Misunderstanding God (Part 2)

We are in the midst of explaining a famous tirade from the New Atheist (no longer that new) Richard Dawkins. Here it is again for reference:

“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.”

Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion)

In my last entry I spoke of jealous, “petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak”. This week I would like to tackle, “vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser” for starters.

It is hard to accept that laws like “Thou shalt not kill” apply to us and not to God. God has created all living things and He alone reserves the right to bring about their demise. This does not mean that people cease to exist when someone takes their earthly life, but it does end their time here on Earth, at least temporarily, and that is a sacred thing. If it is left to him, God knows when it is just to end a life. This is not necessarily in old age.

That said, there are accounts in the Old Testament where God insisted on the extermination of certain people groups. His judgment, as their Creator, was that they no longer merited life on this Earth. Such was the severity of their evil. This is never taken lightly by God. Often God tolerates a nation for several generations until finally their actions bring action. No doubt the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), the call for the extermination of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 for their sins, several instances in Joshua for the command, Joshua 10:40 an example), and the destruction of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2-3) brought about Dawkins criticisms.

In Dawkins eyes, these are just myths created by the leadership of Israel to justify their ethnic cleansing. It would be a terrible thing to put these words in God’s mouth. But if God himself chooses such a thing, He will do so both justly and with full authority to do so. No doubt such a decision would grieve God that it would come to such a point. The same can be said with eternal judgment. It is not God’s preference, but sinners who reject the costly way of forgiveness and salvation leave no other options. God won’t just tolerate sin. That is a fact about God.

Is God “blood-thirsty”? In the Old Testament there are many accounts of war and killing. Not all are endorsed by God, but God does promise Israel defense from their enemies and their enemies are many. Many battles are defensive, some are offensive and some are even revenge. Would a “loving” God allow such things. If defense was needed either reactively or proactively, the initiators were the enemy. As mentioned before, God does bring judgment, even mortal judgment, on this side of Judgment Day. He can do this because He is the Creator of life and understands past, present and future, the motives of people’s hearts, even the corruption of their genetics. This covers a few more of Dawkin’s adjectives: infanticidal, genocidal.

“Blood-thirsty” could also refer to the biblical statement, “with the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This phrase refers to something sacred about blood. The wages of sin is death, both physically and in being forsaken by God. The willful sacrifice of Jesus’ blood pays the required price of sin.

The term “racist” also connects with God’s judgment of people groups. Without a doubt God favored the Jews above all other races during the period of the Old Testament. God does view people both as individuals and as members of a people group. Why? The Jews are chosen by God in response to a person of particular faith–Abraham. Through his genetic line a promise is given for every people group. Jesus would be born of this line and provide a way for forgiveness and eternal life for every people group. In fact, it is with the goal of bringing salvation to every people group. Why God wouldn’t select several lines for blessing is not information shared with us. It might be connected to how Satan or sinful nature impacted other people. God seems to look at people as members of people groups because genetics does come into play in two ways. It comes into play negatively, in that our predilection for sin comes via genetics. We are sinful from the “day my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:3) and we have a sinful nature. Genetics comes into play positively, in that God has expressed that His promise (the Gospel) and eternal life (salvation) has to reach every people group. In a sense, our genetics are a corrupted form of God’s Word. He created this mechanism to store the information to make us. “Racist” holds the negative connotation that God despises certain races. This does not hold up under the goal of reaching “all nations”.

Two more terms for this week: misogynistic and homophobic. The most common insults of our age. God created man and woman to be complementary equals. They are not identical. Nor is one valued more than the other. The long-running subjugation of women is a product of exposure to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In God’s explanation to Eve of what will happen next, God says:

Your desire will be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

Genesis 3:16b (ESV)

The original relationship between man and woman is now distorted leaving this unbalance in the wake. This is what sin does. Another part of the restriction of women is by God’s command. It is part of the unusual quality of God to assign roles based on some historical action. He does this also with the priesthood being assigned only to the tribe of Levi, because they alone obeyed Moses at a critical point. Here some roles are given to men because Eve initiated the original sin. You can call that odd but I wouldn’t call it misogynistic. It is not a hatred or fear of women.

Finally, “homophobic”. The most misused word. Homophobic means fear of homosexuals. God doesn’t fear them nor to most of people who are called that. God does call out homosexual behavior as sinful in both Old and New Testaments. Why? Sin is at its core a departure from the order that God placed in Creation. It is not difficult to see why homosexuality would be that. Sin isn’t just willful disobedience of Laws. Sin can be a part of us, even from birth.

There is not one way a person becomes homosexual. It does, however, start with something in our sinful nature (so we are born with that) and passes through a decision (a person embraces that identity contrary to God’s will). Gender stereotypes, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, loneliness, rejection by your sex, rejection by the opposite sex, poor parenting and other factors can also be involved. It is not disobedience in a vacuum. No sin is. That is why it is forgivable like all sins are. Jesus died for homosexuals. That is not homophobic.

There is still more from my friend Richard, but it will wait for next time.

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