Monday, February 16, 2009

Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster?

That is a question that gets raised by a lot of the New Athiests. And there is probably no more passionate defender of atheism than Richard Dawkins of Oxford University.

Here are his devotional thoughts on the God of the Old Testamet:

“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.”
Hey...Richard...tell us how you really feel.

What can / should a Christian say in response to this?

First, Christians recognize that the God of the OT is the God of the NT--they are one and the same. So however we answer this, we can't right the OT off.

Second, We live in a fallen, broken world; God did not do this to us or intend this for us, humanity did this to ourselves by rejecting God. This is important because God used Israel (a deeply flawed people just like everyone else in the Ancient Near East) to be a force for good in the world...but Israel was not God's ideal community. He worked with fallen people in a very violent society to help show a better way and prepare the way for the messiah.

Now, none of these take away the bite of the passages that seem to advocate genocide in the OT. But they help us better appreciate the situation.

Dr. Paul Copan has written a thoughtful article engaging this issue called Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics

It is well worth a read. He also deals with issues like this in That's Just Your Interpretation

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