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Word Study: Extortion


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Hi everyone!

A word came to me last night before falling asleep: "all will come."

Now some do not believe that God is able to love His enemies, or save them, either.

So I would like to look at a word which has much relevance with regard to eternal torment. This word is "extortion."

 

extortion (n.) "to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power."

 

Ok.

Does the Bible mention extortion? YES! I like the KJV, so I'll use it here, but if someone has a version which mentions it in a different place, add it here!

 

In the OT:

- "Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour." Psalm 109: 11

- "Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land." Isaiah 16:4

- "In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD." Ezek. 22:12

 

In the NT:

- "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." Matt. 23:25

- "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." Luke 18:11

- "Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world." 1 Cor. 5:10

- "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." 1 Cor. 5:11

- "Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Cor. 6:10.

 

The first thing I noticed here, was that the Pharisees believe that they are not extortioners; Jesus says that they are!

 

Question: Would God use extortion in order to get people to follow Him? (It's implied that God "could" if He wanted to, since He's GOD.)

Does God threaten people with punishment so that they might "obey Him?" Is this consistent with the notion that God IS Love? Can love and extortion go hand-in-hand?

 

I think that most Christians would say that God is not an extortioner. Indeed, it seems that extortion is understood throughout scripture to be not a good thing. And not a fruit of the Spirit, either!

 

Blessings of God's Love to all here,

brian Just a small postscript:

as "extortion" means to intimidate, looking at the definition of "intimidate" and other synonyms may help us to understand the implications of the doctrine of eternal torment.

 

intimidate: to make timid or fearful; frighten.

 

browbeat: to intimidate or disconcert by a stern manner or arrogant speech.

 

bully (v) : to treat abusively; to affect by means of force or coercion.

 

bulldoze: to coerce or restrain by threats.

 

cow (v.) : to destroy the resolve or courage of. To "cow" implies reduction to a state where the spirit is broken or all courage is lost. (It's interesting what God tells us in Isaiah 57: "For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." It seems here, that if God stays angry, His Spirit suffers. This is in agreement with the fact that Love "is not resentful." God cannot stay angry forever. Whether there is a "punishment" or not, He does not let anger overcome Him.)

 

Food for thought...

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a higher way,

 

I've read through your post a few times and like many things its implications seem to inter-relate with other thoughts and musings. Its funny how sometimes a particular word gains power and becomes significant for one reason or another. A word that has been a constant for me is "betrayal".......of how betrayal seems to sum up much religion, the betrayal of THIS world for some imagined other. Extortion? The word does seem to invoke the polar opposite of the selfless love that captures many hearts. The way I see the Pharisees (at least, as they are portrayed in the polemics of the New Testament) is that they used "extortion" to gain God's love. They "obeyed" the commands they found in Scripture, therefore God was duty bound to "reward" them. This has been passed on in the form of the reification of faith spoken of by Thomas Merton......

 

Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......

 

So one can "extort" salvation, the Divine is duty bound to "save" us as we have obeyed the rules as laid down in the book. Religion by numbers. We've joined one verse with another verse, built our "theology" of "salvation" and hey presto! the deed is done!

 

Merton also spoke about the "extortion" he despised in much evangelism..........

 

I hate proselytizing. This awful buisness of making others just like oneself so that one is thereby "justified" and under no obligation to change himself. What a terrible thing this can be. The source of how many sicknesses in the world. The true Christian apostolate is nothing of this sort, a fact that Christians themselves have largely forgotten. I think it was......Tauler (or maybe Eckhart) who said in a sermon that even if the church were empty he would preach the sermon to the four walls because he had to. That is the true apostolic spirit, based not on the desire to make others conform, but in the desire to proclaim and announce the good tidings of God's infinite love. In this context the preacher is not a "converter" but merely a herald, a voice, and the Spirit of the Lord is left free to act as He pleases. But this has degenerated into a doctrine and fashion of "convert-makers" in which man exerts pressure and techniques (this awful business of "modern techniques of propaganda") upon his fellow man in order to make him, force him, bring him under a kind of charm that compels him to abandon his own integrity and his own freedom and yield to another man or another institution. Little do men realize that in such a situation the Holy Spirit is silent and inactive, or perhaps active against the insolence of man. Hence the multitude of honest and sincere men who "cannot accept" a message that is preached without respect for the Spirit of God or for the spirit of man.

 

It just seems to me that there must needs be an element of extortion in any "call of God" when we imply - or even explicity insist! - that others must pass through the same hoop we have jumped through. I.e. Others must become a carbon copy of myself! It seems to me, looking back through history and having read many autobiographies - and biographies - of various human beings of many faiths, that the Divine has infinite ways of opening hearts and minds. Maybe "extortion" would play a part for some, but more often than not it is a reality that issues as "mercy", "grace", "love", mediated by other human beings (rather than a book) that calls and draws people.

 

And "all will come". Yes.

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a higher way,

 

I've read through your post a few times and like many things its implications seem to inter-relate with other thoughts and musings. Its funny how sometimes a particular word gains power and becomes significant for one reason or another. A word that has been a constant for me is "betrayal".......of how betrayal seems to sum up much religion, the betrayal of THIS world for some imagined other. Extortion? The word does seem to invoke the polar opposite of the selfless love that captures many hearts. The way I see the Pharisees (at least, as they are portrayed in the polemics of the New Testament) is that they used "extortion" to gain God's love. They "obeyed" the commands they found in Scripture, therefore God was duty bound to "reward" them. This has been passed on in the form of the reification of faith spoken of by Thomas Merton......

 

Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......

 

So one can "extort" salvation, the Divine is duty bound to "save" us as we have obeyed the rules as laid down in the book. Religion by numbers. We've joined one verse with another verse, built our "theology" of "salvation" and hey presto! the deed is done!

 

Merton also spoke about the "extortion" he despised in much evangelism..........

 

I hate proselytizing. This awful buisness of making others just like oneself so that one is thereby "justified" and under no obligation to change himself. What a terrible thing this can be. The source of how many sicknesses in the world. The true Christian apostolate is nothing of this sort, a fact that Christians themselves have largely forgotten. I think it was......Tauler (or maybe Eckhart) who said in a sermon that even if the church were empty he would preach the sermon to the four walls because he had to. That is the true apostolic spirit, based not on the desire to make others conform, but in the desire to proclaim and announce the good tidings of God's infinite love. In this context the preacher is not a "converter" but merely a herald, a voice, and the Spirit of the Lord is left free to act as He pleases. But this has degenerated into a doctrine and fashion of "convert-makers" in which man exerts pressure and techniques (this awful business of "modern techniques of propaganda") upon his fellow man in order to make him, force him, bring him under a kind of charm that compels him to abandon his own integrity and his own freedom and yield to another man or another institution. Little do men realize that in such a situation the Holy Spirit is silent and inactive, or perhaps active against the insolence of man. Hence the multitude of honest and sincere men who "cannot accept" a message that is preached without respect for the Spirit of God or for the spirit of man.

 

It just seems to me that there must needs be an element of extortion in any "call of God" when we imply - or even explicity insist! - that others must pass through the same hoop we have jumped through. I.e. Others must become a carbon copy of myself! It seems to me, looking back through history and having read many autobiographies - and biographies - of various human beings of many faiths, that the Divine has infinite ways of opening hearts and minds. Maybe "extortion" would play a part for some, but more often than not it is a reality that issues as "mercy", "grace", "love", mediated by other human beings (rather than a book) that calls and draws people.

 

And "all will come". Yes.

 

Tariki,

Thank you for your post! You know, on another forum, I posted the exact same thread, and it got locked. They said that "discussing it would violate rules."

So if we cannot talk truthfully (even at risk of making a mistake), what sense is there??

So many people tell me that "God doesn't make robots." But that is exactly what they want from you: to conform, not think at all!

 

"Hence the multitude of honest and sincere men who "cannot accept" a message that is preached without respect for the Spirit of God or for the spirit of man. " Beautiful!! Sometimes people get so focused on "sin," that they can't see truth right before their eyes!! Or they say that feelings don't account for much. But can anybody spend a minute of their life without feeling something? Whether joy, sadness, confusion, hate, bitterness.... Feelings are so much a part of us! And, I believe, a gift from God. Even the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience.. these all have a feeling component.

But what some "traditional" Christian groups want, is for you to be a number. Nothing more.

 

May the Lord Jesus bless us all with truth and honesty, knowing that the foundation of God is Love.

 

Blessings to you!

brian

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Tariki,

Thank you for your post! You know, on another forum, I posted the exact same thread, and it got locked. They said that "discussing it would violate rules."

So if we cannot talk truthfully (even at risk of making a mistake), what sense is there??

So many people tell me that "God doesn't make robots." But that is exactly what they want from you: to conform, not think at all!

 

"Hence the multitude of honest and sincere men who "cannot accept" a message that is preached without respect for the Spirit of God or for the spirit of man. " Beautiful!! Sometimes people get so focused on "sin," that they can't see truth right before their eyes!! Or they say that feelings don't account for much. But can anybody spend a minute of their life without feeling something? Whether joy, sadness, confusion, hate, bitterness.... Feelings are so much a part of us! And, I believe, a gift from God. Even the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience.. these all have a feeling component.

But what some "traditional" Christian groups want, is for you to be a number. Nothing more.

 

May the Lord Jesus bless us all with truth and honesty, knowing that the foundation of God is Love.

 

Blessings to you!

brian

 

brian,

 

I think the problem can be that often there is a degree of truth in what is said by the ardent ( difficult to capture a suitable word! ) Our feelings are not necessarily expressions of reality and can indeed be false responses, as the Divine would guide us. But sadly, as you imply, there can develope an "orthodoxy" of "feeling" where any response to a particular theological point is judged by how it conforms to some preordained template created by the particular sect/church involved. And such a "template" need have nothing to do with the Spirit, which blows where it will Personally, I can only say that seeing the truth of anything (ourselves included!) can only flower in freedom from fear, which implies seeking to open to the perfect love of the divine. My own experience is that "fear" (which invokes the idea of extortion) rather than love is the climate of many Conservative/Fundamentalist groups.

 

Anyway, all the best

tariki (Derek)

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