The Insensible Depths of Secular Ignorance
This article is edited, and added to, often. Latest edit is October 29, 2012
What is the ‘least’ of the truly sacred things? And, how all-but-insensible is its sacredness?
On the living Earth, a day is not a grid on a calendar, much less a duration of time in deep space. Even the most subtle, most invisible form of created life on Earth breathes. Perhaps it most deeply sighs on one day out of every seven, and this by the light of the Sun.
Even the least greed is fatal when, wittingly or not, it is used against someone who is the most injured by the greatest greed. Many of the least greedy shall be counted among the most greedy. One wishes to ignore the beggar by experience of too many insincere beggars; But, even then, dare you be too certain?
INTRODUCTION TO THE BASICS
According to Harvey Bluedorn, like virtually every Christian of the Age of the Gentiles:
The moral element in the Sabbath day commandment was the necessity to apportion one’s time so as best to worship and serve God. The ceremonial element in the Sabbath day commandment was the requirement of a twenty-four hour period of rest on the seventh day of every week from sunset to sunset. If we turn back to the childish form of the commandment and impose this childish form upon ourselves and others as moral law, then we will be denying the liberty which we have as mature sons in Christ, and we will be making ourselves slaves under a yoke. Since we are commanded to move forward to maturity (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 6:1) it is disobedience to move backward (Galatians 2:18; 4:10-11; 5:1-13). All disobedience to a command is sin.
What? Was God engaging in a bit of childishness for having created the world in six days, so that He ceased His work on the seventh? And, why seven? Why not ten or eight or five? And, why Saturday, and not Sunday or Friday instead? I thought those verses implied merely symbolic laws, such as the laws of forgiveness-by-animal-sacrifice? Is a Law merely symbolic by your ignorance of the nature of the thing for which that law was given???
Notice that God blessed the day on which He stopped his work of creation, and called that day special. By what manner did God so call it? By an arbitrary nomology? Or, rather, by the same manner in which Adam named the animals?
Does God’s perfection in creating the world by His Word prevent Him from naming things which He has already made? If it doesn’t prevent Him this, then what, if anything, prevents Him from naming evils which we already commit? And, how shall we know we already commit them apart from His saying so? Surely by the ‘Law written in our hearts’ without ever hearing the Law to begin with.
So, did Jesus make the ceremonial parts of the Law obselete by rebuking the Pharisees concerning the Law? Jesus wasn’t dead yet. If he made even the ceremonial parts obselete by rebuking them for abiding those parts as commanded, then when did that command become obselete? Why did he rebuke them for abiding it? Was he demanding that they should have stopped commanding those parts at his birth, had they known of his birth?
Or, rather, did Jesus rebuke them for changing the Law by their arrogant obsessions over its letter, who thereby looked down their ignorant and arrogant noses at anyone who, for whatever reason, did not keep that letter as mindlessly well as they kept it? Even the words of the Gospel are so ‘well kept’ by many Christains today, who judge every person by his cover.
Relative to the congruent naivety, some corners seem far more justifiably cut than others, especially those corners that seem, to those who are all-but-insensible to them, not to be there at all.
What is the ‘childishness’ of the ceremonial element of the Law? Who is to say that one of the Ten is merely ceremonial? If the truth of the Sabbath is nothing more than ‘the necessity to apportion one’s time so as best to worship and serve God‘, then is there no natural global order according to which this worship and service is best done? Is it strictly individualistic, or, maybe, just communitarianistic? Or, does its order go all the way down to the world of ‘germs’? What, indeed, was the point of making any of the Laws so particular regarding sundown? What does sunlight have to do with the relation between human health and the balance of the microscopic ecology? According to the interpretation made of the Biblical Law by the typical Christian of the Age of the Gentiles, mainly nothing. As if we haven’t really learned anything since the Dark Ages. To wit:
The ceremonial element in the Sabbath day commandment was the requirement of a twenty-four hour period of rest on the seventh day of every week from sunset to sunset. If we turn back to the childish form of the commandment and impose this childish form upon ourselves and others as moral law, then we will be denying the liberty which we have as mature sons in Christ, and we will be making ourselves slaves under a yoke. Since we are commanded to move forward to maturity (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 6:1) it is disobedience to move backward (Galatians 2:18; 4:10-11; 5:1-13). All disobedience to a command is sin.
What? I thought those verses implied merely symbolic laws, such as the laws of forgiveness-by-animal-sacrifice? Is a Law merely symbolic by your ignorance of the nature of the thing for which that law was given??? Too bad God didn’t add a couple more to the Ten which some Christians have been taught are merely symbolic, that way there could supposed to be all of three merely symbolic laws in there and which could thus be considered not to be native to the other nine. How many of the Mosaic Laws do some Christians or other think are merely symbolic? Let’s just add all those in there with the Ten so we can say how many more are symbolic than are ‘clearly’ moral. ‘Clearly’ says every secular-ized fool already. So, can no one ever tell the difference? For how long will you be ignorant? Hopefully not so long that you become so ingrained in its ignorant doctrines that you refuse to consider what it is you do not know, and thus to think yourselves infallibly sensible at each foolish stage in your foolish ever-learning-but-never-coming-to-a-knowledge-of-the-truth. But, “No”, you say, “we are not such fools, because we have the letter of the Gospel to which to assent so as to be our salvation.”
Then are many of you the more foolish than were the Pharisees! For they as well assented to the letter of the Law, which has the less power to condemn for being the least able to save by its letter! It has the most power to condemn, but some of you think that very power is limited to its letter! As if God meant nothing by it which has any substance beyond the letter!
I don’t believe God tried to make ancient Israel legalistic in regard to any law, much less in regard to keeping the Sabbath. Yet, He did put the death penalty on the determine violation of the Sabbath. See the final phrase of Revelation 11:18 for why:
The nations had raged. But, Oh God, your wrath came; and came the time for the dead to be judged; and for rewarding your servants the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great; and for destroying those who destroy the Earth.
So, who are the ‘destoyers’? Or, who destroys the Earth, and how do they destroy it? By failing to abide the letter of the Gospel like modern-day Christian Pharisees abide it?
Properly understood in themselves and as a set, I tend to think that the entire ten commandments are the ‘simple basics’: Their substance and number is not added to by anything that’s 1) merely symbolic; 2) ‘detailed’; or 3) ‘far afield’ in terms of aberrant behavior.
In other words, I accept the Ten as a simple list of the complete minimum details of things that all reasonable and halfway-decent people must abide in order to be counted even halfway-decent. This implies that for a person or group to habitually violate all ten is for him or it to be counted purely on the negative scale.
So, in my mind, the Ten does not include 1) any of the ‘Thou shalt not’’s which are necessary to give to a much more morally chaotic and naively careless people; 2) does not include any of the complex and more-complex details; and 3) does not include any mere symbols, such as instructions concerning sacrificing animals as reminder-ing symbols of substitutionary forgiveness (as if one could rightly kill oneself, or another human being, as sufficient sacrfice for one’s failures to measure up to the righteousness of God; No, so the only symbols available are animals).
Compare the Ten to the complete bivalent list: ‘love God, and love others.’ This bivalent list is really very un-instructive, in that every society of fallen humans, no matter how otherwise holy, tend to need reminding of what that essentially irreducible bivalent list implies for even the first-tier of detail.
Hence, the Ten.
Compare either the Ten or the bivalent to the secular monovalent: “Always do the right thing“.
Obviously, that secular ‘list’ is almost useless. It is plenty easy to understand in regard to many things, but it is basically blesses virtually every way of naivety, greed, arrogance, and other errors which anyone might mistake as good, just, etc..
…Really wonderful idea. What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!
The Ten Commandments exhausts the first-tier of detail. But, so many Gentile Christians still just ‘know‘ that the specification of the Sabbath was tacked in there for some political reason. But, if the Ten is the sufficient first-tier of detail on the bivalent, then it is the first-tier instructive complete list: nothing added and nothing missing. The bivalent list, according to Jesus, is just the summary of the most detailed complete list, which is odd if the Sabbath is counted as merely symbolic.
But, get this: not even a legalistic interpretation of the Ten can preserve, much less produce, a halfway-decent people: “Thou shalt blindly obey thy parents in all that they command thee, no matter which god (or godlessness) they worship”? The balance, the mutual complimentarity, of the Ten is what gives any of them a sustainable meaning: To claim to keep the First while habitually violating half the others is just naïvely selfish, self-deceptive trash. And, ‘Thou shalt not steal’ in commercial terms does not mean that one is keeping the others, nor even that one is not a thief: every unrighteousness is theft of something.
And, dishonest weights is the theft for which even Christ drove moneychangers out of the Temple. They weren’t stealing, or so they had decided by some clever ‘logic’. You can forget the Ten Commandments if you so misunderstand the Ten as to think they do not imply a still further layer of detail, because then you’ll ‘obey’ them as if they mean nothing already. Obedience means something, which means it doesn’t mean every fool thing that every clever or misguidedly headlong fool can wish: “I have a right to whatever I desire from others, because God is not a God of cruelty regarding me, so if what I desire from others is not given to me by them, then I ought to strive by whatever means necessary to make them give it to me, even if I must use clever means to get it from them unawares.”
Even by naive ignorance is treating the sacred as common an actual theft of the sacred. From human trafficking to ‘grace’-ifying the most naïve of ‘Christian’ acts (such as becoming romantically bound up with someone prior to a complete, authoritative, avowed promise to marry them), the more ignorantly committed is both the more corrupt and, (thankfully), the potentially more correctable. The fact is that, relative to the congruent naivety, some corners seem far more justifiably cut than others, especially those corners that, to those who are naïve to them, seem not to be there at all. One wishes to ignore the beggar by experience of too many insincere beggars, but, even then, dare you be too certain?
SABBATH: RATIONAL, INEXPLICABLE, OR…?
Jon Kvanvig mentioned in a recent blog post (Chick-Fil-A and the Epistemology of Morality, http://certaindoubts.com/?p=3649) that he has been told by some that the Torah contains exactly three kinds of laws: mishpatim, chukim, and mitzvoth (or rational, mysterious, and post hoc):
The Torah contains three kinds of laws, I’m told: mishpatim (laws for which ordinary, normal humans have good reasons to accept), chukim (laws for which there is no accessible-to-humans reasons to accept), and mitzvoth (laws that require divine revelation, but given such revelation, reasons can be found after the fact). So, in morality, suppose we think of moral rules along these lines: there are rational rules, mysterious rules and post hoc rules. (I *don’t* think of moral rules in terms of these categories, but am trying to be charitable in the present context).
Some people think that the Sabbath law is ultimately chukim, even though in most ways they admit that the practice of the Sabbath is mishpatim. One reason they think the Sabbath law is ultimately chukim is because they perceive no mishpatim in the fact that the Sabbath is commanded to be practiced on one day instead of another. Why should we rest on the seventh day, and not instead on the sixth day? Who’s counting?
Of course, resting on the same day on which that everyone else rests is a mishpatim. But, if Robinson Crusoe, stranded on his island by himself, rested on Wednesday instead of on Saturday, what difference would it make?
The fact is that people tend to perceive no sensible difference between one day and another. So, they feel that what we call ‘the first day of the week’, or ‘Sunday’, can as well be considered to be the second day of the week, thus replacing the current Jewish Sabbath practice of ‘Saturday’ to ‘Sunday’. Who cares what day we take rest?
So, some people say that the Sabbath law is ultimately chukim: it cannot be comprehended as a special day apart from any other day, and that the only reason why God decided to bless that day above any other is that God had finished his work of creation by the end of the sixth day.
So, people think, ‘There is nothing inherently special about the particular day on which a people choose to take rest, and God simply engaged in a bit of arbitrary trivia in commanding one day over all the others as the day devoted to rest.’
But, it is possible to think of a rational, mishpatim, reason for why the day of rest is on a particular day instead of any other day. That reason is the principle of unity of Earth’s ecological cycle: each day builds upon the day previous, until, on the seventh day, the whole physical planet exhales. To reject out of hand the idea of such a unity is the epitome of a secularly arrogant ignorance.
If such a unity exists, then it is possible to think that it may be like the seventh-fold, and largest, wave that allows a canoe to get over the reef into the safe shore of an island home. I hear that waves on the ocean shore come is sets of seven. It may seem insensible that the day on which God devotes to rest is a special day in itself. But, it may be that only by a certain kind of perfect ‘resting’ on every day that that one day can directly be sensed to be inherently special.
And, if exactly that one of every seven days is inherently the best day to devote to rest, then for a man to toil, or even to work, on that day is to damage both himself and anything upon which he works. On that day he must simply live, and enjoy the fruits of his labors, and, if required by other’s misfortune, to help others to simply live.
I don’t believe that God tried to make ancient Israel legalistic in regard to keeping the Sabbath. Yet, He did put the death penalty on its violation. See the final phrase of Revelation 11:18.
The question is how, in any possible world, such a penalty would not tend to make legalistic the ‘keeping holy’ a day which has no merit in itself for being better than any other day. If God had wanted to teach a bunch of ancient pagans to understand-and-practice the holiness under which a merely arbitrary day might be assigned, then it seems to me He could have taught this to them without arbitrarily binding them, under penalty of death, to keep ‘holy’ some inherently arbitrary day.
It’s not that I don’t see some use for God to pick some arbitrary day and assign to it the title of ‘holy’, and then to command a bunch of ancient pagans to keep that day free of all secular toils such as common commerce and working the ground. I do see maybe how such a ‘holy’-day-practice might tend to teach them to distinguish between what is sacred and what is secular so as to properly honor the sacred (consider Leviticus 10:10). But, once that practice is removed (regardless whether that day is inherently special or not), people increasingly fail to see a distinction.
But, my point is that if that day is, in fact, inherently special within the cycles of the natural world, per the ending of the six days of Creation, then a ‘grace’ doctrine which is the least senseless to that day’s inherent specialness can only set a destructive precedent (and I believe it has done exactly that).
If my thought here is correct, then what Jesus said about “doing/not doing to the least of these my brethren” applies to that day as the ‘least’ of all days.
In any case, I hope you can see the principle here: that whatever is the ‘least’ (the most unforceful, most unassumingly gentle) on the spectrum of sacred things, once it is forgotten, can only cause a people to become increasingly insensible to that spectrum, step by naive step.
But, how could you prove that that day is not inherently special? It seems to me that you merely assume it isn’t, and that you assume that to even consider the idea that it may be inherently special is tantamount to entertaining legalism. Surely, you don’t think that teaching the wisdom of the marriage vow is legalistic (and of all the things in the Ten Commandments, it alone would be, in your view, the wholly symbolic, ritual law? Such a law seems utterly out-of-place with those other nine―but maybe, in some people’s view, that was part of the intent of putting it in there in the first place.
Furthermore, it seems to me that, according to the popular Christain view, the first mention of the Sabbath in Genesis may as well be an arbitrary literary device added by Moses thousands of years after-the-fact for sake of convincing those pagans to ‘get with the holiness program’.
It does seem to me an intellectually very simple matter to just assume that that day was not created special. But, in the modern dating/hookup culture, many would say the same for marriage. I’m sure most Conservative Christians know the powerful forces which sex and companionship are. But, that’s part of my point: those forces are not easily forgotten, to make a great understatement. In other words, they’re the ‘greatest’ of sacred things.
So, first, what of the ‘least‘ of the truly sacred things? Second, what is that thing? Third, how all-but-insensible is its true sacredness?
India is full of oppression and general unrighteousness. This is why there is disease and disability in India. What about America?
When God established a nation of His own, He saw fit that it should have a ‘national’ system of support for the poor and disabled, and for the upkeep of those who administered the sacred truths. What God did NOT institute was a private, commercial, and otherwise exclusivist insurance/health care/retirement system for the rich.
To the extent that those who claim to abide God’s righteousness do not abide it, the secular governments use their own lights to try to ensure the welfare of their people. But, many Christians think the following.
“Jesus demonstrated with impeccable logic that the Sabbath was ceremonial law and not moral law. Yet the Pharisees refused to accept His deductive reasoning. Their refusal was moral in nature. If they could not destroy the argument, they would destroy the one making the argument. he moral element in the Sabbath day commandment was the necessity to apportion one’s time so as best to worship and serve God. The ceremonial element in the Sabbath day commandment was the requirement of a twenty-four hour period of rest on the seventh day of every week from sunset to sunset. If we turn back to the childish form of the commandment and impose this childish form upon ourselves and others as moral law, then we will be denying the liberty which we have as mature sons in Christ, and we will be making ourselves slaves under a yoke.”
My reply: By all means, be of your own mind, whether in ignorance or arrogance. I no more grant that your mind owes allegiance to me than that my mind owes allegiance to you. And, no one can command another to consider what the other does not understand.
But, obviously, the purpose, the spirit, of a wise father’s command to his little son not to go out into a busy street is not to inure the son to the father’s commands, much less to encourage the son to inure others to the commands which the son contrives for keeping his siblings from disobeying the letter of the father’s commands. Obviously, rather, the spirit of a wise father’s command to his little son not to go out into a busy street is to preserve the son’s well-being against the son’s ignorant haste to play, and only otherwise against the son’s habit of attempting to run out into the (busy) street despite the father’s all prior gentle efforts to prevent the son from succeeding in the attempt.
In my own mind, I believe that God allows fallen men, even such as you and I, to be ignorant of some of His truths for the purpose of soon enough showing to us our own arrogance in regard to others of His truths. Shall we esteem ourselves so free of error that we shall never be ashamed of being ignorant of some truth-for-life? Is there no godly wisdom against which we, even now, by too-long a habit, have the least foolishness, or of which we are otherwise ignorant?
My fear is that you may be of a habit to make logic to serve a philosophical uptight-ness in regard to another’s uptightness-in-defense-of-the-Sabbath: that you are running more-or-less headlong into one error by running so determinedly away from another error, and that you thereby fail to note the truth-for-life which ever has resided between the two foolish extremes.
To make some good sense of things by which to avoid one error does not mean that that sense avoids the opposite error. Because, some good sense of a matter is not the same as the best, or complete, sense of that matter. Notice that God is not recorded to have commanded Sabbath observance until long after the original world had been destroyed in the Flood, and all nations had failed God’s righteousness. Notice that God had not made a nation for Himself until all the nations had formed, and had proved to be unworthy in their leadership and laws. Notice why Joshua had refused to be king over the children of Israel. Notice, if your logic permits it, why God is not recorded as specifically having forbidden homosexual intercourse until God had begun His own nation.
God does not command truths into being which He already created. Rather, He commands in accord with what He already created. Conscience is prior to command, by way of what kind of creature a given creature himself is; otherwise, we may as well have been made senseless from the beginning, and by which we surely shall have remained senseless no matter what acts in regard to which God commands.
God never commanded a single human being to hunger for food, or to thirst for water, yet we do hunger and thirst when our flesh undergoes a lack of these things. We all are one man’s son’s, Adam’s, and that man was not created as a senseless being.
Are you going to tell me that there is only the one kind of genuine guilt, namely that which is gotten by acting knowingly contrary to God’s known explicit commands? Then what is this thing called nature, and thus the natural consequences for foolishness? Does God magically bring cars against us each time we run out in a busy street, just so He can remind us that He is Boss? Is God an uptight, arrogant fool-of-a-Creator, who has some kind of obsession about just making things up for us to obey???
Notice that God blessed the day on which He stopped his work of creation, and called that day special. By what manner did God so call it? By an arbitrary nomology? Or, rather, by the same manner in which Adam named the animals? Does God’s perfection prevent Him from naming things which He has already made? If not, then what, if anything, prevents Him from naming evils which we already commit? Did Jesus change the Law by rebuking the Pharisees concerning the Law? Or, rather, did Jesus rebuke them for changing the Law by their arrogant obsessions over its letter and over those who, for whatever reason, failed to keep that letter as they did?
I fear that you may be using an expertise in ‘logic’ to become convinced that your hatred of one error equates to a certainty that those who disagree with your conclusions are merely or ultimately committing the arrogance of a ‘willful ignorance’ in regard to the Sabbath and to the commands regarding it. I fear that you may have convinced yourself of an infallibly-arrived-at conclusion, so that anyone’s disagreement with that conclusion is itself an arrogance against ‘the truth of Biblical logic’. I fear that you feel that you have the true-and-complete understanding of the use of the language which Jesus used in regard to the subject of the Sabbath and of the commandments regarding it.
I fear this because I am convinced in my own mind that your conclusion is deeply ignorant and unbalanced. It certainly is a kind of liberty to not obsess over germs such that you do not wash everything you touch before you touch it. But, such a liberty does not equate to righteousness regarding the realm of ‘germs’. As I can hope that even you know, the world of ‘germs’ is anything but an ever-changing, haphazard world. It is very ordered, such that any community that fails to abide its order, whether by ignorance, arrogance, or inability, have its well-being reduced. God made no unnatural promise that one shall pursue and overtake ten. But, be in mind of this: that for one to overtake even a hundred does not mean that that one is living according to God’s commands; the one may be wicked, and the hundred oppressed by him. So, be in mind of also of this: to cure a hundred does not mean that the one who is not cured is wicked, for even the letter of the Law confers worldly upon blessings on those who nevertheless are vipers. Any doctrine, or an manner of teaching, that destroys one innocent life, though that teaching give life to a thousand, is evil. In short, the world is full of well-meaning injustice, and by which some of the least guilty are the most condemned-to-ruin by some of the most prosperous. Is not this what a caste system is?