Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Can G-d Murder?

 

Atheists, Humanists, and even the occasional Christian read the Torah and asks whether a deity who destroys the world in a flood and incinerates Sodom and Gomorrah is a G-d who values life for its own sake? In other words: why should we serve or worship a deity who commits mass murder?

Good questions!

To answer them, I’d like to show how the Torah uses a single key word to explain G-d’s point of view. The way the word is used helps us understand how the text both explains mass killings and what G-d expects from every peoples on earth.

The word the Torah uses for mass murder is mashchiss [for clarity I will use this word as the common expression even when the text uses a different form of the same root word]. Mashchiss is used to describe killing off an entire people, generations of people, a form of genocide.

In the Torah the word mashchiss almost always a descriptor for a society; it is only used to describe one individual: Onan. Onan spilled his seed into the earth instead of into Tamar, and in so doing, he denied the world his own descendants, those of Tamar, and his deceased brother.

But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, mashchiss the earth whenever he joined with his brother’s wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother. (Gen. 38:9-10) 

Indeed, if the earth is supposed to be elevated through the acts of mankind, Onan’s act denigrated not only himself and Tamar, but also the earth itself.

Onan’s example is straightforward. The crucial next step is to understand that the Torah’s use of language is itself a way to link stories together. In other words, when we consider the different places where the Torah uses the word mashchiss, we’ll have comparable examples to the sin of Onan.

When are those times? The first and most prominent is the flood itself, when G-d maschiss the world and destroyed almost all the life on its surface. But mashchiss did not originate with G-d. It was, instead, a human innovation! The flood, which is an act of mashchiss by G-d, was in reaction to mankind first doing the same thing to the earth and all living flesh. Gen 6:11:

The earth became mashchiss before G-d; the earth was filled with hamas. [This last word, hamas, means some kind of moral violence – Gen. 6:2, in the runup to the flood, the Torah tells us that men of renown took/raped the women they wanted. Also see Sarai using this word in Gen 16:5, describing the damage to herself from Abraham impregnating Hagar at her request. Other examples in the Torah include false witness (Ex. 23:1 and Deut. 19:16). It is the same word used in Arabic for the terror organization.]

Note the use not only of the word mashchiss but also of the word for “earth.” The Torah tells us that what mankind does affects the world around us – not just in an environmental way, but also in a moral or spiritual way (which is why the Torah later promises that if man behaves immorally, the land will spit us out.) This is very clear with the flood story: if mankind is corrupting the earth with our violence and selfishness, instead of elevating it through holiness, then we have forfeited our right to life. It happened to Onan, and it happened to the flood generation.

It also happens, in the Torah, to Sodom and Gomorah. Those cities were not merely populated with evil people; they had institutionalized the practice of evil. As we see by Sodom’s response to Lot having guests, it was illegal to host guests, to be kind to others. It also seems to have been a place without true private property, with no legal right to close your door and be left in peace by your neighbors. Then, too, we have a widespread understanding that Sodom practiced sodomy, which agrees with the common use of mashchiss for Onan, a man who wasted his seed.

Sodom could – and was – destroyed not just because it was evil, but because it made evil a requirement. The city made it legally impossible to be good. That made Sodom irredeemable in G-d’s eyes.

Which starts to make some sense. . To G-d, life does not have intrinsic value; it only has value if people use it for good. In the long run, all the living will be dead, sooner or later. What matters is what we do with the opportunities we have. But if we are going to prevent human progress and waste opportunity to improve as individuals and as collectives, then in G-d’s eyes (as described in the Torah) we have forfeited our right to live.

The raw moral lesson is hard to handle in today’s hedonistic environment where the common culture is fixated on sexual self-discovery and realization. As much as we want to think that we have totally free choice to waste ourselves and our lives on drugs or selfish relationships or wasted time, the Torah is telling us that G-d does not, to put it mildly, approve. There comes a reckoning at some point after we no longer try to grow ourselves and our societies.

Mashchiss is a tool in G-d’s hands, a reactive tool that can be deployed after mankind commits evil. Mankind and nature corrupt the earth, and G-d wipes the world out in a global rinse cycle, the Flood. Onan performs mashchiss and he forfeits his life for it. The Sodomites practice it as well, and receive the same consequence.

The next incidence of the word is found describing the runup to the Exodus from Egypt. The Egyptians had mandated drowning Jewish newborn babies. G-d’s response is to mashchiss the firstborn of the Egyptians. Measure for measure, like for like, G-d retaliates only in response to mankind’s evil choices.

How do we avoid mashchiss? It is not merely by not sinning; there are positive acts that spare us:

And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will mashchiss you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:13)

The word appears again in the same sequence!

For when the LORD goes through to smite the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and the LORD will pass over the door and not let the [mashchiss actor]  enter and smite your home. (Translations suggest that this “mashchiss actor” is the Angel of Death, though if we see how the word is used earlier in the Torah, it is clear that while mashchiss is a destructive force, it is neither reserved for G-d, nor unique to this example.)

Got it. Blood on the doorpost. But exactly how does the blood protect us?

The answer is found by seeing that the marked doorposts represent the very opposite of mashchiss – if mankind’s mission is to elevate the earth (using grass for the vegetable kingdom dipped in the blood of the animal kingdom, and elevated upward to become part of the houses and homes that mankind has created), then it is symbolically contradistinct from the practices of the Egyptians. Mankind should choose to use our creative powers for good and not evil, for productive and constructive ends instead of wasted seed and rapacious violence. In other words, we counter mashchiss by engaging in precisely the opposite!

The Torah recognizes that every death affects potential future generations. Mashchiss is closely tied to procreative powers, from the implied sexual immorality of the flood generation and Sodom to the explicit sexual wrongdoing of Onan. Sexual creation is the single most potent biological power mankind has, and choosing to use it for evil denies that we have a productive purpose on this earth. Annihilating the future, as Onan did to his brother’s memory, and the Egyptians did to the Jewish people, means that we have made it impossible for society to improve.

The calling card for the Jewish people is to elevate the world and combine it with our own creative powers (the house and the family within its walls). Which beautifully connects to Onan (who had done the opposite by using biology to break a house), and also connects to the Sodomites who had acted in opposition to growing the world, who had sought to break down Lot’s door (Gen. 19:9). The door and the house are both symbols of building, and family and the modesty within a household. The symbolism of marking the door also counters the violence, rape, and the inability (or refusal!) to hear G-d’s voice characterized by the generation of the flood.

The Torah does not stop here! The central idea of mashchiss in Exodus is most commonly found connected to the golden calf, and the powerful animalistic and sexual symbolism of worshipping that idol:

The LORD spoke to Moses, “Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted [with mashchiss]. (Ex 32:7)

By worshipping the Golden Calf, we as a people started to regress, to lower ourselves to nature, rather than elevating it. The people had left the ultimate pagan society, Egypt, just a few weeks before. So choosing to worship the calf, and its natural sexual vitality, shows that the Jews had missed the central lesson of the Exodus and the revelation at Sinai.

As Moshe summarizes it later:

And the LORD said to me, ‘Hurry, go down from here at once, for the people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted [with mashchiss]; they have been quick to stray from the path that I enjoined upon them; they have made themselves a molten image.’ (Deut. 9:12)

To which Moshe replies, trying to break the proverbial cycle of violence (or mashchiss):

I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord God, do not mashchiss Your very own people, whom You redeemed in Your majesty and whom You freed from Egypt with a mighty hand. (Deut. 9:26)

I had stayed on the mountain, as I did the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD heeded me once again: the LORD agreed not to mashchiss you. (Deut. 10:10)

For the LORD your God is a compassionate God: He will not fail you nor will He mashchiss you; He will not forget the covenant which He made on oath with your fathers. (Deut. 4:31)

The sexual connections for mashchiss are also found later in the Torah:

You shall not offer to the LORD anything [with its testes] bruised or crushed or torn or cut. You shall have no such practices in your own land, nor shall you accept such [animals] from a foreigner for offering as food for your God, for they are mashchiss, they have a defect; they shall not be accepted in your favor. (Lev. 22:24-25)

Once again, the Torah makes the connection between mere destruction and the potential for intergenerational loss – the testes of the animal.

The last references in the Torah to this word deal with another way of worshipping nature – creating an idol. The Torah tells us not to make an idol (as we had with the Golden Calf):

For your own sake, therefore, be most careful—since you saw no shape when the LORD your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire — not to act mashchiss and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness whatever. (Deut. 4:15-16)

And

When you have begotten children and children’s children and are long established in the land, should you act [with mashchiss] and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your G-d and arousing Him to anger. (Deut. 4:25)

It is an echo of the golden calf as well as the flood generation and the quid pro quo nature of the commandments remains. Destruction comes to us when and if we make destructive choices, especially choices connected with intergenerational repercussions and corruption of the land.

Ultimately, the use of the word maschiss throughout the Torah is a constant reminder to us that G-d calls us to elevate ourselves and everything around us. When we do not live our lives in this way, there are serious consequences from G-d.

 

**************

Notes: Other Incidences of mashchiss with explanation:

When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and mashchiss it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. (Ex. 21:26)

The act makes it impossible to heal, to recreate. It has to be an enduring wound.

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not mashchiss its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? (Deut. 20:19)

There is an environmental component to this destruction, but also a generational one. The commandment is not about grass, but about trees: it is the things that take time to grow and nurture that matter, that should not be carelessly destroyed. Mashchiss is about attacking intergenerational growth of all kinds. The Torah wants us to recognize the intrinsic value of the things that take time to build.

Only trees that you know do not yield food may be mashchiss; you may cut them down for constructing siegeworks against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced. (Deut. 20:20)

In this example, mashchiss is not categorically forbidden. When it serves a positive purpose (such as winning a war), we can do it. Just as G-d used it as a tool to destroy His enemies among mankind. Indeed, the specific example is interesting: we can mashchiss a tree when we use the wood to build something.

 

 

Near the end of Moshe’s life, the word comes up again, echoing the story of the flood and the golden calf:

For I know that, when I am dead, you will mashchiss and turn away from the path that I enjoined upon you, and that in time to come misfortune will befall you for having done evil in the sight of the LORD and vexed Him by your deeds. (Deut. 31:29)

And the very last use in the Torah of the word, Deut. 32:5, tells us what happens ultimately when we practice mashchiss.

They mashchiss Him and are not His children: blemished, they are a warped and crooked generation.

This is the most radical of all: the text seems to telling us that our mashchiss, which initially (before the flood) filled the earth and all living flesh, can in extremis, even damage G-d Himself!

This is the power that G-d has bestowed upon mankind. We can elevate ourselves, the earth, each other, and even G-d. Or we can do precisely the opposite. This is our choice and our responsibility.

Of course, choices have consequences.

 

 

[another @iwe and @susanquinn production]

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  1. Arahant Member

    iWe: As we see by Sodom’s response to Lot having guests, it was illegal to host guests, to be kind to others. It also seems to have been a place without true private property, with no legal right to close your door and be left in peace by your neighbors.

    Sounds like many countries in the age of CoViD.

    • #1
    • October 21, 2020, at 2:59 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. JoelB Member

    Would the usage in Proverbs 18:9 also be an example of Mashchiss?

    Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (ESV)

    The Interlinear Bible translates the Hebrew as a master destroyer or lord of destruction.

    • #2
    • October 21, 2020, at 3:02 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    iWe: Of course, choices have consequences.

    Always. Great essay, iWe and SQ.

    • #3
    • October 21, 2020, at 3:15 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    What about the extermination campaign in Canaan? Or against the Amalekites?

    I understand warfare was different back then, but there are numerous genocides mandated by God here.

    • #4
    • October 21, 2020, at 3:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Arahant Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Or against the Amalekites?

    This is iWe’s and SQ’s show, but in Unity, we have a slightly different interpretation:

    Metaphysical meaning of Amalekites (mbd)
    Amalekites, am’-a-lek-ites (Heb.)–belonging to Amalek.

    Descendants of Amalek, grandson of Esau (Gen. 14:7; I Sam. 15:6-8; 30: 1-18). They are usually called “Amalek.”

    Meta. The base desires of the individual. To those in spiritual understanding it is clear that the vale (valley dweller) represents that great realm of mind called the subconscious. The Amalekites symbolize the animal forces, appetites, and passions. They are warlike, and are destructive in their nature. They must be cleansed completely out of consciousness by denial (see I Sam. 15).

    Disobedience has many forms; the most stubborn is that which absolutely refuses to obey. It stands up for its rights. It tells us that certain things are good for us, that the race has always indulged in them, and that such indulgence is necessary. Such ideas as these are the Amalekites down in the vale. They have become fixed in consciousness and refuse to abdicate. They are not receptive to the illumination of Spirit; they crave self-gratification and are determined to have it. They must be taken up in prayer and denied place in consciousness. If we do not destroy these errors that God commands us to destroy, sooner or later they will obtain command to such an extent that they will endeavor to destroy us. Obedience to the Lord (divine law) insures peace and joy and leads into the paths of pleasantness and abundant prosperity.

    Every character in the Bible represents a state of consciousness. Every group represents a type of thought. The Jews represent the highest and holiest thoughts, spiritual thoughts; whereas, most of the other tribes represent carnal or intellectual thoughts.

    • #5
    • October 21, 2020, at 3:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    For fun, let’s look at a couple more:

    Metaphysical meaning of Onan (mbd)
    Onan, o’-nan (Heb.)–able-bodied strong; stout; virile; vigorous; substantiated; wealthy; luminous; bright.

    Son of Judah by the daughter of Shua a Canaanite (Gen. 38:4).

    Meta. The significance of Onan is virtually the same as that of Onam which see. While this thought is of a higher nature than that of Onam the Horite (Onan was a son of Judah), yet it is not spiritual but is of the intellect. It is influenced too, by lower, carnal soul emotions and tendencies (Onan’s mother was a Canaanitish woman); therefore it is liable to bring about inharmony and error, because of the misdirection of energy. Yet in itself it is good and if directed by spiritual understanding yields great blessing.

    Ah, his mother was a Canaanite. Didn’t someone just mention them?

    Metaphysical meaning of Canaanite (mbd)
    Canaanite, ca’-naan-lte (Heb.)–one who exists in and for material things; a merchant; a pirate; trafficker in materiality.

    An inhabitant of the land of Canaan at the time that the Israelites took possession of it and overcame the Canaanites (Josh. 9:1). The Canaanites were descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. (Gen. 10:15-19).

    Meta. The elemental life forces in the subconsciousness. Under sense thought and expression they are all that the meaning of Canaanite implies. The Canaanites are delivered by Jehovah into the hands of the Israelites, and by them are destroyed. “And the name of the place was called Hormah.” Hormah is from the same root as herem, a devoted thing. (See Num. 21:1-3, with margin.) The significance of this is that through our I AM (Jehovah) we gain control of our subconscious elemental life forces. Then by means of high, spiritual thinking (Israelites) these life forces come under the law of Spirit, and are transmuted into spiritual energy. (See HORMAH.)

    • #6
    • October 21, 2020, at 3:31 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. KentForrester Moderator

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom. 

    • #7
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    What about the extermination campaign in Canaan? Or against the Amalekites?

    I understand warfare was different back then, but there are numerous genocides mandated by God here.

    Yes. The Amalekites chose evil – as did the Canaanites. The Torah makes this clear.

    Choices have consequences.

    • #8
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:45 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Stina Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Or against the Amalekites?

    This is iWe’s and SQ’s show, but in Unity, we have a slightly different interpretation:

    Metaphysical meaning of Amalekites (mbd)
    Amalekites, am’-a-lek-ites (Heb.)–belonging to Amalek.

    Descendants of Amalek, grandson of Esau (Gen. 14:7; I Sam. 15:6-8; 30: 1-18). They are usually called “Amalek.”

    Meta. The base desires of the individual. To those in spiritual understanding it is clear that the vale (valley dweller) represents that great realm of mind called the subconscious. The Amalekites symbolize the animal forces, appetites, and passions. They are warlike, and are destructive in their nature. They must be cleansed completely out of consciousness by denial (see I Sam. 15).

    Disobedience has many forms; the most stubborn is that which absolutely refuses to obey. It stands up for its rights. It tells us that certain things are good for us, that the race has always indulged in them, and that such indulgence is necessary. Such ideas as these are the Amalekites down in the vale. They have become fixed in consciousness and refuse to abdicate. They are not receptive to the illumination of Spirit; they crave self-gratification and are determined to have it. They must be taken up in prayer and denied place in consciousness. If we do not destroy these errors that God commands us to destroy, sooner or later they will obtain command to such an extent that they will endeavor to destroy us. Obedience to the Lord (divine law) insures peace and joy and leads into the paths of pleasantness and abundant prosperity.

    Every character in the Bible represents a state of consciousness. Every group represents a type of thought. The Jews represent the highest and holiest thoughts, spiritual thoughts; whereas, most of the other tribes represent carnal or intellectual thoughts.

    Well… that was interesting. And very familiar.

    • #9
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    I’ll try to answer and @iwe can correct and add in. The entire society was corrupt before the flood was brought. Everyone but Noah and his family had indulged in sinful and vicious acts. So that includes all the adults. Regarding the babies and children, who would raise them? Take care of them? Also there are times when we do things as adults that can’t help but influence our children from a very early age. They are corrupted by our behavior as well. Everyone and everything had to be wiped from the face of the earth. Regarding Sodom, Abraham asked your same question, what if there were a certain number of innocent people. He asked G-d several times, and when he asked the last time, what if there were ten innocent, G-d said he would not destroy the city if there were ten. (He did allow Lot and his daughters to leave.) But there were not ten innocent, and G-d destroyed the whole city. It’s called consequences.

    • #10
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:47 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Arahant (View Comment):
    This is iWe’s and SQ’s show, but in Unity, we have a slightly different interpretation:

    Everyone is welcome to “join in the show,” @arahant. I’m glad you did!

    • #11
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Stina (View Comment):
    And very familiar.

    My old buddy Charley Fillmore. Great stuff.

    • #12
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    We are commanded to treasure every life, because we don’t know when and whether they might become productive.

    But G-d can – and does – pass judgment on families and tribes and cities, deeming them to be counter to His aims for the world. A baby may be innocent, but raised in a given culture, it will become a reflection of that culture. If the culture is evil, then the baby will become so.

    Again: this is not a judgment that we are free to make. But if and when G-d commands it, then we accept His conclusions that these societies do more harm than is acceptable.

    As for collateral damage: yes, it is deeply unfortunate. But it is also part-and-parcel of human free will. Each person can have an outsized impact on the world around him. A leader can lead his people to triumph or tragedy – and the people all rise and fall with that outcome. If we did not have such coattails then we would not be the powerful beings that we are.

    • #13
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Stina Member

    My logic is very simplistic and likely circular, but it has satisfied.

    Reading Kent’s comment, I recognize it is limited in illuminating for others. And I should maybe invest in a stronger argument.

    Basically, God defines what is good, ergo any killing committed by him is good.

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    It’s an interesting thought experiment because it shows that if we were in God’s shoes (possessing full knowledge of what is to come), we have no problems with lowering the threshold of what is “murder”. The very question invites you to take a different moral and ethical view from a position of full knowledge.

    Cool thing about God is he is the perfect judge. We are not.

    • #14
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Saint Augustine Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    • #15
    • October 21, 2020, at 4:59 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Stina Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    Which I suppose is what God invites his people to do now.

    • #16
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Saint Augustine Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    Which I suppose is what God invites his people to do now.

    Right on!

    The future is, until further divine notice, ours to screw up again, or to build better.

    We can still help the next Baby Hitler grow up to be better.

    • #17
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:02 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Arahant Member

    Looking at it from the Unity perspective, the Bible is about what goes on inside of us now and throughout our lives. It is a roadmap for the spiritual journey, and many of the stories are indicating, you may find yourself here mentally and spiritually. When God is washing away the “people” in a flood, those “people” represent a certain sort of destructive thoughts that are washed away, including the budding (babies and children) thoughts of that nature. Noah and his family float above the flood in the ark. They represent higher spiritual thoughts.

    • #18
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:03 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. iWe Reagan
    iWeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    We might think of it like gun rights. If we had no guns, then there would be no gun deaths. But instead, we choose to have guns, and thus take on the risk of something bad happening.

    G-d gave us Free Will. That comes with the risk that if we abuse our free will, innocents will die.

    • #19
    • October 21, 2020, at 5:26 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Larry3435 Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    Since you reference The Avengers, I will borrow from this exchange (I’m doing this from memory, so treat it as a paraphrase):

    Steve Rogers to Tony Stark: “You fight only for yourself. You aren’t the guy to make the sacrifice play – to lay down on the wire and let the other guy climb over you.”

    Stark: “I think I would just cut the wire.”

    Rogers: “Always a way out with you.”

    In other words, it’s always easy to answer a moral dilemma if you posit a solution that avoids the moral question altogether. But what if you went back and tried to make Baby Hitler a better person, but it turns out that you just made him a better military strategist? And he wins the war? Now solve for x.

    Ironically, perhaps, in Endgame Tony actually does make the ultimate sacrifice play. He sacrifices his life to save half the lives in the universe. Pretty much the ultimate utilitarian solution, if you ask me.

    • #20
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    Since you reference The Avengers, I will borrow from this exchange (I’m doing this from memory, so treat it as a paraphrase):

    Steve Rogers to Tony Stark: “You fight only for yourself. You aren’t the guy to make the sacrifice play – to lay down on the wire and let the other guy climb over you.”

    Stark: “I think I would just cut the wire.”

    Rogers: “Always a way out with you.”

    In other words, it’s always easy to answer a moral dilemma if you posit a solution that avoids the moral question altogether. But what if you went back and tried to make Baby Hitler a better person, but it turns out that you just made him a better military strategist? And he wins the war? Now solve for x.

    Ironically, perhaps, in Endgame Tony actually does make the ultimate sacrifice play. He sacrifices his life to save half the lives in the universe. Pretty much the ultimate utilitarian solution, if you ask me.

    Not irony. Foreshadowing. The difference between Marvel and Lucasfilm is that one of them had a plan. The other one had Rian Johnson.

    • #21
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:25 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  22. Saint Augustine Member

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    There’s that thought experiment about what would you do if you could go back in time to when Hitler was a baby… would you kill him knowing what you know he will do in the future?

    Shapiro’s point, which also seems to be rather iWeish, is that if you could really do that then you should go back in time and help Hitler become a better person instead of killing him. (More here on the philosophical angle and the sci-fi stories that get it right.)

    Since you reference The Avengers, I will borrow from this exchange (I’m doing this from memory, so treat it as a paraphrase):

    Steve Rogers to Tony Stark: “You fight only for yourself. You aren’t the guy to make the sacrifice play – to lay down on the wire and let the other guy climb over you.”

    Stark: “I think I would just cut the wire.”

    Rogers: “Always a way out with you.”

    In other words, it’s always easy to answer a moral dilemma if you posit a solution that avoids the moral question altogether. But what if you went back and tried to make Baby Hitler a better person, but it turns out that you just made him a better military strategist? And he wins the war? Now solve for x.

    Ironically, perhaps, in Endgame Tony actually does make the ultimate sacrifice play. He sacrifices his life to save half the lives in the universe. Pretty much the ultimate utilitarian solution, if you ask me.

    Yeah. When you really have no other option, take the best option you have. And beware of meddling with the past.

    • #22
    • October 21, 2020, at 6:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. KentForrester Moderator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    I’ll try to answer and @iwe can correct and add in. The entire society was corrupt before the flood was brought. Everyone but Noah and his family had indulged in sinful and vicious acts. So that includes all the adults. Regarding the babies and children, who would raise them? Take care of them? Also there are times when we do things as adults that can’t help but influence our children from a very early age. They are corrupted by our behavior as well. Everyone and everything had to be wiped from the face of the earth. Regarding Sodom, Abraham asked your same question, what if there were a certain number of innocent people. He asked G-d several times, and when he asked the last time, what if there were ten innocent, G-d said he would not destroy the city if there were ten. (He did allow Lot and his daughters to leave.) But there were not ten innocent, and G-d destroyed the whole city. It’s called consequences.

    Everyone in the world except for Noah and family were so corrupt — including the babies and children — that they needed to be killed by God? Also, God perhaps killed the children because they would have no one to take care of them? Really?

    Are you a literalist, Susan?

    There was never a universal flood at the time period depicted in the Old Testament. In fact, there was never a universal flood.

    • #23
    • October 21, 2020, at 7:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Ontheleftcoast Member

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Would the usage in Proverbs 18:9 also be an example of Mashchiss?

    Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (ESV)

    Yes, it is. 

    • #24
    • October 21, 2020, at 7:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Hartmann von Aue Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    No. There were no innocent people because, understood rightly, there are no innocent people. Ever. Babies and children? It is quite possible there were none- this was a society that practiced infant human sacrifice and, well, Sodomy, a practice not exactly renown for fecundity. 

    • #25
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Hartmann von Aue Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Flood at the time period depicted in the Old Testament. In fact, there was never a universal flood.

    First of all, what time period do you think your are talking about? Second, what do think ancients meant by “the whole world”? If it is the period after the last glaciation in the northern hemisphere, and “the whole world” is the ancient Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East or Washington for that matter, then floods of a biblical nature absolutely did occur and the geological evidence of their occurrence is quite solid. Pardon the pun. Here is just one article on the topic: https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/biblical-type-floods-are-real-and-theyre-absolutely-enormous 

    • #26
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:34 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. KentForrester Moderator

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    No. There were no innocent people because, understood rightly, there are no innocent people. Ever. Babies and children? It is quite possible there were none- this was a society that practiced infant human sacrifice and, well, Sodomy, a practice not exactly renown for fecundity.

    “Understood rightly, there are no innocent people”? That’s a mighty righteous theology you’ve got there, Hartmann. A two-year old is not innocent? So it’s OK to kill two-year olds because they’re not innocent? As far as Sodom goes, are you saying that everyone was a Sodomite? But even if they were, a person who has sex with his own sex can still have children with a woman. Otherwise, the people would disappear in a single generation. 

    I think you are reading legend and myth as if they were historical occurrences. 

    These are ancient stories, handed down through the generations (with all the changes that stories undergo as they are memorized and told and retold) that help to explain meteorological occurrences, catastrophes, etc. to a people living in a pre-scientific age. 

    • #27
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:35 PM PDT
    • Like
  28. Hartmann von Aue Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    No. There were no innocent people because, understood rightly, there are no innocent people. Ever. Babies and children? It is quite possible there were none- this was a society that practiced infant human sacrifice and, well, Sodomy, a practice not exactly renown for fecundity.

    “Understood rightly, there are no innocent people”? That’s a mighty righteous theology you’ve got there, Hartmann. A two-year old is not innocent? So it’s OK to kill two-year olds because they’re not innocent? As far as Sodom goes, are you saying that everyone was a Sodomite? But even if they were, a person who has sex with his own sex can still have children with a woman. Otherwise, the people would disappear in a single generation.

    I think you are reading legend and myth as if they were historical occurrences.

    These are ancient stories, handed down through the generations (with all the changes that stories undergo as they are memorized and told and retold) that help to explain meteorological occurrences, catastrophes, etc. to a people living in a pre-scientific age.

    Yawn. Of course it’s not right to kill a two-year-old who is practically innocent as far as I know. If however that two-year-old is about to start slicing my infant daughter up with an obsidian knife because she is a sacrifice to his tribe’s god of war, I most certainly am justified in killing the murderous little monster. Got it? Now picture a whole culture of murderous little monsters and you’re starting to get the picture. Of course I’m saying everyone was either killing their offspring or engaging in life-denying, death-affirming corruptions of human sexuality. That’s what the text indicates and I believe it. To put a fine point on it, God knew the thoughts and intentions and past acts of every single person in Sodom and Gomorrah and wiped them off the face of the Earth and was justified in doing so. Completely. 

    • #28
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. KentForrester Moderator

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Flood at the time period depicted in the Old Testament. In fact, there was never a universal flood.

    First of all, what time period do you think your are talking about? Second, what do think ancients meant by “the whole world”? If it is the period after the last glaciation in the northern hemisphere, and “the whole world” is the ancient Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East or Washington for that matter, then floods of a biblical nature absolutely did occur and the geological evidence of their occurrence is quite solid. Pardon the pun. Here is just one article on the topic: https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/biblical-type-floods-are-real-and-theyre-absolutely-enormous

    So it was a local flood and there were still millions of people who remained unaffected by the flood? That means that the person or tribe who wrote the account of the flood were limited in their understanding of the “whole world.” And when the account says that all living creatures except for Noah and his family perished, they were also limited in their thinking.

    • #29
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:43 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. KentForrester Moderator

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What about the babies, children, and other innocents who were killed by the flood? There were also babies, children, and no doubt innocent people in Sodom.

    No. There were no innocent people because, understood rightly, there are no innocent people. Ever. Babies and children? It is quite possible there were none- this was a society that practiced infant human sacrifice and, well, Sodomy, a practice not exactly renown for fecundity.

    “Understood rightly, there are no innocent people”? That’s a mighty righteous theology you’ve got there, Hartmann. A two-year old is not innocent? So it’s OK to kill two-year olds because they’re not innocent? As far as Sodom goes, are you saying that everyone was a Sodomite? But even if they were, a person who has sex with his own sex can still have children with a woman. Otherwise, the people would disappear in a single generation.

    I think you are reading legend and myth as if they were historical occurrences.

    These are ancient stories, handed down through the generations (with all the changes that stories undergo as they are memorized and told and retold) that help to explain meteorological occurrences, catastrophes, etc. to a people living in a pre-scientific age.

    Yawn. Of course it’s not right to kill a two-year-old who is practically innocent as far as I know. If however that two-year-old is about to start slicing my infant daughter up with an obsidian knife because she is a sacrifice to his tribe’s god of war, I most certainly am justified in killing the murderous little monster. Got it? Now picture a whole culture of murderous little monsters and you’re starting to get the picture. Of course I’m saying everyone was either killing their offspring or engaging in life-denying, death-affirming corruptions of human sexuality. That’s what the text indicates and I believe it. To put a fine point on it, God knew the thoughts and intentions and past acts of every single person in Sodom and Gomorrah and wiped them off the face of the Earth and was justified in doing so. Completely.

    My response is so boring that you’re starting to yawn? Go to bed. By the way, two-year olds didn’t serve as priests who sacrificed humans. 

    • #30
    • October 21, 2020, at 11:47 PM PDT
    • Like