Why did you have to be so mean?

“You have talked so much about the love of God, etc. But the God I recall in the Old Testament is anything but this!  Didn’t He wipe out the entire planet with a flood?  Quite a temper He’s got!  And didn’t He order the extermination of the Canaanites-women and children included?  And didn’t He incinerate Sodom and Gomorrah?  This doesn’t seem like your all-loving God.”  -Edward Boyd-

Christians are really good at talking about the merciful, loving, gracious God and ignoring the  characteristics that God seems to posses in the Old Testament.   I have mentioned in prior posts that I  have always avoided the Old Testament.  Whenever I have attempted to read and understand, it ends up frustrating me and I find myself not liking God in those moments.  My simple thought is, “Why did you have to be so mean?”

I am continuing to read the Old Testament and trying to understand. I am not comfortable  having feelings of dislike to the God of the Old Testament (which incidentally, I’m pretty sure is the same God of the New Testament.)

I’ve read 3 different books, and a magazine article the past couple weeks, which has approximately  now tripled my list of books read in my entire life!  (I know horrible!!)  2 of the books and the article, all touched on the God of the Old Testament.  All of their views are maybe a little different from each other  but for the most part have similar points and all come to the same conclusion that God is Loving and Just.    I highly recommend both  Letters from a Skeptic, and A Case for Faith if you have some hard questions.  They are both written in a very understandable, non theological lingo, that is easily understood.

Both the books and the article had very similar points, but I like the way Gregory Boyd puts it best, so here is an excerpt from his letter to his dad about the vengeance of God.

“Jesus Christ is the person in whom God is fully revealed.  This, for me, must be my central definition of God.  Whatever else God is like, He can’t be different than the God I encounter here.  “If you see Me”, Jesus says, “you see the Father”.  If something in Scripture appears to contradict this, I must confess ignorance and suspend judgment.  I don’t always know why God did what He did in the Old Testament,.  But since I know on other grounds that God is all-loving and all-wise, I must simply trust that He had wise and loving reasons for doing what he did.”

“Secondly, we again have to remember that when we read the Old Testament, we’re dealing with an entirely different world than our own.  We have trouble even imagining what the ancient mind was like.  It was as different from our own as is the most primitive aborigine mind-set different from our own.  It was an intensely violent, power-driven world …Life was cheap.”

To continue reading this letter  (go to page 164).

I feel like we put God in a no win type situation.  I hear the phrase “I can’t love a God who lets (evil) happen”.  People celebrate when evil is taken out of the world.  I will give you a recent example,  Osama Bin Laden’s capture and death.  Yet, God removes evil in multiple situations in the Old Testament (after many chances to repent and change evil ways) and you hear the phrase  “I can’t love a God who kills people.”

We were given free will so that we may know love.  Without free will we could not choose to love, without the choice to love, love would be meaningless.  But this choice comes with a cost, evil stemming from bad choices.

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16 responses to “Why did you have to be so mean?

  • Rick Rawson

    Having lived a sinful life for many decades, I can attest that my sins carry within them their own consequences and punishment. God does not need to do anything at all. How often have I sinned, and yet not paid the full price (or any price!) for my sin in any obvious way? Day in and day out, God saves us from the consequences of many of our sins, even for those of us who never acknowledge Him. What grace! The problem is that most of us never sit down and give careful consideration to how profoundly our sins have wrecked our lives and the world in which we live. One way to get at this is to consider what society would be like if we were all perfect.

  • NotAScientist

    “Yet, God removes evil in multiple situations in the Old Testament (after many chances to repent and change evil ways) and you hear the phrase “I can’t love a God who kills people.””

    It’s because you expect a deity to be better than a human.

    If I was all powerful, I could think of any number of things that would be better and more just than ‘drowning everyone on the planet’. It smells of Bronze-age thinking, which is probably why it’s there.

  • Random Ntrygg

    Reading three books means you tripled how many books you’ve read – are you really saying you’ve read only 9 books in your life?

    I just don’t know how to respond to that.

    • areligiousexperiment

      I am saying that I am not a reader. I get bored quickly and don’t finish a lot of books so have read few books in their entirety. Exactly 9? I’m not sure of the exact number but the point is, these books had my attention the entire way through.

      • Random Ntrygg

        Oh, I totally get the bored part – I think that MTV primed my brain for the internet to completely destroy my ability to sustain ….something…..attention span? does that sound right?

        I grew up surrounded by books and both my parents read, so reading was something I learned before I could walk

        then it was nothing but toddling over to the book case and pulling all the books out and reorganizing them, getting them sticky and so forth.

        still, I generally have 3 or 4 books on the go at any time.

  • Random Ntrygg

    I recommend that if you are on a journey of discovery, that you read books that challenge what you currently beleive and see if you still beleive the same way after.

    if you only read material that reinforces, then your journey will be short and circular.

    • areligiousexperiment

      I completely agree! That is the exact reason I am on this journey, I began reading other viewpoints and questioning why I do believe what I believe. Have you done what you’re asking me to do? Why don’t you read one of the books I’ve suggested and I’ll read any book you suggest.

      • Random Ntrygg

        That sounds like a fun challenge.

        So the challenge is just about exposure to ideas – not trying to influence each other, just widen the view

        can you recommend a book you’ve read that wasn’t about Christianity?

        The book that I am suggesting for you is:

        The Secret Lives of Saints Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect by Daphne Bramham

        http://tinyurl.com/3m4r232

      • areligiousexperiment

        Yes, just widen our views. At this point, I cannot recommend a book not about Christianity because that is what I’ve read, I don’t want to recommend a book I have not read. Although I really do think you’d find “Letters from a Skeptic” interesting and would love to hear feed back from you on that particular book. Give me the word, and I’ll go get the book you chose for me.

  • Random Ntrygg

    what would you think about making this more personal and exchange snail mail addresses (privately) and mail each other the books to read?

  • An Experiement in books | Random Ntrygg

    […] happened upon Jenny’s post in which she talks about exposing herself to other […]

  • Random Ntrygg

    okay, funny story.

    It turns out that when I read the Saints book, I didn’t buy it – I borrowed it from a pal

    So I’ve ordered one from Chapters to be shipped to you, you should have it by Friday.

  • Interesting Book Challenge « A Religious Experiment

    […] couple weeks ago I posted about God’s Vengeance.    Nina, a fellow blogger ( Random Ntrygg) ran across my blog and had some comments.  After a […]

  • tobeforgiven

    The God of the OT and the God of the NT are the same. Infact the events of the OT directly point to the the promise of the NT. God is a God of Judgement and Wrath, but also a loving God. Go Figure!! In the Old Testament God lays down the law and says if anyone disobeys the law they will be put to death. WIthout that, Jesus’ death on the cross would make no sence. See, a punishement had to be paid for our sins, so God took that punishment himself. That was the point of Jesus, that is why God had to take human form in Jesus, cause God is God, and cannot suffer the way Christ suffered. God suffered the punishment for our sins so we would not have to.

    tobeforgiven.wordpress.com

  • dykewriter

    Reblogged this on dyke writer and commented:
    In 2011, I was surfing the blogosphere when I saw this sentence:

    I’ve read 3 different books, and a magazine article the past couple weeks, which has approximately now tripled my list of books read in my entire life!

    I had to talk to this blogger because I could not imagine a life without books.

    Jenny and I agreed to a book exchange challenge – which I must also state – that she won.

    and we exchanged a number of private emails, which meant a lot to me at a time when I really needed a friend.

    and the first one I found was a young Christian woman
    who was thinking about her life and her faith.

    at a time when I was thinking about my life

    and I did not expect to see this day

    December 31 2012

    So thank you Jenny.

    for helping to save my life.

    some of the good that I do from the time I met you onward

    belongs on your karmic balance sheet.

    your friend

    Nina Tryggvason

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