Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Some Follow Up Regarding Rejoicing When the Wicked Perish

My objector, Mr. Landless, has provided a blog post in response to my previous entry.

He indicates he desires no blog war, so I'll try to hit a few points without going line-by-line through his response.

1) My pseudonym is TurretinFan or Tur8inFan, but not Turrentinfan or Turrintanfan.

2) Mr. Landless thinks we are largely in agreement, except over some semantic issues. I hope he's right, and I am glad if he is.

3) Mr. Landless argues that we should exemplify love not revenge. His argument is based on the way that Christ treated his enemies during his incarnation. His argument seems to be undermined by the way in which Christ is going to treat his enemies at his second coming. At that time he will come in vengeance, and his saints will praise him.

Revelation 19:1-2
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

We can praise God even now for his judgments. And we can even rejoice:

Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

When God answers the prayers of the martyrs:

Revelations 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

I won't belabour the point.

Suffice that there is a harmonization. We can and should love our personal enemies. We, on the other hand, may rejoice when God triumphs over his enemies and our persecutors, whether God converts them (like Saul) or God slays them (like Osama).

4) Mr. Landless argues that "none of [what TurretinFan wrote] offsets the rather simple point that God does not delight in the death of wicked, unrepentant men." Sometimes the "simple point" is incorrect. The point being made in the passage is nuanced, as I already explained. It is not that God is unhappy about judging the people he judges, or that God is not pleased to punish those he punishes. The issue relates to the revealed will of God, and the relative moral good of repentance as opposed to undergoing destruction.

Mr. Landless even argues that Calvin himself says that God is grieved by the death of the wicked, providing links to passages of Calvin. But the first mentions grief apparently only in the mouth of an objector who Calvin immediately answers ("But the Prophets words are plain, for God testifies with grief that he willeth not the death of a mortal. I answer, that there is no absurdity, as we said before, in God’s undertaking a twofold character, not that he is two-faced himself, as those profane dogs blurt out against us, but because his counsels are incomprehensible by us." ) and the second doesn't mention grief at all. In both cases, Calvin refers the passage (as I did) to the revealed will of God: a revealed will in which all are called to salvation through repentance and faith.

5) Mr. Landless objects to my quotation of various passages to the effect that God will laugh at the destruction of the wicked. He makes a variety of objections. He first argues that the genre for the Psalms is poetic and that these are examples of anthropomorphic language. I agree - and yet it does not change the thrust of the passages. The point of the passages is to express God's attitude toward the destruction of the wicked. It is not an attitude of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it is one of derisive laughter. Mr. Landless examines the context of each of the quotations (a very worthy approach) and attempts to distinguish each one. I'd be happy to provide a more detailed response, but I don't find his attempt to distinguish very compelling. They are:

When it speaks of God laughing, this is not a gleeful delight at the expense of dying, unrepentant men, but rather at nations and leaders gathering in arrogant rebellion against his anointed king; the very king whom he had placed on the throne to govern his chosen people Israel.

The psalm tells us that the "peoples" of the earth - the hostile nations - have wicked conspiratorial plans, and that they are so arrogant they seriously believe they can outmatch the Creator of all the world. But God, enthroned in heaven, laughs, and answers their challenge with a sovereign statement: "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill". He then says to the newly crowned king, "You are my Son, today I have become your Father".
I don't know why it needs to be "gleeful delight." It certainly is delight, delight at their destruction.

Again:
Once again, this psalm does not prove Turrentinfan's point. Even if we were to dismiss the allegorical nature of the text it still tells us only that God laughs at the wicked because he sees their impending comeuppance; he does not laugh because the wicked are perishing.
Their comeuppance is them perishing. So, I'm not sure how this is a distinction that makes a difference. Moreover, the fact that it is anthropomorphic is really beside the point, as explained above.

Again:
Here, once again, Turrentinfan seems not to distinguish between God's delight in seeing justice done and a delight in destroying men. The two are quite different. One's delight in justice, does not mean that one is happy when that same justice leads to death and misery. A judge can be glad that the victims of violence have been avenged and an evil man's wickedness brought to its termination, and yet be equally saddened by the effects of sin, the power of sin, and the unfortunate end of all sin.
Actually, this point is contrary to the point in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel, God is contrasting Justice and Mercy, not Justice and Judgment. Moreover, God does not distinguish between justice and judgment in the Psalms in question. In fact, God expresses his love of justice by expressing his love of judgment. Mr. Landless may rightly infer that the reason God loves judgment is because of God's justice, but God does not distinguish between the two, so as to affirm one and not the other.

Finally:
This psalm is a plea for deliverance from enemy attack, quite probably written when Jerusalem was under siege. Again, a simple contextual reading demonstrates that God is not relishing the prospect of shunting these men out of daylight and into the burning chasm of hell. Rather, he holds in contempt the enemy nations gathered to destroy his chosen people, and also those who are in their pay and traitorously use their tongue as a weapon to sow discord among the defenders, apparently in the arrogant belief that no one could hear them.
He's not merely holding them in contempt (though he's doing that), he's laughing at them and their impending punishment, as the form of that particular psalm (Psalm 59) demonstrates.

6) Mr. Landless seems to think that Herod (referring to Herod the Great, apparently) was worse than Osama. I hadn't explored this much in the previous post, mostly because I didn't know which Herod Mr. Landless had in mind. Herod the Great's death occurred when Jesus was still an infant or toddler. The Scriptures record almost nothing about the reaction of the godly to the event, except that when it occurred, Joseph returned with his family from Egypt. There is no discussion of whether they celebrated, or whether the grieved at the death of that horrible man. As I previously noted, any argument from silence is dangerous. Whether Herod the Great was worse than Osama is a point that could reasonably be debated. I have no particular desire to do so, but the interested reader may peruse Mr. Landless' entry for a recitation of some of the atrocities attributed to him.

-TurretinFan

12 comments:

steve said...

It's true that the Psalms contain anthropomorphic language, but one could say the same thing about his prooftext in Ezekiel. So his objection cuts both ways.

Coram Deo said...
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Coram Deo said...

TF,

Both of your posts on this topic have been trenchant and insightful, thank you.

As an aside, Mr. Landless seems to have attempted to posit several distinctions without a difference.

You've already pointed out at least one, but in addition I couldn't help noticing that he seems to desire to see God's derision in the Psalms you cited as being against "nations" instead of against individuals, but nations are comprised of individuals, and in the final analysis God's judgment upon nations inevitably falls upon individuals, Israel being a classic case in point.

In Christ,
CD

Jason Landless said...

In fact, in some of the Psalms cited God's derision is in fact aimed at nations, and in other places it is aimed at individuals. It is not a "desire to see" that motivates my making this point.

Jason Landless said...

@Steve: While it is true that metaphorical language is used elsewhere in Ezekiel, the passages in question are God speaking of himself, and are free of such language.

Coram Deo said...

In fact, in some of the Psalms cited God's derision is in fact aimed at nations, and in other places it is aimed at individuals. It is not a "desire to see" that motivates my making this point.

Your comment attempts to sidestep the actual point of my comment, in case anyone else didn't already notice.

In Christ,
CD

steve said...

Jason Landless said...

"@Steve: While it is true that metaphorical language is used elsewhere in Ezekiel, the passages in question are God speaking of himself..."

What makes you think God cannot or would not "speak of himself" using anthropomorphisms?

"...and are free of such language."

That begs the question.

Turretinfan said...

Jason:

I'm not sure how you think that the person/nation distinction helps you, even if you are correct in asserting that distinction, and regardless of your reason for seeing the distinction.

As to Steve's point, if your argument is that self-descriptions of God are necessarily not metaphorical, I think you have a problem. Steve's point was (if I may paraphrase it) that the genre distinction doesn't actually provide a basis for your argument. That's because prophetic works, like poetical works, employ metaphorical and other figurative language about God.

-TurretinFan

Jason Landless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Landless said...

As a courtesy, I indicate that I will no longer be following this issue, or posting on your blog.

Turretinfan said...

ok ...

Coram Deo said...

It's hard to kick against the goads.

CD