English, Theologie

Inerrant God and the Spirit of the Bible

I am still dealing in my head with Agent X’s article „Prophets of Consumerist Doom“. We entered a serious debate over at his blog and I have also added an article on my blog to the discussion.

As I want to keep things more approachable also for other readers, I write another blog article rather than another comment on the Fat Beggar’s School of Prophet’s blog. After all, the Web 2.0 was about building up networks, right. Maybe some of my readers wants to jump in to the discussion and write an article on his/her blog…

But before I get deeper into the discussion, I think it is necessary for the sake of clearing premisses, that I write a bit about how I see the bible. Because honestly, I feel like the different approaches towards the bible without clearing them for oneself and for others, brings most of today’s misunderstandings about. And in the end, it is all about calling others names like heathens and infidels and what not. I think we need to understand first, as understanding makes love easier and love hinders condemnation.

So let’s talk a bit about what the bible is – in my opinion – and how to use the bible and what to get from it, using it that way.

What is the bible?

Stupid questions get stupid answers, and so one could be tempted to say: „A book.“ Right as the answer is on the one hand, it appears to bring us no further in our quest – or does it?

Because, being a book, one could presume several things, for example, that there need to be one or several author(s). Also, books do have one or several purpose(s). Both is true for the bible, and both is, as I think, a matter of intense debate.

So who is the author of the bible? Some might feel tempted to say „God“, but I hesitate, because not even the bible says so. God is nowhere in the bible said to have put up a pen and written down any one book of the bible, or even the bible as a whole. He didn’t. There’s no such claim. So I won’t make this claim up. I stick with what we know of authorships (to some extent by the bible itself), that there were several human beings (most of all men from the middle east) who wrote down parts of the bible each.

And I do stick to what I learned at university, that there has been a long process of writing, rewriting, redaction, „corrections“ and what not on the bible text, before what we have today in our modern language bibles, be it KJV, NIV, German Luther translation or Volxbibel. Whoever had a look into textual criticism knows, this is also true for ancient language bibles, we have nothing that we could call the original, though deviations of the different original language texts from one another is in most cases not very big.

So the bible is a book, composed by mostly men of middle eastern descent, from cultures that are different to our own cultures, that even differ within themselves: Whoever composed the Miriam-Song lived in a completely different reality than whoever composed the Apocalypse of John.

Apocalypse of John? Didn’t John write it? Some folks seem to be obsessed with such questions, they seem to think that if John did not write the Apocalypse of John, all other things written down might be lies, too, and if that’d be so, what use would it to be to even look at the bible?

You see we also touch the next question, how to use the bible, but we have not yet been talking about the purpose. So what would be the purpose of the bible being written?

Some folks might say: To give directions to true believers to know whatever they are to do in any situation, or to reveal the will of God Almighty or something along these lines.

I think of it a bit differently. I think there were men who had an experience with God and wanted to write it down, one way or another. And other people read that, because it gave them something. And they retold the story, and it was changed to fit other circumstances, but sometimes it was also kept, the different story parts might have gone through quite some change as they turned into the composition of the bible we have today. It is a lengthy process.

Now one thing is important to me. No, make that two: One thing is that the people involved did not (for the most part – we are all sinners, aren’t we?) do it for some evil plans to be fulfilled, they wanted to tell of God, how they experienced Him. Whether they used the form of fiction (similar to C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkin), historical setting (Ken Follet?) or whatever form of literature – they wanted to tell of what they experienced with God.They were sincere.

And they were read by the community that passed on their writings. So the community approved of what they found. We would not pass on literature that we consider bad, or morally questionable. There might be others in our times who would, but they wouldn’t consider the literature bad or questionable as we do, they’d like it for some reason or another.

So I come to the conclusion, that the bible is a book, composed by many people who expressed their experiences with God, and that book is approved by believers throughout times. Just as we read the Old Testament texts, Jesus read them. And just like we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the Galatians themselves read it. Maybe there were some differences in their actual copies, but most was at least very similar.

We share through the bible community with other readers throughout the times, other sisters and brothers in faith, who read the same texts and were lifted up by the witness of the texts, the experiences of other sisters and brothers (mostly brothers though) brought into the form of literature.

Looking at it as this is, the question whether John wrote the Apocalypse is at most boring. Which John anyway? I don’t care about the name, I care about what experience he had with our (his and my) God. I care about how this was considered relevant to fellow Christians from the first reader all down the line to me and my fellow sisters and brothers in these times.

The purpose for the bible to be written was to tell of God. And when I read the bible, I hear of God.

How to use the bible?

„So all I have to do to hear of God is to open the bible and read?“

„Yes.“

„So what I read there is the word of God? So God is the author still?“

„No, the bible is not the Word of God, it contains the Word of God. You yourself cannot do anything to get the Word of God out of it. It’s God’s to open the bible up to you trough His Holy Ghost (or is it Holy Spirit? I am never sure which is the right English term.).

Of course we can read in the bible. And we might get some interesting insights into biblical history, poetry and what not. You can analyse it like any book, but that will lead you nowhere.

Well, not exactly nowhere, but where reading and analysing Shakespeare or any other worldly writer would bring you too: greater knowledge in a certain field of literature. As God didn’t write it, we cannot get His will directly from it.

You can read the bible all your life and be an atheist. And you can read one verse and start to believe. God makes the difference, and we cannot do anything about it really.

The difference God makes, I suppose, is that between a distanced look at literature and an existential look at the literature of my community. I can be entertained by Shakespeare, but the team songs of my favourite football team touch deeper. They have to do with me.

And as I am Christian, the bible has to do with me. I am a sinner and might be making mistakes, but I seek to get something from the experiences other believers had with God. Some understanding, relieve maybe. And as God didn’t write it, I won’t get anything about Him by quoting single verses. This will get me to the actual author. But the author tells a longer story, and the story is about life with God. And the God is the same God in all stories, so I expect there to be a general picture of this God to shine through.

Yes, there are all kind of contradictions and cruelties that lead people to say this God must be mad or a monster, but actually, I think this is not God you see in there, but the sinners that wrote the text. I think you can look beyond this, but you might have to need the Spirit to do so. Luckily, as Christians we have the Spirit not in our pockets, but sent to us by our Lord and saviour to comfort us. And He does, opening up the bible to us.

And in all this we need to remain humble. You can never be too sure whether the Spirit guides you or your own desires. The bible is only one voice to listen to. We also have the Spirit talking directly to our hearts (whereas we still cannot be too sure which Spirit is talking at any given time), we have our fellow Christians with whom we share community and hopefully the one or the other talk about how God is making Himself heard in our lives, maybe there are testimonies as well… and last but not least we have our brains to make sense of all that.
With none of these we can be too sure, nothing gives us a clear direction, we cannot step back, out of responsibility. We will be responsible for what we consider right and wrong, so I consider it a bad thing to point to a bible verse prohibiting others certain things, like premarital sex or homosexuality or Rock’n Roll music. We are responsible for ourselves and others for themselves. We need to talk, because we are brothers and sisters, we need to understand, else there will be division in the body of Christ, which shall not be.

What to get from the bible?

So what do I get from the bible, from reading the bible? Nothing much, if I look for a 1-2-3 plan for my life or for other’s lives or anything like that. It’s not a short cut to circumvent own thinking, own responsibility for thought and claims.

But what we do get is an idea of God, an idea of community and an object around which community can form, as we talk about it, as we gather to hear from it. All directed towards the triune God, not the text, but with the text as some kind of catalyst if you like. Plus, you get quite some good literature. After all, the bible is an all time best-seller, and certainly not only because of the tradition of having a bible copy as a Christian. Some folks do really read it and enjoy it.

Post Scriptum

You might have realised that I did not argue biblically. I do not intend to give biblical proof for what I wrote here, because that would be a circle, wouldn’t it. I mean you wouldn’t even consider it to be true if you found a paper with two sentences on it:

The world is flat. What is written on this paper is true.

The bible declaring itself to be true is no better argument than a person claiming to be no liar. The bible itself, the person itself is hardly proof. You need proof from other sources: The Spirit, fellow Christians, your brains. I chose the route via the brains here, though I have the impression that the Spirit doesn’t tell me a very different story, so I ask you, my Christian brothers and sister for your comments as a further corrective. We need this talking, this forms community – especially here on the internet where we cannot share bread and wine.

English, Theologie

Is God for capitalism?

In an article by Jim Finn he argues that God was for capitalism and against socialism. Socialism, according to Jim, is redistribution:

He plainly told Joe the plumber he was for redistribution of wealth, which is socialism at its very core.

I mention this to avoid misunderstandings. Europeans tend to have a different understanding of what socialism means. I don’t know of a special term for redistribution, maybe because there’s redistribution all around. I produce something and sell it for money, to the money is redistributed to me and the product is redistributed to the buyer. The state needs more police and rises the taxes to pay them, so my money is redistributed to the new police officers and their time is redistributed to my security (in the best case). I earn more than I need right now and give it to social security so whenever I might earn less than I need to live, social security will support me. There’s redistribution everywhere, you give and you take, some are strong and give more because they can, and some are weak and take more, because they need.

I wrote some comments there, trying to make the opposite strong: That God was not for the stronger to press the weaker (which is the effect of capitalism) but for people to help one another (which means redistribution which is according to Jim „socialism“). The problem there was that Jim wanted bible proof, and I really had a hard time, because actually the society and the government systems in biblical times were a lot different from today and you rather need to read and understand the whole bible to get the point, rather than using it as a quarry to break out those verses that support your point. So I decided to write this article, not to prove my point, because from a very close to bible perspective it is hard to speak out for anything in our modern world. One could even claim without a big problem that God was against democracy, because it is never mentioned in the bible, while kings or judges as rulers can be found everywhere… This is why I am not going to prove my point here, but disprove Jim’s position, which I shall try to do from a close to the bible text perspective, so Jim and I can actually talk with one another. We couldn’t if I’d stick to more liberal ways.

So if you were looking for an argument for „socialism“ from a position of faith, but also comprehendable for the liberal reader, you might just want to look here.

Jim starts by stating the following:

The Bible is always up to date. It has always been ahead of the times. There is no way to ever catch God off guard. God has something to say concerning most everything and that includes systems of governing and economics.

I would agree that the bible is always up to date. We need no new one (though some seem to think we do). And certainly we never catch God off guard (though I hope we can agree God is not the bible, but no, let’s not discuss this here). What I want to point out is that while God certainly has something to say on everything, we have no reason to think it would all be in the bible. There are plenty things the bible says nothing about. We can get an idea of things, reading the bible and using our reasoning to find out what it would mean today, but that’s it. Even the bible doesn’t say that the bible would give us recipes for every problem, right?

The first thing before delving into the subject is to recognize there is no fool-proof system as to fairness.  No system has all the answers. Jesus Christ is the answer for mankind, not socialism, not capitalism and not a system in between.

Or beyond. Right. No problem with that.

The Bible commands us to give to the poor. God even expects poor people to give.

He bases this on Mk 12, 41-44. I wouldn’t say God expects poor people to give, but He praises poor people who give. Jesus didn’t say it was the woman’s obligation to give what she had. It’s about the faith of the woman rather than about the giving, though the giving proves the faith.

Then he makes a point that God wants a cheerful giver, which is right, and he quotes 2. Corinthians 9, 7-8:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work

From this Jim draws the conclusion:

When you force someone to give what is theirs, you violate Scripture.

I don’t know where he finds this. 2. Cor speaks about Paul collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. In this situation Paul says no one shall give of necessity or grundgingly. I don’t know how this could mean that generally „forced giving“ would violate scripture. It’s not charity, right. I wouldn’t even call it giving, but this does not say that any forced giving does violate scripture. Taxes are forced, still Jesus says that taxes should be paid (Mt 22, 21). You could maybe argue that forced giving does not count like giving to the poor out of free decision, I’d agree here, so if you try to fill your account of good deeds, you cannot count paying taxes to it, for example. Or any other time where you have the obligation to give. But the existence of obligations to give itself does not violate scripture.

Jim goes on:

There is no Scripture that contradicts 2nd Corinthians 9:7-8 If you can find it to be so please show me.

No, why should there? Paul certainly didn’t want to push Christians to give for Jerusalem, how would he have even been able to do so? But I could ask as well: Am I allowed to give money to charities that help landmine victims? In Jim’s logic, we can only do what the bible allows. Free giving is allowed, but there is no verse about „forced giving“, so it’s not allowed. Giving to the poor is allowed, you’d find verses about that I’m sure. But where in the bible are landmine victims mentioned?

Still we would consider it ridiculous, if someone claimed, we were not allowed by God to give to landmine victims, right? Nonetheless I can say there is no scripture saying that giving to landmine victims was allowed.

I’d say we better see what the bible prohibits, and take a close look to not get the wrong impression (otherwise it’s farewell to pork meat and lobster).

Then Jim quotes Ps 37,25:

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

and Phil 4, 19-20:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and
ever and ever. Amen.

Now Jim claims God dictated the bible (which I don’t believe and even the bible doesn’t claim) and says these prove that God would not let down anybody. He says it’s not King David in Ps 37 but God Himself who’d say that. I’d say of you want to stick to the text of the bible, we have to agree that David did not see the righteous forsaken (he never met Job). What David sees has nothing to do with what is happening. Besides? Who is righteous?

Romans 3, 10 claims:

There is none righteous, no, not one

and is quoting Ps 14 with this. So if there is no righteous person, no righteous person will be forsaken, right? And remeber: As long as you believe the bible is dictated by God, this also applies to Romans and Ps 14!

What about Philippians? Well, it might be my bad English, but I learned that „shall“ does not equal „is“. What we have in Philippians is a prayer, and I wish that it comes true for many. And: Paul is writing there to the Philippians, not all mankind. But anyway, it is not supporting, what Jim claims:

God always takes care of His children no matter what. Gods children has never one time suffered for basic needs. I did not says wants, I said needs.

By the way, being a child of God does not mean, that child had to be righteous.

If you say no child of God has ever suffered for basic needs and you see children starving, this would either mean: Yes, well, they are not children of God, so why even bother, which would be more than hardhearted. Or you’d say: Yes, they starve, but still they cannot fall deeper than into God’s hands, even if they die. That’s not better.

Maybe it becomes clearer when we think of all the aborted children. Are they not children of God? Have they gotten all their needs? So why even bother about abortion?

Many and much more Scripture could I add.

Yes, Jim, I think you’d need to bring in more, because what you brought up to now is by no means convincing. This has nothing to do with me not believing in God or the bible. I just looked at the bible and saw what is written there. And it is, as for what you have brought forth, much less than you claim. So it seems you are adding to scripture here (I said seems, you can prove me wrong by bringing more convincing scripture).

Of course as Christians we are told by God that we are supposed to be a generous people but if you think for one minute that God lacks power because of our disobedience, you better be careful in you accusation.

The point is not at all that God would lack power. In fact I fear that power a lot. Because when the poor are not being taken care of, we will feel His power in the results of their poverty: Crime, insecurity and finally the collaps. It’s gotten worse and worse since we have not properly taken care of the weak and poor. Our wealth is nothing granted, we don’t have it for our hard work, because you can work hard and still have nothing. God has the power to turn down corrupt systems that feed the rich and starve the poor. Without redistribution, this is what happens.

Socialism rewards according to need as opposed to work down so says the Webster dictionary.

Wasn’t it God who would give according to need? Just a few lines up? Now it’s socialism!

Then, Jim uses Mt 25, 14-30 as a proof for profit being good. And concludes:

 Profit is increase and according to Jesus profit is good not bad.

Actually, I do not see Jesus saying here that profit was good, He rather describes the kingdom of heaven like a man who gains without doing, which is quite the opposite of rewarding a man’s hard work with profits…

Nonetheless I would agree that profit itself is nothing bad. It’s good to have profits and to enjoy the fruits of your work.

Notice, not one time does Jesus mention the profit should be distributed to those whom did not earn the profit.

Right, because it isn’t about economy but a description of the kingdom of heaven. A parable. Just look at the first verse!

As a Christian we are supposed to work for our needs.

Agree. What if there are no jobs?

We have no right to consider our needs to be a right or something that others owe us.

Depends. If I work hard and the employer is giving me less than is fair and takes all the profits for himself, I have a right to say it is wrong. After all, he owes me for working hard so he can make profits. But basically, if I do nothing and am not part of a bigger context, nobody owes me. Right.

God says if a man is able but refuses to work, that man should not eat and we should have no company with such a person.

The problem is that many are not able to work because there is no work, and others are able to work and do work and still do not eat.

Ah, the part with nothing to do with them disturbs me a bit. Jim gets this from 2. Cor 3,14. There Paul writes about people who would not work and live on the expense of the congregation. What it is basically saying is: Don’t feed him, let him work.

But this is not about shunning the unemployed.

That’s basically all he writes. He didn’t even properly address „socialism“. It’s all about having to work (which nobody questions) and giving freely (which is something God wants us to do). He somehow tries to connect this all in a way so that it looks God would disapprove of social security systems. And this doesn’t work, because the bible is not anti social security. And there is nothing wrong with social security. You pay in when you have and you take out when you need. In some cases you are forced into such a system, which is also not wrong but in most cases for the good of most. God does not tell governments how to do their jobs, He just wants them to support justice, which includes the downtrodden. If a government decides to meet this end with a social security system, there is nothing wrong about it, as long as it’s a fair system where justice is served. And it’s just to care for the weak, and it’s just to have the strong bear more. Tomorrow the strong might be weak and the weak strong, whatever God gives.

God is neither for capitalism nor for socialism. He’s for justice. There are just elements in capitalism and in socialism. The trick is to use them both, and get rid of the injust parts.

God bless

English, Theologie

On Leaving Church

I just ran across a blogpost by Dan Wilkinson on why people are leaving the church. There he responds to a quote by some guy named Ken Ham who claimed people would leave church because of the teachings of evolution and because this would tell them the bible could not be trusted.

Then Dan writes why young people are really leaving church, well in his opinion. Read it, I think he has a point. But one sentence made me stop and think:

No, Mr. Ham, no one’s leaving the church because evolution shows that “the Bible could not be trusted.”

What if Ham is right? I mean, maybe Ham does believe so himself, maybe he considers it a valid reason to leave church: If the bible is proved to not be trusted, one had to abandon church and faith and all that?

What is a valid reason for leaving church, or any faith group? For abandoning faith? I’d say, if you are no longer (or not at all) convinced of your god, whatever god your faith group might be worshipping.

For myself, not trusting a book would not draft me from my god, because I worship Him, not the book. So the book can be full of flaws, mistakes and what not. So what? What’s God gotta do with it?

Of course things change if the book is your god, and this is the impression I have from several conservative Christians. I am not sure if Ham falls into this category, but chances are high I guess. Those Christians reduce God to a book, a book they learn to or at least try to master. What kind of god can be mastered anyway?

How can you be surprised by joy, like C.S. Lewis was, when the God that is supposed to bring you that joy is a book you know by heart? What surprise can come fro a thing you know?

I mean, even if the bible was God? It is even reduced to one way of reading it, all is fix, all „truth“ is told and written down. Live by it. Period.

What joy, what surprise, what new life can come from this? Whatever is controlled by man will not surprise anymore, will not bring joyful news or a change in life.

If you control the sun and the rain, you will no more be happy for good weather, or rain after a drought. Because there will be no more droughts if you don’t want to, and you have sunshine whenever you like. Nothing wild and unpredictable about that any more. All routine… all civilized.

If you make the bible your God, if you want to put your faith in that bible and reduce God to that bible, and then you try to control that bible by knowing it exactly, you are civilizing God, you are depriving that god of his powers.

Not the real God of course, because the real God would not let you do that. But that image of a god, that civilized, predictable image is in the end deprived of all power, and people will not follow a powerless god, because what they need is the real God. And they will feel that the powerless god isn’t real, so they leave the church worshipping him. There’s nothing wrong about it. They are looking for the real God, wild and uncivilized, uncontrollable yet controlling everything, and a helper in hardship.

Dan writes:

They’re leaving the church because your version of Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with right practice, and everything to do with “right” belief.

I don’t agree. I think they are looking for the real right believe to know what is right practise. By the way, I think there is a lot of stress put on right practise in conservative circles. Wrong practise would be premaritial sex, voting for Obama… you name it.

I got to Dan’s article through an article by Lynn Swayze Wilson. She writes about herself and why she is leaving Chriatianity (she’s converting to Judaism). The end of her article is great, so I’ll quote it here:

If Christianity, or any religion, can balance tolerance and love with meaningful spirituality, then I think the young people will stay. It’s really that simple

For me, what she writes there, is Christianity, so I am Christian. I understand this doesn’t work for many people who grew up with other kinds of Christianity, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Because if the religion is incapable of showing God’s love to people, if that religion is incapable of enabling the people to answer God in a meaningful way, it’s nothing but idolatry. One would have to find out, what the real idols are. I mentioned the bible being put in that place sometimes. Sometimes it’s other things that are identified with God and then civilized to have them controlled. That’s how you can loose God, trying to pin Him down. Don’t do it. All praise be to Him.

English, Jesus and Mo explained

Pretending really hard

Creative Commons 3.0 from jesusandmo.net

The sad thing is that the cartoon has a point. There are lots of believers who mix up belief and knowledge, faith and facts. But actually faith does NOT mean pretending to know something you are as clueless about as others.

Faith in God has rather few to do with hard facts. God can be there if creation or evolution is true, that won’t hinder too much. And God can even be there without any afterlife. That’s not what it’s all about.

One thing I find rather strange is that atheists, who mostly claim to be sooo very much more based on science than believers, is that they tend to use the same bible hermeneutics as right wing believers, i.e. raw biblicism. The bible writes about creation in 7 days, science tells us about evolution. Religion must be wrong and religious people dumb. Religion tells us about people living to be 600 years old? Same thing.

The approach to the text is the same with those atheists and the biblicists they laugh about. Thus they come to similar conclusions: Biblicists mix up belief and knowledge, atheists do the same. And this although literary science would tell those oh so scientific thinking atheists that what they do is not scientific at all…

But how does this come, that people mix up belief and knowledge. It’s because we’ve forgotten how to read texts. That is: Older texts with a religious relevance like the bible.

If we take Shakespeare, we know that MacBeth is not supposed to be a historical record of Scottish history. And the Star Treck movies are not prophecies about the future (or another historical record).
Do you know Galaxy Quest? It’s a movie with Tim Allen. In the movie, Allen is actor of a Space series, he and his crew are travelling through the universe, fighting evil Aliens and all that. But it’s a show. Only that there are also real Aliens. And they get into trouble with another alien race. And they see that Space series and consider it to be historical records instead of just a show, because they don’t know this whole concept of shows (actually when they later find out about it only being a show, they consider it all lies).This illustrates a bit what’s happening with the bible. The Aliens didn’t pretend really hard that there was this hero space captain which was starred by Allen, he was there. But he wasn’t what it appeared to them, he wasn’t a space hero, he was a mediocre TV celebrity. It was just a misunderstanding.And what if the Aliens had known it was just a show. Would they have considered the whole space adventures of Allen nonexistent? No. Like we don’t consider the adventures of Kirk and Picard nonexistent, they are there, we can watch them. But they are not historic truth, they do not show knowledge about things that are going to happen or did happen once. But still they tell us about the authors and their days. Like when Kirk is always breaking rules to achieve his plans, we can know that in the culture that brought forth this TV show, breaking rules under certain conditions was acceptable or even heroic.These media are witnesses to what really (and historically) was. They tell us about the dreams and ideals of the people, or of their faith. That’s less in Star Trek, but more in the bible.Star Trek is true in so far, as Kirk (or Picard or Janeway) is really considered a hero and that our culture understands him so through the things he does in the show. Though none of these things actually happened. Still they are not just lies. They transport truth, but not historical truth.But that’s what biblicists and atheists seem to be after in anything. For them, Star Trek movies must appear to be either all lies or pretending really hard that people dream of travelling to the stars and live together peacefully (at least within mankind).So what I want to say? Think ! Think about what a certain text means, how it was meant to be read. You might come to the conclusion, that the creation texts in the bible are not about contradicting evolution, and that prophecy means not prediction of the future, but realising what’s really going on.Plus: Belief in God and Christ has foremost to do with the gospel and the salvation of humankind. Not about guessing or pretending about timely things. 😉

Commenting Media, English

Genesis 34

Consider the this Comic.

There’s also an article to the whole thing. The story is quickly told: Shechem rapes Dinah, Daughter of Jacob. Later on, he wants to marry her but to do so he and his city are first demanded to become circumzised. While all the men in the city are sore, two of Dinah’s brothers get into the city and kill every man to take revenche. After killing all the men they take everything with them they can use, including the surviving women.

Hausdorff’s main problem with the text seems to be expressed in these lines:

Still, this seems like quite an overreaction. Kill all the men in the city and steal all of their stuff including their women. Aren’t they just committing a worse version of the crime they are all up in arms about? „You had sex with one of our women, we are going to kill all of you and take all of your women“

Now the first thing we have to remeber is that this is an old text that does not reflect our ethical standards nor out culture. That was a culture very different from ours and we’d make a big mistake if we considered it to go by our standards in any way.

So what is the problem with raping? Today we’d all agree the problem would be the physical and psychological harm that is done to the victim. Back then, this wasn’t too much an issue, as raping within marriage was not a problem at all (it isn’t too long ago this was outlawed even in our societies). Back then the problem was that Dinah was not a virgin any more. This meant there would have been less chances to find her a husband. This meant that there would have been the problem to care for Dinah all the time, eventually until she dies. There would maybe be no husband and sons who could care for her living later on. This was about survival in those societies, not about the harm we focus on wen we hear „rape“.

And here we have a difference to what the brothers of Dinah did to the women of the town. Even after all the murdering thy were not left alone. They were taken, which means they were taken care of. They did not have to see to make ens meet after their husbands and sons have been killed. They did not have to prostitute themselves to earn their living. Had they been raped like Dinah, things would have been different.

The second thing we have to think about is loyality. Today we don’t know this so much any more. We would hardly ever take up arms and attack those who kiled our kings. Maybe because we do not have kings nowadays (but some do: Think of Britain, Spain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands etc. – and still today you’d find peopel who would call it a noble thing to hunt down an kill anyboy who had killed their monarch). Or think even or the presidents we have. If you threat the US president, this is already considered a crime. Jokes not permitted.

Now if we agree that Shechem is „a piece of shit“ and deserves death, we need to think about his subjects as well. What would they do if their prince had been killed? Definately they would have killed the murderers. At least one would have to take the chance into account. So the safest thing to do is kill them all.

Again, this is unbearable for us today, right, but back then things were different because people were different. When you decide to kill the prince, you have to waste a thought r two on his army, too. And the best time to do so is when all are sore from their circumsition.

There is still some bad light put on the brothers, as they do not only take the women (for whom they are to take care if they have any sense of responsibility) but also all the riches of the city. So in the end they turn up richer. And then, there is also one bigger problem: Shechem did marry Dinah, so there was no reason to do him any harm. She would be taken care of, had the chance to have sons who care for her in her old days. But her brothers ruined all that, killing Shechem, making their sister a widow. We mdern people wouldn’t see this problem in the first place, but it is probably much bigger for the people of the time of the text then the question, whether it is right or not to kill the men of the city.

So what to do with the story? We already said it is based on ancient ethics which are not the ethics of our day, and which no one in their right mind would want back. Plus, we saw that most probably the story doesn’t even fit to the ethics of back then. Now should we go about and kill the raptors of our sisters? Hardly, though I understand the emotion.

And this seems to be what the story is all about: Emotion. Jacob complains to his sons that they had done wrong, because now they’d have to fear the other peoples of the land. But the two sons answer asking their father, how it coud have been right that Shechem, raping Dinah, treated her like a whore.

Just because some characters in the bible do certain things doesn’t mean that was considered right. The story doesn’t say God approved of the genocide, He isn’t even mentioned. The story might show the dilemma the brothers are in: On the one hand, they feel rage, because their sister had been raped. On the other hand, there’s a deal to settle the whole case. But finally emotion breaks its way and leads to blood and horror. And what is the gain in the end? Everyone’s a loser: Dinah, because her virginity is gone and she is without husband. Shechem, because he paid raping with being killed. And Jacobs family, because they now have to fear a militant response of the other peoples of the land.

So, if you ask me, the moral is that injustice (rape) is not leveled by counter-injustice(murder), but just more injustice. Better to swallow down your emotions…

Commenting Media, English

Why I am not a biblicist

God is Love

This shows what happens when ou take the bible literally and not seriously. Bible being written by man doesn’t mean God had nothing to do with it. It means that it was written by men which lived in a certain time with certain fears and hopes and desires. I guess the writer of Revelation had quite his share of desire for revenche. In the beginning the good guys scream to the Lord for revenche, and later they’ll get it. Their offenders (remeber christians used to be brought to death for their faith back then) had to taste some of their own wine. This is not nice, though deeply human. And in the end all will be fine: Death will die and we all will be living in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Commenting Media, English

What is there to do in heaven

What is there to do in heaven

The author adds the following text:

I got the idea for this comic while reading Revelation 7. Serving and worshiping God all the time doesn’t exactly sound like paradise to me.

I’d like to add a few thoughts: There are actually peole who think heaven and hell are the same place, only differently percieved by different people. So if praising God is boring as hell for atheists, it needn’t be for Christians. Actually it is what they are doing (or claim to be doing) all their life long. And Christians are happy with it, aren’t they? So why shouln’t they be happy with it n heaven? As for all those atheists who hope to get into heaven for some fun time. Sorry, no hope for you guys, only weeping and gnashing of teeth.