a question of morality
In the December 2001 issue of Endeavour, Michael Green attempts to set before his readers what he calls “two contrasting scenarios – two different pictures of God,” and “two contrasting theologies”. The first of his “contrasting” ‘pictures’ is as follows:
“The Former prophets (Joshua to Kings) give a certain view of God. Yahweh is the God of Israel and is a very nationalistic God at that. It is Yahweh who oversees the improvement in the fortunes of the Hebrews, Yahweh who gives the orders about slaughtering the people in the Land of Canaan, Yahweh who directs and wins the battles. It is a very early record of ethnic cleansing at the behest of the Almighty”.
The writer then proceeds to “consider one incident,” as illustrating this first of his two “theologies,” that of the instruction of the Father to Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. He reflects:
“when we ask ourselves about all this, questions of morality tend to arise in our minds. Why should God order the destruction of anyone, especially the children, infants, oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys, who could not possibly be held morally responsible? However, the writer is not concerned with this issues and neither is Saul”.
“The inspired writer’s point of view may also horrify our moral sense. He seems to regard the Amalekite men, women, children and infants as being worthless.”
“the morality question of this incident is not answered by Samuel in this statement (i.e. the statement of verse 22—CAM), and he goes on to hew Agag in pieces.”
Here then, we have the first of the “pictures of God” that Michael Green wishes to place before us; a picture which he says horrifies his moral sense. It is a picture of “a very nationalistic God” who gives orders of “ethnic cleansing,” and the slaughter of those “who could not possibly be morally responsible”.
The second, “different” or “contrasting” picture, or theology is not set out as explicitly, but seems to be appropriately summarised by the writers remark:
“in Hosea 6:6, there is a similar saying to that of Samuel: “for I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. Instead of obedience, it is steadfast love that is required. The sovereignty of God is not emphasized, but his love, the love that the Psalmist knows about … So we have two contrasting scenarios—two different pictures of God.”
The writer concludes:
“We can end up with two contrasting theologies.
- For some, the defining of God’s character comes from the history books of the Old Testament, the period of the conquest of the land and the setting up of the kingdom. This God is a God who demands obedience. Anything, even murder is sanctioned by this God, because by his own commands he defines what is right. This God sent his Son into the world as a propitiation for our sin, and will in the future again conquer the land and set up the kingdom.
- For others, the defining of God’s character comes from 1 John where it says: God is love. For them, God has a consistent morality and the starting point of any view of the atonement is the love of God. God will usher in the kingdom in love in order to rectify the sins of the world.
When we approach the breaking of bread, we will think about the death of Jesus for us. Is it an angry God who needs a sacrifice to forgive us our sin, or is it a loving God who calls us from sin to a better life? We each make our own answer”.
Then, the writer makes the most telling statement of the whole article: “I suppose in coming to my own answer I have been very much influenced by Archbishop Temple …” (Emphasis mine – CAM).
Here we have the already evident fact plainly stated, Michael Green writes as he does not so much by the influence of the cleansing water of the Word, but having “been very much influenced” by a Clergyman of the system which the God of Love describes in the Apocalypse as a woman “decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth.” (Rev 17:5). Here is a real question of morality: – How can one professing the Name of Christ permit himself to be defiled by the Mother of harlots and abominations? The identity of this system is confirmed by the Vatican itself; saying “the Roman Church is the mother and mistress of all churches” (Council of Trent, 1563). By her own admission, she is not an undefiled virgin, but a ‘mistress’ and ‘mother’. Again, only a matter of months ago, in it’s Declaration Dominus Iesus (5 Sept 2000) the Romish church proclaimed itself to be “the mother”, and not “a sister” of all Christian denominations.
Whilst Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel is a Deity of Love, it ought to be manifest to even the most obtuse that His Love is not indiscriminately extended to those who despise His Ways, preferring rather to extend a cup full of “abominations and filthiness” to any who might drink from it. The writer of the article in question freely confesses that he has been heavily intoxicated, or “very much influenced” by the Harlot’s wine, as served up by one of her daughter’s mystical divines; an Archbishop, no less! And now he seeks to serve up that same strong drink to his readers! Here is a most remarkable “question of morality” indeed; that one professing the Name of Christ can become the means by which the “filthiness” of the drunken harlot’s wine is served up before Christadelphians. We write as we do in the hope and earnest prayer that the winebibbers who grasp out for the dainty morsels of church teaching may yet sober up, and begin to exercise their senses to discern both good and evil once more.
THE “CONTRASTING THEOLOGIES” EXAMINED
But back to “the two contrasting theologies” that the writer, under an Archbishops’ influence is serving up for us. He claims that concerning the slaying of the Amalekites, there are moral questions which go unanswered. He claims that “the morality question of this incident is not answered by Samuel in this statement, and he goes on to hew Agag in pieces,” and thereby proclaims his ignorance of the fact that the slaying of Agag actually answers a higher question of morality than the one he poses. Similarly, the ‘inspired writer’ is said to have a “point of view” which “may also horrify our moral sense. He seems to regard the Amalekite men, women, children and infants as being worthless,” thereby demonstrating that the writers’ “moral sense” differs very greatly from the “moral sense” of the Eternal Spirit who moved the penman to so speak – the Spirit’s ‘moral sense’ horrifies him (another candid admission)!
The answer to the question posed, as with all questions that relate to the ways of the Most High, can be found by those who seek it within the Word, rather than in the wine-cup offered by Archbishops. It is a principle most plainly stated in Scripture, that so far as the Creator is concerned, men who are destitute of wisdom and knowledge of His Ways are on a par with the animals of the field:
THE STATUS OF NATURAL MAN
“Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Ps 49:20).
“I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they may see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yet they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast” (Eccl 3:18,19).
“these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (2Pet 2:12).
It is also a truth expressed by Yahweh Himself, concerning those who do not walk in His Ways, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Yahweh, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8,9). This being so, whilst Yahweh regards unenlightened man as having “no pre-eminence” over the beasts of Creation, man regards himself as being something much better, and more honourable. An illustration of this is in Michael Green’s own admission, for in accepting that his thoughts are not Yahweh’s’ thoughts, he admits that Yahweh’s “point of view,” as expressed through the Inspired writer “horrifies” him. But there is a remedy for this most unfortunate state of horrification; that is, to “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Cor 10:5), striving to make our thoughts confirm to Yahweh’s own, and to make His Ways our ways. If we make Yahweh’s “moral sense” our own, that is, if we lift ours up from being merely the natural instincts of bestial men to the standards revealed in the Word, then we will no longer be horrified by Yahweh’s ways.
THE MORALITY QUESTION ANSWERED
But here is the answer to the “question of morality” which the writer has posed to us. Yahweh, as the Creator regards men as brute beasts, who have no understanding, or who contend against Him. They shall, in any case, “utterly perish in their own corruption.” He required the slaughter of the Amalekites and all that pertained to them, that they might be utterly eradicated from the face of the earth. He had expressed this intention to Moses: “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex 17:14); and required such to be brought about by Saul:
“I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1Sam 15:2,3).
Here is the Creator’s ‘moral sense’ – His Judgement upon that nation which sought the destruction of His People. Those who may be ‘horrified’ by the thought demonstrate that their thoughts are not Yahweh’s thoughts, and really ought to consider their own personal standing before Him as a consequence. Would any object to the destruction, and utter eradication of vermin and pests who make a ruin of their worldly goods? Would they prefer to allow some to remain, that they might grow to maturity, and continue the destruction? If not, why be “horrified” at Yahweh’s doing the same with those He regards as being mere beasts that perish? Amalek, and every vestige of Amalek was to be removed from under heaven, that no part of it remain. That was Yahweh’s Righteous judgment. Saul evidently did not share that “moral sense”, his ways were not his Makers’ ways, because he refused to obey. Here is a higher moral question than that which Michael Green asks; is it right to wilfully disobey the commands of the Creator, or is it not? This is a ‘question of morality’ which Samuel certainly did address – he tackled the issue head on, both in word, and in deed. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams … and Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before Yahweh in Gilgal” (1Sam 15:22, 33). Whatever Michael Green may claim, so far as both Agag, and Saul were concerned, the morality question was settled most graphically, and decisively indeed.
Part of this first “theology” that the writer presents us with, is the claim that “Anything, even murder, is sanctioned by this God, because by his own commands, he defines what is right.”
A DISTORTION OF SCRIPTURE
Such a claim is a monstrous distortion of plain Bible teaching. It is true that Yahweh, not man, determines what is right and what is wrong. He alone is in a position to do that. But it is most certainly not true to claim that as a consequence “Anything, even murder, is sanctioned by this God,” for such is a blasphemous claim in the highest degree. Murder is never sanctioned by the Deity of Israel. The Slaying of those He judges to be worthy of such certainly is – but by very definition, that is not “murder”. “Murder” is the unlawful slaying of the innocent (Ps 10:8;94:6), something which is very different indeed from the slaying of the guilty Agag by Samuel. This was rather, the execution of righteous judgment. Even the destruction of the animals and children of the Amalekites was for a very specific reason, being expressly stated to be the judgements of Yahweh upon that nation.
It is a false claim to make that “anything” is sanctioned by Yahweh, and obviously so. Even the unbelievers recognise that associated with the Bible are standards, principles and precepts. It is an Attribute of the Most High that he is a Righteous Deity, not an unjust One. He will not violate His Own Righteousness, neither will He sanction “anything” that violates it. “Yahweh our Elohim is righteous in all His works which he doeth” (Dan 9:14), and only those intoxicated with, or “very much influenced by” the Harlot’s strong drink to the extent that their senses have become dulled to the things of the Spirit will claim otherwise, that He will ‘sanction’ anything.
Against this unfortunate “theology,” the writer presents us with a “contrasting,” or, contradictory “picture,” which is equally flawed. This is that: “instead of obedience, it is steadfast love that is required.” Obedience and Love are presented here as “either/or” options – either obedience, or love. Love, not obedience is required. And as this ‘theology’ has become standard church teaching, it is most evident that this is merely the regurgitated morsels thereof, being presented to us by one under it’s ‘influence”. It is, however, a teaching not found in Scripture, which rather exhorts the believer to show both love and obedience – a loving obedience. Examples could be multiplied, but a few will suffice:
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, and I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love Yahweh thy Elohim, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deut 30:19,20).
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1Pet 1:22).
“hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1Jno 2:3,5).
As a matter of fact, so far as the writers’ attempt to portray contrasting pictures of a God of Judgement against a God of Love goes, whilst this is a popular theme among certain ‘christian’ writers of the apostasy, it is most contradictory to the Creators’ own revelation regarding Himself. When we look to the Word, rather than Archbishops for the answer to our questions, we find that the Law of Moses actually hung on the principle of Love. A certain man asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:40). Elsewhere, the Master taught that “mercy and faith” were among the “weightier matters of the Law” (Mat 23:23). Contrary to the claims of Endeavour therefore, the Deity of the Old Testament is just as much a Deity of Mercy and Love as in the New – His entire system of Law hung upon those principles. And contrary to the claims being set before us, the doctrine of judgement is a New Testament doctrine, just as much as the Old:
“He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained …” (Acts 17:31)
“ … the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power …” (2Thess 1:7,8).
What then are we to make of the “contrasting” “theologies” with which the Endeavour magazine presents us? They are both gross distortions of the True – which is why they are contrasting, and not complimentary. They are both presented by a man ‘very much influenced’ by a clerical divine, by his own admission. They serve therefore as collective proof of the unenlightened nature of the modern clergy, and as warnings to those who may be tempted to follow them; those who desire Truth will shun such ‘pictures’ preferring rather to believe what Yahweh Himself has revealed.