Atheist friends have great fun with Biblical Morality- homophobia, slavery, child sacrifice, the death of everyone in the Flood because God “was sorry he had made humanity”. How could one learn a moral life from all this? Here is a typical story:
David stays in Jerusalem when the Israelites go to make war on the Ammonites.He sees Bathsheba having a bath, so he sends for her, and they have sex. She becomes pregnant. He sends for her husband Uriah, on the pretence that he wants to hear how the siege is going, thinking that Uriah will take advantage of his home leave. But Uriah, knowing that his brothers at Rabbah cannot make love to their wives, refuses to visit his own. If someone has told him of Bathsheba’s adultery, the narrative does not say.
David sends Uriah back to the front, and tells his general, Joab, to place him in the thick of the fighting and leave him there to be killed. Joab deliberately fights recklessly, so that Uriah is killed, and reports to David. David then marries Bathsheba- how many other wives he had then is unclear.
The Lord sends Nathan to rebuke David, with a parable. What does David think of a rich man with great flocks who takes a poor man’s only lamb, for a feast? David says, As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. Nathan prophesies that the sword shall never depart from your house, and Bathsheba’s son will die. Monster-God kills an innocent child.
Tragedy then unfolds. Joab defeats the Ammonites, and David enslaves them; then his son Amnon rapes his daughter Tamar, and her brother Absalom stages a coup. Absalom lies with David’s concubines. He is killed in battle with David.
What are we to learn from this? Kings should make war, and enslave foreigners. No: the Bible is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. God punishes the disobedient? Well- the rape of Tamar and the revolt of Absalom proceed from David’s murder of Uriah. David’s lawlessness produces the lawlessness of his sons. It is not so much God, as Reality, which punishes: David sows the wind, and reaps the whirlwind. It is a story against Kingship: power corrupts.
As Nathan prophesied, the Lord struck the child, who died on the seventh day. Is this God in one of his most Old Testament moods, lashing out wildly against the innocent? No, it is a child dying at a time of high infant mortality. It is the most contemptuous and wounding thing the prophet could say to the king. It is people ascribing bad things that happen to a wrathful God.
And it is a wonderful story.
Am I trying to justify the unjustifiable, because I am a Christian? Ark, Violet, we are never going to agree on that.