God is Not a Monster
We live in a “post-modernist” world that, for the most part, denies the existence of a Creator, Designer God, and His standard of Truth. In fact, many today would echo the words of Pilate—“What is truth?”
Instead, science is the god of the New Atheists, where natural selection and random processes are put forward to explain all the diversity and beauty in nature, and truth is considered situational, relative, and fluid.
In this context, attacks on the God of the Bible have become more common and much more aggressive. Perhaps you have even heard it said that the God of the Old Testament is an angry, jealous, vengeful God that condones genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, slavery, and rape! Since God is now a target, anyone who believes in Him is considered either uninformed, at best, or complicit with such behavior and attitudes, at worst.
The Bible claims we are created “in the image of God.” To New Atheists like Daniel Dennett, this statement is an example of the God of the Bible being an egotistical maniac that craves praise and devotion and so makes copies of Himself out of vanity!
God wants to share His creation with humankind
But is that view justified and consistent with how the Bible presents God? By no means! To be made in the image of God, and to receive His gift of salvation, are expressions of God’s kindness and love, not divine arrogance. God wants to share His creation with humankind and gave the first couple dominion over the rest of creation to behave as wise and benevolent monarchs–to act as God Himself would.
Being in God’s image also relates to our ability to reason and make moral decisions. This priestly role was designed for humans, which, united with creative thought, was meant to allow us to care for and wisely harness creation. Nevertheless, God also allowed free will, and sadly, mankind has abused these privileges to the detriment of society and nature.
Rather than twisting the fact that we were made in God’s image into something negative about God’s motivation, we understand it as an expression of God’s desire to spread His wonderful characteristics of kindness, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
We see embodied in Jesus Christ the “fulness of God his Father,” and in Him, we see a loving, humble, devoted servant who was willing to give his life to save others. Even in society, such sacrifices are lauded and praised.
Any praise, worship or honor genuinely directed to God, or His Son Jesus, is not intended to pacify or placate a vain, power-hungry deity; rather, it is a heartfelt and appropriate reaction from those who are truly thankful for the great sacrifices made on our behalf and the great blessings given to us by God—including being made in His image.
Maybe you have struggled to read sections of the Bible that seem so foreign to our 21st-century norms and experiences. Many of our young people cringe when they read certain sections of the Old Testament. With the propaganda of the New Atheists dominating social media, we may not have answers to their questions.
In this series of articles, we hope to address some of these issues and encourage you to trust the Bible and its Divine author. We also hope to give some insights and suggestions on how we are to understand the difficult sections of the Bible.
We are taking the position that God is not a moral monster and that the claims against Him are either due to misunderstanding, misinformation, or in some cases, a deliberate and blatant attempt to denigrate the Christian God. In this first article, we will look at three overarching principles that relate to this topic.
God’s Methods Are Mysterious To Us.
In his book, Is God a Moral Monster? Paul Copan says, “The Scriptures reveal a God who works through messy, seemingly inefficient processes–including human choices and failures—to accomplish His redemptive purposes. God is always almost late!”
God rarely acts as we think He should
God rarely acts as we think He should, and He certainly does not do things the way we would if we were in charge! For example, He began the promise “your descendants will be as multitudinous as the stars in heaven and the sand on the seashore” with an elderly, infertile couple, Abraham and Sarah! Definitely not what we would have done.
God, Himself makes the following claim,
Instead of being critical of God’s methods and means, we should thank and praise Him for the wonder of His ways!
You Cannot Judge God or Jesus by the Actions of Their Professed Followers.
In fact, Jesus himself warned about this fallacy in Matthew 7:15, 22-23 (NET), where he says,
So, have professed Christians done terrible things? Yes. Does that mean there is a problem with the principles of Christianity? No! Have professed Atheists done good things? Yes. Does that mean that the principles of Atheism are a viable foundation on which to base society? Not necessarily! We must judge Atheism and Theism based on the principles each espouse.
Richard Dawkins speaks about the underpinnings of Atheism.
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life).
The logical conclusion of a cold, blind universe with no absolute authority means people can make their own decisions about what is right or wrong. People like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and many others made decisions that killed millions of people.
The following words of Jesus could summarize the principles of Christianity:
Would Jesus approve of what happened during the Inquisition, the Crusades or the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust? Certainly not! A society based on the principles of the Golden Rule espoused by Jesus would be one in which everyone would live with more care and concern for each other.
The contributions made by those motivated by the Golden Rule espoused by Jesus include preserving literature and encouraging literacy, advancing education, laying the foundations of modern science and cultivating art and music, which from a purely naturalistic worldview, contribute nothing to the preservation of the species! In fact, it was often the true followers of Christianity that promoted human rights, fought for better working conditions for people, and led the cause to overthrow slavery.
The Law of Moses Was Always Meant to be Temporary and Provisional.
The Law allowed for a transition from the family/tribal clans of the children of Israel to nationhood under judges and kings. The “Law of Moses” given by God at Sinai was a necessary part of God’s unfolding plan, but it was not God’s final word. It was given for a specific period and then set aside–not because it was a bad thing that now needed to be abolished, but because it was a good thing whose purpose had been accomplished.
How then did God address matters such as patriarchal structures, rights of the firstborn, polygamy, warfare, slavery, and several other fallen social provisions that were part of the culture of that day? How and why did God put up with situations that were so far from the ideal?
He met Israel partway.
As Jesus stated in Matthew 19:8, [The law of] “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way.”
We could apply this passage to many problematic structures within the ancient Near East context: We could say, “Because of your hard hearts, the Law of Moses permitted slavery and patriarchy, warfare and the like, and your actions sometimes caused God to become jealous and angry, but from the beginning, it was not this way.”
Although the Law made allowances for these things, it also implemented safeguards to prevent abuse. It curtailed and regulated the worst of human nature and enforced God’s standards of love, mercy, and kindness. It is important to understand that these allowances were not ideal or universal. They were meant to be temporary and transitional, leading Israel towards their Messiah—in whom they would see what God intended.
Like two sides of the same coin, we have human hard-heartedness on the one side and divine forbearance on the other. God put up with many aspects of human “fallenness” and adjusted accordingly. Ultimately, grace triumphed over law, but it took time.
In summary, God’s ways and methods may appear messy and inefficient to us, but through these processes, God transforms us, assuming we allow His word to change our hearts and minds. The principles of God’s word should determine His character, not the misbehavior of those professing to act in His name!
We must be careful to manifest the true characteristics of Yahweh, lest we bring disrepute to His name! And finally, Israel’s Old Testament covenant, or law, is not a universal ideal or standard and was never intended to be so!
In our next article, we plan to look more closely at what the Bible says about slavery.
Collingwood Ecclesia, ON