August 7, 2013

The Law Myth – part 1: Generous Oppression

Posted in Religion, Terminology, The Dispensations, The Law tagged , , , , , , , at 12:24 PM by E. M.

A mild over-reaction to the Law

A mild over-reaction to the Law

In the 5th Dispensation, God gave His nation, Israel a volume of commands and instructions collectively called the Law.  The particulars of the Law are very detailed and specific, and Israel’s compliance with them was non-negotiable (they were commands after all).  The Israelites were promised great blessings and prosperity if they obeyed the Law, and severe punishment if they disobeyed.

In the last post we saw that one of the purposes of the Law was to help men understand God’s standards of righteousness and what constitutes sin.  And while there is much in the Law regarding morality, there are also detailed rules on things like personal conduct, property rights, ceremonial procedures, worship instructions, food safely, litigation, hygiene, and medicine.

Many of the commandments of the Law can sound pretty strange and overly restrictive to modern ears, and when filtered through contemporary agnostic perspectives, can lead to misunderstandings about the nature and purpose of the Law.  In this post, I want to address some of the myths that arise from these misunderstandings.

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with an atheist friend about God and the Bible (its funny how atheists claim they don’t believe in God, yet they always want to talk about Him.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus yet I almost never bring him up in casual conversation).

Anyway, as with most discussions I have with atheists, her point was not to gain knowledge, but rather to point out something so illogical or abhorrent about God that it would justify her decision not to believe in Him.  In this case, the discussion veered toward the Law and how “oppressive” it was to women and how it advocated slavery (therefore I must be crazy to believe in God because He’s such an a-hole).

At best, this argument showed that like most atheists, she had barely more than a superficial understanding of the Bible, and was so quick to let her shallow perceptions color her beliefs that she failed to do the due diligence required to truly understand the subject matter (sadly, this is a trait that many Christians share, which is why they have trouble handling these arguments).

Although the Law does have commandments that specifically address women, they are hardly oppressive.  In fact, the Law was revolutionary in the fact that it guaranteed women certain rights that were unheard of in that part of the world during that time.  The Law gave women rights in a divorce, it mandated special care for widows, and allowed women to own land, and it gave women the right to inherit land and property (all without any input from Gloria Steinem).

As for “slavery”, the issue is a matter of contemporary nomenclature.  The slavery mentioned in the Law is not chattel slavery as we think of it today, rather its more like indentured servitude.  For example, if you owed a man a debt that you couldn’t pay, under the Law, you would work for that man and your wages would incrementally relieve the debt.  Once the debt was paid, you’d go free (incidentally, this is the same arrangement you have with your credit card company).

There are many other so called “oppressive” aspects of the Law which, while unprecedented during the era, would be simply considered common sense today.  Under the Law, certain animals are considered “clean” and “unclean”.  This is based on which animals are most likely to carry and cause disease.  God was trying to keep the Israelites healthy, not be a diet Nazi.

People with certain diseases like leprosy or open wounds were considered “unclean”.  The Law requires that they be separated from heath society and sanitized – things that are considered standard procedure for quarantine of communicable diseases and infection treatment to this day.  So if the Law is oppressive, then so is your doctor!

Of course this is all well and good, but all this still begs the question, why did God give the Israelites all these rules as a part of the 5th Dispensation?  If the purpose of the 5th Dispensation is to usher in the advent of the Redeemer, what does Israel get for all their troubles?

Rewards!  If they follow the commandments of the Law, Israel was promised fantastic material prosperity!  Prosperity that would make them the envy of all the other nations in the world.

But again, what does this have to do with the purpose of the 5th Dispensation.  It’s all about Israel’s intended role as God’s ambassador nation.

Here how it was to work, God gave Israel the Law, which gave them the standards to follow that would make them a healthy, equitable, and civilized society.  The Law also gave them ceremonial rules that would memorialize the advent of the Redeemer in advance (more on that in the next post).  As Israel obeyed the Law, they would become wealthy and prosperous.

Other neighboring nations would see their prosperity and say, “hey, how’d you guys manage to get all that stuff?”  This would give Israel the opportunity to tell them about God, the Law, and the Redeemer.

If the neighboring nations submitted to the Law, they too would become prosperous, leading their neighbors to ask about their wealth.  Submission to God’s Law would grow exponentially, and by the time of the advent of the Redeemer, the entire world would be ready for Him, and God could quickly implement His plan.

But there was also a flip side.  You see, God had to set things up so that if Israel disobeyed God’s Law and acted unrighteous and unjustly, they would be cursed as spectacularly as they would have been blessed for obedience.

The reason for the harshness of the curse is they same as the reasoning for the great blessing – They were God’s acknowledged representatives on earth.

If other nations saw Israel acting immorally without any consequence, they would assume that God was ok with their evil behavior.  So God had to punish disobedience severely so that the nations would know that evil was not acceptable to Him.

Sadly, Israel chose the path of disobedience to the Law more often than not.  Thus much of the details of the 5th Dispensation in the Old Testament consists of the sad narrative pattern of Israel screwing up, God punishing them, Israel repenting, God restoring them, and then Israel going right back to screwing up.  Ultimately resulting in the tragic screw-up where they failed to acknowledge the Redeemer and failed the dispensation.

I mentioned before that in addition to the rules regarding health and conduct, the Law contained many commandments that were sacramental in nature – dealing with blood sacrifices, the priesthood, etc.  These rules are often confused for religion, because frankly, they look like religion.  But they actually served a very practical purpose in preparing people for the advent of the Redeemer.  More on this next time.

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October 28, 2012

Know Thy Enemy – Part 5: Giving the Devil His Due

Posted in Government, Satan, Spiritual War tagged , , , , at 7:38 PM by E. M.

SATAN’S ARMY

We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. – 1 John 5:19

Satan’s position toward man is one of antagonism and envy.  When God created Adam, Satan saw more than a new creature in the universe.  He saw a rival.  Although Adam was not created with the same level of angelic power and glory that he had, it was clear to Satan that God held him in a special place.  Adam was created in God’s image. That is a claim that no other created being, including Satan could make. Moreover, God gave Adam dominion over what was once Satan’s.

Not only was part of Satan’s former primordial kingdom on earth given to Adam, his descendants were destined to have all the things that Satan desired before he fell.

This was not a situation that Satan’s pride could bear.  He desired to bring God’s new creation under his own control and thwart man’s destiny. If Satan could take what God gave Adam, AND get man to choose Satan over God – he would achieve a double victory – he’d thwart the Plan of God and get the worship he desired.

When the serpent convinced Eve (and ultimately Adam) into eating the forbidden fruit, Satan achieved more than just the failure of the First Dispensation; he actually used a legal technicality to usurp Adam’s position as the ruler of Earth (does this make Satan the archetype for all lawyers?  It would explain a lot…).

When Adam fell, the world came under the authority of Satan.  And as a result of Original Sin, we are born with his desire – to rebel against God; to be prideful, deceptive, and destructive.

But even with this victory, Satan does not get what he wants.   God gave man something that Satan does not have – free will.  Although man is born with enmity toward God, he does not automatically turn to Satan as an alternative.  Instead, man chooses to go his own way.  In some cases, man may choose to worship Satan directly, but usually man emulates Satan’s rebellious nature by resisting all authority and doing his own will.  So while the world lies under the SWAY of the devil, men still chose to do what they want in defiance to all authority.  In short, Satan wanted worshipers, but instead got a bunch of unruly teenagers

Satan has legal authority over the earth and if he were able to rule it perfectly, it would go a long way towards showing his equality with God.  But with individual humans possessing a nature as rebellious as his own, Satan cannot replicate God’s perfect rule in heaven. The only way to have perfect authority is for all the subjects under your dominion to have a common will or a common goal.

Although individual humans have their own wills, they have something in common with Satan in that their wills are in defiance to God.  Satan uses this to his advantage in trying to create his kingdom on earth.  Satan uses his evil influence to try to get men to unify behind their dark desires and completely extinguish God’s influence from the planet.  Yet Satan has never been able to completely accomplish this because throughout history, there have always been a remnant of humanity who was willing to choose God.

In Genesis 6, all of humanity was totally subdued by evil , but God found one faithful man through which he could salvage humanity in Noah.  After the flood of Noah, man was again united and, committed to evil, and again God found a faithful man in Abraham through whom he could execute His plan .  Israel was God’s chosen people who preserved His Word and will while Godless world empires rose and fell all around them.  After the death and resurrection of Christ, the early church held up the light in darkness. Their existence kept the world from completely succumbing to corruption. Even today, Satan tempts men to get behind causes that attempt to place entire world under a single authority in defiance to God – be it fascism, communism, socialism, environmentalism, capitalism, theocracy, or any other man-centered form of authority. But the presence of the few who decide to choose God prevent this from happening.

As we’ve seen in this post, Satan’s ambitions to grandeur did not end when he got the boot from heaven.  He still wants to rule the universe and be worshipped.  If you think that this is way too big of a job for a single being to carry out (especially one that does not have God’s transcendence and access to information) then you’re right.  Satan has had a LOT of help.  Satan’s co-conspirators consist of powerful beings like himself, as well as powerful and influential men on earth.  Next week we will take a look at the first of Satan’s little helpers – Fallen Angels.

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March 12, 2012

The (Seed) Plot Thickens

Posted in Spiritual Warfare, The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:01 PM by E. M.

If only it was that easy…

Toward the end of our look at the First Dispensation, I mentioned that the curse God pronounced on the serpent in Eden was the seed plot of the entire Biblical narrative.

“…And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” – Genesis 3:15

I also gave my reasons why I believe that the serpent either was Satan, or represented Satan. This promise that the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpent (and his kingdom) represents a spiritual war (we struggle not against flesh) going on in the background of human affairs which greatly affected (and continues to affect) man’s history.  Having a proper perspective of the seed plot and the war is vital to understanding many of the events in the Biblical narrative and the narrative of our own lives.

We took a detour from this important topic during our discussions of the Second and Third Dispensations in order to address faith, organized religion, and mystics. However, the events of the Fourth Dispensation present a good opportunity to address this subject again.

The Fourth Dispensation was defined by the covenant God established with Abraham and the representative nation formed by Abraham’s descendants (Israel).

I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3

The Abrahamic covenant states that the nation comprised of Abraham’s descendants would be a blessing to ALL the other nations in the world.  This blessing is due to the fact that the Seed of the Woman; the One who will redeem mankind, reverse Adam’s transgression, pay the penalty for Original Sin, and reclaim rulership of the earth from the serpent – would be a descendant of Abraham!

Knowing this, it would make sense that Satan and his forces would target the fledgling Jewish nation as a part of the war to prevent the advent of the Redeemer.

Now the term “war” may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, especially since we do not have the ability to directly observe much of what goes on in the spiritual realm, but a look at the end of the Fourth Dispensation provides a dramatic example of the scope and impact of the theater of this war.

At face value, the 10 Plagues visited upon Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt was God’s judgment for the failure of the Fourth Dispensation.  But there was more to it than that.  Each of the plague specifically targeted a member (or members) of the pantheon of “gods” that the Egyptians worshipped.

Our first inclination is to believe that these so called “gods” were not real, but made up by mystics.  However there is evidence that there was significant supernatural power behind the Egyptian religion.

The Bible clearly states that mystics in Pharaoh’s court could access supernatural power – to the degree that they could even duplicate the first two plagues God sent through Moses!

It seems that the Egyptian gods were either supernatural beings (fallen angels) or were to some degree associated with these beings via the mystics’ machinations.

Here is a summary of the Plagues and the associated “god(s)”

Plague 1: Nile water into blood – Hapi: god of the Nile

Plague 2: Frogs in the land  – Hekhet, the frog-headed goddess of fertility, water, and renewal

Plague 3: Lice from dust – Geb: Egyptian god of the Earth (Pharoah’s mystics were not able to duplicate this or any of the next seven plagues.  The lice infestation also made them ceremonially unclean and therefore unable to perform rituals to the gods – if only lice could affect all mystics in a similar manner…)

Plague 4: Infestation of Flies – Khepri: Egyptian god of resurrection, creation, movement of the Sun, rebirth; depicted as having the head of a fly or beetle (lovely).

Plague 5: Death of Cattle/livestock – Hathor: cow-headed goddess of love and protection.

Plague 6: Boils on the skin of Egyptians – Isis: goddess of medicine and peace. Im-Hotep: real person turned deity, patron of wisdom and medicine. Sekhmet: lion-headed deity of plagues, believed to bring about or prevent epidemics or pestilence.

Plague 7: Hail and fire rain down – Nut: Sky goddess. Shu: god of air. Tefnut: goddess of water/moisture.

Plague 8: Locusts– Senehem: locust-headed, god of protection from ravages of pests. Seth- Egyptian God of Storms and Disorde

Plague 9: Darkness – Ra or Amon-Ra: god of the sun.  Osirus: sky god; sun was his right eye, moon his left.

Plague 10: Death of the firstborn – Pharaoh himself who was considered Horus (son of Isis and Osiris) in the flesh.  Min: god of reproduction.  Anubis: god of the dead and embalming.

The Plagues not only resulted in freedom for the Jewish nation, they showed that the God of Abraham was superior to the gods of the Egyptians (some of the mystics were even convinced). They also increased the spread of the reverence and respect of God’s power into other nations ahead of the Israelites.

But this brings up a point I touched on earlier.  When we initially studied the mystics a few months ago, I portrayed them as charlatans who attempted to gain power and rule through guile and deception (as well as exploiting human nature).  And in the vast majority of cases, that’s true.

However, I intentionally left something out of the posts on mystics because I wasn’t ready to examine it until now.

The truth is that the fragile house of cards that the mystics built on secrets and lies would be unlikely to allow them to remain in such positions of power and influence through the ages.  They’ve had help.  Supernatural help.

Some of the most powerful and influential mystics through the ages have used (and been used by) spiritual entities that are in fierce opposition to God’s plan.

These beings are intelligent, powerful, immortal, and evil.  They are at war with God and anyone who chooses Him.  We can’t see them or touch them, but they are all around us and they desire our destruction.

If all this sounds a bit disturbing and spooky to you, that’s because IT IS!  We’re extremely uncomfortable with the idea of beings we can’t see influencing our world.  Even Christians who acknowledge the existence evil spiritual beings prefer to ignore them most of the time.

Unfortunately, unlike the monsters that were under our beds as children, pretending they don’t exist won’t make them go away.

I mentioned them briefly when we discussed the origin of the Nephilim in the Second Dispensation but I haven’t gone into a detailed discourse on the subject until now because I wanted make sure we understood the roles of God and man in our historical narrative first.

Now its time we got to know our enemy.   In the next post we will begin our journey into the dark side with a look at the one who started it all; the greatest enemy of man; the first and grandest failure of creation – the being called Satan.

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January 11, 2012

Dispensation 4 – Remedial Guidance

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:43 PM by E. M.

The Dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for humanity is right.  Each dispensation allows man the opportunity to choose righteousness (God) on his own; outside of God’s plan.

In the first three dispensations, God pretty much gave men a free hand to choose Him over themselves.  God first gave them complete innocence with no knowledge of good and evil.  He then gave them great longevity in order to allow them to accumulate an abundance of knowledge.  Then He allowed them to have organization and unity to give them purpose in making the choice.

Not only did each of these dispensations fail, giving man a free hand to choose God over themselves without guidance resulted in men getting more evil in each successive dispensation!

I would be unjust for God to continue in the same vein.  The just thing to do would be to start giving men guidance.

The next dispensations should include and increasingly complex methodology to guide men into making the righteous choice.

The next dispensation should contain guidance that is simple, direct, and geared toward the current situation.

As the dispensation progressed, men went from being individuals, to being families, to being communities.  The Third Dispensation resulted in men being grouped into nations and governments.  Therefore, in the Fourth Dispensation, God dealt with men corporately  – as nations.

As such, God would need to form a nation to represent Him and offer men the opportunity to choose Him by choosing His nation (thankfully, the Third Dispensation did not end with men be grouped into communes or God would have had to form a competing drum circle to represent Himself).

In the aftermath of Babel, God chose a local man named Abram (who would eventually be renamed Abraham), and gave him a pretty impressive “Go west young man!” speech:

Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3

So God will form His representative nation from Abraham’s offspring.  God will bless Abraham and his offspring to the point that people will KNOW that they are God’s representatives.  Thus the success or failure of the Fourth Dispensation is based on whether or not the other nations choose to bless or curse Abraham and his descendants.

Although Abraham would become one of the most exemplary and revered men in the entire Biblical narrative, he didn’t start out that way.  Like many of his fellow post-Babel Mesopotamians, the erstwhile father of the Jews was likely an idol-worshipping gentile Bedouin before God gave him his new mission.   Some extra-Biblical sources paint a very colorful pre-“call” history of Abram, which include his father working for/with our old pal Nimrod, and Abram getting caught up in several conflicts with him.  Although the authenticity of these stories is dubious, they are still an interesting read.

What we do know from the Bible is that despite having the Architect of the Universe offering him a rather spectacular destiny, Abram was not immediately “all in”.  Instead of heading straight to the Promised Land as ordered, Abram and his sister-wife (seriously), took their dad and just moved up-river a bit.  It seems our hero was still a bit hesitant to give up his old life.

Once dad died, Abram, Sarai (soon to be renamed Sarah), and their nephew Lot finally settled in the Promised Land, and God renewed His promise them, gave Abraham his new name, and made him one of the richest and most famous people in the world.  But Abraham still wasn’t a model citizen.  He and Lot nearly came to blows over property rights, he essentially pimped out his wife to save his own neck (twice), and he impregnated his maid when he and Sarah got impatient waiting on God to give them a son.

Yet God continued to grow Abraham’s faith until he reached the point where he was willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, believing that God would resurrect him.

Abraham’s immediate descendants had their own growth issues.  Isaac repeated his father’s strategy of hiding behind his wife’s skirt.  Abraham’s grandson Jacob was a scheming momma’s-boy who stole his brother’s blessing.

Jacob had 12 sons – 8 with his (two) wives, (who were using children as marital currency), and 4 with the wives’ maids.  Think those kids may have turned out a bit dysfunctional?  Yep!  Among other things they were involved in a near genocide, incest, prostitution, attempted fratricide, and slave trading (I hear Quentin Tarantino is negotiating for the movie rights)

Yet these 12 great-grandsons of Abraham would father the 12 tribes of God’s chosen nation – Israel.  God did not choose because they were of such exemplary character (obviously), He actually chose them BECAUSE they were rough around the edges.  God wanted to make sure that they did not take pride in their chosen status (even though they often did), but remained humble representatives of righteousness.

Eventually, a severe famine drove the family into Egypt, a growing empire where Jacob’s favorite (and least scummy) son Joseph was prime minister.  Joseph’s skill and wisdom resulted in Egypt being the only place that had a surplus of food during the famine and the nation’s wealth increased tremendously.

When the fledgling Jewish nation wanted to settle in Egypt, it was time for the representative of a gentile nation to make a choice.  Would Pharaoh bless or curse God’s nation?

It turns out Pharaoh made the right choice!  He gave the Jews some of the best real estate in the land, an elevated position in the government, and even declared a national period of mourning when Jacob died.  True to His word, God blessed Egypt in returned, as the nation became the dominant world empire for several centuries.

However a bit later, a new Pharaoh who was not familiar with Joseph (its possible that he was not even Egyptian…but that’s another story) saw the Jews as a national threat and enslaved them for over 400 years.

Despite their hardships, the Jewish nation continued to grow in population, and God tapped Charlton Heston,…er, I mean Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go so that they could go out to the wilderness and worship Him.

Keep in mind, ALL God asked was for Israel to be released in order to make a three-day journey to worship Him.

Pharaoh had a choice to either bless or curse God’s nation.  What did he do?

1.    He got offended and refused to let the Jews go worship God

2.    He accused them of trying to shirk their slave duties by taking a three-day holiday

3.    Even though they didn’t leave (because he didn’t allow them to), Pharaoh punished them as if they did by taking away a primary resource and demanding that they produce the same amount of work as they did when they had the resource!

If Pharaoh had chosen to think contrastively, he could have asked Charlton Moses about God and his relationship with the Jewish nation, and why He wanted their worship. Maybe he could have learned about God’s promise to Abraham and about Joseph’s contribution to Egypt.

Instead, his fear of the Jews led him to think comparatively.  He saw God’s request as a threat.  He became defensive and offended.  He punished the Jews unjustly, and justified his treatment by falsely accusing the Jews of angling for a vacation.

Pharaoh justified himself over God and cursed God’s nation.  Thus the Fourth Dispensation failed like the previous three before it.

God responded to Pharaohs’ curse by cursing Egypt in return.  He unleashed the famous 10 plagues, which devastated the land, and people, forcing Pharaoh to release the Jews and give them back pay for their years of servitude.

In the next few posts, we will take a deeper look and some important aspects of the Fourth Dispensation.

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