Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is God Speechless? If Not Why Is The Countryside Filled With Violence?

The Minor Prophets Speak to Today

Is God Speechless?

Habakkuk 2:17c

You committed murder throughout the countryside
and filled the towns with violence.

I recently completed a questionnaire for a Christian organization that wanted to know my position regarding the sufficiency of the Bible. One of the questions the word sufficiency deals with is whether the scriptures are complete in their present form. This is often phrased: Are the scriptures closed. Most of us answer a confident yes.

Unfortunately our answer leads some people to the assumption that that means God is no longer speaking to his people outside the written word. They carry this so far as to believe the Holy Spirit cannot be trusted to guide us. After all if God is no longer speaking then how can the Holy Spirit be speaking. And if the Holy Spirit is speaking would those words not be the equivalent of scripture and, therefore, would it not be necessary to include them in the Bible.

Most of you will recognize that all of these turns of thought are fallacious arguments. We can think anything, but that does not give our thoughts validity. That does not make our questions valid. That does not elevate the thoughts and systems of men to judges of Scripture and God.

If God is not speaking, our lot is hopeless.

But, in the scripture above, God seems to start speaking and then becomes speechless. When he spoke about people who get their neighbors drunk, he followed up with a clear warning.
When he spoke about destroying the Forests of Lebanon, he followed up with a clear warning.

Then we come to the third of these couplets, following which the message turns a different way, and the couplet is a singlet.

Or is it?

Is God making a pronouncement without a follow up warning?

Here are a three possibilities: 
  • God speaks about the murder and violence but it leaves him speechless.
Like the declarations about the drunks and the cutting down of forests, God is just speaking a known fact. Here's what you are doing, but the severity of this condition, the grief this condition causes him to be, leaves God, speechless.

Okay, that's possible. But is it likely? Only God can answer. But if God is speechless, the towns and the countryside have no hope. 
  •  God speaks, but the result is so well known that God needs not speak at all.
His past words have already been embedded in the hearts of the people - both the righteous or the wicked. The words of the current prophecy have already been so clear they do not need to be repeated.
  • God is speaking of the murder in the countryside and the result is the violence in the towns.
This is possible, but the translators have clearly found that the grammatical structure of the passage does not support a cause and effect relationship between the two clauses.  This is the least likely possibility.

So, how do you take the absence of a warning here:




If God is speechless, there is no hope.  


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