Monday, September 29, 2008

Christ our Hope... OT Appendix

The following is a response I wrote to a comment on a previous post. Someone suggested I make it a post of its own, so here it is.

The commenter wrote: "It is not congruent with a pacifist deity." [Here it references some actions of God in the OT, specifically death of the first born at Passover and "wiping out" "wicked people"]

I’m not at all making an argument for a pacifist deity. I am not really sure what that means. The God who is Being or Existence, whose name is I AM, who is eternal and the Author of all created things, cannot rightly be called either pacifist or violent, etc--that would be, I think, of anthropomorphism akin to that of the Greek gods. We may be able to debate whether He reveals Himself in Scripture to just and loving God or malicious and cruel, but as Creator he cannot rightly be called violent or pacifist. A limited being, like human, we he discovers another being, has only finite authority over that being, if any at all. However, the Maker of a being has infinite authority over that being--the authority to choose to give life or to revoke that gift, etc.

I am not arguing that God is a pacifist deity.I am claiming that the most virtuous response, the Christian response, to conflict is a non-violent response. Hopefully the difference will be becoming more clear in the final few posts.

There are certainly incongruencies and perhaps even flat out contradictions between the OT and NT. Heck, Jesus himself admits as much in the “you have heard that it was…., but I say to you…” sermon. Nevertheless, for the Christian, Jesus is the Christ, the Word made Flesh, the full and complete self-revelation of God, thus he is the final interpreter of Sacred Scripture.

Also, as I mentioned before, God is revealing himself slowly to sinful humanity, and in doing so, he is slowly revealing man to himself. This revelation is also completed and perfected in Christ.

Finally, the Bible is not primarily a history book, or a science book, or even a morality book. It is primarily a book of proclamation. A legit use of the historical-critical method reveals that ancient literature did not so much intend to convey fact as to convey truth. Thus “what happened” and “what is true” do not always coincide perfectly (although it is difficult if not impossible for us to draw that line).

The Bible tells a story. It tells us about Salvation history. It speaks Truth, but this Truth is not always historical or scientific fact or moral platitude. God works with us where we are. Thus it is possible to conceive that what is in the OT is a lot of an imperfect and muddled following of God’s will. They may have intended to do what He willed, but were incapable of conceiving of the radical Hope they could have in him. This becomes more explicit later in the OT. As Israel is responding, perhaps “justly” and perhaps not, according to the reason of men, the prophets are calling for peace and mercy and repentance. Even David, who despite his obvious flaws, could be called a “saint” of the OT, is denied the honor of building the Temple because he has blood on his hands.

David, it seems to be, could be a microcosm of what I am talking about. God calls him and blessed him. David sins and repents. God forgives him and blessed, granting him success and kingship, but God tells him that his hands are stained with blood. He may not build the Temple.

Considering briefly your question about Passover, I would like to make a few points. We must ask ourselves a series of questions, questions for which I do not yet have well articulated answers.

What is being proclaimed here? What is the historical situation of the event? Of the authorship of the story?

We can say that it was Pharaoh who initially ordered to killing of the Hebrew first-born. Thus the Passover is not rightly conceived absent from this. This is yet another case of self-inflicted judgment, and God, as God, has the right to judgment. However, I would add that his judgment cannot be separated from his mercy. Thus Pope Benedict argues that the transcendent concept of Justice, which can never be achieved on earth (how then was it originally conceived?) is itself an argument for the afterlife. Thus God, who is God of both the living and the dead, who is the Author of Life, has the authority and ability to the judge the Egyptians in this way, but in His justice, may reward to the “innocent” children infinitely more than justice would demand.

Much of this is somewhat speculative and will probably come across as grasping for straws, but I can only add this. For me, Jesus is no longer merely some piece of information I was taught in school and raised to believed. Jesus is a person whom I have encountered in very real, but unempirical and difficult to articulate ways. I do not question the existence of God or the Love of Christ anymore than I question the love of my wife or parents. The Christ whom I have encountered is the Word made flesh. Integrity and authenticity compel me to interpret life and scripture in light of Him. I do not fully understand the intricacies of the Bible. But I trust in its Truth and hope to grow in understanding. I thank you for continuing to push me, because it is forcing me challenge some of my preconceptions and helping my knowledge to grow in depth.

Finally, I would suggest listening to the following, which is a little more coherent although less specifically directed to your question, than my response: click here


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