Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Thinking Christian's "The Child Sacrifice Question" - Counter apologetics

I have commented before on Tom Gilson's website, The Thinking Christian. He writes well, even if I disagree with the content of his work.

Up until this point, I have had no problem posting comments, but now things appear to be somewhat... clunky? So I have decided to post a full response here.

Tom's latest post is an apologia for God's testing of Abraham, by asking him to sacrifice his first-born child. Of course, I have some issues with his appraisal of the situation.

He begins by asking, "What is it about a command to sacrifice a child that makes it wrong?"

Amazingly, he does not to answer the question in this post, stating that he will approach it in a later post. I look forward to it.
So what is to be made of the following statement in the current post?

In fact I wonder–I do not know, but I wonder–whether this was the first recorded instance in history when child sacrifice was explicitly interdicted. If so, then it might have also been the moment when humans first began to understand that child sacrifice was wrong.
The obvious retort to this is that, Tom, thinking that humans have the free will to decide for themselves what constitutes a morally wrong act, has no requirement for a moral law giver. Not only is He not the messenger, He isn't even the source of human morality - we are.

The following quote highlights a truly baffling position to defend;
So God was not doing anything wrong from God’s perspective, because he did not give the command with the intent to carry it through.
It is not baffling because it lacks any veracity - although, as we shall see, it is wrong - but because God cannot act in a manner that is inconsistent with God's nature. I shall return to this later in this post.

Later on - chronologically - in the bible, Moses, having broken the original stone tables containing the Ten Commandments, places their replacements (written by God Himself - or not) in the Ark of The Covenant. These final drafts of the Ten Commandments include the little known instruction from their previous - and more familiar - editions;
Exo 34:19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
For those of you that are uncomfortable with the florid prose of the KJV, this is God's own written word calling for the sacrifice of all first-born male children. In the Ten Commandments.

What are we to make of this revelation?

Well, if one is to hold true to the final draft of the Ten Commandments - the ones placed in the Ark of The Covenant - then not only is child sacrifice (albeit only the first-born male) morally 'good' (because, as we all know, God is goodness defined), but it was still valid up until no earlier than the arrival of Jesus Christ.

Of course, it is the Jews that should have the greatest problem with this, as they are still patiently waiting for their saviour's arrival and a new covenant. 

But I digress. It isn't even the last reference to child sacrifice. Not even a first-born male. Enter the story of Jephthah;

Jud 11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. 36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity [Wtf?], I and my fellows. 38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
Let's backtrack here a moment. What was it Tom said again?
But we know that God did not intend for [Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac] to go through. So God is innocent of the most damning charge that could be brought against him in this respect.
Except that, as the bible points out, Jephthah had to sacrifice his daughter. Does that not mean, then, that God is not innocent of the most damning charge against Him?

As I said before, a baffling position to defend.

As promised, I shall return to God's actions having to be consistent with His nature.

If it is true that God cannot act in a manner that is inconsistent with God's nature - and this is an all too common Christian trope - then why did He later write the Commandment enshrined in the Ark of The Covenant that implicitly calls for the sacrifice of the first-born male child, that was to remain as law up until the arrival of Jesus at the earliest, or the dispensationalism of the 19th century, supercessionism of the 17th century or the New Covenant theology of [unknown origin]?

The time that Abraham is said to have been alive is circa 1976 BCE to 1801 BCE (Ussher), meaning God's acts and nature were consistent with child sacrifice for a minimum of 1800 years (up until the time of Jesus). And if dispensationalism, supercessionism and New Covenant theology are incorrect, is still valid to this day.

Anyhoo, just so that I have a copy of the last comment I posted there, ere t'is;
Have you blocked me? I have read your discussion policy and feel that my comments are perfectly in tandem with them. You make, here, an apologia; you have a duty to defend your position. I'll try again.
Where to start?
What is your position on biblical law? Do you think that the Ten Commandments (and which set of them?) are still valid, or do you take the Noachide laws as valid? Is you decision influenced more by Paul than Jesus, for example? This is an important distinction if we are to properly evaluate your discussion here.
"Thus we know that God will not repeat today what he did with Abraham."
Sorry, but He did. This time He followed through, too. What about Jephthah? God is not innocent of this charge.
What was God's overriding, morally sufficient purpose for this act?
"[When did]humans first beg[i]n to understand that child sacrifice was wrong [?]"
Really? You think that humans have the free will to decide for themselves what constitutes a morally wrong act? What need have we, then, of a moral law giver? Not only is He not the messenger, He isn't even the source of human morality - we are.
Back to my point about your position on biblical law; what use Exo 34 19:20, then (The final draft of the Ten Commandments that the bible tells us were the ones put in the Ark of The Covenant), where God Himself writes the instruction that He wishes the first-born male child as a sacrifice?
Why does Abraham get a pass on this, but no one else of His time?
And what of Jephthah?
Your thoughts?

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