Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why was Sodom destroyed?

It is often asserted that the defense that Sodom was destroyed for lack of hospitality is a modern interpretation part of the gay rights movement. I found the following little passage in the Zohar from many centuries ago:

As for S'dom, its people were punished because they refrained from giving charity. As it is written: "neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy" (Yechezkel 16:49). And this is why the Judgment upon them came solely from heaven--because "charity" and "heaven" are one. As it is written: "For your kindness is great above the heavens," (Tehilim 108:5) INDICATING THAT "CHARITY" AND "KINDNESS" ARE BOTH DRAWN FROM THE HEAVENS ABOVE. Because charity depends on the heavens, their Judgment is also drawn down from the heavens, as it is written: "from Hashem out of heaven." (Zohar 3.20.285)

11 comments:

Bill K said...

For those who don't have a Torah laying around - that's Ezekiel 16:49.

Other reasons are listed in scripture for the destruction of S'dom and Gomorrah - but this one is probably the main, over-the-top one.

Many places Israel is compared to the destruction of these cities because of the way Israel worships other Gods. This fits in well with Paul's thesis in Romans 1 that the result of denying God and worshipping the creation is homosexuality. The homosexuality would be the sinful symptom of a deeper spiritual sin disease.

P.S. I will check out your article on homosexuality soon - I look forward to reading it.

tc robinson said...

CD-Host, this is interesting in light of Jude 7.

CD-Host said...

TC --

Jude is actually (IMHO) referring to the Testament of the 12 Patriarchs (Nephhtali) is all about how the sins of the Angels compare to the sins of Sodom:

Nephtali 3. Be ye not therefore eager to corrupt your doings through excess, or with empty words to deceive your souls; because if ye keep silence in purity of heart, ye shall be able to hold fast the will of God, and to cast away the will of the devil. Sun and moon and stars change not their order; so also ye shall not change the law of God in the disorderliness of your doings. Nations went astray, and forsook the Lord, and changed their order, and followed stones and stocks, following after spirits of error. But ye shall not be so, my children, recognising in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made them all, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of its nature. in like manner also the Watchers[angels] changed the order of their nature, whom also the Lord cursed at the flood, and for their sakes made desolate the earth, that it should be uninhabited and fruitless.

4. These things I say, my children, for I have read in the holy writing of Enoch that ye yourselves also will depart from the Lord, walking according to all wickedness of the Gentiles, and ye will do according to all the iniquity of Sodom. ...


You are right that Nephtali's treatment contradicts the hospitality treatment. My point was that the hospitality interpretation is not only modern but ancient sources support it as well. As an aside, given the kind of literature Jude is into the unnatural lust may be the desire to have sex with angels (a running theme in the class of works he cites) rather than sex with men.

Finally, Testament has one of the best prroto-Christian messianic prophecies around:
(from Reuben 6) For he shall bless Israel; and specially Judah, because him hath the Lord chosen to rule over all the peoples. And worship we his Seed, because He shall die for us in wars visible and invisible, and shall be among you an everlasting king.

Pro-Life Evangelical said...

CD,

I am curious as to the point of this blog (and this post as part of it). In a previous discussion, you admitted that church discipline is not in principle wrong but that you beleive it can be abused. Are you arguing that the things that the church often disciplines for (sexual sins, etc) are not actually sins?

Are you a theologian? Most pastors have years of biblical and theological training and, in larger churches, many of the elders/board do as well. Do you think that you (as an outsider to the religion) are in a better position to judge what the organizational boundaries are?

CD-Host said...

Do you think that you (as an outsider to the religion) are in a better position to judge what the organizational boundaries are?

Yes. I am completely dispassionate abut most of the theological issues. I don't have a side and can see things from a different perspective since I'm not part of the battle. So for example in a recent case (not on this blog) I was able to see where an excommunication was valid, other places where the same church was acting heretically (relative to their own doctrines).

A 3rd party perspective helps.

I am curious as to the point of this blog (and this post as part of it).

Well the original point was to provide council and assistance for gay teenagers who were often physically abused and disowned by their parents as a result being excommunicated. I haven't picked up a gay readership so that mission was a bit of a failure. I picked up last year a group of women who were being abused by patriarchal churches (substantially to the right of yours BTW) and I spent a lot of time addressing their issues here and on other related blogs.

Now I'm just sort of floating. The current crowd is really mixed and I have no idea what the right focus is for this group. Theologically they are very mixed, culturally they are mixed, interest wise they are mixed. So I guess I'm putting out articles as the mood strikes me and seeing where I get led. I am slowly putting together a pretty full featured documentation library. For example filling in list of cases.

Are you arguing that the things that the church often disciplines for (sexual sins, etc) are not actually sins?

I think two issues are getting conflated (I'm assuming you are talking about homosexuality here):

a) How to properly defend yourself in a discipline case (which many of my 2007 posts dealt with). There what I was trying to do was teach kids how not to lose their family (at least for long enough to get out of the house) during the period where they were most vulnerable. Where my personal opinion of the charge has no bearing, I advised against a direct attack.

b) At the same time, later posts have dealt with advice for these kids on how to psychologically defend themselves against the soul crushing attacks that cause gay teenagers to take their own lives 3-7x more often than heterosexual teenagers. And this sort of post does help there. I want gay people who are struggling to realize they are not hated by God and that they can construct a valid biblical theology of acceptance for themselves. There is substantial evidence that God no more hates people for being gay then he hates them for being black or short; that is biblical.


In terms of the other sexual sin that I've gone into detail on this blog (and I'm not sure you've read back far enough, and I'm positive you wouldn't have the right context to understand the debate completely) my argument was it wasn't happening at all. I.E. this was a Salem type situation. (BTW no offense by the above you just weren't part of those conversations, nor is this an issue in your church).

Pro-Life Evangelical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pro-Life Evangelical said...

Ok, my warning to you would be that to assume that, because you are coming from the outside, you have an unbiased perception of Scripture, is quite naive. Everyone has biases and ignoring them (or pretending you have none) is the surest way to be blinded by them. For example, my guess is that on the question of what the Bible teaches on homosexuality you are far from indifferent.

And it is interesting to note that the Bible is very clear that Christianity is not something that makes sense from the outside. For example, 1 Cor 1:18 states "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

CD-Host said...

And it is interesting to note that the Bible is very clear that Christianity is not something that makes sense from the outside. For example, 1 Cor 1:18 states "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

That exegesis is actually reformed. Catholic doctrine would hold that Christianity is consistent with reason not contrary to it, that is they would see that verse as having more limited application. In any case your view is certainly supported by your theology but it makes conversation impossible. Then again reformed theology makes conversation irrelevant since either God will choose to elect me in an irresistible fashion or I via. my natural depravity will become increasingly alienated from his view; with little on my or your parts having any effect.

So .... do you want to assume that conversation is possible, and try and address whatever it is you would like to discuss?

Will said...

Hmm. I think you misunderstand what reformed doctrine teaches. Both Catholics and Reformed believe that reason and faith are not incompatable. There is actually not a lot of difference in that regard.

And regarding your other comments, the Reformed faith does not believe that we should just sit back to see if we are chosen or not. We do believe that ultimately God ordains all things but this is different from fatalism or determinism.

My point was the following. Someone who stands outside a faith has no idea what it means to stand inside it. I believe that if God ordained something that I do not understand or even agree with, I should still follow because He knows better than I do. This is what it means to see Christ as Lord.

CD-Host said...

Hmm. I think you misunderstand what reformed doctrine teaches. Both Catholics and Reformed believe that reason and faith are not incompatable. There is actually not a lot of difference in that regard.

I would disagree sharply here. Calvin was emphatic that human reason was so corrupted that unaided it contradicted faith. Book I.6.3 of institutes is an examples of this:

For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men. It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God; - we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved judgement, but by the standard of eternal truth. If, as I lately said, we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course. We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance, which even an apostle declares to be inaccessible, (1 Tim. 6: 16,) is a kind of labyrinth, - a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it...

I could put together another dozen like this very quickly.

My point was the following. Someone who stands outside a faith has no idea what it means to stand inside it. I believe that if God ordained something that I do not understand or even agree with, I should still follow because He knows better than I do. This is what it means to see Christ as Lord.

Sure and I understand you believe that and can describe it. I don't myself have to believe it to understand how that belief operates.

Mike said...

CD-Host: I am thrilled that you chose this passage in Ezekiel to discuss. This chapter really reveals God's character in a beautiful way.

Bill's point was in complete harmony with the rest of scripture. Pro-life Evangelical was also correct when he argued 1 Cor 1:18 to make his point. Thank you guys for contributing to this discussion. I only ask that everyone try to keep the emotional outbursts to a minimum. As Christians, we are called to deliver truth in a loving manner. I would suggest praying before posting comments to the board. We are here representing God, and we should make absolutely certain that we are communicating his truth effectively.

Lets look at this passage in it's proper context. This is a prophetic message that Ezekiel received from God while the nation was in exile in Babylon.

In the first five verses, God demonstrates the Israelite's position before they knew him. They were despised amongst their neighbors and figuratively left for dead. In other words, they could not make it on their own.

In verses 6-14, God rescues them. He has compassion for them and chooses to love them. Not only does he rescue them, he provides for them. Similar to Luke 10, when the samaritan comes upon the man in the road. This concept is littered throughout the NT, it is called the "grace of God". He makes them a light amongst the nations, and they are set apart (Holy) as a nation.

In verses 15-19, the nation of Israel rebels against God and claim there success as a nation as something they did on their own. They made their own Gods and worshipped them. This kind of reminds me of the rampant materialism that exists in this country today, and foremost in the modern day church. In these verses, God literally needs to stand in line with the other men to see his wife, the prostitute (Israel).

In verse 20-22, they go so far as sacrificing their own children to these fake Gods. This is historically true. As part of Baal worship, the parents would set their newborn children on an alter to be sacrificed to Molech. Does any of this stuff ring a bell? Kind of like the push for our children to chase success at the expense of other more important, fulfilling things. You know, like family and relationships; the things that actually have meaning.

In verses 22-34, he continues to list off all their acts of rebellion towards God, and how they continue to forget what he did for them. Ezekiel even goes farther to say they are even worse than a prostitute. A prostitute receives payment for her services, you give yourselves freely and then some (16:33). I'll admit, this is hard stuff to read, but this just shows how deeply depraved they were. How many men do you know would tolerate infidelity from a wife?

In verses 35-45, God proclaims to them that they will suffer natural consequences for what they done. You've heard the saying, "you reap what you sow". They invested all of their resources into things that will eventually bring sorrow to them. They are indebted to those things, they have now become slaves to their idols. When they once had freedom with God, now they are desolate (stripped naked).

In verses 49-52, God gives examples of how other people suffered the consequences of doing evil in the sight of God. Today, you look at people dying from sickness and starvation. Where is the justice in that? Why aren't we helping our fellow man? In Haiti, within shouting distance of our country, people are eating mud just to survive. How messed up is that? The saddest thing of all, we as Christians don't even read this in it's proper context. Instead of being convicted by this passage, we use it as a proof-text to convict others (Homosexuals). Thank God for his grace! We sure as hell don't deserve it.

In verses 53-63, the chapter takes a different direction. He starts talking about how they will be restored after everything is done. After they have been broken, he will make an everlasting covenant with them (16:60). Finally, he forgives them of everything they have done (16:63). Another verse to read is Ezekiel 18:23.

I absolutely love Ezekiel 16. It is a picture of how much God is willing to go through to love the people he has made promises with. First, you need to know the bad news, then God will give you the good news. I think it is funny how Bill cited the letter of Romans, because it is written the same way. The first four chapters in Romans are the bad news, the rest are all about the good news.

I know this post was long, but I thought it was absolutely necessary to communicate my thoughts on this passage in Ezekiel. The thing that Christians must understand, is that God loves a homosexual no less than he loves those who have reconciled with him. God has forgiven all, but he needs us to reconcile with himself (2 Cor 5:15).