Why I don’t trust the Bible – A Disturbingly Violent and Unjust System of Ethics

This is part 2 of a series (see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5). 

Last week I began a series exploring some of the reasons I don’t accept the Bible as a trustworthy book. I presented two plausible theories (see below) and stated that we should first look at the evidence within the Bible, and only then consider which theory best explains the evidence, rather than first start off with a belief/conclusion that the Bible is true, and then try to think up reasons to support our conclusion. This post will deal with the issue of ethical and moral actions promoted by certain biblical texts, and whether they live up to the comprehensive standard elsewhere in the Bible. Again, keep in mind, our goal is not to start by concluding “the Bible must be right/wrong!” but instead to first look at the evidence and then decide which theory it best applies to:

Theory 1  – The Bible was divinely inspired by God and can be trusted as completely accurate

Theory 2 – It was composed purely by human means and does not contain divine truth

Can I judge the ethics of the Bible?

In dozens of conversations I have had about this, the most common reaction is “you have no right to judge the Bible, because if you don’t have the Bible as your ethical foundation, you have no morals!!!” This occurs because people who base all of their ethics on the Bible have built their whole moral epistemology on the biblical text and cannot even imagine another way to account for morality. Essentially, many Christians assume that the only way to ground morality is on “God said so” and if you don’t accept their way, you cant make moral statements.

Imagine trying to talk with a Hindu about whether or not Hinduism is true, and the first thing that comes out of her mouth is: “you are not allowed to critique the ethics of Hinduism because the your ability to make an ethical statement requires Hinduism to be true, and if you reject Hinduism, you have no ethics and are not allowed to critique my holy books!” Would you not feel cheated, tricked, maybe even a little offended? This is because your conversational partner is “begging the question” and starting off by assuming her conclusion is true, and telling you that it cannot be critiqued, because its true. Anyone can play that game, but it’s a very sloppy way to seek the truth.

That’s exactly what is happening with the Christian assertion “you cannot judge the Bible.” Those that have made the Bible their foundational starting point are unable to discuss it as the subject of a conversation, instead Scripture must be assumed and accepted as true from the very beginning! Real life doesn’t work like this, I don’t first assume “science is true” or “Hinduism is false,” instead I assume “I don’t know the answer to this question, so let’s do our best to first look at the evidence and only then come to a conclusion, not the other way around!

In any case, as a skeptic, I do have a system of ethics by which I can judge the Bible (and I can ground my system of ethics in reason). However, I will be extra generous and simply scrutinize the ethics of the Bible according to its own ethical standard, not just by my own standard. If some part of the Bible teaches that “lying is always evil” and another part says “go to this town and lie” then the Bible has failed its own test! It doesn’t even matter how it fares according to my ethical standard, if it fails its own ethical standard, it has already proven itself to be inaccurate and flawed when dealing with questions of ethics and morality.

What principles does the bible teach about harming others?

If you were to survey the Christians of the world, you would get a wide array of answers about what is moral, immoral, or perhaps neutral/barely permissible. Yet, there are certain areas that most believers would undeniably agree upon, certain laws and edicts that they say are universally taught by the Bible, that must be followed at all costs. I will pick just a few of these. I believe that most Chrsitians would agree on the following two principles:

1. Do not cause physical harm, torture, or injury to a person with the end goal of harming them (only if it’s a last resort aimed at ultimately helping them or preventing them from harming other people).

2. Do not cause the deaths of any person, unless it’s the only way of preventing them from killing/harming others (i.e. only kill someone if it’s the only way to prevent them from killing others).

These principles can be distilled from texts like the Ten Commandments, but they are most evident in  Jesus’ sermon on the mount and certain New Testament passages (i.e. Rom 12.17-21, 1 Thes 5.15.) See Matthew Chapter 5 (specifically texts like 5:44) for all of these principles, which are therein applied far more stringently, I have been extra generous and lax in describing these, by adding extra clauses. In actuality, where Jesus says “don’t harm your enemies at all, ever”, I have changed this to a more laid-back command of “Fine you can harm the enemies who will kill you, but at least don’t harm people who are not going to kill you.” Jesus’ commands strongly support total pacifism and “turning the other cheek” but I will be extra generous and saying “you don’t have to be a pacifist, but only use violence when it saves other lives.

I want you to note this, I am being far more lenient and accommodating, I am removing all the grey areas that could be debated, and sticking to that which is undeniably black and white.  If you cannot agree to these two principles, then this post doesn’t apply to you. If you think harming/killing someone who does not wish to harm others is morally good, then this post is not for you. But please note that makes you are a terrible follower of Jesus, and worse than that, you terrify me, I want nothing to do with you and hope you don’t live in my neighborhood.

I will also note, there are dozens of other passages and ideas, where I believe it’s patently clear that the Bible fails its own moral standard (for example it’s claimed that deception is a sin, yet elsewhere it’s claimed that God decieves: 1 Kings 22:23, Ezekiel 14:9, Jeremiah 4:10, 2 Thess 2:11) but for the sake of brevity, I’m only going to examine the two general principles above.

 

FAILURE #1: Do not harm

“Do not ever cause physical harm, torture, or injury to a person with the end goal of harming them, unless it’s a last resort aimed at ultimately helping them or preventing them from harming other people’

Case study 1 – The Bible endorses slavery

I’m sure you have heard a positive spin on this, something like: “slaves were workers, I’m a slave for my employer today” or “this was a temporary job that lasted for a few years.” This apologetic spin is blatantly dishonest, and demonstrably so. I have written a longer article on biblical slavery, citing texts that confirm slavery was indeed the permanent ownership of people, not a job. Here are two key points: (a) the Bible allows the beating of slaves, so long as they survive (Exodus 21:20-21) and (b) it permits slaves to be kept permanently and passed down for generations, so that children of slaves are themselves slaves. (Exodus 21:5 and Leviticus 25:46). Slavery is undeniably cruel and harmful.

Case Study 2 – The Bible endorses physical torture

There are many strange laws that command violent and painful torture to be inflicted on people. For example, if two men are in a brawl, and a woman tries to intercede and grabs one of the men by the testicles, her arm is to be butchered off from her body, “without pity” (Deut 25:11-12). Likewise, there are many proverbs that endorse using sticks and rods to beat those who are foolish or mentally handicapped, even while education would seem more prudent (Prov 18:6, 19:29, 26:3). In addition, there are dozens of “crimes” for which persons are to be stoned or burned. Notice that stoning and burning are lengthy and extremely painful processes that cause immense suffering and anguish. Some things that you can get “tortured to death” for include: (a) touching a mountain (Exodus 19:13), (b) picking up rocks on Saturday (Numbers 15:32-56), (c) being a bad teenager (Deut 21:18-21), and (d) getting married as a non-virgin (Deut 22:13-21). There are also plenty of future descriptions of torture in the Bible, from severe torments caused by giant supernatural scorpions (Deut 25:11-12) to the idea of hell. None of these punishments are meant to correct the subject, they are meant to inflict pain, misery, and suffering, for the sake of causing that suffering as an act of vengeance. A parent may spank a child, for the ultimate good, but biblical tortures like hell, are solely for the ultimate harm.

Case study 3 – The Bible endorses rape/sexual exploitation

This is one that most people have a hard time believing. First off, the Bible never forbids rape wholesale, it only forbids stealing another man’s woman, for that woman is his property. Virgins who are raped must be purchased from their father and the only solace to the woman is that her rapist may never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Second, the Bible actually endorses rape, so long as victims are from another tribe. For example, the Bible allowed women to be forcibly taken captive and (after their husbands/fathers were killed) the women can be forced into “marriage” (Deuteronomy 21:10-11). There is some relief, however, because in this case only, if you don’t like your captive woman after raping her, you are not permitted to sell her, but must let her go. And of course, there are still biblical descriptions of rape as a tool that God uses to chastise the nations, further demonstrating that sometimes rape is morally good. (Isaiah 13:15-16)

Case study 4 – The Bible endorses misogyny

There are many cases of misogyny (prejudice and maltreatment of women) in the Bible. Prof Chris Rollston, a biblical scholar was recently fired from his Christian University for writing that many biblical authors promoted mysogeny. For example, he states that “the custom of a marital “bride price” (money given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family) reveals that marriage was… a property transfer, as payment had been made to acquire the bride (Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16; 1 Samuel 18:25; Genesis 24:53).” There are many other cases, however, mysogeny starts with the characterization of women in Genesis 1. I don’t accept Genesis 1 as historically accurate (in fact, many Christians, even prominent apologists like C. S. Lewis agree), but this narrative wove itself into the fabric of our culture and defined how women are viewed. First, in the story itself a woman is the cause of sin, perpetuating the tendency to depict women as the blameworthy sex, causing untold injustice and discrimination. Second, in this tale all women are cursed with severe pain as a punishment for something one woman did, showing that all women are deserving of severe pain because of their gender.

 

FAILURE #2: Do not kill

“Do not cause the deaths of any person, unless it’s the only way of preventing them from killing/harming others”

Case Study 1 – The Bible endorses genocide

This is an undeniable fact, there are dozens of scripture passages that openly endorse genocide, the act of utterly destroying a whole people group by butchering the elderly, middle aged, teenagers, children, and infants. Hitler attempted to commit genocide, but he was only continuing a long tradition that is endorsed by the Bible, and one could argue that at least Hitler’s gas chambers offered more quick and painless death than the repeated stabs with a crude bronze age sword. There are dozens of passages that depict (a) God commanding genocide and (b) the Hebrews committing genocide, and claiming that their victory was assured because God was on their side. These horrific passages include, but are not limited to: Exodus 32:27-29, Deuteronomy 2:34, Deuteronomy 3:6, Deuteronomy 7:2, Deuteronomy 7:16, Deuteronomy 13:15, Deuteronomy 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, 10:40, 1 Samuel 15:2-3.

Case study 2 – The story of the Midianite Children

This may be the most horrifying story in the Bible, and it depicts such cruelty and savagery, that I cannot imagine how a pacifist could claim this book teaches the ultimate truth. First some background: The Hebrews recently invaded Canaan, destroyed many cities, killed many people and then, as they were camped near Midianite territory some of the Midianite women “invited” the Hebrew men to join them in sexual exploits and worship of locals gods (Numbers 25:1-2). The Hebrew men were not forced to participate, they chose it themselves. Moses, purportedly at Gods initiative issues the command to be hostile against the Midianites. Some time passes and the Bible depicts God as urging the Israelites to go back, and wreak revenge on the Midianites for inviting some of the Israelite soldiers to join them. So the Israelites attack and utterly destroy all of the enemy combatants, leaving only the defenseless women (many who are no doubt pregnant or elderly), as well as the little boys and girls. These little women and children are spared to be kept as slaves. (Numbers 32:9-10). Then Moses angrily commands that these defenseless captives be killed. This includes weeping grandmothers, pregnant women, mothers with their children weeping in their arms. (Numbers 31: 17-18). The little boys, all those who were too young to fight as well as babies, are also to be brutally executed.

And finally, when it comes to the little girls, those that are virgins are given away as booty to the soldiers, while all others are to be massacred. In every single military victory in recorded history, the winning army rapes girls, this is an unchanging historical regularity. And while this is not explicit in the text, it’s more than likely these girls became concubines (sexual slaves) as this is accepted elsewhere in Israelite culture, and there are even biblical laws that permit Hebrews to take captives for sexual purposes (Deut 21:10-11). Little girls given away to the same men who had just brutally executed their families. Even if these girls are not used for sexual purposes, one must imagine the absolute horrors that these girls experienced. Imagine a small seven year old sweetheart, seeing her defenseless pregnant mother being viciously sliced open and falling dead on the ground. Imagine the agonizing screams as she sees her younger brothers, grabbed by calloused soldiers hands, and heartlessly stabbed, beat, pierced until they choke on their own blood.

Does the Bible meet its own standard?

No, as we can see it does not. Yes, you can certainly argue that “the God of the Bible has a right to do anything he wants” and I’ll grant you that. The God of the Bile could murder everyone he wants, and nobody would be left to tell him that he was wrong. Yet, if he first asserts that (a) killing children is wrong and then (b) proceeds to kill children, then he has broken his own law. So you see, it is no longer I who judges the Bible, it is rather the Bible that judges itself.

Finally, even after we have seen the biblical text fail miserably and hopelessly at its own standard, let me add one more ethical standard that the Bible severely fails.

FAILURE #3: Do not be unjust

“Do not force an innocent person to suffer the punishment deserved by another.”

Justice is the act of fairly distributing rewards and punishments to those who deserve them. If I told you that a rapist received a reward while his rape victim was brutally executed, would not your blood boil at the injustice?! Mine would! It is a unfair when one person takes another’s reward (unless of course it’s a gift), but the real injustice is when one person is forced to receive another’s punishment.

I contend that the Bible is full of such cases of injustice and therefore is an unjust book.

Case study 1 – Injustice for the Egyptian slaves

In the story of the Exodus there is an oft missed tragedy, the fate of all other Egyptian slaves. As the story shows ten plagues descend on the land, these are shown affecting everyone besides the Hebrew slaves. We can say the Egyptians deserved it for keeping the Hebrews in slavery, but did the other slaves deserve punishment? What for? The biblical text presents a picture where all these other slaves who were already suffering the terrible injustice of slavery, were punished for their masters sins, and thats okay! Consider the suffering a slave mother would hypothetically endure by this injustice the Bible dictates: “Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill” (Exodus 11:5). Little children are described as being killed, the most unfortunate in society are harmed rather than helped, mothers weep, and all of this is punishment falls upon those already in misery, simply because the rich Egyptian masters deserve it. This is a colossal injustice! (Fortunately, there is strong evidence none of this happened, so the Bible merely promotes the idea of injustice in this case, but the idea is cruel enough).

Case study 2 – Injustice for the children punished for parental sins

How would you react if the president commanded little children to be brutally murdered if their parents break the law? Would you feel this is a fair punishment? No! You would know this is injustice at its vilest. In the Bible there is debate (a discrepancy between authors) whether children should be punished for their parents sins. Ezekiel says no! And yet, many other authors say yes, in command and in example. There are principles that allow and command the punishment of children for parents sins (Exodus 20:5-6, Exodus 34:7, Deuteronomy 5:9, Leviticus 26:22, Jeremiah 15:7-8). There are edicts to go and kill (not just “punish”) children for their parents sins (Isaiah 14:21, Isaiah 13:16, 1 Samuel 15:3, Ezekiel 9:6).

Also there are countless of examples that purportedly show God killing children simply to punish their parents (Genesis 7:4,21; Genesis 19:24, Exodus 11:4-5, 2 Chronicles 21:14, 2 Samuel 12:14-15, Jeremiah 2:30, Nahum 3:10, Hosea 10:14, Jeremiah 9:21-22). For example, consider the flood, all of the children, infants, and fetuses in pregnant women were supposedly drowned. Why? Because of their parents sin. Well did anyone stop and ask if the children deserved it? Nope. There is also a slew of passages that show non-death punishments given to children for their parents sins (Deuteronomy 23:2, Deuteronomy 28:18, 1 Kings 11:11-12, 2 Samuel 21:6-9, 1 Kings 2:33, 1 Kings 21:29, 2 Kings 5:27, Jeremiah 16:10-11, Jeremiah 29:32). If all of that is not enough, why there are even passages where God purportedly threatens to force parents to eat their children as punishment, and yet, not once is it considered that children are the real victims of this cruel and unusual “punishment”!! (Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:8-10)

Case study 3 – Injustice for humanity in being cursed for Adam

I am told that I am a sinner who is destined to burn in hell forever and ever and ever. I am a sinner and because of that I must be tortured. It gets even weirder, Augustine, pretty much the most important church father of early Christianity, thought little babies who weren’t baptized deserve to be thrown into hell. But why? Why should I have this sin nature that forces me to sin, or forces me to be punished in hell? Well, as it turns out, it’s all because a long time ago, some guy named Adam, did something bad, and *insert magic* now it’s my fault. Some people who are extra clever change *insert magic* to something lofty sounding like “Federal Headship” (ooooohh) which, in the end, still just means “if your father sinned, you get punished for him.” In the end, whatever fancy lingo we dream up, the fact is I did not choose to have a sin nature, it was *forced* upon me because of some guy named Adam, so why am I judged for it?

Case study 4 – injustice for humanity in an eternal hell

No finite being is good enough to deserve eternal pleasure, and no finite being is bad enough to deserve eternal torture. To deserve eternal punishment or reward, your crime or virtue must also be infinite, but we are finite creatures who are only capable of finite crimes. The end. The clever theology to explain all that away is that “our crime is against an infinite being so deserves infinite torture.” But this is rather silly, it matters not who the crime was against, but what it was! Otherwise you end up with an absurdity like this: Steal a dollar from a poor man, and you owe him two dollars as compensation. Steal one dollar from an infinitely rich man who has infinite money, and you now owe him infinite money as compensation. What?! This is absurd and foolish! In fact, if the infinitely rich man has infinite money, you cant even harm him by stealing anyhow.

Here is a quick analogy to elucidate this: If you shoot two people in the leg, a child who can be harmed, and superman who cannot, ought you really deserve more punishment shooting superman? Not at all, since superman can’t even be harmed by this in the first place. Why should he avenge himself? For what exactly? Since he’s impossible to harm, can it even be called attempted harm? It would be rather cruel of superman to try to punish you by torturing you forever and ever because “you dared shoot me, and even if it can’t hurt me, you still deserve eternal punishment!” Only those who are harmed can seek retribution, God is by definition, unharmable.

In any case, torturing someone for trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions for trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions for trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillion of trillions of trillions of trillions of trillions of years, because of a few minutes of “sin” is completely unjust, and frankly, evil.

Case study 5 – Injustice of substitutionary atonement

The very idea that slaughtering innocent animals can alleviate guilt is patently irrational. Guilt does not transfer persons, moral responsibility cannot be transferred without destroying the whole foundation of justice and fairness. If John raped and murdered a little child, and in court he pulls out a lamb, cuts its neck, and proudly asserts “don’t worry judge, this lamb just took my guilt, so I’m free now, right?” all of us would look at him with disgust and bewilderment. And yet that is exactly what Biblical justice is.

In the case of sacrificial animals in the Old Testament, there is extra harm in the fact that these animals are unwilling victims. In the story of Jesus and the substitutionary sacrifice, at least Jesus is depicted as dying voluntarily. And honestly, I admit, it’s a valiant and immensely noble idea, that someone would choose to die to save me. But at its core the theology is utterly unjust. How does Jesus dying make a rapist no longer guilty of rape? Or a murderer no longer guilty? How can guilt transfer? How can a person who lived a long evil life, raping and murdering millions simply say a prayer, and never be held responsible for his sever evil? How can another who strives to be good his whole life, makes one small mistake, and doesn’t say a prayer, is now considered more guilty than the former?

If you were in court, and a serial killer was freed because his innocent father chose to receive the punishment of lethal injection instead, would you think that justice? No! Its double injustice! Not only did (a) the criminal go unpunished, but (b) an innocent person was punished! Two wrongs don’t correct one wrong!

Consider that this theology means the following story is “perfectly just”: There is a Nazi officer who brutally rapes, mutilates, and tortures helpless Jewish women for years. One particular woman is begging and screaming “God help me” as she is being tortured and raped, and in the last few moments of her agony, she says “since God did not help me I refuse to believe in him” and dies. Her Nazi rapist later escapes to Brazil, lives a long happy, healthy life, and finally, before death prays to Jesus for forgiveness. According to Biblical theology, the victim is now burning in hell, feeling the most horrendous torture, while the Nazi tormentor simply took off his guilt like a coat, and is now enjoying paradise. Is this fair? Christianity says yes. I say its miserable, cruel, ugly, and the very definition of injustice and evil.

Concluding remarks

Ultimately if this book that claims to speak for God, and claims to promote justice is filled with so much injustice, and fails its own ethical standards, I believe we should reject that this book is written or inspired by God.

14 responses

  1. There will come a day when you will regret standing over God’s Word in judgment. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I pray God would grant you repentance and I plead with you to turn from your wicked ways. May you look to Christ and lay ahold of him through faith.

  2. First off your putting yourself in a box and creating black and white thinking. God lives in the box and outside it. His thinking is far more than your limited thinking. The laws in the bible are for humans not for God read Corinths where it says no one can judge God. He is greater and more wiser than anyone ever. It’s the answer to what came first the chicken or the egg. If we see the chicken as God than he was here first and you came afterward. What your saying is just your opinion that’s all. Also assuming the women is blamed for her sex, no she is blamed for sinning by not listening to God. God punished them for breaking his law, which he can’t be judged by that law. Your thinking that God can be judged by the laws he gives to humans is a flawed argument based on the bible as a whole we see he can’t be judged. Your two theories then don’t count. 1 Corinthians 2.14-16. No one can judge God not even you, the rules were for humans not for God to follow he can do whatever he wants and pleases.

  3. Shane and Billy Bob make Christianity look vile to outsiders, and I would dare say, even other professing Christians! They would have been much better off to keep their mouths shut if they are actually aiming to be good apologists and defenders of their faith! I would almost guess that they must be fake anti-Christian profiles made to make Christians look evil, for their comments are really THAT bad!

    They obviously have no thought-out counter arguments to display, but simply resort to personal attacks against Yuriy, the author. Seems like the Spirit of God, which should be present in these men if they are indeed “born again,” is refusing to communicate and teach them the proper response against the claims of this article in order to fight against the “lies” and proclaim the light of the “true interpretations” instead (if indeed they even exist).

    One could also argue that Billy Bob even speaks wickedly for God (Job 13:7) and that he is a respecter of God’s person, like the friends of Job, and those actually familiar with the Book of Job know how that all turned out in the end…

  4. Also, by the absurd standards Billy Bob (probably a Calvinist) sets for God, God could actually be a liar and the Bible a lie. Since God’s morality is in no way held to any basic human standard of what pure goodness means (such as telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth), then God could lie and should be considered perfectly moral by Christians when doing so!

    Billy Bob is saying that “might makes right” and “evil is good” and “good is evil” where God’s actions vs. man’s actions are concerned. Therefore, the Bible itself cannot be trusted because God is unknowable in this case, just like Allah of the Koran! Billy Bob actually sounds Muslim, probably without even realizing it! Billy Bob therefore has ZERO foundation on which to set ANY of his accusations against Bible critics, because nothing can be known for certain about a God who is able to lie and get away with it!

    Remember, God’s not obligated to tell truth when he does command men to do so, because, in the words of Billy Bob, “No one can judge God not even you, the rules were for humans not for God to follow he can do whatever he wants and pleases.” Satan and Hitler could be justified by such a method! In fact, again, Muslims can and do make similar arguments in favor of Allah.

    However, I have a hunch Billy Bob would hypocritically condemn any Muslim who would even so much as dare to defend Allah in the exact same way! I’ve noticed that Muslim and Christian apologetics aren’t so dissimilar after all…and most Christians consider Islam absurd…

  5. Hey Yuriy,

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and I am really enjoying. Being a Christian myself and as someone who has studied the entire bible inductively, I also have wrestled with some of the stuff you’re talking about here. My understanding of the biblical literature has changed over time, and it has been equally difficult as it has been exciting and enthralling.

    You really present your thoughts clearly and even though I probably would come to different conclusions than you based on how I wrestle with the text, I very much admire your search and wrestle and I am loving how I get to engage with your own personal exploration of the Scripture. Thank you so much for sharing and taking the time to type this all out. Seriously. I love hearing how people engage with the Bible.

    I think the exciting and often times difficult thing about ancient Israel’s sacred texts (the Bible) is that it’s not always what most Christians want them to be nor what they are promoted by Christians as. In my opinion the Biblical literature is not best understood as a set of moral or ethical codes to follow, but an exciting narrative God is beaconing us to become a part of.

    As ancient Israel was wrestling with and writing down their history and the narratives of their past that reveal who their unique covenant God was, they find themselves discovering that this God of theirs was to be found within the messiness of humanity. From my understanding, God has such a high view of humans and the way he made us, that he will not renege on his grand purpose of humans created in his image being stewards of all creation through relationship with Him. This means that God is determined to restore everything humans have broken THROUGH human beings. This plan is so costly and risky that we see Israel being commanded to do some very extreme things. This costly and risky plan means addressing the very messy reality of evil, something that I don’t claim to fully understand, but something that I think is more serious and destructive that anyone one of us realizes, and something that God is determined to rid his creation of without ridding those within whom evil finds it true manifestation – human beings themselves. I see Israel’s covenant God taking evil very seriously.

    Even verses you listed about people eating their babies was the reality of ancient siege warfare, where people would be starving and would actually eat their children. I find in these covenant curse passages a warning God gave to Israel that if they (the people called to be the priestly/holy nation, the light to the nations, the Abrahamic people within whom the curses of Adam would find their redemption and defeat), participated within evil just like the other nations, evil would find itself heaped up upon them just as other peoples. This was historically realized in the exile.

    Yet this whole narrative finds itself climaxing on Jesus of Nazareth, both Israel’s representative and the embodiment of Israel’s God coming back to dwell among his people, this Jesus of Nazareth who shows just how much God is willing to risk to restore creation through human beings wherein he Himself lets evil get heaped upon himself so that he might destroy it, not in some detached spiritual sense, but in a very real messy and historical sense, as a very real historical person crucified on a Roman cross. In doing this, the human calling is intact, evil is defeated, and the plan of this God who has entered into this messy history with humanity finds itself at its culmination.

    Of course, I imagine that most of this doesn’t answer most of your concerns with the Scriptures, but I just wanted to share a bit of how I have wrestled with the Scriptures and understand them, how the Bible isn’t so much just a moral/ethical book about keeping us from evil, but a messy story which is about God personally defeating evil and restoring humans to who they always were meant to be.

    Thank you again so much for sharing all this. I am really enjoying reading it. And bless you in your wrestle with the Scriptures!

    But also, I want to know, how do you do that thing where you link bible verses to your blog so that if you scroll over the reference, the verse pops up. That is cool.

    • Lyn, killing children and babies and taking little girls into sexual slavery is not something any decent being would do in order to rid the world of evi. they are evil deeds in and of themselves. Otherwise, how could you possibly know that IS isn’t being used by God to ‘confront the very messy reality of evil’? They are doing many of the same things, after all: murder, torture, sexual slavery. These people are long gone (and probably never even existed), but try some empathy.

  6. Yuriy, you are funny☺)), when I’m reading it, I’m sincerely laughing☺))

    You: “Theory 1 – The Bible was divinely inspired by God and can be trusted as completely accurate
    Theory 2 – It was composed purely by human means and does not contain divine truth”

    My analogy:
    Theory 1 – A label on the bottle says “milk”, so it is 100% made by cows and 100% milk.
    Theory 2 – A label on the bottle says “milk”, but it is not made by cows, but by a mechanical blender and the “milk” consists of H2O, K, Na, etc.

    Question is obvious – would it be “correct” to prove that there is only 2 theories and one of them is 100% correct/incorrect???)))

    You quote: “Imagine trying to talk with a Hindu about whether or not Hinduism is true, and the first thing that comes out of her mouth is: “you are not allowed to critique the ethics of Hinduism because the your ability to make an ethical statement requires Hinduism to be true, and if you reject Hinduism, you have no ethics and are not allowed to critique my holy books!” Would you not feel cheated, tricked, maybe even a little offended? This is because your conversational partner is “begging the question” and starting off by assuming her conclusion is true, and telling you that it cannot be critiqued, because its true. Anyone can play that game, but it’s a very sloppy way to seek the truth.”

    My analogy: Imagine I’m walking into your Democratic Party (for ex.) office and hearing you saying “our ideology is the best, our choices are right, etc… and you cannot judge and criticize our ideology if you are not a part of Democratic Party”. But I will try to explain to you that even though I know NOTHING about your ideology and about what you do and why, I am still the best thinking person in the world to judge if you are right or wrong!!!…

    Doesn’t sound similar? Or probably I should visit Large Hadron Collider to explain them that they are doing something wrong, even though I understand almost nothing…☺)) Wouldn’t you say – hey, learn at least something and then…

    You: “Real life doesn’t work like this, I don’t first assume “science is true” or “Hinduism is false,” instead I assume “I don’t know the answer to this question, so let’s do our best to first look at the evidence and only then come to a conclusion, not the other way around!””

    Me: Real life DOES work like this. You just pick up a few (no more) things that you will “first look at the evidence”. At the rest of things in your real live – 99.9% you just believe, presume, assume – that your car will start, that your president is what you see on the TV, that milk in your stomach is what it says on the label… You just live and sometimes, when something is really bothering you, ONLY then you “first look at the evidence” and even then, finding evidences, truth behind Democratic Party will not make you do or change something in your thinking or real life.)))

    You: “Justice is the act of fairly distributing rewards and punishments to those who deserve them.”

    Me: who decides what is “fairly”, “distributing”, “rewards”, “punishments”, “deserve”? YOU????? )))) Anyone, everybody???))) Who is moral, ethical enough???? On what basis??? Where do we start – from your reasoning???

    Slaves in the Bible? Americans use to have slaves not so long ago.
    1. Do you really believe that those Americans were evil, immoral, brutal, unjust, and “unethical” and to be just we have to write “evil” on every picture of them?
    2. Do you really believe that your grandkids will cherish your ethics and your justice and will not consider YOU to be as much evil as those American salve owners?

    Example: You spend and spoil so much food, while millions of kids are dying in Africa and other countries, and you as “moral” judge will explain to your grandkids WHAT????? “Back then in those days it was moral, it was president’s faults, what could we do???”

    You, as a part of humanity are destroying the Earth with pollution, spreading poisoned food, vaccines, that makes harm now and will kill people in the future and you consider yourself to be a moral judge of the Bible, or anything else? Nazis in their time also believed the same and were making “reasonable” accusations and judgments. Communists did much worse, but Nazis are blamed because they lost the war, right?

    Example: Imagine, in the nearest future people would realize that any information IS violence and you will be judged and imprisoned for teaching your kids “immoral” values, as if they are the best, unique, deserve something etc. WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR MORAL STANDARTS IF THEY WILL BE CHANGED IN SOCIETY? What if one day Muslims will install sharia laws where you live???? Will you die for your “old time” morals?

    You really worry about tortured kids? What about billions of kids, tortured and killed nowadays through abortions? Oh, it’s just a peace of meat you think??? I’m sure you consider yourself moral;)))

    You: “No finite being is good enough to deserve eternal pleasure, and no finite being is bad enough to deserve eternal torture.”

    Yuriy, I believe you are fighting against Rockefellers, Baruhs, Rotshilds, because as the smartest and most moral scientist you justly deserve what they have and those depraved, evil guys must live in Africa, right?))))

    Conclusion:
    You just believe in nowadays, modern(!) ethics (easiest way), you presume that it’s the best possible, just like ALL people did at ALL times. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s human ☺. That’s what they did. That’s what our grandkids will do to us. Hopefully they will be better than us and hopefully they will forgive us for what we do to our planet and to each other.

    For me, if someone claims to be a legitimate judge of moral standards, he is supposed to have not such a small “nowadays” western “30 years span” rich people ethics, with nowadays shaky postmodern moral standards and depraved jurisdiction, but rather something greater… much greater! And reason here is an instrument, not a value!!!

    • Hi Dmitry, hope things are going well?

      1. What you are trying to articulate is that I am using a false dichotomy, and you example indeed presents a false dichotomy, but you dont explain how the two choices I have offered are indeed like the analogy. In my case I’ve tried to make it clear, using Aristotles law of excluded middle (everything must be, or not be) to state the Bible must be in some way/any way inspired by God, or not in some way/any way inspired by God. I see no fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses here.

      2. From your analogy it seems you are trying to make the case that Christians are indeed the best judges of Christianity because expert opinion matters more than those uneducated on the subject, and I completely agree, expert opinion is usually more important than non-expert. That said, in this case, one has to be an expert in biblical studies, not a Christian, for a Christian is just a type of philosophical and emotional view about the Bible, one can be a Christian and have never read the Bible (many early Christians were illiterate, and lived before the New Testament was completed, for example). So we agree, that biblical experts are those who are important here, and I have cited plenty throughout this series on the Bible. In addition when I write on the subject matter, I’m someone who has spent decades as a Christian and studying the bible, and biblical studies, so I think my opinion is not automatically disqualified as you try to imply. In any case, I don’t base my arguments on my opinion alone, but try my best to articulate the rational and logical reasons for thinking so. If 1+1=2 is true, it does not matter how much experience a person has with math, if they declare 1+1=2, they declare a true proposition.

      3. Regarding the ethics of justice, you are trying to make a red herring fallacy by moving away from the real point. In the beginning I wrote the following, which you cleverly attempted to ignore “In any case, as a skeptic, I do have a system of ethics by which I can judge the Bible (and I can ground my system of ethics in reason). However, I will be extra generous and simply scrutinize the ethics of the Bible according to its OWN ethical standard, not just by my own standard. If some part of the Bible teaches that “lying is always evil” and another part says “go to this town and lie” then the Bible has failed its own test! It doesn’t even matter how it fares according to my ethical standard, if it fails its own ethical standard, it has already proven itself to be inaccurate and flawed when dealing with questions of ethics and morality.” For more detail on my views on ethics, please see: http://yuriystasyuk.com/life-after-faith-how-do-atheists-ground-morals/

      4. Regarding slavery, it seems you are trying to use another red herring fallacy by distracting form the real point by claiming the alternative is to write evil on every photograph of ancient Americans. Yes, I believe slavery was wrong and everyone who participated in it was wrong for doing so, and no I don’t need to write evil on every photo to make that evaluative judgement. The main point is I cannot, in good conscience, say Americans 200 years ago had perfect morals. When it comes to the Bible, thats exactly what you are trying to do. For more on slavery see: http://yuriystasyuk.com/biblical-slavery-the-uncomfortable-truth/

      Anyway my friend, I wish you the best, I would love to have an in-person conversation one day.

  7. Yuriy, thank you for your answers.

    Yes, of course, I see little fallacies in my thinking (though they are not decisive in essence, and not so “scientific” emotions))), just as, I’m sure, you silently see in yours, which, actually, doesn’t make your reasoning less valuable.

    You are doing a great job in strengthening and purifying Christian faith. You are pushing people either to make their faith stronger through reasoning/logic, or pushing lazy and insincere believers out of their presumed faith.

    Either way, people are searching “the truth” and on that way they are learning 1) precious values of reasoning/logic, and then 2) they realize it’s limitations, which will surely lead them to the supernatural (which is, of course, – natural… just… not yet natural☺))) Physicists are almost ready to prove that faith is much more then placebo effect (that previous physicists rejected))). Reason/logic shows the door and then doesn’t allow to enter, just like religious feelings lead to the reason/logic door, but hardly allow to enter)))).

    And if my God and your chance/logic/… one day in our matrix will arrange a meeting, I’m sure we will have a good and very interesting time))))
    God bless you bro!

  8. There is no hell in the bible. There are two descriptions of death, one is akin to the atheist conception of non-cognition. This is where the metaphor of eternal sleep comes from, and it is stated that the dead will “sleep” in this way until the judgement in the end times, believer and unbeliever alike.

    The other refers to something called “the pit”. Which appears to be reserved for satan, his angels and those of that ilk. Your regular sinner will not end up here.

  9. “there are many proverbs that endorse using sticks and rods to beat those who are foolish or mentally handicapped, even while education would seem more prudent”

    You cannot possibly educate a fool…

  10. Regarding the Plagues and the Exodus you wrote:
    “(Fortunately, there is strong evidence none of this happened, so the Bible merely promotes the idea of injustice in this case, but the idea is cruel enough)”

    There is also strong evidence that it did actually happen. It all depends on how you view and interpret the evidence.
    There is also strong evidence of the Exodus…

  11. “so why am I judged for it?”
    Because you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, just like the rest of us.

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