A Quicker Response

Free Northerner responded to my post about God wanting a woman to commit divorce with this:

a) Is she a prophet through whom divine revelation flows?

b) Where in that mess of self-justification does God directly and undeniably command her to divorce?

All I read looking through the link is someone selfishly deciding to do something, then looking for every possible excuse to not feel guilty.

He has a lot more after that, but it has nothing to do with the point I made. That’s because this is the quote I responded to:

If after a period of prayer, fasting, consultation with trusted Christian leaders, and testing the spirits I understood the spirits were those of the Lord I would obey [and kill infants].

His answer is that the woman’s spiritual discernment process was clearly off. He is right, and what he apparently does not realize is that this illustrates the problem with his position beautifully.

And by the way – divorce was permitted under the Old Covenant. God ordering people to divorce in certain extreme situations while Israel was still under the Old Covenant is not even remotely comparable to divorce after the arrival of Christ, and it’s actually disappointing to see both FN and Cane miss this and try to use it as a “gotcha” (Cane apparently thought that the Catholic response would be that it was really a “mass annulment” that occurred, but both forget that Catholics don’t disagree that divorce was permitted under the Old Covenant, which is why Jesus’s new rule about divorce was so radical).

Anyway, his response is bad and avoids what he actually said. My guess it’s that he realizes it would be incredibly damning, though I suspect it is more of a “rationalization hamster” that’s leading him to avoid facing his own words directly rather than pure dishonesty.

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32 Responses to A Quicker Response

  1. Hrodgar says:

    It may also be worth noting that, to the best of my knowledge anyway, the Catholic Church only forbids divorces where at least one of the partners is baptized; or more accurately, teaches them to be impossible when both are baptized and forbids the baptized spouse from initiating/encouraging a divorce when only one is baptized. Not only does, as Paul teaches, the Church generally avoid “judging those outside the church” (1Cor5), but divorce in a merely natural marriage is at least possible, and probably not intrinsically evil, even if it in practice may be morally suboptimal all cases and actively evil in nearly all.

    I’m fairly new to Catholicism and not exactly a canon lawyer here, so I could very well be wrong about this, of course. But it seems to me that the Mosaic divorce laws apply only to non-sacramental marriages, and is thus probably irrelevant to the example used.

    Granted, most Protestant churches teach marriage is not a sacrament and furthermore that contraception and divorce are permissible which, if Zippy’s post on marriage ideas and consequences is correct, would seem to mean that an awful lot of Protestants are either in a merely natural marriage (if that’s even possible for baptized persons; I have no idea) or already living in a state of at least material adultery, even if they’ve never divorced. That kind of makes me hope my understanding of the topic IS wrong, actually, even if (and it’s a big if) most of them wouldn’t be culpable.

    • I don’t think the Church allows divorce at all. If a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, then they must request a dispensation from the bishop or archbishop of their diocese. If there was no dispensation, then there was no marriage. Hope this helps make things clearer.
      In the Mosaic law, I think I read that Jesus said that the reason why divorce was allowed was because of the hard-headedness of the people.

      • Hrodgar says:

        If two non-baptized persons marry, and one gets baptized, and the other one desires a divorce, Scripture (1Cor7:12-15, “in such a case the brother or sister is not bound”) and apparently Tradition (see Zippy’s comment at 1:26pm) both seem pretty clear that so long as it is the unbaptized spouse implementing the divorce that divorce and even remarriage is permissible for the baptized.

        The teaching as best I can understand it seems to be not that divorce is forbidden per se, but that divorce in a sacramental marriage (a valid marriage between two baptized persons) is in fact impossible.

        My worries are founded in the line of reasoning suggested in this post, applied to Protestants as well as Catholics.

        While I appreciate the instruction (I am, as I said, fairly new to this and will take whatever I can get), the points you mention do not seem to address my actual worry, or at least, if they do, I don’t see how. And lest you get too anxious, no, I am not worried about the validity of my own marriage. I decided on celibacy years before I even considered becoming Catholic. I merely seek the truth of the matter.

      • I’m sorry that my points didn’t bring to bear on the debate. I guess I’m just having a hard time following the whole discussion. (That or I’m sleep deprived. The same thing has happened twice in my college classes so far. *sigh*)
        Ah. I see what you’re getting at. So, a “marriage” by a justice of the peace (which, in my opinion, is purely legal and not really spiritual; I hope that makes sense) is permissible to get a divorce, because the arrangement is legal, not sacramental, and a divorce is technically just a legality; it has no spiritually binding power.
        Yes, divorce in a sacramental marriage, while recognized legally, does nothing to dissolve the sacramental bonds of marriage.
        🙂 I love philosophy…
        🙂 I’ll be praying for you as well. 🙂 God bless!

    • Zippy says:

      Someone pointed out to me in email that this is ambiguous:

      Granted, most Protestant churches teach marriage is not a sacrament and furthermore that contraception and divorce are permissible which, if Zippy’s post on marriage ideas and consequences is correct, would seem to mean…

      As I understand it (the ever present caveat), an intention to contracept does not invalidate a marriage. An intention to have a sexual relationship and rule out children permanently and altogether would invalidate the union though.

      On divorce, an intention (for two baptized Christians) to enter into a dissoluble union is not an intention to enter into marriage, so that does invalidate the union.

  2. Zippy says:

    The problem with discussions like that one is that there is just too much ignorance to even find enough common ground to actually have a conversation. And the ignorance goes ‘all the way down’, into the way people think at a very basic level. That’s what my stuff on (e.g.) positivism, nominalism, etc is attempting to make understandable, or at least begin to make understandable. Folks think they have taken a ‘red pill’, but are still helplessly caught in the web of modernity’s more subtle errors.

    Hrodgar:

    … would seem to mean that an awful lot of Protestants are either in a merely natural marriage (if that’s even possible for baptized persons; I have no idea)

    I am not sure that the conditions of dissolubility of merely natural marriages are well-defined, but merely natural marriages are definitely not indissoluble like sacramental marriages. Pagan marriage (which includes all marriage in the OT) in general is fundamentally different from Christian marriage. That’s likely what is driving the polygamist in that discussion to comment so vociferously and ignorantly: what he wants is a pagan OT understanding of morality (including especially marriage) because polygamy is possible in ‘merely natural’ marriage.

    However, it is definitely impossible for two baptized persons to enter into a non-sacramental marriage:

    … for certain it is that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament, and that, for this reason, the contract cannot be true and legitimate without being a sacrament as well. For Christ our Lord added to marriage the dignity of a sacrament; but marriage is the contract itself, whenever that contract is lawfully concluded. – Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae sapentiae

    On the issue of an unbaptized spouse (natural marriage) versus a baptized but fallen-away spouse (sacramental marriage) there is this:

    We, therefore, responding to your inquiry, in conformity with the advice of Our brothers, even though one of Our predecessors [Celestine III] seems to have thought otherwise, make a distinction between two cases: when there are two unbelievers and one converts to the Catholic faith, or when there are two believers and one lapses into heresy or falls into the error of the heathens. For if, indeed, one of the two unbelieving spouses converts to the Catholic faith, and the other does not wish to live together in any manner, or at least not without blaspheming the divine name or leading the other into mortal sin, the one who is abandoned, if wishing to, may enter into a second marriage, and in this case, We understand what was said by the apostle: “If the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so: in such cases, the brother or sister is not bound” [1 Cor 7:15]. And likewise, the canon that says: “The insult to the Creator dissolves the juridical bond of marriage for the one who is thus abandoned.” [Cf. Gratian, Decretum, P. II, cs. 28, q. 2, c. 2 (Frdb 1:1090]

    But if one of the believing spouses either falls into heresy or lapses into the error of the heathens, we do not believe that in this case the abandoned one can enter into a second marriage while the other spouse is living, even though in this case a greater insult to the Creator may be evident. For even if, in fact, a true marriage exists between unbelievers, it is still not ratified. Between believers, however, a true and ratified marriage exists, because the sacrament of faith (baptism) once conferred is never lost, and indeed it makes the sacrament of marriage ratified so that the marriage itself endures in the spouses as long as the baptism endures. – Pope Innocent III, Quanto te magis, letter to Bishop Ugo of Ferrara, May 1, 1199 (Denzinger)

    • The Deuce says:

      However, it is definitely impossible for two baptized persons to enter into a non-sacramental marriage

      Does that mean that the Catholic Church would consider a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant to be sacramental and indissoluble? It seems it should, since the Catholic Church considers most Protestant baptisms to be valid.

      • Zippy says:

        The Deuce:
        Assuming the marriage is valid at all then yes, when both parties are baptized – and technically even non-Christians can validly baptize each other, so yes most Protestant baptisms are valid – the marriage is sacramental and indissoluble.

        (As always, this comes with the disclaimer “to the best of my knowledge.”)

      • True, Protestant baptisms are valid. However, like “emergency” baptisms, they’re considered “incomplete”; that is, the full ceremony of the baptism hasn’t been fulfilled. If a person survives the event that gave someone reason to give them an emergency baptism, it’s recommended that the full ceremony be performed as soon as possible.
        (Another obscure tidbit for you all, from the resident Roman Catholic and lover of all things Tridentine Rite. :-P)
        However, on the other hand, unless the Catholic and non-Catholic receive a dispensation, then the marriage isn’t valid.
        I do have experience here. When my mom and dad were married, Dad was Lutheran, while Mom was Catholic. They had to get a dispensation. (Dad later converted to Catholicism.) I think that marriage is always a sacramental; sometimes a mistreated sacramental, but always a sacramental. (It’s perfectly possible that we’re distinguishing between “natural” and “sacramental” marriages when the terms “valid” and “invalid” really are more pertinent.) For Catholics, if your marriage to a non-Catholic is invalid, you can rectify the affair, though I’m not certain of the exact process.
        Hope this helps!

      • Zippy says:

        Hello erinkenobi2893,

        Conditional baptisms are given when there is doubt about the validity of the sacrament (IIRC there was a case not long ago where large numbers of people were ‘baptized’ invalidly in the name of the ‘Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier’). Typically (at least I think this is typical) a baptized Protestant who is converting to Catholicism is given the option of having a conditional baptism or not, although I think it may be mandatory if there is no baptismal certificate from a ‘baptismally reputable’ denomination.

        Marriage is potentially much more complicated than baptism.

        In a case like you describe (a baptized Catholic marrying a baptized protestant) there are potentially two dispensations which are required: one to dispense with the default requirement to marry another Catholic, and the other to dispense with the requirement to follow the form prescribed by the Church (if in fact that is what is done). Lack of the first dispensation does not invalidate the marriage: it results in a valid (and therefore indissoluble after consummation) but illicit marriage. Lack of the second results in an invalid marriage (that is, no marriage takes place). Non-Catholics marrying other non-Catholics automatically receive the second dispensation: those marriages are never null simply because of defect of form.

        Now in practice most couples lacking the first would also lack the second (it is unlikely that proper form presided over by a priest would be followed without the disparity of cult dispensation, since it is part of the priest’s job to make sure the dispensation has been acquired). But there is a weird possible ‘edge case’ where proper form was followed without the disparity of cult dispensation, or perhaps one dispensation was gotten but not the other because of some screwup or other. In general every permutation of possible ways for things to go wrong eventually gets explored by someone. So ‘valid but illicit’ indissoluble sacramental marriages are possible. (FWIW I am pretty well versed on how sacramental marriage works, but I was unaware of this particular subtlety until recently.)

        In general these can all be ‘fixed’ by convalidation though – basically the ‘conditional marriage’ equivalent of conditional baptism.

        All the usual disclaimers apply – this is just my understanding of things, but it is my understanding of things.

      • Zippy says:

        Also, it may be worth pointing out that if you do things the right way, it is simple as pie and you’ve got nothing to worry about. Things only get complicated and go wrong when people assume that nobody is the boss of them and they can do ‘marriage’ however they want.

    • erin,

      First off, welcome, and I’m glad to see you apparently enjoy my writing. It’s certainly flattering.

      Believe it or not, EVERYBODY in this thread is the resident Roman Catholic, myself included. Zippy here is more knowledgeable than me and most Catholic I know by a factor of several very large numbers, in fact.

      So, welcome to the clan.

  3. Hrodgar says:

    Re: “Assuming the marriage is valid at all…”

    And therein lies the rub. Given the impossibility of a merely natural marriage for two baptized persons, if your suggestion in previous writings regarding the proportion of valid Catholic marriages is correct and your criteria for a valid marriage are also correct, it would seem that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Protestant marriages would also be invalid; if even Catholics, whose teaching forbids both contraception and dissolving a marriage, can and frequently do by imperfect consent on those two points make a marriage invalid, how much more Protestants, whose teachings very rarely forbid either?

    If that is correct, then it would seem that she did not necessarily commit a grave evil in separating from her potentially nominal husband, though to enter into yet another invalid marriage would of course only compound the disorder.

    This does not invalidate any points either you or our host have ever made on the subject (that I’m aware of). Just because I don’t like a conclusion doesn’t mean it’s necessarily not true, and if it is true (I haven’t made up my mind just yet) I’m sure some other story could be found to fit Malcolm’s purpose. Some time in the next couple months I’ll have to look more deeply into what makes a marriage valid; at this point, an error on your part in what makes a marriage valid is my highest hope for refuting this, but you could very well be right, and that is the train of thought that has me really hoping I missed something somewhere.

    • My only point was that Free Northerner and Cane’s attempted use of the Ezra passage as a “gotcha” was severely misguided from the get-go since Catholics don’t believe that divorce is impossible before the arrival of Christ.

      I think it quite possible that most marriages are invalid, and agree with Zippy that the solution is a massive educational campaign on marriage and what makes a marriage valid. On this front the upcoming Pontifical Council of the Family can indeed be quite fruitful.

      • Zippy says:

        Malcolm:
        My other main recommendations – that if there really are these massive numbers of invalid marriages the highest priority ought to be having a full-court press of mass convalidations (perhaps ‘vow renewal’ for all present at Christmas and Easter masses?), and that there should be an end to ‘internal forum’ annulments because of what the practice teaches people about marriage – are unlikely to see any air time. But you never know.

      • I think the first is more likely than the second. Framed correctly I can see people not being necessarily opposed to it at least. Mass attendance on Christmas and Easter may drop, but is that a bad thing if this is the reason?

    • Zippy says:

      Hrodgar:

      … at this point, an error on your part in what makes a marriage valid is my highest hope for refuting this, but you could very well be right …

      I haven’t arrived at my conclusions lightly, and I’ve explained them as clearly as I can. I have done some fairly deep due diligence on the question using the considerable resources available these days to laymen (e.g. Denzinger). So far I have not myself seen an argument or citation that calls them into doubt, and if anything contemporary statements by the Magisterium at very high levels tend more to reinforce my conclusions than to call them into question.

      But they are nevertheless my conclusions, and nobody should just take the implications to be true on my authority, since I don’t have any authority. Also it is rather doubtful that my pastoral recommendations are as well-aligned with the bishops’ views as my assessment of the factual situation appears to be.

  4. The Deuce says:

    Heh, on a totally different topic, I just saw the thread at WWWTW regarding the kill orders in the Old Testament. Looks like the comments are closed there, so I thought I’d come here for the point I wanted to make. I just wanted to point out that the Catholic Church teaches more about inerrancy than just “…the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation…”

    As John Bergsma points out here, it also teaches that whatever is asserted by the human author is also asserted by the Holy Spirit, and is therefore true (FWIW, I’m not Catholic, but this is the concept of inerrancy that I subscribe to as well): http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/johnbergsma/theoldtestament.asp

    Now, it’s not always clear what the human author is asserting, and what is merely incidental to the assertion, but in this case, to do an end-run around the problem we would have to say that the authors of the Pentateuch and Samuel were not actually trying to assert that God ordered the commands in question.

      • The Deuce says:

        My own further thoughts on the matter: Imo, it’s difficult bordering on impossible to honestly take the passages in question as not having been intended to assert that God ordered the acts in question. I also have to consider that virtually all the church fathers (aside from Origen) took those things to be true and justified, or at least the destruction of the Canaanites more generally, including the guys who developed the philosophical bases of natural law and intrinsic evil in the first place (including guys like St. Aquinas who was apparently granted the beatific vision prior to death), so that’s a lot of people who are smarter and holier than me.

        I’d be interested to know what pre-Christian Jewish interpreters thought of it. The Jews in Esther seem to have thought of themselves as finishing the job against the Amelekites that Saul failed to do (notice how it specifies that they took no plunder, ie. they “did it right” this time).

        Here’s what it comes down to for me. We know that God can kill people who are not guilty of capital crimes, directly or via an angel. It even happened once in the New Testament with Ananias and Sapphira. It can even happen with children, as it no doubt did in Sodom and Gomorrah, and as it explicitly did in the Passover and the killing of the firstborn sons of Egypt (And the latter, along with the binding of Isaac, is utterly vital to Jesus’ place as fulfillment of the OT promises. In both cases, God substituted a lamb or goat to take the punishment for the redeemed and be sacrificed to Him in place of the sacrifice of a son. But these were only signs pointing forward, and couldn’t pay the price in and of themselves, that requiring an actual son, God’s Own Son, to be sacrificed in place of us, on the final true Passover, on a hill like Isaac).

        So the question is, can God specifically delegate such decisions to human beings, as opposed an angel or by doing it directly, or could he have done so in the past (since while God doesn’t change, His relationship to us does). I’m inclined to say that he did, but couldn’t now, and that anybody claiming to have received such an order is at odds with revelation already given and our relationship to God and each other because of Christ.

        Btw, I don’t think this implies that we must accept that God could have ordered the rape or torture of children, which is one of the things that came up at WWWtW. Believing that God sent an angel of death to kill the firstborn sons of Egypt does not require us to believe that God could have an angel of rape to rape and torture the daughters of Egypt. I think most of us who accept that God did the former would still say that it would be against God’s Nature to do the latter. God is sovereign over life, and may specifically decide to end lives even when they haven’t committed a capital offense, but torturing, raping, or otherwise defiling and degrading them (who, after all, hold His Image) is gratuitous and superfluous to the decision to revoke the life He has given. The question is only if these specific decisions to end life may be delegated to humans by direct and specific divine command.

      • Btw, I don’t think this implies that we must accept that God could have ordered the rape or torture of children, which is one of the things that came up at WWWtW.

        You’re missing the point. You’d have to concede that this was POSSIBLE. It is possible God would order us to rape a baby, according to your position.

        Natural law is not a light switch that God can just switch off because this time he really WANTS genocide to be okay. That’s not how it works.

        I don’t believe in this Muslim God that supposedly exists in the Old Testament – if Allah bids us to commit genocide, then genocide we commit. Praise Allah!

      • The Deuce says:

        You’re missing the point. You’d have to concede that this was POSSIBLE. It is possible God would order us to rape a baby, according to your position.

        No, I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think it’s possible that God could rape or torture a baby Himself (or via an angel) consistently with His Nature, so I don’t think he could have delegated that decision to humans either. It’s neither consistent with the Divine Nature nor with human nature. I DO think that He could kill a baby Himself or via an angel (and in fact did, in Egypt and Sodom, among others), and I’m suggesting that He could have delegated that to humans.

        (I’m open to a good explanation for how Scripture doesn’t really mean that, btw, and it would be easier for me, but I haven’t seen one that I can honestly accept in good faith).

        The question is, could God have specifically delegated to humans acts that are consistent with His Nature for Him to do, but which would under normal circumstances be forbidden to humans to take upon themselves. Rape and torture of infants are acts inconsistent with God’s Nature, so He couldn’t do it Himself or delegate it to someone else.

        If someone argues from consequentialism, probably rape and certainly torture would follow as implications, but not if they argue from delegated authority, since God can’t delegate authority that He doesn’t have.

        (FWIW, I think the Jews in Esther were wrong to take a limited, 600-year-old command as still applying to them and their enemies specifically. Even in the Pentateuch, the Israelites are sometimes chastised for taking destructive actions against people they weren’t granted specific permission to attack. The point was just that they appear to have seen it as an actual command that Saul screwed up, and tried to “fix” by carrying it out the “right” way.)

        Btw, in doing my own reading on this a few months back (since this topic upsets me as well), I found a pretty good piece by Jimmy Akin from 2007: http://jimmyakin.com/2007/02/hard_sayings_of.html

      • It’s neither consistent with the Divine Nature nor with human nature. I DO think that He could kill a baby Himself or via an angel (and in fact did, in Egypt and Sodom, among others), and I’m suggesting that He could have delegated that to humans.

        See, this is where I’m lost. This is, literally, nonsense to me.

      • The Deuce says:

        See, this is where I’m lost. This is, literally, nonsense to me.

        Well, only the slaughter orders to the Israelites are under question here, correct? We’re not questioning that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah or killed the firstborn sons of Egypt, right? And yet, you don’t think God could’ve sent an angel to rape and torture the Egyptian children, right?

        The traditional understanding for this is that life is God’s free gift in the first place, that it is His prerogative to choose how much He gives, and that He may revoke life and the right to life according to His Will. That doesn’t apply to rape and torture.

        Let’s look at one area where the Church specifically teaches that the right to life is revoked, and that God has delegated the right to end life to human authorities: that being the crime of murder. The authorities may licitly kill a person guilty of murder in accordance with natural law. However, God has not delegated, and CANNOT delegate, the right to rape or torture a person guilty of murder. It is contrary to our nature and God’s Nature.

        So, it shouldn’t be problematic, in and of itself, to say that God granting authority to kill someone doesn’t imply that it’s possible for Him to grant authority to torture or rape them.

        The issue is, when God specifically revokes the right to life of someone innocent of murder (as He did in Egypt and Sodom), could He possibly delegate to humans, now or in the past, the authority to carry out that revocation, the way He does generally with those guilty of murder.

      • So, it shouldn’t be problematic, in and of itself, to say that God granting authority to kill someone doesn’t imply that it’s possible for Him to grant authority to torture or rape them.

        With one problem: God is ordering them to kill babies. This is not licit killing. This is murder of the innocent.

      • The Deuce says:

        Right. Basically, we’re looking at two things that I think we have to take as data points:

        1) God Himself has the right to specifically revoke both the lives and the right to life of those innocent of murder according to his Sovereign will, including babies, and has done so in the past. (the Passover and Sodom & Gomorrah are two definite examples that involved babies). He has not done the equivalent with rape.

        2) God can and has delegated to human authorities the authority to revoke the lives of those from whom he has revoked the right to life due to murder. He has not given human authorities the right to commit rape under any circumstances.

        So the question is, can these be combined? Could God have delegated to humans the authority to revoke the lives of specific non-murderers from whom He has revoked the right to life, in the same way that he has delegated the right to revoke the lives of murderers in general from whom He has revoked the right to life?

        Even if the answer to that is yes, it still wouldn’t imply that God could order the rape of innocents, any more than His judgment on Egypt implies that He could rape them Himself, or than His delegating the right to kill murderers implies that He could delegate the right to rape them.

      • The Deuce says:

        One final thought: If we look closely at how murder and rape are treated in Scripture and in natural law, I think we can get a better resolution on what, exactly, is intrinsically evil about each.

        It’s not simply that they’re two crimes on a continuum, where killing a person is a worse crime than raping them, so if God gives permission for one, it implies he could give permission to the other. Rather, they are two different kinds of offense, and each is wrong for different reasons.

        In the normal case, it is worse to kill a person than to rape them, but if someone is attacking you or is a murderer, it is worse to rape them than to kill them. In fact, you may *never* rape someone, making rape intrinsically evil, despite rape being the “lesser” crime than murder. So why is that?

        I suggest that the ACTUAL intrinsic evil of murder is a sort of stealing from God. The phrase “taking a life” describes it best. When you murder, you are taking a sacred possession that belongs to God and is not yours to take. Even your own life is not yours to take, which is why suicide is still a form of murder.

        Human life is a borrowed gift, a precious currency that is on loan from God interest-free, and it’s only His prerogative how much he loans you and when He “debt collects.” That’s how Scripture speaks of it too, pretty consistently. In Genesis 9:5, human life is said to require an accounting. Ie, the murderer “pays God back” for the life he stole by paying with his own life that was borrowed from God. It’s the premise behind OT sacrifice, that human life is required to pay for sin (namely a firstborn or favored son), but that God accepted a lamb as substitute.

        And, of course, it’s the premise behind Christ’s sacrifice. Ultimately, you can’t pay God back with a possession He’s merely loaning you, so he had to be paid with Life that wasn’t merely on loan from Him. Hence, Christ says “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Unlike us, Christ’s life was his own possession to pay God with.

        Since a person’s life is a possession on loan from God, God has the right to take anyone’s life back when He wills it. Now, in certain cases, God also delegates to humans the right to end a life He has chosen to take back, such as is the case with murderers. But even there, God doesn’t grant the right to just anyone. I personally don’t have the right to go about assassinating murderers, at least where a legitimate authority exists. The authority is only delegated to the proper authorities, and if I take it upon myself to execute murderers personally, it’s still murder on my part, because I’m still taking a sacred possession that belongs to God and is not mine to take.

        So could God also delegate the authority to end specific non-murderers’ lives he has chosen to take back, in the way he has delegated the authority to collect on murderers’ lives generally? Intellectually, I think it would have to be conceivable at leaast. Emotionally, it’s still heartbreaking (as are cases where God did it Himself, like Sodom and the plagues on Egypt, really), but intellectually I believe it works.

        Of course, there’s still the thorny issue of how you could *know* that such authority had really been given rather than being falsely claimed as in Islam, which I won’t get into, except to say that in light of the full revelation of Christ, the Great Commission, and humanity’s present relationship to God, I don’t believe there’s any possible reason for God to delegate such authority ever again, and hence we can know anybody claiming it is wrong.

        This is already too long, so I’ll just state what I think is different about rape (and other crimes like torture) briefly: Rather than being a case of taking something precious from God that was not yours to take, the intrinsic evil committed is something more along the lines of degrading or defiling the Image Of God. God can never defile or degrade His Own Image, and hence he can never delegate the authority to do so either, under any circumstances. Hence even the proper authorities may never rape or torture even those lives they have been delegated the authority to take.

    • Zippy says:

      Here is Dei Verbum:

      Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.

      So a true and correct interpretation exists. But we don’t even know who the sacred authors who actually wrote the Scriptures down were, let alone precisely what they personally intended to assert.

      That a true and correct interpretation exists doesn’t imply as much as most people take it to imply; because most people, influenced by positivism, do not have an even rudimentary grasp of the relationship between text and meaning.

  5. Deuce,

    You’re actually dead wrong:

    10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.

    Deuteronomy 21:10-14

    Cane Caldo, true to form – and in a post that actually has some legitimately good points made in it – argues that this is not rape because God said it wasn’t.

    But this is totally circular, because that’s exactly what’s under discussion.

    So the question is, can these be combined? Could God have delegated to humans the authority to revoke the lives of specific non-murderers from whom He has revoked the right to life, in the same way that he has delegated the right to revoke the lives of murderers in general from whom He has revoked the right to life?

    Once again, this whole thing loses me. You’ve just re-stated the basic question again – “The question is, could God order us to kill a baby?”

    The answer to this, of course, is that it’s completely contrary to natural law, which means our interpretation must be wrong. Otherwise you’re arguing that your interpretation of a several thousand year old text, written by many different authors, from a culture entirely foreign to our own, over a long period of time, and in an ancient language you do not speak, is more likely to be correct than your judgment that it is evil to kill babies.

    Don’t you think that there’s something a little bit off there?

    Well, only the slaughter orders to the Israelites are under question here, correct? We’re not questioning that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah or killed the firstborn sons of Egypt, right? And yet, you don’t think God could’ve sent an angel to rape and torture the Egyptian children, right?

    But with God, it’s not murder, since He has express sovereign right over every life, which He can take as He pleases. This is why it is not contrary to natural law for God to take a life – because it is entirely within God’s nature to take what is rightfully His. For that matter, it was understood for a while in the early-ish Church that even the eternal torture of infants wasn’t out of the question (Limbo of the Infants emerged as a non-official theory relatively quickly, though). So yeah, God COULD do any number of things to humans. But He is God, and infinitely wise, and He is love, and so I trust His judgment more than I trust the judgment of fallible humans who are convinced God wants them to commit atrocious acts.

    Torture is intrinsically evil, as is rape, and this puts it in a different class than taking a life. There are times humans can kill other humans; there are never times we can rape and torture, unless you are a voluntarist and read Deuteronomy to mean that rape is okay sometimes too.

    God cannot “commit” torture because torture is intrinsically evil, unlike killing people, but He certainly will let the Eternal Fire do its thing to those who choose it over Him. Rape would seem to fall under a category with torture.

    As for how the Angel of death plays into it, I don’t know, but my first suspicion is that since angels are not humans different moral laws apply there.

    • The Deuce says:

      I see we cross-posted, since I was only refreshing the thread we were on, but I think what I said in my last comment (in moderation as of now, probably because I put links in it) still applies.

      Anyhow, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 doesn’t command rape. It allows marriage in a situation that could arguably be tantamount to rape in some situations. Overall, it’s an attempt to mitigate the worst of a bad situation as much as that culture and time would allow. It’s similar to how Jesus tells us that Moses allowed divorce, not because God accepts divorce, but in order to mitigate it in a society that couldn’t give it up entirely due to the “hardness of their hearts.” Same with polygamy.

      The law here tries to ensure that the woman is provided for, making the man take care of her even before marriage. It gives her time to grieve. It has her de-beautify herself by shaving her head and nails (the point here is to make her unattractive for that month, so that the man has time to ponder the ramifications seriously, rather than being driven by animal lusts). If the man does keep her, he has to make her his wife with full rights thereof. If he doesn’t, he has to let her go free entirely, and cannot sell her or treat her as anything less than a wife.

      Besides that, I have to point out that if this was rape, then so were the arranged marriages that prevailed in that time, and up to and well past the time of Christ (and still continue in much of the world), in general (Notice how Jacob and Laban didn’t consult Rachel and Leah before Jacob “went in to” them and became their husband, nor did many of the other marriages or marriage laws mentioned in the Bible require it. And while Joseph and Mary never consummated according to Catholic belief, their engagement appears to have been the same basic rules according to Jewish marriage law).

      That’s not the same thing as God calling for rape or torture as a punishment or judgement on a people, which is what it would take to make a parallel to the passages in question.

    • The Deuce says:

      In fact, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is specifically designed so as to prevent the sort of rape that would normally have taken place among tribal people at that place and time.

      Most soldiers of most tribes back then would’ve just forcibly raped the young women right on the spot as the spoils of war after killing their families, then killed them, abandoned them to die, or possibly made sex-slaves of them. That was the default. Without this law, that’s what would’ve been expected.

      So, Moses doesn’t expect the men to entirely abandon their desire for captured foreign women captured in war. But he DOES tell them that she needs time to grieve, that they need time to cool off and think about it, that if they want to take her in any capacity they need to make her a full wife, that they nonetheless need to provide for her well-being in the meantime even if they don’t, and that if they choose not to she – a foreigner! – gets to go completely free right there in Israelite society and must not be humiliated.

      So that was a leaps and bounds improvement on the prevailing social norms in terms of humaneness.

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