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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blogging the Bible

In 2006 I began following the blog of David Plotz, a writer for Slate.com, as he explored the Bible from his point of view as "an ignoramus" (his words) .  It now appears that Plotz has written a book based on that experience.

I heard about the book through a personal email he sent out to everyone who had responded in the comments section of his blog on Slate.com.  Given that the email had such a personal tone to it, I decided to respond to a few questions that Plotz had not been able to resolve in his first read-through of the Bible.  I'm posting the questions and answers here in case they're helpful to anyone else.
David,

Congratulations on your new book. I followed your posts and am glad to see that you were able to learn so much from your first reading of the Bible.  I would urge you to read it a second time to obtain even more revealing insights.  This time, instead of a straight-through, face-value reading, try to tie together the various stories with their thematic interrelationships.  

Do this after reading the below answers to some questions you posed.

Q: Why would anyone want to be ruled by a God who's so unmerciful, unjust, unforgiving, and unloving?
A: What leads you to believe that God is the one who was unmerciful, unjust, unforgiving, and unloving?  Is it God's job to force us to be merciful, just, forgiving, and loving?  Or is it our job to conform to His will through the gift of agency He gave us?  It is as disingenuous to say "God made me do it" as it is to say "the devil made me do it".  God gave the Israelites a simple choice on Mt. Sinai: 1) Keep two simple commandments to become a merciful, just, forgiving, and loving people and I will make you a nation of priests like the City of Enoch that was caught up into heaven because of its righteousness.  Everyone who observes you will never attack you for the fear they have of your righteousness in God.  The remainder will simply want to join you in peace. or 2) Break two simple commandments and, as long as you refuse to repent, you'll be left to the far-reaching and devastating consequences of your own choices.  Forgetting God will cause you to forget that you are a brother to all other men, women, and children.  Withholding love from one another will lead to murdering one another.  You will needlessly struggle to get out from under a waterfall of blood, greed, and hatred all because you stubbornly disobey two simple commandments.

Q: Why would He kill the innocent Egyptian children? And why would He delight in it? 
A: Simple answer: God did not kill innocent Egyptian children, nor did He delight in it.  God sent the plague of the Passover to further demonstrate that He was God to a willful and stubborn Pharaoh (as if Pharaoh needed further convincing after all the previous plagues) and that Pharaoh's brutal enslavement of his earthly brethren was abominable.  Pharaoh had plenty of opportunities to conform to God's commandments, but he chose to shake his fist at God in defiance.  When a man becomes that hardened and stiff-necked against God, there is only one way to humble him...take away that which he most values (his son) and/or which gives him earthly power (his heir).  Pharaoh was responsible for the death of  his own son through his pride and disobedience.  He had every opportunity to reverse that outcome by simply letting the Israelites go in peace, but he chose not to.  God never delights in the death of children and I can't imagine how you came to that conclusion.  Please elaborate.

Q: What wrong did we do Him that He should send the flood?
A: It wasn't so much what they did to God directly...it was what they were doing to Him through the scope and breadth of their injustices to each other.  The flood was a drastic response to a world gone completely mad and into self-destruction mode.  It was a situation that could only be corrected by a baptism of the whole earth (to wash away the sin it mankind had spread over its face).  If anything, God was doing each person a favor by sending them back to the spirit world before they heaped even more sins and murders on their own heads.  Read what Peter says about this and the wonderful blessings that were able to come to the ante-diluvian people when Christ taught the prisoners in the spirit world after His resurrection.  Also, read this vision of the prophet Enoch (who lived before the flood), as revealed to and recorded by Moses, to understand God's true character and feelings towards His children.

Q: Which of His Ten Commandments do we actually need?
A: Two.  Jesus answered this question when the Pharisees asked it in an effort to trick Him into saying something contrary to the Law of Moses.  The last verse can even be seen as a clever play on words on Jesus' part.  "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."  (Their fathers hung/killed the prophets in direct opposition to this teaching...just as Christ would hang from a cross because of it.)