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Consistency in Christian Morality

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  • Consistency in Christian Morality

    There's a number of divinely commanded events in the Bible that throw generally accepted, contemporary morality out the window. (Genocide and incest come to mind.) How do you Christians out there account for this in an explanation of objective moral law? One explanation in particular that I've heard is, "God has the right to judge." True enough. My concern is day-to-day life; what rules can you justifiably apply to others and yourself? To my knowledge, God didn't make the Bible a rulebook for every possible situation. Yet, He demonstrated that any rules explicitly given are situational; none apply across all cases without becoming subject to our interpretation. For example, you can cite "love others" and leave it at that, yet an extreme interpretation leaves you without violence of any sort, such as self-defense. Let alone war.

    I'm curious to see how other Christians deal with this apparent issue. If you're a non-Christian reading this, what your take on it is. Ever heard an interesting defense of the OT's "atrocities"? Think this problem is fatal to Christianity? Etc. Perhaps it's just an apparent issue for an ignorant youngling like myself. I'm sure my own tentative position will come out sooner or later.



    If this thread is in the wrong place, would a mod please move it? I wasn't completely sure, given that I would be interested in discussion from non-theists as well.

  • #2
    From my perspective as a Baha'i, scripture of ancient religions like Judaism, Zoroastrian, Christianity and Islam are related in the spiritual evolution of Revelation. They represent to some extent a human view of God and Revelation, and not necessarily the literal Word of God in Revelation, which evolves over time. The spiritual evolution of religion over time is clearly represented in the differences and changes over time in the Old Testament, and the changes found in the New Testament.
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 01-30-2014, 08:10 PM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Volt View Post
      There's a number of divinely commanded events in the Bible that throw generally accepted, contemporary morality out the window. (Genocide and incest come to mind.) How do you Christians out there account for this in an explanation of objective moral law? One explanation in particular that I've heard is, "God has the right to judge." True enough. My concern is day-to-day life; what rules can you justifiably apply to others and yourself? To my knowledge, God didn't make the Bible a rulebook for every possible situation. Yet, He demonstrated that any rules explicitly given are situational; none apply across all cases without becoming subject to our interpretation. For example, you can cite "love others" and leave it at that, yet an extreme interpretation leaves you without violence of any sort, such as self-defense. Let alone war.

      I'm curious to see how other Christians deal with this apparent issue. If you're a non-Christian reading this, what your take on it is. Ever heard an interesting defense of the OT's "atrocities"? Think this problem is fatal to Christianity? Etc. Perhaps it's just an apparent issue for an ignorant youngling like myself. I'm sure my own tentative position will come out sooner or later.



      If this thread is in the wrong place, would a mod please move it? I wasn't completely sure, given that I would be interested in discussion from non-theists as well.
      Read Miller on the Genocide part
      Amalekites and Canaanites
      As for an argument as to why the children were killed in the way they were see:
      How to Respond to TektonTV between 11:30 and 12:30.

      As for incest,
      Leviticus 18

      “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.

      7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.

      8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.

      9 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.

      10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.

      11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.

      12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.

      13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.

      14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.

      15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.

      16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.

      17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.

      18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

      I take it that you are referencing Lot and his daughters? I don't think that is a moral action as presented by Genesis or the rest of the bible. It's just reported.
      -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
      Sir James Jeans

      -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
      Sir Isaac Newton

      Comment


      • #4
        I had the same question about incest; I don't see anywhere it is commanded (Lot certainly wasn't commanded to), maybe unless Genesis is being taken fully literally with Adam and Eve's kids interbreeding. (I don't think that's viable; for one thing, what city would Cain have gone to if there was nobody else around?) But the genocide issue is heady and shouldn't be ducked, and that is what I'd like to focus on.

        I do agree that we need to exercise common sense (well, I would rather phrase it as God allows us to exercise common sense), and that self defense and the like aren't ruled out; nor lying in extreme circumstances (as I just created a thread on in another section on this side the other day). I think one example of "common sense" is where Jesus says that people will get their animals out of their wells on the Sabbath, so how much more are people worth if they need help on the Sabbath?
        "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

        Comment


        • #5
          1. I think first and foremost, we can't compare ourselves to prophets who receive direct commands from God in order to determine morality today. For example, we don't consider it morally wrong or defying God NOT to bake barley cakes with dung, Ezekiel 4:12+. Some things are specific commands for specific prophets, not to be considered as a general rule.

          2. It may be that God wasn't so much as punishing Gentiles, showing mercy to children that couldn't be fed or converted, etc. as He was giving Jews a "shock and awe" prophecy and warning of total devastation for themselves, if they also failed to do what He wanted. Happened biblically with Babylon and Rome. In no way does that say that Babylonians or Romans were morally justified in all that they did, but God may use and/or allow evil influences and spirits to punish others for disobedience, starting all the way back with the Garden and the Serpent continuing on today with Satan.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
            Genocide
            Now I feel like the uncritical stoolie Tekton mentioned. >_< Shouldn't have used the word "genocide" so loosely. Thank you for the links.

            As for incest, [snip for the sake of size] . . . just reported.
            Point. There are other examples as well, but are likewise just reported or explicitly condemned and/or punished.


            With both examples above shot down, the argument boils down to this: we get general rules on a number of issues, but not enough to dictate everything in every situation. At some point or another, we mere mortals are left to our own judgment. In a sense, God has pinpointed the proper values in life, and all actions are moderated to maintain those values. Question is, are any actions justified in the pursuit of those values?

            For a simplified example: the sacrifice of one life for many.

            Btw, I'm not sure quoting Leviticus is relevant. If we took all the commands of the OT to apply today, I wouldn't get to eat pork, after all.

            ~~~~

            EDIT: Adding responses.

            ~~~~

            Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
            From my perspective as a Baha'i, scripture of ancient religions like Judaism, Zoroastrian, Christianity and Islam are related in the spiritual evolution of Revelation. They represent to some extent a human view of God and Revelation, and not necessarily the literal Word of God in Revelation, which evolves over time. The spiritual evolution of religion over time is clearly represented in the differences and changes over time in the Old Testament, and the changes found in the New Testament.
            It seems to follow that the values of "Revelation" (as you call it) also evolve. Or in other words, the rulebook constantly alters itself to fit the time?

            How do you remain aware of the current changes? [tongue in cheek] Just hope you are alert enough to read the latest religious text? [/tongue in cheek]

            Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
            But the genocide issue is heady and shouldn't be ducked, and that is what I'd like to focus on.
            Check the "Amalekites" link Quantum gave in the 3rd post of this thread; it looks quite thorough. I haven't read it all myself yet.

            I do agree that we need to exercise common sense (well, I would rather phrase it as God allows us to exercise common sense), and that self defense and the like aren't ruled out; nor lying in extreme circumstances (as I just created a thread on in another section on this side the other day). I think one example of "common sense" is where Jesus says that people will get their animals out of their wells on the Sabbath, so how much more are people worth if they need help on the Sabbath?
            "Common sense" is the issue I'm trying to wrap my head around. It seems like we're left in the dark with only a candle or two for company (e.g. "Love thy neighbor"). I suspect I'm either too cynical or have an incomplete understanding of the subject. Not that I can have a complete one, but I'd like it to be an operable one.

            Originally posted by JohnnyP View Post
            1. I think first and foremost, we can't compare ourselves to prophets who receive direct commands from God in order to determine morality today. For example, we don't consider it morally wrong or defying God NOT to bake barley cakes with dung, Ezekiel 4:12+. Some things are specific commands for specific prophets, not to be considered as a general rule.
            Point.

            2. It may be that God wasn't so much as punishing Gentiles, showing mercy to children that couldn't be fed or converted, etc. as He was giving Jews a "shock and awe" prophecy and warning of total devastation for themselves, if they also failed to do what He wanted. Happened biblically with Babylon and Rome. In no way does that say that Babylonians or Romans were morally justified in all that they did, but God may use and/or allow evil influences and spirits to punish others for disobedience, starting all the way back with the Garden and the Serpent continuing on today with Satan.
            I agree that we're not in the position to question the God of the Bible as he's classically defined--perfect in every way. It almost doesn't matter whether it was a matter of expedience, just punishment, a show, or any mixture. His actions create the best possible outcome as a result of his nature.

            The difficulty I see is that if the rulebook isn't absolute across every situation, then our actions are nothing more than crude approximations of the "best possible outcome," i.e. a "good" action.
            Last edited by Volt; 01-30-2014, 09:48 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Volt View Post
              With both examples above shot down, the argument boils down to this: we get general rules on a number of issues, but not enough to dictate everything in every situation. At some point or another, we mere mortals are left to our own judgment.
              We have the Spirit.

              In a sense, God has pinpointed the proper values in life, and all actions are moderated to maintain those values. Question is, are any actions justified in the pursuit of those values?
              Not just values, but virtues: justice, mercy, love, courage, and so on.

              Question is, are any actions justified in the pursuit of those values?

              For a simplified example: the sacrifice of one life for many.
              Self-sacrifice can be justified.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Volt View Post
                The difficulty I see is that if the rulebook isn't absolute across every situation, then our actions are nothing more than crude approximations of the "best possible outcome," i.e. a "good" action.
                Well you know the Bible isn't going to discuss ethics of downloading MP3s from pirate sites, right. Of course it's not absolute.

                I think that God allowed us such magnificent brains so we can reason as we are doing now and come pretty close to knowing how to do the right thing, we have a Biblical Ethics, Perissos, and other forums and discussions right here to hash out amongst each other what we should do in difficult situations. Jews have done this with the Talmud. Jesus also provided us with a "crude" place in which to start:

                Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
                If all else fails, pray for the right thing to do. I would regard the Bible as a book of tools, rather than as an instruction manual to dictate every move. It's up to us to use those tools correctly.

                Comment


                • #9
                  [QUOTE=JohnnyP;8267]Well you know the Bible isn't going to discuss ethics of downloading MP3s from pirate sites, right. Of course it's not absolute.

                  Give what is due to cesar and give what is due to the Lord.
                  Obeying rules stated by that statement pretty sure that would include piracy being wrong.
                  You follow the rules of the country you live in and you follow the guidelines(didn't wanna say law but meh) that Jesus had stated to his followers.
                  "Kahahaha! Let's get lunatic!"-Add LP
                  "And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin is pride that apes humility"-Samuel Taylor Coleridge
                  Oh ye of little fiber. Do you not know what I've done for you? You will obey. ~Cerealman for Prez.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                    We have the Spirit.
                    *resists the temptation to open a can of worms about how the Spirit acts*

                    True.

                    Not just values, but virtues: justice, mercy, love, courage, and so on.
                    Values = virtues for me. A habit of action. I believe Aristotle had a good definition of it, if you want one.

                    Self-sacrifice can be justified.
                    Oh sure, no problem there. But I said sacrifice in general. If a man is "clearly" prone to violence from the past, would you take his life to forestall a murder spree? His life in trade for a list of potential victims. Or perhaps we're just trying to head off terrorists at the pass. Affirmative action, in a morbid twist on the phrase.

                    Originally posted by JohnnyP View Post
                    Well you know the Bible isn't going to discuss ethics of downloading MP3s from pirate sites, right. Of course it's not absolute.

                    I think that God allowed us such magnificent brains so we can reason as we are doing now and come pretty close to knowing how to do the right thing, we have a Biblical Ethics, Perissos, and other forums and discussions right here to hash out amongst each other what we should do in difficult situations. Jews have done this with the Talmud. Jesus also provided us with a "crude" place in which to start:

                    If all else fails, pray for the right thing to do. I would regard the Bible as a book of tools, rather than as an instruction manual to dictate every move. It's up to us to use those tools correctly.
                    Seems like the best answer out there so far. The Bible's certainly not meant to be a rulebook. Where that leaves us, well. As you said. ^

                    Originally posted by Cerealman View Post
                    You follow the rules of the country you live in and you follow the guidelines(didn't wanna say law but meh) that Jesus had stated to his followers.
                    Out of curiosity, where do you draw the line? Where possible conflict arises between Christian vs state morality, that is.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Volt View Post
                      Oh sure, no problem there. But I said sacrifice in general. If a man is "clearly" prone to violence from the past, would you take his life to forestall a murder spree? His life in trade for a list of potential victims. Or perhaps we're just trying to head off terrorists at the pass. Affirmative action, in a morbid twist on the phrase.
                      Hehe. I avoided the question because I don't think there's a clear answer or rule that fits all situations; I made a related point here.

                      Now if someone is posing a clear imminent threat, and there was no other way to stop them, then I think taking his life is acceptable, barring any bizarre edge cases. But if someone is just 'prone' to violence..I honestly don't know.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                        Hehe. I avoided the question because I don't think there's a clear answer or rule that fits all situations; I made a related point here.
                        Interesting thread. I was tempted to post, but you already summarized Virtue Ethics.

                        Now if someone is posing a clear imminent threat, and there was no other way to stop them, then I think taking his life is acceptable, barring any bizarre edge cases. But if someone is just 'prone' to violence..I honestly don't know.
                        I would be careful with the qualifier "no other way to stop them." I'm certainly not going to wait until the last possible moment to pull the trigger!

                        "Prone to violence" brings preemptive punishment into question. This is why I like Aristotle's Golden Mean: it allows action, but constantly begs for moderation. In a case like this, it would probably allow for a restraining order, but not the death penalty.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Volt View Post
                          I would be careful with the qualifier "no other way to stop them." I'm certainly not going to wait until the last possible moment to pull the trigger!
                          Bah, you know what I mean!

                          "Prone to violence" brings preemptive punishment into question. This is why I like Aristotle's Golden Mean: it allows action, but constantly begs for moderation. In a case like this, it would probably allow for a restraining order, but not the death penalty.
                          Sounds good to me.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cerealman View Post
                            Give what is due to cesar and give what is due to the Lord.
                            Obeying rules stated by that statement pretty sure that would include piracy being wrong.
                            You follow the rules of the country you live in and you follow the guidelines(didn't wanna say law but meh) that Jesus had stated to his followers.
                            Yeah, I was agreeing that the Bible isn't explicit about every single type of behavior, but we can often determine the best course of action from its more general guidelines, as you state.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Volt View Post
                              It seems to follow that the values of "Revelation" (as you call it) also evolve. Or in other words, the rulebook constantly alters itself to fit the time?
                              I question . . . 'fit' the time. Revelation evolves as part of a greater context and not to 'fit.'

                              How do you remain aware of the current changes? [tongue in cheek] Just hope you are alert enough to read the latest religious text? [/tongue in cheek]
                              Interesting question of How do you remain aware . . . [tongue in cheek] sarcasm noted. My advice don't bite down too hard. You basically failed to present a coherent statement or question to respond to. Being aware of the greater world of reality beyond clinging to any one of the ancient paradigms may help. A quote from Buddha is a good beginning for the quest of the universal.

                              "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, the universal, then accept it and live up to it." – Buddha
                              Last edited by shunyadragon; 02-03-2014, 10:21 PM.
                              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                              go with the flow the river knows . . .

                              Frank

                              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                              Comment

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