Monday, May 01, 2017

Reply to Parsons on the Amalekites

Keith Parsons brings up the Amalekite story here.  As it happens, I had been thinking about the Amalekite story, and replied thus:

Ah, the Amalekite story. But why are we shocked by the Amalekite story? We are shocked because we have come to believe that Amalekite lives matter. But why do we believe that? We believe that because Christians promulgated the doctrine that all souls, including, Amalekite souls, matter. Was Saul treating the Amalekites like neighbors when he took some slaves and took some goods? I don't think he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart.
The basis for critiquing the Amalekite massacre is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan.Otherwise, why not slaughter them? It's the desert, resources are scarce, it's them against us and we're for us. Besides, if those people knew the theory of evolution, they would say "OK, see, it's survival of the fittest in this dog eat god world." It is not socially useful to keep them alive, and it is hard to generate much sympathy for people who have spent the last 300 or so years trying to kill you. (Social utility and sympathy, are, as Hume noted, the primary secular bases for morality). But did God have much chance of getting the message that Amalekite lives matter across to Saul and his army? I'd put more money on making the case for single payer health care to the House Freedom Caucus. It wasn't a message they were ready for.

16 comments:

Joe Hinman said...

for me the issue has always come down to the passage commanding destruction of the infants. I can a bit more easily justify destroying their culture but not their infants.I have seen allusions to evidence that that part was emendation.

Joe Hinman said...

Here is one from SOP I want to see you answer. by Keith.


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Keith Parsons Victor Reppert • 2 hours ago
Victor,

"Question: When the Athenians massacred the men of Melos and sold the women and children into slavery, at least one Athenian was outraged. Euripides wrote The Trojan Women in response, and had all of Athens weeping when it played. This was 400 years before Christianity. Clearly, for Euripides, Melian lives mattered. How then can it be a historical fact that it was doctrines promulgated by Christians that made people aware that even the lives of "others" mattered?"

Victor Reppert said...

But the Melians weren't total outsiders, were they. I wonder if they would have had the same attitude if they were total barbarians. So there was at least some kinship. Even the Hebrews had tribes they dealt with which they were not as hostile to as they were the Amalekites and Canaanites. The Amalekites were seen as total enemies of the Hebrews. The Melians may not have been.

oozzielionel said...

There is another Biblical account that has God commanding an (obvious to us) immoral act but on closer consideration actually serve to be the quintessential defeater of the behavior. Consider Abraham's near sacrifice of Issac. Even if God himself where to command it, human sacrifice is for now and all time to be avoided. Abraham, the fountainhead of the Jewish faith defines this. The Amalekite situation adds the irony of 1) take the quintessential enemy of God. The Amalekites were decendents of Esau and attacked Moses in Exodus 17 2) Add the divine command to execute them 3) Add in the reticence of a king whose legitimacy is under question by the prophet 4) Mix in the power struggle between prophet and king 5) Cast the command in the language of the blood sacrifice as a "ban." Yet another, even greater event of cosmic injustice is the illegal, unjustified, brutal execution of the One without fault.

Joe Hinman said...

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Aron Zavaro said...

"But did God have much chance of getting the message that Amalekite lives matter across to Saul and his army? I'd put more money on making the case for single payer health care to the House Freedom Caucus. It wasn't a message they were ready for."

God, the great moral compromiser. You want to argue that he allowed a genocide because he thought it would be too hard to make a good argument?

Victor Reppert said...

Well no, here's what I said on that back in 2011.

No, I do not hold that YHWH commanded the slaughter of the Amalekites. I hold that either God didn't do that, or there are unknown reasons why He did. I can see some reason why God might have commanded such a thing, so that in my view the case against it isn't a slam dunk. So I would not call someone a moral monster who thought that God had given such a command, I think it morally possible that God might have done so, but on the other hand treating someone anyone as outside the pale of moral consideration strikes me as problematic and not in accordance with what I know about God in the New Testament. In other words, I don't see how these actions could be justified without putting some limits on who is my neighbor, and the parable of the Good Samaritan says we can't really draw such limits.

My point here that the very things that makes me doubtful about the Amalekite command are religious arguments from within Christianity.

And I got bashed for this position by a blogger named TurretinFan

http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/10/gods-commands-vs-victor-reppert.html

His position essentially says that Amalekites in the time of Saul, even little babies, had to die for the sins of Amalekites in the time of Moses. My problem with that is that the Bible itself, in the words attributed to the Lord in Ezekiel 18, defends the doctrine of individual responsibility and denies the idea that people should die for what their forefathers did.

My claims was that God may been unable to educate the Hebrews, at that stage, that even Amalekite lives matter.

Think about it, what would God have to do to convince members of the House Freedom Caucus, devout Christians for the most part, that God wanted each and every one of them to vote for single payer health care. Appear to them in a dream? Write words across the sky? Now I am talking about providing reasons, not just causing changes in their brain. What would it take?

God's been asking me that question, and I don't know what to tell him.

http://biblehub.com/niv/ezekiel/18.htm

Stardusty Psyche said...

" We believe that because Christians promulgated the doctrine that all souls, including, Amalekite souls, matter."
We who? I believe the genocides of the OT were wrong because I experience the emotion of empathy, as opposed to the narcissism of a mass murderers.

"The basis for critiquing the Amalekite massacre is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan."
Not for me among "we".

" Besides, if those people knew the theory of evolution, they would say "OK, see, it's survival of the fittest in this dog eat god world." "
You quite apparently do not know much about evolution. Human beings are a social species. We have evolved an abhorrence for the death of members of our own species as a social behavioral mechanism.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said...

" My claims was that God may been unable to educate the Hebrews, at that stage, that even Amalekite lives matter."

Say whaaa? "God...unable". How do those words make sense to one who believes in an omnipotent god?

Epicurus
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Indeed, why call your "unable" one either omnipotent or even god?


May 03, 2017 1:22 PM

Joe Hinman said...

God, the great moral compromiser. You want to argue that he allowed a genocide because he thought it would be too hard to make a good argument?

and if the bit about slaughtering the infants is an emendation?

Joe Hinman said...

Say whaaa? "God...unable". How do those words make sense to one who believes in an omnipotent god?

If respect for free will is preordained then how can he violate freewill?

If God allows the universe to evolve then there is a time when man is not ready to know certain thins does that not stand to reason?

Joe Hinman said...

We who? I believe the genocides of the OT were wrong because I experience the emotion of empathy, as opposed to the narcissism of a mass murderers.

empathy is subjective, when I argue for religious experience as a reason to believe in 'god atheists tell me we can't trust subjective experiences.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said...

SP We who? I believe the genocides of the OT were wrong because I experience the emotion of empathy, as opposed to the narcissism of a mass murderers.

" empathy is subjective, when I argue for religious experience as a reason to believe in 'god atheists tell me we can't trust subjective experiences"

Trust how, and for what? If you have a subjective experience that magical pixies created us is that trustworthy?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said...


" If respect for free will is preordained then how can he violate freewill?"

Incoherent.

"Free will is preordained". How absurd.


May 05, 2017 1:47 PM

Joe Hinman said...

Listen Dusty free will can be broodmare, use your little pee brain, the fact of having it can be stipulated without the content of it being determined, try thinking.

Joe Hinman said...


SP We who? I believe the genocides of the OT were wrong because I experience the emotion of empathy, as opposed to the narcissism of a mass murderers.

" empathy is subjective, when I argue for religious experience as a reason to believe in 'god atheists tell me we can't trust subjective experiences"

Trust how, and for what? If you have a subjective experience that magical pixies created us is that trustworthy?

Is that answering the question Donald? does the fact that Your silly little brain can ridicule my belief with irrelevant references to mythical creatures which have noting to do iwth beliefs answer the contradiction you put yourself in by appealing to subjectivity as a basis for morality then condemning it in terms of my belief system?

I didn;t think so