Monday, February 25, 2013

Scripture, Faith, and Obedience

While going through the news feed on my Facebook page, I saw a status update from Free-Thinking Society that said –
 "If you are unliking this page because of the last post, that is a good idea." 

Needless to say I had to see what the hubbub was about and came found this –
People who believe in the Christian god also believe in complete obedience to him to do whatever is commanded. Thank goodness he is a fictional character and not actually going around giving out commands like the one below. Doing what god commands in the senario below is not unlike following an order from Hitler. Just doing what you're told makes you as evil as the one issuing the command for genocide.

"I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” 1 Samuel 15:1-3

While I am sure that these comments will cause some people to unlike that page, but it does bring up an interesting point.  The harshness of the tone is over the top and not really necessary but the questions are good ones. 

Based solely on the quoted passage, one could conclude that God was instructing his followers to take part in genocide.  Now the quote is taken out of context so I'm not sure what else was going on in this scripture.  This is an excellent example of a Bible passage that condones horrific violence on those who disagree with the followers of God.  A passage like this really isn't that different from the passages in the Koran that also condone violence. 

Reading a passage like this does beg a few questions about faith, obedience, and the context and environment from which the scripture was written.  Let's take these one at a time. 

Faith.  Does having faith in a certain religion mean that one must agree with and adhere to all teachings in said religion’s scriptures?  In my mind it does not.  Spiritual faith is not dependent upon religious scriptures.  Faith can be influenced by scriptures but one must remember the context around which the scriptures were written.  More on that in a bit. 

Obedience.  The quoted scripture above specifically instructs followers to partake in the mass destruction and murder of an entire community/country.  Is this kind of obedience required for someone to truly be a part of a religion?  Are passages about killing, lying, and slavery meant to be followed in modern society?  Would a loving God really condone and command these types of actions?  I tend to believe the answer to all three questions is no.  In fact I have serious issues with any religion that teaches blind faith and complete obedience because neither has anything to do with spirituality and everything to do with controlling and manipulating people. 

Environment.  Something that I think is often either forgotten or overlooked is the environment from which a religious text was written.  Understanding the circumstances around the development of religious scriptures is vital in understanding the scriptures themselves.  What does that mean exactly?  Let me use an example that will hopefully not ruffle too many feathers—Norse mythology.  The stories found in Norse mythology are violent and often take place in very cold and harsh parts of the world/universe.  This harshness and violence in these stories is a reflection of the way of life for the Northern Germanic people.  They lived in an exceptionally cold part of the world that required great strength and resilience to survive, thus those qualities were reflected in their mythology and religion.  The same can be said of modern religions.  Islam for example was born out of an incredibly violent time in history and was developed in another harsh environment (this time on the hot side).  The scriptures in the Koran were written for a specific time and environment, as was the Torah, the New Testament, the Vedas, etc.  All of these scriptures tell amazing stories and teach valuable lessons but should not be followed blindly or completely.  Meaning, you shouldn’t do everything that is in these books because some of it is cruel, harsh, illegal, and downright crazy. 

Religious scriptures, like mythology, folklore, and fair tales, teach important life lessons and can provide guidance through difficult times.  They are wonderful tales about the mystic, magical, and extraordinary things in this world and beyond and shine a bright light into the heart and soul of the human spirit, and should always be revered as such. 

Should they be taken word-for-word as literal historical facts?  No. 

Have they been used by those in power to manipulate the masses?  Yes. 

Do people do ridiculous things in their names?  Oh lord yes.

Do they deserve to be belittled and demonized?  No.  The problem isn’t the scriptures, but what people do with and in the name of the scriptures.  Following orders is one thing.  Blindly following them is another.  

1 comment:


    The Israelites spoke against God and Moses, so God sent fiery serpents among them because they sinned and many people of Israel died. (Numbers 21:4-7)

    God gave them a plan to escape death.

    Numbers 21:8-9 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (NKJV)


    1. Not one Israelite said "Looking at the bronze serpent did save me from death, because I was saved the minute I believed in the message of Moses."

    2. Not one Israelite said "I was saved from death by faith alone, and looking at the bronze serpent was just an act of obedience."

    3. Not one Israelite said, "Looking at the serpent of bronze was a testimony of my faith, however, if had no bearing on my sins being forgiven by the Lord and I was saved from death before I looked at the bronze serpent."

    4. Not one Israelite said, " Looking at a serpent of bronze is a work and works cannot saved anyone from death."

    5. Not one Israelite said, "Moses meant that we were to look at the serpent of bronze because we were already saved from death."

    6. Not one Israelite said, " You must look at the serpent of bronze in order to join the local synagogue, however, it has nothing to do with being saved from death."

    7. Not one Israelite said, There are three modes of looking at the serpent of bronze. 1. Looking at the serpent of bronze. 2. Talking about looking at the serpent of bronze. 3. Reading a book about looking at the serpent of bronze.

    8. Not one Israelite said, "Looking at the serpent is an outward sign that we have already been saved from death."

    You notice, that unlike the denominational churches of today, the Israelites did not write down some man-creeds in order to be saved from death from snake bites. They believed the words of Moses, as spoken by the Lord.

    If only men today would simply believe what God says about the terms of pardon under the New Covenant.

    THE TERMS: 1. Faith-John 3:16 2. Repentance-Acts 2:38, Acts 19:3 3. Confession-Romans 10:9 4. Water baptism-Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21