Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Bald Truth

Truly all things work to glory, my brothers and sisters - the latter suitably instructed and guided by a male relative, I hope.

I refer to the way in which Denzel's loss of the hair of his hairy scalp and of his beard enabled us to introduce a "prologue" with the story of Elisha and the bears - a great example of how judgement falls on those who mock the word of the Lord and his prophets.

Lucia is an intense young lady. And she said to me, "So - the children were bad, so the bears ripped them to shreds?"

"Yes," I replied, glad she had go to the heart of the matter so quickly.

"So - God wants us to be good and go to heaven?"

"Yes - that is the Good News."

"But God killed those children for mocking Elisha?"

"Yes - that was their judgement."

"But God wants us to change our hearts and follow him?"

"Yes - that is his loving-kindness and patience."

"Well, he was't so loving-kindly and patient with those kids, was he?"

"God is Sovereign over all."

"So what you're saying is - God is loving-kindly and patient, wanting us to repent and go to heaven - but only when he feels like it?"

I was pleased she had grasped the concept so well. The main part of the session yesterday, however, was the story of how Saul lost his kingship - and incidentally his life - because of his disobedience in destroying the Amalekites. And after the (rather well-played" drama where "Samuel" (played by Denzel with a fake beard) tells Saul he has failed God, I had to revise my view of Lucia a little. She came up to me just as her parents were collecting her at the end of the session, and asked for some clarification.

"So, Saul was told off for the partial destruction of the Amalekites?"

"That's right, Lucia."

"Because God didn't want him to kill them?"

"No, God wanted him to kill them."

"But Saul killed too many? He should only have killed the warriors and left the old men, women and children? Sure, it's hardly the Geneva Convention, but in those days I could understand it - no POW camps, no way of feeding them..."

I gently explained to the poor child that the problem was not that Saul had been unselective in killing the children of Amalek - it was that he had not killed all the animals also. She took up the discussion in earnest.

"So Saul didn't kill enough? He should have killed the sheep?"


"And the cattle?"


"And the fatlings?"


"What's a fatling?"

"No idea."

"And what exactly had the Amalekites done that was so wrong?"

"They worshipped the god Baal."

"And had anybody told them that was wrong?"


"So, what - they should have guessed?"

"No, it should have been clear to them from the evidences of nature."

"So God wanted them killed because they made a bad choice."

"Yes. And also because it was the Israelite's land."

She stopped. She could clearly see the divine justice. But then after a moment, she started again.

"So they'd stolen the land off the Israelites?"


"But the Israelites had lived there before?"


"So the Israelites killed the Amalekites because they were living in a piece of land that they fancied, even though they'd got no right in International Law to it?"

"It's not a matter of International Law. It's God's law. God told the Israelites to take it."

"So who did he tell?"


"And so God told Saul to kill all the Amalekites and take all their land - not forgetting the cattle, sheep and fatlings, whatever they are - because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time?"

"So the Bible tells us."

"If God told you to go and destroy Milton Keynes, would you do it?"

"If God told me to, yes."

"How would you be sure it was him?"

And so on. For eight hours. I had hoped Lucia's parents might help me to persuade Lucia of the error of her ways. Instead, they are clearly people with a perverse will and too much time on their hands - indeed, Lucia's father went off to make a few rounds of sandwiches mid-afternoon so the debate could continue. I am unsurprised, by the way, that it was her father - clearly such gender-role confusion is the sort of thing that could lead to this kind of dangerous enquiring mind.

I have suggested Lucia go to the Beaker Folk's holiday club today. I feel there is little that I can do for her. For myself, after eight hours of theological debate, I can see where Elisha was coming from.


  1. I'm not sure that using the destructive stories in the Old Testament is the best way of enthusing youngsters for bible study.

    It appears to me, a simple pacifist that your tendency is towards the blood thirstier aspects of the bible, which if I were a Psychologist, would lead me to suppose that instead of being a Pastor, you ought to be a mercenary.

  2. When I am approached in the street by well-meaning missionaries with the "chat-up" line "would you agree that the world is getting worse and worse" I look at them with disbelief... haven't they read their Bibles?

  3. Lucia for Archbishop - it's her destiny!


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