Friday, April 6, 2012

God's Inscrutable Justice

To the Editor:

A few words in response to your paper’s bizarre contention this morning that the ancient fable of God’s murder of innocent babies demonstrates divine “justice” for the Pharaoh’s interference with God’s plan for “individual” freedom:

First, the Exodus story very likely never happened.  The archaeological evidence that has come to light in recent decades leaves little room for honest debate about this.

Second, the Passover myth is anything but a tale of “individual” freedom.  While the Old Testament is full of divine commands for war, genocide, slavery, cruelty, etc., it contains precious little in the way of political liberty for individuals.

Third, if God had a plan for individual freedom, how come we don’t see anything like that notion appearing in human history until the relatively secular Enlightenment – some twenty centuries later?  Jefferson, it is true, appealed to the Deistic concept of “the laws of nature and nature’s God” when proclaiming that all men have the basic right to liberty.  But when seeking to defend slavery in our own country, in relatively modern times, the southern racists simply pulled out their Bibles and cited chapter and verse.  Here, one might consult the Book of Exodus (21:7) or the Deutero-Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians (6:5).

Fourth, how can Pharaoh be blamed for interfering with God's plan for "individual" freedom?  In my translation of the Bible, at the crucial moment, God "hardens" Pharaoh's heart against Moses' plea to "let my people go."  (Exodus 7:2-3, NIV).  The whole thing was God's fault / plan!

Finally, is it not odd that the faithful want to credit God for all that is good in the world while absolving Him for what is bad?  If God is so omnipresent and caring that even the lilies of the field find comfort in his bosom (Matthew 6:28), then what are we to make of tsunamis that wipe out thousands of innocent children in the blink of an eye?

God’s justice is indeed inscrutable, I suppose.