Sunday, October 07, 2007

On the Old Law, Pt. 1

1. The Old Law was indubitably good.{1} Its judicial precepts were indeed severe. But that does not mean that they were unjust in the least. Nor were God's judgments in Old Testament times merciless or unfair. It seems that atheists have a field day complaining about the alleged injustice of God's punishments in the Old Testament. But they are seriously misguided.

2. Atheists blaspheme when they say God admitted that His Old Law was evil. St. Ezekiel says, quoting YHWH [Ek 20:25], "I gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments in which they shall not live." Here YHWH discusses the ceremonial precepts and says they "were not good" because they did not confer grace unto remission of sins,{2} yet men confessed themselves to be sinners by fulfilling the ceremonial precepts. He says "judgments in which they shall not live" because the ceremonial precepts did not grant men the beatific vision. Wherefore YHWH says, "And I polluted them in their own gifts, when they offered all that opened the womb, for their offenses." When YHWH says He "polluted them" He means that He showed them to be polluted. That is why St. Paul says [Heb 7:19], "The law brought nothing to perfection." The Old Law was imperfect in this respect. But then how could it have been from God, since St. Moses says [Dt 32:4], "The works of God are perfect"? The Old Law was not simply perfect but it was perfect as regards condition of time.{3} Heb 7:19 does not mean that God failed to give the Holy Fathers sufficient aids to salvation, for they believed in the promised Messiah.

3. Still there was no injustice in God’s judicial precepts in the Old Law. For it is written [Prov 8:8], "All My words are just; there is nothing wicked nor perverse in them." Atheists refer to the prescription of the death penalty for diverse crimes. Blasphemy is a mortal sin [Ex 22:20; Lev 24:10-23; Dt 13:1-15; 17:2-5; 18:20; Jos 23:7,16; 3 Ki 18:40]. There was death for gathering sticks and kindling and working on the Sabbath [Ex 31:14-15; 35:2-3; Nu 15:32-36]. Moreover, strangers in the night would be executed [Nu 1:51; 3:10,38; 18:7], as would adulterers [Dt 22:22-24; Lev 20:10] and disobedient children [Lev 20:9; Ex 21:17; Dt 21:18-21] and those who committed bestiality (and the beast with whom the pervert copulated) [Dt 20:15]. But the killing of sinners is lawful. Each individual is a part of the whole community as a limb is part of the whole body. But sometimes limbs are gangrenous and simply must be amputated in order to save the entire body. Thus if a man is an immediate danger to the community as a grave sinner, then it is good that he should be executed to protect the common good. For St. Paul says [1 Cor 5:6] that "a little leaven corrupts the whole lump." Many of the people whose punishment the Old Testament relates (for example, the 23,000+ men of Ex 32:28) are to be understood as having blasphemed the Holy Spirit [Mt 12:32]. Their punishment [e.g., Ex 32:34,38] reveals that they sinned against the Holy Spirit (i.e., through certain malice) and thus had no excuse for which their punishment could have been alleviated. Moreover, those persons God punished sinned against the Holy Spirit in the sense that they permanently removed all chances/paths/ways of forgiveness and their free will could no longer be turned to good. Thus the sin they committed was intrinsically unpardonable as a disease is intrinsically incurable.

4. God justly gave the death penalty for these offenses, for (1) the sinner could not repeat the sin; (2) the sinners had time to repent; (3) others were deterred from committing the same mortal sin [Dt 13:11]; (4) the sinner had no more occasion to spread his evil to others via contact and association; (5) God the Almighty, All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Just fulfilled His commands; and (6) evil is quarantined so as to prevent the fall of far more into wickedness than without the death penalty. So murderers are justly executed by public authority. God executed murderers in the Old Testament. So a Biblioskeptic would then say that God justly gave the death penalty to murderers. But Biblioskeptics say that God was nevertheless unjust to kill blasphemers [Lev 24:16]. The problem with this line of thinking is that blasphemy is actually worse than murder! Sure enough murder is the graver sin in respect of the harm it does because murder harms the neighbor and the community while blasphemy does no harm to the Almighty God. But the gravity of a sin in fact depends on the intention of the evil will instead of the effect of the act. So the blasphemer wants to harm God's honor and thus sins directly against God, while the murderer sins against his neighbor. Thus blasphemy is absolutely a graver sin than murder. Thus if murder was punished with death then surely God rightly punished blasphemers and unbelievers with death. God does not just let things slide. For only an unjust judge would inordinately abate punishment, since that would do two things: (1) harm the community in which sins must be punished so men can avoid sinning and (2) prevent the victim from regaining his honor via the punishment on the man who sinned against him.

5. Atheists cannot find any examples of injustice on God's part in the Bible. Double effect demands that at one and the same time (A) the action is intrinsically good or morally neutral; (B) the evil effect must not cause the good effect and (C) the evil effect must be merely permitted and not desired in itself; and (D) permission of the evil must only be granted for sufficiently grave reasons. Further, according to the CCC, a war is just if at one and the same time (E) the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations is lasting, grave and certain; (F) all other means of putting an end to it have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; (G) there are serious prospects of success; and (H) the use of arms will not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. Whoever kills anyone at God’s command does not sin, nor does God Whose command he executes. For God is the sovereign Lord of life and death by Whose decree the sinful and just alike die.

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