Monday, November 22, 2021

Contagious Diseases

Anyone who thinks God would be pro-medical freedom and not in favor of health restrictions hasn't read Leviticus. The safety of the community was considered so overwhelmingly important that individual rights were barely referenced. A quick vaccination is pretty minimal in comparison.


Grim said...

All analogies always fail at some point; the point of disanalogy here is that God was mandating things directly. There is a better case for accepting mandates that are the direct word of God than for acceptance of ones than are definitely not. One has rights derived from the nature of the divine creation, after all; thus, the Creator has a superseding authority that the created lack.

I infer from Leviticus that God expected complete submission to this authority. That does not imply a duty to submit to claims of authority in general. Indeed if evil powers are worldly powers, we will often have a moral duty to resist or to reject authorities of the world.

ruralcounsel said...

This seems like a "how many angels can fit on the head of pin" sort of observation. Hypothetical, nonsensical, and merely offered to create controversy.

For vaccinations that have been proven to be safe (for the overwhelming majority of its recipients), a "quick" vaccination may not seem like a big deal. To you. Fine, but why should you get to decide for anyone else? Unless it's a parental thing for those not capable of making their own decision.

And that isn't even going into the whole can of worms about whether the covid vaccinations are truly safe. Early indications are that they are not. The longer we use them, the more damning information piles up. And nobody knows the long-term indications.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Grim - I would have preferred that you at least give lip-service to the idea that there might be something valuable in our time in the Levitical code, rather than immediately trying to show that it can't possibly be important. I can easily do the same on most arguments I encounter on the internet, even at the places I frequent. It's not what I am looking for here. I don't claim the analogy is absolute. I do claim that it somehow made it into the Scriptures to teach us something about community and mutual obligations.

@ rural counsel - you will have to do way better than that. There may be places you can throw that high-school fastball past people, but all those objections have been answered many times. Show that you can still hit in the next league up. Please see also my answer under "Statistical Truth Vs Real Truth." That is one possible starting point.

You clearly don't know what the "angels on the head of a pin argument" was actually about, only the popular misconception. That would be another entry point.

A third would be the acknowledgement that you live in a community and an examination of what that obligation is and isn't. I don't think there is only one answer to that. There may be other approaches to this controversy that I have not seen or not fully appreciated. Fine.

Grim said...

@AVI: " at least give lip-service to the idea that there might be something valuable in our time in the Levitical code, rather than immediately trying to show that it can't possibly be important."

I didn't dismiss the Levitical code at all; much of it might be important to us today. There are excellent reasons to refer to it and to try to understand what part(s) of it might point to universal laws that God thinks all men everywhere and in any time should obey.

It's just categorically different from any appeal to human authority. God directly giving orders supersedes nature, and therefore natural law and natural rights. When we are dealing with each other, we are bound by the natures we have been given. Human directives therefore must respect natural laws and natural rights. Natural rights are a relevant question for ourselves and our human authorities in a way it just isn't in Leviticus.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The categories are indeed not the same. Much of the OT describes rules which are both natural and direct revelation. The distinction was not quite clear in the mind, as CS Lewis discusses in several places, I think most thoroughly in Miracles (though I admit I am not finding it). As soon as the idea is clearly put to the early Christians they see a distinction that "No, God is not actually a grandfather with a beard on a fancy chair. We never meant that." The idea of metaphor or symbol as distinct from reality begins to come in. And they get it right. Yet before that, I don't think we can impose our categories quite fairly. I don't say "not at all."

But because it is a natural law, as the avoidance of shellfish or the timing of intercourse are, does not mean we can ever regard them as only that, or even primarily that. It may be that what we call the natural parts - don't eat the beast of burden and the livestock that requires one to settle down (camels and pigs) - we not mere signposts (though Paul suggests they might be only this) but of continuing deep importance. This is a place where I think the Western church and especially Americans are quite sure that their ideas of freedom are what God has been pointing to all along, and a flowering, emerging revelation. Yet what if not? The NT discussions of freedom don't come near this, and really natural rights don't hit the top rung either. I say this a s believer in Natural Law and advocate that St. Paul puts it firmly in Romans. But I think it is so subordinate to care of the church and obedience to one another that it doesn't take over much space.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

At a minimum, I'm not tossing anything out. The general principle "Anything dangerous to the community deserves fanatic adherence" might actually be the major takeaway here.

Grim said...

Well, I tell you what: why don't we try to work through it and see what it looks like? I wonder if we might start here:

This is Leviticus 14, which deals with skin diseases and fungus in the house. Some of it is going to look like we have scientific improvements on what God told Moses to tell the Hebrews of Moses' day; probably smoke and bird's blood is less naturally effective as a remedy to skin disease than some other things we have discovered through an investigation of the nature that God created.

But there are parts that may be of lasting importance. I'm struck by the need for the sick to offer guilt or sin offerings as a part of cleansing themselves.

Or this part: "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 34 “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mold in a house in that land..."

What happens then is great advice to a Hebrew of the generation: first you clean out all the infected parts and replace them; if that doesn't work and the mold comes back, tear it all down and start over. We probably have better methods here. But that's not what interests me.

What's interesting to me is that God says that when "I put" the mold into the house, and it persists, then the house is to be declared unclean. That's really interesting. God acts in the world, and yet the divine action can create a ritual uncleanness. God touches your house and makes it unclean.

That's really surprising, and there's something there that may be worth looking at deeper. God can do anything, I suppose, even make things unclean; but it's out of order with what we'd usually think. The purpose of ritual cleaning is to make one or something worthy of the divine presence; here the divine presence causes the uncleanness, and even if you successfully remove the mold an act of atonement is required.

What do you make of all that?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Haven't forgotten you. Good points, will discuss.

Grim said...

Take your time. You’re sick. It’s been a few thousand years; we could give it a week.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I agree we can start by regarding much of what they did in response to such things as trial-and-error, best they could do over the years. If we come up with better methods for dealing with leprosy and fungus, I don't think God is requiring us to use the old methods. You point out an interesting part: the humans on the ground regard the disease and mold as the main problems, which is certainly understandable. But God seems equally concerned with the ritual uncleanness and the separation that creates with rest of the community. As buildings should just be torn down after just one retrial - these are presumably houses and workshops and of some value to families - that seems harsh. Perhaps because God knew, or they had learned over time, that there was little point in repeated trials it was simply practical advice that God is using for spiritual purposes. Cut your losses. Leave it behind. Let the dead bury the dead. Is God creating the evil? He says so, but I think there has been enough discussion over many centuries to prefer the distinction that he allows evil, and uses all the attendant circumstances to teach deeper lessons. That this could extend even to ritual uncleanness seems odd, but no odder than the rest of it when you think about it. I think you have picked up the most interesting thread here.

Notice that when Jesus heals a man centuries later he tells him to follow the old forms, show himself to the priest, and make the required sacrifice. This could not have been for his cleansing, but it must still be enacted, in an echo of sinless Jesus nonetheless getting baptised. So even if you are fine, and God knows you're fine, you still have to make the rest of the community comfortable about this. It is no longer a health measure per se, but a living-in-community measure. I hesitate to draw any precise modern parallels about businesses closing or quarantine rules, because I think we are all still too close to that to step back and see the general application. Yet I think that day is coming, and we should at least be aware of it now. God seems to regard the being in community, and protection of the community part as more important than all the rest.

Grim said...

I was reading this more in terms of God’s chief concern being elimination of divisions between himself and people who suffer, which can only arise (given divine perfection) from human error. One needs to atone for getting sick somehow, or for getting mold in one’s hone even if the home is salvageable; perhaps because we resent our suffering, which is nevertheless part of a divine plan, and thus we need to atone for our resentment. It is in letting go of that resentment that allows us to return to God.

Talking about the community here reminds me of the ‘consolation’ that Job received from the members of his community. In a way they can’t accept that his suffering might not be somehow deserved. Per the Bible, it isn’t really. But when Job talks to God about it, he gets a similar message— you need to atone for questioning, because who are you to ask?

So the community ends up being right, in a way. Job hadn’t done anything to deserve his suffering; and yet he did need to atone for it. That’s very challenging.

Thos. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thos. said...

Thos.8:09 PM
I see it more as a recognition that ALL imperfection is a separation from God.

Thus, whether our shortcoming is intentional (sin), inadvertent (folly), or not of our own doing (eg, circumstance) -- as long as our imperfection remains, there also remains a separation between the us-as-we-are and the us that God has asked us to be.

Fortunately, He has prepared for our shortcomings and provided directions to mend the imperfection.

Thos. said...

On a second, less hasty, reading, I see that I haven't said anything that Grim isn't already on top of.