All Scripture is Inspired by God
The Second Reading says that all Scripture is inspired by God and useful for training in righteousness. And this line sounds wonderful until it bumps up against the First Reading. In the First Reading, Moses avails himself of the special power of God to help Joshua destroy the Amalekites in a war.
This story about the Amalekites is a good example of Scriptural stories that prompt outrage in many contemporary readers. It presents God as helping the Israelites to slaughter their enemies. Why shouldn’t we reject this story as morally repellant? And if we do, then what happens to the line that all Scripture is inspired of God?
Well, here is one way to accept the story of the Amalekites as part of God’s inspired revelation.
In fact, the process of dying can be an important part of the journey of spiritual healing.
Human beings are meant to live in everlasting joyful union with their Creator, who loves them. But it is possible for human beings instead to become seriously spiritually sick. If that sickness is bad enough, it is possible for people to become the living dead, still functioning in some sense but spiritually dead, lost to love and union forever.
To ward off this worst thing for human beings, a loving God will go to great lengths.
So will we. Just think about what we will let our children suffer in hospitals in the hope of healing them and you will see the point. God will endure even appalling suffering on the part of the human beings he loves if that suffering holds a chance of a spiritual cure.
In fact, the process of dying can be an important part of the journey of spiritual healing, as anyone knows who has worked with the dying in hospitals.
Maybe the terrible things that happen when a people loses a war are like this too. Think about it this way: would Germany have been better off if it had won the Second World War? Wasn’t it a blessing for the Germans that they lost it?
And so we can think about the First Reading this way. God’s love encompasses the Amalekites too. His great love for them, his hope for their salvation, underlies his willingness to let them suffer even the terrible devastation that comes to them in the loss of the war with the Israelites.
And that is the beginning of an explanation for why it is possible to accept even the First Reading as divinely inspired Scripture.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University