Does the Bible teach that a woman has to marry her rapist?

Deut22Atheist critics attempt to assail God’s character by claiming He excused the men of Israel when they abused the women. That is because women were considered less to God, and so God would wink at any mistreatment of the fairer sex.

An example of that is found in Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 which states,

28 “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,
29 “then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.

That passage, it is claimed, describes a young woman who is violently raped by a thuggish man, and rather than being punished, he is told that if he marries her all will be forgiven. The young woman has no choice in the matter. She and her family must comply. And they can never get divorced.

Atheists often complain that it is passages like that one that makes them hate religion.

So are the biblio-haters right? Does the Bible teach that rape victims must marry their rapist, assuming they aren’t married to begin with? A modern day example would be the college freshman coed who gets date raped at a Saturday night frat party forced to marry her frat boy rapist.

Some preliminary remarks before we even delve into providing a response.

First, as I noted in an article on the sex-trade and the Bible, atheists love to abuse those types of passages in the OT. They always cite them out of historical context and often times butcher the translation. But who says atheists like to play fair in these discussions?

After they quote their pet verse, the atheists proclaim how Christians are ignorant of their own Bibles because they cherry-pick verses. Christians need to be consistent, argues the atheist. If they are gonna hate on gays and not allow them to be married, for example, they need to be prepared to own slaves and not eat lobster. That of course is a dishonest, lazy way of offering objections because it doesn’t seek to truly engage the position.

But secondly, and more to the point, why, according to the atheist’s particular view of the world, is this law a “bad” thing? Why should we care? Why should it make them “hate religion?”

Keep in mind that atheism believes humans are merely biological, gene replicators trying their hardest to pass their genes on to the next generation in order to survive. What’s with all the moral outrage over a female gene replicator being told to reproduce exclusively with an exceptionally aggressive male gene replicator? Those two individuals are just a couple of highly evolved hominids operating according to chemical reactions. Do atheists get morally outraged with alpha male primates “raping” young female primates and adding them to the “harem” as it were?

The atheists are inserting all of this phony talk of justice, violating the wills of persons, right and wrong, etc. Under the conditions by which atheists claim the world works, they are wanting me to see some glaring inconsistency with how I as a Christian believe the world works. But aren’t we all just gene replicators living out life according to the chemical reactions of our genetic program? If my genetic program insists female gene replicators should reproduce exclusively with aggressive male gene replicators, what exactly is the problem?

But moving along to reality, how exactly then do I understand this text?

Deuteronomy is outlining instructions for life within a theocratic society, a society whose purpose is to live separately from their surrounding nations and are set apart as a holy nation of people belonging to YHWH. Within that society, YHWH provides instructions on how to deal with situations that will arise among His people, that would include relationships, marriage, and sadly, sexual sin. Israel, in spite of being a distinct, “holy” nation, is a nation comprised of sinners who will at times act sinfully.

Deuteronomy 22:13 ff., addresses laws pertaining to sexual morality and regulates a variety of scenarios that would potentially surface among the people of Israel. That includes situations involving premarital promiscuity, infidelity, affairs, and rape.

If one were to read the text carefully, there is a law addressing rape found in 22:25-27. It reads,

25 “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.
26 “But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.
27 “For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.

The word “forces” describes a man who sees a woman and rapes her. The text says it is akin to a man rising against his neighbor and committing murder. In such a case the rapist is executed. Nothing happens to the girl. Those three passages clearly speak about rape and what happens to the rapist and victim.

However, 22:28-29 describes a much different situation.

The atheist will point to the word “seizes” as translated in the NKJV and other English translations and claim the word means rape. That isn’t totally accurate. The word has the basic idea of “to grasp” or “seize” and doesn’t necessarily mean rape in a violent sense. The context will determine that. The only modern translations that translate the word as “rape” that I could find were the NET and the TNIV, but I believe they offer a woefully bad translation that does not represent the passage. I say that for at least three reasons.

First, the idea here is a guy taking a girl who isn’t “betrothed” to be married. The word betrothed helps to define the context. She isn’t engaged, nor has she been pledged to another man, so she is probably young, still living at home with her parents.

Next, the verse says “and they are found out” or “discovered.” “To be discovered” means that the couple didn’t want to be found out. The implication being that his or her family found out they had sexual relations with each other. This would mean the girl could very well had been a willing participant in the sexual sin.

Contrast that situation with the one described in the previous three verses. There it is clear a girl is raped. The fact that she cries for help indicates she was attacked. In that situation, the guy is executed. Now, in verses 28, 29, both the guy and the girl are “discovered,” and rather than being executed, the guy is told to marry the girl. It would be a rather odd regulation if in one instance, the guy is executed for his attack, yet in the next, he is allowed to marry his victim. It’s nonsensical, to be exact.

Third, the situation described in Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 reads almost exactly like Exodus 22:16, 17. In fact, Deuteronomy is more than likely a reiteration of those verses in Exodus,

16 “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.
17 “If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.

Here we have described for us a man who “entices,” or better, “seduces” a young girl and sleeps with her. It is not a rape at all, but is something that is quite common between teenagers even in our day. That being, a young man who sweet-talks a girl into liking him and he gets her into bed, or in the case of our modern society, in the back of his second-hand Dodge van. Rather than being raped, she is willingly compliant.

When they are found out, the guy isn’t executed because he didn’t violently attack her. He is given the option to marry her along with paying fifty shekels of silver to the family for his foolish, piggish behavior.

Also notice that Exodus 22:17 gives the option for the father to refuse the marriage. In other words, he can tell the young man to take a hike and not come back. The young man is still required to pay the bride-price, or the dowry the family would have received when the daughter was engaged.

So to say that the Bible makes a girl marry her rapist is just patently absurd.

Lawson on Watson

Steve Lawson tells us how Thomas Watson’s book, The Body of Divinity, revolutionized his theology and life. I couldn’t agree more. It was one of the early books I read at the beginning of my Christian walk that shook my soul and set me on the spiritual trajectory of my life. A powerful display of God’s character from this Puritan preacher. It is why my oldest boy’s middle name is Watson.

One also has to keep in mind that Watson published that book nearly 400 years ago. Yet here it is in the 21st century providing sober-minded believers with a deep theology that takes root in their hearts and turns their eyes heavenward for a high view of God.

I just can’t imagine a serious preacher of God’s Word 300 years from now, extolling the excellencies of Joel Osteen’s book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life or Beth Moore’s, Sacred Secrets. Assuming of course anyone remembers those two in a decade.

The Hounds of Discernment

uglydogLyndon and I are preparing our chapter reviews of Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire for a possible ebook of our own. The material will be updated a bit and greatly expanded, particularly Lyndon’s stuff. Not sure when it will be available. We have both finished our principle reedit of our posts, and we just recently exchanged our chapters with each other. I am working through Lyndon’s material, offering my insights and suggestions.

One of Michael Brown’s complaints he levels in his book against cessationists is their meanness and vitriol they express when they go after what they perceive is heresy. That attitude is really witnessed among those cessationists who run online “discernment” ministries. I don’t necessarily disagree with Dr. Brown on that point. So-called discernment ministries can be downright nasty at times.

As I was reviewing one of Lyndon’s chapters yesterday, I came across this wonderful rant he offered in response to Dr. Brown’s complaint. I thought it was well stated and worth bringing out for others to consider.

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The “conspicuous lack of love” manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly.  I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media (especially if you’ve never had previous contact with them at all).  Some cessationists are absolutely shameful jerks (and far too frequently are even socially handicapped) and that should not be the case.

What’s more, there’s the “discernment ministry” folks out there who somehow think that it’s the business of a person without any sort of biblical office to “call out” heretics on the internet.   Calling for the repentance of random strangers when they don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact, and aren’t holding any sort of biblical office (namely, an elder in a church) reveals a profound lack of discernment.

What’s worse is that, in my experience, the “discernment ministry” folks (often the most aggressive of the cessationists) who like to hop on social media or their own websites and “call out” random or infamous charismatics tend to respond to criticism far worse than the charismatics they go after.  When those “discernment ministry” folks are faced with something stupid or sinful that they do, they’re frequently violently resistant to correction and attack those who attempt to confront their foolishness/sin.

Yet, they somehow expect people who likely get wheelbarrows of hate mail (i.e. any popular personality in Christendom) to somehow read a few tweets from a random agitator, and then overthrow what’s likely decades of tradition/commitment to a theological position, and repent.  Even worse, more than a few of the “discernment ministry” folks appear to think their duty is done as long as they’ve pointed to any unbiblical idea that someone has ever been associated with and demanded repentance.  Once heretics have been informed of their error, the “discernment ministry” folks appear to feel like their job is done.  In case I’ve been unclear, too many “discernment ministry” folks do far more harm than good.  On this point, I agree with Michael Brown and wish I had the power to teach a cabal of specific individuals some basic social etiquette.

Discernment is one of the things that they claim to have, but more often than not it’s simply a neurotic fascination with people who are in theological error.  It may seem obvious, but 1 Pet. 5:2 is a commission strictly given to the elders in 1 Pet. 5:1.  Titus 1:9 is a directive given to the overseers who are mentioned in Titus 1:7.  1 Tim. 6:20 is a command specifically addressed to Timothy, as is the command in 2 Tim. 1:14 and 2:2 (and basically all the other go-to texts that “discernment ministry” folks use to justify their existence).  More often than not, the passages that do directly apply to them (i.e. Titus. 2:3-5) are being habitually and systematically disobeyed.

The God of Weights and Measures

philae

Being the geek that I am, I followed with much enthusiasm the European Space Agency’s successful attempt landing the Philae probe on a comet. [Remember when the USA and NASA used to do that kind of cool stuff? Good times]. The entire process took nearly a decade when the Rosetta orbiter was launched, circled the earth three times, took a swing around Mars, and eventually caught up with Comet 67P.

The entire process was really amazing. The photos that are being beamed back are breathtaking. As we look at wonder upon those images, the only way that all happened is that God has created an orderly universe that is governed by His rational laws of logic that give us the ability to mathematically calculate the orbit of an incoming comet from the outer solar system and plan the trajectory of a space vehicle to meet with it and send a lander down to its surface. The whole process is one giant apologetic for the existence of God.

I explained all of that in a post I wrote when the Phoenix surveyor dropped to the surface of Mars back in 2008. I’ve reposted it here for your consideration:

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Earlier this week, I believe on Sunday our time here on Earth, the Phoenix surveyor landed in the polar region of Mars.

The picture is its final descent to the surface taken from the MRO imaging satellite in orbit around the planet.

I tend to geek out at these sorts of things.

I saw the article about the picture at the Bad Astronomy website, maintained by Phil Plait. I have read articles where he plays at pretending to be an anti-Creationist activist-watchdog. He claims to be a skeptic, though now-a-days the word “skeptic” is synonymous with “atheist.”

Any how, Phil writes this gushing remark about the image at his site:

Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.

Never, ever forget: we did this. This is what we can do. [emphasis his]

Note his emphasis: we did this. That is important to keep in mind as we place the photograph in perspective.

When I saw the picture of the Phoenix landing on Mars with even the parachute tethers still visibly attached, my mind was turned toward God’s Word, specifically one of the more interesting Proverbs I love.

Honest weights and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. (Prov. 16:11, NKJV)

The point of the proverb is quite simple: you are to deal honestly with your fellow man. If you happen to be a butcher and a person comes to your shop looking to purchase 2 pounds of hamburger meat, when you weigh out the meat, your scale must honestly record 2 pounds. It is not to be rigged in such a way that 1.5 pounds of meat looks to be 2 pounds and the person is thus charged to pay for 2 pounds when really all he has is 1.5 pounds.

The proverb is a summation of Leviticus 19:35,36, which reads,

You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, and honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The command to maintain honest weights and measures in grounded in the holy character of God. The Lord always directs His commands back to Himself. We are to be honest with a fundamental interaction with our fellow man because God’s character is holy and righteous.

Now, what does that have to do with the Phoenix lander on Mars?

I believe there is a secondary application of Proverbs 16:11 that tends to get over looked. That being, in order for there to be a command to be honest with our weights and measures, there must be an ultimate standard by which to determine if and when a weight or measure is dishonest.

Here in the U.S. there is a department in the government for the standard of weights and measures. They have the ultimate weight that weighs one pound exactly, or one kilo, depending upon the system in use. They have the ultimate measuring stick that is one yard exactly, or one meter. All weights claiming to weigh a pound should balance with the ultimate one pound weight. The same with all meter sticks. If we lay them along side the ultimate stick they should all be a meter.

In this proverb, the writer is indirectly describing a principle of scientific knowledge to the Lord: The reason men can have a shared understanding of how to weigh and measure objects is because weight and measures are intimately connected to God’s eternal, immutable nature. Thus, men can use weights and measure for more than determining the price of steak, but can utilize them to construct buildings, engineer bridges, and even send probes into space. That is because weights and measures are a development of basic, universal truths of mathematical principles.

In an important work, The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math and Meaning, a book that should be read by all Christians, John Byl writes concerning math:

The existence of eternal, abstract, mathematical thoughts seems to require the existence of something actual in which they exist. This raises the questions of where and how such mathematical entities exist.

The early theistic philosophers Philo and Augustine placed the ideal world of eternal truths in the mind of God. Augustine argued that the existence of eternal necessary truths implied the existence of an eternal, necessary, infinite mind in which all such truths exist. [pg. 136]

The fact that we can develop scientific know-how to send a probe into space, then land on another planet, and then another probe is able to take a picture of it landing, is because we have fixed mathematical principles to utilize in order to accomplish such a feat. If the principles of math and physics were systems that did not exist outside ourselves as humans the ability to perform the task of landing a probe on Mars would be near impossible, if not unobtainable. We know about how a parachute impacts drag on an object, how much force gravity pulls on it, and how fast it falls, because those are certain, measurable variables that are universal.

So when Phil boasts, we did this, such is true if it were not for the fact God is concerned with just weights. In the side bar of Phil’s blog, there is a picture of him with his comments, “I likes reality the way it is and I aims to keep it that way.” Because a weight in the bag is God’s work, Phil can keep being entertained by the reality he so enjoys, even though he hates God.

The Sex Trade and The Bible

Sometime ago, a cranky atheist left some challenging comments under a post on my now defunct Blogger version of Hip and Thigh. He primarily took me to task for asking him why he, an atheist, cares about the Islamic sex trade. Rather than answering me, he laid down the following challenges:

why do you, a Biblical literalist, care about drugs and sex slavery? Drugs are not forbidden in the Bible, and sex slavery is permitted, and in fact, mandated, as long as God’s people do it to God’s non-people. Exodus 21 says you can sell your daughters into slavery, and in those days owners always had sex with their female slaves, as the slavery laws and many stories (Abraham x Hagar) make clear, so if you’re pressed for cash, sell little Hadassah into sex slavery, says Exodus 21. And in Numbers 31, Moses is positively furious with the Israelites for not killing the non-virgin Midianites and making sex slaves of the vigins [sic]

He then provided me with a list of passages that supposedly prove God not only sanctioned sex slavery, but even ordered the rape of women in some cases. Those passages include:

[Deut. 20:10–15; Deut. 21:10–14; Num. 31:1–47; Isaiah 13:16; Judges 5:30; Judges 21:10–14 ... Ex. 21:2–8; Ex. 21:20–21; Deut. 20:10–15; Lev. 25:44–46; Isaiah 14:1-2].

He then offered this closing remark:

So how can you, a Biblical literalist, logically oppose sex slavery, when God’s people are ordered to do it to God’s non-people?

Knowing I have many readers who perhaps encounter biblio-skeptics among their co-workers and family who throw out the sex-slavery allegation, It may be helpful to put together a response. I don’t expect any atheist challenger will be persuaded by my answers. In fact, more than likely they will provide me with some clever excuses to explain them away so as to keep on suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

Preliminary Remarks

Before I begin, let me lay out a number of important facts we need to consider.

1) It needs to be kept in mind that rape and sexual slavery don’t really exist in an atheist worldview. They believe human beings are merely evolved star dust that has come about by random chance, mutation, adaptation, and the like. The goal of any species, human beings included, is to survive. Survival means the reproduction of genetic offspring into the next generation. “Rape” in an atheist worldview is one organism attempting to transmit its genes so as to assure survival.

dawkinsOf course, I understand atheists, particularly the Dawkins-hating feminist variety, would shriek with outrage at my claim of there being no such thing as “rape” in the atheist world. I am a sexist religious bigot for even saying it. However once moral categories of right or wrong are assigned to an action, and people begin using descriptions like personal dignity, respect, self-worth, and other value based terms, the atheist has unwittingly ceases being an atheist and acknowledges the absolute morality, for or against, that action.  The morality of an action, say for example rape and sex slavery is wrong, only truly counts if there is a moral law giver who transcends ourselves to whom we are all accountable. Otherwise, what is right and wrong is just opinion.

2) Atheists and scriptural critics will regularly pretend to have a great knowledge of the biblical text. They will often string together all kinds of Bible verses like they themselves are a fundamentalist revival preacher. It is easy to become intimidated by the sheer volume of their citations because they give the appearance they know what they are talking about. That expertise, in reality, is a facade. The vast number of those atheists may have come from religious backgrounds in which they were exposed to a shallow reading of Scripture or never taught it in a meaningful fashion. That is why they cherry-pick the ones favoring their opposition.

3) Of those atheists who were saturated in the study of Scripture their criticisms of problematic passages of the Bible are spun and twisted so as to exaggerate the supposed difficulty under consideration. For instance, the allegation that God sanctions sex slavery and commanded rape of innocent people. Their goal with distorting the Bible in this fashion has nothing to do with uncovering the genuine meaning of the text, but is more for the purpose of fueling their continuing rage against their creator and to paint God as a monster unworthy of our worship.

4) It is a fact that slavery is recorded in Scripture. However, to equate the indentured servitude regulated in the books of Moses with the cruel harshness of human trafficking and slavery found in virtually every human society throughout the history of the world shows a severe lack of historical perspective. I would even say an intentionally self-imposed intellectual blindness. It is also equally ridiculous to anachronistically read the struggle Western society had with slavery in the 18th and 19th century that eventually resulted in the American Civil War back into the Bible as if the slavery spoken of in the pages of Scripture is the exact same thing.

5) It is also true some men spoken of in the Bible had concubines. That is to say, a man had more than one wife, or practiced polygamy. The primary purpose for such an arrangement (apart from monarchs who gathered wives for political purposes) was to maintain the family name through the birth of a male heir. If the favored wife, the first wife the husband married, was unable to give birth, he would seek out a surrogate to produce male offspring. This is the case with Elkanah, Hannah, and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1-2). Hannah was unable to conceive, so Peninnah was taken as a wife to produce children.

Those arrangements were never sanctioned by the Lord at all, but were the efforts of men to take matters into their own hands as it were. That is seen in the example the atheist challenger notes with Abraham and Hagar. Sarah gave Hagar her handmaid to Abraham so that he could produce the promised heir. Such an action mocked God’s promise to Abraham, and was a blatant display of fleshly reasoning. His actions were not rape, as is supposed by the atheist critic, because Hagar already had a relationship with Abraham’s family and remained 14 years with them until Sarah ran her off (Genesis 16).

The Texts

With those comments in mind, let us consider the passages offered by our atheist antagonist. Of the ones he lists, maybe five of them pose any significant difficulty for a Bible believing Christian. I have outlined them according to importance of the challenge.

Exodus 21:7-11

7 And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.
8 “If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her.
9 “And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.
10 “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.
11 “And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

I wrote on Exodus 21 in an earlier post.  I recommend the reader to consider it in order to have a more detailed study of this passage. Suffice it to say for our purposes now, the passage in Exodus is not sanctioning the selling of a daughter into sexual slavery. To describe the text in such a manner reveals an ignorant bias. The expression of a man “selling his daughter” does not mean he sells her off to a total stranger never to see the daughter again. It is a description of indentured servitude: a family in debt who has a daughter capable of work who will then contract with another family in order for her work to help the family pay off debt. That is clear from the overall context that begins in 21:1.

As happens with many of those arrangements, the man of the other family either falls in love with the girl and wishes to marry her, or maybe want her to marry one of his sons. The text is providing detailed instructions on how that arrangement is to be made and the regulations that help safe guard the girl’s purity in the situation so that she won’t be taken advantage of as a maidservant. Rather than sanctioning the sex trade, the text prevents such from happening.

Numbers 31:1-47

numbersNumbers 31 is long so I won’t cite it in the entirety. This chapter is supposed to be one of those “I can’t believe this is in the Bible!” and “You can’t read this to your kids!” chapters. It records the destruction of the Midianites by Israel’s armies during the wilderness wanderings. There is a similar record in 1 Samuel 15 where the Amalekites are utterly destroyed.

When the secular talk media discusses acts of Jihad by Islamic radicals against non-Muslims, biblio-critics are quick to appeal to places like Numbers 31 to make comparisons between Islamic and Judeo-Christian views of God. If God commanded death to innocent unbelievers in the OT like the Midianites and the Amalekites, how then can the God of the Bible be any different than Allah of the Qu’ran? Of course, those nations destroyed by Israel were far from “innocent” victims, as if Israel, in a blood lust fury, chopped down villages of peace loving, poetry reading, Mac book using gardeners and their sweet families.

Passages like Numbers 31 are often lifted from their contexts in which they provide a clearer understanding of the events leading up to the destruction of the nation. In the case of the Midianites, the context of their dealings with Israel begin in Numbers 22 where they are said to have joined forces with the Moabites to fight against them (22:4). They hired Balaam to curse Israel, who fails to level that curse; but instead leads Israel to sin against God by having them led into spiritual harlotry by Moabite and Midianite women (Num. 25). That act of sin aroused God’s anger against Israel and the Lord judged them with a plague that struck down 24,000 people (25:8). As a result of their wickedness, God commands Israel to go to war with the Midianites (25:6-8). His judgment against them is recorded in Numbers 31.

The difficult passage, then, is Moses’ words to the captains of the army who brought back all the women of the Midianites as captives,

14 But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle.
15 And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive?
16 “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
17 “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.
18 “But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.

In this act, the women that led Israel into wickedness would be slain. The death of the male children would insure the extermination of the Midianites as a people and keep them from ever again seducing Israel to sin. Only the young girls who were virgins would be allowed to live and assimilated into the nation of Israel. Our politically correct sensibilities bristle at such a description, but the death of the Midianites was not commanded capriciously for the sake of heartless cruelty and the securing of material gain. God was bringing swift and deserving punishment upon a wicked nation that reveled in their sin against God and His holy people.

The accusation of sex slavery and forced rape is raised against the comment of verse 18, “But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.” But nothing in this passage implies such a villainous act took place. Just that those girls were kept alive. Nothing is recorded as to what happened to them, though it is assumed they were eventually married off among the people of Israel. However, because men can act sinfully in such cases, God gave regulations regarding women taking into captivity because of war and that brings us to the next set of passages.

Deuteronomy 20:10-15 and 21:10-14

These passages describe a similar situation: a city being taken in war and the women (presumably young girls never married) being captured. Only Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is relevant to our discussion here:

10 When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive,
11 “and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife,
12 “then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.
13 “She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.
14 “And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.

The situation describes a solider or some other man of Israel wanting to marry a girl taken into captivity due to war. But rather than God allowing the man to do with her whatever the man pleases, note how commandments are laid down to protect the girl. She basically is made plain: trimmed nails, changed into new clothes, and shaves her head. Hence, those outward things a man would have seen to have caused him to desire her are removed.

She is to mourn a full month for her family. After that period, if the man still likes her, he can marry her. However, if he has no delight in her, meaning, after the month she no longer appeals to him, she is to be set free. Notice also how the man is forbidden to sell her for money and to treat her brutally, which would mean, rape her or make her into a sex slave. So, rather than sanctioning such atrocities as the village atheist alleges, God provides a way for the girl to be protected by law.

Judges 21:10-14, 20, 21

20 Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards,
21 “and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin.

This last passage for our consideration has to do with the tribes of Israel going to war against the tribe of Benjamin for an act of wickedness that took place in their territory as outlined in Judges 19. Though the Lord directed in leading Israel’s military machine against Benjamin (Judges 20:18), God did not direct the tribes in counseling them to kidnap women for the remaining men of Benjamin in order to preserve their lineage in Israel as described in 21:20-21. Those were acts sanctioned solely by the elders of Israel, and thus reflected the theme of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The remaining passages raised by the atheists taken from Isaiah have nothing really to do with God sanctioning rape or the sex trade, but are prophetic descriptions of what will happen to the wicked Babylonians when they are given over to their enemies as a sign of God’s judgment against them. What they did to other nations, pillage and rape, will happen to them.

So to answer the atheist’s charge, how can you believe the Bible when God sanctioned sex trading and rape?, God never did, and contrary to his accusations, the Bible never does either.

Selling Daughters into Slavery

exodus21I plan to revisit a few of my old articles I compiled interacting with the objections to a biblical, sexual ethic as outlined specifically in the Torah.

One of the often repeated objections against Christianity from atheists and biblio-skeptics is the complaint that the Bible allows for sexual slavery and the abuse of women in general. They claim that Judaism and Christianity are no different than Islam with the treatment of women.

There are a number of better responses than what I have probably offered, but I hope I can provide a quick and definitive answer for those who may encounter these objections.

Let me consider the first one, a sarcastic challenge to the notion of daughters allegedly being sold into slavery.

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

The objection is taken from Exodus 21. I’ll reproduce the King James Version, seeing that the way the venerable translation reads is the culprit with internet biblio-skeptics:

7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

What I have always found amusing in my discussions with skeptics and cranks regarding what they think the Bible says, is how they, the unchurched, biblically illiterate persons, become instant experts in what the text says and means, and then they insist on explaining it to me.

The basic objection goes like this: The Bible is condoning slavery, but not just any kind of slavery. It allows for a father to sell his own children into slavery if he so chooses. And, making it even worse is how this passage tells us that God is okay with a father selling off his own daughter to be a sex slave to some dirty old man. It is a primitive practice of a prehistoric society; the kind of stuff we see in the backwaters of third world Islamic countries like Sudan or Pakistan.

Seeing that we live in a progressive, modern 21st century culture here in these United States, why would we want to appeal to an ancient book that allowed the sex trade to flourish in their society to inform us what we should believe?

Let me highlight three problems with this facile reasoning:

First of all is the assumption that the “slavery” described in the Bible is the same slavery we experienced here in America and fueled our Civil War. That is entirely false. In reality, the “slavery” described in Scripture is an indentured servitude designed to maintain the dignity of a person or family in extreme poverty or debt. A good portion of ancient slavery was that kind of servitude.

We still practice indentured servitude to a degree in today’s world. Only now we are paid for it differently. Granted, we go home to the wife and kids in the evening, but in the morning, we are required by our servitude to get up out of bed and serve a “master” of sorts in order to make a living.

Secondly, coming to the text in question, it is also wrongfully assumed that the daughter being sold is being sold to a man who immediately engages her in a sexual relationship. That is also false, as a careful reading of the text demonstrates.

The passage is establishing strict regulations that protect the girl’s purity. The idea is a man places his daughter into the service of another man as a maid servant. She was to serve him for at least 6 years, because on the 7th year she was to be released from her obligation as Levitical law informs us. If the man grows to love her and then has the intention of marrying her, he was to look after her as a daughter. If he had intended to marry her, but then doesn’t want to, he was to let her be released back her family, the idea of being redeemed (vs 8).

The same requirements were set up if the man wants her to marry his son. If the son marries someone else instead, the girl was to be taken care of and even allowed to be married to someone else. That is what it means when the text states, “not diminish … her marriage rights” as it is translated in the NKJV. In other words, she could not be forcible kept a virgin and never allowed to marry.

Third, OT scholar, Walter Kaiser, notes three important mistakes when translating the passage of Exodus 21 in his book, Toward Old Testament Ethics.

1) In verse 8, many translators follow the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew and miss the significant little word “not” that is important to the meaning. The verse would read, If she displeases her master so that he does NOT betroth her to himself. The idea is what I noted above: If the man does not want to marry her, he is to let her go. He can’t keep her in a perpetual state of chastity all of her life.

2) The translation of verse 10 as, If he marries another wife, is unclear because it implies the man now has two wives, the original slave girl and now a second woman. In other words, polygamy. But verse 8 has already noted that the original girl has been rejected for marriage. Rather than meaning he is adding to a harem of women, the text means he marries another woman other than the original girl in service to him.

3) In verse 10 and 11, if a man doesn’t marry the girl, or if a man has arranged for his son to marry the girl, yet the marriage doesn’t happen, she was to be allowed to marry someone else. That is the idea that she was to go free and it is the man or the family she served who lose financially, not the girl.

If the text is read carefully, rather than layering it with a slime that is read into it by the atheist’s twisted views of sexuality, the regulations are designed to protect the girl and her family who are in dire, financial need. They are not providing dirty old men the opportunity to sexually abuse teenage girls under a “divine” blessing.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [9]

Does Christianity have a morbid, unhealthy preoccupation with sex and produce sexual misery?

I come again to my review of Chaz Bufe, the Christ-hating anarchist and blues guitar playing atheist, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

He devotes two entire points to the subject of Christians and sexuality. Rather than dealing with them separately, I will combine them together with this one post.

Chaz, as with a lot of anti-theists, has an obsession with the subject of sexual ethics as it pertains to Christianity. His obsession, for example, is witnessed in the second sentence of point 9 when he writes about the numerous “thou shalt nots” relating to sex in the Bible, particular the 10th commandment which forbids coveting your neighbor’s wife. I had no idea that Chaz was a wife-swapping swinger as well.

Under point 9:

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that “morality” consists solely of what one does in one’s bedroom. The Catholic Church is the prime example here, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion (and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters). Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. For more than a century the Catholic Church has also been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information—to everyone, not just Catholics.

As I have noted in previous articles, Chaz has the annoying habit of equating historic, Bible-believing Christianity with the Roman Catholic Church. That misnomer permeates his entire tract. In fact, I would say his overall pamphlet would be more aptly titled 20 Reasons to Abandon Roman Catholicism. I suppose Chaz can’t be faulted too much, because it is typical of many critics of religious faith to make this mistake either out of ignorance or intellectual laziness.

That being stated, I would agree with Chaz to an extent that Roman Catholicism has taught a warped view of human sexuality. Yet it isn’t derived from Scripture as Chaz would have his readers believe, but from a mingling of Gnostic ascetic beliefs with early Christian mysticism. That hybrid philosophical combination produced an entirely unbiblical view of Christian sexuality; one that is no where taught in the whole the Bible.

Many early Church fathers, including those who followed into the Medieval times, held to a false dichotomy between the spirit and flesh, with the spirit understood as being pure and the flesh evil. They would then impose that narrow dichotomy upon the Bible and force the text to teach something entirely different than what it was meant to convey. That in turn sadly produced two millennia of misguided Christians.

Many of them taught that marriage should not be for anything but procreation and virginity was the highest of spiritual virtues. The systems of the monastery and convent were developed as a place where single, self-imposed chaste men and women could live out their spiritual lives away from the temptations of the world.  However, thanks be to the revival that took place under the Reformation, Christians broke away from that false teaching and returned to the teaching of Scripture.

One of the more common myth, as I noted in a previous response to Chaz, is the notion that Puritans were dour, sexually repressive individuals. But that is utterly untrue. It was the Puritans who recaptured a biblical vision of God ordain human sexuality as the Lord had intended sex to be. As Leland Ryken shows in his wonderful book, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were, the Puritans celebrated sexuality throughout their literature and sermons. Think about it: Puritans had massive families; obviously they had to have liked sex.

God loves sex, simply because He created it for men and women to enjoy. The only stipulation is that sex is to be enjoyed within the boundary God has set, that being a marriage between one man and one woman.

The Lord declares in Hebrews 13:4 that marriage is honorable among all, and the bed is undefiled… Proverbs 5:18,19 frankly states, Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. And the Song of Solomon is a long love poem expressing in parts the blessedness of martial sexual relations between a man and woman. So the idea Chaz is attempting to set forth to his readers that Christianity is sexually repressive is non-sense.

What Chaz doesn’t like is the stipulation God has placed on sex; i.e., only being between a man and a woman who are married. Chaz boasts of being a “free thinker” and historically, free thinkers are notorious womanizing sex perverts. As we will see in more detail when we come to Chaz’s complaint that Christianity is misogynistic, one of his intellectual heroes from times past, the poet, Lord George Byron, toured the European continent sleeping with countless women and impregnating a good deal of them, leaving a wake of illegitimate children. I would imagine Chaz dreams of a life like that.

Moving on to point 10:

In addition to the misery produced by authoritarian Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex (except the very narrow variety it sanctions) is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality, and even “impure” sexual thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell.

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexuality (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morality” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief…

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist.

I don’t have much to add here except to draw out a couple of observations.

In the first paragraph above, Chaz laments how Christianity produces great misery in that it labels sex as evil and against God’s law. He then goes on to list all the “sexual sins” that could get a person condemned to hell like fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and even an impure thought life. In Chaz’s mind, rather than being condemned as sinful, people should be allowed to indulge their sexual appetites.

Oddly, pedophilia is not listed. In fact, Chaz has a book recommended on his website addressing how a person can recover from sexual child abuse. Apparently, that restrictive age of consent is the only area where Chaz agrees with Christianity. But why is that? If we should abandon Christianity because it stifles sexual freedoms, why stop with an adult-child sexual relationship? After all, why should we be restricted by age and maturity? Why doesn’t Chaz mention that? Oh sure, free thinking atheists hypocritically try to explain it away as a child not being able to consent to such a relationship. But I have met some rather sophisticated 13 year olds in my life. So why won’t Chaz advocate for the rash of female teachers seducing and having sex with teenage students?

Second, Chaz’s rant about Christians being so sexually repressed because they follow Christian morality that when they get married they have dysfunctional sex lives is bunk. That is one of the greatest lies of the a-religious: in order to have a fulfilling sex life in marriage people need to have numerous sexual relationships before hand. Sort of like test driving a car before you buy one or doing a ten day free trial with a vacuum cleaner. If you don’t try it out first, you could get stuck with a lemon.

Let me assure any single readers out there as a happily married man of many years now, to put it bluntly, Chaz is an idiot. I lived 31 years as a chaste, single man and there were absolutely zero problems transitioning into married life in the area of sex. That is not to say Christians don’t have sexual problems after and during marriage, but statistically, sex is the least problem a couple struggles with in a marriage, and it is a problem that can be easily fixed with minimal advice. The issue boils down to whether a couple wishes to love each other unconditionally, in a spirit-filled, committed relationship.

Chaz’s view of Christian sex is lopsided, and like the established habit in this long diatribe against the faith, he forgets to self-critique. The secular world tells us to be sexually free, to enjoy sex without marriage, experiment, indulge in pornography, if you pickup a disease, get a shot, and if you get pregnant abortion is the quick and easy way out.

The reality, however, is a sea of broken and used people who have a jaded, bitter attitude to any meaningful sex life with a real person. There is a reason why God told us to not covet our neighbor’s wife, because it hurts people and destroys families. Lives are ruined. The real sexual misery is the secularism Chaz is suggesting we live.

On the Eve of All Saints’ Day

Taken from Roland Bainton’s masterful biography on Martin Luther, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.

The Church, while taking an individualistic view of sin, takes a corporate view of goodness. Sins must be accounted for one by one, but goodness can be pooled; and there is something to pool because the saints, the Blessed Virgin, and the Son of God were better than they needed to be for their own salvation. Christ in particular, being both sinless and God, is possessed of an unbounded store. These superfluous merits of the righteous constitute a treasury which is transferable to those whose accounts are in arrears. The transfer is effected through the Church and, particularly, through the pope, to whom as the successor of St. Peter have been committed the keys to bind and loose. Such transfer of credit was called an indulgence. …

During the decade in which Luther was born a pope had declared that the efficacy of indulgences extended to purgatory for the benefit of the living and the dead alike. In the case of the living there was no assurance of avoiding purgatory entirely because God alone knew the extent of the unexpiated guilt and the consequent length of the sentence, but the Church could tell to the year and the day by how much the term could be reduced, whatever it was. And in the case of those already dead and in purgatory, the sum of whose wickedness was complete and known, the immediate release could be offered. …

There were places in which these signal mercies were more accessible than in others. For no theological reason but in the interest of advertising, the Church associated the dispensing of the merits of the saints with visitation upon the relics of the saints. Popes frequently specified precisely how much benefit could be derived from viewing each holy bone. Every relic of the saints in Halle, for example, was endowed by Pope Leo X with an indulgence for the reduction of purgatory by four thousand years.

The greatest storehouse for such treasures was Rome. Here in the single crypt of St. Callistus forty popes were buried and 76,000 martyrs. Rome had a piece of Moses’ burning bush and three hundred particles of the Holy Innocents. Rome had the portrait of Christ on the napkin of St. Veronica. Rome had the chains of St. Paul and the scissors with which the Emperor Domitian clipped the hair of St. John. The walls of Rome near the Appian gate showed the white spots left by the stones which turned to snowballs when hurled by the mob against St. Peter before his time was come. A church in Rome had the crucifix which leaned over to talk to St. Brigitta. … In front of the Lateran were the Scala Sancta, twenty-eight stairs, supposedly those which once stood in front of Pilate’s palace. He who crawled up them on hands and knees, repeating a Pater Noster for each one, could thereby release a soul from purgatory. … No city on earth was so plentifully supplied with holy relics, and no city on earth was so richly endowed with spiritual indulgences as Holy Rome. …

As a parish priest in a village church Luther was responsible for the spiritual welfare of his flock. They were procuring indulgences as he had once done himself. Rome was not the only place in which such favors available, for the popes delegated to many churches in Christendom the privilege of dispensing indulgence, and the Castle Church at Wittenberg was the recipient of a very unusual concession granting full remissions of all sins. The day selected for the proclamation was the first of November, the day of All Saints, whose merits provided the ground of the indulgences and whose relics were then on display.

Fredrick the Wise, the elector of Saxony, Luther’s prince, was a man of simple and sincere piety who had devoted a lifetime to making Wittenberg the Rome of Germany as a depository of sacred relics. He had made a journey to all parts of Europe, and diplomatic negotiations were facilitated by an exchange of relics. The king of Denmark, for example, sent him fragments of King Canute and St. Brigitta.

The collection had as its nucleus a genuine thorn from the crown of Christ, certified to have pierced the saviour’s brow. Fredrick so built up the collection from this inherited treasure that the catalogue illustrated by Lucas Cranach in 1509 listed 5,005 particles, to which were attached indulgences calculated to reduce purgatory by 1,443 years. The collection included one tooth of St. Jerome, of St. Chrysostom four pieces, of St. Bernard six, and of St. Augustine four; of Our Lady four hairs, three pieces of her cloak, four from her girdle, and seven from the veil sprinkled with the blood of Christ. The relics of Christ included one piece from his swaddling clothes, thirteen from his crib, one wisp of straw, one piece of the gold brought by the Wise Men and three of the myrrh, one strand of Jesus’ beard, once of the nails driven into his hands, one piece of bread eaten at the Last Supper, one piece of the stone on which Jesus stood to ascend into heaven, and one twig of Moses’ burning bush.

DeChickifying Halloween

thetrickSome General Thoughts About Christians Celebrating Halloween

When I grew up as kid in small town Missouri, Halloween was a favorite time of the year. Not only did it indicate that Thanksgiving and Christmas were not far behind, but it gave us kids an opportunity to dress up in some fun costume and traverse our town begging the folks to give us candy; and they loved giving it to us.   And in those good ole days, people handed out those full-sized candy bars. None of that “fun-size” non-sense like now. Little dinky 3 Musketeers bars are neither sizable nor fun. But I digress.

Our costumes were not all that fancy.  We didn’t have any of those specialty stores like they have now-a-days where I guy can get a full on elf warrior suit or some gal one of those sleazy outfits like “sexy ebola patient” or whatever. Nope. The only store bought costumes came from Wal-Mart and they just sold stuff like Casper the ghost, Bugs Bunny, Mork from Ork, Batman (Adam West version), or if I was really, really lucky and could secure one of those X-wing fighter costumes for the size of a “husky” 8 year old. Those, regrettably, were hard to come by. 

halloweenNever once did we as kids equate Halloween with anything sinister or evil.

I do recall when my brother and I would get home with the candy haul, mom would empty out our plastic pumpkin containers and quickly toss any homemade treats like brownies, rice krispy bars, or caramel apples. That’s because she believed there were murderers among us who would bake Drano in the brownies or slip razor blades in the apples.  Of course, I got my caramel apple from Mrs. Peters, who was an otherwise sweet and kindly neighbor the rest of the year. Who knew she had a dark side to her that made her want to kill children. Makes me wonder what my mother secretly thought lurked in the underbelly of our small town.

Urban legends aside, Halloween was always a great time for us kids. We certainly weren’t thinking about the devil or Satanists. That all changed, however, when I got saved in college.

During the first year after I became a Christian, as summer moved into fall and October began to approach, I became exposed to sermons and literature that told me how Halloween was the devil’s night when satanists would emerge from their grottoes and prowl the countryside seeking out human prey for their devilish rituals. No Jesus loving Christian wants to have anything to do with Halloween, I was lectured. Pandering to trick-or-treaters was only putting out a welcome mat for demons to possess your soul and satanists to abduct you out of your bed.

Indeed.

Oddly, it was a mannish, atheist sociology professor at my university who really pushed the “satanists-will-get-you-on-Halloween” narrative. She had it in for religion in general, but satanism was her specialty. I want to say she had written her dissertation on the subject of international satanist groups in which she likened their criminal organizations to the Italian mafia. Every year around the week or so before Halloween, the local “alternative” free-thinkers newspaper would publish her multi-page exposes on the generational satanists whose family lineage went back hundreds of years with roots in Europe, and apparently operated in the shadowy corners of the rural, farming communities of northeast Arkansas. Who would have thunk…?

The fundamentalist Baptists and Pentecostal churches ate her conspiracy nonsense up. One of the moron associate pastors at my church at the time had her come one Wednesday night and give her lecture on the subject. Never mind the fact she is an atheist and spoke against God and Christianity in other venues. She had a sensational talk about satanism that played to the local Christians and their superstitious tendencies about devils, Satan, and warlocks.

Her wild-eyed fantasy about murderous satanist cults also lent “academic” credibility to the crackpot Chick tract version of Halloween already present in the psyche of many of the folks at my church. His cartoon tracts have sort of evolved over the years.  The early ones I came into contact with fed the myth about stealth witches living among normal, middle-class Americans, who desired to poison children with tainted candy on Halloween. There were also to ones about roving mobs of hooded satanists kidnapping blonde girls for human sacrifice. According to those Chick tracts, you are a devil worshiper even if you carve a smiling Jack o lantern to sit by your door.

pumpkinChick must’ve realized there was money to be made off dumb Christians who participated in Halloween anyways and never heeded his absurd take on the subject, so his later tracts on Halloween published in the 2000s played down the demon possessed, serial killing satanist angle, and moved to promoting the idea of buying large, bulk quantities of his tracts and giving them away to trick or treaters along with candy. I mean, who knows, maybe some Catholic kid will read Chick’s hair-brained Death Cookie tract he received from that Fundy family and become a KJVO Independent Baptist!

Being something of a stupid, undiscerning baby Christian when I was first exposed to Jack Chick Halloween history, and fueled by the atheist professor’s satanism legends, I became a crusader against Halloween. I preached against Christians doing Halloween almost as hard as I defended the KJV as the only reliable translation. I was nuts.

There was one sweet gal in our college group who loved cutesy Halloween decorations like jolly Frankenstein and happy ghosts. She’d dressed up in some fun outfit, like Cat Woman, when she handed out candy to kids who came to her apartment. I would self-righteously “separate” from any fellowship times at her place during Halloween because I didn’t want to give any affirmation to her foolish, Satan inspired decorations.

Thankfully, the Good Lord has patiently matured me in those areas of my thinking. My wife and I talked long about whether we would let our kids participate in Halloween. When we first got married, we turned out the porch lights and closed the curtains so as to dissuade trick or treaters.  But after much reflection, we decided we would participate in Halloween by handing out candy. We didn’t want to come across as those sourpuss, hater Christians.

Now that we have children, we let them participate as well. Our emphasis with them is more on the Reformation side of Halloween, but we still let them dress up and get candy. At this point, none of them have an interest in the gory, scary side of Halloween.

With that all being stated; if I may, let me offer up some general thoughts I have on the subject.

First, Christians must grant liberty with other Christian families who enjoy participating in Halloween. There is nothing satanic about carving faces in pumpkins and dressing up in costumes to beg for candy. Besides, the neighbors want you to come beg for it.

Those folks who insist Halloween IS satanic (or Roman Catholic) are really pandering to superstition and attributing to the devil authority he does not have. And neither are Christians unwittingly synchronizing their convictions with paganism or Roman Catholicism. To suggest as much is silly. But again, if it is your conviction about Halloween, I will not judge you for maintaining those convictions. Just don’t tell me I am a compromiser or dishonoring God because my family goes trick or treating and has pumpkins sitting on our door steps.

halloweenhorrorAre there dark, ghoulish and even occultic  elements to modern Halloween? Absolutely yes, I recognize that. Living in LA, Halloween is a huge business for various groups, production studios in particular,  putting on state of the art haunted houses and theme park attractions. But I believe Christians are perfectly capable of exercising discernment so as to separate those dark, macabre elements like gory haunted houses and dressing like Texas chainsaw killers from the benign trick or treating and general costume parties. I don’t need to have a pulpit slapping Fundy preacher telling me such things are ungodly. I can figure it out.

On the flip side, I think those Christians who believe we must reclaim and redeem Halloween for Jesus are misguided, and ultimately wasting their time. As a believer, I really appreciate the fact that Halloween is tied to Martin Luther hammering his 95 thesis to the Wittenburg door and thus marking the start of the Reformation in 1517. As I stated, my wife and I emphasize the solas of the Reformation with our children around the week before Halloween. Our church does as well.

But I find it a tad goofy when Reformed minded – *cough* Postmill *cough* Reconstructionists *cough* – believers try and “Christianize” all the images and themes when they are in reality not. Most of those folks trying to rewrite Halloween point to an old article written by James B. Jordan called, Concerning Halloween, in which he desperately attempts to reinvent Halloween as a time when Christians dressed up like spooks and devils in order to mock Satan as a defeated enemy. Of course, there is absolutely no historical record that Christians even thought about devil costumes as “mocking the devil” or engaged the celebration of Halloween in that way.

Those Christians today who take the tactic of revising history need to face the fact that Halloween was originally a pagan festival celebrated in the pre-Christian British Isles and Northern Europe. Now it wasn’t the mobs of murdering druids roaming the Irish countryside kidnapping innocent people as Jack Chick wants us to believe, but Jesus being Lord over all the Earth doesn’t change the record of history.

Any reliable historical encyclopedia will tell you under the entry on “Halloween” that the pagans did believe the spirits of the departed walked the land for a time between fall and winter and the living folks dressed up in costumes and set fires in order to frighten them away. Moreover, the Catholic church did co-opt some of the practices and merged them with established Catholic holidays like All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Luther strategically nailed his thesis on the church door on All Saint’s Day eve because the church would be opened to the public on November 1st in order to receive indulgences for the dead in Purgatory.

Rather than revising the history of Halloween in a Christianized allegorical fashion, I think the better thing for Christians to do if they wish to “redeem” Halloween is participate in some wholesome fashion like handing out candy bags with good, theologically sound tracts packed along with the candy. Churches can put together a fun activities night like a lot of the churches in my hometown. Preach sermons on the history of the Reformation. Do a series of talks on the Solas of the Reformation. Do a biographical sketch of the main Reformers. There is a rich history grounded in reality with those items. No need to create fantasy history that will only make the world mock you rather than you allegedly mocking the devil.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [8]

ralph w.0

Is Christianity Anti-intellectual and Anti-science?

I continue with my evaluation of Chaz Bufe’s 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

We come to the 8th reason why Chaz believes we all should lay aside Christianity as a viable worldview: Christianity, according the Chaz, is anti-intellectual and anti-scientific.

The claim of an anti-intellectual Christian faith is a common urban myth among those in the atheistic community. Images of dim witted, superstitiously gullible Christians with their fingers in their noses are regularly recycled among the atheists as being true. They love to draw the mental picture of all Bible-believing, fundamental Christians as being bare-foot, wild-eyed hillbillies who believe all science is of the devil and any college schoolin’ is going to steal your salvation.

Chaz is no different. He too delights in laughing at these cartoonish characters he has drawn up of Christians. However, it is not really thinking for someone who prides himself as a “free-thinker.” In fact, when it comes to ridiculing Christians, the concept of “free” is dropped by atheists and they all think with a herd mentality. That is because atheists find intellectual comfort with believing in a fantasy Christianity, because it allows them the ease of dismissing them out of hand as unworthy of engaging in meaningful debate.

hillfamily.1Think about it: if you believe your opponent is stupid and not worth the breath used to argue with him, you can be confirmed in your own belief without even uttering a word. But, this is truly a false assurance and reveals that atheists who imbibe such myths about Christians are just lazy. They don’t want to do the serious work of establishing their claims of “anti-intellectualism” they attach to Christian believers.

Chaz’s point is long and tedious, so I will leave it to the readers to check it out on their own but there are some general observations we can make:

First, Chaz again demonstrates his ignorance of history. He seems to believe that true science of any sort didn’t come onto the scene until the Enlightenment in the 1700s. Moreover, he talks about the Renaissance period as if it were led by brilliant atheistic philosophers, all the while forgetting the bright lights of that time were all Roman Catholic monks for the most part.

He raises the favorite example of Galileo, but if any one were to truly study the whole affair rather than taking by blind faith the atheistic mythos that has popped up in their popular literature, a person would realize that he wasn’t the lone, scientific mind persecuted by the flat earth superstitious, but a man who was butting up against the accepted “scientific” community of his day. The academics persecuted Galileo more so than the Pope. Galileo is more akin to modern day ID proponents who are calling the Darwinian’s evolutionary emperor naked.

Secondly, Chaz seems to forget that highly advanced societies like the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and even the Mayans if we hold them to the same standard, were religiously superstitious even more so than any Christian. Yet, they had these flourishing cultures featuring great engineering feats without the use of modern day technology like cranes and bulldozers. Interestingly, their engineering feats were designed to honor their gods in some fashion with either a temple or pyramid. How could that be if religion only darkens humanity to think irrationally as Chaz suggests. It makes me wonder what Chaz considers intellectual science.

Thirdly, the secular scientists that Chaz holds up as the great rescuers of humanity can be just as superstitious. A number of Chaz’s anti-religious, anarchist comrades, as well as academic elites, believe our government pulled off the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They genuinely choose to believe in a massive conspiracy rather than the facts.

My all time favorite secular superstition on the part of atheists is the belief in panspermia, or that life on earth came from some source outside the bounds of our planet either by a comet or extraterrestrial intelligence. Even the late Francis Crick, one of the two men who unraveled the DNA strand, believed this scenario to explain the complexity of life, rather than submit to what the Bible reveals of our Creator. Amazing how a hatred toward God leads an “intellectual” to embrace pseudo-science.

And then Fourthly, Chaz must not be aware of some of the more “anti-intellectual” comments coming from his side of the aisle. The way he carries on, you would think scientists are humble individuals who honestly follow the evidence where ever it leads. Because the hard, scientific “evidence” supposedly points away from any idea of God and always disproves the Bible, there is no choice on the part of the serious minded intellectual but to separate religion from science; to place them into two compartments where never they shall interact. Hence, in order to be intellectual, you have to lay aside a belief in the Bible or your scientific endeavors will be ruined. Is that how these so-called intellectual really think? Consider some of my more favorite candid quotes from atheistic “scientists:”

Professor D.M.S. Watson, once a leading biologists and writer:

Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.

Science writer Boyce Rensberger,

At this point, it is necessary to reveal a little inside information about how scientists work, something the textbooks don’t usually tell you. The fact is that scientists are not really as objective and dispassionate in their work as they would like you to think. Most scientists first get their ideas about how the world works not through rigorously logical processes but through hunches and wild guesses. As individuals, they often come to believe something to be true long before they assemble the hard evidence that will convince somebody else that it is. Motivated by faith in his own ideas and a desire for acceptance by his peers, a scientist will labor for years knowing in his heart that his theory is correct but devising experiment after experiment whose results he hopes will support his position. [Rensberger, How the World Works, p. 17-18]

Then an all time favorite that I have already cited in a previous response, Richard Lewontin, a fellow Marxist anarchist like Chaz, wrote in a 1997 The New York Review article,

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Does it sound as though these scientists are being intellectual? Intellectual implies using the rational faculties of the mind. Is it rational to believe in something utterly absurd like non-living inanimate material gave rise to complex biological life just because the only option is to recognize a creator? Sure, the Church has had its share of superstitious beliefs over the years, to which those purveyors of superstition should be faulted and rebuked, but Marxist, anarchist atheists also have their superstitions that are equally anti-intellectual.