Bible Study Day 11: “Old Testament” God

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Numbers 24 – Deuteronomy 1

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As we wrap up Numbers and having already finished Genesis and Exodus, I want to talk about “Old Testament” God. Richard Dawkins, a renowned atheist, wrote in his book The God Delusion, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” This is the prevailing sentiment in the secular worldview when it comes to the Old Testament and how we see God operate as He guides the Israelites to the promised land. As I read the quotes if I’m honest it comes across as fair critiques, hell if I read it enough times I almost agree.

He floods the earth to destroy almost all of humanity, He kills the Egyptians firstborn, His rules allow for people to be stoned to death, and when the Israelites conquer a land, He orders them to kill everyone who inhabits the area and spare no one. How does any reasonable Christian defend these actions? Do we keep our answer simplistic and say well God is love, but He can also do whatever He wants? You can’t concede to these characteristics and continue to speak in good conscience that your worship a God who kills children. Here is the mind bender or the catch 22, the moral compass we or anyone uses to judge God in these actions is the one God made. Try this on for size can the Lawgiver whose laws are intrinsic in their character break those very same laws? For example can someone who is characteristically against abusing children go on and abuse children themselves?

The defense for God’s actions in the Old Testament may be simplistic, when not given deeper that, but the accusations themselves are surface level, has no critical thought, and almost disingenuous. When Dawkins characterizes God’s behavior by whose standard is he judging Him by and secondly what does He imagine of God. Dawkins’ words read as though he were describing a man’s actions, not God’s, and not that the actions themselves are only ones a man can make, but the way he references God is the way you’d reference a man. There is where the problem lies when people think or talk about God; they don’t imagine God (whatever that may mean) as God; they picture God as a man with superpowers.

Our brains can’t comprehend God, but we do understand people or a person and when God behaves in a way that appears inhumane we attribute Him human characteristic while saying He is God. When we are tried in court should we be judged by a jury of monkeys? Lest God is judged, using His standard, by a jury of men? Genesis does say man is made in His image, but we like to think it applies the other way around as well. This is not to say we can’t ask questions of God or dig deeper to actions God has taken. What I am railing against is surface level thinking where we accuse God of misdeed without any critical thought behind the accusations. We don’t get to call Him God, picture a superman in our minds, and tell Him how He ought to behave. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

People, have a hard time judging other people, how many innocents will go to prison and how many will be acquitted in our lifetime? Yet, when it comes to God, we have all the evidence we need to judge Him. Who among us can judge God? Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone,” but when it comes to God let he who God prays to deliver Him justice. The accusations and character attacks of the “Old Testament” God don’t make sense when we exercise a muscle in our brain. Frankly, it’s a nonstarter, especially from the mouth of men.

This will be something difficult to accept, and it is the will of God also that we accept this truth. We don’t seek to be like God we aim to be Him, and when seeing an opportunity to judge God, we take it. The first sin was man wanting to be like God, and it is when we humble ourselves and shatter our pride and recognize God that we begin our redemption.

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