Tolerating Moral Differences

The Bible has an interesting take on tolerating moral differences. After forty years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites were a force with which to be reckoned, and constituted a formidable nation in their own right. Ready to enter and take possession of the land of Canaan, God instructs them to attack and destroy the local tribes of Canaan before establishing their settlements. Why?

Because, as God informs the Israelites, the Canaanites “burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods”(Deut 12:31).

But, while God detests child sacrifice, His command has nothing to do with ridding the world of this practice! Rather, He is unwilling to have His people live among the Canaanites and yet tolerate child sacrifice. Thus, we read in Deut 20:17-18, that God commands the Israelites to annihilate everyone in Canaan “so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD your God.”

God’s fear was that by coexisting with a culture that engaged in such practices, the Israelites would inevitably begin to worship the Canaanite gods.

Molek (Masoretic מֹלֶךְ) is the Biblical name of a Canaanite god or possibly an ancient form of propitiatory child sacrifice by parents as sacrifice for the deity.

Molekh (Masoretic מֹלֶךְ) is the Biblical name of a Canaanite god or possibly an ancient form of propitiatory child sacrifice by parents as sacrifice for the deity.

Child sacrifice to the god Molekh was an important moral obligation for the people of Canaan. So important, in fact, that when Joshua offered peace to any city that would give up the practice, all but one city refused the peace offering (Joshua 11:18-19). In offering peace, Joshua was not abrogating God’s command. He was executing God’s intentions. As God explained (see above), His purpose was to protect the Israelites from the temptation to worship Molekh. The intent of God’s command was to remove the temptation that tolerance encourages and implicitly supports.

tolerance-not-christian-virtueThe tolerance of moral diversity is simply not a Judeo-Christian value. So, are Jews and Christians then to murder those whose moral values differ from theirs? Of course not. As did Joshua, we are to seek God’s intentions which, throughout the Holy Scriptures, requires the exercise of critical thought and reasoned judgment. We are not, as many literalists would have it, to lose ourselves in the forest because all we see are trees.

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The Walls of Jerusalem

The rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, argued Nehemiah, would demonstrate God’s blessing upon His people. Thus, Nehemiah, having been put in charge of Jerusalem, understood that he bore a responsibility to God to rebuild the wall.

nehemiah-directs-the-rebuilding-of-jerusalem-s-walls-in-443-bc

Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem ca 443 BC

By the end of Chapter 3, the wall had been completed. According to the narrative, God led Nehemiah to work on the walls, no less than he had led Ezra to work on the temple.  We learn from this that both the sacred and the secular were necessary to fulfill God’s plan to restore the nation of Israel. If the walls were unfinished, the temple would have never been finished. Both were necessary.

The reason for this is easy to understand. Without a wall, no city in the ancient Near East was safe from bandits, gangs and wild animals – even though the empire might be at peace. The more economically and culturally developed a city was, the greater the value of things in the city, and the greater the need for the wall. The temple, with its rich decorations, would have been particularly at risk. Practically speaking, no wall means no city, and no city means no temple.

In Leviticus 19:34, God commands that

The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This verse is often cited by Christians who would advocate for open borders. But, that’s not the end of the story. First of all, foreigners who lived with the Israelites or within Israelite communities were required to live as their hosts lived, including participating in the Israelite ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations. In other words, to remain within the community and be treated as a native, the alien must adopt and live by Israeli values. In other words, only the alien who is willing to live by their host’s customs were to be permitted to dwell within the community (Exodus 12:49, Leviticus 24:16, 22).

The biblical argument for the U.S. to open her borders is compelling only insofar as the immigrants agree to adopt American values. Yes, they can retain the customs of their culture but only so long as those customs are not opposed to American values.

The Pope and other open-border advocates are insisting that we accept aliens who are unwilling to abide by our laws AND behave according to our customs. Were we to accommodate aliens to enter the country and not abide by our laws, as the Pope and other open-border Christians advocate, we would be breaking faith with the biblical narrative.

Now, go and study

 

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The Expulsion of Adam and Eve

adam-eve-expelled

The article at this link (PDF File) presents an argument against the most widely accepted reason for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, i.e., the disobeyed God and we punished by exile from Eden.

Truth be told, the scriptural evidence for this conclusion is pretty sparse. A better understanding arises from intertextual references for “the knowledge of good and bad” (hadda’at tov vara) that reveal that this phrase is a figure of speech symbolizing the sexual awareness acquired at the onset of puberty. Used in this way, hadda’at tov vara is seen as a plot device to show that the expulsion was necessary because the existence of procreative immortal beings within the confines of the Garden would result in disastrous overpopulation.

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Language Fluency

Here’s an interesting article about myths of language fluency.

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