Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Scriptural thoughts on intention

A few more thoughts on God directing how He shall be worshiped:

Isaiah 8:19-20
19When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter," should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?

20To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

1) Why would we assume that these who would consult mediums and spiritists did NOT have good intentions?
2) Note God does not refer the people to "their God and His holy ones who have died" or anything of the kind. This would have been a perfect time.
3) "Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?" is a fairly general, blanket statement. The answer is of course no - we should consult God. Which is the position I'm advocating.

Exodus 32:1-10

1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

2Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."

3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."

5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD."

6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

8"They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'"

9The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.

10"Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."

1) The people's intentions as stated were not to forsake the Lord, just Moses who had disappeared for a while.
2) Note the golden calf is referred to as "your god, O Israel, who brought you up..." It's representing God.
3) Note Aaron says that the next day would be a feast day unto the Lord.


Leviticus 10:1-3

1Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

2And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

3Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.'"
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.


Exodus 25:10-15

10"They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high.

11"You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.

12"You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it.

13"You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

14"You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.

15"The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it.
Here God gives instruction for how the Ark of the Covenant shall be transported. And the consequence of disobeying with good intention:


2 Samuel 6:2-7

2And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.

3They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

4So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.

5Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

6But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.

7And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

Uzzah's intention appears to have been to steady the ark and to keep it from falling. What a terrible thing to have the ark fall over!
And yet the Lord struck out in anger and wrath over the breaking of His instruction, despite the good intentions of David, Uzzah himself, no doubt the guys who lent the oxen and cart, the people in the procession, etc.

...

I asked: Then why act like you are [worshipping the icon]?

David Bryan said: Actually, we're simply honoring a man worthy of honor--something St. Paul tells us to do--in a way that was perfectly acceptable and normal for someone in St. Paul's day. We just happen to be using a tool (and that's all it is) to help us to do this bodily.

David Bryan said: Take it up with OT Israel, who gave "worshipful actions" to King David. Intentions, sir, are everything. As Orthodox has said, "What you can distinguish outwardly is not the issue."

David Bryan said: Because the distinction is made within the heart of the Christian. No Orthodox I've ever met thinks we're worshiping the wood and paint, period. We do these things, basically, because it's a physical, bodily way in which we can honor the one depicted. We do these things to the image because the one depicted is not there as s/he was in this life to receive the honor.


Acts 10:24-26
24On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends.

25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.

26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man."

Revelation 22:8-9

8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

9But he said to me, "Do not do that I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."

12 comments:

orthodox said...

R: "Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,"

O: Since we don't consult mediums and spiritists, I fail to see the connection.

R: "2) Note God does not refer the people to "their God and His holy ones who have died" or anything of the kind. This would have been a perfect time."

O: Agreed. Mediums and spiritists are wrong.

R: 2) Note the golden calf is referred to as "your god, O Israel, who brought you up..." It's representing God.

O: We discussed this before. I pointed out that the commentaries give a number of interpretations, and you didn't refute the others. Assuming your interpretation is the only correct one, when it isn't even the only Protestant one is very weak.

R: Here God gives instruction for how the Ark of the Covenant shall be transported. And the consequence of disobeying with good intention:

O: But bowing down to the king is NOT disobedience with good intention. It's a case where intention is part of the criteria for determining obedience.

R: 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.

26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man."

O: Clearly Cornelius had improper intentions. Can the same be said for those who bowed down to David? Nope. Neither can the same be said for Orthodox who are extremely clear in the distinction between the Holy Trinity and men.

Rhology said...

Orthodox said:

Since we don't consult mediums and spiritists, I fail to see the connection.

WHY are we not to consult them?
B/c they make contact with dead people.
What is the difference between using a medium to talk to a dead Christian and praying thru an icon to a dead Christian?


I pointed out that the commentaries give a number of interpretations, and you didn't refute the others.

Where?


But bowing down to the king is NOT disobedience with good intention.

It's funny that you forgot so quickly, but we're talking about the Ark of the Covenant here.
Mind responding to the point?


It's a case where intention is part of the criteria for determining obedience.

Not in the case of the Ark of the Cov. OBEDIENCE had everything to do with it, and intention was irrelevant.

Clearly Cornelius had improper intentions.

Oh yes, it's obvious to everyone.
This is called eisegesis. The man was

Neither can the same be said for Orthodox who are extremely clear in the distinction between the Holy Trinity and men.

Except when you render worshipful reverences to dead people.

David Bryan said...

"This would have been a perfect time."

You've used this argument for years, my friend, and I never liked it, even when we were in high school together. Wouldn't it have been the "perfect time" for God to tell Job "why bad things happen to good people" when He appeared to him? Yet He didn't; He just basically said, "I'm God. Shh!" Does He not have a good reason for what He does?

St. Paul lists a bunch of stuff to the Ephesians about how the Church is to be built up, yet never once mentions Scripture in that litany. Wouldn't it have been the "perfect time" for that, as the Scriptures are, of course, indispensable for that?

Arguments from silence don't work. I know you know this. Why, after all these years, do you continue to make them?

"Note the golden calf is referred to as 'your god, O Israel, who brought you up...' It's representing God. Note Aaron says that the next day would be a feast day unto the Lord."

I quoted Col. 1:15 HERE. God has never looked like a cow. That lessens Him. However, He Himself has made an image of Himself. Now that He has, images of Him (icons of Christ and those who bear Him in themselves--something also unheard of in the OT) are no longer inappropriate.

Regarding strange fire and the Ark: I'd like to ask: which do you think we are to be compared to: are we neo-pagans bringing worship of false gods or images into worship of the true God, a la the staff of Moses, or are we to be compared to people doing the right thing in the wrong way? Here, in the examples of strange fire and the Ark, we have Israelites, responding to the God of Israel, in a way contrary to that which has been explicitly laid down. This is much different than the charges above, so either identify us as pagan or Christian, then respond with appropriate examples.

I'm serious here; not trying to be dismissive.

Acts 10:24-26

Were you not aware that pagan Romans saw messengers of gods as quasi-divine? St. Peter was correcting this. You can see the same thing happen in Acts when ppl start sacrificing to the apostles when they healed ppl. The apostles knew what they were thinking, and reacted appropriately: they were horrified, for they knew folks were turning them into gods. Not glorified humans, not even humans infused with the glory of God (like the saints), but gods themselves.

Revelation 22:8-9

St. John was overwhelmed and gave to the angel what was due to God alone. He was corrected, for he'd just seen things that God had made and given glory to a created angel.

How is this the same thing as "giving honor to whom honor is due"--which we do to saints who have indeed, through their labors (labors filled with grace, but theirs nonetheless), endured to the end, received crowns, and been lights to show us the way to Christ?

You know what, though? Asking that question isn't really going to do us any good, as you think they're dead, we don't, and until we all stop talking past each other on this point, it's all going to be pointless anyway.

orthodox said...

R: WHY are we not to consult them?
B/c they make contact with dead people.

O: Not according to the text. The text says that the problem is that these mediums give false testimony that is not according to the law of God.

R: O: I pointed out that the commentaries give a number of interpretations, and you didn't refute the others.

Where?

O: Many scholars have suggested that the calves were really the Egyptian cow god "Apis", which would have been well known to them in captivity of the Egyptians. Other scholars have thought the calves were associated with Baal who was sometimes called the "calf".

The text doesn't say it represents Yahweh, and even if it did this would clearly be a false image of God. Idolatry is in essence a false picture of God. This has nothing to do with images of the saints.

R: O: But bowing down to the king is NOT disobedience with good intention.

It's funny that you forgot so quickly, but we're talking about the Ark of the Covenant here.
Mind responding to the point?

O: The point is that intention is part and parcel of some issues, and not others. Disobedience concerning handling the ark is a matter of facts. But disobeying the commandment to "love the lord your God with all your heart and soul" is about intention. In the same way, idolatry is about having a false understanding of God. I'm sure even you can think of a scenario where it is ok to bow down to a golden calf. We have a board game about sheep farming with little plastic sheep. When I drop one, I bow down to pick it up. I'm sure you will realise that intention is important.

R: O: Clearly Cornelius had improper intentions.

Oh yes, it's obvious to everyone.
This is called eisegesis.

O: Well what is YOUR alternative? The people bowed down to David in a religious context - not idolatry. Cornelius bowed down - bad. If you can't tell us the distinction, then your theology is lacking.

David Bryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhology said...

Hi guys,

Ooops, I'll recomment on an older comment... I didn't see it, forgot it was there, and just already wrote my response.
Since it includes some different material, I'll let it stay.

Orthodox said:
Since we don't consult mediums and spiritists, I fail to see the connection.

Why act like you do if you don't?
The whole point is that consulting mediums and spiritists is prohibited. So is talking to dead people. So is worshipful piety directed towards any other than God.

But bowing down to the king is NOT disobedience with good intention.

Bowing down to the king is irrelevant to this discussion b/c it's not done in the CONTEXT OF WORSHIP.
Nobody was bowing down to the king in the temple.
Nor were they sacrificing animals to the king.

Clearly Cornelius had improper intentions.

1) You can't know that from the passage.
2) All we know is that Cornelius bowed down to Peter and Peter told him not to. Why? He's just a man. But it's somehow OK to bow down to Peter now that he's dead!


David Bryan said:
Argument from silence

Part of the problem for your position is that any argument you could make from an even remotely Scriptural standpoint is an argument from "it's not prohibited" or "the saints aren't REALLY dead", etc. Arguments from silence.

Wouldn't it have been the "perfect time" for God to tell Job "why bad things happen to good people" when He appeared to him?

1) This is a poor analogy b/c God explains explicitly why it WOULDN'T be a good time to explain that to him.
2) OTOH, God directs His people in how to worship Him in explicit ways in the Scripture.

yet never once mentions Scripture in that litany. Wouldn't it have been the "perfect time" for that, as the Scriptures are, of course, indispensable for that?

Since it's mentioned abundantly elsewhere, why would he have to?
Taken back to the icon question, since it's NEVER mentioned...

Why, after all these years, do you continue to make them?

Well, just to set your mind a little more at ease (though probably not totally), I don't consider this a major point. But I do consider it a minor point that works.


God has never looked like a cow.

Neither has God ever looked like a cubist figure, holding up some fingers with a halo over his head, leg bent in an arc at the fibula.
Note however that Aaron says that the next day would be a feast TO THE LORD, not to some other god.
Just to clarify for the reader - this doesn't speak at all to the propriety of icons of people other than Jesus...

which do you think we are to be compared to: are we neo-pagans bringing worship of false gods or images into worship of the true God, a la the staff of Moses, or are we to be compared to people doing the right thing in the wrong way?

You are doing the wrong thing in the wrong way. Bowing down to dead people and communicating with them is proscribed in the Bible. Period.
If you *intend* to worship God, then worship Him. This is not too much to ask - people do it the right way to GOD all the time.
As I've been pointing out, the intention of the heart in worship is great and necessary, but so is the methodology! There's a reason why God proscribes images of dead people and communication with them and demands that worshipful piety be offered to Him alone. If you act like pagans and communicate with the dead, don't act like it's my fault.

Here, in the examples of strange fire and the Ark, we have Israelites, responding to the God of Israel, in a way contrary to that which has been explicitly laid down.

Somehow talking to dead people doesn't fulfill the same description. I'm kind of amazed here.

so either identify us as pagan or Christian

I'll identify your PRACTICE as having a great deal in common with pagan practice.

Were you not aware that pagan Romans saw messengers of gods as quasi-divine? St. Peter was correcting this.

I understand that, yes.
But on what basis will you tell me that, now that he's dead, Peter would be OK with you bowing down before him and offering worshipful piety to him?

St. John was overwhelmed and gave to the angel what was due to God alone. He was corrected, for he'd just seen things that God had made and given glory to a created angel.

Bingo and bingo.

How is this the same thing as "giving honor to whom honor is due"--which we do to saints who have indeed, through their labors (labors filled with grace, but theirs nonetheless), endured to the end, received crowns, and been lights to show us the way to Christ?

B/c you are BOWING DOWN TO THEM IN A CONTEXT OF WORSHIP.

you think they're dead, we don't

I don't care what you or any other uninspired human thinks.
There's a reason why the Scripture makes the explicit distinction between dead and living. Saying "they're alive in Christ" is irrelevant to this discussion b/c you also obviously think their relationship with us who are living is different. That's what I was pointing out when I asked if you ask for prayer from a living church member in the same way you ask for prayer from a dead saint. You don't; you agree with me but won't admit it.


Orthodox said:
The text says that the problem is that these mediums give false testimony that is not according to the law of God.

Couldn't've said it better myself.

The text doesn't say it represents Yahweh, and even if it did this would clearly be a false image of God. Idolatry is in essence a false picture of God. This has nothing to do with images of the saints.

It has plenty to do with intention vs practice.
Aaron intended the calf to take part in a "feast day unto the LORD" the next day. But he didn't escape rebuke from God.

The point is that intention is part and parcel of some issues, and not others.

To be applied or ignored wherever you like, no doubt.

In the same way, idolatry is about having a false understanding of God.

It's also apparently about worshiping God in the wrong way. That's my point.

When I drop one, I bow down to pick it up.

In church? With incense, bowing down intentionally with pious intent, communicating with the dead through it?
This is equivocation again. It's getting excessive.

The people bowed down to David in a religious context - not idolatry. Cornelius bowed down - bad.

The people did NOT bow down to David in a religious context, that's the point. I'd add that the text records THAT it took place, neither explicitly approving nor disapproving of the action.

Peace,
Rhology

David Bryan said...

Lots to wade through here. Everybody seems to be getting snarky, so I'll just respond, then bow out.

"Part of the problem for your position is that any argument you could make from an even remotely Scriptural standpoint is an argument from "it's not prohibited" or "the saints aren't REALLY dead", etc. Arguments from silence."

I've quoted the Lord Himself saying that God is the God of the living, not the dead; I've quoted Him saying that Abraham and the martyrs were aware of things on earth; the participation of saints and angels in offering our prayers to God has been mentioned, and Heb. 11 makes mention of the cloud of witnesses surrounding us. I've mentioned how we have come (not just will come) to the heavenly Jerusalem and the heavenly saints, and how our life is hidden now with Christ in God, so, in my view, the Scriptural witness to a link between those in this life and those in the next being much stronger than what you allow for is quite present. You disagree with my conclusions, and I can see why. But please don't think I'm arguing from silence.

"I don't consider this a major point. But I do consider it a minor point that works."

If it works for you, all right. But convincing yourself was not your intention, I'm guessing.

"But on what basis will you tell me that, now that he's dead, Peter would be OK with you bowing down before him and offering worshipful piety to him?"

(1) He's not dead.
(2) He's now been deified by the Holy Spirit, and therefore
(3) He concedes to it because God is glorified through him.

ME: "How is this the same thing as 'giving honor to whom honor is due'..."

YOU: "B/c you are BOWING DOWN TO THEM IN A CONTEXT OF WORSHIP."


You said that's what happens w/David (the "I can see that" concession). You also said it wasn't what happens (bottom of that link), though, so I'm not sure of your actual position. I think it's in the same context of worship, personally, so I fail to see the conflict.

"Saying 'they're alive in Christ' is irrelevant to this discussion b/c you also obviously think their relationship with us who are living is different."

When one has been deified by God's all-Holy Spirit, things are different than when one has not. So, sure, I concede that my veneration and "intercessory relationship" with those in the Church glorified is different from the one with those in the Church militant, even though both groups are venerated and asked for prayers (and honored with respective honor, I might add). You don't want to take deification into account, so we'll just be talking past each other. I thought it was fruitful to point out our different pov's, regardless.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

Rhobocop, David Bryan is like WAYYYY smarter than you. You ought to listen to him, dude. :-)

Rhology said...

Hey man,

I happily concede the point on which of us is smarter (and who has the better-looking blog!).

Look, you've quoted them but I've responded, showing how they don't indicate what you say.

've mentioned how we have come (not just will come) to the heavenly Jerusalem and the heavenly saints, and how our life is hidden now with Christ in God

All that's fine, I agree.

(1) (Peter) is not dead.
(2) He's now been deified by the Holy Spirit, and therefore
(3) He concedes to it because God is glorified through him.


1) Anyone can see that a significant change both in him and in our relationship with him has taken place.
Again, that's why, even though God is the God of the living and the dead, God prohibited contact with the dead in the OT.
Even the phrase "the living and the dead" by itself presupposes that there are 2 categories - 1) living; 2) dead.
Perhaps you think the phrase actually means "God is the God of the living and the living"?

2&3) So the position hangs strongly on theosis. OK, that's good to know.
As an aside, I wonder how the Roman Catholic would respond to this since he doesn't really hold to the same concept of theosis as you...

I think it's in the same context of worship

So the Biblical accts picture people worshiping humans? OK...

You don't want to take deification into account, so we'll just be talking past each other. I thought it was fruitful to point out our different pov's, regardless.

Yes, I agree.
ISTM the distinctions of appropriate action that the Bible itself makes are sufficient to deal with that, theosis or no theosis.

Peace,
Rhology

David Bryan said...

"I happily concede the point on which of us is smarter (and who has the better-looking blog!)."

You're very kind.

"Look, you've quoted them but I've responded, showing how they don't indicate what you say."

And I've disagreed, though I'd concede that although they indicate the Orthodox view, they don't spell it out. Regardless, there we both stand.

"As an aside, I wonder how the Roman Catholic would respond to this since he doesn't really hold to the same concept of theosis as you..."

If you ever start a conversation with one so knowledgeable as to comment on that, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

"DB: 'I think it's in the same context of worship'

'So the Biblical accts picture people worshiping humans?'"


Well, yes and no. In the way "worship" is defined in classical English, yes. We still call some judges "Your Worship" in some parts of the English-speaking world. Worship used to be what we call honor for humans, as well as glory to God.

In common use today, though, no, the biblical accounts don't show us worshiping humans, as we would say today that "worship" is due to God alone. What it does tell us is that God is perfectly fine with our giving a nod of honor to a worthy human during a worship service to God. If this was true of an undeified David in this life, what of those "righteous spirits made perfect"?

"ISTM the distinctions of appropriate action that the Bible itself makes are sufficient to deal with that, theosis or no theosis."

What if it were not ruled out immediately that theosis (along with its ramifications) is itself one of those distinctions?

Rhology said...

Hey DB,

What if it were not ruled out immediately that theosis (along with its ramifications) is itself one of those distinctions?

I honestly don't think it makes a difference, b/c you'd be assuming that God knew (no duh!) that He'd be theosizing His people when they die, yet He *ALSO* proscribes the actions under discussion here.
And we don't become God in the same way God is God on theosis, so I don't see why the distinction would thus become unimportant.

David Bryan said...

"I honestly don't think it makes a difference, b/c you'd be assuming that God knew (no duh!) that He'd be theosizing His people when they die, yet He *ALSO* proscribes the actions under discussion here."

Actually, the people He would be deifying hadn't been deified in the least in the OT. That was part of the "spirits of the righteous made perfect" thing that was waiting for the new covenant. So I can see how death would be a much more foreboding barrier pre-resurrection. Much less was known re: "where" the departed were in Sheol, the nature of things, etc. Now, though, things have been much illumined.

"And we don't become God in the same way God is God on theosis, so I don't see why the distinction would thus become unimportant."

Well, true, we don't become gods in our very nature, but we are called to become by God's grace everything that Christ is by nature, so it's not unreasonable for us to think (though you'd disagree, but at least I think you'd think we'd be...well, consistent in our wrongness) that God would designate His holy ones (who see Him as He and have become like Him) to do His bidding in His name for the glory of God and the furtherance of His holy Church.