Friday, May 16, 2008

The fallibility of people

The Bible is infallible, but the characters in the bible are not. We can all agree on this. What we may look at is if these actions are used to mold our worldview when we are unsure of if they are a right action or not. We have biblical characters that lie, kill, steal, war, etc and we are not told if these are right actions or not. If we compare them to biblical law, they are wrong actions.

Can we also do this with language? Job's friends say a lot of things, but they're wrong. God is right. How many times does a character, like Joshua for example, say something about God or about how to live that is wrong?

Bear with me again for I am "thinking out loud."

How do we know which actions taken by certain individuals in the scriptures are something we should emulate?

A couple examples are in order here.

David took the foreskins from two-hundred Philistines. This was a dowry, not a deed God called him to accomplish. Was he right in his action? How do we support the rightness or wrongness of this? Should we then be free (acquiescing to its rightness) to act accordingly?

Rahab lied to the leaders of Jericho, neither respecting their authority over her and breaking the law of God commanding to not lie. This is not said to be a right or wrong act in scripture. Is it then OK to lie and dishonor rulers? How do we judge its rightness or wrongness and how do we defend either opinion? If it is right, do we then take all of God's Law as subjective to any given situation? Is His law relative? And if we do judge we can break the Law in some situations, against what law of morals do we compare the act of breaking it? If it is wrong to lie according to God's Law, what law is is higher than His Law to which we appeal to break God's Law?

One example of a theologian who deal specifically with this issue is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Being a German under the rule of Hitler, he struggled with his action in accordance with God's Law. He finally concluded that he would sin to oppose Hitler by force, but he would be willing to sin and incur God's wrath to save lives.

Alistair Begg, explaining the rightness of Christ to heal on the Sabbath, said a Biblical principal set in this act showed any law that hinders life or the preservation of life may be broken for this purpose citing the words, "Would you not pull a mule from a pit on the Sabbath (rough paraphrase)?" This is a principle which is not explicit in the scripture but may be implied.

As you can see, I don't really have answers in this discussion, but I have a lot of questions.


His Name Extoled said...

my first reaction to your opening paragraph is that killing is not a sin, murder is. but beyond that, this is an interesting topic, especially when you bring in Christ's regard for the Sabbath. im a little gray on what you're saying Allistair says. if hes saying (which I dont think he is) that Christ broke a Sabbath law, but there was a justification for it, I cannot accept that. if Christ broke any of the law he is not the messiah and cannot be God. I believe he corrected the pharisiacal understanding of the law, but did not break it. possibly more thoughts later when i have time

Steven Kippel said...

He did not say Christ broke the sabbath law (at least not the original spirit of the law) but that when he spoke of David eating the showbread (breaking the law) and of those who would help a beast out of a pit that it shows this principle.

But clearly, the opening paragraph is open to the whole canon and there are dozens of times where someone murders someone else. And then we get back to our years-old topic about what the difference is between the both anyway.

His Name Extoled said...

years old indeed. God cannot command his children to sin, but he does command at times the killing of people and war (and legally sets aside proper practices for the taking of life in the law). so a solid conclusion would be that not all the taking of life and war are not intrinsically evil since God cannot command us to do evil, but in many cases are evil. there are many times He does ordain sinful actions (perverting war and killing) to accomplish his will (even when the evil itself is carried out by his children), but he cannot be good or righteous and command us to sin :) another topic for another day. the issue of lying (as Rahab did, and also moses' handmaiden if i remember correctly) can appear to be righteous as it is done to "do good" but while the intent was good the means was sinful, but as John Piper said when he addressed this question, saints may be forced into situations where the only way they can see to do good is to lie, and while we know lying is wrong, we know that such situations are tremendously hard, and praise God he is gracious and salvation is by grace and not by merit from the law. more on this later perhaps.