Morals Ethics and Obligations

I hope for civilized discussion, we’ll see what happens.

There are a few places in the Bible where God commands some pretty horrific things.

1.) Genocide
2.) Human Sacrifice
3.) Incest
4.) Rape
5.) Murder

Given the nature of God, as described in the bible, can you explain why you follow such a being?

Could you provide exact “places in the Bible” where God commands each of these things, so they can be addressed precisely?

I don’t know exactly what you’re looking for in people’s responses, but if you start to feel morally horrified by people’s acceptance of God in this situation, it may be best to recall a line from today’s (Sunday) first reading:

[quote=Isaiah 55:8-9]For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

You may or may not be struggling with whether to believe, especially in a God who may strike you as barbaric. For most us Christians, for better or for worse, we’re hooked on God. We have a real living faith relationship, and whether or not we can legitimately rationalize the actions you mention, we will trust that God has a reason for them. We will help give you in this thread possible rationalizations that God may have had, but we defer any shortcomings to God in faith. I hope this explanation will help in interpreting future responses to this thread.

1.) Genocide
1.) Samuel 15
2.) Deuteronomy. 20
3.) And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee;
thine eye shall have no pity upon them. Deuteronomy 7:16

-I think the last one pretty sums up the source of my revulsion, Kill them all no pity.

2.) Human Sacrifice
1.) Judges 11:29-39 -Insert serious WTH here.
2.) Gen. 22 - We all know Abraham didn’t actually sacrifice Issac, but to ask that of a
parent is beyond cruel.
3.) 1 Kings 13: 1-2 (sacrifice pagan priests)
4.) Deuteronomy 13:13-19 (burn unbelievers)

I would continue but It would not be right to dump such a large amount of information and expect a replay to all of it.

Thank you, Gods thoughts are higher and faith. Does faith justify say, the murder of people who are not of the same faith. -2 Chronicles 14:12-13
At what point do you ask God “say what”?

The nature of God is: God is omniscient, omnipotent, and all good. God clearly would not have commanded any action that was not the most beneficent action possible.

I’m wondering whether you’ll find more people with familiarity with Old Testament scriptures over on the Scriptures Forum?

Let’s address this one first. I take it you mean 1 Samuel 15, not 2 Samuel 15, correct?

I suspect part of the problem here is your conception of who God is and what authority he has to “command” death. If you conceive of God as a being slightly higher than human who “lords it over” human beings merely because he is more powerful. I would suggest that it is this conception that is the root of the problem.

If genocide is problematic, put it into perspective. Every human being will die. According to Scripture, God “commanded” death be a part of human existence because of sin (Gen 6:3.) This was a “death sentence” that far exceeds the command in 1 Sam 15 because, basically, he commanded EVERY human being - man, woman and child - down through all of history to death.

Why are the deaths of every human person NOT an issue for you, but you characterize the deaths of a few thousand Amalekites as horrific? Consider that God controls all of creation and the lives and the deaths of every person on Earth by all means - natural or contrived - are all under control of his will and under his “command.” This is not merely the “genocide” of a cultural group but the eradication of humanity in its entirety.

Think on why you don’t consider God’s action, RE: the deaths of all human beings, problematic, but are offended by his commanding the death of one small subgroup?

Are you saying God is wrong for making humans mortal? How would you determine that in anything like a morally conclusive way?

A second point is that if God is omniscient and omnibenevolent, then his moral reasons for eliminating the Amalekites would far exceed any possible moral reasons we would have for arguing otherwise. Being all-knowing, he would know all the particulars (consequences, outcomes, etc.) down through all time of allowing these people to continue and he made a reasoned moral judgement, taking in all the evidence - much of it not accessible to us - that it would be morally better to command that the lives of these individuals be ended at that time rather than later - recall that a death sentence is on every human person anyway - this one would merely be carried out preemptively.

Do you consider yourself all-knowing? If not, how would you know that the command of an all-knowing being was incorrect?

Do you consider yourself morally perfect? If not, how are you in a position to judge whether the decision of a morally perfect God is the wrong one?

Put all-knowing and morally perfect together and we get a decision that is unquestionably the right one AND we do not have the wherewithal to judge otherwise.

Basically, this issue is only an issue if you presume the command was not issued by God, but is taken as an argument that God could not have issued it because the command does not appear moral to us. However, if the command WAS issued by God, then we really have no basis for arguing it was wrong because it would have been issued by the omniscient, omnibenevolent God who had HIS reasons for doing so, reasons which far exceed our reasons for arguing otherwise.

I will get back to issues 2-5, but to answer the question above, I think it is misconstructed.

“Given the nature of God” must mean given that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent or he wouldn’t be the proper object of worship.

If he has those qualities, then acting in unexpected ways and commanding unexpected (to us) commands would come with the territory, so to speak. We couldn’t know the right course of action in every case because we are not omniscient nor omnibenevolent. God’s judgments would not always correspond with ours because of our limitations.

If God were to determine that some of us were unworthy to go on living because he knows all and is all-loving, then on what grounds could we possibly argue otherwise and make a better judgement than one made by the all-knowing, all-good God?

If you, falsely, arrive at a notion about the “nature of God” by ONLY reading the problematic passages in the Bible, then it is this notion that is skewed. If you read the Bible as a whole, it is an entirely different conception of the “nature of God” that comes about.

Consider issue 2) Abraham sacrificing Isaac. The intent of the passage is to point out that Abraham loved Isaac, his beloved son, profoundly and yet would place Isaac’s fate into God’s hands. This was to foreshadow God’s act of placing his Son, Jesus, into the hands of human beings to determine his fate. Now Abraham knew God intimately, which is why God could “stay his hand” and Abraham would listen. Human beings entrusted with the fate of Jesus did not know God and so their hands were not “stayed.” It took greater “faith” for God to entrust Jesus into human hands than it did for Abraham to entrust Isaac into God’s hands. Humans are notoriously fickle, irresponsible and untrustworthy. God is quite the opposite once you get to know him. Humans “sacrificed” Jesus, determining his fate, and God did not interfere because he followed through with his “act of faith” in humanity, no matter what the cost. He was and is “all in” in his part of the covenant with humanity.

God did not need to demonstrate his power to Abraham because Abraham knew him, trusted him and listened to him. Abraham knew that God has power over life and over death, so that even if he did as God commanded and sacrificed Isaac, God would make all things right in the end. However, God had to demonstrate his power to humanity by raising Jesus from the dead after human beings refused to recognize, listen to or trust his Word.

The point is that God has power over life and death - power over the lives and deaths of the Amalekites, the Jews, Abraham and Isaac, all of us. The question is whether we trust that he does. By resurrecting Jesus, he showed that power. By ordering the deaths of the Amalekites he was showing that power - it is by his authority we live and his authority we die because all that exists exists because of him.

That is the “nature of God” that is the point being made. Do we give God “his due,” or do we constantly second guess and assert our dominance and power over him like those who crucified Jesus did?

The Word became flesh, but do we receive him? Isaac was not sacrificed because God himself would provide the lamb for sacrifice, his Son, Jesus - the “all in” stake that would eternally bind him to us, unconditionally.

Do you understand why animals were sacrificed in the Old Testament? It was a symbol of covenant between families or groups. The animal was cut in half as a symbol that breaking the agreement was like cutting in half the newly formed unity - the body of the two parties who had come together in covenant. It was an unconditional unification of the two who became one - breaking the covenant was tantamount to killing both parties - symbolized by splitting the animal in half, thus killing it.

By the way, Abraham knew he had broken trust with God, so he was following through with killing Isaac because, by breaking trust - breaking his covenant with God (a long story) - the right thing to do was sacrifice Isaac because he no longer deserved to be called Isaac’s father and was giving Isaac back to God who gifted Isaac to him. God “staying his hand” was God’s answer to Abraham that Abraham was forgiven and the covenant restored by Abraham’s willingness and faith.

We don’t get this because we don’t understand the passionate faith of Abraham.

Also, parents are constantly giving their children to God in many ways - when through disease, accident or tragedy God “takes” them back, but also through the choices their children make which parents must take a “hands off” approach and not try to control the outcome. If we live dispassionately, this seems not much of a sacrifice, but passionate love for one’s children will often be very like Abraham’s sacrifice when we have to carry out a decision or abstain from having our way because that is God’s will.

There is far more going on in the Bible story and “nature of God” than we realize by isolating problematic texts.

I think I get where you are going concerning your faith, I can not base my concept of the nature of God without the verses from the bible however.

For the concept of justice to exist the crime must fit the punishment Whatever actions one might make, no matter how horrific, to pass a judgment of eternal torture seems, to me in the very lease excessive. But I’m getting side tracked.

I do not consider my self all anything, I have my senses and my intellect as tools with which to make rational judgments concerning what they can observe. If God created us, and gave us these senses and this brain why would out sense of justice differ from his own. Or to put it differently if God’s justice is different from our own why do we use the word justice in connection with him. Again i’m getting off topic.

If we have an understanding of justice that tells us that the end does not justify the means. For instance that world peace obtained through the slaughter of innocents is not a good thing because of what had to take place to achieve the end result.

End of my lunch break I’ll pick it up later


Suppose I was told by God today to sacrifice my child. That would horrify me. Here is how I, as a man of faith, would respond.

I would recall that a Christian believes that God gave his own beloved “son” (his metaphor, not ours) to the pagans to be killed. It’s, at least on one level, credible, not logically impossible.

I would first ascertain the veracity of the statement. Short of any physical ways to discredit this (for example, I found someone playing a disgusting trick on me), the best way to do that is to approach my priest and disclose the matter to him. He would tell me that it is a hoax; if it were at all spiritual, a trick of the devil. If he felt I was even in the slightest danger of committing the act, he would call the police. I, as a layman, would obey him. God would not tell me to sacrifice my son without giving corroboration to my Church, his bride. Note, Protestants cannot easily avail themselves of this argument since they deny the Patriarchy leading to the vicarship of Christ’s pope (he who binds here on heaven and earth). The Church cannot likely be wrong here, because God would not likely mislead them, and therefore I can logically conclude that sacrificing my son was not God’s call. Either I had imagined it wrongly or the Devil was playing a trick on me. If I thought strongly of the latter possibility, then either I or perhaps the Church on its own initiative might consider exorcism proceedings (but that’s a digression from your topic).

From what I recall, I’m pretty sure that it’s settled teaching that God will never ask us again to go through what Abraham was told to do. But’s let pretend for some reason that was not the case. Let’s say the priest gave some credence that what I claimed I heard from God was really God’s call. Or let’s say I was far away from the nearest church and had no way of finding out what the church would say about my alleged locution. Let’s say I heard the call to sacrifice my son again and again. Then, in obedience, I must act according to God’s word. That would make me a murderer in the eyes of the law. I might and would likely suffer legal punishment for it, and I would be required to submit to it as a moral response without remorse or belligerence. But God would exonerate me for it afterwards (even if only in Heaven), even if in fact it was a trick, if I had done my best to prudently discern the call and I was trying to please him. In fact, if God called me to sacrifice my son and I did not, well, that might land me in the bigger trouble. Facing temporary punishment is better than facing eternal punishment.

God will never again have us kill our children, and if anyone gets such a crazy-sounding idea that God is telling them to so act, they must take it in faith to the Church and follow her advice. If God wants us to do something that would shock our present moral conscience, he will make the correct doors open in the church to approve that action. If the church leaders do not follow God’s will in this matter, thinking along the lines of normal human consciences, then God will at the minimum not punish me for obedience to my mother church. Again, faithful Protestants don’t have Church “authorities”; they must follow whatever God is telling them on their own, so they are much more likely susceptible to completing a devil’s trick. Thank God for his Church that I can obey her and not suffer these moral conundrums. It’s at least possible that God permitted the Devil to play that trick on me to show the world how one upholds obedience to Church as a highest good.

J3nna, I’m not sure this analysis answers any of your questions, but I want you to understand how the response to sacrifice a child could be different today than it was in the pre-Christian era and still be quite logical and within God’s plan. The Jewish forefathers didn’t have a Church filled with the Holy Spirit, and that makes a huge difference.

Hello J3nna and welcome to the discussion. :slight_smile:

First of all we need to understand what the Bible is, and perhaps more importantly, what it is not. We cannot give you a short course in biblical interpretation in a few posts on a website. I doubt we can explain such passages to your satisfaction when you don’t know how to interpret the various Scripture writings. :wink:

No one can simply read a few verses and think they know anything about what it is saying or why things were commanded or why God commanded them. It’s impossible to do. You need a much fuller context than that. I’m just saying this so you don’t become frustrated or think we have lame reasons or are blowing you off.

For the concept of justice to exist the crime must fit the punishment Whatever actions one might make, no matter how horrific, to pass a judgment of eternal torture seems, to me in the very lease excessive. But I’m getting side tracked.

I see here that you come with some common misconceptions which clearly show that you have no idea how to even approach the topic. For instance, if you were to take a math course–say in geometry, that made no sense to you would you make judgments beforehand about what it ought to be instead of taking instruction as to why certain formulas work? It’s the same with theology. It’s a study just like any other. One that requires learning and doing. Does that make sense? :slight_smile:

I do not consider my self all anything, I have my senses and my intellect as tools with which to make rational judgments concerning what they can observe. If God created us, and gave us these senses and this brain why would out sense of justice differ from his own. Or to put it differently if God’s justice is different from our own why do we use the word justice in connection with him. Again i’m getting off topic.

Does the ant understand why human beings do what they do? We have a lot in common with ants. We build structures to live in. We farm. We go to war, etc. But how would you explain to an ant the concept of love? He’d be lost and confused at the effort to understand. God is so far above us that all his efforts to help us understand need his grace to do it. On our own we cannot understand. That’s not to say that the faith is unreasonable or illogical, but rather that it transcends us so that our reason can only grasp so much, which is where revelation comes in–God’s own revelation to man–the God-man, Christ Jesus.

If we have an understanding of justice that tells us that the end does not justify the means. For instance that world peace obtained through the slaughter of innocents is not a good thing because of what had to take place to achieve the end result.

End of my lunch break I’ll pick it up later

The Church teaches that the ends do not justify the means because God has told us this. God does not have to justify anything to us, but always does/commands what is needed whether we understand it or not.

As to the OT–finally getting to the point here, sorry. The basic thing we need to understand is that before Christ was born into the world God’s grace had not been poured upon all human kind. We who live in the age of grace can’t understand how hard it was for people to live according to God’s law when they had no way of obtaining the supernatural grace necessary to do so. St. Paul goes into this in depth in his Epistles. Anyway, men had natural law, but they often ignored it, such as killing innocents. It was common practice in the OT times for cultures to offer up their children as sacrifices to their gods–this in spite of the fact that it goes against the natural law God put into human hearts. By destroying those cultures God was demonstrating in no uncertain terms that it was wrong. If they regarded thier children with so little respect for their lives he would take them away from them. God spared them from growing up with the same hellish belief. Are we any better than the ancinet pagans when we kill millions of innocent children in the womb in our own day? :hmmm:

As to Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, God wanted to accomplish at least two things with that. Firstly, to show us that a sacrifice is needed by man to expiate for man’s sins–this God accomplished in Christ’s sacrifice. But also to drive home the point that he does not want his people to follow the example of their pagan neighbors and sacrifice their children to him. Abraham was righteougs because he believed that God would provide another sacrifice–he told Isaac that as they gathered the wood for the fire. And God did do that–because of Abramham’s faith and because he never intended that Isaac be killed. Rather Isaac gave his life and that of his children to God as a living sacrifice to be witnesses of God’s love and justice.

Thank you both for your reply’s It’s going to take me a few min to read through them,
I will try to bring the post which was so rudely inturpted by the end of my lunch break
into a conclusion as well as ask a few new questions which your reply’s raise.

I am unclear why you think this was implied by my post.

My point was that you cannot base your faith on isolated verses of the Bible, but on the entirety of it because it is the whole that provides proper perspective.

The other point was that the Bible does not stand on its own because God acts in human history through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Church that a proper and complete understanding of the Bible can be formed. Meaning does not come from a few passages taken literally or in terms of their meaning “to me."

We don’t just create meaning as individuals. God’s plan impacts the entirety of the human community, not isolated individuals. It is as a community that God’s Word is understood.

This gets to the meat of my inquiry quite well. I’m horrified that the response is the same as from other schools of christian theology. That being any action, no matter how horrific is good if commanded by God.

If our sense of justice, of good and evil is from God how can a command that goes against the very fiber of out being be good?

I hope I don’t find anyone willing to defend rape on this forum, yet it is frequently commanded by God. There are even rules for what is to be done if a young man is Caught in the act of rape.

If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT

I’d like to thank you Della for your inserted pro-life pitch, the only argument you will hear from me concerning abortion is the reason to oppose it. I’ll defer to a later conversation.

Concerning the math course analogy, I can not walk into a geometry class without a basic understanding of the principles and logic of mathematics.
Can the same be said for basic principles of Ethics and the logic behind them and religion?

We do have a great deal in common with ants, we are carbon based life from who inhabit a planet we call earth which revolves around a star we call Sol in the outer reaches of the spiral arm of a galaxy we call the milky way.

What we do not have in common, at least to the best of our knowledge is the capacity for rational thinking. It is to this rational thinking I turn when attempting to ascertain the truth.

How is justice requiring the punishment to fit the crime a misconception?

How is requiring the death penalty for cursing ones parents just?

All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

If Justice means something else when used in reference to God then what is it’s meaning?

If God commanded you to invade a town, kill everyone except young women, forcibly marry them and rape them how could you not have an Ethical obligation to refuse?

Where is there a direct command from God to rape women or forcibly marry them?

The links you provided relate to a judgement of execution. No where is there a command to commit rape.

Provide a citation, if you don’t mind before you embellish what God commanded,

Executing judgement is quite a different matter than what you are inferring.

We believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving God. An all-powerful god cannot change since it implies that one state is better than another, and that would suggest weakness, which an omnipotent god cannot have. Therefore, God has never changed in his love and never will (admittedly, there is a certain level of anthropomorphism in the Bible as the early Hebrew authors understood God). Thus, basically the idea of a fickle, temperamental god is a metaphysical impossibility.

Because God is all-loving, every command of God that you see must be an act of love, or we’re wrong. Again, we may not know God’s mysterious ways. Some of his actions may be a result of his permissive will, giving humans the freedom to do horrible evils (without this freedom to choose evil, our freedom to choose love would be meaningless). Some of his commands may be in order to have his people avoid even worse sins. Some of his commands may be tests. Some of his commands may be not evil (for God) if the moral value in play is life of which God is the sole author. Suffering has also potential for great healing and humility, helping us to turn back towards God (a father punishes his children in love) so as to avoid eternal damnation. Sometimes God may command a human to do something evil because the human has already hardened his heart to God (in a final sort of way) and God merely uses him as an instrument (this may be the case with Pharoah). Basically, any of these rationalizations could account for all morally suspect acts in the Old Testament. Whether they or some other reason is the true one is not for us to know; all we need to know is that it is possible for an all-loving God to behave in such manner. The rest is borne by faith.

Of course Deut 21 10-14 (RSVCE)
10 “When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hands, and you take them captive, 11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you have desire for her and would take her for yourself as wife, 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall put off her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house and bewail her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her, and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 Then, if you have no delight in her, you shall let her go where she will; but you shall not sell her for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.

Judges 21 10-14
Numbers 31 7-18

How about sentencing the rape victim to death

If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NAB

This passage does not prescribe rape unless you read into it what is not there. It is an injunction against raping enemy captives - a common practice among the tribes of the area. What warring groups did with beautiful women was to rape them, but this law was intended to not let that happen. If a Jewish soldier was attracted to a beautiful captive, he was enjoined not to rape her but to “take her home” and allow her to mourn the loss of her parents. The shaving head and paring nails was likely, I would think, a way of “unbeautifying” her so she wasn’t a temptation during the trial period when sober second thoughts would come to bear and a wiser decision made about “marriage.” It may also have been a mourning custom.
“Be her husband” does imply a particular kind of relationship, not one of rape - that is, look after her as a wife. “If you have no delight in her” does not imply “not sexually pleasing,” it implies a change of mind as to whether to take the woman as wife. The “humiliated her” means put her through the entire ordeal and then rejecting the poor woman as unworthy of being your wife.

The problem is that passages such as this can be misread or our own preconceptions read into them.

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