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The Bible as Horror

Novelist Mike Duran: “At its heart, the Greatest Story Ever Told is, in part, a horror story.”
| Jul 10, 2018 | 44 comments |

One argument for the compatibility of the horror genre with a Christian worldview is the amount of horror tropes which find their genesis in Holy Writ.

At its heart, the Greatest Story Ever Told is, in part, a horror story.

This is not meant to suggest that the message of Scripture is primarily one of dread, but that the Bible contains more than enough references to terror and the horrific to, at least, call into question its classification as “family friendly” fare.

There are many instances of biblical horror—Scriptural themes, events, people and stories that could easily fall under the horror genre. Perhaps the greatest example of biblical horror is the single act that uniquely defines the Christian faith—the crucifixion of Christ.

This week we feature Mike Duran and his novel Saint Death in Lorehaven Book Clubs. Stop by the flagship book club on Facebook to learn more about this story.

Breaking: Subscribe to Lorehaven Magazine for free to download our new summer 2018 issue. This issue includes Mike Duran’s exclusive article “Horror Reveals Human Sin in the Dark.”

In our age, the crucifix symbol has been glamorized and sanitized; it is brandished by rock stars and imprinted upon bumper stickers and T-shirts. Nevertheless, the cross was a horror in its time, a symbol of disgrace, shame, and torture.

Many have illustrated the gruesome medical details concerning the practice of crucifixion. In The Horror of Roman Crucifixion, Stephen M. Miller frames the process like that of “butchering an animal.” Likewise, the terminology used to describe the Messiah in Scripture is arresting—He “bore our suffering,” was “punished by God,” “stricken” and “afflicted,” “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). The apostle Paul summarized what transpired on the cross this way:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.1

Two important biblical doctrines intersect at the cross of Christ and His redemptive work. Both of these doctrines comprise what could be considered to involve horror or the grotesque: The Fall of Man and The Substitutionary Atonement. These powerful biblical doctrines are wedded at the cross.

“. . . A gritty angels-and-demons yarn with astronomical stakes.”
— Lorehaven Magazine

Man’s sinful estate and all of its subsequent fruits were judged at the cross of Christ where “him who had no sin [was made] to be sin for us.” So great was this pouring out of wrath upon the Son that He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Christ, who often claimed to be in perfect union with the Father (John 10:30), was abandoned at the cross. It is impossible for us to comprehend the anguish, suffering, and despair Jesus must have experienced. The substitutionary atonement of Christ may in fact be the most horrific concept in all of Scripture. Not only does it speak to our moral and spiritual fallenness, it places the consequences and weight of that Fall upon a sinlessly perfect God.

The themes of fallenness, sin, and judgment are axiomatic in Scripture. Not only does the Bible not shy away from showing us the sin and utter depravities of man, even the greatest of Bible heroes are not exempt from its claim. Furthermore, there are unflinching depictions of judgment upon sin in Scripture. The Flood of Noah, the plagues of Egypt, the Canaanite extermination, Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananius and Saphira, the Great White Throne judgment, the fiery return of Christ to judge the nations, and hell itself are terrible glimpses of a holy God’s divine right to wield the gavel.

Closely aligned to this is a belief in real evil and real evil beings. Relativism suggests that knowledge, truth, and morality are not absolute but exist only in relation to culture, society, or historical context. However, it is the belief in real existential evil, as opposed to something that is simply a social construct or a perceived threat, which is so important to a compelling expression of horror.

Pazuzu, the demon that possessed Regan in The Exorcist, was not just portrayed as a figment of her mother’s imagination or a socio-cultural concoction. Nor was the entity just a threat to the girl. Pazuzu was the personification of Evil, an opponent of all that was Good, True, and Holy. The demon was portrayed as real, which demanded an equally real God to evict it.

Likewise, supernatural agents such as angels, Satan, and demons are portrayed as unapologetically real in Scripture. Of course, many faiths have detailed beliefs in good and evil spirits of various sorts. Nevertheless, the Bible is foremost in describing a hierarchy of invisible beings, both good and evil, who interact with our world, serving God or resisting His aims. This worldview is an integral component of both the religious traditions of the Western world and much of the horror genre.

Similarly, evil spiritual entities are also a mainstay in contemporary horror. Whether it is an angry poltergeist, a demonic legion, or Satan himself, the basic idea of an invisible realm that impinges upon ours and wars against us, seeking manifestation or control, is uniquely tethered to the worldview of Scripture. Not only do fallen angels personify the defamation of what is holy, they are reminders of Man’s ultimate adversary.

Though relatively rare and obscured in the Old Testament, the devil and his minions make regular appearances in the New Testament. Jesus’ ministry began immediately after He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). This is followed by numerous stories of Christ casting demons out of the sick or mad. Perhaps the most famous of these is the encounter with the Gadarene man who lived among the tombs possessed by multiple demons who called themselves Legion (Mark 5:1-17). In all of these cases, Jesus treated Satan and his demons as real beings, neither myths, local superstitions, nor purely psychological disorders.

Likewise, the New Testament writers saw the devil as a very real adversary. The apostle Paul described the Christian life as a struggle against “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12) while the apostle Peter suggested that Christians must be ever vigilant of the devil’s schemes:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.2

Obviously, the writers of the New Testament saw the devil as a very real adversary and warned of very real consequences to spiritual sloth or immorality.

Perhaps the most horrific universal biblical archetype is that of a literal hell.

Those who emphasize Jesus’ message of love often neglect to mention that He spoke about hell more than any other single Bible figure. Though there are differing perspectives amongst believers about the exact nature of hell, i.e., annihilation or eternal conscious torment, Scripture is fairly clear about its existence and essence. For instance, in The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus concludes with this pronouncement upon the wicked:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”3

The fire is “eternal” and, apparently, some portion of the human race end up there. Explaining the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23), Jesus said,

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.4

Thus, the “end of the age” is portrayed as a sifting, a weeding out of evil, in which souls are thrown into a “blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Whether or not hell is actually a literal, eternal reality, the Bible is clear about several things: Hell is the worst possible end for a human being, the most horrific possible conclusion to one’s life, and something to be rigorously avoided.

While the Bible is often referred to as The Good Book, within its pages are some truly bad, disturbing, awful things—depravity, judgment, the crucifixion, angels, demons, and hell. In many ways, The Greatest Story Ever Told is a horror story.

“. . . A gritty angels-and-demons yarn with astronomical stakes.”
— Lorehaven Magazine

Explore Mike Duran’s novel Saint Death in the Lorehaven Library.

Read our full review exclusively from the spring 2018 issue of Lorehaven Magazine!

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
  2. 1 Peter 5:8.
  3. Matthew 25:41.
  4. Matthew 13:40-42.
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notleia
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notleia

Welp, that’s pretty much the reason I prefer Christus Victor over Substitutionary Atonement.

Yes, there are, in fact, different theories on how Christ’s death freed us from sin. It blew my mind when I found out it’s not all Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” -Isaiah 53:10

notleia
Guest
notleia

Christus Victor would still hurt, tho.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

“make his soul an offering for sin” <- that's penal substitutionary atonement.

Then: "But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5-6
(Especially that final phrase, "and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.")

Of course, Christ DID defeat the forces of evil with his death and resurrection, but that works itself out practically in our lives through faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans). And we can only have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because our sin has been placed on Christ.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Oh, it appears my super-long comment was eated by the internet.

Anyway, throwing around proof-texts like that is not actually a good argument. You could at least pick something from the NT, since most of the OT “prophecies” retrofitted onto the Christ narrative are taken badly out of context and pretty mangled in the process. (I guess we come by it honestly because the Gospel writers pretty much started it. They can go sit in the Shame Corner anyway.)

And what’s with the weird dudes who relish the cruelty and bloodiness of the crucifixion and all but skip over the resurrection? Arguably the Resurrection is the more important part (which is the part that Christus Victor emphasizes).

Audie Thacker
Member

So, how are the scriptural passages Brennan S. McPherson referred to “taken badly out of context and pretty mangled in the process”? Claiming that these passages are merely “proofs-texts” that are “not actually a good argument” comes off more as if you’re trying to dismiss what he’s written because you disagree with what those passages say.

So, looking at the NT…

Romans 3
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 9
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Travis Perry
Editor

The second you adopt the idea that the New Testament failed to understand the Old Testament, the second that you think that modern scholarship reads the Old Testament right and New Testament writers did not, you give up on the idea that the New Testament is inspired by God. If the New Testament is not inspired by God, then what is it?

I suppose you could maintain the NT is partially inspired. I don’t think that makes much sense, but people believe all kinds of things.

Or you could maintain that the NT writers really DID understand the OT, but we don’t understand what the NT actually means. I also think that’s a hard sell–well, really, pretty much impossible, but again, real people often believe things that make no sense or little sense.

I think the logical conclusion of thinking the NT failed to understand the OT is to think the NT is completely fictional. Wish fulfillment–which would mean there is no salvation by Grace at all and imagining otherwise was a self-serving mistake. So, that would make the Pharisees of Christ’s time correct–living a righteous life is the duty of the human race. That does not guarantee any sort of eternity, but it doesn’t matter–you may think whatever you want, as long as you are dedicated to doing what you’re supposed to do according to the Law. That’s all that counts.

If you go a step further and question if the Old Testament really happened or if the Old Testament prophets read the Law right, well, I think you soon reach a point where nothing in the Bible matters much. Unless you find it personally inspirational, perhaps it might matter a little.

notleia
Guest
notleia

(((The Bible is not actually one of the members of the Trinity. I think Protestants are prone to forget that))))

Because my degree dealt with textual analysis, I speak the same language as seminarians. The history and contents of the Bible are much more complex than the laypeople prefer to believe.

Travis Perry
Editor

One of my degrees was in Biblical languages. I read Hebrew and Greek. I’m also working on a Masters in History with a lot of emphasis in Biblical history. So, I’m not exactly in the category of a layperson as you defined it on this topic.

Yes, the Bible is complex, but your observation that it is complex actually does not answer the point I posed about inspiration in regard to the New Testament looking back at the Old.

I think my point stands intact unless you actually address it.

Feel free to use the “language of seminarians” if you wish to defend your position. That’s another language I can read and understand.

notleia
Guest
notleia

How up to date on you on the modern interpretation of biblical texts? You know the part where Paul didn’t write half the Epistles? And how there is no corroborating evidence that the Egyptian enslavement happened? And evidence that the Hebraic people were polytheist for quite a long time? (You know I have links I can give you, if you want.)

I sat in a class taught by a seminarian on Acts (which he didn’t like) and learned some interesting things about word choice that suggests Acts was written to legitimize Christianity in the eyes of the Greco-Roman culture and had some quotes from a play by Euripides(?) and a lot of borrowed Stoic philosophy.

Travis Perry
Editor

Paul didn’t write half the Epistles I think is total bunk. And easily dismissed (in by opinion) by reliable internal evidence like frequency of word use, as opposed to the ideas that support the notion Paul didn’t write all his epistles, which are floated on much more nebulous things like variation in themes.

There is corroborating evidence Egyptian enslavement happened, but it’s not a slam dunk in relation to the Bible. One of the main things in a more modern look at Egypt was the discovery that the builders of the pyramids, who were traditionally thought to be slaves, were shown by archaeological data to be paid professionals. But the Bible isn’t talking about Hebrew slavery in the period of the pyramids being built–it’s talking about slavery considerably after that. And there’s plenty of evidence of slavery in Egypt in the later period I just mentioned, just specifically tagging that slavery to Hebrew slavery is hard.

The Hebrews as polytheists is actually not a new thing–the Bible affirms the Hebrew were polytheists by following after the gods of other nations. So an archaeological find of a statue of Yahweh and his Asherah (female deity), to give one example of the kind of evidence you would probably link, does not really imply this was the original Hebrew belief. It simply shows syncretism between Hebrew henotheism (which probably was in fact the original Biblical concept) and neighboring polytheism took place. Which is not surprising.

As for Acts legitimizing Christianity, yes, of course it did that. Yes, it has a few quotes from Greek poets–which is not a new revelation–Bible scholars have known that since at least the time of the Protestant Reformation and no doubt earlier. None of which implies Acts was a work of fiction. A historian can write history with an intended purpose by selecting certain material out of all the material available. And among all the books of the New Testament, Acts reads the most like a typical Greek historical work of its day. Its use of vocabulary (along with the Gospel of Luke) and various styles of usage are the closest to Classical Greek that the New Testament has.

But I think you are missing something by throwing your lot in with modern scholars. Modern scholars as a whole don’t just look at the Bible neutrally with the idea of letting whatever evidence happens to exist speak as it may. They actually actively presume the Bible is not in any way special or miraculous to start out with–so anything that sounds prophetic or miraculous or having a divine origin in the Bible CANNOT be true. It has to be borrowed from another culture, or written later, or come about as a result of legend. Looking for falsehood and prosaic origins of Biblical events, it isn’t too shocking that’s what scholarship finds.

Sometimes the things scholastic consensus questions I find annoying. No particular single archaeological find from the time of Solomon has mentioned him–so some people presume he was legendary. Yet there are a pile of things the Bible says he built that have been found in the places the Bible says Solomon ordered them built, all over Israel, dated to the time that Solomon would have been alive according to Biblical chronology. We’re talking dozens of sites. But to some, all of that is evidence of nothing in relation to Solomon. Well if Solomon didn’t build them who did? Later kings are ruled out. So who is left? Er, we don’t know. (That’s annoying.)

People really are astoundingly dumb–or the Biblical view that there is an evil being that actively manipulates and deceives the world is correct. Or maybe both things are correct.

In any case, the concept that the Bible is inspired is actually foundational to Christianity. It is not a throw-away concept that you can just get rid of without any consequences.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Oh, you know about it, you just dismiss/ignore it. Okay.

I’m pretty sure they do analyze word choice for Paul, after all that’s how they determined there were at least 3 authors of Isaiah. Or how they analyze patterns of editorial shift in Genesis partially by what name they use for God (Elohim vs Yahweh).

But the thing is, there is undeniably human fingerprints and smears all over and into the texts, and it’s motivated reasoning to insist otherwise. I think it’s more interesting to have a conversation over HOW we incorporate scripture into our lives rather than the rather ignorant “God said, I believe it” that literalists prefer.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I’m not siding with you or Travis at this point. But when we get into the human fingerprints part, it isn’t just about the evidence that we find, it’s also the implications of that evidence, as well as how that evidence fits together in the first place.

The implications are, in many ways, what people are truly arguing over, and it’s reasonable and beneficial for people to have a different view of those implications. Though I do agree that humans have mutilated scripture over the millenia in some way or another. Humans are talented at such things.

Travis Perry
Editor

I agree with you Autumn, that humans have misused Scripture. But I think the Scripture itself has been providentially preserved. I think it’s important to think that way–or really why did the New Testament quote the Old Testament so much? Not just because they were inspired by it, but because they believed it was true.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I’d be cautious with assuming it’s perfectly preserved. At the very least there’s things like mistranslations that happen(which is a problem for English versions of the text, or versions in languages that are translated from the English versions. Certain words in our language have different connotations than they did in Hebrew, so at the very least we have that conflict.) Also, back then things were hand copied, so although many people would have been dedicated to the idea of copying things down exactly, I wouldn’t assume that there weren’t some people that deviated from that rule.

I’m not saying scripture is DEFINITELY tainted by human alteration(when I said people mutilated it in a previous post, I was thinking more in terms of misinterpretation/mistranslation. The alteration part is more iffy), but it MIGHT be. God doesn’t babysit everything humans do. If he allows people to preach false doctrine, he may not necessarily zap someone on the head with lightening for trying to change the Bible, either.

Travis Perry
Editor

Sorry, but just like with science, I was deeply curious about textual criticism, Bible history, Biblical languages, and etc. I know a lot about the topic. A PILE of stuff, almost certainly more than you, because I’ve been alive longer and started studying before you were born. And I think most modern critical stuff is loaded with presumption of non-miraculous, seeks to explain away instead of explain, and does not actually even make sense at times (see my example of doubting Solomon existed in spite of all his construction everywhere).

I think word analysis confirms Pauline authorship. Last I heard anyway, that’s why I quoted it. Isaiah, on the other hand, does show frequency of word uses changes in two different patterns (not three, unless you’re referring to the chapters that are virtually identical with II Kings). Though there are very conservative theological views of who the second author of Isaiah was that don’t really change the impact of the text. But it is kinda cool that Isaiah is the best attested book in the entire Old Testament (re: Dead Seas Scrolls).

The use of name shift in JEPD texts or contrast between Elohim and Yahweh I think falls to pieces when closely examined. It isn’t totally wrong though–there are strains of different times of composition, especially in Genesis. But the Pentateuch was composed during the reigns of either David or Solomon and I can give you great reasons why (starting with: Samaritan Pentateuch anyone?). But what it was composed of were segments of earlier written works. The P and D theories don’t make sense. In my opinion, of course. A considered opinion.

Human fingerprints? Of course there are. But seeing that is not incompatible with seeing the Bible as providentially inspired.

Are there actually difficult problems in Biblical textual criticism? Yes, but they are far fewer and far less problematic that some Bible scholars imply. I’d be happy to discuss real problems in Biblical texts some time. Like, in Samuel, is the LXX actually better than the Masoretic text? That’s a real issue there.

If you want to have a conversation about how we incorporate Scripture in our lives, I’m fine with that. But it is rather important to see the New Testament as inspired by God, providentially inspired, sure. If you don’t see that, you are intellectually shooting yourself in the foot.

notleia
Guest
notleia

The general consensus I heard re: Solomon was that he was a composite figure with elaborations piled on like King Arthur is.

Travis Perry
Editor

Unlike science, in which the general consensus is built on actual observations (though they may be misinterpreted), scholarly general consensus in Biblical history is built on a lot of speculation. Since Solomon was a builder according to the Bible and he had Phoenician craftsmen do some of this key building, it perhaps no surprise the design of the temple as described in the Bible is a highly realistic version of a Phoenician temple. There’s absolutely no exaggeration to it.

Doubting Solomon’s wisdom as legendary seems weird because the Egyptians were notorious for wisdom literature long prior to the time of Solomon. Parts of the book of Proverbs parallel Egyptian wisdom literature that existed before it. So is the claim of Solomon’s wisdom outlandish? You mean a Hebrew could not borrow from Egyptians? Seriously?

The trade to Ophir talked about in the Bible, exact identity unknown, could be a number of places in East Africa known for producing gold. So in East Africa there are a number of indigenous groups that claim to be descendants of Jews, have Jewish DNA, and are in areas with plenty of gold. So Solomon is supposed to have sent Phoenican traders (they handled the ships, the Bible clearly says) from an Israelite port to East Africa, which is just down the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea, and brought back considerable gold? People actually question this happened? What is fantastic about this story? (Not a single thing.)

Not to mention down near that Israelite port there has been an archaeological find of copper smithing facilities that used pipes to direct air from prevailing winds into furnaces that refined copper. When are these dated to? The approximate time of Solomon. Are these furnaces even mentioned in the Bible? No–but they are consistent with a pattern of someone doing real building during that time.

With King Arthur we can’t even say what century he was supposed to live in–though 4th-5th Century AD is a popular time frame. Nobody can be sure where Camelot was. Yet, Jerusalem is real, we know when Solomon lived, we have a pile of building from that time, we have a Pentateuch that was almost certainly composed during his or his father’s reign (or else the Samaritans would not have 5 books in their Pentateuch–they were no friends to post-exilic Jews and borrowed nothing from them, nor would they have accepted any documents coming from the time of the divided kingdom, most likely). We have loads of archaeological evidence of building during that time, we have the info of where Solomon acquired his proverbs, we know where his gold would have come from. Yet Solomon is compared to King Arthur?

It’s things like this that convince me that the general consensus of Biblical scholarship is to explain away the Bible rather than objectively evaluate whether or not it is true.

But don’t take my word for it–feel free to do some comparison between King Arthur and King Solomon yourself. You’ll see (I believe) that the evidence does not back up the notion that the two figures should be treated the same. (And thinking they are–well, it’s astounding to me people actually buy that idea. Though maybe I should not be astounded. Satan is not a figment of my imagination.)

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Notleia, you have a right to believe what you want, but all of us are going to die someday and find what this is all really about. I don’t care about winning an argument. I copy-pasted what God claims about himself because that’s my baseline and I thought it’d be helpful. I’d be honored to be put in your “Shame Corner” with the Gospel writers, but I’m not an apostle, so I don’t think I deserve it.

notleia
Guest
notleia

You mean you copy-pasted what one of the 3 writers of Isaiah attributed to God. It’d be interesting to compare the rabbinical view of those verses next to the retrofitted ones.

How we worship God is a reflection on us as people, right? I am not worshiping a bloodthirsty abusive sky-daddy, tymv. I will worship a God of justice, who doesn’t punish finite crimes with an infinite hell.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

I’m glad neither of us worship a bloodthirsty abusive sky-daddy.

Audie Thacker
Member

No, he told you what God inspired the author of Isaiah to write, words that clearly refer to the penal substitutionary death of Christ for sins, including yours and mine.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Notleia, no offense to past or present rabbis, but there is no way that those who do not accept Jesus Christ as Savior can understand the Old Testament better than Christians do. That’s why Jesus hung around and explained the Law and the prophets to His followers before He ascended: the Jews had missed what the Scriptures said about Jesus being a suffering Savior, so Jesus had to correct their errant teaching.

Becky

Travis Perry
Editor

Well said Becky, though I think a bit more to the point is if the New Testament could not explain Isaiah better than the rabbis, then perhaps Judaism is true, but Christianity is not. Modern rabbinical interpretations of Isaiah (as opposed to those you might find in, say, the Dead Seas Scrolls) don’t allow for the type of Messiah the New Testament is all about.

New Testament interpretations of the Old are key to Christ being seen as dying and raising again at all…according to New Testament authors who continually quoted and used the Old Testament to illustrate their points.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I don’t see a problem with accepting both. Yes, Christ defeated sin, Satan, death, but He also did it as our substitute. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Really all of Romans 5 and 6.

Becky

notleia
Guest
notleia

I’m not that concerned about plain substitutionary atonement, it’s just the PENAL substitutionary stuff that grinds my gears. To judge it by its fruits (((thatsbiblicalneenerneener))), it is no bueno because what you get is authoritarian abusers using it to manipulate their subordinates. (Calvinism. You get Calvinism.) [[[shots fired]]]

R. J. Anderson
Member

I’d never even heard of Calvinism until I was in my twenties, and I grew up as the daughter of a full-time Bible teacher. It… really was not a thing in the churches where I grew up here in Canada, and it isn’t generally promoted there now either.

But I don’t think it’s possible to read Scripture and not recognize that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is taught there, even if by itself it isn’t the full picture of everything Christ has done for us. And I don’t see how or why believing what the Bible actually says (i.e. in the verses which Rebecca and Brennan have quoted) is abusive, even if sinful human beings have sometimes misused Scripture to try and justify their abusive behaviour. If we argue that something must be “no bueno” because it can be/has been abused, well, then, just about everything falls into that category.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Canada doesn’t have Calvinists? Huh. I prolly didn’t know them by name, but growing up on Baptist-saturated ground (tho my family was traditionally Methodist), I absorbed quite a few Calvinist concepts.

Anyway, it’s not just a matter of a relatively normal thing being taken to an extreme, it’s an unhealthy, broken system to begin with, like basically all authoritarian-type systems.

Travis Perry
Editor

Canada does have Calvinists, but the United States has a bigger variety of Evangelical Christian groups than any other Western country–well, any other country, period. It’s very plausible to me that R.J. simply had not met any Canadian Calvinists, but I assure you, they are there.

(My grandmother was Canadian, by the way, and I grew up in Montana, pretty close to the Canadian border. I know Canada better than the average “‘Merican”).

Travis Perry
Editor

Though I’m interested in hearing more about what Notleia has to say about this topic. WHY is concept of penal atonement inherently broken and authoritarian? Doesn’t that concept actually stem from the idea of God being quite different from human beings?

Please explain. I’d like to hear more.

notleia
Guest
notleia

That would prolly be a research paper’s worth of text, but for the shorter version I can use TULIP.
Total depravity in the original was okayish, “total” meaning that it pervaded every aspect of human experience, but nowadays it’s interpreted to mean that the entirety, every single molecule, of human experience is trash (“as dirty rags”). If I have to explain to you why that is abusive, we’ll need to be here awhile longer.
Unconditional election could be nice, if God chose everyone unconditionally, but according to the subscribers of the “elect” theory, either God chose you or not and tough s**t to those who weren’t. That’s completely arbitrary and not just at all.
Limited Atonement is just flexing power for power’s sake, authoritarian garbage.
Irresistible Grace has some nice interpretations, but there’s issues of consent contained within. Like, the Holy Spirit supposedly brainwashes you without your consent, which is a gross but popular interpretation among the authoritarian types.
Perseverance of the Saints also has happy nice time interpretations, but anyone who’s heard the details of an abusive relationship will hear the alarm bells when someone tells you that you can’t leave them no. matter. what.

Also as a pretty important point, Calvinists are the type most likely to posit that anything is okay as long as (they think) God commands it. Even genocide, sex slavery, and murder of the innocents. That’s straight-up authoritarian garbage. And lots of them like to talk about relative vs object morals, because irony is dead.

Travis Perry
Editor

The problem you have here is Calvinism did not invent the idea of penal atonement, so your run-down of TULIP is kinda beside the point. Not as far as I know Calvinists didn’t invent it–I think this idea is quite ancient, though I’d have to do a bit of a refresher to say which church fathers talked about it.

But it is rather true that God reserves the right to be in charge of the universe–as in choosing Israel to be his people. God is rather authoritarian.

So would you say then, to use one example, the conquest of Canaan by Joshua? 1) Didn’t happen? 2) Was not genocide? 3) Was genocide, but was not commanded by God? 4) Was genocide but was a punishment for sin (this would be a position you don’t agree with, I’m sure) 5) Something else?

notleia
Guest
notleia

The razing of the Canaanites didn’t happen. But if it did and if God commanded it, God would be no better than Moloch.

Travis Perry
Editor

Ah, nice to see you’re anticipating something I was about to say.

Yes, the Bible repeatedly says, among other things, that the Canaanites were to be judged for the sin of passing their children through the fire to Molech–by their destruction. So, you’ve got on the one hand a culture that routinely burns children to death (the bodies of sacrificed infants have been found by the way, though not in what was Canaan–they’ve been found outside of Carthage–but bear in mind the Carthaginians were Canaanite in culture), versus a culture that does not and did not burn children to death, but which was willing to exterminate a culture that did. The Old Testament says the pagan child burners were bad and the henotheist executioners were carrying out Divine justice and therefore were better. Who are you to imply the Hebrew culture was actually worse or equally bad? Are you God? Are your standards of right and wrong how morality in the world should be judged? (Not just you of course, this applies to the millions of people who agree with you too.)

I’m not evoking moral relativism by the way. Just the notion that if evil exits and God has a right to judge evil, then killing Canaanites as directed by God for their stated (horrific) sins is at the very least internally consistent with that idea.

(By the way, there is a whole set of relatively new archaeological digs that show destruction in what was Canaan at around the most commonly accepted time of Joshua, according to something I read just a couple of months ago on the Biblical city of Lachish. The cause of destruction is debatable, of course, but many secular experts in Biblical history consider the invasion of Canaan by Hebrews probable. Not all do, but the view “there is no evidence the invasion of Canaan happened” is as far as I have read increasingly passe.)

Do you believe in any form of divine judgment? If not, I’m not terribly surprised. But if you do believe in divine judgment, what would you say God actually judges? And how does he judge it?

notleia
Guest
notleia

Also the oldest theory of redemption is the ransom theory. It was good enough for St Augustine…

Travis Perry
Editor

I’ve read City of God but I don’t remember specifically what Augustine said about redemption. I’ll have to look it up.

But I do remember after having read Augustine, that he said a lot of things people don’t mention when talking about him. For example, while he defended the use of the Bible for symbolic purposes, he also defended Biblical literalism and in fact said that the literal meaning of the Bible is the primary one. People rarely quote Augustine saying that, but he did.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I’m with RJ on this. Just because someone can or has misused something the Bible teaches, is no reason for us to decide that we should hate the source or hate the truth the abuser twisted and misused.

Becky

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

The thing is, if this definition of “horror” is the one we’re to use, then every history book that includes the holocaust needs to be labeled “horror” as well. Really, using Scripture to justify things in fiction is suspect from the start, I think.

Becky

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

I’m not sure why we wouldn’t consider the history of the Holocaust horror?

The Christian argument against reading horror that I’m most familiar with is that we should only think on things that are good and holy, so pointing out the horror in the Bible seems fair to me.

I don’t read or watch most horror because gore freaks me out to much, but I don’t mind the genre on principle.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

One could probably debate that there’s a difference between the depiction of horrific themes in the Bible and the depiction of horrific themes within the horror genre. In a way, the Bible seems more like it simply depicts life as it is, telling the story in an unflinching manner. The horror genre tends to focus on and revel in horrific or disgusting things, making a fascination of them. So someone could say that the Bible focuses on the truth, while the horror genre fetishises ghastly things.

I don’t think horror stories are automatically bad or incompatible with Christianity/scripture(it should be taken on a case by case basis with each story and audience consuming the story). But people like my parents would probably draw the distinction I made in the above paragraph.

Travis Perry
Editor

Mike, the Bible is simply realistic on many of the themes you mention, rather than deliberately horrific. People really did get messed up in bloody ways, including Christ, an the Bible often simply reports what happened (often in very dry, sparse language as well).

What surprises me about your post is that there are passages in the Bible that really ARE trying to frighten the readers, yet you mention none of them. The list of curses in Deuteronomy, the passages in which Israel suffers horrific (pun intended) defeat at the hands of their enemies due to their sin (in Judges and Kings especially), and the prophetic passages (and Psalms) in which God promises to punish evildoers, are passages INTENDED to frighten the original readers, at least a little. These passages, especially some of the grittier bits of the prophets, are pretty much IN the horror genre, since that genre is distinguished by a deliberate attempt to frighten.

And yes, by embracing the concept of a struggle between good and evil, the Bible lays out a framework which many horror stories occupy. Especially horror stories by writers like Dean Koontz or yourself.

However, it’s possible to try to frighten readers without really believing there is such as thing as good and evil in any meaningful or absolute sense. Certainly the original Alien movie made no attempt to portray a good-versus-evil struggle–just a creature evolved to kill (in the original concept of the Alien franchise), who just happens to be killing people in terrifying ways.

So I guess I don’t wholly agree with you about what’s essential to the horror genre…