The uncredible Hallq has issued a challenge to the CADRE to respond to one of his arguments. Ordinarily, I don’t respond to challenges for a couple of reasons. First, the people who throw out such challenges are ordinarily not particularly interested in considering the validity of the response. They throw out the challenge expecting that it cannot be answered, and then proceed to find any response inadequate if it is anything other than indisputable (which usually isn’t the case) -- in most cases the reply to the response consists of a derisive attack on the responder.
Second, my own feeling is that this is not a debate blog. We are largely an opinion and information blog. We allow comments to what we write and will respond if we think it necessary to clarify or defend a particular point of view, but generally we don’t carry on with endless discussion about what’s said. We do this in part because we think that the answers that we provide are either good or bad on their own merits, and we leave it to the readers to use their own minds to be able to discern the truth for themselves. But since we are generally not interested in making this a debate blog, we are ordinarily not inclined to respond to challenges because it will turn this into a debate blog. Also, it allows others to dictate what we write about based on their challenges.
Having said that, I am inclined to respond to Hallq’s challenge because it does reflect a flawed approach to Christianity that I want to expose here -- which is part of what I enjoy writing about. It is the "can’t see the forest for the trees" syndrome. It arises when someone focuses on one or two trees in a forest of thousands of trees and tries to make a generalization about the forest from the one or two trees.
Here’s Hallq’s challenge:
Last month I did a post on Hitler's religious beliefs. It attracted some attention of the folks at Christian CADRE. I issued a bit of a challenge to them, but they apparently left before seeing it. I expected this debate to die out for awhile, but now I see Christian CADRE has post up tying Hitler's actions to the fact that he "rejected every form of Judeo-Christian morality."
So now I repeat what I said last month: Anyone who thinks the Bible is inerrant and then uses the Holocaust to attack those who don't should be ready to explain why the Holocaust was a bad thing but the cited passages in the Bible aren't bad things. I had cited three passages: Deuteronomy 13, where the Israelites are told to kill worshipers of other gods; Leviticus 20:13, where they are told to kill homosexuals; and I Samuel 15:2-3, where they are told to exterminate the Amalekites to the last child.
I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context. I am not interested in Clintonesque discourses over the exact definition of words like "genocide." I want to know by what moral principles evangelicals condemn Hitler but hold up the Bible as the gold standard of morality. Can a coherent rationale be given that is in any way better than simple Divine Command Theory?
Okay, here's a rule to always remember when reviewing challenges to Christianity: context is crucial. What is the context in which he raises this challenge? He raises the challenge in response to Nomad's post showing that Nietzsche's philosophy more than anything else was directly related to the rise of Hitler's destructive Third Reich. In all sincerity, this is so apparent that it seems almost not worthy of the time that Nomad put into the post. Consider the following excerpt from William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which is quoted on the Internet here) concerning his take on the Relationship Between Friedrich Nietzsche and the Nazis:
There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman--and in the most telling aphorisms? A Nazi could proudly quote him on almost every conceivable subject, and did. On Christianity: "the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion... I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.... This Christianity is no more than the typical teaching of the Socialists."
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Such rantings from one of Germany's most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler's littered mind. At any rate he appropriated them for his own--not only the thoughts but the philosopher's penchant for grotesque exaggeration, and often his very words. "Lords of the Earth" is a familiar expression in Mein Kampf. That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche's prophecy cannot be doubted....
Obviously, most experts can see the connection between Hitler and Nietzche, so what exactly is Hallq's problem? He objects that Christians cannot claim that the Holocaust was bad without first condemning certain passages in their own Bible as bad. Is Hallq somehow saying that the Holocaust wasn't bad? I doubt it. I am sure that unless he's insane he's quite in agreement that the Holocaust was horrendous and ought not to be repeated. But he's claiming that the Bible has God ordering holocausts (of a sort) in various parts of the OT and he wants us Christians to condemn the actions of God in the OT.
Fousing on the context of Hallq's comment, I have a question: which Christian churches are advocating for the complete annihilation of a people, the killing of homosexuals and/or the killing of people who worship other gods? Let’s review the main denominations:
Roman Catholic Church? No, they aren’t advocating these positions.
Eastern Orthodox Church? No, they aren’t either.
Lutheran Church and its associated churches? No.
Episcopal Church and its associated churches? No.
Methodist Church and its associated churches? No.
Baptist Church and its associated churches? No.
Foursquare Gospel Church and its associated churches? No.
Presbyterian Church and its associated churches? No.
Worldwide Church of God and its associated churches? No.
Anglican Church and its associated churches? No.
Charismatic churches? Friends churches? Quakers? No.
You see, here’s the forest: no one advocates these things in any church in the world today (not even Fred Phelps and his apparently easily fooled congregation advocate these things -- they just pray for God to hurt other people). In fact, you would have to go to the far fringes of Christianity to find people who believe these things, and I am not even certain they exist there because I know of no group that is accepted as Christian that believes that any of these are the types of policy that are taught in the Bible.
Are churches simply ignoring these verses that Hallq seems to believe makes the Christian claims about the Holocaust hypocritical? No, the vast majority of these churches developed their theology by taking the entire word of God under counsel and coming to a conclusion as to how they work into the entire revelation of God through the Bible. They read where Jesus clearly said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and love our enemies. The overriding Christian message is that of love -- not killing. Thus, these verses are not a concern because of a thing that Hallq doesn’t want to hear about: context. Remember, he said "I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context." Well, Hallq, if you’re not interested in the facts, then there is no answer for you because context is the key to a correct understanding of anything. I challenge you to find any other field of study where context is irrelevant.
The Bible doesn't teach that these things are the rule, and certainly Christians today understand that the rules about killing homosexuals, killing worshippers of other gods or the slaying of the Amalekites were put in place for a time and circumstances that are no longer in play due to the coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For example, I have previously published a long explanation of how the Amalekite annihilation can be understood rationally when looking in context. As I said in my on-line article "A Reasonable Understanding of the Destruction of the Amalekites”:
The sources are consistent in their view of the Amalekites as an exceptionally wicked people. The verses from Deuteronomy point to their treachery (accord, Exod 17:8-16). They are seen as the embodiment of evil and hatred towards the Jews which were God's chosen people. While Israel was to make justice and brotherly love—-even to strangers-—its guiding rule (see, e.g., Leviticus 19:34), the Israelites were commanded to not forget that Amalek had perpetrated a cowardly and unprovoked attack on the feeble and hindmost, when the Israelites were marching from Egypt.
Amalek's enmity against Israel stems not only from its legacy as Esau’s grandson (Jewish Encyclopedia, supra), but from what it represents. Amalek was the first among nations (Num 24:20), i.e., the leading force of evil. Consequently, the struggle between Israel and Amalek can be seen as a heavenly metaphor played out in real life for the eternal struggle of good versus evil.
The Israelites were God's chosen people. It was through them that Christ was to enter into the world. The Amalekites, the forces of Mordor (so to speak), were seeking to eliminate the Israelites and God’s plan of salvation. The manner in which they acted was very much as a terrorist might approach the task-—picking on the poor and weak with cowardly attacks. They needed to be eliminated so that God’s plan of salvation could proceed. God chose His people which were His agent for the ultimate "good" of the Christ to act as His hand of judgment upon the Amalekites, and ordered their absolute annihilation.
Don't like the fact that the order of the Amalekites needs to be looked at in the context of pre-Jesus’s coming context, and the Amalekite identification with evil? Fine, but then simply acknowledge that you aren’t really interested in the truth. The Amalekites were like a weed growing in the garden that needed to be pulled so that the garden could flourish in accordance with God's plan. But to understand that requires reading the entire Bible and understanding the verses in the context of the time and circumstances that were occurring. But then, you don't want to hear about context. You’d rather spend your time staring at a couple of the less attractive individual trees while ignoring the rich, verdant forest filled with life blooming around you of which those trees are only a miniscule part. In doing so, you only fool yourself.