Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Pastoral Yogi-ism of the Day

Though I am a diehard member of the Red Sox nation, I must confess I have always had a soft spot in my heart for that master of the malaprop-- Yogi Berra. And so, in an 'ecumenical' gesture I offer the following Yogi-ism for today:

"Always go to other peoples funerals, because you will want them to come to yours as well, later."


agfootballa99 said...

Hey Dr Witherington.....I was wondering if you might be able to help me with something. I understand how busy you are, but a friend of mine is doing philosophical battle with an atheist and could really use your help. I know this may not be the best venue for this, but here are some of the statements that are being made to my friend about the Christian God:

I guess the definition of love is a pretty subjective one. A few things I would throw around are:

Selflessness towards another
Passionately caring for another
Wanting what's best for another, including his or her well-being and happiness, regardless of how that affects you

I'm not saying that these three things are everything that love entails, but I think it is a solid foundation that both encompasses the meaning of love sufficiently and that we can all agree on it to some degree. Certainly there are other aspects of love, but I think these are enough to have a logical discussion about it.

A person can practically open the Old Testament blindfolded and see God not holding up his end of the bargain on any of these three features of love.

Homosexuality is a perfect example. The Old Testament instructs us to stone homosexuals. Why? Because it is apparently an abomination to God. God is obviously not being selfless, but rather entirely jealous. Why would he care what homosexuals did together as long as they both consented? God is obviously not caring for these individuals, because letting them be who they are is surely better than being stoned to death. And obviously, the well-being of these people is directly tied to their capacity to live and breathe--a stone through the skull is not generally conducive to well-being and happiness. But again, what does God have to lose from this situation? He defined what is and what is not sin. If God wanted to he could have said that winking with your left eye is a sin. He could have just as easily said that homosexuality is not a sin, but instead he thought that death was a better solution. Is this a loving God?

Or look at slavery in the Bible. In both the New and Old Testament, slavery is both condoned and mandated. Both Testaments even go so far as to say how slaves can be beaten!

Slavery is never love. This is simple. Beating slaves so that it takes them two days to get off the ground is just unthinkable. Would an omniscient and all-loving God really say that we should take slaves and if they act up we can beat them so badly that they can't even get off the ground for two days? The answer is obviously no.

The entire Bible is littered with commands to kill people for no good reason at all. These are just a few of the people that God thinks deserve to die: people who don't listen to priests (Deuteronomy 17:12), witches (Exodus 22:17), homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), fortunetellers (Leviticus 20:27), children who hit their parents (Exodus 21:15), children who curse their parents (Leviticus 20:9), adulterers (Leviticus 20:10), fornicators (Leviticus 21:9), unbelievers (2 Chronicles 15:12-13), blasphemers (Leviticus 24:10-16), women who are not virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), false prophets (Zechariah 13:3), followers of other religions (Deuteronomy 13:7-12, Deuteronomy 17:2-5), those who don't keep the sabbath (Exodus 31:12-15), and the list goes on and on. I got bored at this point. Unfortunately, there are many more injunctions to kill for just as silly reasons. If this is love, then I certainly don't have an ounce of love in my life.

Consider the command that we should stone a woman to death if she is raped and did not yell loud enough (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Is this really the most loving thing that we could do for her? Is this even slightly love? Is this any good for her well-being and happiness? Is this really selfless? Obviously and resoundingly, no.

Honestly though, all you have to do to realize this is to open up the Bible to a random page. I could spend years listing the gross inadequacy of the God of the Bible's morality, but all you really have to do is open the book and take a look for yourself. ;)

As an addendum, I just want to talk about the New Testament for a moment. Christians will probably say, "but God is love! He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price for our sins! This is the epitome of love!"

I just can't buy into that. Who is God saving us from? Himself! Who thought up the punishment that would follow our disbelief? He did!

Imagine that a man walks up to you, puts a gun to your head and says, "give me all of your money or you die." Supposing that you refuse, would any court acquit your killer because he gave you a "free choice"? Would he deserve our praise and worship if, after he put the gun to your head, he decided to spare your life? Of course not! He was merely removing the threat that he imposed on you unasked and unwarranted. But this is precisely what the God of the Bible does.

Is this love? I certainly don't think it is.

Unknown said...

I saw that yogi berra quote on Jeopardy today. Were you watching Jeopardy today? Just wondering.

John Farrell said...

A diehard member of RS nation? You never know where you'll find a fellow fan in the blog world.

Cheers me up!

Brigitte said...

"Selflessness towards another
Passionately caring for another
Wanting what's best for another, including his or her well-being and happiness, regardless of how that affects you."

"Is this love? I certainly don't think it is."

ANYONE who has been a parent, especially into the teen and young adult years, knows EXACTLY how THIS is love. And how this love gets thrown back into your face, sometimes. Other people think you are "overdoing" it, being "overprotective", "controlling", "pushing people away", "worry too much", "have lived too conservatively to understand others". People who know nothing and care little about your kids, think they have a right to judge you for worrying about them and trying to show them the way. (These are nowadays called "toxic parents", that is the ones that undermine other people's parenting, because they themselves maintain few morals)

There is much benefit to a sexually controlled life and other items of clean living. It is meant for love and order. Of course, some of the items in the OT law strike us as medieval and backward. But just compare this with what was going on in other cultures, or cultures without rule of law. It will make it look positively enlightened.

Slavery is not mandated in the Bible, rather it is regulated, such as Jesus later talks about divorce. Because of the hardness of your hearts some of this stuff goes on, but really you should not be divorcing, at all. But that would be too strict for our atheist. He would not see the protection of the law in it.

Luther explained the proper and the alien work of a loving God, as parent. The parent loves completely and sacrificially, that is the proper work, but he must needs also control and punish. That is the alien work.

Funny, how there is always these paradoxes in everything. But so it is.

James Gibson said...

May I humbly suggest we not feed a troll? agfootballa99's comments have nothing to do with the subject of BW's original post and are obviously intended as a form of internet SPAM. Let's not legitimize such persons by engaging them in conversation, however tempting it might be to do so.

Now, back to the subject at hand. I have a hard time deciding my favorite "Berra-ism." If I had to make a choice, it would probably be "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." You can get some good sermon material from that one.

Brigitte said...

Thanks James Gibson.

Shawn Brace said...

Wow! A die-hard Red Sox fan, huh?? My appreciation for you just increased ten-fold.

Shawn Brace said...

By the way, did you know that you can get a "Clergy Pass" which allows any member of the clergy to attend any Red Sox game for $10 (standing room only)? I realize you're in Kentucky, but you could probably get one, too.