“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.”