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The Sovereign Defense

03 Nov

When certain Christians say that we can’t judge god’s actions because he is an all-powerful entity, it’s the “creator” defense, or the “sovereign” defense. It’s a pretty bad defense.

Suppose that instead of Jesus, there’s some other superpowerful entity named Susej who created the world. Susej commands that everyone rape at least one virgin. Those who fail to do so, Susej will send them to hell to burn for all eternity. As long as someone has raped a virgin, they will enter eternal life when they die no matter what else they’ve done.

Unless it’s conceded that Susej’s commands are not immoral, then you would have to acknowledge that we have the right and capacity to judge a superpowerful entity. Thus the sovereign defense is no a valid position to hold, since we have a moral compass that we can use to judge this superpowerful entity.

This is really another spin on the Euthyphro dilemma. Is something good just because god(s) decree it, or do the god(s) decree it because it’s good? If the latter, then we definitely have the right to judge superpowerful creators, because there’s a morality that exists “outside” of god(s) that god(s) is ultimately subject to. If the former, then certain acts that we intristically find vile (like the above rape scenario) would become absolutely moral… and the “right” thing to do!

And just so that the above rape scenario doesn’t seem to be pulled from thin air, here is Numbers 31:

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”
3 So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites and to carry out the LORD’s vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. 6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.

7 They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. 8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, 12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.

13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

19 “All of you who have killed anyone or touched anyone who was killed must stay outside the camp seven days. On the third and seventh days you must purify yourselves and your captives. 20 Purify every garment as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood.”

21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, “This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: 22 Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead 23 and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water. 24 On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean. Then you may come into the camp.”

25 The LORD said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the LORD one out of every five hundred, whether persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep or goats. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the LORD’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses.
32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:
337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the LORD was 675;

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the LORD was 72;

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the LORD was 61;

40 16,000 people, of which the tribute for the LORD was 32.

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the LORD’s part, as the LORD commanded Moses.

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men- 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty persons and animals, as the LORD commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the LORD’s tabernacle.

48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the LORD the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD.”

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the LORD weighed 16,750 shekels. [b] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the Tent of Meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD.

There it is, in its entire context. Not only were 32,000 women who had “never slept with a man” taken as war spoils (i.e. virgins – so what exactly were they kept for?), but 32 of these virgins were offered as “tribute to YHWH” along with the sheep, cattle, and donkeys. We all know that a sheep offered as tribute to YHWH meant animal sacrifice, so it only follows that these 32 poor virgin girls were also ritually sacrificed on the altar. The word used in the LXX is γυναικων gynaikon, “women”, which is where OB/GYN comes from. “Girls” would be either κοριτσια::koritsia or παρθενες::parthenes.

This is woefully immoral.

And to top it off:

Deuteronomy 22
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,
29 he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

What is the punishment for raping a virgin (who isn’t pledged to be married)? Paying the father 50 shekels and marriage. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with raping a virgin, unless you consider using someone else’s toothbrush immoral. If you’ve used someone else’s toothbrush that they haven’t gotten to use yet, then you simply have to pay them the value of their now dirty toothbrush and keep the toothbrush.

While not an outright command to rape, the “punishment” is still woefully immoral. Imagine… a rape victim having to marry her rapist.

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4 responses to “The Sovereign Defense

  1. Qohelet

    November 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for disposal of refuse? (Romans 9:20-21)

    In other words, no you may not question the creator. The bible says it, they believe it, that settles it.

     
  2. beowulf2k8

    January 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    “But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'” (Calvinist apologist for genocide)

    How is judging the god of this world's immoral actions equivalent to saying 'Why did you make me like this?' It isn't at all a question of why he made me the way he did. Its a question of why he ran around commanding genocide (a totally indefensible act) in the Old Testament.

    What's more, why did the ruler of this world, the god of this world, command both genocide and child-rape coupled together in Numbers 31? “Kill everyone, men, boys, women who aren't virgins: but as for the virgin young girls, keep them for yourselves!!!” Kill off the whole nation but keep the little girls for a paedophilic post-genocide orgy? Distribute the girls as “booty” along with the gold and silver to every perv in the nation, even the priests? Certainly this is not the Heavenly Father speaking, nor Jesus XC, but the god of this world that Paul speaks against and the ruler of this world that Jesus says in John is judged and of whom he says 'he has nothing in me.' (John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, 2nd Corinthians 4:4)

     
  3. beowulf2k8

    January 31, 2010 at 12:12 am

    BTW, I posted these comments on Qohelet's blog post in praise of the RSV (link)

    —–BEGIN QUOTE——–
    RSV Luke 9:54-56
    [54] And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?”
    [55] But he turned and rebuked them.
    [56] And they went on to another village.

    KJV Luke 9:54-56

    [54] And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
    [55] But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
    [56] For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

    The RSV is sterile by comparison. Where did the compassion of Jesus go in the RSV? Where did the clear distinction between the spirit of the OT and the spirit of the Gospel go? Satan removed it. That's all I can say.

    —–END QUOTE——–

    Adolf von Harnack thinks that the phrase “even as Elijah did” and the answer of Jesus “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” are from Marcion's gospel and only made their way into canonical Luke over time through intercourse between Catholics and Marcionites, and the Catholics recognizing the power of these words and borrowing them.

    Personally, I believe Marcion's gospel has primacy over Luke, so I believe that the originally Catholic recension (or interpolated version) of Marcion's gospel left these words in, but later Catholics saw how they could give Marcionism a foothold and began to remove them. So rather than later Catholic borrowing them from Marcion's gospel and adding them into Luke (per Harnack) I think that inasmuch as Luke was an edit of Marcion's gospel these words were at first retained in Luke, and only later removed by the Catholics because Marcionites were able to effectively use them to bring Marcionism back even by the Catholic canon itself!

     
  4. beowulf2k8

    January 31, 2010 at 12:14 am

    clicking the follow comments deal

     
 
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