Friday, January 27, 2006

The Things you Learn on Satellite TV

So I'm watching a documentary on the History Channel, a little show called Bible Battles which discusses, interestingly enough, some battles of OT times. The perspective is that of military historians, and the approach is to discuss the tactics, tools and strategy of various military leaders, such as Moses, Deborah, Joshua and Saul. For the most part, I found the show interesting. However, I found a few things to sound rather odd, and upon reflection thought they were symptomatic of much of today's unorthodox scholarship. The historians, in talking about the Exodus, claimed that it was illogical for slaves to defeat Egypt the way Moses et al did. Therefore, the Israelites were not slaves, but rather a people with a fair amount of military skill, people the Egyptians thought might turn on them. Of course, slaves overthrowing a strong military is illogical. But. (This is usually part of modern scholarship from, and for some of you I'm sorry if this offends, liberal scholars.) But what this analysis leaves out of the equation is God. Yes, it is implausible for us to think slaves whipped the Egyptians. But it is NOT implausible to just take the Bible at its word and think God played a part. If God took part, then this becomes more than plausible. Yet many folks decide that instead of taking the text as saying what is plain and obvious, decide that God couldn't have taken part and so another explanation must needs be devised. Closed-circuit to people who keep looking for alternative explanations that turn scripture into metaphor: just because you come up with an alternative, plausible explanation, that doesn't mean you're right. And leaving God out of the stories in which He is a major player is nonsensical.

(Modern analysis of the Noah story is also symptomatic of this approach. I've heard people say the Noahic flood could not have happened as described in Genesis because the animals would have needed more food/waste removal services than Noah and family could have provided, etc. Basically, it doesn't work as a story because the logistics are unworkable. Um, hello, but the entire story is built on God's work. God decides to send the flood, He brings the animals to the ark, He opens the floodgates. Any God that can create the universe with His word, can flood the earth, can do the other things God can do certainly can take care of the animals on the ark for a few months. Taking a story that describes miracles and then saying it couldn't have happened because it would have taken a miracle is completely missing the point.)

Another show on the pay channels (no, not those pay channels), Battlestar Galactica, often centers on questions of what it really means to be human, or touches on ethical or moral questions. Tonight's episode touched, at least briefly, on the morality of the "everyone's doing it" excuse. And for once, I wasn't disappointed by a script writer. There was a scene where Col. Tigh and Captain Lee Adama are discussing their participation in the illegal black market developing in the fleet. Col. Tigh warns Adama not to "play holier than thou" since Adama had played a part. Adama, instead of saying, "yeah, I'm a hypocrite, I'll not judge the black marketers anymore" surprised me. His response was, "doesn't make us right, Colonel, just a whole lot of people wrong."

This is an incredibly Christian response. Adama realizes that what he is doing is wrong. Something is not made right just because "everyone does it." Sin is not excused by the number of participants, and we are not released from responsibility for our own sin on the grounds that our neighbor does the same thing. Adama gets it exactly right: we still must judge sin as sin, even while we ourselves are sinners. The alternative is that we allow evil to flourish. Calling sin "sin" is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is calling sin "sin" while also claiming not to sin.

I also note that Adama does go on to kill a criminal without due process, so he obviously has some ongoing issues to address. But I was encouraged that a character on television actually said something unexpected and morally correct. Just because everyone is sinning doesn't mean we should avoid calling out sin for what it is. Sin is an afront to God, and we don't take that nearly seriously enough. When we hold back from preaching against sin and evil we allow it to flourish and grow. That eventually harms us too. Sin, left unchecked by Christians too afraid of being called judgmental and intolerant, kills. Yes, we need to speak out properly, and not hatefully. But we can't keep silent. Just because a whole lot of people are minimizing sin doesn't make it right to do so. No, it just makes a whole lot of people wrong.

God bless!

[Update: I updated a parenthetical aside that I noticed was worded rather oddly. Apologies for anyone who scratched their head over it:)]

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