Est. May 2008

06 November, 2016

Glass Houses

I guess someone at the Chicago Tribune has a problem with Donald Trump's professed Christian faith. In this, admittedly, he's not alone; in fact, I've wondered about it pretty much ever since he came onto the national scene as a candidate for the Presidency. But if you're going to point out Mr. Trump's flaws – or anyone's flaws, for that matter – in the realm of Christianity, one would do well to make sure they're not making their own grievous errors.

And yes, I'll call what this particular author did an 'error', since both Christians and non-Christians alike fall over this one on countless occasions.

The author does a pretty good job (IMO) pointing out some of the more obvious errors Mr. Trump has made regarding the Bible. But then he makes two of his own near the end of the article. He brings up an interview Mr. Trump did with a Rochester, NY radio station.
That unfamiliarity showed up again in April when host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM-AM in Rochester, N.Y., broached the subject in a phone interview: "Is there a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?"

"Well, I think many," answered the would-be exegete-in-chief. "I mean, you know, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And I tell people, look, 'An eye for an eye,' you can almost say that."
And this is where the author makes his two errors; his analysis of that statement:
But not only is "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" an Old Testament verse that condones barbaric vengeance ("… hand for hand, foot for foot," it goes on, "burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise") it was also expressly repudiated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also" (Matthew 5:38-39).
The first error: The 'verse that condones barbaric vengeance' is, in fact, the opposite.
If you pick up a Bible and actually read the verse in context (Exodus 21:22-25) you read this:
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (emphasis mine)
Now, if a judge (or judges) are responsible for determining a financial penalty for wrongdoing, it's fairly obvious they will be responsible for determining if the lex talionis is applicable and, if so, what form it should take. Far from the lex talionis being 'barbaric vengeance', it is, in actuality, a judicial sentence.

In fact, if you read Exodus chapters 20 through 23, verse 18 (and if you have a Bible with section headings), you see the words "Laws of …" repeated over and over again. Laws require two things: a lawgiver and a means of upholding those laws. In this case, the Lawgiver is God; those tasked to uphold that law are the judges mentioned above, who have been ordained by God to judge. Similarly, judges even today, whether appointed or elected, are 'anointed' (in a way) by God as agents of the government (Romans 13).

Second error: Jesus is not refuting the judicial responsibility of 'let the punishment fit the crime' – in fact, he's reinforcing it by telling people they are not to indulge in personal vengeance; either let the judges do it, or leave it to God Himself.

Besides … since Jesus is God Incarnate, why in the world would He refute His own words?

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