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Old 04-26-2008, 12:20 PM
 
Location: San Diego, CA
397 posts, read 630,313 times
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I have a question that I would like Christians to respond to. Even though I am an atheist, I don't wish to argue about the existence of God in this question. Let's assume, for purposes of this question, as you believe, that he does exist.

Having recently read Richard Dawkins's book, The God Delusion [an excellent book for everyone to read, including I suppose theists who wish to think about and strengthen their faith], it reminded me of a question I have found puzzling for quite some time. In the OT, God does some incredibly cruel things - he singles out the nation of the Jews, orders them to kill other tribes, orders them to keep any virgins for themselves, punishes unbelievers without any mercy, holds Jephta to his bargain to kill his daughter etc.

How do you, as presumably intelligent and civilized Christians explain this nature of God?

(a) I am aware that some Christians describe the OT as merely symbolic or allegorical etc. But symbolic of what? What do these stories stand for? Do you believe that any of these are true or that they show anything about the character of God?

(b) I know that Christians place great emphasis on the new covenant of the NT - sort of a "new" God of mercy. But how do you square the fact that the "new" God of mercy was really the same God of the OT? Do you believe his nature changed? As far as I know, there are verses stating something to the effect of God is the same, will never change etc.

(c) If you accept this new covenant, why would God not do it from the beginning? If you happened to be born to the wrong tribe during the OT, you were pretty much SOL. Why would God suddenly becomes so inclusive in the NT?

This post is not intended to be confrontational or sarcastic. I would really love to hear some sincere and intellectual responses, since I find this question very interesting. Feel free to answer in any format, or use the subquestions above.

Thanks.
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Old 04-26-2008, 02:45 PM
 
Location: Hot-Houston Texas
20,050 posts, read 21,041,058 times
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I understand how this can be confusing to someone who does not believe in God. But you have to look at the time it was written and who it was written to. Each book has a purpose. The cruel things you speak of are results of sin. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I believe the Bible is built around the beautiful story of Christ and His promise of eternal life to those who accept Him.
I believe there is a God, a Heaven, a hell and a Savior. This probably doesn't even begin to answer your questions, hopeful someone else will come in do a better job, but this is what I believe.
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Old 04-26-2008, 03:43 PM
 
90 posts, read 167,432 times
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First off, I approach this humbly because I don't believe that anyone can fully understand the true nature of an infinite God. There are some things that as a believer, I have to take on faith and say "God is good and He never does things without a purpose. While I don't fully understand it, I don't have to, because He is God and I am not." But, here goes....

I believe that the Bible is historically accurate, not merely symbolic or allegorical. God is and has always been both infinitely just (which includes being wrathful) and infinitely merciful. I actually think that sometimes Christians today focus so much on the mercy part that they forget that God is a god of justice. We are all sinners and deserve nothing more than God's wrath. Because God is holy, He cannot accept sin. It must be punished. The Jews in the OT had to make blood sacrifices for their sins. These sacrifices had to be made over and over again because people continued to sin. People outside of "God's chosen people" were not given this provision for sin. Why? Because God said so. If the Bible gives another reason, I don't recall it.

What changed between the NT and new covenant and the OT and old covenant is that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and became the ultimate blood sacrifice for sin. He basically said "while you deserve to die because of your sin, I will die in your place. If you accept my sacrifice on your behalf, I will take the punishment due you." God can accept this because sin was punished (justice) but provision is made for sinners (mercy). As to your question as to why God waited until then, I don't know the answer to that one. I do know that if we didn't know about and understand the old covenant, we probably would not be so grateful for the new covenant. God reveals how merciful He is to us by showing us what life would have been like under the old covenant.

The "horrible" things God did in the OT are really what we all deserve. The people then got nothing less than what was coming to them. We are very lucky in that we live in a time when provision has been made for our sin. It is a gift. And it was God's choice to whom to give that gift. Is that fair? I look at it this way, if I in kindness decide to give $10,000 to a person on the street, is it right for the other people that I didn't give a gift to to be mad at me because I didn't give it to them, too?

I'm not sure that was helpful, but hey, I tried .
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Old 04-26-2008, 03:50 PM
 
Location: The world, where will fate take me this time?
3,163 posts, read 7,850,493 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gretchen_SDCA View Post
I have a question that I would like Christians to respond to. Even though I am an atheist, I don't wish to argue about the existence of God in this question. Let's assume, for purposes of this question, as you believe, that he does exist.
imho, one of God's attributes is that he is changeless thus his nature remains the same for eternity, however all what spawns from him is subject to change, so in the times of the OT mankind consciousness was not as developed as it is now, this explains their perception of God on those times, that's why Jesus had to incarnate on earth to give people the example of how would God behave if he was a human being, but due to the fact that human consciousness was still very primitive when Jesus came, a lot of people rejected his ideas and his life ended in crucifixion, yet for those fortunate souls who got the message God became synonim of Jesus Compassion, Forgiveness, Peace, Love and divine nature.

Even though our understanment of God is better than in those times, human consciousness hasn't developed yet to it's full potential so we still don't interpret God's nature or Jesus teachings as they were intended, this is the reason of the divisions between different religions, the idea of eternal punishment and the aparently opposite postures of religion and science, however as we continue evolving our understandment of God will be superior the same with our consciousness and spiritual level.

Last edited by Travelling fella; 04-26-2008 at 04:03 PM..
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Old 04-26-2008, 04:04 PM
 
Location: NW Arkansas
3,981 posts, read 5,395,555 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Megande View Post
First off, I approach this humbly because I don't believe that anyone can fully understand the true nature of an infinite God. There are some things that as a believer, I have to take on faith and say "God is good and He never does things without a purpose. While I don't fully understand it, I don't have to, because He is God and I am not." But, here goes....

I believe that the Bible is historically accurate, not merely symbolic or allegorical. God is and has always been both infinitely just (which includes being wrathful) and infinitely merciful. I actually think that sometimes Christians today focus so much on the mercy part that they forget that God is a god of justice. We are all sinners and deserve nothing more than God's wrath. Because God is holy, He cannot accept sin. It must be punished. The Jews in the OT had to make blood sacrifices for their sins. These sacrifices had to be made over and over again because people continued to sin. People outside of "God's chosen people" were not given this provision for sin. Why? Because God said so. If the Bible gives another reason, I don't recall it.

What changed between the NT and new covenant and the OT and old covenant is that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and became the ultimate blood sacrifice for sin. He basically said "while you deserve to die because of your sin, I will die in your place. If you accept my sacrifice on your behalf, I will take the punishment due you." God can accept this because sin was punished (justice) but provision is made for sinners (mercy). As to your question as to why God waited until then, I don't know the answer to that one. I do know that if we didn't know about and understand the old covenant, we probably would not be so grateful for the new covenant. God reveals how merciful He is to us by showing us what life would have been like under the old covenant.

The "horrible" things God did in the OT are really what we all deserve. The people then got nothing less than what was coming to them. We are very lucky in that we live in a time when provision has been made for our sin. It is a gift. And it was God's choice to whom to give that gift. Is that fair? I look at it this way, if I in kindness decide to give $10,000 to a person on the street, is it right for the other people that I didn't give a gift to to be mad at me because I didn't give it to them, too?

I'm not sure that was helpful, but hey, I tried .
I think you did a very good job.

I would like to add another thought. God had the Israelites eliminate the evil nations, because He wanted to keep a pure God fearing nation. A nation of His own people who knew and worshipped Him. It didn't work due to the disobedience of the Israelites. He, God , gave them chance after chance to shape up...but they kept going back to their disobedient ways.

Thank God we are not still under the old law. All of us 'gentiles' would have not had much chance to be God's people. Now all can be the spiritual Israel of God.
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Old 04-26-2008, 06:28 PM
 
Location: Missouri
629 posts, read 714,715 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marianinark View Post

I would like to add another thought. God had the Israelites eliminate the evil nations, because He wanted to keep a pure God fearing nation. A nation of His own people who knew and worshipped Him.
Comments like these make me think that Christians really dont 'think' that much.

Here's a scenario: Your country is about to be invaded by a stronger power. They say it is because your nation has offended them. They send a message to the Govt and say that if you surrender and become citizens of their country, they will spare everybody's life. Otherwise, EVERYONE will die. Do you think that you as an individual, would have a say? What if your Govt refused, but you wanted to live, you and your 3 little children and the one you are due to have in 3 months time. Dont you think that would be horrific, a genocide, a great injustice, especially on the part of your innocent children, who have never offended anyone?

And yet...this is the justice of the God of the OT? I understand the need for punishing persistent wrongdoers, but how can you say that this is a loving God, who does unspeakably bad things to further his higher purpose.

Didnt Hitler want a pure nation, blond, blue eyed Aryans. He was only doing the same as God wasnt he? Trying to create a pure nation. Maybe you approve of what he did?

People should give closer consideration to what they are actually passing off as something quite trivial, when in reality, if it happened today, the whole world would condemn it as a barbaric sadistic, evil act.
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Old 04-26-2008, 07:15 PM
 
Location: Mississippi
6,597 posts, read 8,747,979 times
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For God so loved the world he gave his only forgotten son... Prior to that... For God so loved the world he was nothing less than a monster.

I know we've hashed this similar topic out several times on this board but I really do not find the answers that Christians give to be satisfying. If I did believe in the Christian God, I don't think I would like him or respect him very much. In the regular world, someone who has even come close to committing the acts that God did in the Old Testament would always be shunned from society and regarded with caution no matter what a good samaritan they claim to be later in life. It's just one of the major hangups I have with the Christian religion and I suppose I'm just doomed to never understand it.
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Old 04-26-2008, 07:40 PM
 
Location: San Diego, CA
397 posts, read 630,313 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GCSTroop View Post
For God so loved the world he gave his only forgotten son... Prior to that... For God so loved the world he was nothing less than a monster.

I know we've hashed this similar topic out several times on this board but I really do not find the answers that Christians give to be satisfying. If I did believe in the Christian God, I don't think I would like him or respect him very much. In the regular world, someone who has even come close to committing the acts that God did in the Old Testament would always be shunned from society and regarded with caution no matter what a good samaritan they claim to be later in life. It's just one of the major hangups I have with the Christian religion and I suppose I'm just doomed to never understand it.
Yes, I had kind of similar thoughts. First of all, I want to thank everyone who attempted to give an answer and taking the time to do so. However, I have problems with several issues that GCSTroop and Ringwielder pointed out:

1. ILoveNorthCarolina pointed out that all those horrible things were the effects of sin. Really? Even if you accept that evil happens as a result of original sin, this does not happen why God actively encouraged the killing of thousands just because (1) he did not reveal himself to them and could not possibly have even known all of his commandments and (2) he wanted to preserve the faith and obedience of his select. I just cannot believe that.

2. What about Jephthah's daughter? What about Moses instructing the Israelites to kill all the Midianites, except the women who were virgins so they could be with them, i.e. rape them. [Numbers 31:18] - the OT God is on his side.

3. I'm sorry, but just "we cannot understand God" would not be enough for me.

If anyone else has some more ideas of reconciling the OT God to modern Christianity, I would be very interested to hear them.
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Old 04-26-2008, 10:16 PM
 
Location: Hot-Houston Texas
20,050 posts, read 21,041,058 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gretchen_SDCA View Post
Yes, I had kind of similar thoughts. First of all, I want to thank everyone who attempted to give an answer and taking the time to do so. However, I have problems with several issues that GCSTroop and Ringwielder pointed out:

1. ILoveNorthCarolina pointed out that all those horrible things were the effects of sin. Really? Even if you accept that evil happens as a result of original sin, this does not happen why God actively encouraged the killing of thousands just because (1) he did not reveal himself to them and could not possibly have even known all of his commandments and (2) he wanted to preserve the faith and obedience of his select. I just cannot believe that.

2. What about Jephthah's daughter? What about Moses instructing the Israelites to kill all the Midianites, except the women who were virgins so they could be with them, i.e. rape them. [Numbers 31:18] - the OT God is on his side.

3. I'm sorry, but just "we cannot understand God" would not be enough for me.

If anyone else has some more ideas of reconciling the OT God to modern Christianity, I would be very interested to hear them.
Because Midianites were responsible for enticing Israel into Baal worship, God commanded Israel to destroy them, but Israel took the women as captives rather than killing them, probably because of the tempting enticements of the Midianites sinful lifestyle. What you mention in verse 18 was not commanded by God, it was done by man not listening to God.
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Old 04-26-2008, 11:19 PM
 
Location: Victoria, BC.
24,939 posts, read 18,532,301 times
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In my opinion defending the god of the old testament is not possible..He was nothing more than an evil monster.
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