Literal insanity

September 13, 2014 § 226 Comments

Biblical inerrancy is one thing.  It means that there exists a true (corresponds to reality) and correct (corresponds with what the author intends to say about God and salvation) meaning or interpretation of Biblical texts.  That is really all that it means, which is not enough to solve the ‘problem’ of interpretation. That a true and correct interpretation exists doesn’t imply that some specific interpretation is true and correct.

Note that inerrant meaning is ascribed to the author of the text, not the characters and people who are the subjects of the text. That the sacred author’s meaning is inerrant does not imply that King Saul, in his actions and words, was infallible. A true and correct history of the words and deeds of Thomas Jefferson does not imply that the words and deeds of Thomas Jefferson were infallible. Furthermore Scripture gives no list of characters to whom infallibility is to be attributed nor any criteria for determining when their actions or words are infallible.

So when it comes to Scriptural inerrancy there is much less there than meets the positivist eye.

Biblical ‘literalism’ is another thing entirely. It assumes (incoherently) that Scriptural text in itself completely determines meaning, and asserts that the putative ‘literal’ interpretation is true.  This isn’t just wrong: it is rationally incoherent, because any text of sufficient complexity always underdetermines theories of what the text means.

Biblical literalism has a long pedigree, probably because the great majority of human beings throughout the great majority of history have not understood the limitations of text and meaning.  Text and meaning are just things we take for granted and don’t think much about in themselves. The longest lasting institution in all of history, the Roman Catholic Church, however, has always implicitly functioned on an understanding that literalism is incoherent. One might be tempted to attribute this to supernatural grace.

Attempting to interpret the Bible ‘literally’, then, is not something which I take particularly seriously, nor do I think anyone should take it particularly seriously. On the other hand, when talking to a whole society of people in the grip of a basic epistemological error you have to sometimes speak in terms that they can understand.

If I attempt to interpret the book of Deuteronomy like a literalist – and start at the beginning so that I am not pulling things out of context – I find that Moses attributes some things to the Lord and many more things to himself. He doesn’t explicitly assert any claims of infallibility for himself. Here is the first bit (Douay-Rheims), into which I have inserted the referent (Moses or the LORD) in [square brackets] in a number of places:

[1] These are the words, which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan, in the plain wilderness, over against the Red Sea, between Pharan and Thophel and Laban and Haseroth, where there is very much gold: [2] Eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Cadesbarne. [3] In the fortieth year, the eleventh month, the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel all that the Lord had commanded him to say to them: [4] After that he had slain Sehon king of the Amorrhites, who dwelt in Hesebon: and Og king of Basan who abode in Astaroth, and in Edrai, [5] Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab. And Moses began to expound the law, and to say:

[6] The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: You have stayed long enough in this mountain: [7] Turn you, and come to the mountain of the Amorrhites, and to the other places that are next to it, the plains and the hills and the vales towards the south, and by the sea shore, the land of the Chanaanites, and of Libanus, as far as the great river Euphrates. [8] Behold, said he, I [The LORD] have delivered it to you: go in and possess it, concerning which the Lord swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would give it to them, and to their seed after them. [9] And I [Moses] said to you at that time: [10] I [Moses] alone am not able to bear you: for the Lord your God hath multiplied you, and you are this day as the stars of heaven, for multitude.

[11] (The Lord God of your fathers add to this number many thousands, and bless you as he hath spoken. [Moses speaks a blessing]) [12] I [Moses] alone am not able to bear your business, and the charge of you and your differences. [13] Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I [Moses] may appoint them your rulers. [14] Then you answered me: The thing is good which thou [Moses] meanest to do. [15] And I [Moses] took out of your tribes men wise and honourable, and appointed them rulers, tribunes, and centurions, and officers over fifties, and over tens, who might teach you all things.

[16] And I [Moses] commanded them, saying: Hear them, and judge that which is just: whether he be one of your country, or a stranger. [17] There shall be no difference of persons, you shall hear the little as well as the great: neither shall you respect any man’ s person, because it is the judgment of God. And if any thing seem hard to you, refer it to me [Moses], and I [Moses] will hear it. [18] And I [Moses] commanded you all things that you were to do. [19] And departing from Horeb, we passed through the terrible and vast wilderness, which you saw, by the way of the mountain of the Amorrhite, as the Lord our God had commanded us. And when we were come into Cadesbarne, [20] I [Moses] said to you: You are come to the mountain of the Amorrhite, which the Lord our God will give to us.

The entire book of Deuteronomy is like this, recounting the words and deeds of the man Moses, as spiritual and political leader of the Israelites, interspersed with specific things attributed by Moses to the LORD. We are given no recounting of how in particular the attribution is made, etc — whether it came in a dream or was recorded onto an SSD recorder at the site of the burning bush or whatever.

But in general it makes no sense in reading Deuteronomy to attribute things to God that Moses himself doesn’t attribute directly to God. (I am sure that God alone actually could ‘bear their business’ if He chose to).

Given that background we can look at the ‘offending’ passages in Deuteronomy 20 where Moses orders the genocide of the Canaanites.

[16] [Moses giving orders] But of those cities that shall be given thee, thou shalt suffer none at all to live: [17] But shalt kill them with the edge of the sword, to wit, the Hethite, and the Amorrhite, and the Chanaanite, the Pherezite, and the Hevite, and the Jebusite, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: [After the colon, the command Moses attributes to the Lord] [18] Lest they teach you to do all the abominations which they have done to their gods: and you should sin against the Lord your God. [19] [Back to Moses giving orders] When thou hast besieged a city a long time, and hath compassed it with bulwarks to take it, thou shalt not cut down the trees that may be eaten of, neither shalt thou spoil the country round about with axes: for it is a tree, and not a man, neither can it increase the number of them that fight against thee. [20] But if there be any trees that are not fruitful, but wild, and fit for other uses, cut them down, and make engines, until thou take the city, which fighteth against thee.

As a literalist I had better not attribute things to God which are not explicitly attributed to Him.  The text doesn’t say that God was giving orders, it says that Moses was giving orders. This is clearly Moses speaking and commanding, much as he did when he told the Israelites that he (Moses) could not handle all the work of judging their disputes and appointed leaders to do that on his behalf.  God did not come down from the mountain and appoint the leaders, and it wasn’t God whose capacity to judge disputes was limited and required more manpower.  The thing Moses himself attributes to God is that the Israelites should not learn pagan ways and worship pagan gods. Moses himself doesn’t in any direct way attribute the means that he (Moses) chose to God.

Of course there are other ‘problemmatic’ passages which present different interpretive ‘difficulties’ for the literalist.

But if they are a problem for you, the problem arises not from Scripture or inerrancy but from the fact that you are a literalist.  A literalist is a kind of positivist, a person who is committed to the idea that text does not underdetermine meaning. But the way the world actually works, meaning actually is underdetermined by text.

So the thing to do isn’t to wrestle with conundrums like a literalist.  The thing to do is to stop being a literalist, because literalism rests on a false understanding of reality.

§ 226 Responses to Literal insanity

  • Not to nitpick, but I assume that biblical inerrancy means that there exists at least one true and correct meaning or interpretation of Biblical texts.

  • Zippy says:

    Jake Freivald:
    Right, it is actually rather common for a text to have multiple true and correct interpretations.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    It’s very strange that viewpoints such as ‘Young Earth Creationism’ have simply been deemed adherent of ‘Biblical Literalism’.

    No text is read entirely literally. I will often hear people say “I take the Bible literally!”. My response to that is, “No, you don’t.”.

    When Jesus speaks of the Apocalypse, and gives the parable of the fig tree, He is in no way relating that literal fig tree with any ‘closing of the age’ event. When it is stated God ‘breathed life’ into the nostrils of Adam, it does not mean God has a mouth and a set of lungs. This is lunacy.

    When reading any text of sufficient length and gravity, one must fully comprehend the socio-historical context of each composite part, and be able to distinguish between forms of poetic license, inferences, legendary accounts, glorifications, and historical play-by-plays.

    With all that being said, we should justly caution against going too far the other way, and believing in some sort of ‘living and breathing’ Bible thats meaning is contingent on the age one lives in. Nobody can refute an aspect of the Moral Law, for example the fact that adultery is a sin, by saying that it was a ‘different time’ or that the passage is a metaphor. No, the living God sees sex outside of marriage as detestable, then and for all time. No logical contortions to the contrary will change this.

    All this requires is some competency.

  • Zippy says:

    Mark Citadel:

    With all that being said, we should justly caution against going too far the other way, and believing in some sort of ‘living and breathing’ Bible thats meaning is contingent on the age one lives in.

    That is the postmodern horn of the positivist-postmodern dilemma upon which the great majority of modern people find themselves impaled. I would caution that the ‘solution’ isn’t to find some golden mean between positivism and postmodernism though, which is rather like finding a ‘golden mean’ between arsenic and cyanide.

  • Zippy says:

    This evangelical protestant points out that other parts of the Bible itself explicitly contradict the ‘genocide’ narrative.

  • donalgraeme says:

    other parts of the Bible itself explicitly contradict the ‘genocide’ narrative.

    Something that always warned me away from biblical literalism was the fact that even the authors of different parts of the Bible (the human ones, not the Divine one) disagreed about certain historical facts, or what scriptural history meant. So in that sense even the Bible admits that multiple interpretations exist.

  • […] Source: Zippy Catholic […]

  • Thanks for this Zippy. The genocide command was also the most disturbing thing to me about our faith. I wrested with it and eventually took Aquinas’ position that God could have you murder someone and it would be ok, but that was still unsettling and seemingly contrary to the natural law. You have shown the way out from this problem.

  • Aquinas’s answer seems bizarre and not a little contradictory with other things he wrote. Seems that modern issues of positivism and other misuses of language go way back and infect even the smartest of men.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    Never allow the chemicals in your brain to govern your vision of morality. These eyes are clouded and will see illusions where there is nothing, and nothing where there is a concrete wall.

    If you find an element of Biblical truth that seems contrary to your belief, there can only be three potential conclusions

    – You’re misled in your ethics
    – You’re misinterpreting the text
    – You do not fully understand how morality interfaces between the Divine and the creation

    There can be no wrong on behalf of the Lord. It is a logical impossibility. I find this to be an incredibly comforting aspect of the True Faith. We may be fallible, blind, and flawed, but the living God is omniscient, all-seeing, and perfect. We let Him be our eyes.

  • One also needs to define what “inerrant” means.

    There are quite a few “contracdictions” in the gospels where some use literary devices such as transferrance, compression, and the like in order to get to the relevant points as how they want to tell it.

    For example, when Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead in Matthew the messengers come to Jesus and she is already dead before Jesus is touched by the woman with the bleeding and His power goes out from Him and heals her. However, in Mark and Luke the messengers came to Jesus and said his daughter was sick dying and then Jesus heals the woman, and then more messengers come and tell him that the daughter had died.

    Obviously, Matthew’s account is a simplified version — compression of time — of Mark’s and Luke’s account and not a contradiction in the Scripture because of the literary devices used.

    This is why I tend to say that the Scriptures are “inspired” rather than “inerrant” although I believe it is both because it conveys the message a bit better.

  • Zippy says:

    MarcusD:
    There isn’t much information to go on, but one of my own recommendations (among several) has been for a strong push to convalidate the large numbers of invalid marriages and other ‘relationships’. This seems at least consistent with that as a pastoral priority.

  • Mike T says:

    This is why I tend to say that the Scriptures are “inspired” rather than “inerrant” although I believe it is both because it conveys the message a bit better.

    “Inspired by a true story” typically means “it has equal parts truth and outright fiction added for literary or cinematic effect” to most people.

  • Zippy says:

    There is definitely fiction in the Bible – fiction used to illustrate a moral or theological point. Christ’s parables, just as an obvious example.

    The rest is just haggling over the price. There is no such thing as literalism.

  • Mike T says:

    You know very well that parables and such are not what most people take to be fictitious about the Bible. That’s why I warned that “inspired by” is dangerous when you don’t explain what inspiration really means. The church’s definition is not the most common vernacular use of inspiration. I’ve seen plenty of examples of people led astray by the sort of argument put forth by Deep Strength. They firmly believe it was “inspired by” the Holy Spirit, but that that means inspired by in the sense that the Holy Spirit gave them a few good ideas and left them to write it. Thus they feel no compulsion to believe any literal claim, including the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, if it seems far-fetched to them. After all, it is mere inspiration in the way a muse gives a poet ideas, not the Holy Spirit working through them to give an entirely accurate portrayal of events.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Yes, the other horn of the positivist-postmodern dilemma is postmodernism; and sanity is not some “happy medium” between them.

  • MarcusD says:

    MarcusD:
    There isn’t much information to go on, but one of my own recommendations (among several) has been for a strong push to convalidate the large numbers of invalid marriages and other ‘relationships’. This seems at least consistent with that as a pastoral priority.

    If I read correctly, he was marrying a couple that was living together at the time of their wedding. Every priest I’ve ever known has had a “same address == no wedding” rule.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    I think I’ve missed something. As near as I can tell, this discussion uses (1) “God can not commit injustice” and (2) “For God to kill an innocent is an injustice” as premises. I think I can presume an alternative argument using (1*)”God can not command injustice” and (2*)”For man to kill another man on God’s command is unjust.” I’ve been a bit agnostic on this question, standing ambiguously between Aquinas’ position and something like Zippy’s interpretive scheme, not opposing either conclusion in principle, and a resolution would put my mind in order.

    It seems to me that 2 depends on the quality of innocence (given the Fall) with respect to God and what He owes to one filling this role, so an argument from that premise would be unsatisfying without supporting argument. 2*, however, is the single most relevant premise to the debate, so it can’t be merely assumed. “Because natural law” (the closest thing to a supporting argument I’ve found on this spider-webbing discussion) is an unsatisfying reason to accept it. Natural law requires the pursuit of the highest good. While it does demand self-preservation, it also demands laying down one’s life for the sake of the greater good. In this sense, pursuits of particular goods are judged according to whether they are ordered or disordered to the Ultimate Good. The reason murder and even suicide are wrong according to natural law is because man by his nature lacks the authority to take man’s life in all but a certain limited set of cases. God in His nature most certainly does not lack such authority but pursues the Good which is His nature: divine simplicity, therefore, and et cetera. Therefore, epistemological quandaries aside, if the Ultimate Good somehow demanded the taking of fallen human natural life, by His authority it could in principle be right. The issue reduces to the question of whether the taking of otherwise innocent fallen human life can possibly be consistent with the Good, given one acts on infinite authority (essentially, premise 2* or its negation). I have not seen this question addressed. Both sides seem to take their answers for granted, begging the question.

    If discussion of this matter has taken place elsewhere, I apologize and would greatly appreciate direction thereto. Hoping this matter would come up somewhere has been thoroughly disappointing and demanded action so drastic as to actually attempt to diagram the argument here.

  • Marcus D,

    That site looks pretty crazy to me. “Cardinal Burke may be moved to a symbolic position, therefore the Pope hates him”, complete with a dumb looking graphic titled “de-ratzingerization” tells me I’m not going to the most objective source for info.

    Rorate Caeli has not taken the Francis Papacy well.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    As near as I can tell, this discussion uses (1) “God can not commit injustice” and (2) “For God to kill an innocent is an injustice” as premises.

    I don’t think anyone has adopted premise (2). What God can know and would do has never been at issue (I’ve said many times that I think such discussions presume to know more about what it is like to be God than any of us can actually know).

    The central issue is epistemological – it is inseparable from our capacity qua human beings to know things – so trying to set epistemology aside is just avoiding the central issue.

    The discussion pits our (as limited human beings) epistemic certainty that murder (killing the innocent) is always wrong as a human action (M) against two other kinds of certainty: first, the epistemic certainty that certain interpretations of Scriptural texts are true and correct (I), and second, the certainty that someone might have that God is commanding him to commit murder (C).

    My contention is that M is always more epistemically certain than I or C. So if your interpretation of Scripture involves God directly commanding people to commit murder (kill the innocent, in particular infants and small children) it follows that your interpretation is wrong. And if you think God is directly commanding you to commit murder, it isn’t really God giving the commands.

  • Zippy says:

    Also, I would rephrase premise 1 as “God never commits injustice”. The way Benjamin2.0 initially phrased it makes it sound like a limitation on God’s inherent capacities. But the fact that I would never murder a child nor order someone else to do so isn’t a limit on my own inherent capacities, and I don’t see why we should project it as a limit on God’s inherent capacities even analogically.

    So I don’t really agree with either premise exactly as stated, although the first one is true under a certain interpretation.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Hmm… I set aside epistemology because such arguments tend to be probabilistic. “[I]f you think God is directly commanding you to commit murder, it isn’t really God giving the commands” becomes “if you think God is directly commanding you to commit murder, it [probably] isn’t really God giving the commands.” Leaving aside the possibility of whether the event is possible in principle leaves aside the question of whether the event is possible in principle, tautologically. Certainly, a dream or even an apparition which commands aborticide ought to be questioned at least or disregarded at best (test the spirits, etc.), but this certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of God somehow giving a command which is unambiguously from Him and seemingly inconsistent with the normative natural order. I would be careful not to limit God Himself according to your rejection of positivism.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    I’m open to a restatement of the premises. I provided two alternate sets because I had to extrapolate them from a series of disparate discussions. I was using a freer definition of “can not,” in my defense which was, admittedly, open to misinterpretation.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    I set aside epistemology because such arguments tend to be probabilistic.

    Modern people do tend to state epistemic arguments probabilistically. Whether that is the best way to state them is perhaps not obvious. Does it really make sense to say that I think the law of non-contradiction is probably true?

    In any case in general it is impossible to ‘become like God’ and transcend our own limitations. This drives both positivists and postmoderns literally (hah) out of their minds.

    My position in this discussion has been consistent from the beginning, although you have helped me make it slightly more formal: given M, I, and C, we are always more certain of M than of I or C. So if I or C seem to contradict M, that implies a problem with I or C — not M.

    I think that most statements including the phrase ‘…rule out the possibility that God…’ have probably gone beyond the limits of our ability to know things. At the very least that kind of phrasing should ring some warning bells. Positivists and postmoderns don’t like the uncertain ground of mystery, with the radical dependence it implies; and each finds his own way to wall himself off from it. The Dwarves are for the Dwarves.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Does it really make sense to say that I think the law of non-contradiction is probably true?

    Absolutely not. Without the law of non-contradiction, probability couldn’t exist. The question of the value of the probability being zero, one, or something in between is nonsensical per se. If it is, it is, and if it isn’t, we can’t know either it or anything else (because there is nothing to know, and there is no distinction between knowing and not knowing).

    For the purposes of this discussion, the questions are, regrettably, far less axiomatic. Probabilities exists due to epistemological problems. They are nothing less than a quantification of uncertainty.

    given M, I, and C, we are always more certain of M than of I or C. So if I or C seem to contradict M, that implies a problem with I or C — not M.

    Epistemologically. I think I need to be convinced that this doesn’t mean “probabilistically.” To say that you can not evaluate the certainty of a command which was not given to you, wasn’t described in detail regarding medium or context, and wasn’t even identified as perfectly certain or imperfectly certain, certainly leaves you a lot of interpretive leeway. The conclusion is far less certain than the law of non-contradiction, which allows the possibility of any conclusion at all.

    I think that most statements including the phrase ‘…rule out the possibility that God…’ have probably gone beyond the limits of our ability to know things. At the very least that kind of phrasing should ring some warning bells. Positivists and postmoderns don’t like the uncertain ground of mystery, with the radical dependence it implies; and each finds his own way to wall himself off from it.

    Ah, but what I’m defending is a sort of mystery. I don’t claim to know Aquinas’ position is correct or that yours is. For all I know, they’re consistent in some way I’ll never understand. I’m saying that in the event God somehow legitimately gave the unambiguous command to kill to exactly one man only (overcoming the imperfections of that man’s knowledge and intellect), and the regional authority sentenced that man for his ostensible crime according to well-ordered law, each would be acting perfectly in accordance to his natural duty epistemologically and ontologically.

    And so, I arrive at your conclusion. It may well be wrong, but at least it would be sincerely wrong. Well played, sir.

  • Marcus,

    Fr. Z’s response is a lot more level and mature, and I have appreciated his commentary on Pope Francis’s papacy from the beginning.

    Rorate, though, I remember freaking out quite literally within minutes of the announcement of Francis papacy (OMG a JESUIT????). They’re not the place to go for a balanced, unbiased view of the issue. actually, I’d say that Fr. Z is one of the ONLY places you’ll find such a view, to his great credit.

    Anyway, the news with Cardinal Burke is not good but it is as of now just a rumor. No point in getting upset about it yet regardless.

  • MarcusD says:

    “No point in getting upset about it yet regardless.”

    Not really upset by it – I don’t follow ecclesiastical politics, anyhow – but interested to see where it goes.

    Some people are indeed freaking out and saying that Francis will cause a schism in the Church (via the synod) – we’ll just have to see.

  • Exfernal says:

    Never allow the chemicals in your brain to govern your vision of morality.

    Never allow the electric current in your computer to govern its computations.

    The chemicals in your brain are the medium all your thoughts manifest through. Inactivating your chemical synapses results in death anyway as your breathing reflex stops.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “…rule out the possibility that God…” ordered men to murder infants.

    I agree with Zippy that I wouldn’t believe any man if he said he was so ordered, but I agree with Cane that God can order anyone anyway He chooses.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “multiple true and correct interpretations.” Yes, and one of these always must be as-literal-as-possible.

  • jf12 says:

    @donal re: “So in that sense even the Bible admits that multiple interpretations exist.”

    Actually in the cases you’re talking about, I think, you mean multiple viewpoints exist. Every distinct witness to an event is going to have a slightly different version in at least some details.

    One version of the literal seven-day (six-day) Creation story is due to the rabbis, and holds that on the First Day of God showing Moses the process of Creation in a vastly compressed timeframe (maybe as a kind of movie or hologram on Mt. Sinai), God showed Moses how He created Light. Then, after a good night’s rest for Moses, on the Second Day how He created the firmament of Heaven, etc. In this version the movie stopped after six days.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    and one of these always must be as-literal-as-possible.

    If I stipulate that for the sake of argument (where is that literally stated in Scripture, again?), then the most literal interpretation of Deuteronomy is that Moses (which is to say, not God) appointed subordinates, did a whole bunch of other administrative things, and ordered a genocide.

  • Andrew E. says:

    What about those instances where Christ or Paul refer back to Old Testament verses according to their plain meaning? I can’t think of an example off the top of my head..

  • Andrew E. says:

    Well, for example Genesis speaks plainly about a worldwide flood and doesn’t the New Testament in several places refer back to this account? So, in this instance, do we need some particular tradition or exegesis beyond the plain meaning of words to know whether there was a flood and that it covered the earth and destroyed all mankind save those on the ark?

  • Zippy says:

    How would a ‘literalist’ answer the question “did the ‘worldwide’ flood include North America and Antarctica?”

    My answer would be “I don’t know”. But what would the ‘literalist’ (I use scare quotes because strict literalism isn’t really possible) answer?

  • Andrew E. says:

    Actually, I think a more interesting question for a literalist would be “did the worldwide flood include Atlantis?”

    But I think the literalist answer to your question would obviously be that the worldwide flood includes whatever land masses existed on earth at the time of the flood — you know, worldwide.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “I don’t know.” My squeamishness doesn’t tie God’s hands, although I guess it ties mine. While I would prefer Lydia’s mystery method, so to speak, be more possible for me to believe, I don’t see any way around acknowledging that God ordered the Israelites to kill babies. “Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth” is of the same order of belief of any of the other “thou shalt”‘s in Deuteronomy, but with a specificly delimited focus and reasoning explained e.g. Deut 20:17-18.

    I could well imagine it would be most correct for Israelite soldier to apologize to a woman or child before slaughtering them, for example, and then fret about it and have to lots of ritual cleansings for absolution. (yes, there are plenty of Biblical examples of having to do ritual cleansings even from actions described as following God’s commands) It’s basically the same way one should feel from killing a man, except moreso.

    I don’t think I’m being too dense here, but I don’t see the big diff objectively between God slaughtering infants using water or brimstone, and slaughtering infants with swords. Yes, sword-wielders have feelings, but even this subjective diff is obscured by the fact that the water- and brimstone-Wielder has feelings too.

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew E:
    And even as ‘literalists’ how do we know – without drawing on any knowledge ‘outside the text alone’ whatsoever – what precisely was meant by whatever word in whatever language was translated as ‘worldwide’?

    Really this is fun and all, but I’ve already said that I don’t buy the positivist metaphysical premises of the whole thing. And contra jf12, what Deuteronomy most literally says (though whether genocide occurred at all is contradicted elsewhere in Scripture) is that Moses commanded genocide, just as he (Moses) appointed subordinates.

  • jf12 says:

    Not quite off topic. Many decades ago, a semi-hippie family that was friends of ours (their daughter was the same age as our first daughter) decided to go semi-vegetarian. Roughly, they explained had decided to abstain from eating things with “faces”, because it made their daughter sad to think about eating things with faces. Their squeamishness came and went over the course of months, with the mother going full vegan, while father and daughter deciding simply to abstain from mammals, then only from “cute” mammals especially baby and/or small mammals. So, no squirrel meat, but cow meat ok if you check to ensure it’s all from an adult and/or ugly cow.

    This isn’t angels dancing on the head of a pin material, obviously, but even these airy fairy restrictions went out the window when the mother got pregnant again and started craving real meat.

  • Ian says:

    Does Scriptural inerrancy entail that the correct interpretation be known to someone? Could you have a situation where no one knows the correct interpretation for a particular Scriptural passage?

  • Andrew E. says:

    Ian, the idea that the Holy Spirit would allow Scripture to be so inaccessible to man seems unbelievable to me.

    Here is what Fr. Seraphim Rose has to about Genesis:

    “Our key to understanding Genesis is: how did the Holy Father understand this question, specifically with regard to separate passages, and generally, with regard to the book as a whole?

    Okay, so Fr. Rose relies on the authority of holy men. So how do the Fathers understand Scripture? Rose continues:

    Let us take some examples:
    1. St. Macarius the Great of Egypt, a Saint of the most exalted mystical life and whom one certainly cannot suspect of overly literal views of Scripture, writes on Genesis 3:24: “That Paradise was closed and that a Cherubim was commanded to prevent man from entering it by a flaming sword: of this we believe that in visible fashion it was indeed just as it is written, and at the same time we find that this occurs mystically in every soul.” This is a passage which many of us might have expected to have only a mystical meaning, but this great seer of Divine things assure us that it is also true “just as it is written”– for those capable of seeing it.

  • Zippy says:

    It is a good thing that the Holy Spirit has all these men around to lecture Him on just exactly how He must communicate.

  • Andrew E. says:

    Later Rose quotes St. Basil the Great:

    3. These are specific interpretations. As for general approaches to the “literal” or “symbolical” nature of the text of Genesis, let us look at the words of several other Holy Fathers who have written commentaries on Genesis. St. Basil the Great in his Hexameron writes:

    Those who do not admit the common meaning of the Scriptures say that water is not water, but some other nature, and they explain a plant and a fish according to their opinion… [But] when I hear “grass,” I think of grass, and in the same manner I understand everything as it is said, a plant, a fish, a wild animal, and an ox. Indeed, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” (Rom, 1:16)… [Some] have attempted by false arguments and allegorical interpretations to bestow on Scripture a dignity of their own imagining But theirs is the attitude of one who considers himself wiser than the revelations of the Spirit and introduces his own ideas in pretense of an explanation. Therefore, let it be understood as it has been written.

  • William Luse says:

    I don’t see the big diff objectively between God slaughtering infants using water or brimstone, and slaughtering infants with swords.

    Neither do the ISIS warriors. Have any of these “let it be understood as it has been written” commenters yet explained the difference between the murderous edicts of the Muslim God and those of our own? If they did I might have missed it, but if not, I’m tired of waiting.

  • Scott W. says:

    Literalism reminds me a bit of relativism — its proponents invoke it as a matter of convenience rather than principle (unprincipled exception?) That is, watch a relativist turn more dogmatic than any pope that ever lived when it comes to a subject like latent racism. Likewise, when both the Church and Our Lord Himself declare lying evil, that won’t stop the literalist from invoking the “Lie of Rahab” as a kind of footnote loophole to justify all manner of mischief. In that sense, it is more like, for lack of a better word, Biblical anecdotalism.

  • Scott W. says:

    P.S. Can’t resist an example about liturgy. Imagine the fishy theological commitments of those in favor of liturgical dancing and their ludicrous cry of, “But David danced before the Ark!” It’s Biblical Baconism.

  • jf12 says:

    @William Luse re: “Have any of these “let it be understood as it has been written” commenters yet explained the difference between the murderous edicts of the Muslim God and those of our own?”

    Yes, all of ’em, Katie. All of them have explained that the edict to kill everything that breathes was spatially and temporally limited to Canaanitish peoples in Canaanitish lands during what was supposed to be a mercifully short period of expansion/occupation by the Israelites. It’s not God’s fault that folks didn’t do it right.

  • jf12 says:

    re: liturgy. Scott brought it up, so it’s fair game. We all should know that the New Testament Church liturgy is supposed to be the antitype that the worship services of the Tabernacle Of David (note the capital “Of” here denoting that all three words are titularly denoting a literal Thing) reflected. In the TOD, the Real Presence was with the people, not doled out by priests …

  • Scott W. says:

    re: liturgy. Scott brought it up, so it’s fair game.

    Actually, not it’s not. Take the boilerplate elsewhere please.

  • jf12 says:

    re: fair. I mentioned the word literal, for example. Davidic worship was literally festive, literally noisy, with literal dancing,literal shouting, etc. “I’m dancing on the inside” counts as not dancing.

  • Scott W. says:

    I think I misread you jf12. My apologies.

  • jf12 says:

    @Scott, I think I remember promising Zippy not to bring up Catholic stuff myself, but maybe I merely intended to promise. Either way I’ve been good, that way, for a while now.

  • Chad says:

    @ William
    “Neither do the ISIS warriors. Have any of these “let it be understood as it has been written” commenters yet explained the difference between the murderous edicts of the Muslim God and those of our own? If they did I might have missed it, but if not, I’m tired of waiting”

    I made a Just War argument over at Free Northerner’s that bled over to Malcom The Cynic’s. I haven’t really seen anyone address it yet. Closest I’ve seen is “But, natural law!” without considering that Just War falls within natural law.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:
    Just war doctrine does not and never has permitted killing the innocent. If you think it does, you don’t understand it.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy,
    I would argue that the situation in Canaa did not leave them innocent. We know only what scripture tells us that they did; as you are fond of saying there are untold possibilities of what was going on beyond what is in scripture.

    To say that they’re innocent you must first prove that they’re innocent.

    But yes, I do agree with your statement applied to innocents. I am unsure if there is any other times outside of scripture when such conditions deemed women and children as within Just War doctrine as non-innocents.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    I would argue that the situation in Canaa did not leave [Canaanite infants] innocent.

    What attacking behaviours were Canaanite infants guilty of deliberately perpetrating?

  • I promised I’d write another response post on the matter, and intend to to keep the promise It would be done by now but I’m busy as is and have had an unusually trying and stressful past week and a half dealing with personal issues. But rest assured I have not forgotten about it.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “ruling out the possibility that God” knew they would grow up and “increase the number of them that fight against thee.”
    Right? You arrogate to yourself the right to rule out possibilities for God. Just not or anyone else.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    What in tarnation are you talking about? And who are you talking to?

  • William Luse says:

    I made a Just War argument over at Free Northerner’s…

    I’ve seen that attempt before. It doesn’t work for the reason Zippy gives.

    I would argue that the situation in Canaa did not leave them innocent.

    Yes, we need to re-think the age of culpability, such as lowering it to the terrible twos. Then I won’t have to think about Hiroshima anymore.

    What in tarnation are you talking about? And who are you talking to?

    I know at one point he was talking to me. But I still don’t know what he was talking about.

  • Scott W. says:

    A regular at Ed Feser’s blog, Brandon, gave what I think an excellent response to the “total war” conceit that everyone in the enemy nation is a legitimate target:

    Contrary to common belief, total war is not a new thing; not all wars are total wars, but many in the past three thousand years have been. It’s not something fundamentally new. But a common mistake made about total war is the sense in which it is ‘total’; it is total in that the belligerent power (i.e., the government) exercises its coercive sanctions in order to marshal all resources potentially at its disposal in order to overwhelm all capacity of the opponent to resist. The ‘coercive’ plays a big role, especially in totalitarian states; and we ignore it at our peril.

    It also seems to me to be a mistake to assume, as some seem to have done here, that the ‘innocence’ involved in talking about killing innocents has ‘guilt’ without any qualification as its negative complement. The opposite of innocents in war are people who are able and trying to kill you, i.e., people who are responsible for a very specific class of acts. While for obvious reasons we don’t always talk about innocent combatants, moral philosophers have always talked about cases of innocent combatants, soldiers hors de combat and the like. It is morally wrong deliberately to kill them, too, and for precisely the same reasons.

    I confess that people’s attitudes on this always mystifies me. I can understand underscoring how difficult war is and how it is understandable that people put into it will be faced with terrible choices, and that we therefore cannot always be as hard on them as we would on people doing something in peacetime in cold blood, because that’s all true; but it always goes far beyond that, to outright justification. Now if there were some really good argument for it, maybe, but the arguments are always vague and handwaving. David’s total war argument is pretty as much as good as the arguments get, and it, like all total war arguments for similar conclusions, is conveniently vague about the one and only step that matters: how we move rationally from the real conditions of total war, including the moral conditions of waging total war at all, to everyone being fair game — without ever effectively saying that morality is expendable and that anything in war is justified as long as it conduces to winning. Because if one were to go so far as to claim that anything is justified in war, there is a name for that, and it is moral depravity. So what is this amazing line of reasoning that actually does the work of getting us from A to B without using morally depraved assumptions? It’s always the one step missing.

  • Chad says:

    @ zippy
    “What attacking behaviours were Canaanite infants guilty of deliberately perpetrating?”

    To show that they weren’t directly acting is not to show them innocent.

    You’re also applying modern justice, and modrrn understanding of justice, to a time and situation that is largely unknown to us. St Augustine was very clear in his arguments on these very passages that justice is something that changes with both time and situation. In that writing, he has refuted all the arguments I’ve seen so far.

    And the person he was arguing with was a manichaen heretic.

    So, forgive me if I am starting to see your side on this topic as one of rebellious heretics pridefully contending with St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas; the two men with perhaps the best understanding of natural law and Christian doctrine. If you want to do so, find a saint, a pope, or a council speaking on these passages.

    Zippy, for someone so strongly vocal against any interpretation of scripture being right, you have failed to use any tool God and the Church has given us to find the truth. I’m not saying I have found it, nor even that Augustine or Aquinas are right, but that you must sufficiently demonstrate them and Moses to be wrong from a place of authority within the Church for me to not suspect you of error.

    Otherwise it’s all just you and your own rationalizations.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    To show that [Canaanite infants] weren’t directly acting is not to show them innocent.

    How were they acting at all, directly or indirectly?

    You’re also applying modern justice, and modrrn understanding of justice …

    There is no ‘modern justice’ category in the natural law. That is just moral relativism, and I am not the one selling it.

    So, forgive me if I am starting to see your side on this topic as one of rebellious heretics pridefully contending …

    My understanding is based on (at least) two things. First, it is based in the Magisterium of the Church, to which as Catholics we (including you) are required to give submission of intellect and will.

    Second, it is manifest to reason.

    Killing the innocent is always morally wrong. Traditionally “the innocent” has always been understood to be (at least) those who are not engaged and have not ever engaged directly or indirectly in attacking behaviours. As Evangelium Vitae puts it, “No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!”

    If “the innocent” (w.r.t. murder) is a category so plastic that it is capable of encompassing infants and unborn children in some circumstances, murder is no longer an absolute moral category.

    Now if you want to defend moral relativism, have at it. But you should own the fact that if you do so it is you who are rebelling against the Magisterium of the Church, the Tradition, and reason (none of which now treat or have ever treated the theological writings of saints as a positivistic body of infallible syllogisms to be interpreted in the manner that heretics interpret Scripture).

  • Chad says:

    My apologies, I went too far in calling you heretics because you attacking the same side as a heretic that was arguing against Augustine. I would be surprised if anyone here was a manichaen heretic, nor were heretics always wrong. I am trying to mix less rhetoric with my dialectic in this conversation for multiple reasons, and not always successful.

    The rest of my comment still stands

  • Chad says:

    @ zippy
    Neither I nor Augustine argue moral relativism, if it seems that way it is a failing on my part to communicate, and would refer you to Augustine himself who is much clearer than I.

    That being said, you are waving away the fact that situations do change what is just and unjust as relativism. Killing a man in defense of life or loved ones is not murder. Killing a man in a war is not murder. Killing a man because you saw him looking lustfully at your wife is murder.

    This is not moral relativism but how justice works.

    We are also shown that God’s expectations for his people change over time as we see with Christ’s fulfillment of Mosaic law changing some of the practices expected of those that follow God.

    So, to say that time and situation do not matter to justice is not moral relativism. Unless you’re desiring to say God is a moral relativist, which I doubt of you.

    As for the magisterium, I am unsure if you are implying or not implying that Augustine and aquinas were not in line with the magisterium when making their arguments. If so, please demonstrate exactly how.

    As for the rest, I will read what you Linked, while pointing out that it is not directly related (at first glance) to the passages we’re discussing. Nor am I saying the saints are infallible (and in fact admitted they are not), but am merely saying that they are one of the best and most reliable tools to ascertain the truth we are given, and the fact that none of them, no popes, and no councils have had anything to say directly on these passages for your view seems telling. Not definitive, or I wouldn’t waste my time discussing this, but certainly enough for me to place my faith in the understanding of God with men much better than I and approved by the Church.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:
    You haven’t actually made an argument here.

    You’ve alluded to an argument you made elsewhere that I haven’t read, asserted that infants are not (and therefore nobody is) categorically innocent in the sense pertinent to the prohibition of murder (thereby destroying any categoricity in the prohibition of murder), implied that your views are identical to Augustine’s and Aquinas’ views (seen as a fixed body of positivist propositions), and accused people who don’t embrace your moral relativism of heresy (which you retracted) and arrogance (which you haven’t).

    IOW, you haven’t really given me a reason to take you seriously. From my POV you appear to be exhibiting a kind of non-magisterial positivism I see frequently in people who style themselves as post-Trent “traditionalists” – people who have adopted Protestant epistemology in reaction to Protestant epistemology. Every time I see that I reflect on the fact that although I despise the “spirit of Vatican II”, the Holy Spirit is wiser than me.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Killing a man in defense of life or loved ones is not murder.

    That is because he is engaged in an attacking behavior.

    Killing a man in a war is not murder.

    It is if he is not engaged in an attacking behavior. It may be difficult to “draw the line” with respect to what constitutes an (direct or indirect) attacking behavior, but wherever that line is drawn it is clear that infants don’t engage in attacking behaviors.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy re: tarnation. The quoted ideas “rule out the possibility …” and “increase the number of them …” were both quoted by you in this post and comment thread. So, I know you recognize them.

    Obvious *possible* reasons God could have given, already mentioned in the text itself, for killing babies is that He knew they would grow up and engage in warfare, as well as convert the Israelites to idolatry. And there are other *possible* reasons. For you to say otherwise is for you to “rule out the possibility that God …”, obviously.

    Benjamin tried, in vain apparently, to caution you against you overruling God. You seemed to think Benjamin’s *caution* to be incautious, without giving any reasoning.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    The reason you don’t actually quote me making the claims you say I’ve made about God is because I haven’t made them. I’ve made plenty of claims about men, and people who don’t know how to think properly have projected those to be claims about God. But they are actually claims about men, and the projection reflects incomprehension on the part of my interlocutors as opposed to claims I have actually asserted.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, are you now claiming you are *not* ruling out the possibility that God had good reasons for ordering the killing of those babies?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Again, you seem to be interpreting me as making claims about God where I am actually making claims about men.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy
    You commented at free Northerners after I had made the there, or at some point during it from my memory, and thus I assumed you had read it there. My apologies if this is not the case, but I do not have time to repeat it here at this time due to work.

    As for my beliefs being in line with Augustine and aquinas, they are to the fullest of my understanding and education on them. This subject is interesting and important, but not so much as to take away from my ability to follow my spiritual directors advice on my growth. So yes, I do not have the ability to state the argument as clearly as either of the saints, nor would I pridefully assert that my understanding of them may not be flawed. Simply that I do believe I understand them correctly and have not been shown otherwise; that if I am shown otherwise I will reevaluate my understanding and attempt to grow in wisdom.

    But, in a world where I have limited time, I place my Faith in god and my foundations for understanding him in the authorities he has placed over us once I have a decent understanding of them and believe them to be true. They are our shepherds as we do our best to follow The Shepherd. As of now, I do not believe you have reliablely refuted their stances. If you mistake any of this for a foundation in positivism, I believe that you are mistaking my own intent, understanding, and limitations for simply waving a wand and saying “I am right and my reasons and authority are irrefutable and inerrant.” Not at all. But I do think that if one wants to challenge the Fathers and Doctors of the church, an individual would be well advised to have backings beyond their own reasoning and rationalizations, or be held to very high standards and suspected of error until proven otherwise.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, was that a yes, or a no?

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    As of now, I do not believe you have reliablely refuted their stances.

    There you go again.

    I haven’t been arguing with Aquinas and Augustine, I’ve been arguing with you. That you draw on them as sources in the argument I haven’t read and that you decline to state doesn’t put a burden on me to ‘reliably refute their stances’.

    Own your own shit, for crying out loud.

    But I do think that if one wants to challenge the Fathers and Doctors of the church, …

    Stop being such an ass.

  • jf12 says:

    re: magisterial understanding. It seems very relevant that the reason that God gave for removing the original visible authority over the original Israel, in1 Samuel 15, is that Saul refused to utterly destroy the Amelikites because he thought he had a better understanding of what ought to be done than what God said to literally do.

    Clearly, the idolatry of authority is married to the idolatry of one’s own understanding.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Clearly, the idolatry of authority is married to the idolatry of one’s own understanding.

    That has got to be one of the most ironic statements in the thread.

  • jf12 says:

    re: yes or no. BTW “I don’t know” or “it’s a mystery” are both fine answers and both exactly equal to “Yes: I’m not ruling out the possibility that God ordered the killing of babies.”

  • Zippy says:

    I’m with heretics like Pope Benedict XVI, e.g. in Verbum Domini:

    In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.[140] I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.

    (Emphasis mine).

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    … and both exactly equal to “Yes: I’m not ruling out the possibility that God ordered the killing of babies.”

    Your persistent attempts to reframe aren’t going to work.

    “If you think God is commanding you to kill babies there is a problem with your thoughts” is not a statement which places limits on God. It is a statement about men.

  • jf12 says:

    Also, it seems relevant that Saul stayed in power for centuries, I mean decades, long after God removed authority from him. In fact, for centuries, I mean decades, Saul kept trying to spin the fact that he clung to power as evidence that he still had authority from God.

  • jf12 says:

    re: ““If you think God is commanding you to kill babies there is a problem with your thoughts” is not a statement which places limits on God. It is a statement about men.”

    True.

    But if you want to extend that to say, instead, “If the Israelites back then thought God was commanding them to kill Canaanite babies back then, then there was a problem with the Israelites’ thoughts.” then that would be false. Otherwise you place limits on God.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Likewise, the statement

    “If you interpret the OT as God commanding men to murder infants, there is something wrong with your thoughts.”

    … is a statement about men, not God. Despite your ongoing efforts to reframe.

  • jf12 says:

    In contrast, the statement that “God could not possibly have literally commanded the Israelites to murder infants.” is a statement about God.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    …is a statement about God

    In a similar sense to which ‘In alternate universes where fairy dust is magic, God can make the unicorns green’ is a statement about God.

    Whether those statements are particularly meaningful in the context of human limitations and things we actually know is another thing entirely.

    My two contentions in this discussion have been about men though, not God. Here they are again:

    1) If you think God is commanding you to kill infants, there is something wrong with your thoughts.

    2) If you interpret the OT as God commanding men to kill infants, there is something wrong with your thoughts.

    Address those claims or don’t. But attempting to reframe them as something else just demonstrates my point: that there is something wrong with your thoughts.

  • jf12 says:

    Adressing those claims.
    1. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t believe God if He told me to kill infants. I consider that part of my failings and unrighteousness, i.e. something wrong with me. Abraham believed God told him to kill his child and he obeyed, having faith that God would work it all out somehow, including resurrecting Isaac.
    2. I read in Scripture that God commanded men to kill children, and therefore I believe He did command them. I consider the fact that my thoughts try to lead me to conclude that God’s ways are beneath my ways as evidence that there is something wrong with my thoughts.

    So how about returning the favor and addressing the claim that you appear to think *your* understanding of what is moral for people to do places limits on God. Do you agree or disagree with this summary: “God can’t order people to do what I think to be immoral.” If that isn’t your position, why do you think all of us think it is?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    I read in Scripture that God commanded men to kill children, and therefore I believe He did command them.

    Phrased that way, you beg the question.

    Phrased more accurately, you interpret the Scriptures to be saying that. I conclude that there is something wrong with your thoughts: your conclusion is a reductio of your reasoning process.

    In the OP I demonstrate that a ‘more literal’ interpretation of Deuteronomy (where Moses, not God, is the referent of “I” in almost the entire book with occasional exceptions) is contrary to your interpretation. Whether that ‘more literal’ interpretation is or is not true and correct is immaterial: what the OP demonstrates is that interpretations other than yours are perfectly reasonable without sacrificing inerrancy, even for a literalist (which I am not). The same will necessarily be true of all of the other ‘problemmatic’ passages.

    …you appear to think *your* understanding of what is moral for people to do places limits on God.

    Goodness ‘limits’ God only in an analogous sense to which it ‘limits’ man. A good man won’t commit adultery, nor induce or command another man to do so; not because he cannot as a matter of capacity, but because he will not because he has a good will.

    But I am indulging you in saying even that much. Even that is beside the point, since it makes analogous statements about God. What is at issue is the relative epistemic certainty we as men have that murder is intrinsically evil versus particular interpretations of Scripture. What is at issue isn’t God’s capacities and limitations (self-imposed or otherwise, intelligible to us or otherwise): what is at issue is our capacities and limitations.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    What is at issue is the relative epistemic certainty we as men have that murder is intrinsically evil versus particular interpretations of Scripture.

    Not to my mind, and I think this is a real barrier to discussion.

    Before I go any further, I want to say that nothing in the post offends me or my sensibilities. It seems to me that it talks about and around a good way to read The Bible. It also seems to me that everyone is in agreement that murder is intrinsically evil.

    What is at issue is whether or not Moses commanded murder when he commanded the Israelites to kill every Canaanite without regard to age or sex.

    In hot pursuit is the issue of whether or not God’s omnipotence in life and death covers the work of His servants, or just Himself. No one has argued that God committed murder when at various time He slew infants. The positions of Zippy, Luse, etc. is that it does not; therefore they believe that what Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Nebuchadnezzar(…it really goes on and on) commanded was murder.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:

    What is at issue is whether or not Moses commanded murder when he commanded the Israelites to kill every Canaanite without regard to age or sex.

    Yes, there is a ‘side’ to the discussion which tries to play nominalistically fast and loose with the term ‘murder’. Words do have their limits.

    I am happy to eliminate the word “murder” and rephrase it as

    “What is at issue is the relative epistemic certainty we as men have that

    1) killing the innocent is intrinsically evil and 2) infants are always innocent in the pertinent sense, since they are categorically incapable of choosing attacking behaviors

    versus particular interpretations of Scripture.”

    In hot pursuit is the issue of whether or not God’s omnipotence in life and death covers the work of His servants…

    That isn’t really at issue either.

    At issue is whether a man can ever know with greater certainty that God is commanding him (through some sort of private revelation, through an interpretation of the Bible — through any means epistemically accessible to man) to (say) commit adultery than he knows with certainty that committing adultery is aways morally wrong. The correct conclusion given our human limitations is always to refrain from the intrinsically immoral act, once it has been identified as such.

  • Lydia says:

    Nebuchadnezzar???? Say, what? Since when are we even supposed to _try_ to defend the acts of Nebuchadnezzar in killing innocents? Btw, the list doesn’t really go on and on. There are relatively few really problematic texts. Not that that helps a whole lot in and of itself, but we might as well speak accurately.

  • jf12 says:

    From my point of view, I hear Zippy saying clearly “God can’t order people to do what I think to be immoral.”, but further I understand his reasoning clearly to be “Scripture must be wrong based on what I think the Magisterium teaches.”

    It’s clear. It really is, quite clear. Sorry for the crass cartooning of your position, though that is in fact EXACTLY what your position looks like when clarified.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    From my point of view, I hear Zippy saying clearly …

    Then you should probably try to figure out what is wrong with your point of view and your ears.

  • jf12 says:

    Some hypothetical and non-hypothetical examples illustrating the futility of men’s reasoning in some special cases even when the general cases admit intrinsic inarguable properties.

    1. The Trolley Problem. You are casually standing by the railway switch and see that Your Mom is somehow specially tied up on the tracks and will be run over within moments unless you instantly divert the train onto the other tracks, on which somehow are tied up a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi (the best kind!), and a Muslim baby whose family will definitely be raising him to be an infidel-slaughtering jihadist just like all his siblings are being raised. You’re pretty sure Your Mom was baptised, maybe, except you weren’t there then, and she certainly hasn’t been living it for years. Plus, she may or may not be pregnant; she mentioned suspecting something along those lines last week. Do something! If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    2. Abraham being specially and specifically applauded by God for his refusing to “refrain from the intrinsically immoral act” of killing his child. Note the placement of quotation marks.

    3. Peter denying the Lord three times, in Acts 10, “Not so, Lord!” Peter and others (e.g. in Acts 11) erroneously believed that God could not specially override what they believed to be intrinsically evil, based on their understanding of their magisterium’s teachings.

  • Zippy says:

    Lydia:

    Nebuchadnezzar???? Say, what? Since when are we even supposed to _try_ to defend the acts of Nebuchadnezzar in killing innocents?

    Under a certain (very Mohammedan) hermeneutic, anything men do that is causally connected to achieving “God’s will” is morally justified. In salvation history as recorded in Scripture, God uses the evil acts of wicked men for good all the time, e.g. the Babylonian captivity as chastisement of Israel or Judas’ betrayal of Christ — I recently used the latter in a post in an attempt to appeal to folks’ intuitions strongly enough to ‘reset’ the lunacy circuit which has taken over their minds.

    (That God uses evil acts for good ends is part of the comprehensive cosmic defeat of evil by God; but of course it doesn’t license us to call evil good.)

    Under this hermeneutic, if God ever uses the acts of men to cause good ends those acts of men are by definition intrinsically moral. It is kind of consequentialism applied in reverse: as long as the outcome is God’s will, anything causally precedent is morally justified. So Nebuchadnezzar’s acts are intrinsically moral as long as they are causes which lead to effects which are (the effects) God’s will.

    Btw, the list doesn’t really go on and on. There are relatively few really problematic texts. Not that that helps a whole lot in and of itself, but we might as well speak accurately.

    I think I mentioned at some point in these various threads at various sites that my interest was only piqued after some of the usual suspects started deploying this subject in an attempt to undermine the absolute intrinsic immorality of murder, through all the usual antics: claiming that infants are not innocent so it isn’t murder, etc. etc. etc. etc.

    When I started looking at specific examples (e.g. Deut. 20) I found this whole subject significantly less problematic than I actually expected it to be — in the sense that if I attempt to put myself into the mindset of a literalist, the text literally doesn’t say what people claim it says. All you have to do is read what it actually says to see that. Very few passages of the Old Testament in general are – literally by the author of the text – attributed directly to God, as it turns out.

    In my view the mindset of a literalist doesn’t work at all taking Scripture as a whole, because then I would have to believe both that total genocide happened and that it didn’t happen (among a great many other contradictory things before breakfast). I am with Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict that some sort of understanding of salvation history as God’s gradual pedagogy played out among primitive and violent people over thousands of years is necessary, or else — if we are to treat men like Moses as intrinsically infallible in their every word and deed unless the Bible explicitly says otherwise — Scripture is just riddled with contradictions and ultimately meaningless. I don’t find the idea that Moses was the tribal leader of a primitive culture with a poorly developed sense of morality particularly problematic: it seems to fit the Divine pedagogy rather perfectly, to me.

  • jf12 says:

    Do angels dance at all, inquiring minds pretend to want to know. Or do they just kinda mostly stand there, “dancing on the inside” or not. In Bibilical angelology there is almost unanimous consensus that they do not even sing, in part because the protohistory indicates that singing departed from heaven with Lucifer and that third of angels. It may be overreaching because the current absence of singing is partly inferred based on the absence of evidence, but there are types and shadows and symmetries empowering the thinking that the New Song of the redeemed will finally return singing to heaven.

  • jf12 says:

    The literalist rabbis include the “thou shalt” of Deut 20 along with all the others. Of the 613 commandments that they count, three of them involve God ordering the killing of babies. Those are commandments numbered 601, 602, and 613 in this convenient list:
    http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

  • Zippy says:

    Dude, post a pic of the tzitzit on the corners of your clothing.

  • Chad says:

    @ Zippy
    You read the argument when it was made.

    http://freenortherner.com/2014/09/09/a-quick-response/?theme=suits#comment-13912

    If you want, I can copy/paste the whole thing here, but that seems extreme. However, either your memory is wrong, you commented and quoted me without reading me, or you’re lying. That is not to say that you read all of my arguments made there, seeing as you only responded twice and one of them was just as petty as the reference to my wrongly calling you a heretic after I apologized, but I think you can stop saying I’m referencing an argument I should have inherently known you hadn’t read, seeing as it’s a fairly common standard to assume people have read comments made before theirs when they respond to comments made before theirs…

    Also, in that comment thread I both provided the source material as well as typed some of it out into the comments. So I have met all your requirements, and if you had overcome your sloth when I said that I made the argument at Free Northerners but did not have the time to repeat it here,, you could have seen that for yourself instead of me having to point it out to you.

    “I haven’t been arguing with Aquinas and Augustine, I’ve been arguing with you. That you draw on them as sources in the argument I haven’t read and that you decline to state doesn’t put a burden on me to ‘reliably refute their stances’.”

    You’re arguing with me but you’re arguing -against- Augustine and Aquinas. Since you want to be clear lets make that clear, though I really don’t understand why you need such clarifications when you asked me, and received the explicit answer, that my arguments and beliefs are in line with Augustine and Aquinas.

    “Own your own shit, for crying out loud.”

    I am. Maybe you should.

    Saints are there for helping us understand God and leading us to him. While they are not infallible, they are our shepherds. They are the guardians of the City of God. They lead the flock to The Shepherd. They are our authorities placed over us by God and by The Church.

    In the same vein, but directed towards “don’t be an ass” maybe I need further clarification, but how does subscribing to the same standards that multiple Popes do towards Aquinas qualify me as being an ass?

    “It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same.”(35) Innocent XII, followed the example of Urban in the case of the University of Louvain, in the letter in the form of a brief addressed to that university on February 6, 1694, and Benedict XIV in the letter in the form of a brief addressed on August 26, 1752, to the Dionysian College in Granada; while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: “His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”
    – Leo XIII “Aeterni Patris”

    Seeing as how Aquinas draws heavily upon Augustine’s arguments on Just Wars, as well as referring directly to the war we are discussing:

    “In the second place, there must be a just cause; that is to say, those attacked must have, by a fault, deserved to be attacked. This is what makes St. Augustine say in Book VI, Question 16, of Questions on Joshua: “Just wars are usually defined as those which avenge injuries, when the nation or city against which warlike action is to be directed has neglected either to punish wrongs committed by its own citizens or to restore what has been unjustly taken by it. Further, that kind of war is undoubtedly just which God Himself ordains.”

    So, yes, I doubt you. I suspect you of utmost error. I have clearly and thoroughly laid out why I think you are in error, I have drawn upon Saints talking directly on the material we are discussing, whose words have been placed besides scripture and decrees of the Pontiffs at Trent. I believe that you are arrogant in placing your own interpretations of Natural Law and Scripture above that which has been found for us previously.

    As your own source states:

    “Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery” ”

    Do you have such expertise?

  • Chad says:

    On a side note, I’m working my way through both what you linked and what you quoted. I won’t get through them today, but they’re good. I’m unsure how much the first applies to this discussion, as it is discussing innocents outside of a just war. I’ll be interested to read Verbum Domini when I’m done with it.

  • jf12 says:

    re: my tzittzit. If I ever donned fringes of a morn, my wife would run with scissors to cut them off. “You’re not leaving the house looking like that!”

    But I certainly believe the rabbis have a better literal understanding of the Old Testament than you do, so your view that “the mindset of a literalist doesn’t work at all” is heavily discounted, in my view, in favor of theirs.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    if you had overcome your sloth …

    Hah! I read a couple of your (wrong) premises in that already-long-in-the-tooth thread and responded to them in particular, and by that point was done with the thread. No, I didn’t read your entire series of long posts after that nor your back and forth with Malcolm nor your insistence that I answer your every irrelevant demand that I make you feel comfortable about the Mosaic law. The last time I checked the thread was when I posted those two replies to specific things you said; at that point it was an old, tired thread and I was done with it.

    That was twelve days – nearly two weeks – ago. You commented here today, insisting that (speaking on behalf of Aquinas and Augustine) you had a profound argument that nobody had addressed.

    I notice (though I hadn’t seen it before) that you admit in your later comments there that I am right that, with very few exceptions, Scripture actually attributes to Moses what people are attributing to God. So that is something.

    Something that unravels your whole hermeneutic, really. Whether that makes you comfortable or not.

    So on to what you claim is the basis of your argument. Perhaps if you reduced it to something more organized and readable more people would actually read it.

    Unless I missed it you didn’t actually quote Augustine in that thread, as it turns out. You (by your own admission the result of a quick Google, which tells me that you are talking out of your hat) quote John Mattox. Here is your own actual ‘Augustine’ citation, which for whatever reason you can’t seem to bring yourself to post here, even though as far as I can tell it constitutes the main foundation of your ‘argument’:

    [Mattox]The law of war set forth in the Old testament contains surprisingly detailed instructions pertaining to jus in bello. These instructions enjoin cleanliness and decency on the part of soldiers, specify prohibitions against wanton destruction of the environment, and set forth generous rules for exemption from military service – certainly the most generous of any in the ancient world.

    It is somewhat curious that none of Augustine’s extant writings seem to quote directly from Deuteronomy 20, the principal source document of war in the Old Testament. One might speculate why this is so. If Augustine had appealed to the Mosaic Law to justify his position on the propriety of Christian participation in war, his detractors conveniently could have charged him with founding his argument on what they could have argued to be a now superseded law. He does argue, however, that if this ancient law of war was not applicable to his own day, it was, at least, appropriate for the day in which it was given. For:

    [Augustine]“What may be done at one time of day is not allowed at the next, and what may be done, or must be done, in one room is forbidden and punished in another. This does not mean that justice is erratic or variable, but that the times over which it presides are not always the same, for it is the nature of time to change. Man’s life on earth is short and he cannot, by his own perception, see the connexion between the conditions of earlier times and of other nations, which he has not experienced himself, and those of his own times, which are familiar to him.”

    [Mattox]Indeed, Augustine elsewhere insists that God can just as easily enjoin warfare in the new dispensation as He could in the Old.

    The part in quotes is Mattox quoting Augustine. The rest is Mattox, making claims about what Augustine insists and its connection to the objective reality of the developed just war doctrine (which is not coextensive with ancient Israel’s laws of war).

    I find nothing particularly objectionable about Augustine’s actual words as actually quoted, nor do I see anything in them that undermines any of the arguments I’ve actually made here or in the other threads. Whether Mattox gives accurate paraphrase or not would require doing due diligence on Mattox, something you admit to not doing before you posted and which I certainly have not done. I do notice that even Mattox doesn’t, in the quote, so much as talk about the Ban other than by obliquely mentioning Deut 20; and he does that to explicitly say that Augustine ignored/never cited Deut 20 — which is the very passage under discussion in the OP here.

    My suggestion is that you stop talking out of your hat, and stop pretending that access to Google means that you speak for the Church Fathers.

    … how does subscribing to the same standards that multiple Popes do towards Aquinas qualify me as being an ass?

    You are acting (and continue to act) like an ass when you pretend that I am arguing with Church Fathers as opposed to arguing with you. By your own admission you don’t know what you are talking about. It is up to you, but you might consider remedying that first.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:
    Here, from that thread, you express what appears to be your central angst:

    This is on top of the philosophical problems I’ve raised on how a flawed set of commands makes God a negligent Father, Christ a half-wit, and rhe Holy Ghost an incompetent author of scripture through the men holding the pen.

    So if God’s pedagogy w.r.t. Scripture isn’t just what you insist (contra e.g. Pope Benedict) that it should be, it follows that God is a negligent father, Christ is a half-wit, and the Holy Ghost is an incompetent author.

    Because God can do whatever He wills, except when it comes to Divine Revelation, which simply must take place on your terms.

  • Chad says:

    @ Zippy
    Your “ah hah! Gotcha” moment is ruined by the fact that I already made clear in the other thread parts of it were Augustine and some were commentary on him. Keep up the pettiness and attempts to disqualify rather than actually address the points though.

    What you miss with such actions is actually addressing Augustine’s arguments or points. From later in the source I linked it goes on to give a quote on Augustine towards the wars of Moses, that they:

    “will not excite surprise or abhorrence, for in wars carried on by divine command, he [Moses] showed not ferocity but obedience; and God, in giving the command, acted not in cruelty, but in righteous retribution, giving to all what they deserved, and warning those that needed warning.”

    So yes, I would still stand by the fact that I, good host, am standing with Augustine and that you stand against him. And I showed in the last comment that you stand against Aquinas and ignored that part of the comment. But hey, since you need me to do the reading for you for links and sources that you yourself ask for, lets keep going!

    Augustine:
    “It is. . . mere groundless calumny to charge Moses with making war, for there would have been less harm in him making war of his own accord, than in not doing it when God commanded him.”

    And more Augustine!
    “to dare find fault with God Himself for giving such a command, or not to believe it is possible for a just and good God did so, shows, to say the least, an inability to consider that in the view of divine providence, which pervades all things from the highest to the lowest, time can neither add anything nor take away; but all things go, or come, or remain according to the order of nature or desert in each separate case, while in men a right will is in union with the divine law, and ungoverned passion is restrained by the order of divine law; so that a good man wills only what is commanded, and a bad man can do only what he is permitted, at the same time that he is punished for what he wills to do unjustly.”

    And now, back to you:
    “You are acting (and continue to act) like an ass when you pretend that I am arguing with Church Fathers as opposed to arguing with you. ”

    As far as I can tell, my insistence is not wrong. And, by my own admission, I have not -read- all of what the Church Fathers have written on it; I never claimed that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I claimed I read as much as I have had time and access to, and found none of it contradictory. This is not the same thing at all; but an open admission of my faults and willingness to read what you put in front of me, which you have not done or you would have gone on to read a few pages in that link.

    Meanwhile, you do nothing to actually address that Thomas and Aquinas both have argued that such wars were, in fact, Just Wars.

    Instead, you dance around and try to disqualify it. You try to claim I have no reading or understanding of the Church Fathers, when I admit I have limited. I come before you humbly admitting such, and dash forward to strike me as you think ‘limited’ means ‘ignorant’ rather than “unable to claim a full understanding as Augustine’s and Aquinas’s works alone could fill a book shelf.’ Rather than either educate me or honestly argue against the Church Fathers, you are shown to be wrong in ways that look foolish and arrogant. You claim not to stand against them, when I can show you that you do. I have shown Augustine to do so, and I have shown that Aquinas agrees with Augustine’s views on Just Wars.

    All you do is attempt to win the argument as you see it (rather than the argument as it is, since I’ve repeatedly had to redirect you towards material already provided but you ignored hypocritically), rather than actually search for the Truth. I’m tired of dealing with this kind of intellectual dishonesty so I will clearly state – if I am wrong in regards to the Church Fathers, demonstrate me to be wrong by showing me writings of the Church Fathers that run contrary to what reading and understanding of them that I have. You have a man before you that is eager to learn and re-evaluate should you do so.

    But right now, your arrogance and desire to be seem right in the eyes of men seems to be in the way of actually being right in the eyes of God.

  • Chad says:

    @ Zippy
    Care to actually address my argument there or would you like to just keep pulling things out of context so that you can look superior and witty?

  • Chad says:

    “desire to be seem right ”

    Should be “desire to seem right”

    editing issues strike again.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Care to actually address my argument

    What argument? Not one of the words in your latest avalanche addresses the subject of putting infants to the sword at all, as far as I can tell.

    Try to stay focused.

    The subject has never been whether Moses was justified in making war on the Canaanites (in the first place, waging war is not intrinsically immoral). All kinds of citations on that subject are just blowing smoke, with a conceit that somewhere under the smoke there is an on-topic argument.

    You keep claiming you have an argument that justifies putting infants to the sword based on the just war tradition, but I have yet to see you address the actual specific subject of putting infants to the sword at all. Though I admit there might be something, somewhere, amidst all the red herrings, that I’ve missed. I’m not going to keep trying to wade through it: life is too short. Either state/cite clearly and unambiguously why putting infants to the sword is sometimes morally justified (and therefore not intrinsically immoral), or not. Your swagger and attempts to speak with the voices of the saints don’t impress me.

    As I understand it, which is very vaguely, Aquinas did (though perhaps not unequivocally) adopt a kind of voluntarism-lite at some point. He also didn’t believe that abortion was murder prior to quickening. So he is probably a better bet than Augustine.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Lydia & Zippy

    Nebuchadnezzar???? Say, what?

    &

    Under a certain (very Mohammedan) hermeneutic, anything men do that is causally connected to achieving “God’s will” is morally justified.

    Jeremiah 25 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), 2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the Lord, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.

    8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.

    You will recall that Nebuchadnezzar received a rebuke directly from the Lord: He is made to lose his crown, go mad, and eat grass, but after that he is restored. Aside from the OT prophets and the NT apostles, I can think of no one so blessed.

    Overall, Nebuchadnezzar cuts an admirable figure. He is noted for being just even if harsh.

    Since when are we even supposed to _try_ to defend the acts of Nebuchadnezzar in killing innocents?

    I don’t think you have to defend any of them.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    What argument?

    Yeah–what he said. You repeatedly displayed abject arrogance claiming that you were the mouthpiece of Augustine and Aquinas, and now the very quotes you give don’t even address the issue. Instead of all your snark toward Zippy, which only makes you look childish, I would recommend a big dose of humility for yourself.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Cane,

    I would suggest continuing on in Jeremiah to chapters 51-52. A couple of brief excerpts:

    51:11 “Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.”

    51:24 “I will requite Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, says the Lord.”

    But by all means, go ahead and read the whole thing. If the context undermines the thrust of these verses I am not clever enough to see how. I always thought the situation not unlike the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart; the fact that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the Israelites go did not excuse Pharaoh from his crimes.

  • William Luse says:

    Chad, et al., I am still waiting to hear what distinguishes our God’s murderous edicts (e.g., that sword-swiping the heads off infants is permissible) from those of the Mohammedan sort. You know, something that would justify our outrage at what they are presently up to, and our protest that God would not command his followers to commit murder in violation of His own commandment. I’m going to be waiting a long time, aren’t I?

    Or is it that the prebiotic religious soup theorists are right when they say that we all worship the same god?

  • jf12 says:

    @William Luse re: “waiting to hear what distinguishes” and “presently up to”. I’ll helpfully quote myself.

    “the edict to kill everything that breathes was spatially and temporally limited to Canaanitish peoples in Canaanitish lands during what was supposed to be a mercifully short period of expansion/occupation by the Israelites.”

    Special pleading works well in this case, as in so many others, because many special rules only apply to God’s special people. You and Zippy are being positivists by insisting that your understanding of reasoning from the general case to specific cases supersedes what the Bible says.

  • Zippy says:

    Special case because it is what Allah wills.

  • jf12 says:

    @Cane re: “Overall, Nebuchadnezzar cuts an admirable figure.” I would say eventually, rather than overall. He ends well, his last recorded words praising God.

    The Bible says he was blessed beyond measure by God, literally set the gold standard for worldly headship, was the greatest of emperors, heard directly from God as well as from prophets, was used directly and indirectly by God, got to write a whole chapter of the Bible, saw miracles and signs and wonders, etc. He often explicitly revered God.

    Yet time and again he would get prideful and forget and repudiate his faith. I count four times easily, but I remember a sermon in which the preacher counted five total. Nebuchadnezzar repentability is admirable, but his fickleness is not

  • Chad says:

    @ william
    I dont have time to go over all of it, nor am I nearly as clear or thorough as he is. For a concise summary, or starting place on which of his works to look at, I’d go here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=eTnUAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA155&ots=b5D0CaPiFp&dq=st%20augustine%20on%20deuteronomy&pg=PA128#v=onepage&q=st%20augustine%20on%20deuteronomy&f=false

    As I stated above, I have not read all of the book nor the original writings, but haven’t seen anything contradictory within either.

    @ zippy
    I’m going to be honest; I suspect you’re a more intelligent man than I, yet you are displaying a great lack of Prudence and inability to understand context. That or you’re dishonest.

    For instance:

    “What argument? Not one of the words in your latest avalanche addresses the subject of putting infants to the sword at all, as far as I can tell.”

    I was referring to the comment you made that took me out of context from the other thread. You know, indicated by me saying you took me out of context. For all this “try to keep up” you do fairly poorly at it yourself. Again, if you had quoted all of what I said, a single sentence, that would have been readily apparent. I suspect you knew that, or you would have quoted the whole sentance instead of butchering it. Instead you dishonestly try to make me look a fool to fuel your overwhelming need to look witty and superior.

    As for my “avalanche of words,” glad to see you chose to try and win the argument before men rather than actually address the discussion.

    Again, context. I made a just war argument based upon what the Fathers of the Church have to say about the wars of Moses against the Canaanites to include killing every living thing in particular cities. You called me ignorant, and I displayed that I was not ignorant and that you are wrong in any claim that you disagree with the Church Fathers with regards to the wars of Moses as commanded by God and issued to the tribes of Israel. To say that these are red herrings or irrelevant to the discussion is dishonest and seems to simply be a cowardly attempt to not confront them. Or did you forget that the issue you raised with Moses commands to wage war was the killing of every living thing, including infants? But, since a man who expects the other side to read pages of encyclicals he links but cannot be bothered to read a few quotes of Saints, and certainly not a few pages of a source he asked for, I will do my best make it simple for you:

    Church Fathers directly disagree with your statement that Moses was wrong to command the death of every living thing in cities the tribes were to occupy, they believe the wars commanded against the Canaanites were just and given by God. They believe that any words against Moses are the sin of calumny, that those who find the command abhorrent have faults in their ability to be obedient, and that anyone who cannot imagine how a good and just God could order such a thing displays an inability to contemplate how the divine view of God changes the perspective that such a command is good and just.

    As a side note, based on your mode of discussion:

    You sir, come off as an arrogant, petty, intellectually dishonest coward that likes to score points in arguments so that he can look witty and correct rather than go to the difficult task of actually being wise, correct, and right before the eyes of God. I hope that it is only an outward disposition and not an inward one, as valuing men’s opinions over that of knowing and loving God is a great hurdle to salvation that has brought the downfall of many a man.

    In the mean time, enjoy any esteem of men you win in your games.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “it is what Allah wills”. That is in fact an *irrational* argument, a simple appeal to (supposedly) empirical events, neither improved nor worsened by logic. Here is another example of that sort.
    1. Only God’s special people are used by Him to write the Bible.
    2. The Jews were God’s special people for all of the Old Testament past Genesis.
    3. Hence, no non-Jews could have written any part of the Old Testament.
    4. But, it was God’s will that Nebuchadnezzar write part.

  • Lydia says:

    Yeah, I definitely think that it is a mistaken understanding to take that passage where God says he will “bring” Nebuchadnezzar against the land to mean that what Nebuchadnezzar did in conquering the land of Israel was in fact _commanded_ by God in the sense that, if Nebuchadnezzar told his men (which I don’t recall our actually knowing) to run women and children through with the sword, then this was commanded by God and hence not murder. There are definitely more difficult passages (to my mind) in Scripture, but that isn’t one of them. We know that God can use conquerors who do bad things to judge people groups, and the reference to Neb. as “my servant” seems to fall under this general rubric. Remember that Neb. stole the vessels from the temple and that later, when his grandson Belshazzar mocked these by having a drunken feast out of them, Babylon was in turn judged by the conquest by the Medes and Persians. God is seen in the OT as being in one sense behind many of these national movements but not as specifically ordering them in a direct fashion (as in speaking audibly to Nebuchadnezzar), _much less_ as authorizing any targeting of innocents that takes place in the course thereof. The conquest of Canaan is a specially difficult case, as are other passages (such as the sacrifice of Isaac). There’s no reason to make our lives even more difficult interpretively than necessary by bringing in the broad-sweep conquests by foreign nations judging the people of Israel into the mix.

  • Chad,

    The problem, though, is not the slaughter of the Canaanites, full stop. It’s the slaughter of babies.

    This is a massive, very big, huge, incredibly, incredibly major distinction that really seems to be slipping by you.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    I made a just war argument based upon what the Fathers of the Church have to say about the wars of Moses against the Canaanites to include killing every living thing in particular cities.

    The bolded part is either false, or the argument you claim to have made is so obscured in verbal smoke that I missed it. Whether going to war is justified in a particular case is an entirely distinct question from whether putting infants to the sword is ever licit. You certainly haven’t posted anything relevant to the latter in this thread, whatever may be buried in other threads elsewhere.

    To say that these are red herrings or irrelevant to the discussion is dishonest and seems to simply be a cowardly attempt to not confront them.

    I’ll leave it to others to judge my character. But it seems to me that pointing out your total failure to address the actual subject, your verbose attempts to conflate it with an entirely distinct subject, and your attempt to pretend that arguing with you is tantamount to arguing with the Church Fathers, would be a valid criticism even if it came from someone with terrible character flaws.

    Church Fathers directly disagree with your statement that Moses was wrong to command the death of every living thing in cities the tribes were to occupy, they believe the wars commanded against the Canaanites were just and given by God.

    First, you haven’t actually cited any Church Father actually saying that. Second, the second claim (that going to war was justified) is entirely distinct from the first (that putting infants to the sword was justified). Placing them in the same sentence separated by a comma doesn’t transubstantiate apples into oranges. Your entire approach seems to hinge on conflating the two.

    Third, Church Fathers disagreed with each other about the Ban. Some considered it merely allegorical, for example. But you have yet to actually cite any of them specifically about the Ban in this thread, whatever you may or may not have linked to in lengthy discussions elsewhere.

    You sir, come off as an arrogant, petty, intellectually dishonest coward that likes to score points in arguments so that he can look witty and correct rather than go to the difficult task of actually being wise, correct, and right before the eyes of God.

    I re-read what I posted in this thread, and I think I’ve been more than fair to you. Others may disagree, and they are welcome to their disagreement.

    All of which is off-topic w.r.t. the central subject matter of putting infants to the sword.

    As best as I can tell (though I can’t seem to convince you to state it plainly yourself), your argument is that (1) some Church Fathers argued that waging war on the Canaanites was justified; so (2) since waging war on the Canaanites was justified, it follows that putting infants to the sword would have been justified in those wars.

    The argument is an obvious non sequitur. That the US was justified in entering World War II doesn’t justify the Hiroshima bombing. In order to justify the latter you have to actually argue that the latter specifically is justified, and that is exactly what you have not done on this subject (though, again, I haven’t combed through every word you’ve posted in every thread on other sites).

  • Chad says:

    @ malcom

    I understand that. Babies breath and thus are included in the kill every living thing. I simply don’t use the words you are because they have implicit morality attached when you use murder or innocents That runs contrary to what I believe is the case for the specific event and has not been proven

  • CJ says:

    Chad,

    I think what you’re missing is that on Zippy’s reading of the passage in Deuteronomy, God commands going to war, Moses commands wholesale slaughter. So for Zippy, when the Fathers say going to war is licit because God said so, the question of killing babies is still open because God didn’t command it.

    In order to address Zippy’s argument, you need to either (1) show that his reading is wrong and that Moses was speaking for God (and not himself) when he commanded wholesale slaughter including babies, or (2) cite the Fathers specifically saying that killing babies (and not just going to war) is licit.

    Again, just showing that the Fathers approved of the war with the Canaanites doesn’t address the issue. Zippy doesn’t dispute that God commanded the war.

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    In order to address Zippy’s argument, you need to either (1) show that his reading is wrong and that Moses was speaking for God (and not himself) when he commanded wholesale slaughter including babies

    Chad already conceded in one of the Free Northerner threads (the comment is here, so you don’t have to search for it) that a ‘most literal’ reading of Deuteronomy has Moses, not God, commanding the Ban. This raises all sorts of questions that bother him about the Mosaic law (and probably hermeneutics/divine pedagogy in general); but the fact that it raises all sorts of questions that bother him doesn’t make it untrue.

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    I think what you’re missing is that on Zippy’s [literalist] reading of the passage…

    I should point out that the literalist reading I give in the OP isn’t something I am married to. I am (with e.g. Origen, Augustine, our Benedict XVI, etc) open to allegorical interpretations, especially of the Ban in particular since its historical actuality seems to be contradicted by other passages of Scripture, at least according to Bible scholars who have studied it.

    My entire approach on this subject has been to take the perspective of my interlocutors seriously. But taking it seriously doesn’t mean that I buy into it myself.

  • CJ says:

    Thanks for the link Zippy. His concession in that thread explains why he’s trying so hard to go with my second option.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    You sir, . . .

    This coming from the man who is (by all appearances intentionally) diverting the argument away from what Zippy actually says to a different issue that he did not claim, then insisting he is wrong when you provide evidence to that different claim, evidence in the form of your claim of infallibility regarding writings of the church fathers. And when Zippy prudently reveals the problems with your approach, you become completely unhinged and start insulting his character.

    Oh, yeah. The readers are definitely observing some character problems here.

  • anon says:

    @jf12:

    ‘“the edict to kill everything that breathes was spatially and temporally limited to Christian peoples in Caliphate lands during what was supposed to be a mercifully short period of expansion/occupation by the ISIS.”

    Special pleading works well in this case, as in so many others, because many special rules only apply to Allah’s special people.’

  • jf12 says:

    re: your argument via colon. Literally, it makes absolutely zero sense to apply the commanding in Deut 20:16-17 as applying only to the *explanation* given after the colon, in verse 18. What is commanded is the described actions: clearly, obviously, unambiguously, and inarguably. Literally, nobody can actually think that the justification of an action is commanded, and not the action.

    And is not your whole argument “Moses ain’t quoting God here”, even if true which I deny, itself special pleading anyway? If not, why can’t anyone apply it to the Catholic Church claims to have authority from God and to *everything* the Churchsays, simply replying “That ain’t God speaking.”

  • anon says:

    P.S. @jf12:

    Only Allah’s special people are used by Him to write the Quran.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    By Allah’s will, Strunk and White has been incorporated into the Alcoran.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “many special rules only apply to Allah’s special people”. Exactly! That is exactly the reasoning that someone who believes like that ought to employ. Of course, I dispute that they ought to believe like that.

    BTW it is disingenuous at best to pretend to think that there is necessarily a general pattern of special cases. Even if EVERYONE were special in his or own way, this special case for the Israelites doesn’t generalize to the same special case for ISIS.

  • anon says:

    @jf12:

    “special case for the Israelites doesn’t generalize to the same special case for ISIS”

    But like all “special people,” including paranoid serial killers or child molesters who only fulfill “God’s will” (e.g., Warren Jeffs), ISIS believe they are special and that Allah speaks through them, and that’s all that matters.

    People have a boundless capacity to rationalize their cruelest misdeeds, and their religious beliefs are (e)specially helpful in that process.

  • jf12 says:

    “Hath God said?” was a fairly subtle attack by the devil compared to the criminalization of God’s Word, repeatedly in the Old and New Testaments and presently in the unfolding societal inversion of morality where good is bad and vice versa. Keep in mind that as prophesized we will all be *defined* as “intrinsically” immoral if we uphold the Word.

  • I simply don’t use the words you are because they have implicit morality attached when you use murder or innocents

    You can take out “murder” if you don’t want to concede it, but when it comes to “innocents” that’s pretty much inescapable when you’re talking about baby-slaughter.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “believe they are special and that Allah speaks through them”. It occurs to me that one of the Biblical ways to test if God is speaking through someone is if what they say comes to pass. But it seems to be a particularly gutsy move to reply to someone claiming “God told me to kill you.” with “Go ahead and try!”

  • Mike T says:

    I think what you’re missing is that on Zippy’s reading of the passage in Deuteronomy, God commands going to war, Moses commands wholesale slaughter. So for Zippy, when the Fathers say going to war is licit because God said so, the question of killing babies is still open because God didn’t command it.

    To put it in modern terms, the commander in chief ordered a forward deployment of ground forces into battle, but the commanding general appears to have thrown out key details of the rules of engagement handed down in the CiC’s orders. The fact that the commanding general had authorization to engage in battle makes the war itself morally licit.The fact that he had authorization to prosecute a war, even a very punitive one, does not give him authority to go outside of the rules of engagement.

    The most reasonable reading of these passages seems to be that Moses and Joshua exceeded their command authority.

  • Mike T says:

    makes the war itself morally licit

    **Rather, assuming the war itself meets basic legitimacy requirements, the prosecution of the war is licit within the bounds of morality.

  • Mike T,

    Interesting. Does this represent an evolution in your views from early on?

  • BTW, Cane, interesting stuff about Neb. Thank you for that.

  • Mike T says:

    It occurs to me that one of the Biblical ways to test if God is speaking through someone is if what they say comes to pass. But it seems to be a particularly gutsy move to reply to someone claiming “God told me to kill you.” with “Go ahead and try!”

    There are several other tests (most of which elude me at the moment and I’m too lazy to use Google right now), one of which is the speaker’s character. Mohammed fails that test by a large margin, unless of course most of mankind is wrong about a caravan-raiding, child-raping, back-stabbing, murderous cretin who couldn’t keep his story straight being the paragon of virtue some claim he was.

  • CJ says:

    If I ever publish a Bible with those chapter headings :

    Deuteronomy 20 – Moses Calls an Audible

  • Mike T says:

    Interesting. Does this represent an evolution in your views from early on?

    Not really. My position was that I was simply unwilling to countenance the idea that scripture could be wrong, even if it said God ordered Moses to slaughter the infants. I pointed out even in the W4 thread that my position was complicated by the fact that, having read the various verses on the topic, my conclusion is that we simply have no accurate record of what really went on between God and Moses on the subject. Therefore from a straight-forward reading we couldn’t conclude that God actually ordered the slaughter.

    Much of my disagreement with Bill and Lydia was on the issue of my being willing to accept the morality of God ordering a slaughter if it were recorded as such. I still maintain that God can theoretically order such a thing as a form of particular judgment. I also think Lydia’s attempts to bring in rape serve as a red herring bordering on a bait and switch because rape can serve no function as a particular judgment due to the difference between an act of sexual violence and an act of execution. Death is a legitimate punishment for certain classes of heinous behavior according to the natural law; rape is simply never within that. What we were debating there was how and when death can be applied within the scope of the natural law or God’s will.

  • jf12 says:

    re: argument via historical actuality. I fully understand this argument to be “God couldn’t have said it since the people didn’t obey it properly.”

  • Chad says:

    @ cj
    I never conceeded that the argument Zipoy makes in the OP for some opponent that is not me – that some commands are Moses speaking, and some Moses speaking for God. In fact at the other thread I said the exact opposite, that long before Deuteronomy 20 he explicitly says, multiple times, that the tribes must follow all the commands given to them.

    As for the quotes on Augustine, what acts do you think he was describing that should not be considered abhorrent? The restrictions on not cutting down trees? The killing of enemies that did not surrender when the Israelites were commanded to offer a chance to do so first? Really now, the quotes are all pertinent to the topic and do, in fact, address each of zippys points.

    @ silly
    I have been lied about, quoted out of context, told I was an ass, that I was off subject for providing the source and quotes Zippy asked for, read what he provided when he did not do the same, and more. I displayed such behaviours on his part, and used words to describe him that match the definitions of his actions. This is not “becoming unhinged” but a clear and rational approach to unjust treatment on his part towards myself.

    And, laughably, I never claimed either saint was infallible. I claimed he was in disagreement with the Church Fathers, and he has not displayed otherwise, nor did he take me up on an offer to find other saints, popes, or councils to back his own position. Instead he found an encyclical targeted towards abortion and euthanasia, and one on interpretations of scripture saying that one must have an experise in the area. Ironically I’m the one quoting saints speaking specifically on the subject and he spraks for himself

  • CJ says:

    Chad –

    I have a tendency to jump in when I see people talking past each other and not addressing the core of each other’s argument. Nobody is disputing whether the Israelites had just cause to wage war against the Canaanites (jus ad bellum). However, even a war that is undertaken for just cause must be prosecuted by just methods (jus in bello). Zippy says that killing babies can never be a just way of waging war. In this thread, I haven’t seen you provide a quote from a saint or magisterial document that says otherwise.

    For the record, I’m more or less agnostic on how to understand the “slaughter” passages. Whether they’re due to Moses calling an audible, the wrong one of two competing traditions, or an extreme version of ancient trash talk, etc., we’ll understand it better by and by. What is more important today is that given what we know in light of progressive revelation and encountering Truth Himself, is that I’m always going to be sure that I’m either going crazy or being deceived by a demon if received an order from “god” to kill babies.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “Zippy says that killing babies can never be a just way of waging war.”

    Yes, but more than that. Zippy says that killing babies COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN justified, and bound by his reasoning using that moral principle, logically derives that God and Moses and the Bible are all mistaken when they say otherwise three times (or more, including the other examples besides the three commandments to kill babies in the Torah).

  • jf12 says:

    I forgot to add “logically and positivistically derives that God etc are mistaken”.

  • …logically derives that God and Moses and the Bible are all mistaken when they say otherwise three times (or more, including the other examples besides the three commandments to kill babies in the Torah).

    That you keep saying this over and over just indicates that you don’t know what Zippy was talking about.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12 – in addition to equating his own opinions and interpretations to God’s will – regularly mistakes reaching definite conclusions for positivism. Reaching definite conclusions doesn’t make one a positivist: contra postmodernism, positivism is not required in order to reach definite conclusions.

  • Chad says:

    @ CJ
    My understanding of the Augustine quotes is that they are directed towards not only the war but to the manner in which he was commanded to wage war. If they are not, please feel free to show me how I am misunderstanding them, which I will evaluate and see if I agree.

    As for the killing of babies if God ordered one of us today… I would feel the same way as you. I don’t think any argument could be made, at this point in history, that such actions are called for. Justice and morality are not relative, but subject to the circumstances of the world one finds oneself acting in. I believe the circumstances of the wars commanded by God, relayed through Moses, and completed by the tribes were just wars and good. I believe they were good for the world; Israelites and Canaanites both. Both Thomas Aquinas and Augustine agree that it is better for those unable to repent, who have committed actions and sins that create the terms for a just war, to die than to linger in sin. I believe that the realities of the Canaanites as were are told in scripture, as well as any untold, were deemed such by God. While I don’t think such things would be Just now, I make no claims for the future for man’s depravity knows no bounds. However, I don’t know if I would listen to any being claiming to be God ordering me as such without the same kind of involved leadership from God as seen from when He first had Moses talk to the Pharoah.

    So, my instinctual reaction to someone advocating such today would be to put him in a padded room with high security.

    Here’s a link to Aquinas on war from the Summa if you want it
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3040.htm

  • Chad says:

    @ Malcolm
    Prove to me, using Natural law arguments, that babies are innocent.

    Augustine did not believe they were, as can be read in his Confessions when he was pondering where his own greed and sins took root

    Furthermore, both Augustine and Aquinas argued that Just wars were dictated by the actions of the populace and not by individuals. They make clear arguments that Just Wars are fought to right wrongs of societies as a whole.

    “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”

    And:

    “Those whom we have to punish with a kindly severity, it is necessary to handle in many ways against their will. For when we are stripping a man of the lawlessness of sin, it is good for him to be vanquished, since nothing is more hopeless than the happiness of sinners, whence arises a guilty impunity, and an evil will, like an internal enemy.”

    And:

    “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”
    – all Augustine as quoted by Thomas in Summa and able to be found in the link in the last comment

    These all view societies as having sins which weigh upon them as a whole nation, leading to the judgment of the nation as a whole by God. This is seen in every instance that God judges a city or nation, and is directly in line with the language God had his prophets speak to the people as well as the actions God took against tribes and gentiles both.

    So, as far as I can tell, Bible and saints (at least these two), believe that the sins involved in making a war just also create a loss of neutrality or innocence as pertains to the punishment meted out by the just war.

  • Zippy says:

    Do people not know their catechism?

    The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties (CCC 2312).

    One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide (CCC 2313).

    Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. (CCC 2314).

  • jf12 says:

    Zippy, your usage of the term is that positivism is reflected in one’s stubborn leaning to one’s own understanding in the face of empirical facts and/or divine revelation to the contrary. So I think my usage is in accord with your usage.

    And I’ve already said my reasoning agrees with your reasoning and therefore I must abandon it as flawed in favor of what is written instead.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Zippy, your usage of the term is that positivism is reflected in one’s stubborn leaning to one’s own understanding in the face of empirical facts and/or divine revelation to the contrary.

    That isn’t positivism at all. It isn’t even in the same cognate universe as positivism.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @MtC

    You’re welcome.

    @jf12 & Chad

    Zippy says that killing babies COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN justified, and bound by his reasoning using that moral principle, logically derives that God and Moses and the Bible are all mistaken when they say otherwise

    The bolded part is not what Zippy is saying. Rather, he’s saying that we can’t know because we weren’t there, and so without that knowledge, we must assume the symbols (the words in the Bible) must not convey licit killing of innocents as God’s command because that (killing innocents is always murder) is a principle; according to Zippy and others.

    He has maintained this since he started talking about it.

    Then he wrote this post attacking a (very literal) position that none of his opponents occupy. Do not be suckered into defending the potemkin village he built and besieged…and certainly not while it is being besieged. It’s illusory. Let it go.

    Lydia, Luse, and Zippy can keep up the illusion only so long as they continue to bring the focus back on Deuteronomy 20 and it’s related texts. In Joshua is is explicit. I suspect the reasonable strategy there is to say that Joshua lied, but then again they can always fall back on the notion that no one reading text (or listening to words) can actually be sure of what they are receiving.

    What I do not understand is:

    1) Why Lydia is not a Roman Catholic. There the Church and the Eucharist can validate and enervate the words in the Bible. That’s the rudder on this ship. There she can fight the very concept of principled exceptions in a way that really matters; instead of distracting herself with what some Israelites didn’t do 3000 years ago–which is all the OT can ever really be to them.

    2) How do these people negotiate a supermarket? It must be just a series of wonders when they get home. Every time they open a can of peas it contains peas. How did they know how to describe it?

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    I never conceeded that the argument Zipoy makes in the OP for some opponent that is not me – that some commands are Moses speaking, and some Moses speaking for God.

    I must have misinterpreted your words when you said:

    “You see, while you’re right about him issuing how the tribes would wage a just war on the Canaanites, he also at no point (that I see, please correct me if I’m missing it) attributes any law at all to a command from God.”

    This isn’t strictly true: Moses attributes the Decalogue directly to God, for example, though that isn’t in Deuteronomy. And in the OP I show some attributions to the LORD in Dt.

    In fact at the other thread I said the exact opposite, that long before Deuteronomy 20 he explicitly says, multiple times, that the tribes must follow all the commands given to them.

    This is characteristic of your writing (at least on this topic) in general, where you make two entirely distinct statements (or cite distinct quotes) which mean entirely different things, and treat them as if they mean the same thing.

    The proposition “you must obey the laws I am giving you” is not even remotely equivalent to “these are God’s direct commandments”. The Pope asserting juridical laws which must be obeyed isn’t even remotely a declaration of infallible doctrine.

    This is the sort of thing that makes me read a few sentences of yours and then give up on extracting any unequivocal meaning from them.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:

    2) How do these people negotiate a supermarket? It must be just a series of wonders when they get home. Every time they open a can of peas it contains peas. How did they know how to describe it?

    It is a puzzle to you because you are still caught in the mind trap: the only alternative to positivism (of which literalism is a species) is no meaning at all (postmodernism).

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:

    Then he wrote this post attacking a (very literal) position that none of his opponents occupy.

    I don’t attack it, I state it. An as-literal-as-possible interpretation of Dt is that Moses is talking, not God.

    If that is a Potemkin village it just goes to show that even literalists don’t take literalism seriously.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “we can’t know because we weren’t there”. But we KNOW have a more sure Word than knowledge from our own experience and reasoning. It seems a terrible thing to found a supposed defense of Deut 20 on the miry foundation of doubt in that it actually i.e. literally happened.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    But we KNOW have a more sure Word than knowledge from our own experience and reasoning.

    The only way you can read and interpret words at all is through your own experience and reasoning.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “a (very literal) position that none of his opponents occupy”

    I don’t know that I count as an opponent but I recognize that it says God commanded it, just like the literalist rabbis also recognize.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “The only way you can read and interpret words at all is through your own experience and reasoning.”

    It’s a gift, and a curse.

    Any adequate reading and interpreting system is a filter whose effects can be deconvoluted given sufficient input range. Beside that calibration, the only really interesting part of the whole process is determining the nullspace kernel, which includes probing boundaries and limits of detection. But maybe you think otherwise.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    I’ve never seen participation in the sacramental life of the Church of Christ and obedience of the magisterium in matters of faith and morals analogized to deconvolution. But whatever works for you.

  • Chad says:

    @ Cane
    Thanks for the refresher and step back of perspective.

    As far as I know, Augustine and Aquinas felt the same about the Joshua wars as they did about the text of Deuteronomy 20. One of the quotes of Augustine’s I’d used above was from commentary/questions on Joshua. Frustratingly, I can’t find it as Aquinas cites it only as “Book VI, question 16 of questions on Joshua” which has gotten me a whole lot of nothing when I search for the original writing (besides one copy of it in Latin). I cannot find an English translation.

    But, I’m sure the fact that Augustine had nothing but praise for the wars in Joshua (and I’m unsure if he even distinguishes between them and “the wars of Moses”) won’t mean anything without context. Originally I was looking for the answer to that distinction in Augustine’s mind, but now I’ll try and look further.

  • William Luse says:

    jf12: Even if EVERYONE were special in his or own way, this special case for the Israelites doesn’t generalize to the same special case for ISIS.

    Let’s reason in circles, why don’t we?

    Zippy says that killing babies COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN justified…

    That is correct. Murder is by definition never justified. There is no “special case” for murder by which it becomes “not murder.”

    MikeT: I also think Lydia’s attempts to bring in rape serve as a red herring bordering on a bait and switch because…etc…Death is a legitimate punishment for certain classes of heinous behavior according to the natural law; rape is simply never within that.

    No, it was not a red herring. She brought it in as an example of an intrinsic evil which, like murder, God would never command. Death as a legitimate punishment or as the issue of waging just war is not even relevant, since those are not types of murder.

    I take it from Cane Caldo’s last comment that he accepts that God could command humans to commit murder in violation of His own commandment against it.

    Chad: why – rather than giving a direct answer to my question – do you provide me with a Google book search? It seems your preferred mode of argument to throw out links to other places. Just tell me in your own words – and without harnessing your special relationship with the Fathers – what separates our God and his murderous edicts from those of the Mohammedan. I’m not ordinarily a patient man, but I’m going to make an exception just for you.

    Justice and morality are not relative, but subject to the circumstances of the world one finds oneself acting in.

    And with that you render it relative.

    Prove to me, using Natural law arguments, that babies are innocent.

    Your insistence on confounding spiritual purity with the innocence of noncombatants in war does ‘prove’ one thing: that you understand neither the concept of intrinsic evil nor the tenets governing jus in bello, and until you’ve repaired this deficit you might consider retiring temporarily from the conversation.

    And yet, I’m willing to wait a little longer, since none of your cohorts – in their allegiance to a literal inerrancy that requires us to believe in a God who conscripts humans into acts of murder – has said anything that would raise our God above all others. Maybe you can help.

  • Scott W. says:

    It is worth a side note that I’ve heard the babies-are-not-innocent argument from pro-abortionists along with the idea that because there are miscarriages, God is the biggest abortionist of all.

  • Zippy says:

    Bill:

    No, it was not a red herring. She brought it in as an example of an intrinsic evil which, like murder, God would never command. Death as a legitimate punishment or as the issue of waging just war is not even relevant, since those are not types of murder.

    The equivalent sorts of “objections” could be raised with rape too. Not all intercourse is rape, and when Allah wills forcible penetration it isn’t rape.

    Or sodomy, or pedophilia, or bestiality. Sex isn’t intrinsically immoral, so if Allah wills that you mount that sheep, it isn’t bestiality.

  • Zippy says:

    Bill:

    Just tell me in your own words – and without harnessing your special relationship with the Fathers …

    One thing I find especially detestable is when people claim to be the mouthpiece of others, really any time but especially others who are not here to defend themselves and make their own clarifications. This is wrapped up with positivism: text cannot be understood at all without a preexisting connection to its author. You can’t understand without love.

    Aquinas near the end of his life wrote to the effect that everything he had written before was worthless, so as good literalists we ought to simply discount everything he wrote as worthless. Origen and Augustine were proponents of allegorical interpretation of Scripture (and other non-literal modes of interpretation), as is Pope Emeritus Benedict. I’m not an expert, but I’ve read experts who say that (referencing the Glossa Ordinaria and other compendiums) non-literal interpretation of the Old Testament has in fact been the dominant mode of interpretation of the Old Testament throughout all of Christianity. Wycliff and the Lollards were an aberration, a heresy. Like all heresies, within the Divine pedagogy it has played out and clarified over centuries. I’ve postulated myself that the Lollards adopted their literalist heresy from the Mohammedans, and it certainly ‘rhymes’ with Islam.

    And it is interesting that in order to bolster their claim to be the spokesmen for God, people always end up endorsing the murder of children. They get the lesson of Abraham exactly backwards: Abraham is praised for obedience and at the same time given the unequivocal message that Yahweh is not the kind of god he (Abraham) was used to, demanding child sacrifice.

  • Zippy says:

    I wrote:

    And it is interesting that in order to bolster their claim to be the spokesmen for God, people always end up endorsing the murder of children. They get the lesson of Abraham exactly backwards: Abraham is praised for obedience and at the same time given the unequivocal message that Yahweh is not the kind of god he (Abraham) was used to, demanding child sacrifice.

    I am beginning to wonder if one of the reasons Deuteronomy and Joshua are in the Canon is to confound those with the hubris to take the Scriptures as their license to speak for God. All they have to do is approve of the slaughter of innocents, and then they can don the mantle of ‘divine’ authority for themselves without washing the feet of the Apostles.

  • jf12 says:

    re: the lesson of Abraham. Abraham is praised for his special obedience when he believed God was commanding him to kill his child. He is specifically praised for NOT deciding to “to refrain from the intrinsically immoral act”.

    This lesson is entirely epistemological in the exact opposite the way you want it to be: It’s your feelings that are getting in the way of your obedience. Just like Peter with the pigs in a blanket, and several other examples we’ve discussed, Abraham had a secure enough relationship with God that he recognized His voice when He commanded him to do something that he felt was icky.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Abraham is praised for his special obedience when he believed God was commanding him to kill his child.

    Sure, because that is what all of the pagan ‘gods’ of the day demanded. It was expected of the gods that they would require such things. Then Yahweh shows Abraham, in no uncertain terms, that He is different.

    Scripture has to be read as God revealing Himself gradually to fallen and detestable Man, culminating in Christ; and will make sense only while washing the feet of the Apostles.

  • Zippy says:

    Notice this too:

    It’s your feelings that are getting in the way of your obedience.

    “Obedience” is defined as “what jf12 says that God demands, based on jf12’s personal hermeneutic applied to Genesis”.

    Literalism is the discarded core of the fruit in the Garden: eat of it and you can be like God, answerable to no one but yourself.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “Scripture has to be read as God revealing Himself gradually to fallen and detestable Man, culminating in Christ; and will make sense only while washing the feet of the Apostles.”

    Absolutely correct and well-said.

    re: “Literalism is the discarded core of the fruit in the Garden”

    Absolutely incorrect. “Hath God literally said?” was the first tool of the devil.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    There were no Scriptures to be interpreted in the Garden.

    But your view is consistent with the Lollard/Mohammedan view of Scripture as the Real Presence.

  • jf12 says:

    Also, Abraham and Peter literally heard. Your original worry that some psycho might claim to believe to be compelled by hearing a Voice urging him to “Kill! Kill! Kill!” seems to have morphed into a worry that some moron would read about God literally commanding in Scripture someone else to kill someone else as some 11th (or 614th) Commandment: “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

    I seem to recall that a similarly uninspired worry powered the novoDonatists of the Dark Ages to remove the Word from the laity, lest their dirty fingers doing the walking, and their dirty lips doing the moving, might stumble upon an icky Idea or two or three.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Your habit of attempting to reframe arguments you can’t answer as “feelings” and “worries” probably doesn’t have the effect on the discussion you think it has.

  • jf12 says:

    re: clear Voice. Is it more likely in the 21st century that an educated Pentecostal man is misreading a couple of short simple sentences in the Bible whose literal interpretation jibes with the unanimous interpretation of rabbis for millenia preceding the Catholic church, or is it more likely that the apparently Magisterial murkiness is due to nonliteralness not working?

  • jf12 says:

    re: “can’t answer”. I’ve answered every time. Have you? Was that a yes or a no?

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Sanctified bovine! I blasted open a worm-can, didn’t I? Sorry, Mr. Zippy. I asked for a debate and got it. Unfortunately, it’s not what I wanted. I got what I asked for, but not what I desired, like one of those satanically-granted wishes. I thought I’d qualified the terms so carefully, too.

    I hate that I’m going to be remembered for arguing two opposite positions in the same commenting box. On the other hand, I love that I’m going to be remembered. Also, I’m quite pleased to sow controversy when controversy is appropriate. Therefore, I love that I’m going to be remembered for arguing two opposite positions in the same commenting box.

    Grant that (1) humans killing innocents is wrong. Now, grant that (2) it’s wrong because humans lack any power to know that an infant is not innocent and therefore has no authority to kill one. This gives breathing room for the idea that (3) God could give a morally legitimate command to kill an infant. Now, put the possibility of one poorly-vested interpretation (that (4)3 not only is true, but that it actually occurred) against the complete moral certainty of 1. The whole case for the “”literalist”” position depends ->*^*necessarily*^*<- on a demonstration of the validity of its interpretation (4). Without that demonstration, it’s perfectly legitimate and epistemologically preferable to reject that interpretation for the sake of one more consistent with 1, which is certain. One man’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens, as they say, but that never means both men are equally correct in their conclusions. Demonstrate 4, or leave it alone. One does not just reject a normative moral certainty in general or in any particular case on the basis of an airy theoretical possibility (3 & 4). Well… unless he’s a modern deconstructionist philosopher, anyway.

    This is the conclusion I was led to above (or, perhaps I was given the slack necessary for my logic to eat itself). I wish I’d formulated it more clearly above. I also wish I’d formulated it more clearly here. The conclusion isn’t based on an outright rejection of 4, but the failure of it’s proponents to demonstrate the premise conclusively. Even if they’re right objectively, one is more right to reject them on these grounds. Gallileo was right — in a sense, I qualify lest I incur the O’Floinn’s fearsome wrath — but wouldn’t prove it. It was right to reject his conclusions on those grounds for the sake of contradictory evidence.

    Put up or shut up, as the Philosopher says.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    I understood you the first time, speaking for myself, or at least I thought I did; and I’m gratified that we reach the same conclusion even if by slightly different routes.

    I think premise (2) is problematic, because it employs the wrong sense of ‘innocent’. The natural law license of the public authority to kill in e.g. war and capital punishment doesn’t rest on lack of spiritual innocence: it rests on the fact that the non-innocent are attacking or have attacked individuals or the common good. And self-defense isn’t a question of killing someone because he is spiritually impure: again, the ‘innocence’ distinguishing the innocent from attackers hinges on attacking behaviors.

    But in any event, the conclusion is the same.

  • Chad says:

    @ William
    “why – rather than giving a direct answer to my question – do you provide me with a Google book search?”

    Because I had a lack of time, lack of desire, and, quiet honestly, Augustine and Aquinas are much better at explaining the reasoning than I am. If you desire to look back at Free Northerner’s thread, I was making the same arguments there that Augustine was, and he does it much better than I do. Also, Zippy continues to state and stand by the idea that experts should be the ones we turn to in regards to scripture; with which I am in full agreement and was arguing for two weeks ago. He has yet to do so, I have done so for two weeks. The saints are our guides to God, and should be relied upon as such. Or, for the non-Catholic, they should be acknowledged as great shapers of Western thought and philosophy and treated as such.

    So, it is not that I speak for Augustine or Aquinas as Zippy would so wrongly misconstrue me; it’s that the words and opinions I have stated have been explicitly stated to be my understanding of their writings and opinions. No one has actually decided to show I am wrong in such misunderstandings, simply to state that I must be wrong. Apparently, the burden of proof ends with Zippy directly after he asks for and receives it. Augustine and Aquinas can stand for themselves, and I would be grateful for anyone able to show me I am wrong and point me towards other writings of theirs I can read to further educate myself.

    However, I will do my humble best to summarize my views, shaped by the words of giants in such eloquence that took far longer than a short comment to elucidate.

    A Just War must have outward causes and inward dispositions in order to be Just. There must be a legitimate authority declaring the war, there must be a just cause for the war, and there must be the ability to affect a good or avoid an evil. If war must be waged, it is to be done so with love towards the enemy and with a desire for peace.

    1. The legitimate authority in scripture is God. While there are no direct signs in Deuteronomy that this is such, there are many signs that God never withdrew his favor from Moses nor the tribes for this. In Joshua there are texts supporting such commands to Moses, from Moses to Joshua, and that God approved of them for that was his will.

    “As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded of Moses.”
    – Joshua 11:15

    2. Just cause for war. Modern thought is that a ‘just cause’ must mean that one sovereign power is imposing upon another. This is unsupported in scripture and in the words of the Church Fathers. There must be a fault with the other nation that is so egregious that virtuous men would be at fault -not- to address it. War is to restore Justice, not to destroy it, and justice should never be destroyed for some perverted idea of a ‘greater good,’ for such will never bring peace and cannot be done with proper love towards God, the enemy, and the self.

    In this case, the Canaanites were committing the atrocities we are told in scripture. Not only did they commit them, but God gave them a great, long while to repent and turn away from their injustices; over four hundred years. As he told Abraham:

    “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Am’orites is not yet complete.’ ”
    – Genesis 15:13-16

    So, we are told four hundred years prior to the Wars of Israel that the land they are in is theirs. They have been dispossessed of it, and made to be sojourners for four hundred years. Yet, rather than immediately act against such injustices, God’s mercy prevails and he gives them time to repent. They do not do so, and for such they have clothed themselves with such iniquity and evil that war is required to serve out justice.

    I will make a side note here that, both Augustine and Aquinas state that any action or war commanded by God must be Just by definition. If they do not appear such to us mere mortals, it is a lack on our part, not on the part of God.

    3. With such in mind, we come to the fact that there is both good to be done and evil to be avoided. The good to be done is for Israel to reclaim their lands, to have the promised land of milk and honey which God made a covenant to give them. The evil to be avoided is falling into the ways of the Canaanites, whose sins are those which throw a shadow over all society

    One possible reason that God allowed such iniquities to continue for the length he did, without punishment, is to be able to make such an utter example of sins which overshadow and stain entire nations while doing so justly. He does the same with Israel’s apostasy as well; 1/3 put to the sword, 1/3 to famine, and 1/3 to plague. As Zippy linked before, this is the exact same thing that God did to the Canaanites – before the Israelites went to war they were proceeded by plague and famine. Scripture states that the only reason God puts forth mercy to the tribes when they commit such sins is for his own glory, to keep his side of the covenant even when humans break it, and so that his name might not be blasphemed by other nations.

    So, we have the outward causes. Onward and inward.

    1. Done with love of enemy

    God does not command the complete destruction of the Canaanites. He commands that the Israelites be given the land rightfully belonging to them. Given what we know about the Lord’s chastisement of nations who sin, both to the nations themselves and to those that might witness the righteous fury and justice of our good Lord, he waits until there is so much sin that none might doubt the error of their evil ways. There were not 10 souls; man, woman, or child, worthy of God’s mercy in Sodom. For merely turning back to look upon it, Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt. In these things God throws down sinners upon the earth and tramples them under foot by men

    “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.”
    – Matthew 5:13

    In trodding such sinners under the feet of men and of God, he humbles the unrepentant sinners themselves through just punishment and serves to teach others the errors of their ways. Thus, in Love, God teaches the world how to follow God’s ways through Just wars.

    2. To make peace.Both inner peace and outer peace require a lack of sin and a lack of war.

    So, outer peace. Even after 400 years of iniquity, God still commanded the Israelites to search for peace before putting Canaanites to the sword. If the Canaanites repented and humbled themselves before God’s glory and chosen people, they could find life. They could follow the example of the Israelites in submitting before God’s will.

    For inner peace, there must be no sin. For the Israelites to know peace, they must be given an inheritance free of the sins of those that occupied it before. Given that it is displayed through the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah that God does not even consider the souls of babies to be righteous enough for his mercy if the iniquities of the nation are strong enough, there must be nothing breathing for God’s promised land to have peace. And we see that this is God’s will in Joshua:

    “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the sons of Israel, except the Hi’vites, the inhabitants of Gib’eon; they took all in battle. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be utterly destroyed, and should receive no mercy but be exterminated, as the Lord commanded Moses.
    And Joshua came at that time, and wiped out the An’akim from the hill country, from He’bron, from De’bir, from A’nab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There was none of the An’akim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, did some remain. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.”
    – Joshua 11:18-23

    So, how are the pagan Muhammadan’s different from God’s people in waging war when comparing the atrocities they’ve committed to those just wars commanded by God? Lets compare:

    1. Just Authority.
    Here, they do claim the same claim as we do. That their war is god ordained. The fact that their god has not ever done miracles, did not lead them with his physical presence, does not show any signs of judgment upon the people prior to the declared war can be signs that their god is a false god, where our God is the true Lord.

    Furthermore, they do not have on leader who is declaring war, but multiple rebels. Their god has not put one authority over them, but they act on their own. To further elucidate this point I would have to have further understanding of politics and the legitimate authorities than I currently have of the Middle East, but my current understanding is that no legitimate authority has been placed by God that is calling for the wars they are carrying out. There certainly is no legitimate authority for the civil unrest and murders that Muhammadans are committing on soil that has never belonged to them.

    So, there may be some small similarities between the arguments here, but certainly no signs of approval by their false god.

    2. Just Cause for war.

    What cause for war has been shown? Are we occupying land that rightfully belongs to them? Are we committing such grave sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance, and have we done so for four hundred years? One can make an argument that America is doing so (and we certainly have signs of the increased famine and plague to go along with it), but the Muhammadans are not targeting Americans, they’re targeting any Christians. The Christians in the middle east, to my knowledge, are not caught up in the same sins as those of Christians in the U.S. Nor in either case, would I argue, are there not even 10 righteous souls in either area to merit such actions as being Just. While God is ultimately the one who sits in Judgement of such, it appears we have further to travel in our iniquity until we reach that point. I know I hope I can be counted as one soul towards those ten, but could be wrong.

    So, we do not see even nearly the same level of just cause for war in comparing the wars of Moses to the tribal fighting of Mohammedans.

    3. Good to be gained and evil to be avoided.

    Muhammadan’s claim to this as well, but their actions speak louder than such. They do not hesitate to commit evil to bring about a perverse “good” nor do they show restraint in any way that they wage war such as the Israelites were commanded by God. They do not wish to make examples of sins against their god, they do not wish to correct injustices committed against other men, but simply wish to kill the infidel in any manner possible when ever possible, to break them, to force tyranny over those they conquer, and to subvert the legitimate authority of other nations until such death and destruction is made possible.

    To the inward dispositions

    1. To wage war out of Love for the enemy

    I have never heard of any such concept come from the mouth of a Mohammedan. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Jihads are made out of anger. They have a tribal basis of vengeance and retribution from slights and incursions against their pride. These run contrary to love and are the death of any ability to act with love. They do not kill babies because of the sins their parents have committed (though they often will say so without any evidence), but simply to evoke terror in enemies through the murder of innocents and simple slaughter. Their actions are steeped in hatred.

    2. To create peace

    To my knowledge, no land ever controlled by Mohammedans has known peace. There has never been inner peace, as they perpetuate evils while citing that if Allah had anything against such evils, he would intercede. They continue wars against others because of hatred. They continue wars and tribal fighting against themselves because they are petty and vengeful with no desire for the peace required for a war to be Just.

    Christ in Matthew 10:34 says that he brings not peace, but the sword. However, the peace that the Lord desires and the struggle that he loves is opposite of what Mohammedans perpetuate. Christ sets us against the world and the Prince of this world, telling us to take up our crosses as the Church militant to fight against such by finding peace with God and with our neighbors by loving God with all our mind, heart, and soul, and our neighbors as ourselves. Mohammedans ally with the world, fight with their neighbors, have no love for the neighbor as they do for the self, and do not struggle to find peace with God, but simply accept whatever happens as his will, whether that be evil or good.

    In short, it is a heresy and a perversion of all that is good. The differences are subtle, difficult to point out, but mean not just a world, but an eternity of the beatific vision of difference.

    This is not to say that the killing of all of a people is called for in Just Wars, nor should it be. It is saying that there are circumstances that dictate that such has been found Just by God at the times mentioned in scripture, and that I know I personally would require the same circumstance and signs of God over years and years of his direct leadership to even open the possibility that such a command was given by God, withing his Just and Good judgment, and not that of Satan. But, far be it from me to put such things beyond the possibility of ever happening again; I would not limit God to such, and the very real trend of America to follow the sins of the Canaanites is what has had me take any real interest in this debate, as the further understanding of how to battle Satan and the consequences for our nation should we fail to do so will be a shield in my hand and a sword formed by the Word upon my lips as much as God gives me the graces and opportunities to Love my fellow man and strive that such iniquities never plague our land to so enrage God to vent such righteous fury upon us.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    I understood you the first time, speaking for myself, or at least I thought I did;

    Ah, but there seems to be no shortage of people who didn’t understand me. I raised a legitimate question and left the answer too mysterious and cryptic for a third party to understand. I’m indirectly responsible for the bloat of your commenting box. Honor demands that I return, heroically, in the fourth act to set things right. Rarely do I get to play the role of the converted villain in so dramatically small a timescale.

    and I’m gratified that we reach the same conclusion even if by slightly different routes.

    That’s usually a good indication of a position’s truth. A fact which isn’t consistent with all other, true facts simply isn’t true.

    I think premise (2) is problematic, because it employs the wrong sense of ‘innocent’.

    I see where you’re coming from, and I wanted to avoid that critique. I didn’t think my screed would be more convincing with an added paragraph, though. All I needed 2 to include was the existence of scenarios in which man can take other men’s lives as a legitimate use of his own authority while denying the extent of that authority to less extraordinary circumstances. It leaves theoretical room for One of infinite authority (Who is the First Cause of man’s authority to begin with, and apart from Whom man could have no authority) to fill that gap. The number of qualifications necessary to make 2 stand on its own is beyond my abilities despite my certainty that the reality I’m trying to express is real.

    A more convincing subjective evidence for your rejection of positivism and advocacy for alternative interpretation probably doesn’t exist, come to think of it. I’ll call you out for calling me out! Sure, you’re interpretation of 2 is wrong, but that’s not what I was saying!

  • Ian says:

    I find the argument that infants are not innocent weak. If that were true in the relevant sense, that would seem to prove too much: why couldn’t a legitimate authority such as the government then order the killing of infants on account of their guilt? There would be no epistemic problem, since we know that all infants are born with original sin, and thus ‘guilty’.

    The more convincing argument to me would be that since God has all authority over life and death, it is not murder when He kills an infant, regardless of the instrument He chooses.

  • Ian says:

    By the way, here is Jimmy Akin on the topic:

    http://jimmyakin.com/2007/02/hard_sayings_of.html

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Ian:

    A government is incapable of being more innocent than an infant by any demonstrable metric, and would argue for its own destruction, in the first case, hoisting itself on its own petard.

    Regardless, I was actually trying to present something more like your second paragraph for analysis. I bungled the presentation artfully, though, as is my wont. If you plug that essence into the argument I made above, you’ll find the thing I was intentionally opposing (the thing in your second paragraph) falls by the same logic as the thing I was ostensibly opposing (the thing you opposed in your first paragraph).

  • Hrodgar says:

    jf12,

    “whose literal interpretation jibes with the unanimous interpretation of rabbis for millenia preceding the Catholic church”

    Of course, those same rabbis made some serious errors. Take, for instance, their assumption that the Messiah’s kingdom would be of this world.

  • William Luse says:

    Jesus, Chad, that’s a lot of..stuff to deal with. I’m sorry to say that most of it is not germane.

    If you desire to look back at Free Northerner’s thread…

    There you go again.

    Zippy continues to state and stand by the idea that experts should be the ones we turn to in regards to scripture…He has yet to do so…

    This is untrue, save in so far as he yields to the Church’s guidance.

    The saints are our guides to God, and should be relied upon as such.

    Only to a degree, as models of holiness. Your guide to God is the Catholic Church and its immemorial teachings.

    A Just War must have…etc, etc….

    This is all irrelevant to the point at issue, as is your intuition that the Mohammedan god is false. Most of it begs the question. This, however, does not entirely: This is not to say that the killing of all of a people is called for in Just Wars, nor should it be. It is saying that there are circumstances that dictate that such has been found Just by God at the times mentioned in scripture.. But it does make a complete hash of any notion of an eternal, unchangeable, and completely just God whose moral law is the light of our conscience and is itself unchangeable, emanating as it does from God’s own goodness.

    Now, if you take the position that such a God could not and would not command human beings to violate His very own law against murder, in contradiction of His own nature – acts which are known to be such because they are forbidden in all times and places, under any circumstances whatsoever – then you would have a very firm ground upon which to distinguish our God from the other, a very bright line the crossing of which is forbidden to us but not the Mohammedan. It would spare you the exegetical burden of such bromides as that Christians wage war out of love for their enemies (tell it to our enemies) while the Islamist wages it for more nefarious reasons. This is an invitation to endless debate about historical circumstance. The moral law is God’s gift to man; it allows us to distinguish between light and darkness and, being accessible to reason, aids us in demonstrating that, if there is a God, the true One dwells among us and in us and not among that other.

    I still fear you do not understand “innocence” as Zippy applies it to Canaanite infants, and which is the only relevant sense as regards the matter of murder.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “God could not and would not”

    This has always been the entire basis of that argument. It’s not about men at all, really.

  • jf12 says:

    Deus in arca … you’ve got Him just where you want Him. Right?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12;

    re: “God could not and would not”

    This has always been the entire basis of that argument. It’s not about men at all, really.

    I notice that you aren’t citing me, but that by leaving your citation unattributed you insinuate that you are addressing my argument.

  • Chad says:

    @ william
    Please do not take the Lord’s name in vain

    Beyond that, your making statements does not make them true. Sadly, your will is not powerful enough to do so. As such, if you want to actually have a discussion you should use some logic and reasoning rather than simply state something and hope no one notices you have not done anything but use empty words.

    “But it does make a complete hash of any notion of an eternal, unchangeable, and completely just God whose moral law is the light of our conscience and is itself unchangeable, emanating as it does from God’s own goodness.”

    Of course God is as you describe. Sadly, you have no idea of how that applies to justice. Saying that killing is not always murder does not make the morality of murder subjective, but an objective definition based upon the objective reality of the circumstances surrounding the act of killing a man. If I kill a man because he is trying to kill me, it is self defense. If I kill a man that is walking down the street, whistling his favorite tune on his way home, it is murder.

    Saying that 2+2=4 but that 2+3=5 is not saying math is relative, but is objectively defined by the imputes. Such is the same with justice. 2+2 will always equal 4. Murder will always be murder.

    But calling something murder does not make it murder, it must meet the definitions. Just because 2+3=5 is an objective truth does not mean you get to say 2+2=4.

    “Now, if you take the position that such a God could not and would not command human beings to violate His very own law against murder, in contradiction of His own nature – acts which are known to be such because they are forbidden in all times and places, under any circumstances whatsoever – then you would have a very firm ground upon which to distinguish our God from the other, a very bright line the crossing of which is forbidden to us but not the Mohammedan”

    I will take the position when it is demonstrated to be true. Until then I see your empty words as an illusion that gives you great confidence, yet false confidence. I will not take up a stance because it makes me feel good, powerful, righteous, or confident. I will take it because it is demonstrated to be the stance God desires me to take, and I will carry any crosses and bear any hardships he places on me in defense of such.

    “I still fear you do not understand “innocence” as Zippy applies it to Canaanite infants, and which is the only relevant sense as regards the matter of murder.”

    Stop fearing, gird up your loins like a man, and show me how. Theres a very clear section in there on how sins of a people weigh upon all of the people. Demonstrate to me that I am wrong rather than arrogantly saying so and hoping its true

  • Chad says:

    Hah, typo. My apologies. This:

    Just because 2+3=5 is an objective truth does not mean you get to say 2+2=4.

    Should read:

    Just because 2+3=5 is an objective truth does not mean you get to say 2+2=5.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad

    Saying that killing is not always murder does not make the morality of murder subjective …

    Saying that sex is not always sodomy doesn’t make it impossible to conclude that sodomy is always morally wrong. You may not realize it, but in your discourse you leverage ambiguity and equivocation in the same manner as the sodomites. And it is as frustrating to try to parse your equivocations and ambiguities as it is to parse theirs.

    A man can kill an infant by bashing in its skull in one of two manners: accidentally or on purpose. If he does it on purpose it is definitely murder, always and without exception, no matter what ‘warrant from God’ he has falsely convinced himself that he has.

    Thats why killing infants on purpose is a paradigmatic case. If you can’t conclude that that is murder you can’t conclude that anything is murder, precisely because infants are incapable of mounting any kind of attack on individuals or the common good.

    Stop being so reluctant to use reason and truth which, Origen (and e.g. John Paul II, see Fides et Ratio) tells us, are precisely the weapons we use to destroy errors in ourselves.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Theres a very clear section in there on how sins of a people weigh upon all of the people.

    This is an example of what I am talking about.

    It is obvious that the sins of fathers have consequences on children, consequences which carry forward for generations. You imply without arguing (and contrary to Christian doctrine) that it is therefore just to actively punish children – to execute them even – for the sins of fathers.

    And in the meantime you treat Bill to a little ‘man up’ rant, as if you have shown yourself worthy of so much as sharing a coffee with him. Please do us all a favor and get over yourself.

  • Chad says:

    @ Zippy
    “Saying that sex is not always sodomy doesn’t make it impossible to conclude that sodomy is always morally wrong. You may not realize it, but in your discourse you leverage ambiguity and equivocation in the same manner as the sodomites. And it is as frustrating to try to parse your equivocations and ambiguities as it is to parse theirs.”

    Except that God has actively approved of death for specific sins, and has never approved of sodomy. To try and say the two are the same is to obfuscate the issue while ignoring what God has said is a just punishment. The fact that it is frustrating for you to deal with subtleties is, honestly, not a big concern of mine. It has been just as frustrating for me at times.

    “You imply without arguing (and contrary to Christian doctrine) that it is therefore just to actively punish children – to execute them even – for the sins of fathers.”

    No. I state that scripture shows that certain sins, uncorrected, unrepentant, and taken up by a majority of the populace, weigh upon the populace and make them all culpable to some degree. I have further stated that, when this gets to a certain point, it affects infants as well. I demonstrated so with both words of God to his servant Abram, and with the actions of God himself, to demonstrate that the wars of Moses and Joshua are not unique in scripture.

    “And in the meantime you treat Bill to a little ‘man up’ rant, as if you have shown yourself worthy of so much as sharing a coffee with him. Please do us all a favor and get over yourself.”

    If he doesn’t want to, I certainly cannot and would not force him. But I won’t quietly let him labor under the delusion that he has done anything other than make statements while claiming to make arguments, and did so after explicitly asking me to take the time to explain my own perspective without the aid of my betters, then takes the Lord’s name in vain and writes it all off without showing me how or why it is wrong. That is not an argument, but a verbal retreat while saving face. If he does so for lack of time or desire, I will not hold it against him, but if he wants to engage he should engage

  • Chad says:

    @ Zippy
    Meanwhile, I’m unsure why you think he actively needs your defense instead of being able to speak for himself

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Except that God has actively approved of death for specific sins, and has never approved of sodomy. To try and say the two are the same is to obfuscate the issue

    I’m not the one obfuscating here. You pretend that the death penalty for collective guilt is a Christian doctrine, to the extent that executing children for the crimes of their fathers isn’t murder. You pretend that in so saying you are thinking with the mind of the Church. You pretend that nobody can see that your citations don’t actually say what you pretend that they say: you pretend to speak with greater authority than your own. And you insult people whose shoes you aren’t worthy to tie.

    Now go away, Islamic Christian. You’ve had your say. Go argue somewhere else that murdering children isn’t murder, as the sodomites argue that because sex is not immoral sodomy isn’t. Go join your sodomite compatriots. Be gone from my presence.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy re: unattributed.

    Yes, but William Luse merely said it explicitly instead of implicitly. The same statement “God could not …” is the basis for your version of the argument too.

    Why is it that you think “Men could not have heard God ordering them to kill babies” is so self-evident? No other basis than “God could not …”

  • jf12 says:

    @malcolm re: problem unsolved. “If God orders us to do something we know for a fact is definitely immoral, then we have a problem, and the answer is not to do the immoral thing”

    Except for exceptions. Abraham with Isaac, for one.

  • CJ says:

    jf12-

    Abraham didn’t know God as well as we do. Having revealed more about Himself, such as the fact that he doesn’t condone murder or human sacrifice, we shouldn’t believe anyone or anything claiming to be him if it gives such an order.

    Honestly, I don’t get your beef with “God could not . . .” The Bible says that it’s impossible for God to lie and that he doesn’t tempt people with evil. So yes, we know from revelation that there are lines that God can’t or won’t cross.

  • But God stopped Abraham from doing something immoral. What we know from that story:

    . Abraham thought God was telling him to kill Isaac

    . God stopped him

    . God rewarded Abraham for his faith in doing what he thought He wanted Him to, while making it very clear he didn’t condone human sacrifice.

  • William Luse says:

    You pretend that in so saying you are thinking with the mind of the Church.

    I don’t think he’s pretending. I think he really believes it. And this – …takes the Lord’s name in vain and writes it all off without showing me how or why it is wrong. That is not an argument, but a verbal retreat while saving face is indicative of a genuinely deluded human being.

    But I do now see that his inability to answer my question is rooted in the plain fact that he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Islamic Christian. My guess is that the irony will be lost on him.

    Oh, and I’m done waiting. No more exceptions for Chad.

  • jf12 says:

    @Cj, re: “we shouldn’t believe anyone or anything claiming to be him if it gives such an order.”

    I’ve agreed repeatedly.

  • jf12 says:

    @malcolm, I consider the position that “God couldn’t have expected obedience to His commanding the killing of a child” deliberate and obstinate head-in-sand, especially after the example of Abraham.

    By the way, I’m 102% certain that the Church considers you to be doing something immoral if you bind your child on a pile of wood to offer him as a sacrifice and raise the knife intending to slay him right then and there.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12 is comfortable interpreting ancient texts to mean that God definitely issued such commands, but at the same time affirms that he would never actually follow such a command himself.

    Free Northerner bit the bullet and said that he would follow such a command, which is at least consistent.

  • Man, jf12, if your response addressed what I wrote it would be a great response.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, re: “affirms that he would never actually follow such a command himself.”

    Yes, but uncomfortably so.

  • jf12 says:

    Hmm, isn’t the demand for foolish consistency the hobgoblin of little positivists?

  • Zippy says:

    Consistency is just a feature of right reason. To embrace inconsistency is to reject the law of non-contradiction, and descend into postmodern epistemic anarchy.

    Neither consistency nor definiteness are positivist. When postmoderns pretend that they are, they are attacking a straw man.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “Consistency is just a feature of right reason.”

    Within reason. I don’t feel that my theories of rational derivation must constrain God, for example.

  • So, your God can make a rock He can’t lift?

  • jf12 says:

    Sure!

    Wanna see it again?

  • I don’t know if that is sarcastic or not, but it also doesn’t matter, since you’re pretty much caught in a bind here either way.

  • jf12 says:

    Actually I’m the free one. I can’t believe I’m the only one here more concerned about protecting babies than protecting the less-than-spotless-on-protecting-children record of the Catholic Church.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Oh, please. This whole debate got started because some folks, including Zippy, refused to countenance the idea that killing babies could ever be not-murder. And you, who maintain that it can be not-murder, now claim to be the party more concerned with protecting babies? Not a chance, sir.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “affirms that he would never actually follow such a command himself.” The Pope himself could shake his finger at me in a snit for my obstinance.

  • Zippy says:

    As Internet discussion involving Catholicism proceeds, the probability of someone bringing up “the scandal” approaches one.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “the scandal”. Which one? And: How many times?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    re: “the scandal”. Which one? And: How many times?

    Yes, exactly. As with Moses and other Old Testament figures, I have no expectation that Popes are some sort of transcendent Man whose every word and deed is an infallible act of God.

    You appear in general (as is frequently the case I am afraid) to be very confused about what you are arguing against. The Pope calling a crusade is indeed very much analogous to Moses giving orders to invade Canaan: an exercise of juridical authority. As is always the case, juridical authority ultimately derives from God, though it is exercised by men. And as is always the case, a command to do evil is intrinsically null and void, since it is impossible for an authority to create an obligation to do evil.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “it is impossible for an authority to create an obligation to do evil.”

    Means here “God could not have commanded the extermination of the Canaanites, because I consider that evil.”

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Means here “God could not have commanded the extermination of the Canaanites, because I consider that evil.”

    No it doesn’t. Is it any wonder that you have such difficulties in interpretation of ancient texts, when you can’t even paraphrase commenters correctly when they are right here to interact with you?

  • jf12 says:

    “it is impossible for an authority” means “God could not.”

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    “it is impossible for an authority” means “God could not.”

    In the first place, the context was discussion of the authority of human beings like Moses and the Pope. So you are just engaged in the dishonest trolling that I have unfortunately come to expect from you.

    In the second place, … well, you haven’t earned my indulgence when it comes to the second place.

  • […] Atheists avoid the problem entirely by anointing themselves supreme intellect, but alas, this option isn’t available to believers. Protestants resolve the issue by appointing themselves Popes of their own personal Churches, projecting their own opinions onto pages of infinitely plastic interpretable text. […]

  • […] concept of sola scriptura capable of invalidating the distinctive claims of Roman Catholicism is rationally […]

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