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Old 09-03-2001, 12:23 AM   #1
straylight
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Post selective critical thinking

This post vanished when I posted it, I'll post again, if its offensive, can the moderator who removes it please email me why?? I don't think it is in the wrong forum...

A while ago, in the political forum, in a discussion about the pledge of allegiance, Irenaeus said,

Quote:
...The Christian is to obey God alone 'above all things'. The government is only to
obeyed when the Christian is able to do so without sin.
indicating that Christians should oppose the government if it tries to make them sin. That would seem reasonable, but:

Romans 13:1

"Let every soul be in subjection to the higher power: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the powers, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgement."

If the advice applies to every person who ever existed or ever will exist, just like the commands to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" allegedly apply to everyone, any time, any place, then this reveals a paradox in the Bible. On the one hand, it tells us we must obey the government unconditionally, because the government is ordained by god. On the other hand, the government might tell us to sin, and in that case we must not obey it. We can not unconditionally obey this bible verse and be confident of being able to unconditionally obey all others. There exist circumstances under which obeying Romans 13:1-7 would be mutually exclusive with obeying the commands to love the Lord your God with all your heart, etc, etc, for example, a country where it was illegal to be a Christian.

How can this be reconciled?

Answer: Paul was writing to the Church of Rome. The passage can only be made sense of in historical context, so the verse is probably not applicable to us in the 21st century in a completely different political situation.

I agree. I think Christians should interpret the Bible carefully, in historical context, taking consideration of the intended audience of every verse when deciding if it applies to them. It would be silly to think that Romans 13:1-7 applies to someone living in a completely different situation when it was written for a specific political purpose in Paul's time.

<A HREF="http://www.bible.org/docs/nt/books/rom/rom13.htm" TARGET=_blank>Paul and Civil Obedience in Romans
13:1-7</A>

This is fairly rational and sensible. My only problem is why Christians are only critical of the Bible when it suits them to be. The ONLY reason that Christians recognize the political motivation of this verse seems to be that it would be very inconvenient to be forced to obey this verse given the fact that most governments legalize some form of "sinning" and some force you to sin (an example would be an Islamic state). If it was different, for example, if we lived under a Christian theocracy, I have absolutely no doubt that the official line on this would be, Romans 13:1-7 applies to all of you and don't you forget it. Now do what we say because God says you have to.

This selective critical thinking is seen with other verses, like about keeping the Lord's day holy and not doing any work on the sabbath. When I asked a christian about why they don't think it is sinful to clean their house on Sunday, she said to look at this verse in historical context. The context is, that particular commandment was given to ancient hebrews under the old code, when it was necessary to observe rituals and sacrifice animals to get on Yahweh's good side, whereas now, all you need to do is accept Jesus. Eh, what about the other 9 commandments? Were they all outdated when Jesus died for our sins? No. Why not? Because the commandment to observe the sabbath is inconvenient, so since Christians don't want to obey it, they are free to use their faculties of critical thinking and say, screw it, it was meant for the ancient hebrews, not for me. Why not look at all the commandments in historical context? "You must love the LORD your god with all your heart, etc etc," was meant for a particular group of people (Yahweh's chosen people) so it actually makes more sense that God would tell them, and only them, to love him, since the other peoples had their own gods. This is clearly seen with the language of the OT, which frequently has things like "Yahweh is the greatest of all gods", implying that other gods were recognized but not worshipped. Depending on where you're from, you worshipped your particular god, kind of like following a football team. You still realise that other teams exist, but you only "worship" one team. Yahweh was talking to his people, not any other god's, when he set uot the rules in the OT. Doesn't that invalidate most, if not all, of the OT's relevance? Apparently not, because when it suits christians they will quote leviticus at you ("homosexuals are an abomination unto the lord" and similar rot) and when it doesn't suit them they will talk about historical context (wearing clothes of more than 2 types of fiber or whatever).

Again with Paul's writings on women in the church. Women were not supposed to talk in church, wear beads, or teach men. When I questioned why this is not relevant for today, I was given the argument that it was a privelege for women to even be allowed to learn in a church, and that the rules about women were part of "progressive revelation" (God apparently works on a need-to-know basis) and are now different. So why the heck didn't God update his rules and regulations? And how do you know what is relevant now and what isn't? And again, the only reason this part o the Bible is critiqued for its relevance today is that it's inconvenient and christians dont' feel like obeying it.

The response to this question was, it is necessary to read the whole Bible, OT and NT, and get an overall picture of God's character, and infer from that character using critical thinking, intelligent judgement and the help of other christians, how I should respond to different verses.

An overall picture of God's character. Whee.

A genocidal, misogynistic, vengeful, insecure individual, openly admits to the character flaw of jealousy ("I am a jealous God"), who burns for eternity all those who don't believe his sycophantic followers.

And God's character does not change. If he is capable of picking a group of favorites out of a vast mass of "sinful" beings, scorching, drowning, massacring or otherwise doing away with said beings, for the benefit of his chosen ones, he will do it again. Under the christian faith it is likely that 99.9% of all human beings on earth could be deemed "sinful" and suddenly wiped out in a great disaster whenever God feels the inclination, surely the world is more corrupt now than it has ever been.

Christians are quick to pick apart some verses that are not important for their political agenda, or that are too absurd or inconvenient, and critique them for their historical context. However when right wing Christians want to oppose gay rights, just watch the Leviticus quotes get flung about. That is what I meant by selective critical thinking.
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Old 09-03-2001, 04:53 AM   #2
E_muse
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Post

Quote:
If the advice applies to every person who ever existed or ever will exist, just like the commands to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" allegedly apply to everyone, any time, any place, then this reveals a paradox in the Bible.
If we accept that all authority comes from God, and that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then yes, this does apply throughout history and to all authorities. This is inescapable to the Christian IMHO.

Quote:
On the one hand, it tells us we must obey the government unconditionally, because the government is ordained by god.
Does it say unconditionally? I shall have to look up the original Greek. It simply says that every soul should be subject to the higher powers. That a Christian must never regard him or herself as being above the law.

There is a problem with reading 'unconditionally' into the text.

1. In Acts we read clearly that the Disciples are commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus. Knowing this would result in direct disobedience to their commission from Jesus, the Disciples disobey. They are even empowered by the Holy Spirit to disobey, according to the Acts account!!

2. Some of Paul's letters are written from prison!

Can we reconcile these apparent contradictions.

Quote:
On the other hand, the government might tell us to sin, and in that case we must not obey it. We can not unconditionally obey this bible verse and be confident of being able to unconditionally obey all others. There exist circumstances under which obeying Romans 13:1-7 would be mutually exclusive with obeying the commands to love the Lord your God with all your heart, etc, etc, for example, a country where it was illegal to be a Christian.
Indeed.

But should we read the verse in Romans to mean that, should it be necessary for a Christian to disobey governing authority in order to fully obey God, that the Christian should be fully prepared to live with the legal consequences and punishments exacted by the governing authority for that particular crime.

I think we could also read the Romans passage to mean that all should look to obey authority where possible, but be prepared to live with the legal consequences for disobedience.

Let me put it this way. Please forgive the apparently stupid example - but I like to make points simply:

1. God commands that I should wear blue jeans.
2. The government forbids the wearing of blue jeans.
3. The punishment for this is imprisonment.

In order to subject myself to the governing authority I wear blue jeans (in obedience to God) but then present myself for imprisonment and give the reasons why.

By the way... I think it's a good question

[ September 04, 2001: Message edited by: E_muse ]
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