hebrew versus greek thought

Hebrew theology started with the premise that Yahweh is God. Yahweh’s characteristics are determined through the examination of Yahweh’s thoughts and deeds. Only after a wide array of Yahweh’s thoughts and actions are examined does Hebrew thought assign predicates to God. God is not powerful “because He is God” but because Yahweh created the universe, freed Israel from Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and many more power acts it is that Yahweh is powerful. The power acts are surveyed and a general attribute is established. Any general label applied to God, found in the Bible, is the result of mapping out general trends and characteristics.

Greek theology differs from Hebrew theology in that it starts with the premise that god is defined by a series of attributes. These attributes are deduced through logical proofs (the validity of which is debatable). The attributes are usually based on quantifying god. How much power does god have: “all power”. Where is god: “nowhere” or “everywhere”. God is described through Negative Attributes (attributes that distance from creation) rather than qualifying attributes (attributes in common with creation).

In Greek theology, any action or act by god is then filtered through these attributes. If omnipotence declares that god can do anything, then all acts are interpreted in this light. If God frees Israel from Egypt, that is because god can do anything. If immutability declares that god does not change, then any event that appears like a change must be reinterpreted. In Genesis 6, God does not repent of His own actions of making man, but is instead said to grieve over an event He already knew would happen.

Colin E. Gunton speaks the differences between Greek and Hebrew thought in his Act and Being:

Greeks appear to stress a theology of divine being, Hebrews of divine action… there is a tendency [for theologians] to identify the divine attributes by a list of ‘omni’s’ and negatives – omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, and the rest – and then paste on to them conceptions of divine actions

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann speaks on this in Theology of the Old Testament:

Israel’s characteristic adjectival vocabulary about Yahweh is completely lacking in terms that have dominated classical theology, such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. This sharp contrast suggested that classical theology, insofar as it is dominated by such interpretive categories and such concerns, is engaged in issues that are not crucial for Israel’s testimony about Yahweh and are in fact quite remote from Israel’s primary utterance…

The Old Testament, in its discernment of Yahweh, is relentlessly committed to the recognition that all of reality, including the reality of Yahweh, is relational, relative to the life and destiny of Israel. And the God of Israel has no propensity to be otherwise than related to Israel.

The primary problem with the Greek mode of thought is that all the statements become highly subjective. Christians are merely assuming attributes that make God the God-being. These attributes, as shown from the diversity of religions in the world, are highly speculative and arbitrary. This mode of thought also functions as a rejection of the Bible, which is a highly Jewish document bred in Jewish theological thought.

The Bible does not attempt to reinterpret the text in light of overriding attributes. Thus, while God is described as being longsuffering and having infinite mercy (1Ch 16:34; Psa 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 136:1), the text allows God to show a lack of mercy to King Saul (whose repentance was rejected by God), Pharaoh (who was singled out for destruction), and Ananias/Sapphira (who committed an infraction and was not given a chance to repent), to name a few.

This is an important point to make. A reader cannot just copy and paste various phrases about God that are found throughout the Bible and then form a Systematic Theology from those phrases. Those phrases, in themselves, are usually generalities formed with counter-examples in plain view. To make those phrases absolute and then deny the counter-examples would be proverbially “putting the cart before the horse”.

It is a great mistake to engage in Greek theology when the Jewish theological tradition stands in stark contrast. The Bible tells people God’s character through God’s acts and thoughts. The Bible does not allow overriding principles of what God “should be” to override the narrative or testimony about God. Any argument premised in the fashion that “God would cease to be God, if true” should be rejected as pagan and un-Biblical.

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Jesus did not overturn the law

Law-ScrollIt is widely believed that Jesus overturned aspects of the Law. In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lists a series of antitheses. These are statements that follow a particular formula: “You have heard it said… but I say to you”. In English, the word “but” usually detonates some sort of reversal. Dr. James F. McGrath (Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis) states that perhaps a better translation would be “and”. The formula should be “You have heard it said… and I say to you”. Jesus is not overturning the law, but expounding and expanding upon the law. Jesus makes this very clear in his introduction to the antitheses:

Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

A few things of note: Jesus states that he has not come to abolish the Law (the exact opposite of what people claim of the antitheses in the very next verses). Jesus states that heaven and earth will pass away before the law is changed. This seems clearly idiomatic to mean the laws will never pass away. Jesus blesses those who teach the law and curses those who lessen the laws. It would be unfathomable that Jesus then preaches to lessen the law in the very next verses. Jesus then gives what is probably the theme of the antithesis: people must exceed the righteousness of the law to enter the kingdom of heaven (v20).

Jesus, quite simply, was telling people how to be more righteous than the law prescribes. This is by Jesus’ own interpretation of his words. Bart Ehrman writes:

An “antithesis” is a contrary statement. In the six antitheses recorded in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states a Jewish law, and then sets his interpretation of that law over against it. I should emphasize that Matthew does not portray Jesus as contradicting the law: for example, he does not say “You have heard it said, `You shall not commit murder,’ but I say to you that you should.” Instead, even here in the antitheses, Jesus urges his followers to adhere to the law, indeed, to do so even more rigorously than the religious leaders of Israel. The contrasts of the antitheses, then, are between the way the law is commonly interpreted and the way Jesus interprets it. In all of these antitheses he goes to the heart of the law in question, to its root intention as it were, and insists that his followers adhere to *that*, rather than to the letter of the law as strictly interpreted.

The Antitheses

Mat 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
Mat 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Do only do not murder, but do not even harbor ill feelings towards someone.

Mat 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
Mat 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not only do not have an affair, but don’t even think about doing so.

Mat 5:31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
Mat 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

While you are permitted to divorce your wife, learn to forgive and forbear her faults.

Mat 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
Mat 5:34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
Mat 5:35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Mat 5:36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
Mat 5:37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

While you are permitted to swear on God’s name, make it unnecessary by just doing what you say you are going to do.

Mat 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
Mat 5:39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

This antithesis has caused particular trouble with modern audiences due to the “harsh” reading of the original command. But the original command was tempering retribution. Ehrman writes:

A final example: the law says to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (5:38). This law serves to guarantee justice in the community, so that if a neighbor knocks out your tooth, you cannot lop off his head in exchange. That is to say, contrary to the way in which this law is commonly understood today, it was not originally meant to be vindictive, but merciful: the penalty should fit and not exceed the crime. Since, however, the root of this law is a principal of mercy, Jesus draws the radical conclusion: instead of inflicting a penalty on another, his followers should prefer to suffer wrong. Therefore, someone who is struck on one cheek should turn the other to be struck as well. As can be seen from these examples, far from absolving his followers of the responsibility to keep the law, Matthew’s Jesus intensifies the law, requiring his followers to keep not just its letter, but its very spirit. This intensification of the law, however, raises a number of questions…

While you can avenge up to parity, you should forgive and learn to live in peace.

Mat 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Mat 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

While you are permitted to hate your enemies, you should learn to love and care for them.

Jesus ends the antitheses with another summary of his sermon:

Mat 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So what is Jesus doing here? Is he prescribing impossible standards which no one can ever meet to prove some sort of point about grace? Unlikely, there is nothing in the context to suggest this is the case. Is Jesus serious? All humans should hope the standards are a little more lax then the face value reading. Is Jesus speaking hyperbolically? This could be the case and would fit a lot of how Jesus communicated to his listeners.

Ehrman possibly has the best understanding of the purpose of the antitheses. They were meant to highlight the underlying basis of the law and to avoid legalistic following of the law. Ehrman concludes:

At the same time, Matthew does not simply describe a detailed list of what Jesus’ followers must do and not do in order to enter into the Kingdom. On the contrary, his point seems to be that an overly scrupulous attention to the details of the law is not what really matters to God. Even scribes and Pharisees can adhere to laws once they are narrowly enough prescribed, for example, by not murdering and not committing and not eating forbidden foods. God wants more than this kind of strict obedience to the letter of the law.

To Jesus, the purpose of the law could be summed up by loving God and loving your neighbor. As Jesus states explicitly:

Mat 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus’ purpose was never to overturn the law. Jesus required strict adherence to not only the law but a stricter standard than the law prescribed. Those who sought to lessen the penalty or force of the law were rejected by Jesus. Jesus wanted all people to be perfect as God is in heaven.

Posted in Bible, Dispensationalism, Ehrman, Jesus, Morality, Theology | 1 Comment

angels or gods

Early anti-Christian Platonist Porphyry argues that Christians do not much differ from the pagans who believe in many gods because Christians believe in angels. As God rules over the angels, the pagans hold to a similar hierarchy. Porphyry does not understand the Christian fuss about one true God.

But let us make a thorough investigation concerning the single rule of the only God and the manifold rule of those who are worshipped as gods. You do not know how to expound the doctrine even of the single rule. For a monarch is not one who is alone in his existence, but who is alone in his rule. Clearly he rules over those who are his fellow-tribesmen, men like himself, just as the Emperor Hadrian was a monarch, not because he existed alone, nor because he ruled over oxen and sheep (over which herdsmen or shepherds rule), but because he ruled over men who shared his race and possessed the same nature. Likewise God would not properly be called a monarch, unless He ruled over other gods; for this would befit His divine greatness and His heavenly and abundant honour.

At any rate, if you say that angels stand before God, who are not subject to feeling and death, and immortal in their nature, whom we ourselves speak of as gods, because they are close to the Godhead, why do we dispute about a name? And are we to consider it only a difference of nomenclature? For she who is called by the Greeks Athene is called by the Romans Minerva; and the Egyptians, Syrians, and Thracians address her by some other name. But I suppose nothing in the invocation of the goddess is changed or lost by the difference of the names. The difference therefore is not great, whether a man calls them gods or angels, since their divine nature bears witness to them, as when Matthew writes thus: “And Jesus answered and said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God; for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven” (Matt. xxii. 29-30).

Posted in Church Fathers, History | 2 Comments

God in the book of job – who darkened what counsel

In the book of Job, Job suffers due to a divine wager between God and Satan (“the adversary”). Job’s friends attempt to persuade Job that God does not punish unjustly; they claim Job has a hidden sin. Job, though, is firm on his self-righteousness. This is not without merit as the text of Job makes it clear that Job is truly innocent and righteous (Job 1:1). Job, throughout the text, seeks an audience with God wherein he can argue his case (his case for mercy against God’s unjust punishments):

Job 9:15 Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
Job 9:16 If I summoned him and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
Job 9:17 For he crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause;
Job 9:18 he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness.
Job 9:19 If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
Job 9:20 Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.

After a few rounds of arguments between Job and Job’s friends concerning Job’s righteousness, a fourth voice intrudes into the narrative, that of Elihu. Elihu makes a speech arguing: God is to be praised, Job is wrong in defending himself, God does not owe a response to Job, Job is wicked, that God is punishing Job, and that all visible good and evil are judgments from the hand of God.

After this, God then responds to Job. Elihu is never again seen in the narrative:

Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

At first glance, it would seem that God is rebuking Elihu. After all Elihu had just finished speaking. But a few things of note: God is addressing Job (v1). God then commands Job to man-up (v3) to prepare for an answer. When Job finally responds to God, Job responds to the question as if it was directed towards him. Job then uses words that would fit this phrase being about him (such as “not knowing” and “mystery”):

Job 42:3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

What then became of Elihu? David Clines persuasively argues that Elihu’s speech was misplaced in Job. It belongs before Job’s final response. In any case, Elihu’s speech is ignored by everything after the speech. Elihu is not addressed nor are his arguments considered. The book of Job would be very much the same without Elihu’s speech. Probably this is why scholars have argued it was a later addition to the text.

So God is addressing Job when He says “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” This statement contrasts heavily with God’s later statement towards Job:

Job 42:7 And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

In Job 42, God says that Job spoke about God “what is right”. God says that Job’s three friends have not spoken what is right about God. Their argument, like that of Elihu, was that Job was wicked and God punishes the wicked. It is clear that their “counsel” is already dark. When God says “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”, Job is not darkening his friends’ counsel with words. That would not make sense.

A better understanding is that Job is darkening God’s counsel. David Clines writes:

[the Hebrew word] is “counsel, plan,” and, being without the article, it could mean counsel in general… “But it seems clear that the reference here is to the divine counsel or plan, and many translations reflect that understanding… Since it appears to be Yahweh’s design for the universe as a whole… it seems fit to give the term a capital letter.

Job is maligning God’s plan of creation, but not to the extent that Job will be called wrong. David Clines perhaps offers the best explanation of the discrepancy:

The question is: How can what Job has spoken about Yhwh be called “right”? Much of what Job has spoken about Yhwh has been abuse and criticism of the deity, and Yhwh himself has typified Job’s speeches as “darkening”. Yhwh’s “design”, that is, his principles for the structure of the universe, and has criticized Job for speaking “words without knowledge” (38:2). Carol Newsom, for one, speaks of the “impossibility of harmonizing v. 7 with the preceding material in chaps. 3:1–42:6.”

Yhwh, we must accept, cannot be referring to Job’s initial speech of acceptance after his calamities have fallen upon him: “Yhwh has given and Yhwh has taken. May Yhwh’s name be blessed” (1:21). For the deity plainly knows about the friends’ speeches (“you have not spoken the truth about me,” v. 7), and therefore must be aware of Job’s own hostile speeches also, which rather cancel out Job’s docile first speech. Nor is Yhwh likely to be referring to Job’s short responses in 40:4-­‐5 and 42:2-­‐6, since they are surely too insubstantial to outweigh the criticisms Job has earlier made of Yhwh.

The only thing about Job’s speeches that Yhwh can be approving of is Job’s denial that Yhwh governs the world on a principle of retributive justice. For Job, it was a criticism of Yhwh that he did not keep days of assize, judgment days when he would mete out punishment to wrongdoers (24:1). For Yhwh, the whole of his speeches from the tempest (chaps. 38– 41) implicitly deny that retribution for good or bad behaviour is a feature of the design of the world order. Yhwh’s own depiction of his purpose for the universe emphasizes sustenance of its life forms, the non-­‐human creation being a very prominent part of his concerns, rather than a micro-­‐ management of human beings. Job’s complaints about God’s failure to manage the universe have paradoxically put their finger upon a fundamental truth about Yhwh, that such is not his interest. [Hebrew words removed]

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clines on the conclusion of job

David Clines argues that the conclusion of Job is that retributive justice is not a necessary part of God’s creation:

From Deconstructing the Book of Job:

Where then stands the philosophy asserted by the poem of 3.1–42.6, the core of the book as a whole?… This seems open to no doubt… that it is the righteous, not the wicked, who suffers; all it does is to expound it at length, dramatically and unarguably. What the poem does, philosophically speaking, is to prove over and over again that the doctrine of retribution is wrong.

Every time Job’s friends fail to carry us with them in their denunciations of Job, and every time Job excites our admiration for his injured innocence, the poem convinces us again that the doctrine of retribution is naive, dangerous, inhuman and, above all, false. If ever for a minute in the course of the dialogue we are tempted to believe that Job after all must deserve something of what he suffers, or if for a moment we find it hard to believe that anyone can possibly be so blameless as Job is making himself out to be, the affirmations of both the narrator and God in the prologue stride forward in our memory: there is none like him on earth.

From Coming to a Theological Conclusion: The Case of the Book of Job:

…From a more intellectual point of view, we might say that the divine speeches have refused the categories of the dialogues, and in particular the complaints of Job that the world is not being governed with justice. What they have left in their place is the suggestion that God does not put himself forward as world governor, and that his acts toward his creation are not to be judged in the scales of justice.

From Seven Interesting Things about the Epilogue of Job:

The question is: How can what Job has spoken about Yhwh be called “right”? Much of what Job has spoken about Yhwh has been abuse and criticism of the deity, and Yhwh himself has typified Job’s speeches as “darkening”. Yhwh’s “design”, that is, his principles for the structure of the universe, and has criticized Job for speaking “words without knowledge” (38:2). Carol Newsom, for one, speaks of the “impossibility of harmonizing v. 7 with the preceding material in chaps. 3:1–42:6.”

Yhwh, we must accept, cannot be referring to Job’s initial speech of acceptance after his calamities have fallen upon him: “Yhwh has given and Yhwh has taken. May Yhwh’s name be blessed” (1:21). For the deity plainly knows about the friends’ speeches (“you have not spoken the truth about me,” v. 7), and therefore must be aware of Job’s own hostile speeches also, which rather cancel out Job’s docile first speech. Nor is Yhwh likely to be referring to Job’s short responses in 40:4-5 and 42:2-6, since they are surely too insubstantial to outweigh the criticisms Job has earlier made of Yhwh.

The only thing about Job’s speeches that Yhwh can be approving of is Job’s denial that Yhwh governs the world on a principle of retributive justice. For Job, it was a criticism of Yhwh that he did not keep days of assize, judgment days when he would mete out punishment to wrongdoers (24:1). For Yhwh, the whole of his speeches from the tempest (chaps. 38– 41) implicitly deny that retribution for good or bad behaviour is a feature of the design of the world order. Yhwh’s own depiction of his purpose for the universe emphasizes sustenance of its life forms, the non-human creation being a very prominent part of his concerns, rather than a micro-management of human beings. Job’s complaints about God’s failure to manage the universe have paradoxically put their finger upon a fundamental truth about Yhwh, that such is not his interest.

The important point here is that the [Hebrew] is not behaviour attributed to the friends, but behaviour that Yhwh says he may engage in if he is not appeased by Job’s prayer. It is the outrageous behaviour of a person whose anger is out of control. It is noteworthy that v. 7 has said that Yhwh’s anger has burned hot against Eliphaz and the other friends. This is the only place in the book where Yhwh is said to be angry. Though Job has inferred Yhwh’s anger from his experience of him (14:13; 16:9; 19:11), the only time we have seen anger is when Elihu becomes angry with impatience at the inability to refute Job adequately (32:2, 3, 5). Yhwh is angry here for the first and only time.

The anger of Yhwh, his demand for an enormous sacrifice, and his threat of outrageous behaviour all cohere. We are meant to sense that the friends’ imposition of the principle of retributive justice upon Yhwh’s dealings with the world is regarded by him as a terrible affront, and a tragic misunderstanding about the divine design for the world. If Job has been “darkening” the design (42:3), they have been doing worse: their arguments seem to have been bent on destroying it.

In an unguarded moment, Yhwh lets slip that he feels in danger of behaving badly, outrageously in fact, but he knows how he can bring himself under control: a pious person can intercede with him on behalf of those who have aroused his anger. Then he will calm down.

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The Christian Case for Drug Legalization

breaking breadDisclaimer: I have never been involved in any illegal drug use, as such, any case I am making to legalize drugs should be taken on principle.

In an online drug legalization debate, Pastor Bob Enyart argues that drugs should be illegal for several reasons.

First, drugs are immoral:

It’s wrong to get high. For in doing so you reject the counsel of the God who made you. And by intoxication you lose what should be a full control of your mental and moral faculties. You become a threat to yourself and a risk to those around you.

Second, drugs are dangerous:

Many studies show serious problems, for example, with schizoid psychosis while smoking. And marijuana can act as a cancer-causing carcinogen and damaging DNA for pot smoke contains higher levels of certain toxins than tobacco, which is why pot smokers face rapid lung destruction, with the impact on lungs from one joint equaling up to five cigarettes. Pot also opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma. And for pregnant moms, it can harm their unborn child by impairing growth and by causing long-lasting neurobehavioural problems. (And if you’ve read online that marijuana has never caused a single death, just assume you’re reading a pothead’s website.) For habitual use is strongly associated with car crash injuries and smoking marijuana doubles the risk of fatal accidents.

While Enyart won the Huffington Post debate (determined by reader votes), he seems to have fallen short of his goal: to show that drugs should be illegal. Even if it is granted that drugs are both dangerous and immoral (with which sensible people can disagree), how does that translate into a legitimate function for government action? Where has God given the government the right to regulate or ban behavior just because it is immoral and/or could result in harm? Where does God ban possession of substances? What right does the government have to control which substances are bought and sold by individuals for health or pleasure? And, Biblically, who is authorized to make such a determination if the drug is being used for health or pleasure? Does this have precedent in the Bible?

The Proper Role of Government

In the Bible, there are several data points for understanding God’s concept of the proper role of the state. After the Exodus, God sets up His preferred government. In God’s preferred government, a series of unpaid judges presided over disputes. There were no taxes and justice was crowdsourced. Later, when the people demanded a king, God reluctantly allows Israel to establish one (see 1 Sam 8). Rejection of God’s minarchy was a rejection of God, Himself (this, in itself, should heavily influence a Christian perspective of the role of the state). In the proceeding Kingship, taxes were levied and a salaried federal government was established. In both of these governmental systems, legislative directives seem to remain consistent. The Kings really did not make new legislation, but adopted the law of the Pentateuch (supplementing at times with temporary decrees).

In the Bible, God establishes two types of rules: moral code and legal code. Often the two overlap. In God’s moral code, people are told what they should and should not do. There are no punishments attached to these actions (see Joel Hoffman on the issue). These actions function as a moral guide for daily life. In God’s legal code, punishments are prescribed for various acts. Murder results in death. Stealing results in reparations. The legal code functions as a guide to government action.

What are the legal consequences of sloth, envy, being a drunkard, abstaining from leaving a portion of a field to be gleaned by strangers (Deu 24:19)? There are no legal consequences. These are acts that people “should ” or “should not” do. The activity is frowned upon, but otherwise there is no formal punishment.

When the government of Israel morphs from a government of judges to a government by King, the King yet refrains from creating a system which legislates these activities. The Kings just do not believe it is their role (or think it is feasible) to legislate states of mind, especially something as subjective as drunkness or sloth or gluttony. Sure, proverbs abound in the social realm condemned these things, but legislative code does not follow:

Pro 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.

This proverb is warning people that their gluttony, sloth, and drunkardness will destroy users’ lives due to the cost of those activities. This is a persuasive argument based on attempting to make individuals understand natural consequences of their actions. There is not an idea of government punishment, but one of moral responsibility of the individual. The Israelites used social pressure and logical reasoning to change the behavior of others, not laws imposed by armed enforcers.

Preventative Law v Punitive Law

The entire structure of God’s law is antithetical to drug legislation. God’s legal code is also not overly concerned with preventative legislation. The legal code prescribes punishment after a crime is committed. If a builder builds a dangerous house, he could be guilty for his negligence after anyone dies (Deu 22:8). One can extrapolate that concept in terms the modern world would understand: God would not have a punishment for drunk driving but for any actual manslaughter or property damage that results. If a drunk driver kills someone in negligence, they are punished for the crime of murder (not drunk driving). In God’s government, there was no police state cracking down on dangerous activity. The government’s role was justice, not babysitting. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Overall, God does not make laws peddling some sort of social justice goal. Instead, God’s focus is on punishing crimes and having His people worship Him. God does not spend his time making laws to ward against dangerous activity. In other words, God does not try to save people from themselves. God’s laws are based in objective fact. Either someone has murdered someone or not. Either someone has stolen something or not. There are no laws such as “someone can only drink two glasses of wine per day”, trying to prevent drunkenness. There are no laws such as “no letting your children shepherd in an area with lions and bears”, trying to legislate responsible parenting. God’s laws are not “good ideas” to make society marginally better.

True, there are some prescriptions against certain products. There is a law against the manufacture of certain holy oils, but the reasoning is that the oil is holy (Exo 30:33 ). Interestingly, there is no similar prescription against making, selling, or owning idols, although the worship thereof was a death sentence (Exo 22:20, also see Num 25:4). It is also not a problem to God when righteous Kings purge the land of idols (2Ki 18:3). The focus of these exceptions to God general legislation is about worship of the true God. God really cares about holiness, righteousness, and worship of Him. But after that, people are generally free to do their own thing.

Double Standard for Immorality

Those who want the government to legislate drug use, often do not want the government to legislate other immorality. Should the government legislate sloth, envy, or gluttony? Should the government criminalize drunkenness? How does a government even begin to lay down an objective standard by which to legislate these things? Even in the modern world, alcohol is tested through a secretive formula by which they calculate some sort of blood alcohol level. In other words, the average person has no way of knowing if they are violating the law until after the fact. And the standard is completely arbitrary, ever being lowered by special interest groups. That is an evil law.

God does not legislate wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. God does not legislate drunkenness, or drugs (which have always been readily available). God is not the thought police.

Double Standard for Danger

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the fatality rate on for summit attempts on Mount McKinley is 3 in 1000. One climber described to me watching as a French man desperately grabbed onto his sled as it began slipping down the side of a crevasse. The man plummeted to his death holding onto the equipment he dearly wished to save. Climbing Mount McKinley is dangerous. At those high altitudes, hikers who do not die of exposure or slipping often return with brain damage due to the low oxygen environment.

So the question is: why do Americans allow people to undertake a dangerous activity with almost certain life-altering results? The answer is freedom. People are generally tolerated to engage in dangerous activities if they so wish (from motorcycle driving, to wing suit flying, to base jumping). In a free country, people do not have to justify their activities to some bureaucrat. People are allowed to take risks.

Why the double standard for drugs? Certain drugs do not seem as dangerous as the counterexamples provided. A majority of drug users live very normal lives and are undetectable from non-drug users. An entire 38% of Americans admit to trying marijuana, including the sitting president of the United States. What percent of them are harmed and to what extent? Certainly not 3 in 1000 die due to their actions (the fatality rate for attempting to summit Mount McKinley). Why do the same Christians who wish to legislate drugs based on danger then not wish to legislate mountain climbing based on danger? The double standard is glaring. All their arguments about personal risk should be discarded, and liberty should be the default stance.

Medicine v Drugs

A terrible side effect of the War of Drugs is that now drugs are gated behind bureaucrats with magical pieces of paper that allow them to decide who gets what drug and in what quantity. If I have an ear infection I must first go to a doctor, have them write a prescription, then I must drive to the pharmacy and stand in line for a pharmacist to take my identification, she will then decide if I get the drug that I know will cure my ear infection. Each brigand takes their cut of the spoils. The system is preposterous.

The fear of strangers being allowed to decide what they ingest has led to a system where the government oversees and regulates the distribution of medicine. People cannot fix their illness unless the wish to pay extra money such that the government can then limit their options for treatment. Options are further curtailed for fear that someone might actually enjoy their cure of illness. Two examples:

My wife underwent a C-section. She was in miserable pain, but she used too many pain killers. Although she was crying in extreme pain, the nurses and doctors would not allow any more pain killers because she reached their arbitrary limit. This nonsense is especially terrible for individuals with high natural tolerance to pain killers. Not all human beings are the same. Doctors spend a lot of time figuring out medicines that work and do not work on individual patients. But although every person is different, the government regulates as if everyone’s body operates the same. The government is too incompetent to figure out a system to regulate other than uniform standards.

The second example is my son, who was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. During this time, he lost all appetite. The doctors attempted to stimulate appetite with synthetic TCP, basically synthetic marijuana. This absolutely did not work. A feeding tube was forced to be installed into his stomach for direct feeding. Using normal marijuana was not an option due to legal reasons, but possibly could have saved a six year old boy from surgery.

When Enyart claims that marijuana can lead to cancer, this fails to take into account that each human being is unique. Each person has a unique situation. Each person has unique risks. Each person’s body functions differently. Some people already have cancer, so the risk of cancer is not in issue or not of concern. If someone dies during surgery, a future cancer is the least of their problems.

The divide between medicine and drugs is impossible to determine. People are allowed to take pain medication for an injury, but not if some guy with a government license tells them a different amount or timeframe. The guy with the government license is not the one experiencing pain or the one who will be hurt in the case of under-prescription. The same guy taking pain medicine, if he later breaks his leg, will be thrown in jail for taking the same medicine as he took for breaking his arm (using the same prescription). What sense does that make? Instead he must perform his dance, and then he can receive his drugs. Why is this acceptable to do to other human beings?

The Unseen Cost of a War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is feeding the Police State and militant criminal elements. SWAT raids are regular against suspected drug dealers, sometimes resulting in innocents being badly hurt. The police state is using the War on Drugs to confiscate private property without any proof of wrong doing. This has led to widespread governmental theft. Police patrol the streets, accosting those under the mere suspicion of possession of drugs, sometimes killing people who attempt to avoid a confrontation with the Police. A huge pharmaceutical bureaucracy has risen, giving permission slips to use certain drugs. The government tells people which drugs are good and which ones are bad. Strict controls are placed to ward against anyone procuring ingredients that could be used to make illegal drugs. The prison system has ballooned. This is what is necessary to legislate drugs.

Does the Bible authorize this level of governance? Would King David have authorized SWAT raids against drunkards or gluttons? Is the death penalty authorized against those who impair themselves? In what way is legislating drugs either practical or feasible? And add in printing of drugs, which signals the end of traditional drug enforcement.

Conclusion

The government’s role is not to babysit our lives (making sure everyone is respectful and does not act more dangerously than a government agent determines is acceptable). Instead, the government’s role is to enforce basic law: Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery. The government does not have a role in regulating commerce. The government does not have a role in becoming thought police. God does not authorize or wish for a police state, which is the only way to enforce drug or alcohol law. There is no Christian precedence for drug legislation. Drug laws are antithetical to God’s government.

Posted in Goverment, Theonomy | Leave a comment

how the digital revolution undermines feminism

your rights endAn astounding piece of news in itself, Jezebel.com writes a fair minded article on a college “sexism versus free speech” event. Near (and not “on”) the University of Mary Washington there was a social gathering which hosted some members of the college rugby team. Those in attendance chanted some vulgar lyrics involving sex with a dead prostitute. The audio was recorded. Later on, the college Feminists used this audio to get the rugby team suspended. Jezebel insightfully comments:

This wasn’t a victory over the dark forces of misogyny as much as it was a parody-defying collision of 2015 collegiate caricatures: a feminist organization feeling threatened by a song sung at a party to which they were not invited and would have no interest in attending; a party full of co-eds getting drunk and yelling a stupid, obscene song about sexually violating a prostitute’s corpse.

But the feminists in general seem to always take a statist approach to any situation. Their preferred method is the tattle method: find someone with power over those who they find offensive and make those in authority punish the offending parties. If this does not work, often they resort to violence. Instead of acting like adults, removing themselves from a private party or an uncomfortable situation, and going on with their lives, they seek punishment of anyone they find offensive. They often skip the part where they try to have a conversation with the offending parties. This is not adult behavior, and this is not civil behavior.

The college feminists brought their recording to campus administration, who then began disciplinary proceedings against the entire rugby team (although most of the rugby team was out of town on the night in question). The entire student body found out about these actions. This is where technology shines. An app called Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post messages to the app, which are then visible in a 1.5 mile radius to users of the app. Apparently, this app is popular on college campuses. This app gives a platform for all students being bullied by the feminists to post messages without fear of being identified by the feminists. The feminists cannot target anyone for retaliation. Jezebel posts a few of the messages:

yik yak

The frustration in the college feminists are evident in the article.

McKinsey [President of UMW’s Feminists United on Campus (FUC)] says there were “hundreds” of Yaks, all of them of a similar tone… She felt she’d done her part by meeting with the school’s Title IX coordinator and administrators, and in response, she’d found herself demonized on social media.

Technology is undermining feminism. Fascists like McKinsey cannot sensor apps like Yik Yak. Sure, those apps can be shut down by government, but replacements always will spring to life. There is no filtering acceptable thought and there is no college administration to protect McKinsey’s fragile feelings from the digital community. The college feminists are learning they they are not popular. Their childish behavior, their sexism, their blatant intolerance, and their reckless actions against innocent individuals is widely disdained.

This is not the first time feminism has failed in the digital realm. #womenagainstfeminism was a direct response to whoneedsfeminism.

whoneedsfeminism

Technology undermines censorship. Technology undermines statism. Technology makes obsolete university codes which throttle free speech and a free exchange of ideas. The more that technology progresses, the less that social engineers can control others through threats and coercion. People are then forced to contend in a civil manner to change hearts and minds, through rational discourse. Technology breads civility.

Posted in Human Nature, Leftists, Women | Leave a comment