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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baal Bones Found in Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney

Attributing an inferior means as evolution to God is nothing more than adopting a philosophy first then moulding perception of God to conform to that a priori. Such thinking, or any variant of it, is not without precedent in those who purport to be the People of God.

It has been often spoken here that Theistic Evolution has a parallel with Baal worship in Israel of old. A fresh insight into this proposition can be found in John Bright's The Kingdom of God, first published in 1953. In pages 52-54 Bright speaks of the Northern Kingdom of Israel's further descent into idolatry in the time of King Ahab and Jezebel.

I cite a section of Bright's comments and encourage readers to observe some similarity with what is going on in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney under the 'rule' of one or more Theistic Evolutionists.

The danger to Israel was immense. The more we know of Canaanite paganism the clearer this becomes. Here was a paganism of the most degrading sort. Its gods and goddesses - Baal, Astarte, Asherah, Anat, it, and the rest - represented for the most part those forces and functions of nature which have to do with fertility. Its myth was closely linked with the death and rebirth of nature. Its cult was concerned to control by means of its ritual the forces of nature and thus to produce the desired fertility in soil, in beast, and in man. As in all such religions sacred prostitution of both sexes and other orgiastic and ecstatic practices of the most disgusting sort were involved.

Clearly the question, Yahweh or Baal? was not a trivial one. We moderns tend to view it as a sort of denominational quarrel, and to find the prophet hostility to Baal rather fanatical and narrow. But we are wrong. For these were not two rival religions, one of which was some what superior to the other; they were religions of wholly different sorts; they could have nothing to do with each other. It must be understood that Israel's very being as a people rested in her confidence that Yahweh had called her, entered into covenant with her, summoned her to live in obedience to his righteous law, and given her a sense of destiny as his people. Baal, on the contrary, would have been destructive of the very faith that made Israel what she was. Here was a religion which summoned men not at all beyond their animal nature, and even fostered that animal nature; which posed no moral demands, but provided men with an external ritual designed to appease the deity and to manipulate the divine powers for their own material ends; which was incapable of creating community but rather, by pandering to the selfish desires of the worshiper, was destructive of real community. Paganism was, then as now, no trivial thing. As long as men take on the character of the gods they serve, so long does it greatly matter who those gods may be. Had Israel embraced Baal it would have been the end of her; she would no longer have lived as the peculiar people of God. Not one scrap of her heritage would have survived.

Of course the menace of Baal was not new with Jezebel. It had been there since the conquest, when Israel first confronted the superior material culture of Canaan and, in taking over her land, took over her agrarian way of life, her cities, and her shrines. The temptation was always present to imagine that the worship of the gods of fertility was a necessary part of the agrarian life. Many were quick to apostatize to Baal or to address Yahweh as if he were Baal. The incorporation of new blood into Israel no doubt much faster than it could be assimilated, and the tolerant attitude of Solomon and others in such matters, could only have facilitated the process. Baal was no stranger to Israel.

Yet we must not allow this to obscure the magnitude of the threat which Jezebel posed. Here for the first time was an overt attempt on the part of the state to impose a foreign paganism by force. Jezebel, as we said, resorted to persecution, and this persecution had far-reaching effects. It fell with especial force on the prophets of Yahweh (I Kings 18:4; 19:14). For the first time in Israel the prophet was faced with reprisals for speaking the Word of Yahweh. In the face of pressure some of them gave way and surrendered to the state. We see thereafter groups of prophets, in the pay of the court or the shrine, clustering about the king to lick the royal hand and to say- unanimously - what the royal ear wished to hear (I Kings 22). But we see also a succession of lone individuals who like Micaiah, because they refused to compromise their prophet Word, were ever more completely alienated not only from the state but from their fellow prophets as well. To these prophets Yahweh
was against the state.

I leave it to readers who have participated in the life of the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney over the past fifteen or so years to see the irony of what went on in Israel of old and what has been recent Sydney experience - some not so dramatic yet difficult just the same and some concern for what the like idolatry produces.

Sam Drucker

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