June 13, 2004
Judgment of the Wicked Continued - Jun 5/04 & Jun 8/04
See also Previous letters
See also Ch 4 of WCG Experience - on Hell
Note: everything has been edited slightly for clarity. Nothing important has been edited.
Judgment of the Wicked Continued
... Are you an atheist? If not, what do you call yourself? Here's some of what you said: " I find dishonesty and murder by some of those represented as God's servants in the Bible." Can you show me some examples? This is not meant to be a rhetorical question but I would like to talk about some of these examples (if you can show me any) in a mature way, not just so I can convert you, but so we can come to a reasonable conclusion...
"Deist" is the closest term I've come up with. It doesn't quite describe my beliefs exactly but I liked the dictionary definition. Maybe "agnostic" is better, because it is kind of open-ended. I'm not an "atheist" because one definition of atheist is having no belief in the supernatural. I believe in a kind of open-minded rationalism.
About the Old Testament, the most important passage in my view is Numbers 31:14-18.
Judgment of the Wicked - Continued - Jun 8/04
... Galations 2:12-14 says: "For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"
I think the Bible is really clear on the fact that we are imperfect and all sin, such as Romans 3:23 which says: "for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."
So, we need God's forgiveness and out of his GRACE he forgives us - not because he owes us anything but through his GRACE according to Ephesians 2:7-10 which says: "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his GRACE in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Even after a person is saved he still is not perfect. Are you perfect? Of course not! Have you ever made a mistake? Of course, we all make mistakes. Can you count all your mistakes on one hand? No, but does that make you dishonest? If so then we are all dishonest.
Please do not hold the writers of the Bible to a standard you yourself cannot keep.
Numbers 31:14-18 says: " And Moses was angry with the chiefs of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds who had come back from the war. And Moses said to them, Why have you kept all the women safe? IT WAS THESE who, moved by BALAAM, were THE CAUSE of Israel's SIN AGAINST THE LORD in the question of Peor, because of which disease came on the people of the Lord. So now put every male child to death, and every woman who has had sex relations with a man. But all the female children who have had no sex relations with men, you may keep for yourselves."
God gives everyone life (Psalm 36:7,9) so he has the right to take the life he gives at any moment he sees fit. For example, if you bought a car for your 16 year old son and tell him you will let him keep the car as long as he is back by 9:00 p.m. every night and does not go through mud holes, but he does exactly what you tell him not to do intentionally while you were in the car with him, (remember God sees everything according to Jeremiah 23:24 and Proverbs 15:3) would you not be totally justified in taking the car away from him? Of course you would, because you bought the car and he disrespected you.
Well, I hope this helps.
Well, first of all, I want to comment some more on that Galatians passage.
In my view, Paul is painting Peter in a certain way as being a hypocrite. People who believe in the Bible as the Word of God assume that Paul is directing fair criticism at Peter (Cephas).
If you look at it more realistically, however, either Peter is torn between two completely different types of Christianity or else he is actually not in agreement with Paul at all, and is therefore not a hypocrite. We only hear Paul's version of events. I believe it is only Paul trying to make the Peter-and-James -faction look bad in the eyes of his Gentile Christian followers.
Even if that's not the case, you can see that there are two competing factions within Christianity. One is still keeping very strictly the ceremonial Old Testament laws (even the ones Armstrong didn't keep). The other group is being created by Paul.
What I'm saying is that this is all whitewashed to quite an extent by the New Testament writers. This is dishonest. It is not a minor thing, because all of a sudden James, the brother of Jesus (which is what people believe anyway), and the original apostles, are being eclipsed by Paul who comes out of nowhere.
I don't take sides anymore on the dispute of which is better - works or grace. I think both are important concepts, and they're tied up with what is happening in this verse too. When I was in the Worldwide Church of God, I was very familiar with the passages you are quoting. Later on when the Church reformed its doctrines, we heard the other point of view, that Paul's writings did not actually back up Armstrong's beliefs but were against requiring the Old Testament version of the Law. He was in favor of good "works" as you say but it was a different, more spiritual form of the Law, and he didn't believe in the idea that the Ten Commandments were required for salvation. At least this is the way they argued and it seems that way to me.
The New Testament is a huge break with the Old Testament, and I believe it is hiding the fact that James, Peter and many of the Jerusalem Christians - and even Jesus assuming he was real - had completely different beliefs from Paul. I believe that most of the Jewish Christians never listened to Paul and stuck very closely to the Old Testament Law, and their opinions are in the New Testament but they are heavily covered over. There are other issues too with the New Testament, but it's way too big a subject to try to cover at once.
Anyway, to get to your point about standards. I was saying that some writers of the Bible are dishonest, but as you can see, I wasn't referring to Peter's alleged behavior. I know that you accept that Peter and the others - and it's always Peter did this and Peter did that, always picking on Peter - are just ordinary human beings who have problems with sin.
I'm talking about something deeper. I'm saying that it is the writings themselves that are written dishonestly, and therefore they are not holy, not the truth, not inspired by an honest God. And it's not an ordinary sin for the Bible writers to paper over the truth the way I'm alleging.
If you go through the book of Acts you see Paul ends up back in Rome with his pals to finish up his mission of trying to undermine and usurp the Jewish religion. Was he a good man or a bad man? I think he was motivated by his own spiritual beliefs, but I think he felt that the end justifies the means. And the end never justifies the means.
This theory about Paul being a Roman agent is a theory that goes around. It seems to fit the book of Acts - from when he's standing there with the "hellenists" watching Stephen being stoned, to when he's rounding up the Jewish Christians to be put in prison, to when he's suddenly converted and tries to assume control of the Church, to when he is constantly criticizing James - the bishop of Jerusalem - as if he has some right to do that, to when he's travelling under the protection of Roman soldiers, and we follow him all the way back home to Rome - supposedly to stand trial but living comfortably. Of course the Romans didn't reward him very well in the end. So I guess he was ultimately a martyr to his religion.
To get to your point about Moses. My response is this: first of all, it isn't God saying these things about killing women and children (or the men for that matter). It's a man - Moses. And Moses doesn't have a right to kill women and children. If God is just, God can't order the killing of all the women and children either, because even if some of the women had done those things, not all of them had done them, and none of the children would have been guilty. If God sanctioned that, then he's not just. Furthermore if God is just, then he wouldn't execute anyone except for certain specific crimes such as murder, and only after a trial - and at least you can agree that there would have to be at least two witnesses (*) - because this is a biblical standard. There have to be at least two witnesses for each of the accused. But instead of individual justice we get "collective" "justice", which is not justice at all. We get a lot of that in this world because it is very human to be unjust.
You can still say that God, in your belief, has the right to kill anyone he wants, but we only have the word of Moses that he was speaking for God. For all we know, Moses was a murderous conquering man who was inspired to do what it took to succeed in his goals, and it had nothing to do with God. Moses believed that the end justified the means. God comes across looking very bad in this passage. It's easier to assume that it's not God involved at all, at least not the God we want to believe in. It raises issues of conscience when we try to fit this passage into our beliefs about God being associated with goodness and justice. I used to do this too.
Rationalizing is not always rational.