This Just In: OT Blogging Completed

Ken AshfordGodstuffLeave a Comment

David Plotz at Salon decided to read the Bible cover-to-cover, and blog it has he goes along.  His journey through the Old Testament is now complete, and his posts are indexed here.

Here’s a smattering of what you can expect — this, from his entry on Genesis 3:

Chaapter 3:  The Lord—not so good at follow-through. In Chapter 2, He is clear as He can be: He commands man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad: "for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die." No wiggle room there. You shall die. But then when Eve and Adam eat the fruit of the tree a few verses later, do they die? Nope. God punishes Eve with "most severe … pangs in childbearing" and curses Adam by making the soil barren. Any parent knows you have to follow through on your threats, or your children will take advantage of you. God makes a vow He can’t keep—or if He did, He would undo all his good work. So, He settles instead for a half-hearted punishment that just encourages His children to misbehave again. Is it any surprise that we sin again? And again? And again? All the way down to the present day. You can call this "original sin," but maybe it’s just lax parenting.

This isn’t, incidentally, the mighty and distant God of Chapter 1, who shaped the universe and poured the ocean. Instead, this is an exasperated, down-to-earth deity, peevish at being forced to hunt through the Garden of Eden to find His wayward children—more like a frustrated dad who lost his kids at the mall than like God on High.

3:12: When God quizzes Adam about eating from the tree, he immediately—and I mean immediately—sells out Eve. "The woman You put at my side—she gave me of the tree, and I ate." What kind of husband is this? He’s supposed to be her master, but he won’t even take responsibility for his own weakness?

From Psalms 139:

Several Christian friends have told me how much they like 139. It imagines a God who knows exactly what is in us: He knows what I am going to say, "even before a word is on my tongue." He wrote down my whole life in His book, "all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed."

I find this notion of predestination creepy. One of the best things about being human is free will. Of course we are constrained by brain chemistry, upbringing, economic circumstances, etc., but we mostly get to make decisions on our own and live with the consequences. If you shift all the choices back to God, it’s a cop-out. Sure, it frees you from the agony of hard choices and mistakes—it’s God’s will—but it also removes the responsibility, regret, and self-examination that make us thinking creatures.

There’s also a self-contradictory quality to Psalm 139. It declares that God has set our future and knows every word we will say before we say it. At the same time, it repeatedly asks God to "test" us—to search us and make sure we are not wicked. If God has written our futures and knows our thoughts, why would He need to test us? The psalmist wants to have and eat the cake. He wants to give God credit for absolute power, but he also wants to get credit for not being wicked. ("Test me, Lord. See, I’m not wicked.") You don’t get to have it both ways: If God has predestined it all, then you deserve no credit for your goodness. God made it happen.

And this from Proverbs 39:

Again with our main theme, the folly of self-confidence: "Do not boast of tomorrow, for you do not know what the day will bring."

The author of Proverbs has a Miss Manners eye for social niceties. Look at this piece of advice: "He who greets his fellow loudly early in the morning shall have it reckoned to him as a curse." There is a time and place for everything, and 5 a.m. is not the time to shout huzzahs at your neighbor.

You get the idea….