Re: Psalm 137 and God's ethics

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Tue Jul 02 2002 - 09:19:58 EDT

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    Jay writes:

    > God specifically instructed Israel as they took possession of Canaan to =
    > kill every man woman and child of certain peoples. He did this as a =
    > judgment on those peoples. =20
    > "Deuteronomy 7
    > 1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to =
    > possess and drives out before you many nations-the Hittites, =
    > Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, =
    > seven nations larger and stronger than you- 2 and when the Lord your God =
    > has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must =
    > destroy them totally.=20
    > "Deuteronomy 9
    > 3 But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across =
    > ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue =
    > them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them =
    > quickly, as the Lord has promised you.=20
    > 4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to =
    > yourself, "The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land =
    > because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of =
    > these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you."
    > Certainly Babylon of Psalm 137 qualified as a wicked nation.
    > How can God, who is love, decree such things? Perhaps the question is =
    > more properly who are we to question his sovereign will.
    > =20
    > We too often impress our delicate human sensitivities upon a Holy God. =
    > Where we see the surface only, he sees the heart. He also sees all time =
    > like a table, a created thing lying before him complete from its =
    > creation to the passing away of time itself. The images of people under =
    > the full wrath of God set forth in Revelation does not draw a =
    > distinction between babes in arms and adults. =20
    > We either trust his judgment or we cannot trust him at all. =20
    > When we give man's reason latitude in deciding what portions of the =
    > Bible are legitimately "God breathed" and which are not, the Bible =
    > becomes just another book.=20
    > Thomas Jefferson's ideas on the subject I found less than persuasive. =
    > Such editorial latitude creates a mercurial rather than a stable moral =
    > code.
    > We are always trying to add to or detract from Jesus' finished work on =
    > the cross and show how smart we are or how righteous we can become =
    > through our own efforts.
    > Respectfully submitted,
    > Jay
    Bob's comment:

         I object to the sentiments expressed here and often by many others that
    those who wrestle with some of the difficult moral questions raised by
    biblical accounts are picking and choosing what parts of the Bible they will
    accept, or are not trusting God's sovereign will, or that they are making
    the Bible just another book, or are showing how smart they are or how
    righteous they can become through their own efforts. Among those who have
    wrestled with such passages as Burgy listed are Origen of Alexandria and St.
    Augustine of Hippo. The Bible provides many such passages that raise
    serious moral problems for the believer, and to respond to sincere attempts
    to address them with simple either/or positions and aspersions on their
    faith is really unfair. Reading our Sacred Scripture calls, IMHO, for more
    nuanced efforts at understanding and interpretation than a simple plain
    sense literalism.

         It is man's reason, guided by prayer and faith, that is the major tool
    by which theologians take the matter of Scripture and create doctrine.
    Theology is rational reflection upon religious experience, both that which
    is preservered for us in the Bible and that which forms the history, ancient
    and contemporary, of believers. When believers raise the kinds of questions
    that Burgy and others have raised, I think this is an act of faith, not of

         Let me be clear, here. My objection is not to differences of
    interpretation, which I respect whether agreeing or disagreeing, but rather
    to a judgemental aspersions upon those who take approaches and
    interpretations of Scripture to which one disagrees.

    Grace and peace,
    Bob Schneider

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