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Does the Old Testament accurately describe God? February 18, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, God, Religion, Theology.
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A few years ago, I set out on a very frustrating journey to declare that I do not believe that God is as the Old Testament describes him. Recently, I heard a clip from Richard Dawkins where he gave this description of God as he is described in the Old Testament:

“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.”

The first step in this journey was to question whether or not the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible is accepted as the authentic, infallible Word of God, then we have no choice but to accept the description of God as described by Richard Dawkins because it is an accurate description based on Scripture (see this link for a sample).

I call this a frustrating journey because Christians are proud of this description of God. Just today I was greeted with the following email entitled “Do Not Mock The Lord.” Here’s a sampling of what it said:

It is written in the Bible (Galatians 6:7): “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Here are some men and women who mocked God:

JOHN LENNON: Some years before, during his interview with an American Magazine, he said: “Christianity will end, it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that. I am certain. Jesus was ok, but his subjects were too simple, today we are more famous than Him” (1966). Lennon, after saying that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, was shot six times..

TANCREDO NEVES (President of Brazil ): During the Presidential campaign, he said if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would remove him from Presidency. Sure he got the votes, but he got sick a day before being made President, then he died.

CAZUZA (Bi-sexual Brazilian composer, singer and poet): During a show in Canecïo ( Rio de Janeiro ), whilst smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said: “God, that’s for you.” He died at the age of 32 of AIDS in a horrible manner.

THE MAN WHO BUILT THE TITANIC: After the construction of the Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: “Not even God can sink it” The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic.

MARILYN MONROE: She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she said: “I don’t need your Jesus”. A week later, she was found dead in her apartment.

BON SCOTT: The ex-vocalist of the AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he sang: “Don’t stop me, I’m going down all the way, down the highway to hell”. On the 19th of February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, he had been choked by his own vomit.

Christine Hewitt: A Jamaican Journalist and entertainer, said the Bible (Word of God) was the worst book ever written, in June 2006 she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.

Of course, the email closed with a call for salvation. The question that came to mind after reading through the email is why would anyone want to serve a God who was just described as a killer? If someone turns to God out of fear of being killed, is that what God wants?

I continue to contend that there is no way that the creator of the universe is accurately described in the Old Testament or in this email. The sooner Christians come to terms with this, the quicker we can get on with preaching the gospel of peace and compassion.

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Comments»

1. doc - February 18, 2007

I continue to contend that there is no way that the creator of the universe is accurately described in the Old Testament or in this email.

I’m with you there, Roopster.

As I have said so many times before, the God of the O.T. was perceived by by those who only knew fear, guilt, and shame, these being like dark veils that do not allow us to see His Perfection. So it is they talked about God as being all those things.

And that quote from Galatians? I figure it’s just saying “What goes around comes around”, in the sense that we will receive what we give to others, as opposed to getting punished for daring to question authority.

IOW, if we say there is no God, or that we are more important than God, then most likely people will not believe in us, nor will they think we are important.

The key here, then, is to show others that they are indeed important and worthy of life, simply because they are alive.

And we do this by loving and caring for others as we would like to be loved and cared for, rather than trying to scare them into servitude with stupid e-mails like that one.

doc

2. kiwimac2 - February 19, 2007

(About the email), It is a crock of that which enhances plant growth, and it is very strong, such that none may abide it.

3. logos - February 19, 2007

Dawkins simply has a self-serving Atheistic agenda to trash God (and it doesn’t hurt to–as do the sleazy Christian hucksters–make a lot of money off the rubes who buy such books).

To ignore context is the first step toward stupid conclusions. Dawkins leaped, no, catapulted there.

The context of the O.T. was the attempt by the Jews to convince themselves and their enemies that they were special, that their God was a formidable and bloodthirsty warrior God, and that they, themselves, were great warriors and EVERYBODY better step aside or die.

So they wrote stories that fit their need.

Didn’t have anything to do with God, but instead, a strategy.

This is actually a strategy to prevent death, because if everybody runs from you in terror–you obviously are not going to have a bloody battle with them.

Your legend has preceded you and even though it’s a pack of lies…..it scares people.

All perfectly logical and understandable.

Sort of like the cat who spits, hisses and puffs up to twice her real size when danger threatens–she has found a way to scare off an enemy and avoid bloodshed.

If, like Dawkins, you get STUCK on that propaganda…..AND you ignore the fact that God was constantly telling those Jews (whenever she could get a word in edgewise amongst the propaganda) to love, to show mercy, to strive for justice and to care for the poor and weak……well, of course you’ll come to a stupid conclusion.

It’s inevitable.

Context, context, context.

Jesus understood this and interpreted the old stories correctly–but the Jews killed him for it and, even today, nobody really listens to his message.

Pax!

4. Paulie - February 19, 2007

Dawkins has been challenged as being angry, intolerant (a very popular one), and so forth. The truth is he is only calmly and patiently stating what kind of ridiculous results one gets when one takes the language of religious scripture (including, but not limited to, the O.T.) literally. If everyone who holds to religious belief understood scripture as Logos does, Dawkins would have no complaint with them, but that’s not the case. Rather, important matters (from issues of national public policy to personal decisions) are being decided by people who believe in the Bible literally and on the basis of those literalist beliefs.

Dawkins is suggesting that this is not a very rational or intelligent way for people to make important decisions. He’s got a point. He addresses the “God of the Old Testament” as he finds him in the literal text, rather than “in context,” because that’s precisely how the literalists with whom he takes issue approach and understand God. Dawkins, in other words, structures his analysis and argument to address the stance of those against whose literalist reading he intends to argue. Why is this surprising?

I particularly find the “intolerant” label fascinating. People are insecure about, and unwilling to permit any rational, objective criticism of, their religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are uniquely privileged, by social taboo, against such criticism under a liberal, in this case mistaken, notion of “tolerance.” Yet we would never insist that others respect our personally held views on geography or history or economics, for example, out of some kind of self-imposed, misguided sense of “tolerance.” Nobody who openly criticizes another person’s beliefs regarding the exact location of Hawaii or the exact time of Queen Victoria’s reign or whether communism or capitalism is a better system, for example, gets labeled “intolerant” for doing so.

If I attack somebody personally and gratuitously, I’m being intolerant. If I challenge their views – on any matter, theological, economical, historical, etc. – politely, patiently, objectively, and rationally, then I’m not at all being intolerant. But that’s all Dawkins is doing.

5. CrownRightsPatriot - February 19, 2007

The gospel of peace and compassion is the gospel of God’s wrath. How do you prevent God from pouring out His wrath? By preaching the gospel of peace and compassion.It’s because of people who disdain God’s counsel and turn to such vile and often violent lifestyles as drug dealing, prostitution, and the like that God has been provoked to kill so many Americans so violently (e.g. 9/11/01).

6. Roopster - February 19, 2007

Here’s what CRP posted on another blog in regards to Dawkins statement:

CrownRightsPatriot said…

The God of the Old Testament:
— Jealous? Amen. His name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14)
— Proud? Nothing to my knowledge indicates pride.
— Unjust? False. Prove he’s unjust.
— Petty? (i.e. Insignificant?) Where’d he get this from?
— Unforgiving? False. He’s longsuffering (Exodus 34:6).
— Control-freak? Amen (Romans 11:36).
— Vindictive? (i.e. vengeful) Amen.
— “bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser”? No proof.
— Misogynistic? False. Exodus 21:12
— Homophobic? Not literally afraid of homosexuals; however, God hates sodomites (Leviticus 18:22).
— Racist? False, prove it.
— Infanticidal? Amen (Hosea 13:16).
— Genocidal? Amen (Isaiah 45:7).
— Filicidal? Amen (Leviticus 20:9).
— Pestilential? Amen (I Samuel 2:6).
— Megalomaniacal? No, God is quite certain He is Supreme. It’s no delusion.
— Sadomasochistic? False. See Jeremiah 8:18-9:3; Micah 1:8; Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11). However, He does mock at the destruction of the wicked (Deuteronomy 28:63).
— Capriciously malevolent? (i.e. unpredictably hateful) False. Prove it.
— Bully? Well, He is God after all, which means He exercises absolute control over His entire creation. So I guess you could say He’s a bully for all the mean things He does to you; but at the same time, He’s often giving you a blessing in disguise (e.g. when you learn a moral lesson after having suffered a great loss).

Thoughts?

7. Roopster - February 20, 2007

BTW CRP, I’ve concluded that your blog and posts must be a parody of someone who is as extreme as they can get. I find it hard to believe that someone really believes God was the one who killed Americans in 9/11.

8. little_tree - February 20, 2007

Hi Roopster

“Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust,unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

The first step in this journey was to question whether or not the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible is accepted as the authentic, infallable Word of God, then we have no choice but to accept the description of God as described by Richard Dawkins because it is an accurate description based on Scripture (see this link for a sample).

regarding this “balanced non prejudiced” description that apparantly we have no choice but to accept.

By now I trust you see that I am not one of the angry “vocal minority” “christians”. Nor am I one that has overturned centuries of understanding in order to be modern and acceptable to PC perceptions.

Rather than get caught in the trap of having to justify every non PC thing of the OT again I refer to the simple but powerful position that the OT was one of law the NT of grace and truth.

Neither unfortunately for the PC moralistic worldview paints God as the father of all sugar daddies. If He was then why hasnt he sorted out the worlds problems and made us all “PC good”.

It isnt going to happen because amongst other things that isnt how He is.

Personally I feel the endless critisicm of the OT is doubly fruitless – mainly because it is past and gone – the NT is the covenant that is cut for our age – of course if thats not to our taste then we can try to dream up our own and that perhaps is the real reason behind the arguments that have been churned out about biblical literalism.

9. Virginia - February 20, 2007

I choose to believe that the God of the OT was created by men to justify their bloodthirsy ethnic and religious genocide.

Numbers 31: 6And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

7And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

8And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

9And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

10And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

11And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts……….

14And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

15And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

End quotation

Having God justify their genocide must have made their cultural consciences feel better.

So, here is the question. If we accept this, that parts of the Bible were created by man for their own justification, which other parts were also created apart from any universal truth?

Virginia

10. Mark Wilson - February 20, 2007

hiI just found your other blog. ;)> I continue to contend that there> is no way that the creator of the > universe is accurately described> in the Old TestamentI contend that He is.> The sooner Christians come to> terms with this, the quicker we> can get on with preaching the> gospel of peace and compassion.Paul in Romans says that we had to go through the law in order to appreciate grace.In a sense it’s wonderful that you’re considering the “justice” side of God… because when you do, you’ll be able to more accurately value His loving grace side.To only teach peace and compassion is to be ineffective. I’ll explain why.If people don’t see that their sins bring evil on themselves and on others – then what’s their motivation to ask Christ to wash them clean of their sins?If there is no problem, then there is no problem. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!So by denying the justice aspect of God, you actually have no need to teach peace and compassion to people.They have no need of being taught by you about coming into a peaceful relationship with God, if they are not first taught by you that they are sinners and their sin drives God nuts.The core problem (according to me) is that you (probably) don’t believe that humanity is fallen and separated from God.If we are fallen… then it makes sense that our relationship with Him is damaged by sin… then it makes sense that we need a way out of this sin and a way back into a peaceful relationship with Him.No fallenness, no sin, no justice, no need for a saviour, no Jesus, no grace.What do you have then? Certainly not Christianity. A new New Age teaching perhaps?God bless you,Mark.

11. CrownRightsPatriot - February 20, 2007

Roopster,You wrote: “BTW CRP, I’ve concluded that your blog and posts must be a parody of someone who is as extreme as they can get. I find it hard to believe that someone really believes God was the one who killed Americans in 9/11.”You’re not the only one thought my blog was a parody. But it’s not.Why did God kill people on 9/11? Wrath (Romans 1:18), for one thing. But the thing is, everyone who has ever died has done so because God has killed them. I Samuel 2:6 says that the Lord kills and makes alive. But that’s not all — God exercises absolute control over His entire creation. ALL THINGS are of Him, through Him, and to Him, including death (Romans 11:36).That’s the Truth. I actually don’t see how it’s all that extreme to say that God killed those people on 9/11. It’s simply the natural conclusion drawn from a certain definition of God — one of total control over all that happens. This includes death, however painful that truth may be.

12. Roopster - February 20, 2007

CRP,

That is actually one way to look at things. God is God and he’s also the creator of evil and is in total control of the universe. Nothing happens beyond his control. Satan and humans are pawns to his will. All life and death are according to his plan. Earthquakes, hurricanes, disasters, etc. are all his way of judging his creation. If someone dies, it’s because God planned it.

And if he created us to serve and worship him, it’s irrelevant if he’s a monster (by human defintion) or not. We still have to comply or burn in hell forever.

That view actually answers all the questions that we ever could have about God, the Bible, the origins of evil, etc.

Job would be a perfect example of this in action. He was just a pawn in a cosmic game between God and Satan. Job’s family were killed but that was ok because it was all a part of God’s plan to test Job.

He has a good side, at times, but death and destruction seem to dominate his time.

Is that pretty much what you’re saying?

13. CrownRightsPatriot - February 20, 2007

Roopster,I say Amen to everything you said except the very last statement: “He has a good side, at times, but death and destruction seem to dominate his time.”The “good side” and the “death and destruction” are one in the same. Every time God executes His fiery wrath, someone else observing these events learns a moral lesson.Job experienced what he experienced and learned something from it. He suffered, but held to his faith and learned that suffering leads to growth.God created good and evil to come together for good. When the most righteous man you know dies, you may later discover that this was to your benefit — to teach you not to dwell on God’s judgments, but to simply move on with your life. As it is said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And I say, who kills? God. Who makes us stronger? God. That’s the message.

14. joy - February 24, 2007

WOW. What a great post and I TOTALLY agree- I may have to put a link to this post of yours on my blog.

15. Kievas - February 26, 2007

Just found your blog through the Moderate Christian Blogroll–welcome!

You seem to be discussing topics that I’ve struggled with for a while. I think that, if you take the Bible (both OT and NT) literally then yes, God is capable and responsible for all that we consider “evil” as well as good.

My own perception is that the authors, although inspired by God, were still human, and wrote from their frame of reference. Lately, I’ve become more and more aware of just how much violence in the OT was justified by claims of it being mandated by God. I don’t see that as the God I know and worship.

16. skywhale - March 4, 2007

Go to http://www.pathwork.org/lecturesObtaining.html and read Lecture 52, then 19 to 22. You will find an intelligence which will give you some peace of mind.

17. roopster - March 4, 2007

Thanks sw, I’ll check it out.

18. skywhale - March 4, 2007

Cool. BTW, 19-22 are summarized on my blog. Here’s an abbreviated summary of 52:

The Biblical prohibition against creating an “image” of God refers to a mental as well as physical image.

Because we learn as children that God is the highest authority, we project our own attitudes about authority onto God. As children, we experience parental and other authorities either as hostile and prohibitive, or as indulgent and benign. Usually currents based on our reactions to both of these authority types exist in us, each activated by different childhood experiences, and each current affects our relation to God on a subtle level and creates a corresponding God-image.

Where there is a false image of God as unjust and cruel, we may inappropriately react with either rejection of or submission to this perceived God. In the case of an image of God as indulgent, and a corresponding expectation that our lives will be pleasant, we are thrown into confusion and fear by the way we experience adverse consequences flowing from our inner negative currents without understanding the causal connection.

Both images exist in each of us to some extent. Their existence, in spite of our conscious convictions, and the particular childhood experiences which activated them, need to be discovered. We may struggle to resolve which is correct, but the truth is that neither one is.

To dissolve a false image, one must CONFRONT it, and then, without artificially suppressing the image, COMPARE it to what is true. Some aspects of the truth may be apparent; others require prayer, and it is important to BE AWARE of blocks to receiving knowledge.

The remedy for a perception of God as unjust, or as pampering and indulgent, is the same: DISCOVERING the unconscious currents responsible for our negative life circumstances, so we can see how it is we who create our own lives. This requires us not to wallow in guilt and shame, but to face our shortcomings as the misconceptions they are.

It is helpful to think of God not in His/Her personal aspect, but as a pervasive, intelligent life current which is rendered good or bad by the way we choose to use it. God’s love is expressed in God’s laws, which automatically steer us towards the Light by causing us to suffer when we stray, but which preserve our free will to choose.

So it is not God who is unjust, but rather we who create apparent injustice by misusing the Great Creative Power at our disposal. Understanding this through doing the work of CONNECTING cause and effect in our own lives is tremendously reassuring and liberating. A good way to connect to our false God-image is to DISCOVER and CONTEMPLATE the ways in which we find ourselves more alive in negative situations than in positive ones.

19. Will the real god please stand up? « Seekism - March 16, 2007

[…] have all struggled with the Old Testament’s portrayal of God vs. the loving father image as portrayed in the New Testament. Many of us have also struggled with […]

20. Nate - March 20, 2007

I didn’t read every comment on here, but I did want to add something. It’s very difficult for us to label God or his motives. All of us in this life deal with a temporal perspective – none of us has experiences to draw on other than those in our own short lives. Whereas, God views things from an eternal perspective.

What I mean is this: I believe that the Old Testament is accurate, and that there was a point behind everything that God did. Most of those things allows us to understand a little more about God’s nature. For instance, God told the Israelites to wipe out all the inhabitants of Canaan. Why? Because those people all served idols, and God would not allow that temptation to remain for his people. Well, we too are supposed to rid our lives of temptation.

We see a big difference because God told them to annihilate entire nations. But again, compared to eternity, the time we spend here in this life is microscopic. God cares much more about our eternal wellfare than our physical one. Acts 17:30 tells us that God still saved many of the Gentiles, even when the Jews were his “chosen people;” he judged them on a moral law. So, many of the people from these nations that the Israelites destroyed still went to heaven. Perhaps God wasn’t being as cruel as we might first suspect.

I’ve read a couple of your blogs and like the fact that you seem to seriously consider religious issues, whereas so many today blindly follow or reject them. Keep up your search. But don’t assume that Dawkins’ take on the OT is accurate; personally, I found it rather reactionary.

The truth is out there, and if you continue to earnestly and honestly search for it, you’ll find it.

21. Nate - March 20, 2007

I just wanted to add one more thing. A while back, I wrote an article on this very subject. If you’d like to see it, here’s the link.


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