Monday, May 23, 2011

Bill Maher, Osama bin Laden, church and state

A Facebook acquaintance challenges Christians to "try and refute this logic. Come on, I dare you", and then, irony of ironies, links to a Bill Maher video in which Maher tries to let us know that no true Christian would celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
Bill Maher never met a logical argument he couldn't avoid, but it has led to a discussion worthy of recapitulating.


Rhology: 
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/black-white-and-gray.html

Maher is a joke. I am always disappointed to see people quoting him like he has ever had a good idea.
The Bible has numerous examples of celebrating the death of evil men who persecute the people of God, and Jesus inspired the Bible. Bin Laden's entire mission in life was to destroy America, and he equated America with Christianity, b/c like most Muslims he never took the time to understand America.
The church did not kill OBL; America did.

Maher's logic has some soundness to it; too bad he never took the time to properly define the objects of his talk. He's shadowboxing.


C:
Rhology, as usual, I disagree. Perhaps the Bible contains examples of the people of God celebrating the death of the wicked, but God explicitly condemns this, even in the Old Testament. God is consistent throughout in his contempt for this sort of behavior. As usual, lots of people in the Bible do things that are contrary to the will of God, like celebrating the death of their enemies. But if they did, they were wrong. “As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 18:23). There are lot of other verses. But I think you get the point. Maher is spot on, like him or not.



Rhology:  He condemns SOME of them, and in others He is in fact the voice of celebration and festivity.
So what shall we conclude? The rightness of such celebration is dependent on something other than the brute fact of celebrating/not celebrating.

He is consistent, but not in the way you're thinking. Rather, He's consistent with respect to the types of people who died and the motivations for celebrating.
Maybe engage some of the texts I'm discussing.


C:
Maybe you could provide some texts for me to engage.



Rhology:
Sure.

Psalm 137:8-9 (RSV):

[8] O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall he be who requites you
with what you have done to us!
[9] Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

Psalm 2:
1Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3“Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!”
4He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.
5Then He will speak to them in His anger  And terrify them in His fury

Ps 7:9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.

Ps 9:4-6

4For You have maintained my just cause;
         You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
5You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
         You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
         And You have uprooted the cities;
         The very memory of them has perished.


Psalm 10:15Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer, seek out his wickedness until You find none.

Ps 58:99Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns
         He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.

10The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
         He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
         Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”

Prov 11: 10When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.  11By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.


C:
Good, I knew you would have no trouble finding them. Google is a wonderful thing. How did we ever use bible verses to prove opposite points before Google? It must have been a lot harder before. Well, two things. First, Jesus is unequivocal in the NT. He always condemned this sort of thing. And, since he was supposed to be God, or the son of God or something like that, I guess his opinion should take precedent. Right? Oh, and secondly: You just succeeded in illuminating one of many glaring contradictions found in the OT. Kill your enemies, or care for them? Who knows? Or maybe kill some of them and care for others. But if that were the case, why not just say so? Could it be that the OT supports both points of view because it was written by lots of different people with lots of different points of view? That would explain why God seems to condemn something in one verse and then condone it later. No fancy theological acrobatics needed.


Rhology:
--"How did we ever use bible verses to prove opposite points before Google? It must have been a lot harder before."

Haha, to be sure. I guess we actually had to use our brains and memory back then. :-D
The book of Hebrews is all about this - the author says several times "It says somewhere" and then quotes the Old Testament. But it stands to reason - he knew it said it but didn't have any verses or chapters to identify the reference. One of those funny things.

--"First, Jesus is unequivocal in the NT. He always condemned this sort of thing"

Where?

--" I guess his opinion should take precedent. Right?"

Properly understood, quite so. He is the final authority.

--"Kill your enemies, or care for them? Who knows?"

I know, and I know that it depends on the context.
Life is complex. Unlike the biased skeptic, I recognise that the Bible can refer to numerous different aspects of numerous different topics in 2000 pages of 6-point font.

(Continued...)

9 comments:

Tap said...

Hate to say it, but this atheist is actually right, at least in some sense. The NT should of course be read in light of the OT. Jesus words should always enlighting our understanding of the OT. Dashing their Childrens heads againts stone should be thought of in a spiritual manner against our spiritual enemies, pace : "against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness"(eph 6:12).

Said enough at this time, but i may elaborate on the different senses of Scripture at another time.

Rhology said...

Would you mind explaining why we should think of that Psalm in that way?

Tap said...

I have 2 links for you. i fear that i would not be able to elaborate any better than St. John Cassian has on the subject. First Link: Conference 14 Chapter 8 . In this he talks about the senses of scripture, i.e historical vs Spiritual>>tropologial-anagogical.e.t.c...
I suggest you read up until chapter 9 Titled "Of the manifold meaning of the Holy Scriptures" As he touches on some examples in between. It is a very short read.

After you've done that, we go backward in his narrative to provide a solid example
Second Link: Conference 5 Chapter 16 You'll notice the way these "nations" are thought of as faults.

Anyways read chapter 16 - 19, skip to Chapter 22 read 22 - 25. I suspect it might be hard for you to skip them though, its easier to just read it through though they are very short anyways, and cohere a lot better.

Tap said...

Correction the first link in the initial post:

Should start from here Conference 14 Chapter 8 The Chapter on Spiritual knowledge, unfortunately i linked to chapter 11, but read 8- through 11, my apologies

Tap said...

i think my last two post went into your spam filter. Second post was a correction on the link.

Rhology said...

Unspam-filtered them.
Thanks.

This is a bit concerning to me, however, because it is easy and very pleasing to the flesh to over-allegorise and over-spiritualise biblical texts to the point that they don't mean what they're supposed to mean but instead mean to us what we imagine them, to suit ourselves.

If all texts are to be taken allegorically, then the texts that are intended to be taken with that sense are drained of their meaning. Thus Galatians 4, for example, is nothing special.

The context must govern which texts are to be taken that way.
Are you arguing that the baby-dashing Psalm is to be taken ONLY in the way you said it, or are you saying that that's one of the various meanings of the passage?

Tap said...

The text have various meanings. i too am very weary of allegorizing texts to suit our meaning. For the ECFs the first reading of any text should be historical. That does not mean that a narrative that reads like history cannot be allegorical or in some way "histo-allegorical"

Now we both agree that God cannot contradict himself, at least if our metaphysical understanding of God's nature is the same(i assume it is.)
We both agree that Jesus is the God of the OT. If Jesus says love you enemies in one place and says in another kill your enemies, The nature of God being what it is, we'll assume that even though God is using the word "enemy" for two different "objects" they cannot be same sort of enemy.

If the NT is to make clearer the old, then the Little ones in that psalm will represent the Children, as St. Cassian explains, of those those major vices. (He gives a list on Chapter 2 Conference 5)

and Vice versa with the OT making clear the new:
So to take one example: Matthew 5:21-22. The passage without its proper spiritual reading seem over the top and unnecessarily hyperbolic, why would me being angry put me in danger of judgement? Well because Anger, will inevitable lead you to his 'children' whom st. Cassian says are murders, clamour and indignation. (conf. 5 Chap. XVI).

Now obviously you cannot allegorize every text, and your concern on that score are the same as mine. but you have to recognize that sometime as St. Cassian says, that"revelation" belongs to allegory whereby what is concealed under the historical narrative is revealed in its spiritual sense and interpretation." i don't want to turn this into a Catholic v protestant war. But you have to read the text "with the mind of the Church.

sorry for typos, didn't proof read

Rhology said...

That does not mean that a narrative that reads like history cannot be allegorical or in some way "histo-allegorical"

That's true.
The Psalm in question, on the other hand, is not a historical narrative.


we both agree that God cannot contradict himself

Yes.


We both agree that Jesus is the God of the OT.

Quite so.



If Jesus says love you enemies in one place and says in another kill your enemies

This is a bit skewed.
The OT command is to love one's neighbor, and then there are also those well-known commands to destroy an entire people group. The logical conclusion is that the definition of "neighbor" is not "any living person", you know? You hinted at that, but didn't get quite far enough.
Jesus' New Covenant kingdom is not a nation with borders and an army and a centralised location, not now. It was before, but not anymore. Thus now the command "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" finds its place in the way the church interacts with the world, but doesn't fit without qualification with the way OT Israel fit with the world.


If the NT is to make clearer the old, then the Little ones in that psalm will represent the Children, as St. Cassian explains, of those those major vices

Whoa, whoa, whoa. You skipped the connection! Why connect this Psalm to that particular NT passage?
Why not link it to, say, Jairus' daughter? She was a child. Or to Ephesians 6:1-2?



Matthew 5:21-22. The passage without its proper spiritual reading seem over the top and unnecessarily hyperbolic, why would me being angry put me in danger of judgement?

B/c being unjustifiably angry DOES condemn you. To Hell, specifically.

I think what I'm trying to get at is that I don't trust St John Cassian's abilities in exegesis, especially given his poor-quality defense of iconodulia, and I don't see the connection yet to what you've said.


But you have to read the text "with the mind of the Church.

The "mind of the Church" is a meaningless phrase, and the sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

A few thoughts.

1. Tap should read this, which makes a strong argument for exactly what Jesus was referring to by "enemies" in the Sermon on the Mount. Under this framework, there is no contradiction, or tension, between the imprecatory Psalms and the NT.

2. The imprecatory Psalms express the (rightful) desire of the believer to see God glorified, through judgment upon the wicked, unrepentant, unbeliever. They are a call for justice to be served, and for "things to be set straight," and not a selfish call for personal revenge, using God as a weapon. One can pray for the repentance of the wicked, and also pray that God will judge them (in the manner of the imprecatory Psalms) if they do not repent, and there is no contradiction in this.

3. In the same manner, one can rejoice in the death of the wicked, not taking pleasure in the death itself, but in its consequences. When the wicked dies, he is no longer able to propagate evil and injustice, and this is good. The death of the wicked means an opportunity for God to be glorified by good taking the place of what was once evil (i.e. just rulers in the place of unjust rulers, God-fearing men in the place of murderers, etc.), and this is something in which to rejoice. Hence, Prov. 11:10.

If the NT is to make clearer the old, then the Little ones in that psalm will represent the Children, as St. Cassian explains, of those those major vices. (He gives a list on Chapter 2 Conference 5)

I agree with Rho that Cassian's exegesis leaves much to be desired. I'd need to see an argument for the above assertion before I'd come anywhere close to accepting it.