Of Mercy and Justice


Those good friends who have been reading this blog must have Caroline a while back. We meet with her here again on a pet subject of mine. As part of the larger series of response to christian apologists, we will have fun doing this, one to show where they are wrong and also to see how we can move forward in eliminating superstition and myth from the minds of the people. It is the only way I think society can move forward as one.

As a small change in my response to the apologists, I would first want them to define god coherently and show that a god so defined can exist and also that the god so defined need our worship. Barring this, I am convinced that apologists and theologians have chosen to willfully delude themselves and the general public. I also contend that they have to show the god they defined is the christian god or whatever religion they ascribe to.

Now that we are done with the basics, let us deal with the question at heart here. Our friend is talking about justice and punishment. I don’t think there is any justice, there is only revenge. We call it justice because we are ashamed of the word revenge while most times that is what people are seeking, in that respect I can’t support any fight for justice. Unless here we refer to cases like where one has grabbed a piece of your land and all you want is that piece to be returned and nothing more, in such an instance I would give a little neck room but not beyond.

I’ve been wrestling with atheists recently, philosophically, not physically. And as we’ve gone back and forth, the charge of God’s apparent capriciousness and/or callousness has been proposed as reason to question his goodness. A case in point is the biblical record of God “hardening “ Pharaoh’s heart. This is the Egyptian king who was ruthlessly oppressing the enslaved Israelites. And when God called Moses to be his instrument of redemption, he did say to him, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)

Here before we discuss whether Pharaoh was ruthless, the first question that must be dealt with here is, were the Israelites spoils of war or were they led to Egypt by their supposed god? If it is the first, we need to examine the records to see whether there is any truth in it. And if as I believe, they were led to Egypt by their supposed god, he must be responsible fully for what happens to them while there. Blame can’t be transferred unless the theist also accepts that Pharaoh was god’s agent and is to that extent not guilty. In many posts, I have said what I think about miracles and I will repeat here that truth doesn’t require miracles. As long as a miracle is needed, I insist there is no truth involved.

Many ask, how then can God be just in bringing all the plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptians if he so decreed that his heart would be set firmly against freeing the Israelites? It is a reasonable question, but I believe some investigating will disclose a satisfactory answer.

Let us look at the answer she proposes

Before I go on, I’d like to emphasize its reasonableness and say to my atheist friends [...........] that these difficult passages disquiet and trouble Christians as well. It is a sign of our sense of justice and concern for our fellow-man that you and we are disturbed by them. And that’s a good thing. The difference, as I see it, is that you stop there and write God off as either nonexistent or not worthy of worship, but we give him the benefit of the doubt, if you will, and pursue a greater understanding. Not because we don’t want to face the facts, but because we must, and the facts of his justice, mercy, love, and grace don’t jive with evil and cruelty.

Why for instance give god a benefit of doubt you are not ready to grant your fellow-man who you can see, who has feelings, he pleads for mercy? Is it a case where one wants to truly believe that the god she believes in is good despite evidence to the contrary? No we don’t stop there, we continue to examine whether the stories so told are credible and whether the god described can be called merciful and we find he falls short. We lack a belief in gods because we find no evidence to suppose one or many could exist. By saying your god is not what it is described to be, we are not saying it exists, no, we are showing that as described he can only be a fiend, capricious and an enemy of men.

In the same way, because I am convinced of God’s goodness, based on how he reveals himself in both the Old and New Testaments, the witness of Jesus Christ who is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), the fact that we his creatures are capable of great love, compassion, sacrifice, kindness, etc…I, at the very least, trust that there is a good explanation for the apparent dichotomy. And my faith can be strong without knowledge of that explanation. But because I believe God provides a greater understanding when we pursue it…I pursue it.

Friends, please help me here. Well maybe I read a wrong bible translation but how can someone defend that the god of the OT is good. He punishes his first mistake, sends them out of their residence, curses the earth they are supposed to plow, curses child-birth, drowns almost everything, shows favoritism, allows or commands the killing of several number of peeps for no reason other than that they worship a bigger god than him. This god tolerates slavery, promises to punish great-grandchildren for the sins of their fathers, punishes everyone except the persons responsible[take case of David, kills the baby instead of David]. Please someone help me here. In the NT we are sent this god sent himself to die for our sins, he tells us he was innocent. Which good god sets such an example? While on the story of this Jeebus, how long was his mission here?

Why do you need faith? Why must one continue to suspend reason. If something is true, we don’t need faith. Faith is only required to believe the impossible and credulous and as for me, I don’t want faith. I want to live, as Camus says, with what I know and only with that.

Let us listen to the dichotomy

So I’ve sought understanding of God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and though God’s ways are so much higher than ours and men have written long treatises on this issue because it is deep and complex, still I think I can confidently speak on one reality that addresses it and that should be helpful. And it is demonstrated in the convicted murderer scenario I opened with: A just punishment is still just even if there is a potential for mercy that is denied.

I have talked about punishment already. To say god’s ways are higher than ours, what does she mean? And then how is this important to us? If it is higher than ours it only follows that there is no point it becomes relevant to us. It can always remain high up there and as such can’t be used as a standard to measure things here, it will always be higher. There is nothing like just punishment, that statement qualifies to be called an oxymoron!

Pharaoh was an evil ruler who denied mercy to the Israelites and abused them as his slaves. He and all of Egypt worshiped false gods and the Pharaoh willingly received adulation from the Egyptians as having godlike status. They were deserving of God’s wrath. What’s more, God foreknew that Pharaoh would stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites “unless compelled by a mighty hand” (Exodus 3:19). His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was part of God’s method of compulsion. It was retribution for his evil deeds borne of an evil heart, and the means of redemption for God’s people.

Please tell me, dear reader, where is it said Pharaoh was evil? Two where in the bible is the god of Abe described as the god for everyone? I want someone to show me where god revealed himself to Pharaoh saying he is his god and pharaoh dismissed him. The charge that pharaoh worshiped false god can’t be sustained and must be withdrawn. And you have no right to call someone’s god false. It is only false according to you and since no one has shown the one true god, all gods can equally be false, that is even if you could prove that yours exists. How can anyone say pharaoh and the whole of Egypt was deserving of this god’s wrath, a god they had no knowledge of? Is this not the height of cruelty and capriciousness!  It’s like a king asking for the arrest of a fellow he met and who didn’t know him then asking this guy be hanged! Tell me where the difference is between Caroline’s god and this king, and remember am patient :-D

Please tell me, is it remotely possible that, allowing this god to be both omnipotent and omniscient, he would resort to hardening pharaoh’s heart, perform some mundane tricks to get his people to go? But even before we get there, is it possible that he didn’t know by taking them to Egypt they would become slaves and thus send them elsewhere? People let us get serious! I know some of you want this god story to be true, but please just for a few moments everyday, apply reason!

So, God did not compel Pharaoh to resist him in opposition to what Pharaoh was inclined to do. In multiple passages in Exodus Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart. He simply executed righteous judgment on him and the Egyptians by ensuring his continued resistance resulting in the ten plagues.

So if pharaoh acted according to his own nature as Caroline implies here, why has god to punish him. It is like saying a blind man should be punished for using a white stick to find his way! My next question was everyone in Egypt a pharaoh? If the problem was between god and pharaoh, why involve everyone else? Could god not seek an address with pharaoh, why even send Moses? This sounds like the queen of England has a problem with Mr. Hollande, then she sends some ignorant farmer to go meet with the president, please friends, is this sensible?

One might object that obviously God knew Pharaoh would have relented a lot sooner or he wouldn’t have needed to harden his heart, and that would have spared Egypt a number of plagues…and that’s not fair. But I refer you again to our convicted Murderer B. Would we think it just, particularly if his victim was a loved one of ours, if upon his expressed remorse and resolve never to murder again as he stood ready to be sentenced, the judge let him go scot-free?

I have said enough about punishment already. The rest of this statement is ridiculous. Here we have a god behaving like Caroline would, why then call him god? He has the same attitudes just like we do?

But whence goeth justice in the case of Murderer A? He received mercy, which is the antithesis of justice, and every judge has the authority to dispense it. But though we are all entitled to justice, no one is entitled to mercy.

Do I need to say here I again that there is no justice and that we are all entitled to mercy. We can’t act against our nature, so all of us must be treated with mercy whether a god exists or not. Anyone who objects to this position please show me why!

But if God is so wonderful and loving, why doesn’t he have mercy on everyone? I think there are a lot of good answers to that, but there’s one that becomes obvious if we ask ourselves this: Why doesn’t any judge sentence every convicted criminal that stands before him to probation?

I think the obvious answer to this question is at the beginning of the post. There are no gods and in as much as we would want things to be different, they are just as they are.

17 thoughts on “Of Mercy and Justice

  1. john zande says:

    “I would first want them to define god coherently”

    You know none will be able to do that.

  2. Caroline wants to give her god “the benefit of the doubt”, but to do so requires there be some question about whether or not it really exists *and* whether it is worthy of worship. There is no doubt for either. There is no evidence for her god or any other and if we are to believe the bible, there is no doubt that this god is nothing more than the vengeful, primitive god that is typical. The Christian god is no more loving, just or fair than Zeus, Odin or Amaterasu and can be shown to be less in more than a few cases. She must claim she trusts that there is a answer for all of the contradiction and outright nonsense in the bible because her self-worth is so tightly bound to thinking that she has the only right answer and that her omnipotent, omniscient god loves her and only her. It’s a very strong drug, that belief, and it is very hard to get rid of it.

    As for the story of the ten plagues, it is no suprise that Caroline and her type must add parts to the story to excuse their god’s supposed actions.

    • Theists like Caroline study the Bible, but rarely, if ever, study the history of the Bible, and thus, have no way of knowing that the first four books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, were written by three separate and distinctly different sources, and their stories woven together by a redactor about 400 BCE.

      Two groups, known as the Yahwist (J) Source, writing in Jerusalem, in the Southern Kingdom of Judea around 950 BCE, and the Elohist (E) Source, writing in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, around a hundred years later, set to lambskin stories that had circulated among their people for centuries, possibly millennia. In the separate groups, the details changed separately, over time, so when combined, sill another hundred years later after the fall of the Northern kingdom to the Assyrians in 722 BCE, when survivors took their books and escaped to the protection of the Southern Kingdom, resulted in what we see as contradictions – in most instances, they are just different versions of the same tales.

      The third group, known as the Priestly (P) Source, writing in captivity in Babylon around 500 BCE, felt the Yahwist Source had made their god too anthropomorphic, too human-like – he took strolls in the garden, hand-made clothes for Adam and Eve, sewed little labels inside that read, “Fashions by God,” etc. (I could be mistaken about that last part!) – and so, P attempted to rewrite many of J’s stories, giving their god a more regal, ethereal quality. But instead of replacing the J stories with the P tales, the redactor merely placed them side by side, resulting in still more contradictions, such as in the contrast between Genesis 1, written by the P Source, and Genesis 2, quilled by the Yahwist group.

      pax vobiscum,
      archaeopteryx
      http://www.in-His-own-image.com

    • makagutu says:

      why would a perfect god need to be given a benefit of doubt she is unwilling to give to a finite being? Is this not a case of double standards?

      • Of course it is. I would say that needing to give a supposed omni-max being the benefit of the doubt is a tacit admission that this beind doesn’t exist at all, or certainly not as imagined by the theist.

  3. In Genesis, we have two stories of Jews in Egypt, the story of Abraham and the tale of Jacob/Israel, both, reputedly, “According To Moses.” It is patently obvious that whoever wrote those stories had not only never been to Egypt, but knew little about Egyptian culture.

    First, Egyptians did not refer to their rulers as “Pharaohs,” only foreigners did that; Egyptians called their leaders kings. (Neither did the Jewish people refer to themselves as, “Hebrew,” or “Hibiru,” which means, “transient”.) Moses, if he ever existed, and if he had been raised as an Egyptian, would have known that.

    Further, neither Abraham’s nor Moses’ “Pharaoh” is ever named. These men would have been reknowned throughout the entire region in their time, how could one who was actually there, come away without knowing their names, especially one who was supposedly reared in a royal Egyptian household?

    Why are the Jews the only ones telling the story of the Exodus, why is it never mentioned in all of the recorded history of Egypt? The ancient Egyptians were meticulous record-keepers – we have had records come down to us ranging from Egypt’s greatest battles, to such mundane documents as shipping manifests, yet no mention of a time when half of the population of the country packed up and went home, were pursued by the entire Egyptian army, when a Jewish magician parted the Gulf of Suez, which reaches a depth of 2600 feet in some places, led 2.5 million people across, then let the gulf close back up, drowning the pursuing army, ever makes it into the history books of the day, or even the five o’clock news! Is this credible?

    The answer is obvious – the one or ones who wrote those stories had no first-hand knowledge of Egypt, of Egyptian customs, nor of the names of Egyptian kings.

    pax vobiscum,
    archaeopteryx

    • makagutu says:

      Am hoping someone will tell us why after 400 years of slavery the god who inspired the OT forgot the little matter of the Pharaoh’s names to help us verify the validity of these statements.

      • emmylgant says:

        To test our faith, silly! If everything is certain, where is the fun of wondering? If the truth of god’s existence is obvious through proof, where is the merit of believing? If faith is no longer necessary, then it becomes a question of obedience…untenable. Do it my way or die says god…oh, wait… you’ll die anyway.

  4. emmylgant says:

    Thorough as usual. You are making me rethink my concept of justice….

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