Jewish or Christian Taliban would have an obvious charter to execute both apostates and those who resist their own authority if the middle part of Deuteronomy 17 were to be understood to be the word of God. Each of the major faiths can be and has been contaminated by this sort of toxic waste in its tradition. Each needs to be acutely aware of the dangers of this sort and rigorous in not promoting an understanding of scripture which leaves anyone open to it. Each needs to highlight this ourselves rather than wait for a Richard Dawkins triumphally to uncover it.
So for the Bible Study at the end of the first session for our Lent Course last night we studied the whole of the Chapter. We found deep seams of truth and insight from this distillation of what Jewish people felt had been revealed to them about God’s will. This ranged from the need not to make God shoddy and easily dispensable offerings to the need to judge noone on the say so of a single witness. It included things from the study of the end of the Chapter about which I posted on 9th November.
For me, it is quite moving that the precious seams and toxic waste lie next to each other, and so very wothwhile looking at the whole Chapter rather than just picking out the attractive bits.
Our theme had been ‘You can’t believe in Adam and Eve can you?’ (as we pick up this Lent the themes I posted about on 12th July) and I was able to talk about the dangers of the wrong sort of attitude to ‘the plain meaning of the Bible’ (about which I posted about on 24th November). A new churchgoer and the non-churchgoing friend she brought with her were able to say that it was a relief to hear the person in authority say the things they had been thinking all along but which they had thought was a barrier to being a Christian, which made the whole exercise worthwhile.
Now the next easy Lenten task I've set myself is to get ready for 'If God is good, why do people suffer?' next week.