Bible literally by following all the laws in Leviticus, for example, does not lead to moral certitude. Practices of genocide and slavery promoted in the Bible are morally repugnant, as Ed pointed out.

    Picking Biblical values we find moral today and commanding that we follow them because “God said so, it’s written in the Bible” on the one hand, while discarding values we find repugnant today by saying they were that fellow Moses’ ideas, not God’s, is disingenuous at best.

    Obviously we are making moral decisions about what was written in the Bible based on our current best judgements. This is not moral relativism if we are seeking these moral absolutes in the process.

  9. #9 eon
    July 26, 2004

    Matt said:

    “But Ed started out by saying that morality did evolve, and now he’s saying genocide is always wrong (implying that morality does not evolve)…”

    Thanks for providing such a pristine example of the fallacy of composition. I’ll have to use that in class next week.

  10. #10 Matt Powell
    July 26, 2004

    OOh, you’re so smart, Eon. Kan I be yr sidekick?

    So then, “genocide is wrong” = a moral principle.

    That moral principle always holds, never changes.

    Moral principles evolve, so Ed claims.

    But “genocide is wrong” doesn’t evolve. It’s always been wrong, always will be wrong.

    So how do you know which moral principles do and don’t evolve?

    See, Eon, I took the statement “morals evolve” to mean that anything that is a moral principle doesn’t evolve. Apparently what it actually means is “some things which are moral principles evolve, and some things which are moral princples do not evolve”. But I think you can see this isn’t exactly an obvious definition. And you’re right back where you started, which is to say “How do you know”? I keep asking that question, and nobody will answer it. How do you know that genocide is wrong, always and everywhere? And why is your opinion on the subject superior to people who think genocide’s a pretty good idea in a lot of cases?

  11. #11 Rob Ryan
    July 26, 2004

    Morality is, and always has been, entirely subjective. So,like all social mores, it evolves. According to Ed’s morality(and mine), genocide is always wrong. Pol Pot may disagree, of course. I don’t see the conflict.

  12. #12 shulamite
    July 26, 2004

    Mr. Brayton,

    Wow! so many responses! I envy such web traffic. So you have said that it is genocide as such that you object to. Do you object to genocide for some special reason, or rather, do you object to it for the same reason that you would object to capital punishment and war? In other words, do you belive that all man-killing is bad for the same reason, or that genocide has its own particular reason for being wrong?

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    July 26, 2004

    Matt wrote:

    You’ve assumed your own conclusion. If the God of the Bible did not tell Moses to kill the Canaanites, then of course it was wrong for Moses to do it. Your statement illuminates nothing. You already believe the Bible to be false, therefore you believe it to be false. Thanks for enlightening us.

    Matt, I’m really beginning to wonder about your reading comprehension skills. My object in this discussion is not to prove the bible false. That isn’t even at issue in this discussion. The issue was, and is, whether our modern views on slavery and genocide are more or less moral than the biblical views on those subjects. Whether the events really happened that way or not is of little relevance to that subject. I have made 2 claims:

    1. That modern moral standards on slavery and genocide are different than the moral standards on those subjects found in the bible.

    2. That modern moral standards on those subjects are superior – i.e. more moral – than those found in the bible.

    The bible endorsed genocide and slavery; modern moral standards view both of those things as the very height of savagery and barbarism. Which view is correct? The modern view, obviously. It really is as simple as that.

    Killing David’s son was punishing David, not David’s son. David’s son is innocent of sin, and goes to heaven.

    The child was made sick and had to suffer before dying. If God merely wanted to punish the parents but not the son, why not just have the son stillborn? Why wait until he is outside the womb and can feel pain and suffering and then make him sick? Sorry, no one is going to buy that this is not a punishment on the father. Taking the life of a child for the sin of the parents IS punishing the child for the sin of the father.

    Scripture in many places says that the effects of sin roll down the generations: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me.” (Exodus 20:5)

    Indeed, but in many other places God allegedly decrees that it is immoral to punish the child for the sins of the father. Now, you can respond the way you have so far and say that since God is God, he can do whatever he wants and is not bound by his own moral rules. But in a later comment you said,

    I believe morality is absolute, originating in the nature and decree of God as revealed to us in the Bible.

    But if the decree of God says one thing (you shall not punish the child for the sins of the father) but the “nature of God” says another (I will punish the childen for the sin of the father), there is a contradiction. If your conception of objective morality can simultaneously maintain that action X is moral and action ~X is equally moral simply because God is powerful enough to do what he wants, then you are advocating a relativistic morcal concept.

    You keep saying that my position is confusing, so I’ll clear it up yet again. Morality itself does not evolve, our conceptions of morality change. The conception of morality that existed in the bible, that genocide and slavery are normal and acceptable behavior, differs enormously from the conception of morality that we have today. I say the modern conception is better. And you say….”God can do what he wants, he’s God. And if you don’t believe that, he’ll do it to you too”. This is hardly a compelling response.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    July 26, 2004

    shulamite wrote:

    Do you object to genocide for some special reason, or rather, do you object to it for the same reason that you would object to capital punishment and war? In other words, do you belive that all man-killing is bad for the same reason, or that genocide has its own particular reason for being wrong?

    If you’re asking me what basis I would use for my morality, I would say that the basic premise is the law of reciprocity – it is immoral to do to another person what you would object to him doing to you. That’s a very general position, of course, and there are bound to be narrow exceptions – self defense is an obvious one. But can you think of ANY circumstance in which either genocide or slavery might be justified? I can’t.

  15. #15 Tim B.
    July 26, 2004

    There are nearly 6.5 billion little truths out there, each one subjectively as true as any other. Socially, through consensus, we distill this multiplicity into a few general truths (all killing is wrong; some killing is wrong; God can have it both ways; etc.), straining toward a single objective truth.

    Here’s where it gets dicey: in subsuming the visceral, subjective under the abstract, objective, we run up against something akin to Godel’s Theorem. How does one coherently and comprehensively establish the outside of the inside, whether proving arithmetic’s own rules, or God, or an ethics?

    Levinas spoke about the “other,” as a way of one “inside” coming to terms with another “inside.” Perhaps such an interface is all we can realistically hope to achieve as far as morality goes. Any tying of morality to the Outsideness of a God is to become ensnared in the Godelian paradox. Ed, I think, takes it about as far as we can go — the Golden Rule and self-defense.

  16. #16 shulamite
    July 26, 2004

    Well, if one admitted that there were some basis for killing an individual, why could this not serve as the basis for killing a nation? What is a nation (at least materially) but a bunch of individuals? Perhaps it is far fetched, but is it not possible in principle?

    I don’t know which side of the argument this will end up helping, but there does seem to be some concern from the very beginning of the Book in question, about the morality of God commiting genocide: Genesis 18: 23-33.

    Regarding slavery, there is an important distiction between approval and toleration. You no doubt tolerate any number of things you don’t approve, perhaps you even take small steps to eliminate them. The Bible seems to lean toward toleration.

    But to answer you point directly, slavery does seem justified under certain circumstances, as a punishment for a crime, perhaps. This seems to be implied by our own 13th amendment. But I don’t think there would be a justification for it outside of this.

  17. #17 eon
    July 26, 2004

    Matt:

    Just to be clear, the concept of “morality” invokes a collection of individual moral principles. Taken as a set, some moral principles may evolve, and others may not. But if even one principle does evolve, the set: “morality” (the particular moral system) has also evolved.

    That’s why your statement was fallacious, according to the terms you used.

    How do I know that genocide is wrong? Apart from legal conventions, the answer is that I don’t “know” that it is. I believe that it is. I believe that on the basis of my upbringing in a society that has certain norms — which I accept as a member of that society — and a process of reasoning that has led me to conclude that mass murder for political or religious reasons is something of which I would not choose to fall victim.

    My system of morality is better than any other only because I believe it is. There is no objective way to compare moral systems. That’s true, btw, even if the Christian god exists. If what’s said about him in the OT is true and accurate, I find him to be a less moral being than myself.

    E

  18. #18 Matt Powell
    July 31, 2004

    Ed,
    You’ve changed your story. First you said morality evolves; now you’re saying that our perception of morality evolves. If you are just saying that our perception of morality evolves, but morality itself is absolute, I wouldn’t disagree with you, but then we’re having a whole different discussion. And you then have to talk about what the basis for this absolute morality is. If the basis for it is not God, what is it? In a previous post, you said it comes from reason, but then whose reason? If it’s yours, then how can you judge anyone else’s actions as wrong? Didn’t they use their reason too?

    And if you want to stick with your original story, that morality does evolve, then what is your basis for the statement that genocide is always wrong?

    In order for us to have a common basis to judge the relative morality of this or that, there has to be some kind of standard of what is right or wrong. Otherwise, it’s just your opinion vs. mine. So, what is your standard? I’ve already told you mine.

  19. #19 Matt Powell
    July 31, 2004

    And Ed,
    In response to your attack on my reading comprehension, it is directly to the point whether you are willing to accept, for the sake of the argument, the truth of the Biblical presuppositions in order to judge its morality. I am contending that the moral standards of the Bible are superior to any other standard, _If_ the Bible is true on the subject of who God is. If the Bible is not true on that subject, then your moral standards are certainly superior to it. But if we’re just talking about its moral standards, we have to accept it, for the sake of the argument, on its own terms. Otherwise your argument is just a very tight circle. The question is, how do you know that the Bible is false on these subjects? And you can’t say that you know it’s false because its moral standards are inferior, because then you’ve assumed your conclusion. Its moral standards are inferior _only if it’s false on its view of God_.

  20. #20 Funkstro
    July 31, 2004

    Matt:
    “I am contending that the moral standards of the Bible are superior to any other standard,_If_ the Bible is true on the subject of who God is. If the Bible is not true on that subject, then your moral standards are certainly superior to it. But if we’re just talking about its moral standards, we have to accept it, for the sake of the argument, on its own terms. Otherwise your argument is just a very tight circle.”

    Speaking of a tight circle… This is a classic exercise in circular reasoning.
    “God is right because the bible said so. The Bible is right because God said so.”
    Otherwise… How do we accept the Bible God as the standard of morality?
    It seems that your moral standards are entirely based upon that “tight circle.”

  21. #21 Jon Rowe, Esq.
    July 31, 2004

    “If you are just saying that our perception of morality evolves, but morality itself is absolute, I wouldn’t disagree with you, but then we’re having a whole different discussion. And you then have to talk about what the basis for this absolute morality is. If the basis for it is not God, what is it? In a previous post, you said it comes from reason, but then whose reason? If it’s yours, then how can you judge anyone else’s actions as wrong? Didn’t they use their reason too?”

    The standards of reason, like scientific principles, are objective. Newton posited certain scientific principles, was groundbreaking for his time, but was not without errors. Einstein corrected Newton’s errors. And future scientist will correct Einstein’s. Scientific principles are foreover the same; but our understanding of them continues to get better as we study them more.

    An analog can be made to moral reasoning. We learn morality through experience; trial and error. There are things we know to be wrong now, that the writers of the Bible did not know to be wrong (slavery and genocide). Thus our moral knowledge is better than theirs just as Einstein’s knowledge of science was superior to Newton’s.

  22. #22 Matt Powell
    July 31, 2004

    Jon,
    Your analogy suggests more than you like, I think. Newton and Einstein didn’t invent scientific laws; they discovered them. The laws themselves were already there. Therefore, if your analogy holds, right and wrong likewise are absolute principles which people discover over time, not that they invent.

    But then, again, the next question remains unanswered. Why are some things right and others wrong? You’re saying (and so is everyone else, it seems) that we can discover those principles through reason, but you still haven’t established why they are so. What is the origin of these principles? Why is it wrong to steal? Because reason tells me so? What if reason seems to indicate that I ought to steal? Would you just accuse me of poor reasoning?
    Matt

  23. #23 Bill Ware
    July 31, 2004

    Morality comes with the full knowledge of God

    Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face.

    Until then we will have to muddle along collectively as best we can.

    Perhaps in another few thousand years, we’ll be ten percent of the way there.

    I wonder if finding practical ways to implement the command “love thy neighbor” would continue us in the right direction.
    B

  24. #24 Jon Rowe, Esq.
    July 31, 2004

    “What if reason seems to indicate that I ought to steal? Would you just accuse me of poor reasoning?”

    Yes.

  25. #25 Ed Brayton
    August 1, 2004

    Matt Powell wrote:

    You’ve changed your story. First you said morality evolves; now you’re saying that our perception of morality evolves. If you are just saying that our perception of morality evolves, but morality itself is absolute, I wouldn’t disagree with you, but then we’re having a whole different discussion. And you then have to talk about what the basis for this absolute morality is. If the basis for it is not God, what is it?

    Matt, I have made my position VERY clear. The first time you expressed confusion over whether I am saying that morality evolves or our perception of morality changes, I answered you and told you precisely what I meant. I’ll repeat it again:

    You keep saying that my position is confusing, so I’ll clear it up yet again. Morality itself does not evolve, our conceptions of morality change. The conception of morality that existed in the bible, that genocide and slavery are normal and acceptable behavior, differs enormously from the conception of morality that we have today. I say the modern conception is better. And you say….”God can do what he wants, he’s God. And if you don’t believe that, he’ll do it to you too”. This is hardly a compelling response.

    It’s not really so much that “our” (meaning you and me) have perceptions that change, it is a comparison of two different moral codes, one that accepts slavery and genocide and one that does not. Which is better? The one that does not. And don’t forget that between the two competing moral systems, the one that claims to come from God is the one that endorses slavery and genocide.

    In order for us to have a common basis to judge the relative morality of this or that, there has to be some kind of standard of what is right or wrong.

    Matt, we don’t have a common basis to judge morality and we never will. Your basis is simply that God can do whatever he wants and anything he does is moral merely because he does it, even if he does two completely opposite things. That is not an objective morality at all, it is entirely subjective because it can simultaneously accept two opposite actions as equally moral, both on the basis of “might makes right”. That is moral relativism, it determines the morality of a given action solely on the basis of the power or authority of the person doing it. I’ve shown you a perfect example of this in the David and Bathsheba situation, and shown the flaws in your response on that subject, and you quietly ignored it to just repeat the same nonsense that has already been answered.

    Otherwise, it’s just your opinion vs. mine. So, what is your standard? I’ve already told you mine.

    Yes, your standard is “God said so”. I could say that God told me that my moral standards are correct too, but would you accept it? Of course not. Yet you think that I should accept the very same argument from you as axiomatic. Seems rather silly to demand that someone accept the same argument that you reject in every other circumstance.

  26. #26 Matt Powell
    August 1, 2004

    Ed,
    That was a lot of words just to say, “sorry, I have no answer for your question.”

    It’s OK, if you have no moral standard, just say so. If you have one, I’d love to hear it. You’re really good at criticizing me, but I keep asking the same question because you never answer it. How do you judge one thing better than another? What does the word “wrong” even mean to you?

  27. #27 Bill Ware
    August 1, 2004

    Matt,

    Ed and others have answered the question of where moral standards come from over and over. If you don’t get the answer you want, that they are what God tells us, you accuse them of not answering the qustion. Either we accept your moral standards or we have none, as your last post indicates.

    A person like Ed who comdemns genocide and slavery has high moral standards as far as I’m concerned. How do I know? I asked God last night and He told me.

  28. #28 Lynn
    August 1, 2004

    Bill Ware,

    I burst out laughing when I saw that. LOL

    It wasn’t 10 minutes ago I was asking Ed to tell Matt that his morals were securely in tact!
    I know Ed better than anyone else and I can tell you that no one on earth has higher moral standards than Ed.
    His parents did a marvelous job raising him.

  29. #29 Matt Powell
    August 1, 2004

    Ed,
    Your “refutation” of my answer to the David and Bathsheba dilemma hinged on saying that the child was punished, because he suffered. No Christian believes that suffering is merely and always punishment. We suffer for a great many reasons, besides just because of our sin. Just because I found your answer inadequate and felt it was pointless to answer, doesn’t mean there was no answer. Your entire point about David and Bathsheba falls apart if you can’t demonstrate that God actually punished the child. And short of showing that the child spent eternity in hell, it’s impossible for you to make that case. There is a distinction in the Christian faith between suffering the effects of other people’s sins for a variety of reasons, and being punished for those sins. You can refuse to acknowledge that distinction if you like, but saying that you don’t like an argument doesn’t make it false.

  30. #30 Matt Powell
    August 1, 2004

    And Bill,
    Ed thinks I’m stupid anyway, so surely he wouldn’t mind running his answer by me one more time. Where do morals come from, if not from God? What is the definition of right and wrong based on?

  31. #31 Ed Brayton
    August 2, 2004

    Matt, you are missing the point entirely. I could easily lay out a number of different ethical systems, all of which begin from the premise that morality is objective, including the obvious one, objectivism, as well as utilitarianism and others. You will reject all of them because none of them say “God says so” and that is the ONLY basis you will ever accept for a morality to be “objective” in your mind. But I’ve already demonstrated that divine command theory, particularly one based upon the bible, is actually less objective, not more objective. I’ve already demonstrated the inconsistent nature of biblical morality, and the places where biblical morality got it entirely wrong. Your arguments in response have ranged from the silly to the downright idiotic. To wit:

    Your “refutation” of my answer to the David and Bathsheba dilemma hinged on saying that the child was punished, because he suffered. No Christian believes that suffering is merely and always punishment. We suffer for a great many reasons, besides just because of our sin. Just because I found your answer inadequate and felt it was pointless to answer, doesn’t mean there was no answer. Your entire point about David and Bathsheba falls apart if you can’t demonstrate that God actually punished the child. And short of showing that the child spent eternity in hell, it’s impossible for you to make that case. There is a distinction in the Christian faith between suffering the effects of other people’s sins for a variety of reasons, and being punished for those sins.

    The bible clearly states that God himself, as punishment for David’s sins, made the child sick for 7 days and then killed him. How is that not punishing the child – making the child suffer – for the sins of his father? This is a ridiculous word game, Matt, and I think you know that. The child being sick was not a natural result of an action, it was a punishment sent directly by God (according to the text, of course, I don’t believe this). It has nothing to do with whether suffering is “merely and always punished” – the text itself says that in THIS instance, the suffering – the child getting sick – was willfully done by God in retribution for David’s sins. If you want to claim that this is not punishment for David’s sins, you’re going to be laughed at, even by your fellow Christians, and rightfully so. It’s a stupid little semantic game you’re playing here.

    And your second argument is even more stupid, that “short of showing that the child spent eternity in hell”, it’s not “punishment”. Come on Matt, did you really type that with a straight face? Tell you what. Next time you do something wrong, we’re going to take your child out in the backyard and beat him with sticks until he bleeds. And when you say, “You can’t do that, the child didn’t do anything wrong, it’s not fair to punish him”, we’ll just say, “But Matt, we’re not punishing him. Sometimes suffering isn’t punishment at all, regardless of the cause and effect in this specific situation. Besides, unless we can send him to hell for eternity, it’s not punishment. You said so yourself.” Do you think any sane human being is going to buy this nonsense? For crying out loud, Matt, if your belief system is so weak that you are reduced to making arguments this ridiculous to defend it, it really is time to rethink your views.

    By the way, I didn’t think you were stupid until this last answer. Now I just can’t escape that conclusion. And you’re a minister, for crying out loud.

  32. #32 Matt Powell
    August 2, 2004

    Ed,
    Matthew Henry takes this interpretation of the passage. I suppose you think he’s insane, and I suppose that any commentator I bring out that says the same thing will likewise be judged insane. When you read the passage itself (beyond the part that you thought gave you your ammunition), after the child died, David stopped mourning for the child. When the servants asked why he had stopped mourning, he said that while the child was alive, he intreated God for the child. But once the child was dead, David said,

    “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
    23 “But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

    David recognized that the child’s death was punishment for his sin (it was David that needed grace, not the child). The child itself was now in paradise (“I will go to him, but he shall not return to me”). Seven days of sickness for an infant can hardly compare to an eternity in heaven.

    You focus on only the earthly effects of something, and ignore the eternal aspects of the event. Your analogy to beating my child with sticks just proves my point. If you did that, would it mean that _God_ was punishing my child? It would not. It would only mean that you were a wicked man, and God was causing my child to suffer for other reasons, as is the case whenever we suffer things not brought on by our own sin. If I take my child to the dentist and he suffers pain there, he may think he’s being punished, but he’s not. He’s suffering pain for a greater good. Call that a word game if you like, but it’s a perfectly obvious distinction.

    So yes, it will be easy for you to make your case, as long as you ignore the Christian commentators of the passage, as well as what the passage itself says about the meaning of the event. As long as you get to decide what everything means, feel free to make any case you like.

  33. #33 Ed Brayton
    August 2, 2004

    Matthew Henry takes this interpretation of the passage. I suppose you think he’s insane, and I suppose that any commentator I bring out that says the same thing will likewise be judged insane. When you read the passage itself (beyond the part that you thought gave you your ammunition), after the child died, David stopped mourning for the child. When the servants asked why he had stopped mourning…

    So what? God made the child suffer because of what David did. That is all that matters here. That is punishing person A for the actions of person B. So far you’ve offered one stupid rationalization after another for that. The fact that you can cite others making the same stupid rationalizations doesn’t make it any less stupid.

    David recognized that the child’s death was punishment for his sin (it was David that needed grace, not the child). The child itself was now in paradise (“I will go to him, but he shall not return to me”). Seven days of sickness for an infant can hardly compare to an eternity in heaven.

    The fact that he then did something good for the child (let him live in heaven) does not change the one fact that you are at great pains to explain away – that God (allegedly, of course) visited suffering upon him for the sins of his father.

    You focus on only the earthly effects of something, and ignore the eternal aspects of the event. Your analogy to beating my child with sticks just proves my point. If you did that, would it mean that _God_ was punishing my child? It would not. It would only mean that you were a wicked man, and God was causing my child to suffer for other reasons, as is the case whenever we suffer things not brought on by our own sin. If I take my child to the dentist and he suffers pain there, he may think he’s being punished, but he’s not. He’s suffering pain for a greater good. Call that a word game if you like, but it’s a perfectly obvious distinction.

    LOL. It’s not only another word game, it’s an utterly idiotic analogy. The dentist would not be inflicting pain on your son BECAUSE of something you did wrong. David’s son was inflicted with suffering because of David’s sin and that the suffering was inflicted by God himself. The only thing that needs to be analogous is that person A sinned and God inflicted pain and suffering on person B as a result. That’s the only thing that matters here, despite your attempts to change the subject with ridiculous analogies and silly word games.

    Seriously, Matt, you need to give up. Your arguments are becoming more and more irrational as time goes on, and for the obvious reason that you are attempting to defend the indefensible. A straightforward logical argument cannot defend it, so your only recourse is to make horrible analogies that ignore the central fact of the situation.

  34. #34 Matt Powell
    August 2, 2004

    Well, you’re right about one thing- I do need to give up.

    If you’d like to interpret this as a victory, be my guest.