Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ramblin' Man: Quivering Scriptures

I'm gonna be all over the place in a short amount of time. QF (as an example in a larger point being made), presupposition, the Old Testament God, the pitfalls of making the OT prescriptive, fungelical rationalizations, maybe more. We'll see when we get there.

We all know that Quiverfull, an entire theology, has been built upon this Old Testament passage from Psalm 127...

3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
      they are a reward from him.
 4 Children born to a young man
      are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
 5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
      He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

There's no new ground there. We've been over it before.

QF adherents and proponents are extremely reliant on OT texts - particularly the Christian homeschooling movement and PeripheralVision Forum types. It's been a while since I've read it, but most of VF's mission statement and biblical tenets of patriarchy are supported from OT text, if I'm recalling correctly.

The passage above has to be taken waaaaay out of context to support the idea that "God controls the womb" and you should have faith for as many children as God sends even if your ovaries and uterus have to go nuclear. But they'd suggest that the instruction is clearly there. This is one of the biggest downfalls of presupposition (and "biblical worldviews" in general) - reaching a conclusion before you examine the evidence, rejecting any evidence that opposes your conclusion (such as science, and even worse, common sense), and twisting neutral evidence to "support" your conclusion. Some even use Psalm 127 to support pro-life views. Nothing wrong with being pro-life. I'm pro-life. But the Psalms aren't a great place to support either Quiverfull OR pro-life views.

Just a few chapters over, in Psalm 137, we find this...

8 O Babylon, you will be destroyed.
      Happy is the one who pays you back
      for what you have done to us.
 9 Happy is the one who takes your babies
      and smashes them against the rocks!

Kinda hard to gloss over that one. If I were to take that verse and approach a group of fundamentalists with it, I'd probably get everything from the Rationalization Olympics to "They deserved God's wrath!" Really? Even the little ones? The babies?

Maybe, just maybe, our Christianity shouldn't be based on OT passages, written to Holy Spirit-less people by sometimes obviously quite vengeful people, and which often convey an image of a God that's pretty dark and complicated, sometimes jealous, and to a casual (or not so casual) observer perhaps even petty.

Elsewhere in the OT, we find similar passages, like this one from Ezekial 9...

5 Then I heard the Lord say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! 6 Kill them all—old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin right here at the Temple.” So they began by killing the seventy leaders.
 7 “Defile the Temple!” the Lord commanded. “Fill its courtyards with corpses. Go!” So they went and began killing throughout the city.

Kinda flips the modern evangelical idea of the "age of accountability" entirely over, doesn't it? No mercy. No pity. Kill the children.

My hope is that even as much of the OT writings were inspired, they've got ample human fingerprints all over them - humanity misunderstanding and misrepresenting God, much as I believe movements like Gothardism, IFB, Christian homeschooling, and PeripheralVision Forum do today. People have always been, and ever will be, people. Although I believe it is, I don't know that my hope is accurate. I arrive at my hope through faith that Christ is the personification of the genuine nature of God - speaking words of condemnation only to the religious addicts and snakes. I'm not a "New Testament Christian", as the title itself is stupid. There were no Christians of ANY flavor prior to the events of the New Testament, and frankly, most people who claim to be New Testament Christians are more Paultians than anything - and I'm not always comfortable with the picture Paul painted of God, realizing that he wrote with the same kind of cultural bias that we would if we were composing the bible today, and he had no idea he was writing part of "the bible". I guess all of this is one reason I've always been partial to the Book of the Secrets of Enoch. It portrays an image of an awesome, majestic, powerful God whose main concern is His creation being decent to each other, taking care of each other, and loving each other.

Here's another example from Jeremiah 48...

10 Cursed are those who refuse to do the Lord’s work,
      who hold back their swords from shedding blood!

Seriously? Cursed for not wanting to kill people mercilessly? Lord knows that if anyone on this earth has a case for revenge, I do, and there are moments where it still probably wouldn't be good for me to meet certain people in a back alley, but as much as I loathe everything about the type of people my former future in-laws are, the way they live their sociopathic faith, all the needless turmoil and pain they introduced into my life, I don't have a thirst for their blood. Yes, I want them to have a reckoning before God (I'd buy a ticket to that one), but not so I can see them punished. I just want to hear them say "I was wrong and I'm sorry" and genuinely mean it. I want to see the realization of the gravity of what they did in their faces. But, I don't want their blood, and I don't want God to want their blood, either.

The OT God doesn't really give me the warm fuzzies. Or at least the God portrayed by the men who wrote the books in the OT.

I see two main problems in all of this... 

1) I was once told by a relative of some well-known P/QFers that (paraphrased) "they envision a utopia where everything is governed by biblical law". Yikes. I say "yikes" because being governed by "biblical law" negates Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (the most wholesome parts of the canon), and because the ugly scriptures above are the consequence of the infringement of biblical law. If those nuts ever did actually take over, it'd suck to be you or me. We might be on the business end of one of their swords, or have our babies' heads dashed against rocks. I mean, really, if you're gonna make the OT literal and prescriptive, and follow "biblical law", why not?

2) The remarkable propensity for mainstream Christians to totally gloss over this kind of scripture, to rationalize it away, or to go to the other extreme, embrace it, and promote what is essentially one angry-assed version of God. It's especially bad coming from those who refuse to see the biblical canon as anything other than "God's Word", complete and thorough, every syllable of every word breathed directly from His lips.

My advice to group 2: Reasonable people respect "I don't know" a heck of a lot more than they respect rationalization. There's a great deal of the "Worship me or die!" vibe in the OT. It might be in the best interest of our faith to consider that maybe the OT writers didn't always "get" God...

...and neither do we.


  1. This past year and a half, I have come to see the bible in a whole new way. I so appreciate your take on it.

  2. Excellent writing, Lewis. It can't be that you and I are the only people coming to these conclusions. I totally and completely understand where you are coming from. I love your phrase 'bibliolatry' because it is so succint.

    I was also taught that Jesus was the personification of God. God makes it plain on the Mount of Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah knew God, but Jesus was the One to whom we owe our attention and obedience. Jesus is the beloved Son that the Father commanded us to "hear". He clearly shut down Peter's idea that the law and the prophets were on the same level as the life and words of Jesus Christ.

    Jesus is worth following. Paul is not. Moses is not. David is not. None of the lesser prophets and scribes were equal to Jesus either. Fundamentalism came up with this false doctrine, that since Jesus is the Logos made flesh, and we call this collection of writings the Word of God, then the whole Bible = Jesus. God himself however, refutes that logic with a cloud of glory and a voice from heaven. I am going with the testimony of God over the doctrines of men.

    Interestingly, the pastor who later turned out to be such a jerk, gave an early clue. He said once, out of nowhere as far as I'm concerned but it must have been relevant to what he was reading I guess, that he DID NOT TRUST PEOPLE WHO ONLY FOCUSED ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST. I was incredulous. How could focusing on the life of Christ be bad?

    I guess because he is a bibliolator. :\

  3. "I don't know" might just be some of the holiest words we can say...and SO seldom said! Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  4. That last line says it all. Well done.

  5. Lewis: "It might be in the best interest of our faith to consider that maybe the OT writers didn't always "get" God...

    ...and neither do we."

    Yea, and Amen. [excuse the Christianese ;) ]

    So many people don't realize that we tend to make God in our image or an image of what we think God should be.
    It is a struggle for all of us, to find who God really is. The danger comes when people think they have God all figured out then impose what they figured out on others.

    Another good post, Lewis.

  6. I take a little issue with lumping the atrocities in the OT with the whole of the OT. There are two threads -- Marcus Borg calls them "conventional wisdom" and "unconventional wisdom" (for more info, see http://www.aportraitofjesus.org/wisdom1.shtml ) -- that run throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Conventional wisdom is just as it sounds. God is on our sides, tradition is imporant, women should submit, know your place, do the right rituals, etc. It is a conservative wisdom. Unconventional wisdom may be strongest in the gospels (as conventional wisdom may be strongest in the pseudopauline epistles), but is present in the Old Testament as well. It is subversive, values social justice, and tears down barriers. "And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt," says Deuteronomy. "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings," says Hosea (whom God had live out a morality play by marrying a prostitute).

  7. More on the importance of "I don't know"... What struck me a while back- and this is no great revelation,-is that the more you dig into the pre-supposition theology-and this can be true in any arena, not just Christianity- is that fear and defensiveness are the driving force. Now, I will always defend Christ- but that's because I love Him, not because He needs me to help Him! After years of observing the quiverful, patriarch, young earth,courtship, Christian dominion people I believe that for many of them, their ENTIRE FAITH is built upon their unproven theories being right. (Makes me think of "My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ..)". I fear that if any chink was found in their fortress of often unfounded notions, that they would perhaps no longer believe in the existence of God Himself.

    Presupposition is something that the more you start looking, the more you find. I have noticed some other out on a limb ideas recently that I'll write about later. All I'm saying is that though I may disagree with ideas of many people on this forum, it's neither here nor there as far as my faith. If I am wrong, it's just that I am wrong! (of course, there are some ideas that I do think are just plain evil and destructive to people, and I'll stand firm on some of those things-fathers owning daughters for one) But I think in particular of the science related stuff here.I've read some authors who,I suspect,would pretty much lose faith if somebody proved them wrong. Also, I know of some families that have abandoned Christ because someone got divorced,got pregnant, ran off with an atheist, etc. etc...

    One of my favorite sayings (paraphrased) is by John Newton... "When I was young, I knew everything...now all I know is that I am a sinner and Christ is my savior." Not a bad idea.

  8. (((hugs))) I can relate with your case of revenge. boy, I feel like my soon to be ex was ripped from me by his parents & timmy boy & there's not a damn thing I can do about that! i have done everything possible to help & i as a result also have all the pain wounds & scars to prove it! but like u I'm not out for blood I give that to god. although, me along with some others who've exited this cult r taking steps to find incriminating evidence for the FBi & IRS to being down the cult leader timmy. my soon ex was brought up & the cult he's in enforces "biblical law" except with timmy boy his "lletters" r the new "biblical law". whose to say timmy boy won't produce a "letter" saying kill everyone who don't believe in him being the prophet for modern day & who don't believe in the letters?! all cult leader r pretty much the same just wrapped in a different package. these cult members woul drink cianide if the prophet Timmy wrote a letter saying do it thu says the lord!

  9. Excuse my ignorance, but who is "timmy boy"?

  10. @Retha...His full name escapes me at the moment, but he's the leader of the "Trumpet of God" cult.

  11. Paul said, "We see through a glass, dimly" in 1 Cor. 13:12. I think that for the Old Testament tribes, the glass was even dimmer. Still, God's light shines through in unexpected places. For instance, Jeremiah 48:10, which Lewis cites above, is about judgment on Moab, and it expresses, I believe, the hatred of self-righteous enemies which are prophesied to come against that tribe-- but they are followed by these remarkable words (God is the speaker): "Therefore I will wail over Moab; for all Moab I cry out. I mourn for the men of Kir Hareseth. I weep for you. . . my heart laments for Moab like a flute. . . " (verses 31 and 36)

    We have to take into account God's accommodation of the cultures with which He interacted. We have to take into account that prophesies are largely poetic and symbolic in nature-- particularly a book like Ezekiel, also cited above, which abounds in symbols and figurative language. We have to take into account that the savagery of the tribal mentality is just as present as the voice of God-- and how to distinguish the two.

    When we do that, we can also hear the heart of the Father Whom Jesus revealed.

  12. QF/P seem to not accept the New Testament or that Christ died for the forgiveness of sins. They are just about legalism. I think ATI/IBLP type QF (certain tv family comes to mind) worship Solomon and his wisdom and sort of throw in other aspects of the Bible to look Christian.

  13. it looks like somebody doesnt understand the bible ,the ot passages in the light of Jesus christ open eye to understanding you think paul preached with nt or ot wake up repent and Jesus may open your eyes if bible is wrong on one part its wrong on all parts i glad satan has not decieved me

  14. That's a very unthinking comment. Know WHY you believe what you believe, or you really believe nothing at all.

  15. it seems as you believe nothing at all, you would remove one part i guess we pick and choose what is ,it seems you have an inner problem with rejection and need to get over it pray the LORD helps you

  16. I'm pretty sure I know who you are, and I'm trying hard to be gracious...

    Just stop. Really.

  17. Anonymous...The next time you tell me you love me, should I believe you?...or should I remember the comment you made at 10:03?

    I'll leave it at that.

  18. @Retha "timmy boy's" name is Speed Timothy Rathbun. He's the cult leader/prophet of my soon to be ex hubs cult called "trumpetcallofgod". Sry I didn't do a gr8 job explaining. the hubs grew up patriarch/semi quiverfull (gothard) & he's been cult hopping his entire life. he grew up under the "biblical law" Lewis speaks of & his so called prophet cult leader has these "thus says the lord" "letters" that they call the new testament a.k.a "biblical law". it's crazy stuff!! I hope that clarifies what I failed to make clear.

    @lewis didn't mean to derail the convo!

  19. Your post describes exactly where I'm at in relation to the Bible. Even though I am actually reading the Bible on my own time for the first time in years, I'm only reading through the New Testament - I really just can't stomach the OT God just now. The lines I've been fed justifying what he commanded then just aren't enough anymore.

    I'm very aware as this decision of mine would be viewed as "creating God in my own image," as I would like him to be instead of accepting him for who he is; many Christians would be so disgusted with me. And yet since this seems to be the only way for me to have a relationship with God, I don't care. I'm approaching God cautiously and thinking through every belief carefully before claiming it as my own. It's slow going, but it's such a satisfaction to me to realiaze that these are my OWN beliefs, not my parents, but mine.

  20. An important post. Very needed.

  21. Everyone picks and chooses from the Bible - or do those calling themselves fundamentalists follow the Jewish laws for kosher food and abstain from wearing clothing made from two kinds of fibre? That is in the Old Testament, too, and the explanations for why some parts of the law (notably about gay people) are supposed to still apply while others don't never made much sense to me.
    I take Thomas Merton's image of God as 'mercy within mercy within mercy,' because it seems to me an adequate summing-up of what Christ was about, and apply that to my Bible. If I am going to pick and choose - and I clearly am - then I want to do my choosing in a way that I hope would be consistent with how God acted when he walked on earth.

  22. I know this isn't really on the main topic of the post, but this:

    "I don't have a thirst for their blood. Yes, I want them to have a reckoning before God (I'd buy a ticket to that one), but not so I can see them punished. I just want to hear them say "I was wrong and I'm sorry" and genuinely mean it. I want to see the realization of the gravity of what they did in their faces."

    This is really good and really makes sense to me. This is exactly how I felt about my ex. Long story short, I dated a patriarse in the making for two years and it really kinda messed with my head, especially once I started to doubt my faith and he ended up deciding this was sinful. Then I broke up with him and I said one or two things that I suppose sounded a little too liberal to him and he told everyone in his prayer-letter that, basically, I was no longer a Christian and everyone should pray for my soul.

    And as I was dealing with the anger I ran across an article in Christianity Today by Miroslav Volf and it described just exactly the kind of scenario you just talked about there. The Great White Throne Judgment (as the dispensationalists call it) being, instead of a who's-in-who's-out, a sort of civil court, where God as judge gives us the truth about who has wronged us and who we have wronged, and how. Where people are made to face what they've done to each other. He imagined it followed by the great heavenly reconciliation service. (Which, as someone who went through the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia, he understood the difficulty of.) I guess the whole thing's a bit like a heavenly Truth and Reconciliation meeting. I wish I could find the article, but any way IIRC he had some pretty good biblical basis for his view of what the judgment really meant. The reconciliation part was just common sense.

    That spoke to me so much. Helped me to forgive, really; the thought that forgiveness, and not wanting him punished, didn't mean that I wouldn't get justice someday, that I wouldn't get God telling him exactly what he put me through and why it was wrong. Because you want that SO much. I think there's something about dealing with people who insist so strongly that they are right and *you're* the sinner, that makes you want that even more.

    Oddly enough I've never run across anyone else saying this exact thing before. I kinda wondered if I was the only one.

    1. So, in case it wasn't clear, what I mean is: I believe this is something God wants to give us. I pray that you *will* see that day, and see the repentance too.