How to reconcile 6th Plague of Boils with God's Justice & Compassion? Exodus 9:8-12


#1

Exodus 9:8-12 DRB:

Seven apparent contradictions to God’s Justice & Compassion: [LIST=1]
*]God makes animals suffer. (One would need to make the assumption that the animals had boils without suffering, but this assumption would weaken the text, as it seems strange to suggest that God would cause an affliction without the being experiencing it. It is just as strange as assuming the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic.)
*]God made other Egyptians suffer because of Pharaoh’s decision, men who apparently could not have influenced it. It is not clear that we are to assume these men were responsible for the male infanticide, nor whether it was still on-going.
*]God hardened Pharao’s heart. This problem is not resolved by understanding the phrase to poetically refer to God’s sovereignty over creation; rather, it is magnified by it: What was the point of that sufffering if God knew the Israelites wouldn’t be freed? (or worse, would not let them be freed)
*]Moreover, God, being ultimately responsible, is revealed to be the tyrant, not Pharao, who is merely God’s instrument: It is God who is keeping the Israelites enslaved, in order to work more miracles –
*]miracles that today are meaningless, as most don’t know the Egyptian gods who are being refuted by these plagues, and coming across these explanations they appear as academic theories rather than clear facts. This raises the additional problem of “the Word of God” fading with time.
*](Shouldn’t we expect the Word of God to be clearly understood for all time? But a recurring motif in the Bible is God preferring to be misunderstood, which seems deliberately irrational, hence contradicting the Catechism’s implication – or the Church’s teaching today – that God expects us to always use reason in forming our beliefs.)
*]God let the Israelites be enslaved for more than 400 years. (This point is technically off-topic, together with the problems mentioned about the Bible generally, but I’m including it merely to indicate general frustration and profundity of lack of understanding.) It is not clear that they needed some twenty generations of slavery to know which god to follow.
[/LIST]


#2

The text isn’t about justice and compassion. That’s not the point. The point is that the God of Moses is superior to the gods of Egypt. God was doing battle with the Egyptian gods.

For example, the plague of frogs was the God of Moses doing battle with the Egyptian god Heqet which was the god of fertility. God sends a plague of frogs into the Egyptian’s bedrooms and into their beds, so many that the Egyptians cannot lie with each other in their beds and produce children.

The sixth plague, boils, was God doing battle with the Egyptian gods Sekhmet (epidemics) and the gods Serapis and Imhotep (healing). The Egyptians called on their gods but could not be healed - proof that Moses’ God is superior to the Egyptian gods.

The 9th plague, darkness, God is doing battle with the Egyptian sun gods.
Etc.

biblecharts.org/oldtestament/thetenplagues.pdf

You can worry about apparent contradictions and issues of justice and mercy but that’s not the point of the text. The Hebrew people had spend 450 years in Egypt and had all but forgotten God and how to worship him. The Hebrew people had become complacent, reliant upon the Egyptians. God needed to prove to the Hebrews as much as to Pharaoh that he was who he claimed to be.

God needed to teach the Hebrews to trust him. That’s the whole point of the Book of Exodus.

-Tim-


#3

This material world is not an end unto itself, but exists to serve its Creator’s purposes.

Blesses is the one who acknowledges our Creator and His wonders, and who confesses that He is not to be questioned about what He does. (Mirzah Husayn Ali)

A global nuclear war is in our near future. It is predicted in Scripture and will make the ten plagues of Egypt look like a Sunday picnic.
It will serve our Creator’s purpose of teaching mankind obedience to His Law:

Love your neighbor as yourself.
Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Our creation and deployment of nuclear weapons constitutes a gross violation of His Law.
That is why Scripture says:

The nations have sunk into a pit of their own making,
they are caught by the feet in the snare they set themselves.
YHWH has . . .trapped the wicked in the work of their own hands.

Our Creator, in His mercy, offers us a way out of this trap, and that way is UNILATERAL NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT.
Doing so would fulfill His commandment to treat others as we would like them to treat us.
But even here in a Christian forum no one seems to like that idea.
Have you got your hole in the ground ready?

Go into the hollows of the rocks,
into the caverns of the earth,
at the sight of the terror of YHWH,
at the brilliance of His majesty…


#4

The boils is what gets you about God’s compassion?! Not when he killed the firstborn son of every Egyptian? Not just the Pharoah’s son, but every firstborn son. From the peasants and slaves even to the cattle. An act that God said was bad to do to the Jews but carried out against everyone else. I could kinda see attacking the firstborn son of the Pharoah, even if he is innocent since line of succession and all that, but most of these people were innocent and had nothing to do with the Pharoah enslaving the Hebrews.


#5

Lots of non-starters here…

God tells Adam to subdue the earth and have dominion over the animals. He allows (at least from the time of Noah) animals to be killed for food for humans. He directs humans to sacrifice animals. Therefore, one must conclude that there’s a hierarchy here somewhere, and animals aren’t at the top of it. In other words, there’s no ‘justice’ problem here.

God made other Egyptians suffer because of Pharaoh’s decision

, men who apparently could not have influenced it.

Pharaoh was worshiped as a god by the Egyptians. They followed his commands. Egyptians suffered because their leader – whom they willingly followed – chose to disobey God. No problems here, either.

God hardened Pharao’s heart. This problem is not resolved by understanding the phrase to poetically refer to God’s sovereignty over creation; rather, it is magnified by it: What was the point of that sufffering if God knew the Israelites wouldn’t be freed? (or worse, would not let them be freed)

I’m guessing that you’re referring – by speaking of “God’s sovereignty over creation” – to the belief of that time and place that everything (and I mean everything, down to the actions of the smallest gnat) was the direct result of the hand of God. Of course, we don’t assent to that belief. Therefore, to say “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” is merely to say “Pharaoh did not relent.” No ‘justice’ problem there.

Moreover, God, being ultimately responsible, is revealed to be the tyrant, not Pharao, who is merely God’s instrument: It is God who is keeping the Israelites enslaved, in order to work more miracles

Only if you believe – as the ancients did (and, as a more modern example, the medieval Muslims) that God controls all of the actions of our lives. If you don’t assent to that belief – and Catholics don’t! – then this is not an example of a ‘tyrant’ who ‘keeps [his people] enslaved’. :shrug:

miracles that today are meaningless, as most don’t know the Egyptian gods who are being refuted by these plagues

You know it. I know it. Many Catholics – who take the time to read up, and to listen to Catholic theologians and Catholic priests who preach on the subject – know it. Are you railing at the fact that not all people in the world know this? Hey – some folks believe in Bigfoot and disbelieve in the Apollo missions to the moon. Those, too, aren’t evidence of an ‘issue with God’s justice’… :wink:

This raises the additional problem of “the Word of God” fading with time.

No… the Word of God isn’t “fading with time.” On the contrary: while it’s true that there are many people who disbelieve God’s Word, nevertheless the proper understanding of the Scriptures is getting better and more thorough with time!

(Shouldn’t we expect the Word of God to be clearly understood for all time?

Not necessarily. Perhaps you could make the case that this is so? Otherwise, it’s an unstated assumption, or at best, an unsubstantiated assertion…

But a recurring motif in the Bible is God preferring to be misunderstood

You’ll need to substantiate this ‘preference’ that you assert.

God let the Israelites be enslaved for more than 400 years.

Yes, God allows evil – which is the result of humans’ misuse of free will – to exist in the world. This allows for free will to be truly free, and for humans to freely choose God. Again, this is not evidence of a lack of justice on God’s part.

(This point is technically off-topic, together with the problems mentioned about the Bible generally, but I’m including it merely to indicate general frustration and profundity of lack of understanding.)

Yes… it’s clear you’re frustrated and lack understanding. :sad_yes:

How can we help? Do you want to ask questions that will allow you to increase in your understanding?

It is not clear that they needed some twenty generations of slavery to know which god to follow.

Oh, c’mon, now – be fair! They still needed an additional 40 years of wandering in the desert, and even then didn’t know to follow the God who led them out of slavery, fed them in the desert, kept them safe and won victories for them! Heck – we’ve had 2000 years since Christ’s ministry, and we still haven’t come to that understanding! :wink:

What’s clear is that, despite all of God’s ways of being present in our lives, humanity as a whole still doesn’t “know which god to follow.” :nope:


#6

Well, let’s think about whether anybody in Egypt was innocent, when everybody in Egypt was okay with slavery existing, and with the Israelites having no way out of slavery (unlike other Egyptians who were slaves, and could buy their way out or be freed). Also think about how everyone in Egypt was worshipping false gods. Egypt wasn’t a bad place to live, and it wasn’t full of bad people; but all those people were doing bad things.

As Thomas Jefferson said, after he contemplated the bad moral results of having slavery around, in Chapter 18 of his book, Notes on the State of Virginia:

“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever…”

He was a slaveholder, but he knew he was doing wrong, and would deserve any bad thing that happened because he enslaved other people. He didn’t think he was innocent.


#7

According to the Bible, there’s nothing wrong with slavery actually. In fact, it calls for slaves for slaves to be submissive to their masters. It has some specific rules about slavery, but nowhere is it noted that slavery is sinful in itself. And while I’m no expert, after a quick search of “slavery” in the bible, there’s also no rule that states they must be allowed to buy their freedom.

Granted, this was a quick skim so there might be something I missed, but the only real rules I saw were that you must free the slave if you beat them so hard that they lose an eye or tooth (nothing against beating a slave in general though), and no enslaving fellow Israelites, which seems more like racial bias than anything else.

You can skim for yourself right here. Not an anti-Christian site, just supplies Bible quotes. openbible.info/topics/slavery

Also note that God killed the firstborn of the slaves as well. Clearly slavery was not the crime being punished.

And the entire planet is filled with people doing bad things.


#8

Thank you for the reference and the brief examples. However, I will quote what I already wrote explaining why this explanation is inadequate, and I will add to it:

To clarify the problem: Many apologists at Catholic Answers and others – and perhaps here I am quoting Steve Ray – refer to the Bible as “God’s love letter to us”, and declare it to be the definitive public revelation of everything we need to know about spiritual reality. These assertions are belied by the apparent fact that we must devote hours and hours of study to ancient history that has no relevance whatsoever today to understand large portions of it. To underscore this point, the Bible does not contain any explanation about God ridiculing imaginary beings with these plagues: Given this lack of explanation, it appears God did not write it for us.

Your explanation raises an additional problem: How can God battle a being that does not exist? Why would God need to hurt people to persuade them to stop fantasy? What does this say about God’s ‘crowning creation’, man, and hence God’s wisdom, for men to be so delusional and with incompetent mental or spiritual faculties?

This explanation raises yet another problem: Where was God? Why was He absent? What happened between His interactions with Joseph and their enslavement?

Did God have to hurt people – both Israelites for 400 years and the Egyptians – to teach trust? How does that work? What does that say about God’s omnipotence and benevolence?

This objection actually has a simple resolution: 1) God is the referee of this football game (i.e. life), not merely another player; 2) God is love, justice, and our ultimate end.

2: So by killing those people God’s taking them back to Himself and giving them what they deserve, which is what we all want.
1: As players in this game it is not our place to eject others from the game, but God is the gamemaster, so He does have that authority. My soccer analogy I think makes that clear: I can’t force another player off the field for the rest of the game, and if I do, I’m clearly wrong. Unlike the players in the game, the referee has that authority.

You could also throw in a third response: God made us, so we belong to God. Hence God can bring us in or out of this physical realm at His will: We are God’s property. Today’s absolute self-autonomy (a hallmark of modern secularism) is simply false. We have limited self-autonomy (to work within our abilities), not absolute self-autonomy: We don’t own ourselves. The fact that we belong to God and not to ourselves is why suicide and self-harm are intrinsically wrong.

So there’s nothing wrong with God killing people, because God has that authority and because it’s God taking them to whichever end they deserve. The boils on people and animals who had no say in the Israelites’ freedom bothers me because it appears to be unjust suffering – even as God’s property, torture appears wrong, just as animal abuse with one’s own pets is wrong: Suffering because of our sins is just, and suffering in a mitigated way because of others’ sins against us is just. (‘mitigated’: Namely, for a time, so the person’s action has its consequence, and then God rights the wrong after the sufferer petitions God justly.) Random suffering due to no fault of one’s own is unjust, as far as I can tell – and as far as anyone else can tell, hence Christian theologians seem to refer to this suffering as “a mystery”, because they also are unable to reconcile it with Christian revelation. Unmitigated suffering due to another’s sin (i.e. suffering it until death) likewise appears unjust; it is as if God is failing to parent His children. (The wrong could be righted after death, but it seems wrong to keep us waiting in such suspense.)

If this isn’t clear – Gorgias seems to miss the point of every argument I make – an analogy may clarify:

Scenario A
Father: “Son, you broke the window after playing ball in the house when I told you not to, so now I’m going to spank you and make you work to repair the window.”
Son: “I hate being held accountable for my actions, but I understand why I’m being punished.”

Scenario B
The son is doing his homework.
Father: “Son, I’m going to spank you.”
Son: “What?! Why?! Ow, please stop!”
The father continues hurting his son.

The boils on the Egyptians and animals because of Pharao’s decision appears like scenario B, which is apparently unjust: There is no stated reason why people and animals not involved with the Israelites’ captivity should be made to suffer.


#9

Nah… I get your arguments. I just reject them. :wink:

an analogy may clarify:

Scenario A
Father: “Son, you broke the window after playing ball in the house when I told you not to, so now I’m going to spank you and make you work to repair the window.”
Son: “I hate being held accountable for my actions, but I understand why I’m being punished.”

Scenario B
The son is doing his homework.
Father: “Son, I’m going to spank you.”
Son: “What?! Why?! Ow, please stop!”
The father continues hurting his son.

The boils on the Egyptians and animals because of Pharao’s decision appears like scenario B, which is apparently unjust: There is no stated reason why people and animals not involved with the Israelites’ captivity should be made to suffer.

Yet again, I have to reject your spin on the narrative. Sorry… but when you miss the point, can you really expect us to just smile and play along with your spin on the narrative? :shrug:

Let’s look at the way you frame up the narrative: in positing the plagues narrative as a father who simply beats up on his unawares son, you completely misrepresent what the Scriptures describe!

Did God simply swoop down on the Egyptians, as you suggest? No… He did not. (I mean, it looks like you’re having fun representing it as such, but that’s not at all what is presented to us.)

But, so that you don’t simply shrug and assert that I’ve “missed the point”, let’s look at Scripture, shall we?

What precedes the plagues? That is to say, is it reasonable to spin the story as a son who is doing what he’s supposed to do (his homework) and then, without warning or reason, gets whooped up on by his dad? No, it’s not at all reasonable. Prior to the plagues, we see:
[list]*]Moses and Aaron request that Pharaoh allow the Israelites freedom of religious practice. (After all, Joseph – their ancestor – caused Egypt to prosper, through his adherence to God’s will, during the time of a regional famine.) Does Pharaoh allow freedom of worship? Nope. He responds, essentially, “tough beans! they need to work! they’re not allowed to worship!”
*]Following this (reasonable) request, does Pharaoh treat the People of God fairly? Nope: he, himself, initiates the violence – he requires the Israelite slaves to work harder and longer and without resources… and only because Moses had the audacity to ask for a three-day retreat to worship God.
*]When the Israelite foremen complain about Pharaoh’s decree, what’s Pharaoh’s response? “Sorry… ya’ll are just lazy – you want to worship God instead of working for me!”
*]When Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh, and he asks them to produce a sign that they, in fact, come from God, they do what God told them to do: Aaron throws down his staff, and it turns into a snake, which devours the snakes of the court magicians. In other words, God has already demonstrated His superiority to Pharaoh’s power. Does Pharaoh recognize God’s authority? Nope. (In other words, the whole ‘unjust beating’ scenario you propose simply doesn’t hold water: Pharaoh had been given sufficient opportunity to see God’s authority… and he chose to reject it. Hardly the spin you’re attempting to demonstrate.)
[/list]

So, it’s not that I’m “missing the point” – it’s that you’re trying to recast the story unfairly, in order to make a point that simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. :shrug:


#10

This objection actually has a simple resolution: 1) God is the referee of this football game (i.e. life), not merely another player; 2) God is love, justice, and our ultimate end.

2: So by killing those people God’s taking them back to Himself and giving them what they deserve, which is what we all want.
1: As players in this game it is not our place to eject others from the game, but God is the gamemaster, so He does have that authority. My soccer analogy I think makes that clear: I can’t force another player off the field for the rest of the game, and if I do, I’m clearly wrong. Unlike the players in the game, the referee has that authority.

You could also throw in a third response: God made us, so we belong to God. Hence God can bring us in or out of this physical realm at His will: We are God’s property. Today’s absolute self-autonomy (a hallmark of modern secularism) is simply false. We have limited self-autonomy (to work within our abilities), not absolute self-autonomy: We don’t own ourselves. The fact that we belong to God and not to ourselves is why suicide and self-harm are intrinsically wrong.

So there’s nothing wrong with God killing people, because God has that authority and because it’s God taking them to whichever end they deserve. The boils on people and animals who had no say in the Israelites’ freedom bothers me because it appears to be unjust suffering – even as God’s property, torture appears wrong, just as animal abuse with one’s own pets is wrong: Suffering because of our sins is just, and suffering in a mitigated way because of others’ sins against us is just. (‘mitigated’: Namely, for a time, so the person’s action has its consequence, and then God rights the wrong after the sufferer petitions God justly.) Random suffering due to no fault of one’s own is unjust, as far as I can tell – and as far as anyone else can tell, hence Christian theologians seem to refer to this suffering as “a mystery”, because they also are unable to reconcile it with Christian revelation. Unmitigated suffering due to another’s sin (i.e. suffering it until death) likewise appears unjust; it is as if God is failing to parent His children. (The wrong could be righted after death, but it seems wrong to keep us waiting in such suspense.)

If this isn’t clear – Gorgias seems to miss the point of every argument I make – an analogy may clarify:

Scenario A
Father: “Son, you broke the window after playing ball in the house when I told you not to, so now I’m going to spank you and make you work to repair the window.”
Son: “I hate being held accountable for my actions, but I understand why I’m being punished.”

Scenario B
The son is doing his homework.
Father: “Son, I’m going to spank you.”
Son: “What?! Why?! Ow, please stop!”
The father continues hurting his son.

The boils on the Egyptians and animals because of Pharao’s decision appears like scenario B, which is apparently unjust: There is no stated reason why people and animals not involved with the Israelites’ captivity should be made to suffer.

The football analogy is still not representative of justice. Even the referee has to follow the rules, just different rules. To follow your analogy, God would be an insane referee throwing red cards at random and kicking people out of the game because someone else fouled.

Moses and Aaron request that Pharaoh allow the Israelites freedom of religious practice. (After all, Joseph – their ancestor – caused Egypt to prosper, through his adherence to God’s will, during the time of a regional famine.) Does Pharaoh allow freedom of worship? Nope. He responds, essentially, “tough beans! they need to work! they’re not allowed to worship!”
Following this (reasonable) request, does Pharaoh treat the People of God fairly? Nope: he, himself, initiates the violence – he requires the Israelite slaves to work harder and longer and without resources… and only because Moses had the audacity to ask for a three-day retreat to worship God.
When the Israelite foremen complain about Pharaoh’s decree, what’s Pharaoh’s response? “Sorry… ya’ll are just lazy – you want to worship God instead of working for me!”
When Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh, and he asks them to produce a sign that they, in fact, come from God, they do what God told them to do: Aaron throws down his staff, and it turns into a snake, which devours the snakes of the court magicians. In other words, God has already demonstrated His superiority to Pharaoh’s power. Does Pharaoh recognize God’s authority? Nope. (In other words, the whole ‘unjust beating’ scenario you propose simply doesn’t hold water: Pharaoh had been given sufficient opportunity to see God’s authority… and he chose to reject it. Hardly the spin you’re attempting to demonstrate.)

Except God went after and cursed people who had nothing to do with the situation. In fact, given that there wasn’t exactly CNN back then, they probably didn’t even know about the situation. And it’s stated that God hardened the Pharoah’s heart.


#11

Saw this today
biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/death-before-the-fall-was-god-surprised-by-adams-sin
regarding suffering by animals before the Fall according to the author of the most widely used geology textbook mid-19th century in the U.S.

I post this here because Pre-Fall suffering bears on the question of (innocent?) suffering allowed or caused by God post-Fall, including at the time of the Exodus.

Had the wisdom of Augustine and Aquinas been remembered, some confusion could have been avoided:

Animal Suffering before the Fall
At that time, animal suffering and death was generally thought to result from the disobedience of Adam and Eve—the very view upheld by creationists today. However, according to a detailed study by physician and theology student Jon Garvey, that view had actually been rejected by most theologians prior to the Reformation, including the monumentally important Augustine (especially in The City of God, book 12, chap 4) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Part 1, question 96, article 1, Reply to Objection 2). On the other hand, for reasons that are not entirely clear, it became the standard Protestant view during and after the Reformation, such that Martin Luther and John Calvin found it in Genesis 3:17-18, and John Wesley endorsed it in a sermon, “The General Deliverance.”

Perhaps Augustine and Aquinas also have answers to why God would cause humans and beasts in Egypt to suffer those boils.


#12

Here’s a great video by Fr Barron on this problem, namely violence in the Bible.

It’s important to remember that there is no historical evidence of Jews being slaves in Egypt. The story in Exodus isn’t a historical story. It’s like in Humani Generis, where Pius XII reminds us that while we must accept the truths of the Old Testament, the writers weren’t following the historical method. God didn’t visit literal plagues on ancient Egypt, so don’t worry about that. Try to understand what the story is saying.

As Fr Barron points out, this was known even to the early Christians. This is how Origen spoke. It’s a modern problem to think it needs to be read literally.


#13

I don’t think so. In the ancients’ minds, there would be no difference between an animal who suffers from a natural evil (being caught outside in a bad storm) and an animal who suffered from one of the plagues.

First off, they weren’t plagued with the excessive over-sentimentalization over suffering, and in particular, over suffering of animals. :rolleyes:

In any case, though, they would have perceived God as the direct cause of every event in the universe. Due to this perception, if it weren’t unjust that animals get snowed on (since God makes it snow and rain and hail and… etc, etc), then it wouldn’t be unjust if God caused some other natural evil (e.g., boils).

In other words, boils are a natural evil that befall creatures. Whether God causes them in Egypt as part of the plagues or whether He causes them in some unrelated situation, it would be immaterial to the ancients – either way, it was part of His Providence. (After all, these days, we understand His Providence to mean that He allows the negative consequences of free will – that is, the consequences of sin – but in O.T. times, they understood it to mean that He directly and deliberately causes these negative consequences.)


#14

Gorgias, you seem to think the Church has rejected the Old Testament idea that God causes suffering, i.e. the idea that God is sovereign over everything and ultimately responsible for everything. What is your basis for this? I think you are wrong to say that it is an outdated or false belief. The only thing God is not responsible for, according to the Bible and Church as I understand it, is the evil that men do.

(In the Exodus story God is responsible for Pharao’s heart being hardened (apparently figurative language for disbelief), i.e. not being persuaded by miracles. This isn’t contradicting the principle I’ve just stated because that’s separate from the evil that Pharaoh actually does thereafter, e.g. increasing their work requirements.)

I don’t understand the claim that it’s not meant to be literal history, because I don’t see how the story makes any sense otherwise: How is Pharao to be persuaded by supernatural events that don’t actually happen?

I am disappointed that none of my objections have been resolved. To the contrary, the inadequate answers here have only strengthened them. (“Does God not want me to have any answers?” “So many views and no one has an answer?”)

Bishop Barron’s video was interesting – he is very articulate – but he only trades one question for another; he obfuscates the Bible rather than explain it, and raises the question of how the assumption “we must read all of the Bible in light of Christ Crucified” is justified – or rather, how this methodology can be obtained rationally rather than assumed “on faith”. It seems the justification is what Jesus taught together with His Resurrection – but it seems to me these cannot be known today apart from more recent confirmation, which I presently lack.


#15

First, the part about the story not being literal history I think can be supported by the total lack of archaeological evidence of the Jews being enslaved in Egypt. You can try to get around that fact, and certainly some people have, but you don’t have to.

In conversations like this, I think it’s useful to point out Humani Generis by Pius XII, who says that we must accept the truths of the OT while recognizing that it does not always follow the “historical method”.

We can take certain aspects as story telling, but divinely inspired stories whose truths are Truth.

Now, you’re right that this makes the Bible harder to approach on your own, but the Catholic tradition is very different from the Protestant on this matter. The Catholic tradition says the Sacred Tradition and the doctrines of the Church are what clarify the meanings of these texts.

If you watch more of Fr. Barron’s videos, another topic he brings up is that the Bible is like any great work of literature. You don’t understand it in a vacuum, you have the help of all the other scholars who have worked on it. And just as you shouldn’t expect to read Moby Dick and understand it, how can you expect to do the same with the Bible?

There are thousands of years of traditions in understanding it. Those traditions are called the Church and that’s why for Catholics, you aren’t left to find the meanings of on your own. You have a great intellectual tradition to which you should turn to understand the Scripture.

At least, that’s what I take from him and it makes sense. I find I get much more from Shakespeare when I’m well versed in the scholarly opinions about a given play; why wouldn’t that be true for the Bible? And if it really is the most important book in the world, why isn’t it worthwhile to study it even harder than you would a Shakespeare play? That doesn’t mean just reading the text itself, it means reading the theologians and the saints


#16

Oh, I dunno. Maybe… the teaching of the Catholic Church? :wink:

From the Catechism (#311):

Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

“God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.”

Yeah, I would say that this pretty clearly refutes the ancient view that “God causes suffering.” Do you disagree that this is the teaching of the Church?

I think you are wrong to say that it is an outdated or false belief. The only thing God is not responsible for, according to the Bible and Church as I understand it, is the evil that men do.

Is there any other moral evil, besides that which humans do?

I don’t understand the claim that it’s not meant to be literal history, because I don’t see how the story makes any sense otherwise: How is Pharao to be persuaded by supernatural events that don’t actually happen?

Are you responding to me, here? I didn’t say that these were supernatural events that didn’t actually happen… :shrug:

I am disappointed that none of my objections have been resolved.

Hmm… that’s precisely what I’ve done – refuted your objections and demonstrated that they don’t hold up to scrutiny!

To the contrary, the inadequate answers here have only strengthened them.

How are the refutations ‘inadequate’?

(“Does God not want me to have any answers?” “So many views and no one has an answer?”)

Perhaps you have the answers… but don’t want to accept them. :shrug:


#17

I live in the mountains of Western Colorado. On dark, cloudless, cold winter nights I often look at the beautiful stars and planets. I contemplate the power of dark holes, novae, and the power that is displayed in such beauty. Perhaps, since I grew up under this sky, I have never thought of God as a warm soft fuzzy. We have no idea of His power, His power in creating life, His power of physics - the power of our Infinite God.

I am just a tiny bit uneasy with questioning His wisdom and power. That fact that he came to Earth to suffer with us is the wonder of His love.

I am grateful that I have been given life. I will not question His love for me.


#18

Can you imagine how utterly soul crushing these verses must have been to all the black slaves brought to the US in the 1700s, up thru the 1800s?!!! The bible was something many of these slaves clinged to for strength, I could not imagine being a slave and then reading in the bible, all of this is supposedly fine with God!!!


#19

Although this discussion is off-topic, I would like to quickly resolve this objection about slavery: If it does not satisfy, please create a separate thread to discuss it more.

As I understand history, there is not only one kind of slavery. Throughout the world, slaves in different cultures lived in different conditions and served different roles: They were not all brutalized and objectified like in the Americas. A hint is even recorded in the Bible: There are verses in the Old Testament legislating what is to be done when slaves ‘choose to remain with their masters’ after obtaining freedom! (As I recall, there’s a ritual done with an ear-piercing involving a door post.) So clearly 4th century BC slavery in the Bible was not identical with the beat-'em-and-rape-'em situation of 18th century AD North America.

Therefore slavery in the Bible is not grounds to think poorly of Christianity: The objection rests on a straw man fallacy of history, namely, equating all slavery everywhere with American slavery of the 17th-19th centuries.


Gorgias, I don’t want to bicker with you, so I will be brief (please forgive my rudeness): You adopt a certain condescending posture while giving bad arguments. Here, you quote a passage from the Catechism that agrees with what I wrote and obviously conflate moral evil with suffering (or mistake them as synonyms).

I am still hoping that you have a good reason for rejecting the idea that God causes suffering. However, as per the topic of this thread, we already have a demonstration that God causes suffering, which I quoted in the OP: God inflicted the Egyptians-who-were-not-Pharaoh and their animals with boils. (And, as if to add insult to injury, afterwards He prevented Pharaoh from being persuaded by it!)

Here is the Knox Translation if you’d like to compare it with the Douay-Rheims.


#20

Well, that’s about as condescending as it gets, isn’t it? I mean, “you give bad arguments” – without any indication why you think they’re bad?!?!?

Here, you quote a passage from the Catechism that agrees with what I wrote

Humor me. Why does it agree with what you wrote? After all, you said that God causes suffering… and the Catechism clearly states that God does not cause the evil that leads to suffering!

(And no, I’m not conflating the two – but if ‘moral evil’ doesn’t lead to ‘suffering’, then what, pray tell, does?!?)

Let me try again: if you’re doubting the linkage between ‘evil’ and ‘suffering’, then the Catechism also has this to say in #385 (emphases mine): “God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil.”

Moral evil leads to suffering. The two aren’t ‘conflated’, but they do work in a cause-and-effect way. If that doesn’t seem straightforward to you, perhaps you can ask for an explanation… without simply claiming “bad arguments”… :wink:

I am still hoping that you have a good reason for rejecting the idea that God causes suffering.

I do: the Church teaches that this is not the case. :shrug:

However, as per the topic of this thread, we already have a demonstration that God causes suffering, which I quoted in the OP: God inflicted the Egyptians-who-were-not-Pharaoh and their animals with boils.

Now you’re just being silly: it seems that you’re claiming that Pharoah’s boils were ok, but the boils of his subjects weren’t? Please tell me that’s not your claim, here…!

(And, as if to add insult to injury, afterwards He prevented Pharaoh from being persuaded by it!)

We’ve already discussed what this means. It does not mean that God was playing with Pharaoh’s free will – unless you want to dispute that teaching of the Church, too! :rolleyes:

(And hey – don’t worry about ‘bickering’… it’s all good. Sometimes, it leads to greater understanding. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for, here… ;))


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