Monday, April 30, 2007

still at mount carmel

A common defense of the belief in God among Pentecostal Christians, is to point to some of the miracles that God has performed in our midst. That would be great if I saw hard evidence of miracles even close to the scale the Bible reports: lepers being healed, the lame jumping for joy, and the blind seeing without the benefit of glaucoma surgery.

Alas, the only people I'm aware of regularly to make claims of healings are snake-oil salesmen like B-nny H. A few years ago, I understand Paul Croch (on air) "healed" Oral Roberts of chest pains he was having; four hours later, Roberts was at the hospital after suffering a major heart attack. Wow. Some healing. It's almost as impressive as the kids who report that their mouth stopped hurting 30 or 40 minutes after the pastor prayed for it.

A friend of mine, reading my recent post of assorted thoughts, focused on the ones pertaining to God and his nature, and asks, "Sounds like it's time for Mount Carmel again, isn't it? If YHWH is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him."

Mount Carmel is where the prophet Elijah faced 400 prophets of Baal before an assembly of Israelites and made just that challenge. The Bible recounts Elijah and the prophets of Baal agreed that whichever God answered by fire and consumed the offered sacrifice would be considered the winner of the contest.

When Baal failed to answer, Elijah poured water all over the altar he had set up, offered a prayer, and then stood back as fire consumed the offering, the wood, and the stones. It's a great story.
Anyway, my response:
  1. Sounds great. Pile up stones with a high potassium content to make an altar, pour water on them, and explain how your superior knowledge of chemistry proves anything.
  2. I'm not interested in following Baal, really. What I've read about his cult is pretty icky.
  3. One of the names of Shechem was Jobaal, which literally means "Yahweh is Baal." I suspect there was more overlap between the cults of Baal and Yahweh than the Yahwish and Elohist writers wanted their readers to suspect. Because of the close proximity the Israelites had with the Canaanites, a lot of beliefs about their deity El and their worship styles ended up being incorporated into Yahweh worship as well. It's similar, I suspect, to the way Christians in predominantly Muslim lands might not play musical instruments in church, will enter church barefoot, and so on.

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