In my previous two blog posts (Part I and Part II), I decided to do my best to answer charges from blogger ClubSchadenFreude who left several long comments on a previous post of mine. ClubSchadenFreude is an atheist, and you can read her blog posts on WordPress. In her comments on my posts, she strung together many things in the Bible that struck her as unanswerable. Here’s part of what she wrote:

No reason to think you or anyone else knows what this god is “like” since Christians cannot agree on that nor show that their version is the right one. What do you think about a god that kills a child for the actions of its parents, a god taht [sic] requires a man to make a choice between freedom and his family, a god that kills a people who are ruled by a king and who can’t do anything about him, a god who kills a man who simply tried to keep this god’s magic box upright, if not vicious? If a human tried to make people do these things, killed children, etc, would you think that human vicious?

Your bible betrays your claims of a good and benevolent god.

Of course, ClubSchadenFreude is picking and choosing what she presents. But she raises interesting issues. So this post doesn’t get too long, I’d like to examine the second of the last two of her charges and save the last for my final post on this topic. You can see my previous posts for my thoughts on her earlier statements, and my next (and last post) on this topic for her last one.

The Penultimate cHarge

a god that kills a people who are ruled by a king and who can’t do anything about him

It’s hard to know, but I believe ClubSchadenFreude was referring to either 2 Samuel 24: 1 – 25 or 1 Chronicles 21: 1 – 30. The wording is slightly different in these verses, but they tell essentially the same story and relate the same event.

If this is the incident to which ClubSchadenFreude refers, I think it is her strongest accusation, because I, too, find it hard to reconcile God’s actions with the God I know — at least from a modern point of view.

In these sections of scripture, David decides to take a census of the people of Israel. Even Joab (whose morality had always been an undependable and fluid thing) thought this was a bad idea.

This strikes the modern mind as an odd thing. Whey did it matter if a census was taken or not? I could make guesses, and they might be right, but they are only guesses. Had David’s heart become proud about the number of people in his kingdom? Was the census done without a ransom for each man? (In Exodus 30:12, It says here that if a ransom isn’t given, a plague might result!) Again, to a modern mind, this makes no sense. Why does God require a ransom for a census? Why would a plague result if there were no ransoms? I simply don’t know for sure. But what we do know is that it was clear what might happen.

Whatever the reason, once the census is taken, David realizes that he has sinned. You and I, from thousands of years of distance, might wonder about this, but David is certain of it. Through the prophet Gad, David is given three choices as punishment: seven years of famine, three months of war, or three days of pestilence. David chooses to fall into the hand of God (whose mercies, he says, are great) rather than man — in other words, he chooses the plague, something that God warned was a possible result if a census was taken without ransoms.

The result

It was a horrible plague. It lasted three days, and death was as quick as the 1918 Spanish epidemic. If my math is right, 5% of the population died. (I was an English major, so feel free to correct my math!) It made the coronavirus look tame by comparison. On the third day, God held the angel back from destroying Jerusalem.

David recognizes the inherent injustice of this, and cries out to God, “Behold, it is I who have have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done?”

God permits David to make atonement for his sin, and the plague is over.

Where I am on this

First, I trust God. I’ve learned over the years that if there’s something I don’t understand about him, I only need to wait and pray. Eventually, I understand him better. Should an atheist or non-Christian read this, he (or she) is sure to be unimpressed by that statement. But those of us who know the God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ know the truth of it. God is worthy of trust even when we don’t understand him. We have learned this.

For instance, just in researching this, I noticed for the first time that a plague could result from a census that was unaccompanied with ransoms. It’s given me something to think about that I didn’t have before. (Another reason I appreciated the comments left on my previous post.)

Lastly, as I have said in last week’s post, death is an end only for those who do not believe. To an atheist, death is the ultimate evil. To the Christian, death is a doorway to a better world. This was something I addressed in my first post on this topic. I am confident that once we know all, we will see God acted from mercy, not caprice.

This is what I mean

For instance, had God not done anything, what might have happened? You and I don’t know, but God does. If he looked ahead and saw that worse things than the plague might happen if he took no action, then what we see as horrible plague (and horrible it was!) is an act of mercy. He prevented worse things from happening.

Someone might say: why couldn’t he have done both? But let me ask this: if God is going to allow his created beings to sin so they can have free will — and who can dispute he does — should he then prevent the consequences of that sin because he allowed it? I think God’s answer is “no.” He has told us what is good. He has shown us what he wants. He has even told us the consequences of disobedience and unbelief. And then he allows us to obey or not. To expect God to let us “sow our wild oats” and then expect him to give us crop failure is a little too much, I think.

What we learn from this

The man and woman of faith learns that the actions of those in positions of authority impact those of us who are under their authority. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, you can agree with this, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is your governor permitting people to go back to work too early? People may die from that decision. Is your governor keeping your state locked down too long? People may die from that decision (from a drug overdose or suicide — both of which have been increasing under the shutdown) — or at least they might lose their economic livelihoods. You might think it acceptable if someone loses their livelihood as long as they stay alive, but others might be willing to risk it! We might support a president who goes to war to stop Hitler, but we would all suffer if a president went to war to conquer Canada just because he coveted their oil fields.

As you just read, I don’t have all the answers. But this I know: God is good. If he appears to be other, it’s because you and I don’t fully understand what is happening — we only think we do.

I said it before, but I’ll repeat it.: a statement like that last one is unlikely to persuade the unbeliever. But it’s not in my job description to save the world. I am only trying to help any one who is interested in considering the things of God.

And in this post, I hope I have.

4 thoughts on “Answering the Unanswerable (Part III)

  1. exactly why do you feel it necessary to play with the capitalization of my blog name?

    And as for long post, well, it’s easy to make baseless claims short. It takes more words to support claims made.

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  2. For someone who falsely claims that I “pick and choose” what I present, you try to hide what your bible actually says, depending on willful ignorance from your audience.

    Actually, I didn’t mean either 2 Samuel or 1 Chronicles 21. You seem to forget that Exodus is this story, where your god kills people who are ruled by a king that they cannot do anything about.

    As for 2 Samuel 24: 1-25 and 1 Chronicles 21:1-30, they are indeed similar stories but have some rather striking differences. Our author here says that his god gets up set about David taking a census. Now that’s funny since this god demands that David take a census “Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.””

    So, when David then says “10 But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.”

    Exactly how is obeying our author’s god sinning? So, now we have this god harming people for David doing what this god wanted David to do. “15 So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from that morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand of the people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba.”

    Now we can look at the version in 1 Chronicles. Now here, this god isn’t doing anything at the start. Guess who causes the census to be taken? Yep, Satan, not this god at all as 2 Samuel 24 says “1 Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel.”

    Now one has to wonder, which story is the accurate one since they both can’t be.

    One also has to wonder, why this god has a fit about a census or doesn’t have a fit about a census?

    Now, we come to our authors claim that it is hard for him to reconcile the actions of his god with a “modern point of view”. Christians often try this, to insist that it was okay for their god to act in a specific dependent on the time period. However, this doesn’t work with a god with a supposedly objective morality that would never change. If it is wrong to kill people for another’s actions objectively, then it is always wrong.

    Our author always makes guesses about his god, but sometimes insists that these guesses are the truth and when convenient, claims that he only has guesses so he isn’t responsible for what he claims. His guesses are a problem in this case since he tries to cover up that there are two different stories here where God or satan are the instigator. To the modern mind, it makes no sense since we have two contradictory stories, and then we have even more contradictions in Exodus 30. In there it does say that there needs to be a “ransom” paid, because for some reason, this god wants people counted, and wants them to pay money to be counted, and for some reason again it is a sin to be counted, a sin to do what this god wants.

    Yep, David does recognize the injustice of this idiot god. And like a good fictional sycophant, doesn’t call this god on it, and has no problem with this god killing thousands for no reason.

    Again, our author, like David, has no problem with his god doing anything at all, even murdering people and being unjust. Anything can be excused as long as our author can convince himself it simply must be for the better. This is what every follower of every tyrant does. And his excuse that “But those of us who know the God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ know the truth of it. God is worthy of trust even when we don’t understand him. We have learned this.” Is exactly what any follower of a tyrant says.

    If death isn’t so terrible, as our author claims, then why are Christians just as much, or more, terrified of it? He again tries to lie and claim that atheists find that death is the “ultimate evil”. We don’t, but his story doesn’t work if he admits he is lying about us. His claim that once we are dead, we’ll really honest agree with this god that killing people for no fault of their own was perfectly fine shows just how amoral Christians are.

    Again, we see our author intentionally misrepresenting the bible when he claims that there is free will. Romans 9, and his stories from 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles show that this id not the case, when this god kills people for no action of their own. Free will dies as soon as this god interferes with their lives, ending them. Plenty of Christians are quite sure that there is no free will, e.g. predestination, so our author is again mispresenting his fellows.

    This god has not show what is good and what it wants, and we know this because no Christian can show that his version of morality is what this god wants, and all Christians differ in that morality they claim is from their god via the holy spirit.

    People may die from the decisions of others. These people in the bible died from the decision of this god, destroying free will. Our author wants to claim he doesn’t have all of the answers, but he certainly wants everyone to think he has most of them, including the baseless claim that “God is good.”. Isn’t that convenient? Per the bible, humans understand good and evil just as well as god (see Genesis). If I know that harming people for the actions of others isn’t good, it isn’t, per that supposedly holy book itself.

    “I am only trying to help any one who is interested in considering the things of God.” Not quite. You are trying to convince others that your version of Christianity is the only true one and using willful ignorance and false words to do so.

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  3. Hi, Vel:

    I worried when I didn’t hear from you last week. Obviously, you and I disagree. And I didn’t forget about Exodus. I thought you really meant the census story! But it’s nice to know that you’re well.

    I’m not intentionally Playing with your blog post name. I guess I’m just forgetful.

    CultureClayBlog

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