Dagood has written another long, rambling piece.
Cutting through the abundance of dead wood, this is more or less his core argument:
DS: And we are told that the times of the Tanakh were different, and God related to the people in a different manner, imposing a different morality. (Sounding like a morality based on relativism, not being absolute.)
SH: Who is telling him that God was imposing a different morality?
1.Dagood is indulging in fallacious all-or-nothing argument: either every precept is a moral absolute, or no precept is a moral absolute.
But that’s quite illogical. Some Mosaic injunctions exemplify moral absolutes, but others are social conventions.
In any society, to be a functioning society, certain rules must be put in place to regulate social interaction. Some of these rules are arbitrary, like stop signs and stop lights.
2.And even as far as moral absolutes are concerned, we need to distinguish between the abstract norm and the concrete ways in which the norm is enforced. There can be more than one way to enforce the same norm.
For example, the creation ordinances in Gen 1-2 are a set of moral norms, viz. labor, family, Sabbath-keeping, and the cultural mandate.
But there’s more than one way to implement a creation ordinance.
Marriage is a creation ordinance, but that doesn’t dictate one particular marriage ceremony.
Same thing with the Decalogue.
DS: Taking just one example--Why did God change His position on taking vows? Did He discover that there is some scale of morality which allows a vow-taker to supercede other moral laws?
1.Vows are not moral absolutes. They are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.
The end is the point of principle, whereas the means are pragmatic.
A process is not a moral absolute. It is not a value in itself. Rather, a process is a means to an end.
This is not a question of morality, but prudence.
2.Even in the case of moral absolutes, in a fallen world we may often be confronted with conflicting obligations. In that event, a higher duty overrules a lower duty.
DS: Jephthah is bound by his oath, and sacrifices his daughter. Now, in our humanistic determination, we would find this act immoral. While breaking an oath is assuredly not encouraged, it can be remedied here without the necessary loss of life.
Somehow, in this absolute morality proposed by the Christian viewpoint, breaking an oath is MORE immoral than killing an innocent child. If I swear to God if He gives a good parking spot, I will break the arms of my son—is it a greater sin to not break his arms upon getting right next to the handicap spot?
Apologists typically argue that Jephthah did not actually kill his daughter, but rather devoted her to the Lord.
SH: As I said before, vows are not moral absolutes.
1.The Mosaic law distinguishes between lawful and unlawful vows (e.g. Num 30).
2.Dagood disregards the genre of Judges. This is historical narrative, not a law code.
In narrative theology, the narrator generally makes his points by showing rather than telling. You don’t expect the narrator to pipe in with editorial comments all the time.
Even so, we do have a few editorial asides planted at strategic locations (e.g. Jdg 17:6; 21:25) which make the editorial viewpoint unmistakably clear.
3.Far from approving of all the reported conduct, the purpose of the book is just the opposite. As the standard commentary explains:
“The them of the book is the Canaanization of the Israelite society during the period of settlement...The author’s agenda is evident not only in the individual units but in the broad structureof the book as a whole. The Prlogue (1:1-3:6) explaisn the underlying causes of the Canaanization of Israel: the tribes’ failure to fulfill the divine mandante in eliminating the native population (Deut 7:1-5). The major part, the ‘Book of Deliverers’ (3:7-16:31, describes the consequences of Israel’s Canaanization and Yahweh’s response. The collection of ‘hero-stories’ ahs its own specific prologue (3:1-6) in which the reader is reminded of the problematic historical and spiritual background for the following hero-stories. The sequence of six cycles of ‘apostasy-punishment-cry of pain-deliverance’ not only expresses the persistence of the issue; it demonstrates the increasing intensity of the nation’s depravity. The arrangement of the ‘hero-stories’ reflects this process so that in the end we are left with ‘antiheroes” rather than truly great men of God. In the Epilogue (17:1-21:25), which really is the climax of the presentation, the Danite and Benjamites tribes demonstrate the extent and intensity of the problem in the nation’s religious and social dysfunction,” D. Block, Judges, Ruth (B&H 1999), 58.
Dagood needs to learn a thing or two about narrative technique. Cf. R. Pratt, He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives (P&R 1993).
DS: As I read the tale of Jephthah, I can’t help but reflect on King David’s similar situation. King David committed murder (perhaps) but certainly adultery—a crime punishable by death. Yet in this Christian morality scheme, there appears to be an out. An exception. Regardless of the immorality or morality of an action, God can impose mercy, and exempt the person from punishment.
1.Isn’t this wonderfully inept? He cites an OT account to illustrate the “Christian morality scheme.”
Well, I guess we can be grateful for the fact that Dagood continues to affirm the prophetic character of the OT.
2Yes, God pardoned David. But it wasn’t a plenary pardon. Cf. 2 Sam 12:10-12.
3.And as far as the “Christian morality scheme is concerned,” divine forgiveness is predicated on penal substitution.
There is no suspension of the moral law. Rather, justice is exacted on the Redeemer.
As usual, Dagood doesn’t understand because he doesn’t try to understand. He is a man self-condemned.