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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Debunking Ignorance Concerning Babies and Isaac

The author of the article Debunking Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions does not identify himself/herself. The author is associated or associates himself/herself with SCEPCOP and Darryl Sloan who touts himself/herself or is touted as a great thinker and champion debunker of Christians. This is my response to his/her mistaken, ignorant notions; a challenge to Christians as he/she calls it, concerning two scripture passages involving killing babies and the sacrifice of Isaac I will refer to the author as either SCEPCOP or Darryl.

a word about tactics

First, a few points to note before getting to his/her principal charge against Christians of dashing babies. I am not surprised by what SCEPCOP has put forward and recommends to his/her readers as an unbeatable challenge to Christians. I am not surprised, but I do marvel as I have often noted the similar mentality between SCEPCOP/Darryl and the same fundamentalists whom he/she purports to trounce and ridicule. SCEPCOP/Darryl and some fundamentalists each presume to have made and delivered a convincing, irrefutable argument through their own, respective tactics such as demanding an AGREE/DISAGREE, (as is the platform of SCEPCOP/Darryl’s particular article) YES/NO answer to their questions. Any answer which does not reflect or involve any of those four options is touted as a victory and a defeat of their opponent. Quite often, the speech of one is peppered with wording about logic, reason and as a last resort, there is always the venerable STRAWMAN argument. The other peppers their speech with wording about faith as their first and last word and thereby they absolve themselves of any extended engagement in the whole matter under discussion. So as not to extend a meaningless apology to SCEPCOP/Darryl this is why he/she will not be receiving a boxed YES/NO reply from me.

dashing little ones and the sacrifice of Isaac

Second, SCEPCOP/Darryl cites the specific Old Testament text of Psalm 137:

How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock.

Any argument about the context of that verse with SCEPCOP/Darryl would be pointless. SCEPCOP/Darryl presumes to understand the passage which, according to SCEPCOP/Darryl, it is the commandment of God for Israel to dash and slaughter babies. I understand. This is the relish of unbelievers and it plays well with their readers. The thrust of the charge is that, clearly, SCEPCOP is so much more moral than a God who would command such a thing.

Additionally, SCEPCOP cites what he/she calls the ultimate challenge for Christians. It is Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac as Abraham was instructed by God.  Darryl presses for nothing less than a YES or NO answer.

why bother

Third, is my response to SCEPCOP/Darryl and his/her’s serious misunderstanding. I anticipate the mockery. I know it plays well, too. My reason for bothering with this response is not so much for his/her benefit but for the understanding, enlightenment and encourage of those saints who mistakenly think SCEPCOP/Darryl really has something substantive here..

The Psalms 137 passage cited by Darryl alludes to the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 13:16)

Their little ones also will be dashed to pieces Before their eyes; Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished.

specifics in the prophecy of Isaiah

It was no more the commandment of God to Israel than it was the commandment of God to
Babylon to dash babies. Rather, it was a prophecy concerning Babylon under whom Israel would be held captive some years later. The words of the psalmist, written during Israel's captivity in Babylon, played on the known natural, barbaric characteristic of the Babylonians; dashing little ones against rocks was just one such atrocity.

The prophet not only names Babylon as the instrument of God in the punishment of Israel specifically, but he also names the enemy whom God would raise up to carry out the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah against Babylon as being the Medes.

Furthermore, when one re-reads Psalm 137 and ponders its content one see it was an imprecation, a longing, a cry for God's vengeance on Babylon under whom Israel was presently captive. The psalmist blesses, or considers as blessed, the enemy who would eventually arise to defeat, destroy and raze Babylon and dash their little ones.

human sacrifice

Finally, there is the commandment of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac a matter of some blissful glee for Darryl.

Although it is not something I would expect SCEPCOP/Darryl to understand the test of Abraham did not involve the literal, actual sacrifice of Isaac. This is a matter which proved to generate much theological and philosophical discussion among Israel’s scholars and religious leaders for centuries. Just as that debate continued during their enslavement in Egypt God did something for which God was neither apologetic or ashamed.

I do not expect SCEPCOP/Darryl to be honest, to believe or even to accept any of this for his own enlightenment. I do expect him/her to exercise what is his/her pride, namely, his/her intelligence and read, not merely copy/paste a passage from some other source on dashing babies in order that he/she might KNOW what is in discussion in those passages.

Dispense with the shallow, pointless challenges for boxed replies in a discussion.

death of the firstborn

One of the trite assessments which Israel had made concerning the sacrifice of Isaac was that it was a lesson from God to Israel that God was not like the pagan gods which the Canaanites worshiped. The lesson Israel took from that sacrifice was that God does not accept or practice human sacrifice. I expect SCEPCOP/Darryl’s cringe about human sacrifice is no less than it was and continues to be for Israel. Both, he/she and Israel dismiss as a mistaken, ignorant notion about human sacrifice.

Yet, this, human sacrifice, was precisely what God demonstrated in a very loud and graphic manner not to be ever forgotten by Israel, or Egypt. It was not a mindless slaughter which Egypt suffered and which resulted in Egypt letting Israel go finally. Furthermore, it was not a surprise. The death of Egypt’s firstborn included men, women, children and livestock. Righteousness or wickedness of those firstborn had nothing to do with their death.

Unlike the secret intentions to kill Israel’s male infants at birth which Pharoah had ordered the midwives to carry out, the pronouncement by Moses to Pharoah concerning the death of Egypt’s firstborn was clear and in the open presence of his court. Furthermore, this was to be the tenth and final plague on Egypt. They had already heard Moses pronounce nine successive plagues before each one struck Egypt. They had seen those plagues come to fruition. It was so evident that the Egyptians had began to wonder and murmur their dissent of Pharoah’s stubbornness towards letting Israel go. They were seeing the land and the people being slowly destroyed more and more with each plague.

Pharoah and all of Egypt had no reason to doubt that the death of the firstborn would not occur as Moses informed them of the imminent tenth plague. Pharoah chose not to listen and his stubbornness brought on the death of the firstborn throughout all Egypt.

Whatever lessons Israel thought they had learned from the sacrifice of Isaac were lost and forgotten as they rejoiced in their freedom. Those same lessons were as missing as they were forgotten when many centuries later God took on the form of a human being to willingly lay down his life in order to demonstrate, once again, his power over death. This was the dashing of the Son of God, the firstborn, not on a rock, but on a cross; yet another lesson lost in the choking unbelief of mockery. The death and purpose of the death of Jesus was not a surprise. Jesus clearly and openly declared those things in the presence of foes and friends, believer and nonbeliever alike.

Conclusion

I am aware that mockery and what is purportedly a work of some serious thought or research such as SCEPCOP/Darryl is often mostly a sport. Mockery or walking away from a discussion from a philosophical, scientific or religious, as each may prefer to call it, is not proof that a point has been established and made clear. Human psychology being what it is does not mean nor is it a guarantee that after all the work has been done in accordance with a mutually acceptable standard that the mockery will dissipate or that knowledge has been affirmed. I have responded to SCEPCOP/Darryl’s mockery of scripture passages which he/she does not accept or believe, but most importantly and within his/her domain, he/she does not KNOW what those passages state or mean. It is my hope that the saints in Christ might understand, be enlightened and encouraged.

God never commanded Israel or anyone in the past or today to kill their own babies or anyone else’s babies. The sacrifice of Isaac was first and foremost a test of Abraham. It was not an actual human sacrifice. The death of Egypt’s firstborn including men, women, children and  livestock was not a mindless slaughter. It was declared by God through Moses to the Egyptians well before it occurred with time and opportunity for Pharoah to avert imminent catastrophe for Egypt. Pharoah refused to allow Israel to leave Egypt. The catastrophe hit Egypt. This human sacrifice was deliberate and precise, commanded by God and carried out without the aid of human hands. Today, the lesson which Israel failed to learn from that sacrifice remains just as lost to Israel as to SCEPCOP/Darryl concerning the sacrifice of Jesus, the firstborn, the Son of God who was raised from the dead by the giver and sustainer of life who is able just as well to restore life to the dead.

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