Sunday, August 26, 2012

Email correspondence with dad about suffering.

(My posts are in blue, his fuchsia)



Excerpt from a book I'm reading I thought you would enjoy. (Long but a good read)

I'm really not sure how much to post, but if you are interested I can send you the entire book, do note though that I haven't finished the book yet. I was just reading it earlier and made a mental note to send you a chunk of it.

Easier said than done.

In movies they say it's 5% picture, 20% sound, and 75% editing. I believe that, choosing what NOT to include is important because you know the audience doesn't have all day...

But you don't want to just include what you want to show either because who knows if it'll have the same impact without proper context. I'll do my best here...

Oh and trust me on this. I know that my endorsement has value ONLY if I recommend appropriate things. I truly believe you will at the very least find this interesting.


The modern philosophical problem of theodicy, which has been
with us since the Enlightenment, is how we can imagine that God
exists given such senseless pain and suffering. For ancient peoples,
however, there was never, or almost never, a question of whether
God (or the gods) actually existed. The question was how to explain
God’s   (or   the   gods’) relationship to people given the state of the
world. Given the fact—which almost every ancient person took as a
fact—that God is both above the world and involved with it, how
can one explain the corollary fact that people suffer?

   Many of the biblical authors were concerned with this question—
even obsessed with it. From Genesis to Revelation, biblical
writers grapple with this issue, discuss it, agonize over it. A very
large portion of the Bible is devoted to dealing with it. If God has
chosen the Jews—or (also? alternatively?) the Christians—to be his
people, why do they experience such horrible suffering? It is true that  
there was nothing in the ancient world quite like the Holocaust.
That required the technological “advances” of modernity: the
ability to transport millions by rail and kill thousands by gas and
incinerate hundreds in specially built crematoria. But there were
slaughters aplenty in the ancient world and wretched suffering of
all kinds caused by all manner of circumstances: military defeat,
cruelty to POW’s, and torture; drought, famine, pestilence, epidemic
birth defects, infant mortality, infanticide; and on and on.

   When these things happened, how did ancient authors explain

 One of their most common explanations—it fills many pages of
the Hebrew Bible—may seem simplistic, repugnant, backward, or
just dead-wrong to many modern people. It is that people suffer
because God wants them to suffer. And why does God want them
to suffer? Because they have disobeyed him and he is punishing
them. The ancient Israelites had a healthy sense of the power of
God, and many of them were convinced that nothing happens in
this world unless God has done it. If God’s people are suffering, it is
because he is angry with them for not behaving in the ways they
should. Suffering comes as a punishment for sin.

Edit for length. (It's hard to edit any of this out but I don't think you want me just pasting the whole chapter...)

If God is the powerful creator, and if he has chosen
Israel and promised them success and prosperity, how is one to ex-
plain the fact that Israel suffers? Eventually the northern kingdom
was utterly destroyed by a foreign nation. How could that be, if
God had chosen them to be his people? In another 150 years the
southern kingdom was destroyed as well. Why did God not protect
and defend it as he had promised?

   These were questions naturally asked, fervently asked, by
many of the people of Israel. The most resounding answer to the
question came from a group of thinkers known as the prophets. To
a person, the prophets maintained that Israel’s national sufferings
came because it had disobeyed God, and it was suffering as a punishment.
The God of Israel was not only a God of mercy, he was
also a God of wrath, and when the nation sinned, it paid the price.

Introduction to the Prophets

The writings of the prophets are among the most misunderstood
parts of the Bible today, in no small measure because they are commonly
read out of context.Many people today, especially conservative
Christians, read the prophets as if they were crystal-ball
gazers predicting events that are yet to transpire in our own time,
more than two thousand years removed from when the prophets
were actually speaking. This is a completely egocentric approach to
the Bible (it’s all about ME!). But the biblical writers had their own
contexts and, as a result, their own agendas. And those contexts and
agendas are not ours. The prophets were not concerned about us;
they were concerned about themselves and the people of God living
in their own time. It is no wonder that most people who read the
prophets this way (they’ve predicted the conflict in the Middle East!
they foresaw Saddam Hussein! They tell us about Armageddon!)
simply choose to read one or another verse or passage in isolation,
and do not read the prophets themselves in their entirety. When the
prophets are read from beginning to end, it is clear that they are
writing for their own times. They often, in fact, tell us exactly when
they were writing—for example, under what king(s)—so that their
readers can understand the historical situation they were so intent
on addressing.

What makes a prophet? In the Hebrew Bible there are, roughly
speaking, two kinds of prophets. Some prophets—probably   the
majority, historically—delivered “the word of God” orally. That is,
they were spokespersons for God the ones who communicated
(their understanding of) God’s message to his people, to let them
know what God wanted them to do or how God wanted them to
act—in particular, how they needed to change their ways in order
to stand in God’s good favor (see, e.g., 1 Samuel 9; 2 Samuel 12).
Other prophets—these are the ones who are more familiar to us
today—were writing prophets, spokespersons for God whose (oral)
proclamations were also written down, on the ancient equivalent of
paper. The writings of some of the ancient Israelite prophets later
became part of the Bible. In English translations of the Bible they
are divided into the “major” prophets, the well-known figures of
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the “minor” prophets. This differentiation
is not made to suggest that some prophets are more important 
 than others but rather to indicate which writings are
longer (“major”) than others (“minor”). The twelve minor prophets
are somewhat less well known, but many of them deliver powerful
messages:  Hosea, Joel,  Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

 What ties all these prophets together is that they were delivering
God’s message, speaking God’s word, as they understood  it,  to
God’s people. They saw themselves, and (some) others saw them, as
the mouthpieces of God. In particular, they were delivering God’s
message to people in concrete situations, telling them what, in God’s
view, they were doing wrong, what they needed to do right, how
they needed to change, and what would happen if they refused.
This matter of “what would happen if they refused” is the full
extent of the “predictions” made by the prophets. They were not
speaking about what would happen in the long term, thousands of
years after their own day. They were speaking to living people of
their own time and telling them what God wanted them to do and
what he would do to them if they failed to obey.

 As a rule, the prophets believed there were dire consequences for
not following their instructions, given by God. For them God was
sovereign over his people and was bound and determined to see
that they behaved properly. If they did not he would  punish
them—as he had punished them before. He would cause drought,
famine, economic hardship, political setbacks, and military defeat.
Most of all, military defeat. The God who destroyed the Egyptian
armies when he delivered his people out of slavery would destroy
them if they did not behave as his people. For the prophets, then,
the setbacks the people experienced, many of the hardships they
endured, many of the miseries they suffered, came directly from
God, as a punishment for their sins and in an effort to get them to
reform. (As we will see later, the prophets also thought that human
beings themselves were often to blame for the suffering of others, as
the rich and powerful, for example, oppressed the poor and power-
less: it was precisely for such sins that God had determined to
punish the nation.)

   Most of the writing prophets were producing their work around
the time of the two great disasters experienced by ancient Israel: the
destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in the eighth
century BCE and the destruction of the south by the Babylonians in
the sixth.To explore further the specific burdens of these authors,
here I will simply highlight the message of several of them. Those I
have chosen are representative of the views found in the others, but
they present their messages of sin and punishment in particularly
graphic and memorable terms.

Amos of Tekoa

One of the clearest portrayals of the “prophetic view” of the relationship
of sin and suffering comes in one of the gems of the
Hebrew Bible, the book of Amos.We learn little about the man
Amos himself from the book, and he is not mentioned in any other
book of the Bible. What he tells us is that he was from the southern
part of the land—that is, from the country of Judah—from the
small village of Tekoa in the hills south of Jerusalem (1:1). He twice
mentions that he was a shepherd (1:1; 7:14) and a farmer—one who
tended sycamore trees (7:14). It has often been thought, based on his
occupation, that he was from the Judean lower class; but given the
fact that he was literate and obviously trained rhetorically, he may
well have been a relatively prosperous landowner with flocks of his
own. He was, in any event, no champion of the rich upper classes;
on the contrary, much of his book is directed against those who had
acquired wealth at the expense of the poor. It was because of the
abuses of the well-to-do, he believed, that judgment was soon to
come to Israel. It was against the north in particular that Amos
spoke his prophecies, traveling up from his southern clime to
announce God’s judgment on the kingdom.

   The preface to Amos’s book (1:1) indicates that his prophetic
ministry was undertaken when Uzziah was king of the northern
kingdom (783–742 BCE) and Jeroboam was king of the south
(786–746 BCE). This was a relatively calm and peaceful time in the
life of the divided kingdom. Neither the large foreign empire to the
south—Egypt—nor the larger empire to the northeast—Assyria—
was an immediate threat to the tranquility of the peoples living in
the “promised land.” But that was soon to change. Amos predicted
that God would raise up a kingdom to oppose his people because
they had violated his will and broken his covenant. In the future, he
contended, lay military defeat and disaster. As it turned out, he was
right.Some twenty years after Uzziah’s peaceful reign, Assyria flexed
its muscles and invaded, destroying the northern kingdom
and dispersing its people. At the time of Amos’s proclamation,
however, his dire predictions may well have seemed unnecessarily
bleak, as life was relatively good for those living in the land, especially
for those who had prospered during the time of peace.

   Amos begins his prophecies on a note that will characterize his
entire book, uttering fearful predictions of destruction for Israel’s
neighbors, destruction to be brought by God as a punishment for their
sins.18 Thus, at the outset, comes a prophecy against the capital city of
Syria, Damascus, for its destruction of the smaller town of Gilead:

Thus says the Lord: 
   For three transgressions of  
      and for four, I will not revoke  
             the punishment;19 

   because they have threshed Gilead  
      with threshing sledges of iron. 
   So I will send a fire on the house  
             of Hazael, . . . 
   I will break the gate bars of  
      and cut off the inhabitants from  
             the Valley of Aven. (Amos 1:3–4) 

Military defeat (a fire and broken gates) awaits the citizens of
Damascus in exchange for their military exploits. So too with the
Philistine city-state Gaza:

Thus says the Lord: 
   For three transgressions of Gaza,  
      and for four, I will not revoke  
             the punishment; 
because they carried into exile  
             entire communities,          
       to hand them over to Edom. 
   So I will send a fire on the wall of  
       fire that shall devour its  
   I will cut off the inhabitants from  
             Ashdod. (Amos 1:6–8) 

And so it goes. In chapters 1–2 Amos predicts military defeat and
violence in similar terms against seven of Israel’s neighbors. And
one can just imagine his readers dwelling in Israel nodding their
heads in agreement. That’s right! It’s exactly what our wicked
neighbors deserve: God will judge them in the end!

   But then Amos turns the pointing finger on the people of Israel
themselves, and in a rhetorical climax indicates that they too will be
destroyed, with particular vengeance, by the God they thought was
on their side:

Thus says the Lord: 
   For three transgressions of Israel, 
       and for four, I will not revoke  
             the punishment;          
       because they sell the righteous for  
       and the needy for a pair of  
   they who trample the head of the  
             poor into the dust of the  
       and push the afflicted out of the  
father and son go in to the same  
       so that my holy name is  
             profaned. . . .
   So, I will press you down in your  
       just as a cart presses down  
       when it is full of sheaves.  
   Flight shall perish from the swift, 
       and the strong shall not retain  
             their strength, 
       nor shall the mighty save their  
   those who handle the bow shall  
             not stand,       
       and those who are swift of foot  
             shall not save themselves,  
       nor shall those who ride horses  
             save their lives;       
   and those who are stout of heart  
             among the mighty            
       shall flee away naked in that  
   says the Lord. (Amos 2:6–16) 

      The sins of God’s own people, Israel, will lead to military defeat.
These sins are both social and what we might call religious. Socially,
the people have oppressed the poor and needy; and they have broken
the law God has given in flagrant ways (father and son having sex
with the same woman; Leviticus 18:15, 20:12). As Amos goes on to
indicate, these sins are particularly acute because Israel was to be
God’s chosen people; therefore, their punishment will be all the more
extreme: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:1). Moreover, the
nature of this punishment is spelled out in clear terms: “An adversary
shall surround the land and strip you of your defense; and your
strongholds shall be plundered” (3:11). For Amos, this future military
disaster and political nightmare is not simply an unfortunate outcome
of human history: it is the plan of God, as God himself has decreed the
future catastrophe. In a particularly memorable passage Amos presses
home the point by stringing together a number of rhetorical
questions, all of which are to be answered with a resounding “no!”

 Do two walk together  
       unless they have made an  

   Does a lion roar in the forest,  
       when it has no prey? 

   Does a young lion cry out from  
             its den,     
       if it has caught nothing? 

   Does a bird fall into a snare on the  
       when there is no trap for it? 

   Does a snare spring up from the  
       when it has taken nothing? 

   Is a trumpet blown in a city,  
       and the people are not afraid? 

   Does disaster befall a city,  
       unless the Lord has done it? (Amos 3:3–6) 

 The reader is compelled by the rhetoric of the passage to answer
no to the final question as well. The only reason disaster comes is
that the Lord himself brings it. This may sound severe, but it is
consistent, according to Amos, with the way God has historically
dealt with his people. In another powerful passage Amos claims
that God has sent all sorts of natural disasters on his people in order
to compel them to return to him and his ways. But they never
heeded his voice and never returned. And so God will subject them
to a final judgment. Where did the famine, drought, blight, pestilence,
and destruction that have plagued Israel come from? According to
 Amos, they came from God as a punishment for sin and
an incentive for repentance


 One of Amos’s subsidiary messages is that it is only by proper
behavior—not by cultic observation—that the people of Israel can
be restored to a right standing before God. And so he speaks a word
from the Lord:

   I hate, I despise your festivals, 
       and I take no delight in your  
             solemn assemblies. 
   Even though you offer to me your  
             burnt offerings and grain  
       I will not accept them; . . . 
   Take away from me the noise of  
             your songs; 
       I will not listen to the melody  
             of your harps. 
 But let justice roll down like  
      and righteousness like an  
             ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21–24) 

Those who think they can be right with God by following the
proper dictates for worship (God himself had commanded them to
observe the festivals and to bring him offerings) without also working
for social justice and fairness are deceived. The people of Israel
have not followed God’s call for right living. Their plights came as
a result. Sin brings the wrath of God, which will eventually lead to
the destruction of the people: “all the sinners of my people shall die
by the sword” (9:10).


Page after page of the prophets’ writings are filled with dire warnings about
how God will inflict pain and suffering on his people for disobedience,
whether through famine, drought, pestilence, economic hardship,
and political upheavals, or, most commonly, through resounding
military defeat. God brings disasters of all kinds, both
to punish his people for their sin and to urge them to return to him.
If they return, the pain will cease; if they don’t, it will get worse.

   Rather than rehearse all the writings of all the prophets, here I
shall briefly discuss the words of two of the most famous, Isaiah
and Jeremiah, both of Jerusalem, so-called major prophets whose
powerful rhetoric continues to make them moving reading two and
a half millennia later. It is important to remember, however, that
they, and all the prophets, were speaking to the people of their own
, instructing them in the word of the Lord, urging them to
return to God, and reciting the dire fate awaiting them should they
fail to do so. Both of these prophets had long ministries of about
forty years; both of them prophesied not against the northern kingdom
but against the south. But their essential message did not differ
significantly from that of their colleagues to the north. God’s people
had departed from his ways and fearful suffering was in
store for them as a result. God, for them, was a God who punishes.
Consider the powerful lament of Isaiah’s opening chapter:

Ah, sinful nation, 
      people laden with iniquity, 
   offspring who do evil, 
      children who deal corruptly, 
   who have forsaken the Lord, 
       who have despised the Holy  
             One of Israel, 
       who are utterly estranged! 
   Why do you seek further beatings, 
      Why do you continue to rebel? . . . 
 Your country lies desolate, 
      your cities are burned with fire; 
   in your very presence 
      aliens devour your land; 
      it is desolate, as overthrown by  
            foreigners. . . 
   If the Lord of hosts 
      had not left us a few survivors, 
   we would have been like Sodom, 
      and become like Gomorrah. (Isa. 1:4–9) 

One can hardly read this without thinking of that fierce cartoon
with   the   caption   “Beatings   will   continue   until   morale   improves.”
That indeed is Isaiah’s message, in words reminiscent of Hosea:

   How the faithful city [i.e., Jerusalem] 
      has become a whore! 
      She that was full of justice, 
   righteousness lodged in her— 
      but now murderers! . . . 
   Your princes are rebels 
      and companions of thieves. 
   Everyone loves a bribe 
      and runs after gifts. 
   They do not defend the orphan, 
      and the widow’s cause does not  
            come before them. 
   Therefore says the Sovereign, the  
            Lord of hosts, the Mighty  
            One of Israel: 
   Ah, I will pour out my wrath on  
            my enemies, 
      and avenge myself on my foes! 
   I will turn my hand against you. (Isa. 1:21–25) 

The people of God have now become the enemy of God. And he
will act accordingly:

   Instead of perfume there will be a
      and instead of sash, a rope. . .
      instead of beauty, shame. 
   Your men shall fall by the sword 
      and your warrior in battle. 
   And her gates shall lament and  
       ravaged, she shall sit upon the  
             ground. (Isa. 3:24–26) 

   In one of the most famous passages of the book, Isaiah recounts a
vision he has had of God himself, “sitting on a throne, high and
lofty” above the Temple (6:1–2). The prophet is commissioned by
God to proclaim his message, a message that the people will reject.
When he asks the Lord how long he is to make this proclamation,
he receives bad news —it is until the whole land is destroyed: “Until
cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without people, and
the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land” (6:11–12). And
what has Judah done that makes it worthy of such judgment? They
have robbed the poor, not cared for the needy, not tended to the
widows and the orphans in distress (10:2–3). God will therefore
send another great power against them for destruction.

   And yet, as we saw with Amos, Isaiah anticipates that God’s
wrath will not burn forever. On the contrary, he will save a
remnant of his people and start again:

   On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the
   house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them,
   but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A
   remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty
   God. . . . For in a very little while my indignation will come to
   an end, and my anger will be directed to their [i.e., the ene-
   my’s] destruction. . . . On that day his burden will be removed
   from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your
   neck. (Isa. 10:20–27)

   More than a century later, a similar message was proclaimed by
Jeremiah, another prophet of Judah who anticipated that God
would destroy the nation for its misdeeds. A foreign power would
march against it and bring terrible destruction:

   I am going to bring upon you 
      a nation from far away,  
             O house of Israel, 
                            says the Lord. 
   It is an enduring nation, 
      it is an ancient nation, 
   a nation whose language you do  
             not know, 
      nor can you understand what  
             they say. . . . 
   They shall eat up your harvest and  
             your food; 
      they shall eat up your sons and  
             your daughters; 
   they shall eat up your flocks  
             and your herds; 
      they shall eat up your vines and  
             your fig trees; 
   they shall destroy with the sword 
      your fortified cities in which  
             you trust. (Jeremiah 5:15–17)  

Jeremiah was quite explicit: the holy city, Jerusalem, would be
destroyed in the coming onslaught. “I will make Jerusalem a heap
of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the towns of Judah a des-
olation without inhabitant” (9:11).25 The resultant suffering for the
inhabitants of the land would not be pleasant:“They shall die of deadly
diseases. They shall not be lamented nor shall they be
buried; they shall become like dung on the surface of the ground.
They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead
bodies shall become food for the birds of the air and for the wild
animals of the earth” (16:4). The siege of Jerusalem by the foreign
armies would lead to unspeakable horrors, as starvation mounted
in the city and people resorted to the worst forms of cannibalism
simply to survive: “I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed
at; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because
of all its disasters. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons
and the flesh of their daughters, and all shall eat the flesh of their
neighbors in the siege, and in the distress with which their enemies
and those who seek their life afflict them” (19:8–9).

   Like his prophetic predecessors, Jeremiah held out hope as well.
If the people would simply return to God, their suffering could be
averted: “Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take
you back and you shall stand before me. . . . And I will make you to
this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you
and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of
the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (15:19–

   The logic of this hope is clear. Suffering comes from God. If his
people will simply return to him, the suffering will end. But if they
refuse, it will intensify until there is a final destruction. Suffering in
this view is not simply an unfortunate set of circumstances driven
by political, economic, social, or military realities. It is what comes
to those who disobey God; it comes as a punishment for sin.


Ok so as you've probably noticed I'm now less just sending little bits, and more just painstakingly copying over most of the book.

A bit of commentary though. Isn't it funny how the crimes God absolutely hated most were Greed, and putting praising him above being a decent person?

It seems all the talking heads in this country want to point the finger at others, when greed is what pisses god off the most. Next is just flat out not being a good person, and thinking worshipping God harder or more publicly will make up for it.

So anyway I should post the conclusions since we've come all this way. If you like all you've read though I'd be happy to send you a copy of the book, and a few others I have by the same author.

End Intermission

An Initial Assessment

What are we to make of the prophetic view of suffering? It is not
simply the view of several lone voices in remote portions of Scripture,
but rather the view attested on page after page by all the
prophets of the Hebrew Bible, major prophets and minor prophets
alike. Moreover, as we will see in the next chapter, the influence of
this view extended well beyond the writings of the prophets. It is
precisely this view that guides the chronologies of what happened
in the nation of Israel in historical books such as Joshua, Judges,
1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. It is a view found in many of
the Psalms. It is comparable in many ways to the view found in
wisdom literature such as the book of Proverbs. This is a view that
permeates the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures. Why do
people suffer? In part, it is because God makes them suffer. It is not
that he merely causes a little discomfort now and then to remind
people that they need to pay more attention to him. He brings
famine, drought, pestilence, war, and destruction. Why do God’s
people starve? Why do they incur dreadful and fatal diseases? Why
are young men maimed and killed in battle? Why are entire cities
laid under siege, enslaved, destroyed? Why are pregnant women
ripped open and children dashed against rocks? To some extent, at
least, it is God who does it. He is punishing his people when they
have gone astray.

I should stress that the prophets themselves never state this as a
universal principle, as a way of explaining  every  instance of suffer -
ing. The prophets, that is, were speaking  only  to their contemporaries
about their specific sufferings. Even so, there is no escaping
the gruesome realities of this view. God sometimes visits judgment
on his own people—especially since they are his own people— because
they have abandoned him and his ways.

What can we say about such a view? On the positive side, this
view takes God and his interactions with the world seriously. The
laws that his people broke, after all, were laws meant to preserve
the welfare of society. They were laws designed to ensure that the
poor were not oppressed, that the needy were not overlooked, that
the weak were not exploited. These were laws as well that dictated
that God be worshiped and served—God alone, not other gods of
other peoples. The prophets taught that adherence to God’s will
would bring divine favor whereas disobedience would lead to hard-
ship—and surely obedience would be better for everyone involved,
especially the poor, needy, and weak. The prophets, in short, were
concerned about issues of real life—poverty, homelessness, injus -
tice, oppression, the uneven distribution of wealth, the apathetic
attitudes of those who have it good toward those who are poor,
helpless, and outcast. On all of these points I resonate deeply with
the prophets and their concerns.

At the same time, there are obvious problems with their point of
view, especially if it is generalized into some kind of universal
principle, as some people have tried to do over the ages. Do we really
want to say that God brings starvation as a punishment for sin? Is
God at fault for the famines in Ethiopia? Does God create military
conflict? Is he to blame for what happened in Bosnia? Does God
bring disease and epidemics? Was he the one who caused the 1918
influenza epidemic that killed thirty million people worldwide? Is
he killing seven thousand people a day with malaria? Has he
created the AIDS crisis?

I don’t think so. Even if one wants to limit the prophetic view to
the “chosen people,” the people of Israel, what are we to say? That
the political and military problems in the Middle East are God’s
way of trying to get Israel to return to him? That he is willing to
sacrifice the lives of women and children in suicide bombings to get
his point across? Even if we limit ourselves to ancient Israel, do we
really want to say that innocent people starved to death (starvation
does not hit just the guilty, after all) as a divine punishment for the
sins of the nation? That the brutal oppression of the Assyrians and
then the Babylonians was really God’s doing, that he urged the
soldiers on as they ripped open pregnant women and dashed little
children against the rocks?

The problem with this view is not only that it is scandalous and
outrageous, but also that it creates both false security and false guilt.
If punishment comes because of sin, and I’m not suffering one bit,
thank you very much, does that make me righteous? More righteous
than my next door neighbor who lost his job, or whose child
was killed in an accident, or whose wife was brutally raped and
murdered? On the other hand, if I am undergoing intense suffering,
is it really because God is punishing me? Am I really to blame
when my child is born with a defect? when the economy takes a
nosedive and I can no longer afford to put food on the table? when
I get cancer?

Surely there must be other explanations for the pain and misery
in the world. And as it turns out, there are other explanations—lots
of them—even within the Bible itself. Before examining these,
however, we should see how the prophetic view of suffering affected
writers who were not prophets but whose books also eventually
came to be seen as part of Scripture.

I'll end this here...

That is the lead up to the next chapter.

And I should point out I skipped a long introduction, and a lot of this chapter, basically the whole first half, and bits of the middle just for pacing.

Anyway hope you enjoyed and if you want to read more just ask. 
 Thank you for sharing. What's the title?

All the Best, 

 I'll just send the whole book. You can use Foxit reader to read it.

Just press "Free Foxit reader Download"

I've been using it for years. It's really better than any other PDF reader out there, but I guess if you have Adobe that works too...

And yes I do have the other books, (Jesus Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus) Although I haven't read them yet.

The guy is a Biblical Scholar of the highest regard.

I'll go ahead and send the other books while I'm at it.   
Hi Cory,

Thank you, but
I would much rather read my Bible than read someone talking about their opinion of it, from a strictly critical vantage point. Most, if not all problems in our society, particularly in the US and the modern world have stemmed from sin and the removal of Biblical values and importance of faith in Christ, Much of this critical thinking started at the university level, where "scholars and professors" injected their abstract thinking into what they truly know nothing about.

From a secular level one cannot understand the supernatural. The carnal mind is enmity with God.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

The book of John is incredible. I highly recommend it...:)

Love Dad

 I'm not sure how to respond to this.

Denial is a hell of a drug I guess. People get dumber as they learn facts, because all the facts are wrong?

I mean, you've already read the bible, you know what it says. What's important is why it says it.

There are problems that it seems you're just ignoring. If you're fine with that, then what can I do? I can't force you to be curious or to want to learn.

I don't accept that there even IS a supernatural level to understand. I've seen literally no evidence. None.

Oh well. That's all I can really say. If you don't want to learn because you think people who have devoted their whole life to this stuff don't know anything...

What can I even say?

I'm sure you can't name ANY other field in which experts know less than casual dabblers...

I wish I could write more but I'm actually very busy I just took a break to write back. Not trying to argue, I just hate how dismissive you can be. It's frustrating. 

I must compliment you and say that you have put quite a bit of time, effort and creativity in your writing. I give you credit for exercising skill and determination to share your views.

I must remind you, (not that I need to) that I am not your project and you are not mine. I am going to choose to take part in life and not sit on the sideline and take shots at the participants.

I love a very real God and a very real Saviour that came to seek those that want to accept him.

God does not need defending.

What one say or believes does not threaten God.

All the Best,

 That's one of three options.

Either you are right, and me (and everyone else) is wrong.

Or I am right and you (and everyone else) is wrong.

Or we and a whole lot of other people, are wrong, and some other group like the Hindu's or American Indian's are right.

Or the fourth option, we are ALL wrong and the truth is something no one has ever even thought of.

It's funny, you are an atheist too. To all but one God. We both think that the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons, Scientologists, Greeks, Romans, Norse, Pagans, Satanists, Various other small cults, various African religions... and others are less than true, but each of those, and a WHOLE lot more have believers that are just as sure they're correct as anyone you, and I say me with the addendum that, I do not consider myself a Gnostic, as I guess you do. You seem to be unable to accept the possibility that you could be wrong. Me on the other hand, I have settled on what I find to be the most accurate answer.

I'm just speaking here, not trying to argue. I don't see how you can even disagree with anything I've said here.

Am I correct in saying that you do not accept that your beliefs could be wrong in any way? That would make you a Gnostic Christian. You are a Christian that claims to know he's correct.

I call myself an Agnostic Atheist. That means I don't think that a single God exists, but I can't claim certainty. It's impossible to disprove a negative, because not being able to find it isn't good enough.

As for your jab, I'm not sitting on the sidelines because I want to be. And I don't take "pot shots".

This is intellectual discussion, metaphors can only go so far. The greatest argument in the world will do nothing against say, a prejudiced mind. I know that it's a pointless endeavor.

You don't think I know that your mind isn't, and has NEVER been open to me or my ideas? I know I'm dismissed immediately. Often angrily. Passionately.

I know my stuff though, and I actually have respect for knowledge and intellectual honesty. I respect critical thinking, I respect formal debate, I respect logic. I avoid circular reasoning, I avoid whenever possible logical fallacies, I don't always prefer the answer I want to hear. And I, above all else honor truth. I have said it before, I don't want to believe false truths, I want actual truth.

If I am some sort of crusader, truth is the flag I fight for.

Ok that was a bit too sappy. I have music on and it made me fade towards the epic. Orchestra's will do that.

I'll end this here.

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