Monday, December 20, 2004

Sticks and Stones?

From Jeff Jarvis’ “BuzzMachine” article, And God rolled His eyes:

Then there are those in the so-called Parents Television Council who argue that any joke that mentions God is an attack on religion. Thats just crap. Freedom of speech goes hand-in-hand with freedom of religion -- thats why they are both protected in the First Amendment -- and theres nothing with a joke about God. Its not a sign of a war on God.

Jarvis does raise some valid observations elsewhere in his piece, but it is clear that there is one fundamental concept that he does not grok -- the holiness of God. (I must unfortunately admit, however, that this is common among many modern American evangelicals -- witness the megachurches’ successful portrayal of God as our “buddy,” and not as the awe-inspiring Sovereign and Lord of all creation.) A joke about God is no joke. Read the Third Commandment (for those of you who are PoMo, the Ten Commandments are indeed commandments, and not suggestions):

Exodus 20:7 (KJV)

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Most people just think this means “no swearing,” assuming they are even familiar with this commandment in the first place. But it goes well beyond that. Matthew Henry (a well-known Bible commentator) understood that a person can take God’s name in vain “[b]y using the name of God lightly and carelessly, and without any regard to its awful significancy. The profanation of the forms of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known, his word, or any of his institutions; when they are either turned into charms and spells, or into jest and sport, the name of God is taken in vain.” (emphasis mine)

Henry is not alone in his understanding of the Third Commandment. Let’s take a look at a couple of other commentaries on Exodus 20:7 (emphasis mine):

From Adam Clarke’s Commentary:

“[Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.] This precept not only forbids all false oaths, but all common swearing where the name of God is used, or where He is appealed to as a witness of the truth. It also necessarily forbids all light and irreverent mention of God, or any of His attributes…”

From Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary:

“The Septuagint has: ou leepsee epi mataioo, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh thy God upon a vain thing, a trifling, frivolous occasion.’ This accords with our Lord’s exposition of the commandment, as prohibiting all swearing in ordinary social conversation -- all light and irreverent use of the name, titles, attributes, works of God, or anything that is His.”

Back to Jarvis: “…theres nothing with a joke about God. Its not a sign of a war on God.” Nah, it’s merely an insult, spitting in His face -- that’s okay, as long as God’s not being attacked directly.

I will end with these words from Hebrews 10:28-31 (KJV):

“He that despised Moses’ law [hmm… ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain’ would be part of the law delivered unto Moses, would it not?] died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

No comments: