May 03, 2012

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Is Dawkins Right About the "God of the Old Testament"? (Pt. 3 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 and Part 2 HERE.] Claim # 3: "The God of the Old Testament is...vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser..."-- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Is God a Vindictive, Bloodthirsty Ethnic Cleanser? The third claim is that God is a “vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.” There is legitimate evidence in the Torah for this claim. God kills the firstborn males in Egypt and “gives” them a land that requires cleansing it of its inhabitants. All along the way from Egypt to Canaan, there are people groups that Israel fight in battle, with YHWH providing the victory. (See: Amalekites.) But there is also a thread of God’s love and ultimate goal for ethnic outsiders. Right from the beginning, the plan is to bless “all the families of the earth.” As selective or exclusive as the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 appears to be, the point is always “all the families of the earth.” As C. S. Lewis once wrote, God uses the “chosen” for the sake of the “unchosen.” Abraham seems to grasp this when he prays for Sodom and Gomorrah—two cities that clearly fall in the “unchosen” category—to be spared despite their wickedness. Perhaps Abraham saw God’s redemption up close and personal in...
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Is Dawkins Right About the "God of the Old Testament"? (Pt. 5 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, Part 3 HERE, and Part 4 HERE.] Grace and Gospel in the Torah To briefly explore the question in the affirmative—if we ask what sort of God the Torah reveals YHWH to be—we find a portrait of a loving and gracious God. We see a God who creates the world on purpose, who blesses it and calls it good and beautiful. We see a God ho chose Abraham not because of anything Abraham had done, but simply by grace. We see a God who reminds Israel in Deuteronomy that God did not choose them, the descendents of Abraham, again in a fresh, existential way because of their size or strength. When God calls Mosese as the burning bush, He says that He has heard the cries of His people (Exodus 3). Salvation in the Torah is not dependent on obedience to the law. God saves Israel because He chose Israel, not the other way around. Then, when God gives them the commandments in the wilderness, these are not pre-requisites but confirmation of their status as His people. Just as a parent can only give a curfew to his or her own children, so YHWH give instructions to...

Glenn Packiam

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

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