Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

On Exodus, Gods and Kings

December 29, 2014

What are my thoughts on this movie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While visiting my in-laws for Christmas, there was a desire to go see the new movie that henceforth I will just be referring to as Exodus. Now I’ve been skeptical, but we had heard some good things and I thought that surely it couldn’t be as bad as the travesty of Noah. After all, when I saw Noah, it was while we were with friends and my wife suggested it be a red box rental so we could just see how it was. I told her I’d keep watching until it got too stupid.

Which took about a minute.

Exodus is not as bad as Noah thankfully. Let’s start with some positives. If you like special effects, the special effects in this movie are excellent. Still, there were so many more scenes that could have been so much more. For instance, I, like many of you would be, was disappointed that there was no parting of the Red Sea. Now there was a great body of water gathered through a tornado or something similar that did take care of the Egyptian army, but the Israelites mainly crossed through where the waters were much lower. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is true, you’d still I think want to see the Red Sea part if you saw a story about the Exodus. That’s largely a defining moment in the account.

Moses and Zipporah’s relationship is displayed wonderfully. This is an area the Bible does not speak on much but the two characters made a marvelous couple in the film. Moses was seen as a very loving and dutiful husband and Zipporah was a strong woman who was a bit of a flirt as well, and there is no sex scene in the movie, which would have even more turned off a Christian audience, but you could tell that they did wait until their wedding night.

Now the negatives.

Too much license was taken in this film that I could not say it was true to the text. God is portrayed as a small child. Now I don’t doubt God could appear in this form, but there’s no kind of relationship with Moses and God as one sees in Scripture, where Moses is described as one who speaks with God face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When God sends Moses to set Israel free, there’s no instruction and no preparation. Even the burning bush scene is treated as if it was a hallucination at the start. The way the two interact most often is treated as my father-in-law said, like Gazoo on the Flintstones. No one else can see God when Moses talks to Him so that if another character sees Moses talking, they think he’s crazy.

Moses meanwhile is portrayed more as a general than a shepherd figure. There is no scene of him carrying his staff. Rather throughout, he carries a sword given to him by the Pharaoh before the one in the movie. When he comes to set the Hebrews free, he starts by in fact training them for combat to fight the Egyptians. Moses and God can in some ways be seen as incidental to the movie at times.

When the plagues start, the special effects really kick in, but much is still not faithful to the text. While I have no problem with naturalistic explanations being given, these seemed to be stretching it. When I say naturalistic, I mean it’s quite possible God could use a natural occurrence but the miracle is that it happened when it happened. For instance, having a wind naturally split the sea from time to time would not undo the account of it as a miracle. What makes it a miracle also is that it happened when it happened.

In the Biblical account, you have magicians of Pharaoh repeating many of the effects of the plagues and it’s clear all throughout that this is negotiations and a battle of the gods. Moses is representing YHWH and demonstrating that the power of YHWH is greater than the power of the Egyptian gods. The magicians are trying to show that such is not the case. This does not go on in the movie. In the movie, it’s not until about midway through the plagues that Pharaoh gets a message and even then it’s not directly from Moses.

As I’ve said, the lack of a parting of the Red Sea scene is incredibly disappointing. When they came to the sea, I was tensing up and thinking “This is it. This is going to be the moment of redemption. This is going to be where everything changes.” Unfortunately, I was wrong. As my wife and I left the theater we were both speaking about how disappointed that we were.

I appreciate my in-laws taking us of course and it was good to spend that time together, but if you’re wanting to see a good account that’ faithful to the text, don’t really bother with this one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

December 15, 2014

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

godcommandgenocide

First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts¬†with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters