just got back from my morning walk. its a new thing I'm trying, exercise. I sat to drink my morning coffee and put on the today show. Not much news, so I read the NY Times and the Christian Science Monitor. The Today Show had a little piece on a family in Arkansas that had 17, count-em, 17 children. While on the show they announced that they were expecting 18. When asked if it 'just happened' or if they 'planned it' they responded that they just 'let God decide.'
Which reminded me of an interesting discussion at a recent retreat I attended. The leader of the retreat referenced God's command to Joshua to destroy every man, woman, child and animal of Jericho. He then said, 'Is that the God we know and believe in? A God who would order genocide and destruction?' He answered his own question with, 'No, that's not God, God didn't say that.' An interesting debate ensued at dinner that night, a very friendly debate by the way. No yelling or name calling. Some felt that his view of the Bible was too 'low.' They felt that when the Bible either literally says, 'Thus says the Lord,' or at least suggests or assumes that God said it, it must be so. To debate that God did or did not actually say it was to open the Bible to too much doubt. If we do not accept the authority of all of scripture, is to open the possibility that the scripture would not be viewed as the innerant word of God and therefore, meaningless. If the bible says God said it, God said it, and I must submit to that regardless of what I think personally.
i understand that position. If we say, 'God didn't really command the slaughter of the Canaanites,' whats to say we don't then move on to say that 'Jesus didn't really teach against adultery.' I understand that position, but i don't agree. To say, "I'll let God decide," sounds to me like intellectual laziness. I can't or won't struggle with morals or ethics, I'll jus interpret the bible literally and go from there. I won't have to doubt, I won't have to wrestle, I won't deal with some of the contradictions. For instance, early in Genesis God commands that we not murder. then commands that Joshua committ wholesale murder in the book of Joshua. Don't we need to struggle with that contradiction? Which one do we take literally, the command to do no harm or the command to do harm to those who threaten? Is there middle ground? We cannot truly ever say, I'll let God decide, because the Bible presents many views of God. Jesus preaches against divorce, but one of the post-exilic prophets commands divorce.
Which do we take literally?
In my opinion, the Bible was not inspired by God to free us from thinking critically or struggling with difficult issues. It was inspired to guide us in the consideration. We need to understand as best we can the culture, history and societal forces that were the conduits to God's inspiration to understand the command. Why was Jesus preaching against divorce? What was the context of the text? Why was the propher preaching for divorce? This is not an exact science, I'll admit. It is much easier to just say, 'I'll let God decide' and then pick whatever verse backs up our own opinion. But then we have still fallen back to the danger that some think comes when we think critically even of the Bible. Instead of the Bible shaping us, we have shaped the Bible in our own image and likeness. It is in the struggle, the questions themselves, that we come to know and love God and one another. Oversimplified answers just allow us to go along with our own opinion and never be challenged by the beautifully diverse dialogue that the word of God truly is.