Sunday, April 15, 2007

You Are My Beloved Son (Deuteronomy 13-19)

Moses now turns and rehashes the requirements of the law. It’s similar to before, though I immediately notice two changes. First, there is more time spent on the reason behind the laws. Second, there is more thought given to issues likely to come up in the future – a city that God will establish as the place where they must worship, how kings must rule when they finally have one, and whether God will send another prophet like Moses.

But some things are resolutely consistent, like the warnings against idolatry. Here we run across a passage so severe, so shocking, so uncompromising, that even after everything we’ve seen still causes me to shudder:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you…if your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ … you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Here again we shout: what about love, tolerance, and respect for people’s honest opinions? We are right to do so. But perhaps it should give us pause that the paradigm of love, forgiveness, and compassion himself said,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
The God of Israel, both then and now, insists on being first in the hearts of his people – not to lay an intolerable burden on them – but for their good. Loving the Lord with all your heart is the foundation of everything else, not least the great blessings he wants to bring on them and the world. He is the center of their story and their law.

The story is woven deep within. They are again reminded that, while there are myriads of foods they are allowed to eat, certain things are out of the question. Learning to resist the temptation of forbidden fruit was crucial in the very beginning, and is a constant reminder to them to resist the temptation of forbidden gods. Rather than follow their individual preferences, they are to enjoy the first fruits of their land in the presence of God as they celebrate his works.

The story of Exodus is the center of the law. Debts and slaves are to be released every seven years, as a way of living out in their lives the great release God gave to them as a people. Celebrating it directly is the center of their year, and the most grand of festivals. Even their kings, once they have one, must not see himself as high and lofty, but must recognize that he was once a slave with his brothers. And when they have their own land, it must be filled with justice for all – including foreigners living among them.

Their unique story is the basis of their unique vocation:
You are the sons of the Lord your God. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Here, I cannot help but see in the calling of Israel the face of the one that the Lord set apart as his very own, and sent into the world. He was the king who knew that he was the slave of all, who was obedient to the Father’s commands, and in whose mouth were the words of God – proclaiming freedom for all.

Wonders, I saw your comment on Dispatches. Wow. I'm impressed.

But I am curious, how did you find that blog? It's one of my favorites, so I'm curious how you found it.

Hi Royale,

I think I was directed there by Telic Thoughts, one of my favorites. I like Ed - he's a reasonable and pleasant guy. I'm sure I disagree with him about everything and the kitchen sink, but that's OK.

I do get irritated when he pulls quotes out of one cultural context and lambasts them - what the AFA says to its supporters is meant to be interpreted within a certain framework and of course wont hold up against someone with Ed's assumptions. He was not the intended audience.

But all this is just to say that he gives me pause, because I realize how inclined I am to do the same thing with those I disagree with. He's thoughtful and somewhat fair, as am I, but he can't help but focus only to the failings of his opponents. And am I any different? It's a good blog for me to read. ;-)

Oh, for the rest of you, the blog is Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

I have some questions I wanted to ask you regarding your discussion on Dispathces. For these, can I use any comment thread? Or, is there a particular one? I don't want to hijack this Deuteronomy thread.

I really should create a new topic for this conversation, but I don't really have time at the moment. So we can talk here. ;-)

For starters, do you think ID (intelligent design) is scientifically provable or rather a philosophical inference?

I might post the same question Telic thoughts.

Hmmm - for starters? I'm not being baited, am I? ;-)

I've gone back and forth a bit on Intelligent Design. I think at this point I'm a little disillusioned with some of the key players in the ID movement that I once idolized, because they (not unlike some Christian causes) got caught up in a lot of larger political battles.

But the scientific arguments I find very interesting, and I'm pretty sympathetic to a lot of ID theory. The most interesting to me is the notion of front-loading - that the earliest cells, far from being as simple as possible, had an evolutionary map coded within parts of the genome. Hence, the basic architecture of organisms is preprogrammed, while the details are honed out by natural selection.

So - is it scientifically provable? I mean, I suppose if we could somehow find an early cell, and understand genomics and bioinformatics enough to make heads or tails of things, we could verify the front-loading hypothesis. Similarly, the probabilistic challenges to raw random mutation and natural selection are certainly valid scientific critiques to be refuted or taken on board. Likewise, the presence of evolutionary artifacts in the modern genome give evidence for some common descent, with certainly some apparently haphazard changes sorted out by natural selection.

Of course philosophy informs all of this, and has great influence over which arguments people want to win out.

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