Deuteronomic Theology

Rewards and Punishments

By Christopher Schwinger

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Continued from Page One

Deuteronomic theology is a double-edged sword (which means it has potential good and bad uses) because it teaches those who trust in God and make good choices that God favors them, sometimes even supernaturally assisting them, and that the wicked will be held accountable — the basis of the Book of Proverbs and the broad condemnations of other nations in the Books of the Prophets. In hindsight, we can see the prophets' condemnations of other nations came true, because none of them exist today like they once did except for the Jews! But Deuteronomic theology can be misused as an easy explanation of why something good or bad happened. The reality is that God does not operate according to karma, rewards for good deeds and punishments for bad deeds, and Jesus' atonement nullifies the whole concept because He forgives those who see they need Him, while rejecting those who believe they can earn His favor on their own merit. When the disciples ask Jesus at the beginning of John 9 whether the man was born blind because of his own sin or his parents' sin, they aren't referring to reincarnation, which is not taught in Judaism, but they are taking karma to its full extent: Someone must've done something wrong which led to this negative outcome! But the blame game is not healthy, because you can always attribute a bad outcome to someone — even if in the case of the blind man, you'd blame it on Adam and Eve who messed up the whole world — but it doesn't fix the problem. You can't answer the three big questions of causation, contradiction, and responsibility: Why the first man and woman sinned and led to a curse on the world, why God seems good in ways but doesn't intervene when we think He ought to, and who's to blame — how much a person is individually responsible for choices when most of a person's essence is shaped by outside influences or inherited genetic factors. And it doesn't matter ultimately, because even Jesus couldn't make sure everyone would be saved, but He did everything He could do, and then entrusted the job (the "keys to the kingdom", Matthew 16:19) to His disciples. We are indebted to them because we still have His Word 2000 years later, even though evil forces in the world tried to stop it.

The broad themes of justice and rewards and punishments are good in the Old Testament, but the Book of Job directly challenges Deuteronomic theology and shows us that peace can only come through recognizing our need for a Savior, and is the only Old Testament book to understand that God would have to provide a mediator from heaven to atone for Job's perceived sin. Job 16:21 shows a clear understanding of the future Gospel of Christ: "O that a man might plead with God [on behalf of my sin] as a man with his neighbor!" Therefore, Deuteronomic theology has some things to learn from, but shouldn't be viewed as a guarantee any more than Proverbs 22:6's "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it." That obviously did not apply to Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus' disciples! Ecclesiastes sees the same injustice which the Book of Job explores, directly challenging the claims of the proverbs, and takes the approach of skepticism about whether there is any life after death or ultimate justice. We don't have to rely on wishful thinking about ultimate justice after death, because we have the evidence of many predictive prophecies about Jesus Christ to give us confidence that He will resurrect all who belong to Him.

Part 2: Why Bad Things Happen

Image Credit: Michelle TeGrootenhuis; "Jan. 1 Deut 30:19-20"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Jesus-Christ  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published 11-16-14