Actor Stephen Fry’s “Evil God” Video Critiqued (Re-Edited)

Firstly, the original video from William Lane CraigReasonable Faith should be the place to comment and thank Dr. Craig for his [body] of work… not my video edit (which I explain a bit below).


For more clear thinking like this from Dr. William Lane Craig, see his site: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/


I changed a couple things from the original video (https://youtu.be/XG35_ZJP0BM).

FIRST I knocked the opening intro volume down some DBs… people like me that may be up late watching this stuff while my wife is asleep in the next room and then have this *BLARE* creates bad blood between husband and wife. (Fellas’ you know what I am talking about… can you give me an “AMEN!”)

The audio from Fry’s video used was horrible… like they were recording the sound from the laptop, fixed that with the inclusion of the video of Stephen Fry’s interview — something that offers a better visualization of what Dr. Craig and Kevin Harris are viewing for audience inclusion and clarity.

Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?

Description of the above video:

  • If there is a God, why is there so much evil? How could any God that cares about right and wrong allow so much bad to happen? And if there is no God, who then determines what is right and what is wrong? The answers to these questions, as Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft explains, go to the heart of ethics, morality and how we know what it means to be a decent person.

The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.

[….]

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 13, 38.

Description of the above video:

  • Isn’t human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful God must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can “suffering” exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, God exists. In five minutes, learn more.

Description of the above video:

  • A student asks a question of Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University, and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture. This is an updated version to my original post (http://youtu.be/4EeOvWdHGaM). I truncated the beginning as well as editing the volume of the initial question. I also added graphics and text quotes into the audio presentation. Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.

Description of the above video:

  • Is evil rational? If it is, then how can we depend on reason alone to make a better world? Best-selling author Dennis Prager has a challenging answer.

Description of the above video:

  • Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.

EVERY ONE HAS HEARD people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–‘That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

(accuser) “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”

(responder) “Your right, I apologize.”

(accuser) “That’s my seat, I was there first!”

(responder) “Your right, you were. Here you go.”

(accuser) “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine.”

(responder) “Oh gosh, I forgot, here you go.”

(accuser) “Come on, you promised.”

(responder) “Your right, lets go to the movies.”

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law–with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are color-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced! If they had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put Yourself first. selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, 1 apologize to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money–the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done–well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it–and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much–we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so–that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 17-21.

After reading that portion of CLASSIC Lewis, here is some thoughts from a philosopher that I disagree with on many points (he is an atheist after all), but he argues well for the following, even if later rejecting it:

If the reader is not familiar with Mere Christianity, I would urge him or her to buy it. The first chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. It is a brilliant piece of psychology. In it, Lewis sums up two crucial aspects of the human condition. We can see the first aspect in the passage quoted. Human beings do quarrel in the way Lewis describes. We are moral agents who cannot help feeling that there are some things we ought to do, and that there are other things we ought not to do. We believe, sometimes despite ourselves, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that there are certain principles of conduct to which we and all other human beings ought to adhere. In our dealings with other people we constantly appeal to those principles. We are quick to notice when others violate them. We get defensive and make excuses when it appears that we have violated them ourselves. We get defensive even when no one else is around. We accuse ourselves when no else does, and we rationalize our behavior in front of our consciences just as we would in front of another person. We cannot help applying to ourselves the principles we firmly believe apply to all. To use Alvin Plantinga’s term, the belief in morality is basic. Even when we reject that belief in our theoretical reasoning, it comes back to haunt us at every turn. We can never really get away from it. There is a reason why our legal system defines insanity as the inability to tell right from wrong: people who lack that ability have lost an important part of their humanity. They have taken a step down towards the level of beasts.

Even if, in our heart of hearts, we all believe in morality, we do not necessarily share the exact same moral values. Differences regarding values are at least a part of what we quarrel about. Yet Lewis correctly recognizes that our differences in this area never amount to a total difference. The moral beliefs human beings entertain display broad cross-cultural similarities. Ancient Egyptians did not appreciate having their property stolen any more than we do. A brother’s murder, a wife’s infidelity, or a friend’s betrayal would have angered them, just as it angers us. Human nature has not changed much for tens of thousands of years. It does not change at all when one travels to the other side of the globe.

I did not believe Lewis the first time I read him, or even the second time. This idea, that there is a fundamental underlying unity to the moral fabric of humanity, is a hard one to accept. Think about those suicidal fanatics who crashed planes into the World Trade Center. They “knew” they were doing the right thing, that Allah would reward them in heaven with virgins galore. How radically different from our own values the values of some Muslims must seem! Yet there is common ground. Even the most militant Muslims despise thieves, cheats, and liars, just as Christians. Jews, and atheists do. They value loyalty and friendship. just as we do. They love their children and their parents. just as we do. They even condemn murder, at least within their own societies. It is only when they deal with outsiders like us that some of them may seem like (and in fact, be) monsters. To distinguish between insiders and outsiders, and to treat the latter horribly, is actually not so unusual in human history. Expanding one’s “inside group” until it encompasses all of humanity is something of an innovation. When we consider all this, the moral gulf between us and them does not seem so unbridgeable. Our admittedly great differences occur against a background of fundamental similarities. Similarities guaranteed by the fact that we are all stuck being human. So it seems Lewis was right, despite my earlier skepticism. Universal moral themes can and do underpin the diversity of our moral opinions.

[….]

Moral statements, then, cannot be mere matters of taste and opinion. They essentially involve an appeal to principles that transcend both the wishes of any one individual, and the customs of any one culture or society. That there are such principles, and that we cannot really escape from them, are points Lewis successfully illuminates. It thus seems very plausible to suppose that when our moral statements appeal to these principles in an appropriate and rational manner, they deserve to be called truths.

Andrew Marker, The Ladder: Escaping from Plato’s Cave (iUniverse.com, 2010), 108-110, 111-112.

Concepts: Life and Death Matters (Misdefining God’s Attributes)

Firstly, as I am want to point out, John Van Huizum often gets ideas, precepts, and others understanding of a subject woefully wrong. Take for instance this small portion of a recent article by him entitled “A Question of Life and Death” (click to enlarge). 

“These words” in John’s limited understanding ~ wrongly attributing to God ~ that no “clergy” themselves attribute to God are the crux of the issue. And I do not post the many excerpts to follow to prove John wrong. I post them in the hopes that John reads what most clergy themselves study. Enjoy this seminary level reaction to attributing to God one’s own ignorance of a topic:

God’s Love and Justice—A Point of Tension?

We have looked at many characteristics of God, without exhausting them by any means. But what of the interrelationships among them? Presumably, God is a unified, integrated being whose personality is a harmonious whole. There should be, then, no tension among any of these attributes. But is this really so?

The one point of potential tension usually singled out is the relation­ship between God’s love and his justice. On one hand, God’s justice seems so severe, requiring the death of those who sin. This is a fierce, harsh God. On the other hand, God is merciful, gracious, forgiving, long-suffering. Are not these two sets of traits in conflict with one an­other? Is there, then, internal tension in God’s nature?[10]

If we begin with the assumptions that God is an integrated being and the divine attributes are harmonious, we will define the attributes in the light of one another. Thus, justice is loving justice and love is just love. The idea that they conflict may have resulted from defining these at­tributes in isolation from one another. While the conception of love apart from justice, for example, may be derived from outside sources, it is not a biblical teaching.

What we are saying is that love is not fully understood unless seen as including justice. If love does not include justice, it is mere senti­mentality. The approach that would define love as merely granting what someone else desires is not biblical. It runs into two difficulties: (1) Giving someone what would make him or her comfortable for the moment may be nothing more than indulging that person’s whim—such action may not necessarily be right. (2) This is usually an emo­tional reaction to an individual or situation that is immediately at hand. But love is much wider in scope—it necessarily entails justice, a sense of right and wrong, and all humankind. As Joseph Fletcher has correctly shown, justice is simply love distributed.[11] It is love to all one’s neighbors, those immediately at hand and those removed in space and time. Justice means that love must always be shown, whether or not a situation of immediate need presents itself in pressing and vivid fashion. Love in the biblical sense, then, is not merely to in­dulge someone near at hand. Rather, it inherently involves justice as well. This means there will be a concern for the ultimate welfare of all humanity, a passion to do what is right, and enforcement of appropri­ate consequences for wrong action.

Actually, love and justice have worked together in God’s dealing with the human race. God’s justice requires that there be payment of the penalty for sin. God’s love, however, desires humans to be restored to fellowship with him. The offer of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sin means that both the justice and the love of God have been maintained.

And there really is no tension between the two. There is tension only if one’s view of love requires that God forgive sin without any payment being made. But that is to think of God as different from what he really is. Moreover, the offer of Christ as atonement shows a greater love on God’s part than would simply indulgently releasing people from the consequences of sin. To fulfill his just administration of the law, God’s love was so great that he gave his Son for us. Love and justice are not two separate attributes competing with one another. God is both righ­teous and loving, and has himself given what he demands.[12]

[10] Nels Ferre, The Christian Understanding of God (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951), pp. 227-28.

[11] Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966), pp. 86-102.

[12] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971 re­print), vol. 1, pp. 377-78.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1998), 323-325.

II. GOD THE REDEEMER OF SINNERS

While reiterating the teaching of nature as to the existence and character of the personal Creator and Lord of all, the Scriptures lay their stress upon the grace or the undeserved love of God, as exhibited in his dealings with his sinful and wrath-deserving creatures. So little, however, is the consummate divine attribute of love advanced, in the scriptural revelation, at the expense of the other moral attributes of God, that it is thrown into prominence only upon a background of the strongest assertion and fullest manifestation of its companion attributes, especially of the divine righteousness and holiness, and is exhibited as acting only along with and in entire harmony with them. God is not represented in the Scriptures as forgiving sin because he really cares very little about sin; nor yet because he is so exclusively or predominatingly the God of love, that all other attributes shrink into desuetude in the presence of his illimitable benevolence. He is rather represented as moved to deliver sinful man from his guilt and pollution because he pities the creatures of his hand, immeshed in sin, with an intensity which is born of the vehemence of his holy abhorrence of sin and his righteous determination to visit it with intolerable retribution; and by a mode which brings as complete satisfaction to his infinite justice and holiness as to his unbounded love itself. The biblical presentation of the God of grace includes thus the richest development of all his moral attributes, and the God of the Bible is consequently set forth, in the completeness of that idea, as above everything else the ethical God. And that is as much as to say that there is ascribed to him a moral sense so sensitive and true that it estimates with unfailing accuracy the exact moral character of every person or deed presented for its contemplation, and responds to it with the precisely appropriate degree of satisfaction or reprobation. The infinitude of his love is exhibited to us precisely in that while we were yet sinners he loved us, though with all the force of his infinite nature he reacted against our sin with illimitable abhorrence and indignation. The mystery of grace resides just in the impulse of a sin-hating God to show mercy to such guilty wretches; and the supreme revelation of God as the God of holy love is made in the disclosure of the mode of his procedure in redemption, by which alone he might remain just while justifying the ungodly. For in this procedure there was involved the mighty paradox of the infinitely just Judge himself becoming the sinner’s substitute before his own law and the infinitely blessed God receiving in his own person the penalty of sin.

B.B. Warfield, Selected Short Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970), 71-72.

(5) The ‘water and the blood’ of Christ, who thereby Himself overcame the world, is our power of victory (1 John 5 :4-6) . This depends on a right doctrine of the cross. Christianity in integrity means the orthodox Christology of Nicea and Chalcedon and the vicarious satisfaction of divine justice at Calvary, i.e. propitiation of the divine wrath as well as expiation of the evil of sin. Nothing can set the conscience free from the accusation of conscience and consequent weakness at the emotional and ethical center unless the sinner, having been made aware of the debt of sin he owes to God, is also made aware the debt has been paid in full by the vicarious sacrifice of the God-man at Calvary. There is no Christian moral victory without conviction that ‘Jesus paid it all.’ (See previous comments on revelation at Calvary and discussion of reconciliation and propitiation.) Francis Pieper commenting on ‘Christianity as the Absolute Religion’ says, `[T]he Christian religion is absolutely perfect because it is not a moral code instructing men how to earn the forgiveness of sin themselves, but rather it is faith in that forgiveness which was gained through Christ’s vicarious fulfillment of the Law and his substitutionary suffering of our punishment.’[10] Luther spoke often of this. As Calvin also remarked, our assurance that ‘God remains kindly disposed and favorable to our works is not grounded in some nebulous belief in the loving character of God, but specifically the love of God manifested at Calvary.’

`God’s unconditional love’ may be an unfortunate expression. I think it is. Calvary proves God’s love is great, but not unconditional at all. ‘[Y]ou hate all evildoers’ (Ps. 5:5); ‘The LORD is in his holy temple… his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence’ (Ps. 11:4, 5). ‘There are six things that the LORD hates…’ (Prov. 6:16-19— including a false witness and ‘one who sows discord among brothers’). God does not love the reprobate, as such, at all and He loves no one unconditionally. Even the elect He loves conditional upon His grace, which for reasons known only to H Him has not been equally extended to everyone on earth, granted the gospel is addressed to all without distinction. Let the unconvinced read the passages in Scripture about the eternal state of the lost and God’s jealous anger over unrestrained and unpunished murderers, idolaters, fornicators, etc. See notes herein on ‘sin to high heaven’ in hamartiology.

10. Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics i (St Louis: Concordia Publ., 1950s), pp. 33-40.

Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005), 590-591. I highly suggest the section on “Universalism” on pp. 1088-1091.

GOD’S JEALOUSY AND PERFECTION

Two more of God’s moral attributes are jealousy and perfection. Admittedly, jealousy is a surprising attribute, yet it is one of only a few that the Bible declares is God’s “name,” a distinctive title of one of God’s essential characteristics. In fact, this raises the unique problem (discussed below) as to why what is a sin for creatures is a moral attribute of God.

THE DEFINITION OF GOD’S JEALOUSY

The root meanings of the basic Old Testament word for “jealous” (kan-naw) are “to be desirous of,” “to be zealous about,” “to be excited to anger over,” and “to execute judgment because of.”

The Bible speaks of man’s jealousy (“zealous envy,” “angry fury”) in many places. It talks of being jealous of one’s brother (Gen. 37:11); of having jealousy over a wife (Num. 5:14); of jealousy leading to rage (Prov. 6:34); of jealousy being as cruel as death (Song 8:6 Nagy); of jealousy and selfish ambition ( James 3:16); and of Paul’s jealous zeal for the church (2 Cor. 11:2—see below, under “An Objection to God’s Jealousy”).

As will be shown (in the texts cited below), jealousy is used of God in terms of His holy zeal and His angry wrath. God has holy zeal to protect His supremacy, and God has angry wrath on idolatry and other sins.

THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR GOD’S JEALOUSY

God’s jealousy can be understood by looking at its nature, its subject, and its object.

The Nature of God’s Jealousy

God’s jealousy carries the connotation of anger, fury, and wrath. Anger (Deut. 29:20): “The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.” Fury (Zech. 8:2): “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’ ” Wrath (Isa. 42:13): “The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his ene­mies.”

The Subject of God’s Jealousy

God’s jealousy is vented on images, idols, other gods, and other sins. Images (Ps. 78:58): “They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.” Idols (1 Cor. 10:19-22): “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. . . . Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?” Other gods (Deut. 32:16): “They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.” Other sins (1 Kings 14:22): “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done.”

The Object of God’s Jealousy

The object of God’s jealousy is first and foremost His own nature, then His name, His people (Israel), His land (the Holy Land), and His city ( Jerusalem). His own nature (Ex. 34:14): “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” His name (Ezek. 39:25): “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.” His people (Zech. 8:2): “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’ ” His land ( Joel 2:18): “Then the LORD will be jeal­ous for his land and take pity on his people.” His city (Zech. 1:14): “Pro­claim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.’ “

THE THEOLOGICAL BASIS FOR GOD’S JEALOUSY

A combination of other attributes forms the basis for God’s jealousy. Foremost among these is God’s holiness; God is particularly jealous about preserving His own uniqueness. Of course, all of God’s attributes are unique and comprise the one infinite, absolutely perfect, and supreme God. The theological argument for God’s jealousy can be formulated as follows:

(1)     God is unique and supreme (see His metaphysical attributes—chap-ters 2-12).

(2)     God is holy, loving, and morally perfect (see His moral attributes—chapters 13-17).

(3)     Hence, God is uniquely and supremely holy, loving, and morally perfect.

(4)     Whatever is supremely holy, loving, and perfect is to be preserved with the utmost zeal.

(5)     God’s jealousy is His zeal to preserve His own holy supremacy.

(6)     Therefore, He is eminently justified in His jealousy. Indeed, it is essential to His very nature: His name is Jealous (Ex. 34:14).

THE HISTORICAL BASIS FOR GOD’S JEALOUSY

The Early Church Fathers on God’s Jealousy

Although not one of the more noted attributes of God, His jealousy did not go unnoticed by the early church Fathers. There are considerable ref­erences to God’s jealousy.

Justin Martyr

They sacrificed to demons whom they knew not; new gods that came newly up, whom their fathers knew not. Thou hast forsaken God that begat thee, and forgotten God that brought thee up. And the Lord saw, and was jealous, and was provoked to anger by reason of the rage of His sons and daughters. . . . They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked Me to anger with their idols; and I will move them to jealousy with that which is not a nation, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish people. For a fire is kindled from Mine anger, and it shall burn to Hades. (DJ, 119 in Roberts and Donaldson, ANF, I)

Irenaeus

It is therefore one and the same God the Father who has prepared good things with Himself for those who desire His fellowship, and who remain in subjection to Him; and who has the eternal fire for the ring­leader of the apostasy, the devil, and those who revolted with him, into which [fire] the Lord has declared those men shall be sent who have been set apart by themselves on His left hand. And this is what has been spoken by the prophet, “I am a jealous God, making peace, and creating evil things”; thus making peace and friendship with those who repent and turn to Him, and bringing [them to] unity, but preparing for the impenitent, those who shun the light, eternal fire and outer darkness, which are evils indeed to those persons who fall into them. (AH, 4.40.1 in ibid., I)

Tertullian

Even His severity then is good, because [it is] just: when the judge is good, that is just. Other qualities likewise are good, by means of which the good work of a good severity runs out its course, whether wrath, or jealousy, or sternness. For all these are as indispensable to severity as severity is to justice. The shamelessness of an age, which ought to have been reverent, had to be avenged. Accordingly, qualities which pertain to the judge, when they are actually free from blame, as the judge him­self is, will never be able to be charged upon him as a fault. (FBAM, 2.216 in ibid., III)

Cyprian

There is no ground, therefore, dearest brother, for thinking that we should give way to heretics so far as to contemplate the betrayal to them of that baptism, which is only granted to the one and only Church. It is a good soldier’s duty to defend the camp of his general against rebels and enemies. It is the duty of an illustrious leader to keep the standards entrusted to him. It is written, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God” (EC, 72.10 in ibid., 5.787, V).

The Medieval Fathers on God’s Jealousy

Augustine

For Him doth “the friend of the bridegroom” sigh, having now the first-fruits of the Spirit laid up with Him, yet still groaning within him­self, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body; to Him he sighs, for he is a member of the Bride; for Him is he jealous, for he is the friend of the Bridegroom; for Him is he jealous, not for himself; because in the voice of Thy “waterspouts,” not in his own voice, doth he call on that other deep, for whom being jealous he feareth, lest that, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so their minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in our Bridegroom, Thine only Son. (C, 13.13 in Schaff, NPAT, 1.1)

Ineffable is therefore that patience, as is His jealousy, as His wrath, and whatever there is like to these. For if we conceive of these as they be in us, in Him are there none. We, namely, cancel none of these without been set apart by themselves on His left hand. And this is what has been spoken by the prophet, “I am a jealous God, making peace, and creating evil things”; thus making peace and friendship with those who repent and turn to Him, and bringing [them to] unity, but preparing for the impenitent, those who shun the light, eternal fire and outer darkness, which are evils indeed to those persons who fall into them. (AH, 4.40.1 in ibid., I)

Tertullian

Even His severity then is good, because [it is] just: when the judge is good, that is just. Other qualities likewise are good, by means of which the good work of a good severity runs out its course, whether wrath, or jealousy, or sternness. For all these are as indispensable to severity as severity is to justice. The shamelessness of an age, which ought to have been reverent, had to be avenged. Accordingly, qualities which pertain to the judge, when they are actually free from blame, as the judge him­self is, will never be able to be charged upon him as a fault. (FBAM, 2.216 in ibid., III)

Cyprian

There is no ground, therefore, dearest brother, for thinking that we should give way to heretics so far as to contemplate the betrayal to them of that baptism, which is only granted to the one and only Church. It is a good soldier’s duty to defend the camp of his general against rebels and enemies. It is the duty of an illustrious leader to keep the standards entrusted to him. It is written, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God” (EC, 72.10 in ibid., 5.787, V).

The Medieval Fathers on God’s Jealousy

Augustine

For Him doth “the friend of the bridegroom” sigh, having now the first-fruits of the Spirit laid up with Him, yet still groaning within him­self, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body; to Him he sighs, for he is a member of the Bride; for Him is he jealous, for he is the friend of the Bridegroom; for Him is he jealous, not for himself; because in the voice of Thy “waterspouts,” not in his own voice, doth he call on that other deep, for whom being jealous he feareth, lest that, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so their minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in our Bridegroom, Thine only Son. (C, 13.13 in Schaff, NPNF, 1.1)

Ineffable is therefore that patience, as is His jealousy, as His wrath, and whatever there is like to these. For if we conceive of these as they be in us, in Him are there none. We, namely, cancel none of these without molestation: but be it far from us to surmise that the impassible nature of God is liable to any molestation. But like as He is jealous without any dark­ening of spirit, wroth without any perturbation, pitiful without any pain, repenteth Him without any wrongness in Him to be set right; so is He patient without aught of passion. (OP, 1 in ibid., 1.III)

Because “the Lord our God is a jealous God,” let us refuse, whenever we see anything of His with an alien, to allow him to consider it his own. For of a truth the jealous God Himself rebukes the woman who commits fornication against Him, as the type of an erring people, and says that she gave to her lovers what belonged to Him, and again received from them what was not theirs but His. In the hands of the adulterous woman and the adulterous lovers, God in His wrath, as a jealous God, recognizes His gifts; and do we say that baptism, consecrated in the words of the gospel, belongs to heretics? (BAD, 3.19.25 in ibid., 1.IV)

The Reformation Leaders on God’s Jealousy

Martin Luther

“For Him Who once drowned the whole world in the Flood and sank Sodom with fire, it is a simple thing to slay or to defeat so many thousands of peasants. He is an almighty and terrible God” (WL, 4.226).

God says: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” Now, God is jeal­ous in two manners of ways; first, God is angry as one that is jealous of them that fall from him, and become false and treacherous, that prefer the creature before the Creator; that build upon the favors of the great; that depend upon their friends, upon their own power—riches, art, wis­dom, etc.; that forsake the righteousness of faith, and contemn it, and will be justified and saved by and through their own good works. God is also vehemently angry with those that boast and brag of their power and strength; as we see in Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who boasted of his great power, and thought utterly to destroy Jerusalem. . . .

Secondly, God is jealous for them that love him and highly esteem his word; such God loves again, defends and keeps as the apple of his eve, and resists their adversaries, beating them back that they are not able to perform what they intended. Therefore, this word jealous com­prehends both hatred and love, revenge and protection; for which cause it requires both fear and faith; fear, that we provoke not God to anger, or work his displeasure; faith, that in trouble we believe he will help, nourish, and defend us in this life, and will pardon and forgive us our sins, and for Christ’s sake preserve us to life everlasting. (TT, 135-36)

John Calvin

But though in every passage where the favour or anger of God is mentioned, the former comprehends eternity of life and the latter eternal destruction, the Law, at the same time, enumerates a long cata­logue of present blessings and curses (Lev. xxvi. 4; Deut. xxviii. 1). The threatenings attest the spotless purity of God, which cannot bear iniq­uity, while the promises attest at once his infinite love of righteousness (which he cannot leave unrewarded), and his wondrous kindness. Being bound to do him homage with all that we have, he is perfectly entitled to demand everything which he requires of us as a debt; and as a debt, the payment is unworthy of reward. He therefore foregoes his right, when he holds forth reward for services which are not offered sponta­neously, as if they were not due. (ICR, 1.8.4)

Jacob Arminius

Hatred is an affection of separation in God; whose primary object is injustice or unrighteousness; and the secondary, the misery of the crea­ture: The former is from “the love of complacency”; the latter, from “the love of friendship.” But since God properly loves himself and the good of justice, and by the same impulse holds iniquity in detestation; and since he secondarily loves the creature and his blessedness, and in that impulse hates the misery of the creature, that is, He wills it to be taken away from the creature; hence it comes to pass, that He hates the creature who perseveres in unrighteousness, and He loves his misery. (WJA, II.44)

The Post-Reformation Theologians on God’s Jealousy

Jonathan Edwards

Those who come to Christ need not be afraid of God’s wrath for their sins; for God’s honor will not suffer by their escaping punishment and being made happy. The wounded soul is sensible that he has affronted the majesty of God, and looks upon God as a vindicator of his honor; as a jealous God that will not be mocked, an infinitely great God that will not bear to be affronted, that will not suffer his authority and majesty to be trampled on, that will not bear that his kindness should be abused. (WJE, 376)

For we see that when men come to be under convictions, and to be made sensible that God is not as they have heretofore imagined, but that he is such a jealous, sin-hating God, and whose wrath against sin is so dreadful, they are much more apt to have sensible exercises of enmity against him than before. (ibid., 1021)

William G. T Shedd

There is a kind of wrath in the human soul that resembles the wrath of God, and constitutes its true analogue. It is the wrath of the human conscience, which is wholly different from that of the human heart. That kind of anger is commanded in the injunction “Be ye angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Were this species of moral displacency more often considered, and the Divine anger illustrated by it, there would be less of the common and unthinking opposition to the doctrine of the Divine wrath. (DT, 176)

Stephen Charnock

God is a jealous God, very sensible of any disgrace, and will be as much incensed against an inward idolatry as an outward: that command which forbade corporeal images, would not indulge carnal imagina­tions; since the nature of God is as much wronged by unworthy images, erected in the fancy, as by statues carved out of stone or metals. (EAG, 1.198)

J. I. Packer

God’s jealousy is not a compound of frustration, envy and spite, as human jealousy so often is, but appears instead as a [literally] praisewor­thy zeal to preserve something supremely precious.

Zeal to protect a love relationship or to avenge it when broken [is a good sort of jealousy]. This jealousy also operates in the sphere of sex; there, however, it appears not as the blind reaction of wounded pride but as the fruit of marital affection. As Professor Taylor has written, mar­ried persons “who felt no jealousy at the intrusion of a lover or an adul­terer into their home would surely be lacking in moral perception; for the exclusiveness of marriage is the essence of marriage” [The Epistle of James, 106]. This sort of jealousy is a positive virtue, for it shows a grasp of the true meaning of the husband-wife relationship, together with a proper zeal to keep it intact. . . . God’s jealousy is of this kind; that is, as an aspect of his covenant love for his people. The Old Testament regards God’s covenant as his marriage with Israel, carrying with it a demand for unqualified love and loyalty.

From these passages we see plainly what God meant by telling Moses that his name was “Jealous.” He meant that he demands from those whom he has loved and redeemed utter and absolute loyalty, and he will vindicate his claim by stern action against them if they betray his love by unfaithfulness. (KG, 170-71)

AN OBJECTION TO GOD’S JEALOUSY

Objection One—Based on an Alleged Inconsistency

This objection points to an apparent inconsistency: Why is jealousy right for God but wrong for us? All other moral attributes of God we are asked to emulate: God is love, and we should be loving (1 John 4:19); God is holy, and we should be holy (Lev. 11:45). Why, then, if God is jealous, should we not also be jealous?

Response to Objection One

The answer to this objection is simple: There is no inconsistency; jeal­ousy can be right sometimes and wrong at other times. Wrong jealousy for us is about being jealous for what does not belong to us. God cannot ever be jealous of what does not belong to Him, since He owns everything. Psalm 24:1 declares: “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Deuteronomy 32:21 adds, “They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Everything belongs to God, even the things He has entrusted to the care of others; hence, it is not right for us to be jealous about what is not ours. Jealousy, as such, is not evil; what is evil is being jealous about what is not ours. Therefore, there is no inconsistency in it being right for God to be jealous for our affection (which belongs to Him) and it being wrong for us.

Note, however, that not all jealousy is wrong for human beings—godly jealousy is right. For example, Paul’s jealousy for the church was commend­able. He wrote, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Cor. 11:2). Likewise, there is nothing wrong with a husband having appropriate jealousy over his wife (or vice versa), since she belongs to him (cf. Num. 5:14) and he to her.

Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: Introduction: Bible, vol. I (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 338-345.

Atheists Challenge to Biblical Ethics (2 Kings 2:23-25)

~ See near the bottom, Joshua and the Canaanites.

“Cursed them – Nor was this punishment too great for the offence, if it be considered, that their mocking proceeded from a great malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man, and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence; and a prophet; but even God himself, and that glorious work of God, the assumption of Elijah into heaven; that they might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew; and were guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death; that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that, if any of these children were more innocent, God might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken away from that education which was most likely to expose them not only to temporal, but eternal destruction. In the name – Not from any revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission. God did this, partly, for the terror and caution of all other idolaters and prophane persons who abounded in that place; partly, to vindicate the honour, and maintain the authority of his prophets; and particularly, of Elisha, now especially, in the beginning of his sacred ministry. Children – This Hebrew word signifies not only young children, but also those who are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22, 34:4, 37:30, Ruth 1:5.”

~ Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible by John Wesley [1754-65] (Source)

I was in a recent [now not so recent] debate about Biblical cruelty/ethics and the person brought up a verse that has not been brought up in conversation with me yet. It provided a fun learning curve on a specific verse and topic that opened up culture and manners of the early Biblical leaders and prophets of Israel. Mind you the person — involved in the debate — could not ground his presumed premise that this act would be morally wrong. In other words, without a Divine Law that both he and I can access to know an act was truly wrong, so I pointed to the idea that rape is really [if this skeptics position was correct] a natural outgrowth of a species surviving. I speak to this a bit in a chapter from my book:

How does the “carnal” person deal with the unnatural order of the homosexual lifestyle? Since it is a reality it is incorporated into their epistemological system of thought or worldview.[1] Henry Morris points out that the materialist worldview looks at homosexuality as nature’s way of controlling population numbers as well as a tension lowering device.[2] Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous;[3] rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success.[4]

[….]

Ethical Evil?

The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically.[5] Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival.[6] Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo.[7]


[1] Worldview: “People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions. ‘As a man thinketh, so he is,’ is really profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it. People are apt to look at the outer theater of action, forgetting the actor who ‘lives in the mind’ and who therefore is the true actor in the external world. The inner thought world determines the outward action. Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true. When all is done, when all the alternatives have been explored, ‘not many men are in the room’ — that is, although worldviews have many variations, there are not many basic worldviews or presuppositions.” Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1976), 19-20.

[2] Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 136.

[3] Remember, the created order has been rejected in the Roman society as it is today. This leaves us with an Epicurean view of nature, which today is philosophical naturalism expressed in the modern evolutionary theories such as neo-Darwinism and Punctuated Equilibrium.

[4] Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), 71, 163. See also: Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).

[5] Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 208-209.

[6] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2002), 162-163.

[7] Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 176-180.

Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism [matter is all that exists, nothing beyond nature exists]. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

The debater never engaged his a priori assumptions. This being said, I want to deal with the verse at hand we discussed. The important presumptive idea behind dealing with any literary work is to understand how one is to approach a text of antiquity. I deal with this quite well in a paper on the matter, and any apologist should become familiar with this idea (click the latte). Using the principles involved in the Aristotelian dictum, let us try and figure this seemingly horrid verse.

2Kings 2:23-25

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,

✦ The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times;
✦ Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times;
✦ An Introduction to the Old Testament;
✦ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament;
✦ Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament;
✦ A Popular Survey of the Old Testament;
✦ New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties;
✦ Hard Sayings of the Bible;
✦ When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.

I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.)

The word Hebrew translated here as “children” (na’ar) often means official or servant and doesn’t necessarily even refer to age at all. Mephibosheth’s servant Ziba is referred to as na’ar (2 Samuel 16:1), yet he has fifteen sons. The man that Boaz has positioned as boss over his fieldworkers is na’ar—not a position one grants to children (Ruth 2:5-6). The word na’ar is translated as “servant” over fifty times (roughly a fifth of the times it appears in Scripture).

(Source)

Three big points stuck out from texts I reviewed:


1) “LITTLE KIDS”

“Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15…these are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible)

2) HARMLESS TEASING/PUBLIC SAFETY

A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense.” It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive toward respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

The harmless “teasing” was hardly that–they were direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):

“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt….Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

3) ELISHA’S MISSION-HELPING NEEDY

The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry–his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

MORE CAN BE FOUND HERE:

Elisha and the Lads of Bethel
Question…wasn’t Elisha very cruel when he sent those bears against those little kids who were teasing him about being bald?
Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker: Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


All good stuff, but something is missing. During the course of the debate I pieced together some truths, using culture and history as keys to a “crime scene.” Again, I want to stress what some of the habits were in this small town where this group of people came from:

Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity represented as an upright, bull-headed idol with human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose arms a child was placed that would be burnt to death. It was not just unwanted children who were sacrificed. Plutarch reports that during the Phoenician (Canaanite) sacrifices, “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries and wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 177.

This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story.

I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israels history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.

What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. Take note of the below as well.

I posted multiple images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple cultural accoutrements that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. He wouldn’t have been alone either, in other words, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention. So we know from cultural history the following:

  1. He would have had a head dressing on — some sort of turbin;
  2. and he would have had an entourage of men to dissuade any attack or mistreatment of a priest of Israel on a journey.

One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.

Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him ~ as already mentioned, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above ~ as already mentioned.

QUESTION:
So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume?

ANSWER:
That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald.

Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.

✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties;
✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books);
✔ they were from a violently cultic city;
✔ the crowd was large;
✔ the crowd had already turned violent.

These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.

Your welcome.

I do want to end this post by inviting you to read an excellent treatment of this topic over at TrueFreeThinker: “Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker : Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


Joshua and the Canaanites


This is an update of sorts, and it deals with the idea that God ordered ALL persons to be destroyed (men, women, and children) in the book of Joshua. But is this the directive from God? Scripture does not support this idea as a whole, and we shall take this journey together to find a solution to a seemingly tough subject.

There is a very important principle involved with reading the Bible… it is one of the first things taught to seminarians as well as layman. And it is this:

  • “The Bible interprets the Bible.”

It is that simple. Now of course there are some other basics one must account for as they mature as a Christian, see my post on hermeneutics for instance. But let’s start with that simple sentence above. We will take a short quote from the larger portions that will end this small caveat. The book is by Paul Copan, and is entitled: Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

(May I also recommend this article, a summary of Copan’s three chapters from his book: “How Could God Command Killing the Canaanites?“)

Here is the excerpt with the portion highlighted:

The books of Joshua and Judges suggest that taking the land included less-than-dramatic processes of infiltration and internal struggle. Israel’s entrance into Canaan included more than the military motif. Old Testament scholar Gordon McConville comments on Joshua: we don’t have “a simple conquest model, but rather a mixed picture of success and failure, sudden victory and slow, compromised progress.”

Likewise, Old Testament scholar David Howard firmly states that the conquest model needs modification. Why? Because “the stereotypical model of an all-consuming Israelite army descending upon Canaan and destroying everything in its wake cannot be accepted. The biblical data will not allow for this.” He adds that the Israelites entered Canaan and did engage militarily “but without causing extensive material destruction.”

I will repeat that: “The Biblical data will not allow for this.” Another short excerpt taken from pages 170-171 reads thus:

Notice first the sweeping language in Joshua 10:40: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” Joshua used the rhetorical bravado language of his day, asserting that all the land was captured, all the kings defeated, and all the Canaanites destroyed (cf. 10:40-42; 11:16-23: “Joshua took the whole land . . . and gave . . . it for an inheritance to Israel”). Yet, as we will see, Joshua himself acknowledged that this wasn’t literally so.

Scholars readily agree that Judges is literarily linked to Joshua. Yet the early chapters of Judges (which, incidentally, repeat the death of Joshua) show that the task of taking over the land was far from complete. In Judges 2:3, God says, “I will not drive them out before you.” Earlier, Judges 1:21, 27-28 asserted that “[they] did not drive out the Jebusites”; “[they] did not take possession”; “they did not drive them out completely.” These nations remained “to this day” (Judg. 1:21). The peoples who had apparently been wiped out reappear in the story. Many Canaanite inhabitants simply stuck around.

Some might accuse Joshua of being misleading or of getting it wrong. Not at all. He was speaking the language that everyone in his day would have understood.

As you read on you will notice that God seems to contradict Himself, so does Joshua. UNLESS there is a cultural explanation that 21st century geeks do not notice. Again, I write more in-depth on this here.

That all being said, here are a few pages from the selected chapter. And may I say that the three chapters on the Canaanites were so enlightening. Why? Because they opened up the Scriptures more by dealing with what seem to be inconsistencies in Scripture but are explained well by Scripture. the following few pages show this to be the case, that is, exegesis (click each page to enlarge… if you right click your mouse and choose, “Open Lin In New Tab,” you will be able to enlarge the text dramatically — for older eyes):

(AGAIN, click to enlarge)

Dr. William Lane Craig Fields a Question About God`s Omniscience

This was originally found on YouTube (youtu.be/​69dbNQ7QVJw), but the audio was atrocious. So I fixed it and uploaded it here for others to use. Enjoy, it is Dr. Craig at his best — Q&A. I have posted on this before, belowis a paper and a Power Point Presentation:

Can God Make A Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It?

Power Point – Can God Make a Rock So Big That

Some Systematic Theology on Gods Love (for clarity in conversation elsewhere)

To the original question:

If God created us out of love, is love higher than God? Why would he desire something unless he did not have it, or was it above him and wanted to improve?

I think you are missing a key theological ingredient here. The Holy Trinity. Systematic Theology, Vol II: God,Creation:

• Love Is Trifold

“God is Love” (1 John 4:16), and love involves three elements: A lover, a beloved, and a spirit of love. These three are one. One advantage of this example is that it has a personal dimension, in that love is something only a person does.

There is a lot to consume below. Remember, you asked for theology, theology begins with the assumption of God’s existence, as is entailed in your question. I will first excerpt a smaller portion of a larger chapter dealing with this topic from a favorite systematic theology text. You should at some point purchase this set as it will go through historical theology in a systematic way giving you a proper — historical — view of that which you speak (instead of setting straw men up… not on purpose, but merely due to lack of knowledge to that which you disagree. Enjoy. Remember, this is merely to add to your understanding, which I assume the question has as its goal. Also, I scanned all this in so there may be a mis-scan of a word or two, so if you read a sentence that is garbled, you know why.

Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, vol. I (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 122-125.

Previous titles before this discussion were: The Compassion of God; God is Love; Agape and Eros;.

Titles after this section: The Court, the Temple, and the Family; Grace and Mercy: The Forbearance and Kindness of God; Conclusion: The Blessedness of God.

Consummate Love

God’s perfect love is viewed in the Johannine letters in the context )of history’s end. The end of history is understood in the light of Jesus’ resurrection, which anticipates the end and through which believers can share in the end and therefore the meaning of history.

He who dwells in love is dwelling in God, and God in him. This is for us the perfection of love, to have confidence on the day of judgement; and this we can have, because even in this world we are as he is. There is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear. (1 John 4:16, 18)

Despite all the distortions of human loving, the faithful are enabled by grace to experience perfect love in the form of hope, viewed in relation to the end time. Perfection in love is precisely to have confidence in the work that God is working in Christ. That means, for  Christians, that perfect love lives out of a deep affinity with faith. For perfect love is none other than “to have confidence” in God’s redemptive work perfect love we can have. For it is within our reach, enabled by grace, to trust in God’s love (Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection, NPNF 2 V, pp. 450-54; On Perfection, FGG, pp. 83, 84; Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection VI, CWST II, pp. 26 ff.).

God is holy love. Holiness and love point directly to the center of the character of God. In God’s holiness all of God’s moral excellences are summed up and united. In God’s love, God’s holiness is manifested in relation to creatures (Augustine, On Nature and Grace, 84, NPNF 1 V, p. 151). God loves by desiring to impart holiness to creatures. The circle of this love is complete only with the answering love of the beloved, when the creature’s heart and life joyfully reflect the beauty of God’s holiness (Pss. 29:2; 96:9; Augustine, On Psalms XCVI, NPNF 1 VIII, pp. 472-74).

Holiness and Love Brought Together in Atonement

We must anticipate, at this pivotal juncture in the discussion of divine attributes, the issues of atonement to be thoroughly treated later in discussing salvation. But they pertain necessarily to this discussion, for where are we better able to recognize the coalescence of holiness and love than in the atoning work of God the Son? Atonement is the act of reconciliation (making “at-one”) that Jesus as mediator effected by his death for the redemption of humanity, satisfactorily repairing the breach between God and humanity caused by sin.

Keep in mind that the holiness and love made known in Jesus Christ is nothing other than God’s own holiness and love (Athanasius, Incarnation of the Word IV.6-16, NPNF 2 V, pp. 39-45). Christ is the once-and-for-all manifestation of the holy love of God that belongs to the essential definition of God, which is so crucial to God’s character that it is rightly called the pivot of the moral attributes of God.

Holy love is most radically beheld in God’s treatment of sin, especially in the cross of Christ, but this does not imply that prior to human fallenness these qualities were not melded in the divine character. Holy love is attested by Scripture of God from the beginning. The “Lamb that was slain” fulfills a promise set forth “since the world was made” (Rev. 13:8), even “before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20).

Expressing the eternal purpose of God, the atonement in Jesus Christ occurred as a historical event, as a sentence of execution, a death, and a risen life. It is especially through beholding and respond­ing to this salvation event, Jesus Christ, that Christians have come to understand the holy love of God and the relation between God’s holiness and God’s love. As it was the love of God that sent the only Son (John 3:16), it was the holiness of God that required the satisfaction of divine justice through the sacrifice of the Son. These two themes are brought together powerfully in the first Johannine letter: “The love I speak of is not our love for God, but the love he showed to us in sending his Son as the remedy for the defilement of our sins” (1 John 4:10; John Chrysostom, Horn. on John XXVII, XXVIII, NPNF 1 XIV, pp. 93-99; Augustine, Horn. on the First Epis. of John VII, NPNF 1 VII, pp. 501-5; Enchiridion XXXII, LCC VII, pp. 411, 412).

Similarly in Paul’s letters, it is precisely in God’s act of love that God’s righteousness and holy justice “has been brought to light” (Rom. 3:21). “It is God’s way of righting wrong, effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith—all without distinction” (v. 22; Luther, Comm. on Galatians, ML, pp. 109-15). Although holiness and love are not one and the same attribute, since there is a real difference between them, nonetheless they are unified in the cross of Christ, where love is the way holiness communicates itself under the condi­tions of sin and holiness loves with an unsullied, undefiled love (Clem­ent of Alex., Instr. 1.9, ANF II, pp. 228-32).

Wherever holiness is spoken of in Scripture, love is nearby; wher­ever God’s love is manifested, it does not cease to be holy. Neither holiness nor love alone could have sufficed for the salvation of sinners (Anselm, Cur Deus Homo I, BW, pp. 178 ff.). For love without holiness would not be just in ignoring the offensiveness of sin, and holiness without love would not be able to effect the reconciliation.

But God’s holy love bridges the gulf. “It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us; that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NAB). At times God’s holiness seems to take the leading role in reconciliation, such as when Paul wrote that “God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his sacrificial death, effective through faith” (Rom. 3:25), yet that very faith immediately speaks of “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts” by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5, Kw).

It is God’s holiness that elicits divine anger at sin. For “men pre­ferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Yet this is preceded by the proclamation that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16, RSV). The most profound New Testament moral injunctions hold together God’s holiness and love precisely as they had become manifested in Christ: “Live in love as Christ loved you, and gave himself up on your behalf as an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God” (Eph. 5:2; cf. Igna­tius, Letter to Ephesians I, ANF I, pp. 49 ff.). The mystery and power of this fragrance is to be found precisely in the delicately balanced dialectic of holiness and love.

Although God’s holiness detests sin, the motive of reconciliation is God’s love for the sinner, which is so great that it is willing to pay the costliest price to set it aright. That God loves sinners does not imply that God any less resists sin. Yet in Christ, finally “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13; Tho. Aq., ST I Q21, I, pp. 117 ff.). Holy love is manifested by the Father, through the intercession of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Augustine, On Trin. VIII.7, NPNF 1 HI, pp. 122, 123; cf. Pope, Compend. I, p. 352).

 

Here is theologian A.H. Strong’s input on the matter from his Systematic Theology (1886):

2. Mercy and Goodness, or Transitive Love.

By mercy and goodness we mean the transitive love of God in its twofold relation to the disobedient and to the obedient portions of his creatures.

Titus 3:4 —”his love toward man” ; Rom. 2:4 —”goodness of God” ; Mat 5:44, 45 —”love your enemies . . . . that ye may be eons of your Father” ; John 3:16 —”God so loved the world” 2 Pet, 1:3 —”granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” ; Rom. 8:32 —”freely give us all things” ; I John 4:10 —”Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

(a) Mercy is that eternal principle of God’s nature which leads him to seek the temporal good and eternal salvation of those who have opposed themselves to his will, even at the cost of infinite self-sacrifice.

Mortensen: “Viewed in relation to sin, eternal love is compassionate grace.” God’s continual impartation of natural life is a foreshadowing, in a lower sphere, of what be desires to do for his creatures in the higher sphere — the communication of spiritual and eternal life through Jesus Christ. When he bids us love our enemies, he only bids us follow his own example.

(b) Goodness is the eternal principle of God’s nature which leads him to communicate of his own life and blessedness to those who are like hi in moral character. Goodness, therefore, is nearly identical with the love of complacency ; mercy, with the love of benevolence.

Notice, however, that transitive love is but an outward manifestation of Immanent love. The eternal and perfect object of God’s love is in his own nature. Men become subordinate objects of that love only as they become connected and identified with its principal object, the image of God’s perfections in Christ. Only in the Son do men become sons of God. To this is requisite an acceptance of Christ on the part of man. Thus it can be said that God imparts himself to men just so far as men are willing to receive him. And as God gives himself to men, in all his moral attributes, to answer for them and to renew them In character, there is truth in the statement of Nordell (Examiner, Jan. 17, 1884) that “the maintenance of holiness is the function of divine justice; the diffusion of holiness is the function of divine love.” We may grant this as substantially true, while yet we deny that love is a mere form or manifestation of holiness. Self-Impartation is different from self-affirmation. The attribute which moves God to pour out is not Identical with the attribute which moves him to maintain. The two ideas of holiness and of love are as distinct as the idea of integrity on the one hand and of generosity on the other. Park : “God loves Satan, in a certain sense, and we ought to.” Shedd: “This same love of compassion God feels toward the non-elect; but the expression of that compassion is forbidden for reasons which are sufficient for God, but are entirely unknown to the creature.” The goodness of God is the basis of reward, under God’s government. Faithfulness leads God to keep his promises; goodness leads him to make them.

 

And here is a response by a theologian to similar streams of thought within Christianity. Systematic Theology, Volume 1: The God Who Is: The Holy Trinity, by Douglas F. Kelly.

The divine love is not deficient without human love

In an otherwise fine chapter on ‘God is love’, Moltmann seems to limit God’s lordship in yet another way, when he says that: ‘In this sense God “needs” the world and man. If God is love, then he neither will nor can be without the one who is his beloved.’ But this is to neglect the foundational truth that within the Trinity there is the fullest, most satisfying, and complete interchange of love amongst the three holy Persons, so that God does not stand in need of anything from His creatures. It is profoundly and encouragingly true that ‘God will not be without us’, but that is based on the generosity of His grace, not His need. As Barth says in another context: ‘There is total sovereignty and grace on the part of God, but total dependence and need on the part of man.’

And as Staniloae has shown, the fully sufficient divine love within the Trinity does not stand in need of, nor is it somehow made complete by created human love. Instead, it is the foundation of all human love:

From eternity the divine persons remain perfect, for their love is that perfection of love which is not able to increase the communion among them. Were this not the case, the origin of all things would have begun from utmost separation, from absence of love. Love, however, presupposes a common being in three persons, as Christian teaching tells us…This unperfected love [i.e. of humans] between us presupposes, however, the perfect love between divine persons with a common being. Our love finds its explanation in the fact that we are created in the image of the Holy Trinity, the origin of our love. From supernatural revelation we know that God is essence subsisting in three persons. But nothing like this exists in the created order, and even if it did exist, it would differ wholly from the tripersonal subsistence of the infinite and uncreated essence. Hence, even expressed in this way, it remains a mystery.

To say, as Moltmann does, that God ‘will not be without us’, who are His beloved, is profoundly true, and should be grounds for much rejoicing 2′ But His creation of us and His determination not to be without us, are the overflow of His infinitely generous love. They do not point to a defect in the God who has always existed in the most joyful and fulfilling inner-personal relationships within the one divine Being.

Jonathan Edwards (about 1722) expressed well the perfect eternal joy and beatitude in God, apart from and prior to the creation rTo some degree, he uses the Idealist language of his century to do so, but his content is biblically faithful to who God always is:

The image of God which God infinitely loves and has his chief delight in, is the perfect idea of God. It has always been said that God’s infinite delight consists in reflecting on himself and viewing his own perfections or, which is the same thing, in his own perfect idea of himself, so that ’tis acknowledged that God’s infinite love is to and his infinite delight [is] in the perfect image of himself. But the Scriptures tell us that the Son of God is that image…

The perfect act of God must be a substantial act…The perfect delights of reasonable creatures are substantial delights, but the delight of God is [much more] properly a substance, yea, an infinitely perfect substance, even the essence.

The Holy Spirit is the act of God between the Father and the Son, infinitely loving and delighting in each other: If the Father and the Son do infinitely delight in each other, there must be an infinitely pure and perfect act between them, an infinitely sweet energy which we call delight. This is certainly distinct from the other two…It is distinct from each of the other two, and yet it is God. It is in the Spirit that God is eternal and pure act.”

Father Justin Popovitch (1894-1979) has expounded the eternal beatitude and perfectly fulfilled love within the Godhead, prior to any of His external works:

1) Beatitude [makariotes] is, ceaselessly and immutably, the eternal sensation that God has of Himself. It comes from His living of all the divine perfections as the essence of His Being. It is because He possesses an absolute plenitude of all the perfections which are His, ipso facto perfect blessedness. The perfect and immutable harmony of all the properties of the divine Being means that God is perfectly and immutably happy. This is why God is the only Blessed One, the Sole Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15). As the divine beatitude is a permanent, uninterrupted state – since it does not come to God from anything outside Himself – it cannot either diminish or increase, or alter. Having always possessed in their perfect plenitude all eternal blessings, God is ever happy in equal measure, whether men worship Him or not…

2) Love [‘agape] is that property of the divine sensibility by which God lives in Himself and faces the world outside Himself. According to the teaching of divine revelation, not only does God love, but He is love. In Him, being and love are one and the same thing. On that is founded the good news of the Gospel of Christ: God is love [‘o theos agape estin] (1 John 4:8)…