Thursday , November 21 2019
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God as Hero or Villain?

Summary:
I have tried expressing my views on how the “unfair” system described in the Bible is actually incredibly just, but I got the sense that it didn’t “take” last time. Let me try to explain it again. Suppose that when you die, you see the full impact of all of your choices throughout your life, and how much harm they caused on others. If you focus just on that, you feel absolutely horrible–not because God is burning you with fire, but because of your own value system. So all the warnings of hell in the Bible were actually warning you that God had given you His sense of justice, in the form of your own conscience–that’s what’s burning you. Then you say, “OK Murphy you’ve just pushed the question back a step. Why would a loving, good God give us this ‘gift’

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I have tried expressing my views on how the “unfair” system described in the Bible is actually incredibly just, but I got the sense that it didn’t “take” last time. Let me try to explain it again.

Suppose that when you die, you see the full impact of all of your choices throughout your life, and how much harm they caused on others. If you focus just on that, you feel absolutely horrible–not because God is burning you with fire, but because of your own value system. So all the warnings of hell in the Bible were actually warning you that God had given you His sense of justice, in the form of your own conscience–that’s what’s burning you.

Then you say, “OK Murphy you’ve just pushed the question back a step. Why would a loving, good God give us this ‘gift’ that would sear us to our core when we recognize our sins?”

And the answer would be, “Well, He warned humanity upfront before He gave it to them, that they should avoid the knowledge of good and evil. Because if they acquired the ability to tell good from evil, it would end up killing them. However, humanity ignored that warning and said, ‘We want to know the difference between good and evil,’ and so God abided by their choice and gave them a conscience so that His Law is written on every human heart.”

Now I’m not saying the above is bulletproof, but that sounds a lot more reasonable than the prima facie account of the Garden of Eden. Yet notice that it doesn’t contradictthe Bible account.

I encountered a similar pattern when doing my Bible study yesterday. In Luke 8, we read this seemingly strange statement from Jesus:

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’…”

Isn’t that odd? It sounds like Jesus is saying, “Rather than speak in plain English, I am going to deliberately confuse outsiders so they can’t understand my message of salvation.” Why the heck would Jesus do that?

But then when reading Guzik’s commentary, he relayed this very interesting theory:

c. Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand: By quoting this passage from Isaiah 6:9, Jesus explained that His parables were not illustrations making difficult things clear to all who heard. They were a way of presenting God’s message so those who were spiritually sensitive could understand, but the hardened would merely hear a story without heaping up additional condemnation for rejecting God’s Word.

i. A parable isn’t exactly an illustration. A good teacher can illustrate by stating a truth, and then illustrating the truth through a story or an analogy. But when Jesus used parables, He didn’t start by stating a truth. Instead, the parable was like a doorway. Jesus’ listeners stood at the doorway and heard Him. If they were not interested, they stayed on the outside. But if they were interested, they could walk through the doorway, and think more about the truth behind the parable and what it meant to their life.

ii. “So, that their guilt may not accumulate, the Lord no longer addresses them directly in explicit teachings during the period immediately preceding His crucifixion, but in parables.” (Geldenhuys)

Isn’t that an amazing suggestion? Rather than Jesus disguising His message in parables out of caprice or malice, He’s doing it out of mercy. He knows certain people are going to reject Him no matter what, and so by speaking in parables He sparesthem from explicitly rejecting His point-blank instructions.

Again, you may certainly disagree with the above interpretation, but it makes a lot more sense than the prima facie reading of the text. (And also, I really liked Guzik’s analogy of a doorway. I had always assumed that the parables were ways that Jesus tried to “dumb it down” for the masses, but then His reference to Isaiah 6:9 doesn’t make any sense.)

Robert Murphy
Christian, Austrian economist, and libertarian theorist. Research Prof at Texas Tech and author of *Choice*. Paul Krugman's worst nightmare.

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