Thursday, October 27, 2011

God's Commands vs. Victor Reppert

Victor Reppert wrote:
No, I do not hold that YHWH commanded the slaughter of the Amalekites. I hold that either God didn't do that, or there are unknown reasons why He did. 
1 Samuel 15:1-3 
Samuel also said unto Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, 'I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'"

There is absolutely no question that the Lord commanded the slaughter of the Amalekites.  Moreover, the explicitly stated reason for this slaughter is that they attacked Israel during the Exodus.  That does not mean that God did not have other reasons.

Victor continues:
I can see some reason why God might have commanded such a thing, so that in my view the case against it isn't a slam dunk. So I would not call someone a moral monster who thought that God had given such a command, I think it morally possible that God might have done so, but on the other hand treating someone anyone as outside the pale of moral consideration strikes me as problematic and not in accordance with what I know about God in the New Testament. In other words, I don't see how these actions could be justified without putting some limits on who is my neighbor, and the parable of the Good Samaritan says we can't really draw such limits.
But Victor does not need to speculate.  God gives a reason.  The reason is retaliation for prior treachery.  Of course, the sucklings were not a part of that treachery, but the crime was performed by the nation and they are in a federal relationship with respect to the nation.  Absent God's mercy, the judgment on the nation extends even to those who had no personal part in it.  Indeed, given the lapse of time between the Exodus and Saul, it seems unlikely that there were any alive in Amalek who had been in any personal way involved in the attack on Israel.  So, it is not only the sucklings who are receiving judgment from God for the sins of their fathers, but also the adults of Amalek as well.

One of Victor's problems is that he is attempting to impose an external moral framework on the situation, instead of trying to extract a moral framework from the situation.  What God does is right.  That should be the premise.  Examples like the commanded destruction of the children of Amalek teach us about the heritability of guilt for sin. 

Victor continues:
I'm not committed to a theory of inspiration that would require me to defend such a thing. In another part of Deuteronomy, the Blessings and the Cursings, it indicates that people will get earthly blessings if they are obedient to the Covenant, and earthly cursings if they are not obedient. But you only have to look as far as Job and Ecclesiastes to see that that's questionable even within the Bible.
There's a double problem with Victor's "theory of inspiration."  This particular justification is not just part of Scripture, but is a part of Scripture reporting the verbatim words of God.  So, it is not as though the command or justification can be attributed to the narrator of the book. 

Victor's skepticism does not extend simply to the unidentified narrator, but also to Samuel the seer himself and ultimately to the Lord.

I'm not so naive as to be oblivious to the fact that we know that this is the word of the Lord because Samuel tells us, and we know Samuel tells us because the author of 1 Samuel tells us.  Ultimately, we know that 1 Samuel is inspired because the Holy Spirit persuades us - we the sheep hear our master's voice.  Nevertheless, my point is to observe the depth of Victor's skepticism.  How can his "theory of inspiration" have any value if it permits him to doubt the most clearly articulated statements in the text?

Ultimately, Victor and I stand on two opposite camps.  I'm in the camp that - you know - believes what the Bible says and proceeds from there.  Victor is in another camp, one that should be scrupulously avoided.



Natamllc said...

TF, after reading this a couple of times, besides going wow again with the depth of reasoning you take your readers too, I thought about what God is revealing to us presently when we read His memorial Words to the father of the Faithful, Abraham:

Gen 15:15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.
Gen 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."

Who doesn't want to go to their fathers in peace at a good old age?

We just have to get used to the fact that God sees His creation quite a bit differently and treats her with rewards and punishments quite differently than we see, would and do!

Thanks once again for such premiere reading!

Just think, just an internet bill I pay every month and I get to read stuff like this! :)

Steve Drake said...

The Internet bill being just the tip of your scholastic understanding :)

Eric Hettinger jr said...

Lovely as always.

Coram Deo said...

The latter case being "Camp Anathema". said...

That is dealt with here:

Victor Reppert said...

Is "God" a proper name, or a definite description? If "God" is a definite description, then that definite description is "a being omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good," then whatever God does is right, but it also means that we aren't in a position to pick out God, unless we are able to identify what good is, and recognize that God possesses that quality. Or, God could be picked out by his exercise of creative power, and then we could define "good" in terms of something being in accordance with whoever possesses maximal creative power. But, if we do that, then don't we end up saying that might makes right?

Francis Turretin said...

God reveals himself to us, Victor. That's what the Scriptures are: God's self-revelation. We don't have to seek out a god according to our own imagination.

Coram Deo said...

Yet that's precisely what everyone does until God reveals Himself.