On December 19th, 2012, Shmuley Boteach, an orthodox rabbi, advocated challenging God following the Sandy Hook school shootings. This is my reply.
Today, as I was watching CNN, there was an interview of an author named "Rabbi Shmuley Boteach" by CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield. Here is that interview:
Before replying to this interview, there are a few things that I want to mention.
First, I want to say that I am very, very sad about the shootings. I seldom say much when things like this happen, because I always feel my words are not enough. I hope the readers of this page will understand my feelings.
Second, I am not writing this reply to fight with anyone. Also, I realize that God does not need me to defend Him. Rather, I feel a need to clearly show my support for God.
Finally, although I know that Shmuley Boteach is commonly known as "Rabbi Shmuley", I will refer to him simply as "Shmuley". This has nothing to do with Shmuley; rather, it is because of Matthew 23:7-8, where Christians are instructed to only refer to Jesus as "Rabbi".
With these prefacing remarks made, I will now proceed to my reply to Shmuley.
The interview actually began by showing a video of the former Presidential candidate and Christian minister (Southern Baptist denomination) Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was also Governor of Arkansas in 1998 when the school shootings occurred in Jonesboro. In the video, Huckabee addressed the question of why God didn't prevent killings such as those at Sandy Hook and Jonesboro.
You can watch that video here; and there is a follow-up video here, which I think may make Huckabee's opinion clearer (both links are on video.foxnews.com, and will open in new windows). In the second video (time index 1:51), Huckabee states:
"Then, we're asked, 'Well, where was God?' And I respond that, as I see it, we've escorted Him right out of our culture and we've marched Him off the public square; and then we express our surprise that a culture without Him actually reflects what it's become."
For many people, I suppose Huckabee's words may sound a lot like an "I-told-you-so!", coming at a totally inappropriate time. However, I believe Huckabee is motivated by a sincere desire to prevent any more shootings. I think he is actually trying to encourage America to once again embrace Christianity, with the hope that a more Christian society would be less likely to have similar attacks in the future.
In truth, there is some Biblical backing for Huckabee's position. For example, the Book of Isaiah begins with a similar notion (Isaiah 1:15-21). Jeremiah 14:7-12 also comes to mind. Isaiah chapter 59 begins with:
Whatever the truth may be regarding Huckabee, the interview with Shmuley began by showing the Huckabee video.
At time index 0:33, Shmuley says "I believe in a theology of defiance". However, in the Book of Numbers, we find:
God says that "defiance" is "blasphemy".
This passage is followed immediately in the Bible by the story of the execution of a man for defiantly collecting wood on the Sabbath, in violation of the commandment to rest on that day. Immediately after that is the famous story of the defiance of Korah et al. in the Korah Rebellion.
At time index 0:43 of the video, Shmuley says "No doubt He [God] is bound by the same rules and laws that He gives us." However, Isaiah wrote this:
God's "rules and laws" are NOT the same as ours. The commandments that govern our lives take into account our human limitations. However, God has no limitations: He can repay any debt, heal any harm, and even resurrect the dead.
The day will come when even the wrongs done in Sandy Hook will be righted. It may seem that the dead are beyond hope; but with God, there is always hope.
At time index 1:16, Ms. Banfield says "how can we question God?" Shmuley gives an answer which includes the statement that "the single greatest act of faith is to challenge God and to make demands of God" (time index 1:24).
At 1:43, Shmuley goes on to mention that "the word 'Israel' literally translates as 'he who challenges God'". This is true; and it would also be correct to translate "Israel" as "strives with God". However, this is not a particularly flattering term. Again, from Isaiah, we have this:
The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans:
We have NO right to question God, nor to protest or strive with Him. God may be merciful to us, just as God was merciful with Jacob when He renamed Jacob with the name "Israel" (Genesis 32:28). However, God is under NO obligation in this matter.
Near the end of the interview (time index 4:06), Shmuley says:
"We have to have a new approach to religion in this country, where we are not just cosmic chaff that always surrender [sic.] in silent submission to God's will. We have a right to challenge God's will."
This "approach to religion" actually existed in the time of Moses. The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible uses the word "stiff-necked" to refer to this "approach". The word "stiff-necked" was created because of the refusal of those who adhere to this "approach" to bow their heads "in silent submission to God's will".
The first occurrence of "stiff-necked" in the KJV is very typical of its use throughout the Bible. That first time was by Yehovah [God] (the "LORD" in the KJV), while the people of Israel were still wandering in the desert, not yet having even reached the land of Israel.
Apparently, God did not like this "new approach to religion" from the very start: He became so upset that He considered working Himself up into an absolute fit of anger, and then punishing the people.
As Christians, we have the direct command "therefore submit yourselves to God" (James 4:7a).
With regards to the "silent" aspect of Shmuley's comments, I am reminded of another rebellion. It was similar to the Korah Rebellion, in that it concerned priestly issues. However, the only two rebels were two sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Their story, told in chapter 10 of the Book of Leviticus, is commonly referred to as "the Offering of Strange Fire".
The two sons (Nadab and Abihu) decided to offer incense to God in a way which God had not commanded (the "strange fire"). Since God hadn't given the two men permission to do this, a fire came out from God and burned the two men to death.
As one can imagine, this was a painful thing for their father, Aaron, and for their two remaining brothers. Nevertheless, it was necessary for Moses to tell Aaron and his two remaining sons this:
Neglecting one's grooming and ripping one's clothes were signs of mourning among the Israelites. After God had killed two members of Aaron's immediate family, He still did not permit Aaron and his remaining sons to mourn openly, but only to accept what had happened "in silent submission to God's will".
As Christians, we accept that anyone is "accursed" if they attempt to preach some other Gospel to us besides the one we have already received (Galatians 1:6-9). With this in mind, I am concerned by the "new approach to religion" suggested by Shmuley.
Finally, let us back up a little bit in the video, to time index 3:32. After listing a few good things about the United States, Shmuley states that
"We deserve better."
Isaiah 64:6 says our greatest achievements are as good as used toilet paper ("filthy rags" is the KJV translation).
We do NOT deserve ANY good thing; whatever good things we receive come to us because God is kind to the undeserving.
As Christians, we realize that we could never "deserve" to have Jesus die for our sins; and without His death, all we could ever deserve is eternal Hellfire.
Again, allow me to say that I feel very sad for those people who have lost so much. Also, this is not meant to speak ill of anyone; but I do feel that these are things that need to be said.
Jan 08, 17 12:18 PM
There is a prophecy in the Old Testament (the Torah, in fact) which names Jesus BY NAME, along with crucifixion imagery. Learn about it here.
Feb 07, 16 03:12 PM
Why must we be adopted by God? What does it really mean to be adopted by God? This Adoption Loophole page has the answers.
Jul 15, 15 10:33 AM
In the Bible, there are several different examples of adoption or adoption-like relationships. Learn about them here.