11/19/15

Five Questions for Christians Who Support Syrian Refugee Immigration


I would encourage my brothers and sisters who in their haste to be compassionate to alleged refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks (in part carried out by said refugees) have decided to quote verses about loving one's neighbor and being kind to sojourners, to answer a few basic questions. I do not doubt your heart or your sincerity, but your understanding I do. I have humbly listened to your arguments and pleas for compassion and will continue to, but I would like you to think through some things yourself- some things I wonder whether you've thought of as deeply as you need to in order to address this issue. Please accept the humble questions of a sinner far worse than you, but one who worships the same God. These are not meant to provoke but to prod you to come to your own, hopefully more informed conclusion.

Have you examined the full council of God when it comes to immigration?

I would start by meditating on Exodus 12:48 and asking yourself how this would fit in to your stance on immigration.
But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.
Apparently, God does have a standard of at least some kind of assimilation, i.e. being a "native." While I do have my own idea as to how this applies in our modern American context I’ll leave you to figure out what you believe. Many Christians have been touting Lev 19:33-34 which talks about the way Israel is supposed to treat the "sojourner." I would ask those quoting this verse what they think the term "sojourner" ("a stranger with you sojourns") means and if it has in mind a group of people almost 7,000 miles away imported by the U.S. in order to become U.S. citizens? Also, is this passage prescribing a policy of unlimited immigration or simply instructing the people of God in how to treat "sojourners" regardless of the circumstance? Again, I have my own idea, but I'll let you form yours. Please meditate on Josh 23:7-13 and see if God's prohibitions against Israel marrying, worshiping, or "mixing" with the nations around them have any bearing on your immigration stance. Does God allow the stranger, the member of a false religion to have the same privileges as Israelites and/or to live among them in all circumstances?

Do the government and the church have the same responsibility?

If a Christian believes as Romans 13 suggests that governments are instituted for protecting citizens, including from possible terrorists in a group of people impossible to fully vet, but that the church is required to assist and support immigrants no matter what the circumstance, why call them out for hypocrisy? Perhaps they have a more biblically informed understanding of the spheres of responsibility God gives to different institutions. This is no different than a Christian who believes providing for his own children is required, but doesn’t believe the pastor of his church should be required to do so. Just because we as a church are required to feed and provide for all we can doesn't mean those responsible for protecting us have the same responsibility does it? Perhaps their concerns are in a different department, and protecting U.S. citizens is what God requires of them, instead of taking from U.S. citizens in order to feed and protect those who could pose a threat to the ones they actually are accountable for.

Do you know who the alleged Syrian refugees are?

I ask this because it would seem to me that many jumping on the “compassionate bandwagon” have not been paying attention to the socio-political situation until now based on their remarks. If we are going to be compassionate, let's be compassionate towards kids bullied and girl's raped in Germany, the victims of the Paris attacks, and our own American troops who seem more willing to spill their blood for Syria than the 4 million so far who have evacuated instead of fighting. If you would, watch the video in the link below and ask yourself if you still feel the same about allowing alleged refugees in to this country.

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/11/11/watch-anti-migrant-video-going-viral-across-europe/

Is it compassionate to put the lives of U.S. citizens in danger in order to make the lives of immigrants better?

If we are to take the logic being promoted by many evangelicals right now, we’d have to conclude that importing as many people as possible is the right thing to do even if we don’t know who they are. Since it would seem a great portion of the 2nd and 3rd world would love to come to America, why not let them all in? Let me ask it another way. If you were a family in debt over 137,000 dollars, is it compassionate for you to invite 20 people without jobs you don’t know from the ghetto mostly comprised of young adult males to live in the room next to your daughters? Now, they may all be safe- but how do you know?

If your heart is drawn to help Syrians, why not become a missionary yourself?

Why not invite them into your own home to live with you. If it meant seriously changing your life-style I wonder if you would still harbor the same compassion. If you feel called to go into all the world and preach the Gospel you have my full support no matter where it is! But seriously consider this question. Is your compassion a real compassion----the kind Jesus has? I would make this final plea with you if you are serious about compassion. There are a group of people in harm's way, and they are fully vetted. They aren't possible terrorists. They aren't being allowed asylum in the U.S. Many are from Syria. The group I'm talking about are Christians. 1 John 3:17 is clear about our responsibility to them. "But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?" They've been in need for a long time. I'd like to ask you a final question---Did you give anything to them before you lectured the rest of us on how we should care about the alleged Sryian refugees? Our country won't take them in, but others will. Will you consider putting your money where your mouth is and in the name of true Christian compassion, give to the Nazarene fund or to whatever group you believe will help your own brothers and sisters being persecuted. Thank you for caring enough to read this.

11/16/15

The Conquest of Canaan and the Character of God

By: Jonathan Harris

In the famous atheist book The God Delusion, the author Richard Dawkins tells us that “the Bible story of Joshua's destruction of Jericho, and the invasion of the Promised Land in general, is morally indistinguishable from Hitler's invasion of Poland, or Saddam Hussein's massacres of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs.” More than a few non-believers maintain that the God of the Bible, or perhaps more specifically the God of the “Old Testament,” is unworthy of human worship precisely because of His command to “utterly destroy” the Canaanite peoples whom happened to have the unfortunate position of existing within the boundaries of the land God had promised to Abraham. For some Christians this reality can seem to contradict the command of Jesus to love their enemies.

How then can a Christian reconcile the command of God to violently exterminate a people group with the grace of God found in Jesus? The first thing to recognize is that this is a fair question. The non-believer seeks to perform an internal critique within the Christian worldview, while the believer seeks to understand the God of his own faith on a deeper level. However, the non-believer does not have the moral capital with which to make such an accusation against the God of the Bible given his own worldview. If there exists no ultimate, invariable, and unchangeable moral standard having its foundation in a personal deity there should be no complaint if one group of people decides to do harm to another group, even if that group is being hypocritical by doing so. The non-believer’s ethical position, just like the assumed Christian position he or she is attempting to critique, has no moral justification for opposing the actions of God against the Canaanite peoples. Therefore, this is a question that only makes sense within the confines of the Christian worldview.

How is it that a Christian can hold to the teachings of Jesus while believing that the same God endorsed what some have called “genocide?” The answer lies in understanding better the full council of God when it comes to the Canaanite invasion, and more importantly, the character of God—specifically His justice.

Before analyzing the specifics of the Canaanite quasi-extermination, it would be helpful to point out that the God of both the Old and New Testaments is a consistent God; meaning, there are examples of harshness from a human perspective in the New Testament and examples of grace in the Old Testament. For example, “Jesus talked more about hell than all the other prophets combined.” Conversely, “Yahweh is characterized by hesed (steadfast love) generally throughout the Old Testament and specifically in most Old Testament books”. That being said, the question before is not a question in which the God of the Old Testament must be reconciled to the God of the New Testament. Rather, the God of both testaments must be understood when comparing his attribute of justice with his attribute of mercy.

The response found here is divided into three categories: misunderstandings concerning the Canaanites, misunderstandings concerning the Jewish invasion, and most importantly wrong assumptions concerning God.

When God commanded Joshua to destroy the Canaanite peoples the reason given is found in Deuteronomy 20:18 which says, “so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.” Obviously, God did not want the people he had liberated from Egypt to fall into worshiping other gods. But what did this Canaanite worship look like? Two chapters before, God had already answered this question.

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 

The Canaanites were not neutral. They were not innocent recipients of divine atrocity. If anything, they were enemies of God before they were enemies of Israel. Child sacrifice, bestiality, sorcery, etc. all caused the patience of God to run thin until the arm of divine judgement was wielded against them. Even while the Canaanites were enemies of God, mercy was still extended them through great patience on God’s part in waiting until their corruption was complete (Gen. 15:16), in using natural forces to drive some of them out of the land before Israel arrived (Ex 23:28), in warning them before Israel crossed the Jordan (Josh 2:9-11), and in saving some that humbled themselves such as Rahab the prostitute (Josh 2:14, 1 Sam 15:6). God’s issue with the Canaanites was therefore not “racial” (i.e. not genocide) but rather spiritual. God did not make them his enemy. They made God theirs.

It is argued by some that because ancient near eastern sources use much hyperbole when talking about war, the same can be said for the accounts in Joshua of Israel’s invasion of Canaan.

While Joshua 10:40 and Joshua 11:12-15 speak of everyone being destroyed, elsewhere in Joshua and judges a different perspective is given. These other texts repeatedly state that the Israelites did not kill all the Canaanites; they couldn't even drive all of them out of the land (Josh 13:1-6; 15:63; 17:12; Judg 1:19-34).  (Lamb. God Behaving Badly. Kindle Locations 739-740.)

While this view may be seen by some as insignificant, it is at least worth mentioning so that apples are being compared with apples. The Canaanites own depictions of conquest surpassed the cruelty ascribed to the Jews. It was the Jews who were also entering a land, from a biblical perspective that already belonged to them. The Canaanites were the “claim jumpers” so to speak.

David T. Lamb, in his book “God Behaving Badly,” maintains, “Part of our problem with the conquest narratives comes from our discomfort with judgment more generally.” Even after spending copious amounts of time studying the near ancient context of the conquest of Canaan there will still remain challenging questions aimed at God on the part of the non-believer simply because he does not either understand or accept the sovereign, loving, just God of both testaments. Ultimately, it was not Israel inflicting divine punishment, but God sanctioning Israel to carry out His justice—a justice He often carried out Himself without their assistance (2 Kings 19:35)—that destroyed most of the inhabitants of Canaan. God’s love is demonstrated in His patience toward the evil Canaanites, His grace towards the faithful Canaanites, and his protection of Israel from false religion. God’s judgement of sin is nothing new to the Christian worldview, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that God would use one nation to punish another, something Israel learned the hard way themselves. It is in God’s character that the reconciliation is found.

In the Christian worldview, the Canaanites deserved what they got, but we deserve the same thing. God’s justice left no rock unturned. Infants, normally considered “off limits” were destroyed. Animals were destroyed. Anything associated with paganism was destroyed. We may be reviled, but in the Christian conception of reality God is sovereign. He owns the Canaanite infants. He either preserves them in eternity—an argument William Lane Craig has made to support the idea that God was demonstrating mercy in killing infants who were guaranteed an afterlife in heaven before the age of accountability, an opportunity most likely not afforded to them if they grew up in the religion of their people—or he destroys them for what they would become. This would be his prerogative from a biblical stand point—not man’s. God is not pro-choice in the modern progressive sense. He protects the defenseless, the orphan and the widow. In a very limited circumstance he used the children of Israel to inflict His wrath for the sin of another people. Unlike modern “jihad” this is not an ongoing command given to the Jews. It was for a specific context long past. It is God who knows the hearts of men. What they are, what they will be, what they deserve. It is He who chooses some for preservation and some for destruction all the time maintaining justice. Human beings are made in his image. It is a stamp of His ownership on each of us. Why should the Canaanites be any exception?
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