Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Nov 08 2009 - 07:39:31 EST

If this first paragraph is too long, Bernie, then skip to the second
short paragraph.

Read the substance of my original post (still at the bottom of this
post) that I sent you --it still contains my answer to your reply here
and you didn't address it's main point. Let me try to restate that
point here: It seems reasonable to me to think that civilization could
"grow up" (and this seems to be a very evolutionary way of thinking) in
the same way that an individual grows up. It isn't that our teachers
were faulty when we were little --they were just giving us what we were
ready to handle at that stage of life. If you want to interpret that as
saying we are superior to ourselves in the "younger" state, I think it
could be put more accurately. Say rather that we have more material and
history to work with than they did. And despite that we still manage to
screw things up, knowing more --indeed explicitly being given the Holy
Spirit, but being just as base in our selfish motivations as they were
then. So in a way, if anything, we could be thought of as inferior,
though I wouldn't choose to push that either except as a counterpoint to
the superior claim. Just as if a math student from centuries ago
manages to perform (without an electronic calculator) the almost as well
on a math test as a modern student with a calculator. Since the newer
student inherited a powerful tool, he could rightly be expected to do
better, but if he didn't, we certainly wouldn't call him superior just
by virtue of his century of birth. I have a kenotic understanding of
God in this --or perhaps it is better called a kenotic understanding of

But to reply to your response here, I'll challenge you: would you give
an infant a computer to play with, Bernie? If not, why not? Why would
you give him something inferior like a little plastic chew toy that has
a few large pastel numbers printed on it when you could have given him
the vastly superior computer to have fun on? Wouldn't you have been
capable of so much more than just teaching 1 2 3? I trust you will
agree that it isn't you that has the limitation, but the growing pupil.
Yet we older folk don't generally go around calling ourselves superior
to infants since we recognize our own past and roots in the same place.
Sorry if that is getting too metaphorical for you.


Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Merv said:
> "if I may exaggerate the point. I don't pretend that we are morally superior to the ancients --not at all. We have just been entrusted with more; much more."
> No, it sounds to me like you are saying, by way of your example, that we are more moral and can take a higher moral teaching. Now if you truly think we are no more moral than those in the OT, and we are just entrusted with more; why are we entrusted with more? What is the reason for that? If we are at basically the same moral level as those in the OT, then they could have been entrusted just as well as us.
> Then there's the second level of discussion of even judging the morality of Jesus' redefinition (as well as that of the OT rule). I think both the OT "eye for eye" and NT sayings "turn the other cheek to an evil doer" are extreme and wrong; the right path is what most people do, in the middle (reasonable justice rather than 'eye for eye' and self-defense rather than 'turn the other cheek'). And if you think 'turn the other cheek' is not literal but only metaphorical, I don't see that when trying to see how the original hearers would have received it in context. And my concern is how Jesus meant it, and how it was received, at the time it was given.
> There is the "smart God of physics and biology" (as ID points to); and these moral sayings look more to me like that of ancient man rather than a "smart God of morals." Could anyone have done better than Jesus and Moses for their time and place? Seems like the obvious answer is "yes," especially if they were getting direction from God almighty.
> Just my opinion.
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Merv Bitikofer []
> Sent: Tuesday, November 03, 2009 5:46 PM
> To: Dehler, Bernie; asa
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on morals (OT and NT)
> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>> Murray said: "That said, however, I would want to urge that we err when we introduce the Sermon on the Mount as part of that problem. People often speak as though the Sermon on the Mount is primarily a critique or abrogation of the Law (a "new law" or "new morality") when it is, as I understand it, directed not at the Law itself, but squarely at its misuse by the religious hierarchy in first century Judaism."
>> I think the glaring problem with this idea is that Jesus quoted (and corrected) the OT verse, not a teaching of a 'religious hierarchy' based on some verse.
> If I may jump way back to this objection of yours, Bernie; I have a
> comparison that might be of value.
> We could imagine a group of young students who take sloppy notes (when
> they take them at all) and have no experience recording or presenting
> organized lab data from some school science project they are in. What
> they do write is a scrawled mess. The teacher steps in with
> requirements and tells them: "you will write neatly in just this
> format, and give me at least three coherent sentences of conclusion
> about your data."
> A year or so later, another science teacher tells the same students:
> "Did that last teacher tell you to handwrite your reports and give at
> least three sentences of conclusion?" "In MY class you will type your
> reports and I require fully developed paragraphs discussing the lab
> objectives and your conclusion, in addition to graphs presenting your
> raw data!"
> Nobody should conclude that the second teacher contradicted the first
> and overturned everything the earlier teacher had taught. In fact, he
> was building on it ---pressing students into their new discomfort zones
> so they can keep growing. Like Pete has so nicely noted, it's a
> trajectory. You need to remember that Levi & Simeon premeditated a
> massacre of a whole village as revenge over Dinah's rape. This is the
> moral landscape into which a law is inserted which says there will be
> one eye for one eye. Getting them to do much more than that (loving
> their enemies, even! ---and yes there are hints at that even in the
> O.T.) might have been analogous to my marching into a Kindergarten
> classroom to announce my formal requirements for typed essays and lab
> reports --if I may exaggerate the point. I don't pretend that we are
> morally superior to the ancients --not at all. We have just been
> entrusted with more; much more.
> --Merv

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Received on Sun Nov 8 07:39:58 2009

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