- Religion and Philosophy
Those "Disgusting" Scriptures
That’s not my description of Scripture. It’s how a responder to another of my hubs characterized passages in Scripture that have God condoning and even ordering the slaughter of women, children, elderly and animals. A number of specific incidents were quoted. One of these incidents in found in II Samuel 11,12. It’s worth the few minutes it will take to read both chapters. It is the account of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. With uncanny acumen the prophet, Nathan, brings David to admit his horrible deeds. That’s when David hears the following from the prophet. “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.” (II Sam 12:10,11)
God did it!
I am struck by how God owns responsibility for what will happen. You find that often in Scripture. God’s character is such that he will not spin a story to make himself look good. He will reveal the truth no matter what we think of it or him. So ultimately it is accurate to say that everything that happens, good or evil, has been brought about by God. Proverbs 16:4 states, The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. So yes, it cannot be denied that God instigated the horrific events mentioned.
The questions then become "why?" and "how?" It’s clear that God intends to discipline his man. Interestingly, David, "the man after God’s heart," accepted humbly the consequences of his sin. But all those women and children? I’ll get to that. Now here is the “how?”. God draws back his restraining grace so that the evil that seeths in human hearts boils over to accomplish precisely what He intends.
I understand that you may have a hard time swallowing what I just wrote. Actually it's impossible to digest unless you have a huge perspective shift. Ready?
We humans naturally think far more highly of ourselves than is warranted by the evidence. Given the right set of circumstances everyone one of us is capable of the most horrific crimes. Think of the most horrific crimes in the new lately. Jerry Sandusky comes to mind. You and I are capable of doing what he did and worse. And we would except for the restraining grace of God. Paul links together a host of Old Testament quotes to show how evil we are.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
It is not by accident that the Scriptures use the word “darkness” as a metaphor for sin and evil. Just as darkness will dominate unless overcome by light, be it a simple candle or a mag lite; so evil naturally dominates humankind except where God restrains it by his love. God is under no obligation to restrain our corruption. We brought that on ourselves. So that he does at all is an act of love or grace.
The Scriptures reveal two dimensions of God’s grace: common and special grace. Common grace is God’s initiative to restrain our natural self-destructive ways and to provide for all regardless of whether we believe and obey him or not. The atheist is the beneficiary of God’s common grace as well as the devout believer. In the context of teaching his disciples to love their enemies, Jesus showed how God does that. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43)
I realize that this is a huge stretch for folks who are used to thinking that they are pretty respectable. But any honest assessment of humankind and of our own hearts would have to conclude we’re pretty messed up.
Now back to David’s discipline. Nathan tells David that because of his sin God will pull back his protection over him such that he and his family will suffer horrible things. It is mankind in general and David in particular that are to blame for the disgusting events that follow. They grieve God far more than they upset any of us. But that’s another hub.
How does God do evil?
Now back to David’s discipline. Nathan told David that horrible things would occur to his descendents. Lest David or we think that those horrible events were just happinstance, the prophet quotes God, "Behold I will raise up evil against you."
Cynics jump all over the Almighty with their "gotchas." "How can a good God do evil?" "The God of the Bible claims to love but takes pleasure in human suffering!" But God, who was under no obligation to restrain man's natural malice, cannot be faulted for drawing back that restraint. It's my prerogative to freely give a passing beggar a ten dollar bill; but having done so, I'm under no obligation to do the same for the next beggar that accosts me.
So now God will discipline David by pulling back his restraining power. Absent God's influence it won't be long before David's sons unsheathe their swords against each other. Who's to blame for the killings and the rapes? They are, not God.
And God weeps
The cynic's caricature is that God finds pleasure in allowing human beings to self-destruct. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus wept over the wickedness of Jerusalem and its consequences. So why doesn't the Almighty just push one of his god-buttons and make evil disappear once and for all? He could. But then he would have turned every one of us into mere puppets devoid of self-awareness, love and hope. God would have destroyed humankind.
Instead He devised a way to win human beings back into fellowship with Him. Through Christ, our soul's infrastracture is rebuilt so that instead of defaulting toward evil, we gravitate to what is good and honorable. Such is the power of Christ in the hearts of those who trust him. One day "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14) Then evil will be no more.