Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Argument from Lexicography

At the end of the "Arguments Against God" episode I briefly laid out what I call "The Argument from Lexicography." It turned out to be too deeply exigetical to get into at the tail end of a show, so we'll be tackling it in the next show along with the "Argument from Evil" and the "Argument from Divine Evil."

The Argument from Lexicography goes as such:

1) The Christian God is held to be loving, good, and just.

2) The God portrayed in the Bible is neither loving, good, nor just.

A) The God portrayed in the Bible is not loving (according to Paul's definition of Love in 1 Corinthians 13). Advanced as evidence for this is his lack of of kindness (commanding infant circumcision, Jesus' attempt to keep people from repenting for their sins, his coercion and bullying of people like Job and Jonah), his rampant envy and jealousy (exemplified by the First Commandment of the Decalogue, and God's repeated labeling of himself as a "Jealous God"). God is both prideful and boastful, going on at length about his mightyness, and (according to Christian theology) creating the universe for the sole purpose of glorifying himself). He is self-serving, manipulating people and events to serve his own ends (Moses, Job, sending evil spirits to torment Saul, etc.). He is swift to anger - there are, indeed, so many things that make him angry that Christian theology (beginning with Paul) claims that it is only through man's repentance and devotion that can God be persuaded to accept Jesus' death as covering for our deeds which offend him. The law of Exodus/Leviticus/Deuteronomy, and the major and minor prophets, are full of things which offend God (dietary choices, sexual choices, religious observance choices, basic human emotions such as anger and lust). He is resentful and holds grudges (observe his long anger against Israel, his punishment of the distant descendants of Ham to fulfill Noah's curse (Noah cursed Ham for laughing at his penis. Christian Theology further holds that God will engage in a final judgment, during which a person will be prosecuted for their every misstep, and that such a person will only be pardoned if he is covered by the blood of Jesus. Thus, God keeps a record of wrongs).
Thus, on almost every point of the Christian definition of love (which is an excellent definition), God fails to live up to the standard. He is, thus, neither generally loving nor love embodied.

B) The God portrayed in the Bible is not just. In the Old Testament he punishes whole nations (including children and livestock) for the sins of the ruling class, the culture, or even of the many. He proposes to absolve sins through blood sacrifice and substitutionary atonement (i.e. punishing a third party) rather than by either punishing people for their sins and rewarding them for their good works (justice) or forgiving people their sins (merciful) . In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God (except in special circumstances) accepts repentance only when repentance is accompanied by the infliction of punishment upon an innocent third party (sacrificial animals, Jesus, etc.). He further commands (in the Old Testament) the barring of deformed or injured people from fellowship with him, and the punishment (by death) of the ritually impure. Yet, he "holds blameless" those who do his will, even when his will involves acts that are otherwise sinful according to the Bible (such as the murder of women and children) or evil by the standards of Western morality (such as the owning of slaves, the subjugation of women, racism, and xenophobia).

C) God is not good. His lack of lovingness or justice is a strike against him here, but those are not that only reasons to assert he is not good. He is portrayed throughout the Bible operating in wantonly cruel ways: He accepts the human sacrifice of Jephtah's daughter in exchange for victory. His prophets count Lot as a good man because Lot offered his daughters up for gang rape to save his guests (god in disguise) from humiliation. He gives favor to David and calls him "a man after God's own heart," and finds blame in David only when David takes Bathsheba and murders Uriah (this despite the fact that David was a thief, a highwayman and terrorist, an usurper, failed to do justly by his own daughter when she was raped by his son, and had many many other disreputable/evil qualities). He issues no command for the emancipation of slaves, but rather endorses slavery (in both the Old and New Testaments). He is capricious and vainglorious, torturing Job and killing Job's family to win a bet with Satan, and then justifying it by saying "I'm strong, therefore I'm right." He displays consistent favoritism, and he threatens with violence those who do not show him the obeisance he believes himself due (indeed, according to Church doctrine those who do not worship him and accept his blood sacrifice will be done violence to for eternity).

3) On the basis of the testimony of the Bible, calling God "Good" "Love/Loving" or "Just" requires a complete redefinition of all of these terms. "Good" must become "That which God wills" (and thus based totally on caprice rather than on anything that can be rightly called morality). "Love" must be twisted to mean the kind of "love" that an abusive husband or father has for his victims. "Justice" must come to mean the kind of justice that punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty.

4) Therefore, if the Bible paints an accurate picture of the true God, then the God defined by Christian doctrine does not exist. If, on the other hand, the Bible does not paint an accurate picture of God, then Christianity cannot be true (as it depends wholly on the Bible).

1 Comments:

Blogger Zachary Moore said...

Ooof. This is still going to be an exegetical trench war. Every verse you cite to support the injustice of God in the Bible is going to end up in mud-wrestling.

This argument would be much more effective on liberal Christians who don't have as much invested in specific exegetical interpretations.

3/28/08, 8:33 AM  

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