James McGrath May Be Funnier than Me, But He’s Still Wronger

The Massacre of the Innocents by François Joseph Navez

Background:

James McGrath wrote that he’s happy that the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod didn’t happen.

I wrote that James is wrong, and that to denude that terrible text of its historicity silences the victims and lets God off the hook.

James replied that I’m wronger because I’m thinking theologically while he’s thinking historically. (His post also showed that he’s pretty damn funny.) Here’s the money quote from his response:

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James McGrath Is Wrong: Herod Really Did Massacre the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Brueghel (Wikicommons)

Fellow #progGOD theoblogger James McGrath is glad that Matthew got the infancy narrative of Jesus wrong. The Massacre of the Innocents never happened, he confidently proclaims in his post “Why I’m Glad that the Infancy Narrative in Matthew Isn’t Literally True,” because Matthew lacked sympathy and theological concern:

If Matthew had had more sympathy towards those who lose children, and more theological concern not to depict God in a manner that people would eventually find morally problematic, he could have used his imagination and added still more details to the story he concocted.

Like many liberals, he brushes off the deeper implications of the text in order to assuage his modern sensibilities:

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There’s No Good Reason that God Preferred Abel to Cain [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

David tweeted a question into the series asking a question about one of the most troubling passages of the Bible, and many of you answered him:

It’s a great question, and one that I must say is all the more poignant because of the blood shed yesterday. For someone who is drawn to René Girard’s scapegoat theory of the atonement, as I am, then Cain’s murder of Abel is telling: the human cycle of mimetic desire and bloodshed is primitive in its genesis, and it afflicts us still.

But that wasn’t your question, David. Your question has to do with God’s preference of one brother and his offering over the other’s; you asked about the rejection that led to the murder. So yesterday morning, before we’d heard about the Sandy Hook school shooting, I went over to my rabbi’s house for a cup of coffee and a chat. I asked Rabbi Joseph Edelheit your question, and I recorded his answer. I didn’t give him any warning, or even a hint as to what it was about. I simply told him that I had a question for him and turned on the recorder. Here’s what he said: [Read more...]

Redeeming Circumcision

I’ve been wondering lately how weird it is that Yahweh commanded Abraham and his male descendants to mutilate their genitals. Richard Beck writes about the transition of circumcision of the penis to the ears:

What I find of interest here is how circumcision is a deliberate act of setting something apart, an act of consecration. Which is interesting given the anatomical relationship between ears and heart. A relationship that I think the prophets were getting at.

The ears function as gate-keepers. If the ears are “closed” then nothing gets to the heart. Thus the shift to the ears, as I see it, is a temporal shift of focus. That is, there is something in the immediate and initial reaction to the Word of God that is picked out by pointing to the ears. A reference to the ears is pointing out something about your reaction right here and right now. Like when you are talking to someone and you say, “You are not listening to me.” To be sure, this refusal to listen is a matter of the heart, but the reference to the ears changes the emphasis. This is a a shift from “their hearts are far from me”–which points to a chronic condition of waning affections, a falling out of love–to the more acute and immediate assessment of “I’m talking to you but you’re not listening to me.” Resistance in the moment is being pointed out. Someone is talking and you’re sticking your fingers in your ears.

via Experimental Theology: Circumcised Ears.


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