When the spies returned from Canaan, to verify the kind of land God was going to gives them, all but two said, among other problems, that there was 'big strong men' there. Therefore, if they tried to take the land they would be killed.  

Not only did these spies doubt but the whole camp wanted to stone the two spies that had faith, as they hated their blind confidence on being able to destroy those 'big men'.

God himself says:

“How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? (NIV Numbers 14:11)

In light of all this, I am wondering whether we can draw the similarity that many who are exposed to Christianity and feel certain 'doubts' they have are 'too big' to kill are really no different then these faithless explorers (assuming these doubts keep them from faith. ) Is it fair to say biblically that such cases are just modern intellectual honesty, or would it be reasonable to say biblically it is contempt of God, as in the case of the spies? Where does intellectual honesty turn into wicked contempt from a biblical perspective?

I am only looking for answers that are made from the scriptures. Is this a fair biblical comparison, or would the Bible not draw these parallels?

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    For me it's really simple. My God doesn't need "protection" from "critical thinking." He's a big boy; he can take care of himself. In 40 years of serious inquiry, I've never found a valid argument that makes an open person have to believe in a contradiction or out and out lie. Given my draughters, I'd rather not have to submit to a God, but this far my sleptical faith journey has never compelled me to discount what has been said. – Affable Geek Aug 23 '12 at 10:36
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    @AffableGeek - In this analogy you are showing yourself to be in the company of Caleb an Joshua, effectively your saying, ya I scouted all over the land, high and low, not 40 days, but as irony would have it 40 years, and those giants, their actually just punks. Lol, nice to hear. God bless you for your good report. Maybe the analogy does hold water. I wonder what is the cause of the man who reports the opposite of your findings brining in te so called 'evil report'. Cheers. – Mike Aug 23 '12 at 11:19
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    This is really calling for speculation. It also isn't really about Christianity. – DJClayworth Aug 23 '12 at 14:01
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    What's happening to this community. It seems every interesting question is being closed down. – Monika Michael Aug 23 '12 at 17:02
  • @Mike I take it as a compliment to be called a @ Caleb. ;). In all seriousness, my little brother was named Matthew Caleb, and precisely for the text you specified. – Affable Geek Aug 27 '12 at 1:08

I am answering the question you asked in bold, not the one in the title. However, I recommend against equating modern biblical criticism with wicked contempt or intellectual honesty.

@DJClayworth: This question is totally about Christianity.

There is an deliberate parallel between the ancient Israelites' obstinance and today's encounter with Jesus. The parallel is this: a person who has seen God and does not believe accuses God of not being who he claims. In other words, the boundary between intellectual honesty and wicked contempt is when God reveals himself to you.

In the context of Numbers, God had revealed himself to the Israelites several times; at Mount Sinai for example (Exodus 19). These signs are referred to in the verse you quoted. In spite of the them, the Israelites denied God out of their fear of the Nephilim (the "big strong men"). Their fear produced an accusation that God was not able as He claimed to bring them into the land promised.

Fast forward to the NT. We find similar examples of unbelief. In a parallel to Exodus 19, the disciples encounter God on a mountain:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. He was transformed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. (HCSB Matthew 17:1-2)

Yet in the following story they don't have the faith to heal a demon-possessed boy:

Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed. Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and said, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” “Because of your little faith,” He told them. (HCSB Matthew 17:18-20)

Fast forward to a few years ago. When I was considering who Jesus is, I first looked into intellectual matters: How can I reconcile science and faith? Are the Gospel accounts trustworthy? Eventually I had those answers, but the intense question remained: Is Jesus who he says he is? It was no longer an intellectual matter; to answer affirmatively required God to reveal himself in the way he did to Simon Peter:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. (HCSB Matthew 16:16-17)

I had this kind of experience, after which I could not deny Jesus being who he claims while keeping an honest conscience. After that point I would have been in contempt of God.

  • Thanks for the refreshing perspective. And welcome to the site Doug! – Mike Aug 24 '12 at 4:55

I really like this question.

Unfortunately, my response, in trying to deal with the "modern" in modern biblical analysis, necessarily refers to non-scripture sources.

Time of Apostles:

Genesis 3:17 (Before Apostles)

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Acts 2: 37-42

37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

I have often wondered -- why is it for Man's sake that the ground is cursed, that that we shall eat in sorrow all the days of our life? Then I realized -- without pain and suffering -- how would we recognize the separation of God? -- without recognizing the separation from God, how would we accept Christ? -- and without accepting Christ, how would we avoid spending eternity in hell? Thus, indeed for our sake, the ground has been cursed.

Now, what I find beautiful in the time of the apostles -- is that they heard the message -- and were converted. It's as if God had already done great works in their heart .. and all that they lacked was the gospel. They were looking for the truth, they found that the human teachings of their time did not satisfy the cries of the heart, that the human teachings of their time did not explain all that went wrong with the world -- and when they heard the gospel, the recognized it as truth, and accepted it.

Modern Day Criticism

One interesting question to ask is: where does the source of the modern biblical criticism come from? From what framework are we analyzing / criticizing the Bible from?

If we look at public school education in the US. Reading the Bible is banned. Yet, reading all types of classical literature written by non-Christians is acceptable. What does this have to do with modern biblical criticism?

All literature is about human conflicts, human desires, human problems -- attempts at explaining why these human issues happen. In a sense, the "wisdom" of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Hawthorne, are attempts by humans to explain to humans in human opinions how this world works. And when one accepts this worldly "wisdom" it, in the case of unbelievers, "satisfies / explains" away the cursed-ness of the ground, the eating of the bread in sorrow. And thus, it's natural to criticize it from the framework of the human "wisdom" that one has already built.

Furthermore, modern education (at least in the US), tends to teach that there is no absolute truth -- that the opinion of the individual (be it college student, high school or middle school student) is just as important as the greats. One is encouraged to (1) believe that one's own opinion is absolute truth and (2) criticize the works of Shakespeare / Tolstoy / Dickens / ... anywhere it conflicts with internal beliefs.

It's very natural to take this same attitude when reading the Bible.

To actually answer your question of:

"Where does intellectual honesty turn into wicked contempt from a biblical perspective?"

From the foundation of the universe. :-)

For those that were elected, the "bad" part of their questioning was paid for by Christ, the "good" part of their questioning was trying to cement their understanding of God.

For those that were not elected, even their good works are like filthy rags ...

  • Very perceptive answer. Thanks for that. Welcome to the site Anon. – Mike Aug 27 '12 at 1:41
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! I really appreciate that even on your first answer around here, you specifically addressed the question that was asked. Our format can be a lot to get your head around at first. Thanks for taking the time to participate. – Caleb Sep 18 '12 at 14:30
  • I have to disagree with you, anon. Isaiah 64:6 refers to the efforts of all sinners to obtain a righteousness apart from God. It is not about the futility of the nonelect. – user1907 Sep 19 '12 at 11:22

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