May 02, 2012

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Is Dawkins Right About the "God of the Old Testament"? (Pt. 2 of 5) [EDITOR'S NOTE: The following six-part series of blogs are adapted from a paper I wrote this year in my Pentateuch class with Dr. John Goldingay at Fuller Theological Seminary. These thoughts are not meant to be the final word on the matter, nor to form a sort of apologetic against atheists. This is not material for an argument. It is simply a response based on a closer reading of the Torah-- the first five books of the Bible. My hope is that it will help Christians avoid simplistic views about the "God of the Old Testament. Read Part 1 HERE.] Claim #2: "The God of the Old Testament is...a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak."-- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Is God a Petty, Unjust Control-Freak? The second claim is that God is “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak.” We will deal with the “unforgiving” claim as a subset of the next claim that the Old Testament God is vindictive. The rest of these claims could be further separated and dealt with, but they are interconnected. Let us assume for the moment that Dawkins knows that they are. It would seem, however, that he does not know how these things are connected. For example, one could make the case that to have any rules at all is to be “petty” and “controlling.” But to have no rules would be unjust. Genesis 4 shows us what happens without clear instructions from YHWH. Two brothers, left to sort out how to “love God and love each other” end up in relational tension. YHWH warns Cain to do what it is right, but he disregards it and kills Abel (as pictured above in the Il Tintorreto painting). YHWH then banishes Cain. The story serves as instruction—the word “Torah” means instruction not laws—for future generations about God’s...
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Is Dawkins Right About the "God of the Old Testament"? (Pt. 4 of 5) [EDITOR'S NOTE: The following six-part series of blogs are adapted from a paper I wrote this year in my Pentateuch class with Dr. John Goldingay at Fuller Theological Seminary. These thoughts are not meant to be the final word on the matter, nor to form a sort of apologetic against atheists. This is not material for an argument. It is simply a response based on a closer reading of the Torah-- the first five books of the Bible. My hope is that it will help Christians avoid simplistic views about the "God of the Old Testament. Read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.] Claim # 4: "The God of the Old Testament is...a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."-- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Is God a Malevolent Bully? The fourth and final claim is that the God of the Old Testament is a “misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Here Dawkins gives up totally on a reasoned critique and starts shooting out phrases that form poetic cadences on paper. He is saying—with one enormously large sweep—that YHWH hates gays and Gentiles, and kills babies, whole people groups, someone else’s sons and daughters, and crops and livestock for the sake of his love of self, love of suffering, and just for the fun of it, simply because He can. There are several assumptions built into this last tirade. They must be taken one by one to see what the Torah has to say about them. The first assumption is that just because God prohibits something He hates it. “Hate” is an interesting word in the Torah. In the ESV, hate is never used to describe how God feels about anyone. It frequently describes how...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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