2 Biblical Ethics Sublime And Superior… Anonymous
3 Biblical Ethics – A Moral Morass K Straughen
4 Biblical Ethics – Excellent Anonymous
5 Biblical Ethics – A Final Reply K Straughen
(Investigator 113, 2007
believe that the
Bible was written under the guidance of an all-wise and morally perfect
being. If this is indeed the case, then Scripture would reflect the
of God, and therefore would not portray this being acting in a
manner or endorsing barbaric acts. However, as we shall see, the
the Bible paints of God is far from flattering which, needless to say,
casts considerable doubt on the fundamentalist's assumption.
If these are the actions of a morally perfect God, then our ideas about ethics are in need of drastic revision. This is a clear example of the Biblical god breaking one of Its own commandments, for by giving the men's wives to their neighbours It has violated: "Neither shall you commit adultery" (Deut. 5:18).
It seems that God is
attempting to solve
a problem by promoting the commission of sin and, needless to say, any
being who advocates such a policy can't be considered morally perfect
the commission of further sins can only result in more sin, the very
that God (supposedly) is trying to stop.
By now most people would be familiar with the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign, and associated atrocities carried out by Serbian forces in Kosovo, on the orders of the dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
Milosevic's orders (like the Biblical god's) were nothing more than a brutal land grabbing exercise that appealed to people's prejudices – the belief that certain ethnic groups can be mistreated merely because they are different.
If God is good, would It,
cause immeasurable harm by cruelly forcing people from their land and
the privations associated with such expulsions? Indeed, the Biblical
actions are a breach of:
On the one hand the
Biblical god says don't
oppress strangers, and on the other It persecutes and dispossesses them
of their land. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
According to Titus 1:2,
God never lies. However,
this statement is contradicted by the following passages of Scripture:
Would a morally perfect
god deceive people,
make them believe what is false, and then condemn them for believing
lies? Why not send them a strong antidote to delusion, so that they
What kind of god could
give such a barbaric
order – show no pity, kill maidens, little children? If God really did
give such an order, then It is guilty of crimes against humanity. Based
on this utterance, I have no choice but to conclude that the Biblical
is more satanic than saintly. Indeed, it is a direct violation of "you
shall not kill" (Deut. 5:17).
Unfortunately, Jephthah fails to consider the possibility that his daughter might be the first person to come forth from his house and, as this event occurs, he sacrifices her to the Lord. If this story is true, then God's moral perfection goes up in flames.
Firstly, God does not
for attempting to purchase Its aid with a human life, a hideous
at best. Secondly, It does nothing to stop the sacrifice of the young
and therefore can be considered to have accepted this barbarous
As a further example of the Biblical god's cruelty, I cite the
It's pretty clear from
this passage of Scripture,
that the Lord is a psychopathic egomaniac who arranges for people to be
killed, for no other reason than Its own self-glorification.
In the following passage
of Scripture, God
is portrayed as punishing David for his sins by killing his child:
How can a god be
considered morally perfect
when It kills an innocent child as a punishment for someone else's
If God really did commit this monstrous act, then I can only conclude
It has a perverted sense of justice. Indeed, it is a direct violation
As we can see, the
Biblical god is not only
a hypocrite, but a murderer of children as well.
This is another example of
Firstly, the payment of fifty shekels of silver should have been made
the woman rather than her father, as she is the victim. Secondly, she
become the rapist's wife, hardly the basis for a happy marriage – this
criminal has demonstrated a capacity for violence, and any woman forced
to marry him is in very real danger of being subjected to repeated
assaults. Not only is the woman a victim of the rapist, she is also a
of unjust Biblical laws. No decent god would endorse this barbarous
It is impossible for many people to believe that the Bible reflects the nature of a morally perfect being when Scripture portrays God causing adultery, killing children, causing people to believe in falsehoods, ordering the commission of atrocities, accepting human sacrifices, and promulgating unjust laws.
If those passages of
Scripture that portray
God behaving no better than an evil man were recorded in a
holy book, most fundamentalists would not hesitate to condemn them.
some might even go so far as to attribute them to Satan. However,
they are found in the Bible, the same people would probably defend the
Biblical god's actions with elaborate rationalisations and, in my
this shows that there is no limit to human folly, especially where
Holy Bible (Revised
SUBLIME and SUPERIOR but MISREPRESENTED
HUMAN SACRIFICE CONDEMNED
The Bible says: "The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings." (Psalm 145:17) Mr Straughen (#113), however, claims the Bible sanctions "barbarities" – such as human sacrifice.
etc. practiced human sacrifice and killed millions – but the Bible
But didn't Jephthah, a "hero of faith", give his daughter as a "burnt offering" to thank God for a military victory? (Judges 11:30-31)
Young's Analytical Concordance says: "Burnt offerings … were mere voluntary offerings (unlike sin offerings and trespass offerings, which were compulsory), which, however, were to be presented in a uniform systematic manner, as laid down in Lev. i – iii…"
The burnt offering had to be a male bull, sheep, or goat, or a bird – never a person. (Leviticus 1)
Jephthah's vow was:
Compare the bold print
with what Hannah said
when she dedicated her son Samuel to serve at Israel's religious
The phrase "as a burnt offering" corresponds to "until the day of his death". It's Jephthah's figure of speech to show that his offer is voluntary and permanent. The word "as" here means "similar to".
The daughter, like Samuel, became a celibate worker at Israel's centre of worship. She "bewailed her virginity" (11:37) because she would never have children. It wasn't totally bad, however, since she would have the security and status of working with Israel's priests. Jephthah's vow was serious for him too – he would get no bride price and never have grandchildren.
Atheistic critics accuse Jephthah of "child abuse". However, in Jephthah's time parents decided if and whom their daughters will marry – and one quarter of the world's people still practice this principle.
Let's not forget that
"sacrificed" 100 million people in the 20th century, not
like Jephthah but actually killed them!
CRIMINALS SHOULD PAY
In ancient Israel marriages were arranged by family heads. Unmarried daughters had to remain virgins. If they failed no man would want them, and marriage and motherhood – the roles that gave women status – were virtually barred. A raped woman's choices might come down to starvation or prostitution.
The rapist marrying his victim:
The 50 shekels the rapist paid the father replaced the bride price, which the father lost due to the woman's vanished marriage prospects. In Old Testament times fathers often invested this money for the daughter by buying a field, or retained it as a "trust fund for her use in time of trouble". (Madeleine, S. & Miller, J.L.1979 Encyclopedia of Bible Life, p. 99)
The Law of Moses expired when Jesus came. (Ephesians 2:11-16) However, the principles underlying it are still relevant. Today the principle that the evil-doer should pay the costs of his crime, and allowing for our very different sort of society, would in the case of a rapist mean making him pay the financial cost of restoring his victim medically, psychologically and career-wise.
There are societies today
where the bride
price is still paid. It acknowledges the cost of raising the woman from
childhood and the value of her work. Many Western governments also
by payment, the cost of raising children and their future value to the
economy. They pay regular benefits to parents, and sometimes large cash
sums for each child born.
GOD DOES WHAT?
The Bible teaches that God
is behind everything – life and death, human actions, the natural
world, the rise and fall of
The young lions…seek their food from God. (Psalm 104:21)
I [God] will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans… (Joel 3:8)
I will heal them and
reveal to them abundance
of prosperity and security. (Jeremiah 33:6)
The Bible, however, also declares God's "steadfast love" (Psalm 145:8-9) and says "God cannot be tempted by evil." (James 1:13)
So God "creates woe" but has steadfast love – is this inconsistent?
Evil, woe and suffering
among humans is,
according to the Bible, due to:
However, if God created an environment where good and evil can happen, and if humans need God's guidance to avoid evil but this guidance humans reject and God therefore withholds – in that sense "God brings evil".
Consider an analogy:
A local government opens a national park to the public and erects a safety fence below a cliff and a sign "Danger–Falling Rocks". Janet gives the tour-guide the slip, ignores the sign and climbs the fence. At the cliff-top Janet's ex boyfriend deliberately dislodges a rock and splatters her brains. Who's to blame?
The government, Janet, the boyfriend and tour-guide contributed to her death in different ways. When "God" does evil it's comparable, in this analogy to what the government did (it opened the park) and to what the tour-guide did (he let Janet disobey the sign). The main blame, however, goes to the boyfriend.
We're dealing with different sorts of responsibility.
Bible verses that attribute evil to God such as (to use Straughen's words) "punishing David for his sins by killing his child" should therefore be understood as God permitting the stated evil. It's often put in the form of "I will…" to remind readers that God remains in control and decides what to allow/permit/let happen.
Once we understand this
division of responsibility
the phrase "I will…" translates to "I will permit…" or "I will not
Straughen claims that "God
never lies" (Titus
The PREVIOUS verse,
however, tells about
"the lawless one" who will rule the nations before the end of the
Note that "wicked deception" is blamed on "the working of Satan". What's going on? One verse blames God, another blames Satan.
In line with my previous
analysis the Bible
here teaches that God accepts part of the responsibility. "God sends
them…" means "God permits upon them…"
Adam and Eve were husband and "wife" (Genesis 2:25) and the New Testament says, "God will judge fornicators and adulterers."
What's so bad about "fornication"? For starters about 250 million deaths in the 20th century from sexually transmitted diseases. (Investigator 48)
II Samuel 12:11, however,
In fulfilment of this, King David's son Absalom organized a revolt and made himself king. To publicly demonstrate his kingship Absalom had sex with David's wives in a tent on the roof. (II Samuel 16:20-23) His conduct flouted Deuteronomy 5:21–"Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife."
Based on my previous
analysis we can rephrase
II Samuel 12:11:
The Bible starts with
humans in Paradise,
portrays war as a human invention, and tells about world peace
Yet the Bible also has God
slaughter of children:
Ezekiel 9 is a vision the prophet Ezekiel had near 600 BC. (8:1) In the vision one man marked all innocent Jews in Jerusalem who "weep and sigh because of the sins they see around them". After that another six men slaughtered all the unmarked or guilty ones.
The guilty Jews had abandoned Jewish law, were worshipping idols (8:14), and filled the land with "bloody crimes". (7:23)
The vision was fulfilled when Babylon, the superpower of that time, attacked Jerusalem. The Babylonians were not commanded by God. Their king, Nebuchadnezzar, was following his own agenda of empire-building.
The interpretation again
is that God permitted
the slaughter because the Jews had deserted Him and lost His
Presenting God as commanding the slaughter is a literary device to
the certainty of Jerusalem's fate and that it was just:
We saw from Isaiah 2 that the Bible advocates world peace. How then do we understand the extermination of the Canaanites? We'll study this another time. We'll see that that ancient conflict:
1 Followed ethical principles, which if generally heeded would have prevented all future massacres, genocides and invasions.
2 Followed, with some merciful amendments, the rules of war (or lack thereof) for those times.
3 Saved hundreds of
millions of future lives,
and brought "blessing" to "all the nations of the earth".
Anyone who claims the
Bible sanctions "barbarities"
ignores the larger context and is "hasty in his words". (Proverbs
Biblical Ethics - A Moral Morass
(Investigator 115, 2007 July)
I have read Anonymous'
related topic on page
46 of No. 114, and am unable to agree with him for reasons I shall now
Human sacrifice was practiced in ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Passages of Scripture do condemn it. However, this does not necessarily mean that it was eliminated from Israelite culture entirely.
Judges 11:30-31 is
clearly about human
sacrifice to God. The phrase "burnt offering" in this passage refers of
course to the sacrifice – Jephthah's daughter, a fact accepted by
For further information the interested reader is also referred to the following website:
Some apologists argue that God accepted this sacrifice to punish Jephthah for making the barbaric proposal. In my opinion, this does not absolve Yahweh. For example, suppose I was an anthropologist studying a primitive tribe, and that this tribe decided to sacrifice a maiden in my honour because of some assistance I had given them.
Now, let us further suppose that, after failing to dissuade them from their intention, I decide to let the ceremony proceed based on the principle that if the natives are so foolish as to practice human sacrifice, then I will let them kill the girl as a 'punishment' for their own folly.
Now, how many of my
readers accept this specious
reasoning as absolving me, let alone God?
How many of Investigator's female readers would be happy to marry the man who raped them? In ancient Israel a rape victim may well have been ostracised, but is having to marry her rapist really a sensible and humane solution?
Far better if the Bible
clearly taught it
was not the woman's fault, that ostracism was unjustified, and she was
worthy of respect regardless of what happened to her.
Anonymous attempts to exonerate God by saying he permits evil, rather than directly engaging in evil acts, such as killing children or ordering them to be killed. However, there is nothing in those passages of Scripture I have quoted relating to the killing of children that justifies this interpretation. God clearly and actively is either doing or ordering the killing.
If the authors of
Scripture meant something
other than what is plainly indicated, then they should have stated what
they meant in certain and unambiguous terms. It is not impossible for
to be done.
Firstly, when it comes to ethics, the Bible is a mixed bag – in it is good, but also evil. Anonymous quotes passages of Scripture that have a positive message. However, it's a bit like a lawyer giving a glowing testimonial of his client while ignoring the fact he has murdered three people with an axe.
Secondly, Anonymous has attempted to extricate Scripture from its moral morass by twisting the plain meaning of words and has, as far as I can see, offered no convincing justification for doing so.
Thirdly, if the Bible
really was the word
of an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect being, then these
apologetics would be completely unnecessary.
BIBLICAL ETHICS EXCELLENT
(Investigator 116, 2007
A FEW BUTTONS MISSING
In his book A Few
(1951) psychiatrist James Tucker Fisher wrote:
What work did Dr. Fisher
have in mind?
WEIZSAECKER and GANDHI
Carl F. von Weizsaecker
on Hitler's atomic bomb project. After WWII he became professor of
and of philosophy. His books The Responsibility of Science in the
Age, Paths in Danger, The Consequences and Prevention of
War, and The Threatened Peace exerted lasting
Weizsaecker was Germany's most prominent peace researcher and director
of the Max Planck Institute. To confront problems of war and
of nature he called on Christians for a "council of justice, peace and
the conservation of creation" based on principles from Jesus' Sermon on
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
was famous for
his non-violent struggle for India's independence. After the Round
Conference (1931-1932) Gandhi said to Lord Irwin, Viceroy to India:
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave great principles to live by and also endorsed other parts of the Bible. And the famous British statesman W. E. Gladstone (1809-1898) called the Bible, "the greatest and best gift ever given to mankind." (Knight 1956)
Given such positive
comment would we expect
the Bible to condone human sacrifice? Or would such a claim indicate
accuser has "A few buttons missing"?
K. Straughen (Investigator 113) claimed the Bible teaches that Jephthah, a judge near 1200 BC, sacrificed his daughter literally as "a burnt offering".
Straughen's claim is wrong and was answered in #114. Jephthah's phrase "as a burnt offering" is a figure of speech and refers to perpetual virginity and religious duties.
Straughen responded by citing others with the same misunderstanding as himself. Repeating an error, however, does not make it correct.
Furthermore, if one part of the Bible is misunderstood, other parts may clear things up. In Hebrews (11:32) Jephthah's faith is praised, and that's the answer. If Jephthah flouted the Law of Moses, which condemned human sacrifice, by literally sacrificing his daughter, he would not deserve praise. Even the Romans, despite their blood-soaked arenas considered human sacrifice barbaric!
What critics call
"contradictions" and "barbarities"
in the Bible can better be called "logical puzzles". They are
that seem incompatible but which further analysis reveal consistent.
people read them and see "barbarity" or "contradiction". Others
read them and get the
right answer. The
Jephthah story, and its seeming disagreement with Moses' Law, is like
With complex logic there
can't always be
"perfect clarity". But perfect clarity is not always the intention:
Straughen also repeated his criticism about Israeli women who were raped (when the Law of Moses was in force) having to marry the rapist. As explained (in #114) the idea was compensation. A raped woman in those times had little prospect of marriage, and faced childlessness and possibly starvation or prostitution.
However, the Law included clauses that allowed for negotiation. If the raped woman felt so revolted by the rapist that she preferred singleness and childlessness she might appeal to the command, "You must love your neighbour as yourself." Then, if her father consented, some other compensation might be agreed on.
There's also the
probability that a rapist
having to support his victim for the rest of her life effectively
NOT A MIXED BAG
Are biblical ethics, as Straughen claims, a "mixed bag"?
Suppose a new immigrant to Australia wants to know the rules he needs to follow in Australia. His instructor, however, gives him:
Used soberly the Bible helped destroy slavery, introduce modern science, outlaw widow burning and infanticide (#115), and inspired numerous laws that now enhance quality of life worldwide. These are matters of history.
Critics need to allow for
their own shortcomings
There are some things in them [Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (II Peter 3:16)
Dr. Fisher's life was reviewed in Time (1951) as The Man Who Knew Freud. He was born in 1864, herded cattle, turned to real estate, then studied at Harvard, and practiced psychiatry almost 50 years.
Did you guess what work
Dr. Fisher had in
mind in my opening quote? Here he tells us:
Fisher, J. T. and Hawley,
L. S. 1951 A
Few Buttons Missing: The Case Book of a Psychiatrist.
Knight, W. B. 1956 Knight's Master Book of New Illustrations.
Schirmacher, W. Allgemeine Zeitung, Mainz, 27 June 1987.
Stuber, S. I. & Clark, T. C. (Eds.) 1949 Treasury of the Christian Faith.
Biblical Ethics - A Final Reply
(Investigator 117, 2007
I have read Anonymous Biblical Ethics Excellent (Investigator 116) and am unable to agree with him.
Before I begin my analysis of his arguments I would like to make it clear that I do not, nor have I ever intended to give the impression that the Bible is wholly immoral – that would be an extreme and untenable position to adopt. However, what I do maintain is that parts of Scripture are morally reprehensible.
Having made my position as clear as I can, I shall now examine Anonymous' defence of the Bible, which begins with the scrutiny of his assertion that Scripture should be viewed as a kind of logical puzzle that has to be read in a certain way to "get the right Answer" (page 25).
I do not mean to offend, but to me this sounds like a case of special pleading – the old "God works in mysterious ways" argument. The Bible is alleged to be The Word of God – a document authored (through human hands) by an omniscient being, the creator of the Universe, an entity whose intellect is so vast that it is beyond human comprehension.
If this is so then the book should be easily understood, with little, if any, confusion concerning the meaning of its contents. Yet, when I examine Anonymous explanations that he alleges satisfactorily resolve Scriptural contradictions, I find them simply too convoluted to be plausible.
Further on in his essay, Anonymous suggests that critics "dig out whatever is not meant to be literally followed and claim this what the Bible teaches" (page 26).
In my own defence I simply point out that what I have done is to merely quote the Bible and draw what I think are logical conclusions from what is written therein. With regard to Jephthah's daughter – I can find nothing in the passages of quoted by myself and Anonymous that suggest the account be interpreted in a non-literal manner.
With regard to rape – I find nothing in the passage of Scripture I quoted (or that of Anonymous) that allows for negotiation, ongoing compensation payments to the victim, or that fines are an effective deterrent to the crime.
It seems to me that the criterion apologists use for determining if a passage of Scripture is to be interpreted literally or figuratively, is largely one of convenience – the choice is based on whatever will extract them from a difficulty.
When Anonymous comments
that I use quotes
to support my conclusions and that "repeating an error, however, does
make it correct" (page 25) I respectfully suggest that similar
can be reached concerning his own predilections.