Painting an overly flowery view of God


#1

I’ve been reading my bible a lot and it seems to me that we often paint on overly flowery picture of God. Just a few months ago someone was saying that the flood was a myth and said something like, “a loving God wouldn’t take part in genocide”. With all of these pictures of how loving God is, (which he is!), the scriptures have God doing some harsh, angry, seemingly mean things. For example, in Samuel:


#2

And this is just one example of something difficult to explain that seems uncharacteristic of a God that is restorative and benevolent. I recently opened up my bible and ended up reading the last chapter of Judges which was also difficult to understand,men stealing women to be their wives. Albeit less difficult to understand than this passage. And then there was David, I think it was, that went out and killed 20 Phillistines at Saul’s request to prove he was worthy of marriage to one of his daughters. And he did it? What are these people thinking? Are we just so far out of their day and age that we just don’t understand? Were they hearing wrong from God, influenced by their culture? Are we just hearing better today with the revelation of Jesus? I really want to know, too, people’s take on dirtboy’s question.


#3

Remember that bit where the Israelites began sacrificing their babies to God? God replied that such a thought never so much as entered his mind (even though their religious leaders obviously thought it did.) I suspect that many a dark deed attributed to God in the OT never so much as entered his mind (even though certain Biblical writers and editors thought it did.)

Nothing has changed. We must think for ourselves. We must choose the God we serve.

A second possibility is that the dark events themselves are not historical, but are sacred history, allegory and myth. You can’t blame God for annihilating Jericho using Joshua as his instrument if Joshua himself is in fact a legend or a literary device.

A third possibility is that the dark deeds really happened, were done at God’s command, and were wise, necessary and proportionate. Perhaps God was excising a malignant social cancer. Perhaps the world today would be a far worse place if God had *not *acted as he did.


#4

It depends a lot on what happens to them after death. Ironically, depending on what Hell is like, it could actually bring them to repentance & reconciliation sooner than if they had lived out their 60 years on earth first (assuming the life expectancy was even that). There are many variables we don’t see, by taking their earthly life from them early, He may have spared them, or someone else, from something terrible, which we aren’t privy to.

Alternatively if I was a believer in ECT/P, I’d say why does God bother drawing things out, why not throw all the non-elect straight into hell. i.e. this life is just getting the reprobates’ hopes up :frowning:


#5

There are a lot of numbers in the Bible that appear to be symbolic. 70,000 is an excellent example! Any time I read a number 7, or some multiple, such as 7 x 10^4 (or 70 x 10^3), I understand it to be talking about some kind of heavenly perfection. In this case, I read 70,000 not to be equal to 70,000 individual people, but to represent “the right number of people.” In modern society, we want precision - give me the actual numbers! But I am convinced that the Bible uses numbers primarily in a symbolic way.


#6

Thanks Carrots. That’s a very helpful way of looking at it.


#7

Stuff and nonsense. It is inconceivable to the modern mind how brutal, how primitive, how UnCIVILIZED the world was thousands of years before Christ. Think of a world where the 10 Commandments were NEWS!

GOD: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Moses: “Really? Huh. You’d better write this down.”

Israel MEANS “wrestles with GOD”. Don’t stop wrestling by saying “ah, never happened, symbolic, projection”.

We see everything in this life having to “balance”. But reread Job - he had the intellectual honesty to say “No! God may be just, but the world is not fair! The righteous die in the dust while the wicked sleep easy in tents.” What happened to these 70,000 after death? GOD knows, but they were His to take.

God was carving a people out of flint! Look how far the kingdom had fallen into despicable wickedness before the captivity, even with these acts of Mighty power and stern discipline. David became the prototype for Christ through this act (asking that the sin fall not on the sheep) and sometimes as we know, the conscience of all mankind advances through the heart and mind of one man.


#8

But what if it didn’t happen? What if it is in fact symbolic, or merely our fearful projection?

If God’s bad, there’s no point wrestling. Just curse him and die.

If God’s good, trust him. Was Jacob praised for wrestling with God? Rather, he was crippled for life. Take the psalmist’s advice. Quieten your soul like a weaned child. Stop trying to understand. You’ll give yourself a hernia. You don’t have enough information, enough brain power, or enough time to move that mountain. Wait patiently for the Lord. All will be revealed in the proper time.

After Job spoke to God, we’re told he said, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Fortunately, he didn’t say this. Job was a righteous man. He had nothing to repent of. First, the word “myself” isn’t in the text. Next, the word “despise” can also mean “to fall, to melt, as in worship”. And the word chosen for “repent” means “to change one’s mind”, not “to turn from sin”.

When Job sees God, he melts in worship. He changes his mind. He will not curse God and die. He will wait. Though he sits in dust and ashes, he will love and trust God.

That sounds like a boy who thinks he can torture his cat because the cat belongs to him.

That’s a profound observation and well said. Thanks.


#9

I wonder if the problem is more on the fact that we tend to put the emphasis more on death than life. We lean toward the idea that because God had people die, that it was a negative thing because to most, if you die while you’re in an evil place at your death, that’s it, your doomed for ever. I think it was hinted at earlier on this thread in that perhaps our view of what death is isn’t as negative as what God sees it to be. Hebrews 11 and the beginning of 12 seems to portray that our life here is similar to a sporting event and we who are living in this realm are the players on the field and those that have gone on are those that “were” players but now are fans and observers.

In that light, then when I see where people died for whatever reason . . .it’s kinda like the coach is simply taking them out of a game . . .we see this all the time like . . .say in baseball . … the pitcher can’t get the ball over the plate, he seems to lose his ability to avoid missing his mark and as a result, he’s putting his entire team in jeapordy of losing the over all game . . so . .the coach takes him out of the game.

In the Old Testament especially, we see people that constantly miss the mark . . .the land of Canaan was full of bad pitchers (simplistic I know) so God used Israel to replace the canaanites. Life on this earth “is” a gift from God, but just because we’re removed from here doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing for the individual who was removed. The pain and suffering is with those who continue to live on without the presence of the one who passed. Pain of the loss, suffering of the emotional ties they once had which have now been severed. Even evil people had loved ones.

For me, I do believe everything in Scripture is historical. But I also believe, especially in the Old Covenant system, that God orchestrated things to set examples for generations to come, as templates of patterns in how the kingdom works in every one of us. There needs to be a purging of ungodliness from the earth IN all of us. There may be initial pain and suffering, but it only lasts for a moment, the results of that purging are eternal.


#10

Exactly. The cats were not killed, and they weren’t worse off fo having been “vessels of wrath”. As Universalists, we should be able to see beyond the veil (even dimly) and not judge GOD by solely what happens that we see. THAT is what I believe Job was repenting of; now he could say “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroyed this body yet in my flesh shall I see God”. He now knew enough of God’s character to have faith beyond the grave, beyond the apparent injustices that his own eyes had witnessed, and to trust God to BE just and faithful and merciful “at the latter day”, even after he was worm food.

I think we ARE called to wrestle. God wants us engaged with him actively - questioning, disagreeing when we don’t understand. We are babies, but babies only grow through striving and contending, not merely lying peacefully in a cradle and drinking milk. A friend of mine has a phrase: “the brutality of grace” describing the way God changes our hearts in ways we initially can’t conceive of as “kind”. I say “God continues to teach us, long after we would beg Him to stop”.


#11

Well, Dirtboy, I’m not so sure that God brought about all these severe punishments. Jesus revealed to us what God is really like. Jesus told us that when we do good to our enemies we will truly be children of the Father, since He makes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the rightous and the unrighteous alike. Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3). Did Jesus ever command anyone to harm another or bring about severe punishments on the unrighteous? If not, and if He and His Father have the same nature, then the Father would not do such such a thing either.

As I see it, Moses sometimes gave commands as being from God, and uttered words as coming from God, which actually had its origin in his own thinking, though he thought them to be the revelation of God.

In John 8:3-5 we read:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

Now if Jesus had thought the Law of Moses concerning the matter came from God, He would have said, “The law is clear. She must be stoned to death!” Perhaps He Himself would have picked up the first stone and hurled it at her. But He first made His accusers recognize their own sin, and then said to her, “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

On the other hand, in Leviticus one of the laws of Moses reads:

If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her. Deuteronomy 25:11,12

Can you imagine Jesus giving the command to cut off a woman’s hand for this act — to show her no pity? Yet Jesus is another, exactly like His Father. If Jesus would not have given such a command, neither would the Father.


#12

Paidon, I was thinking about your answer and I wonder then what you think about God’s command to “enter the land and kill everyone/thing”. Do you think God gave the Hebrews the land that would be called Israel? If so, how would they acquire this land? I’ve always struggled with “kill everyone”. Partly because, even if they deserved it (they apparently did), the killing was left up to man and not God and therefore can be ascribed to men and not God. For example, a modern suicide bomber would appear no different than a Hebrew soldier entering the land. He is trying to kill as many as possible in the name of God - he just has superior technology over the old testament fighters. The Hebrew was told to kill women, children, babies, animals - it would look evil to any onlooker just like a suicide bomber does. Anyhow, I’m rambling - what do you think?


#13

Paidion, I appreciate your kind and wise words.


#14

Dirtboy:

I’m not sure how much killing Joshua and the Israelites actually did. See Exodus 23:27-30 and Joshua 24:12 to read about God sending the hornet to drive the people out.


#15

Whether it was Joshua or Moses or whomever, there was a lot of killing . . .in fact, that was the reason why David couldn’t built the temple to God like he wanted to. Because he’d been a man of war and the temple being built was one of rest.

At any rate, I believe all that killing happened due to it was God’s message of what he does “in” us. There are always battles and conflicts erupting within us at one time or another and it’s his intent to purge out what isn’t him so that all that remains is . . .him in us. But the things we see in the natural are not to be embraced or emphasized, they’re to be taken into consideration, but it’s the spiritual message that feeds us and allows us to grow in him.

Just because they entered into the promised land didn’t mean they lived in a lap of luxury from then on . . .just because we enter into his promises today doesn’t mean we’re free from the pull of darkness within us . . .but . . .the battles are not ours to fight. Originally, the Israelites didn’t even have weapons of their own. It wasn’t until they won a few battles that they finally started collecting swords and spears from those they conquored. In us, God doesn’t want us to be at war with him or each other. If there’s something in our lives that needs to be overcome, rather than us using methods we’ve obtained from other battles in the past, we’re to turn all of it over to Christ, knowing that it’s not by might or power, but only through his spirit.


#16

Chris,
What if the alternative was to be wiped out by those that they were commanded to kill?
roof


#17

Hey roof,
When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound too bad does it? A few years ago I was thinking about a suicide bombing that happened in Israel where a bunch of people were murdered. I remember thinking how evil it was to kill as many “innocent folks” as possible and then I started thinking about the Jews entering the promised land and killing all the inhabitants with the sword, men, women and children. All of the sudden, as I visualized it, I realized that it looked identical to a suicide bombing. You go and kill as many innocents as possible: men, women, children, babies in the name of God. To the observer it would seem utterly barbaric and evil. I pictured a man killing a mother in front of her children and then following that up with killing all of the children. I was trying to imagine it being “good” and it just felt wrong. Now I’m not saying that God is wrong: I’m just talking about my reaction to it. God can do as he pleases, but this is one of those situations that it just seems as if it would be better if he took the lives of the people rather than the men of Israel doing it in His name. But I’m not God and have no say in it. However, when I would teach about it I would remind people that these folks were, as described by God, quite evil all the time, involved in all kinds of treachery: child sacrifice included, and that any child that died at the hands of the Israelites would actually be in a better state in God’s hands than being raised up by these completely evil people. But isn’t that me making it sound more flowery so that I don’t think God looks bad? God doesn’t explain this to us about the old testament does he? He doesn’t tell us that he is being merciful to the children. He just says to kill them. The bible can be a very difficult book.
Chris


#18

I would give God the benefit of the doubt and trust Him. Perhaps if the Israelite tried to pick and choose who to kill, they would have been defeated (it would perhaps take too much time to try to separate the children).


#19

I think you are right!


#20

I know this is an evangelical site, a label I associate with. However, I do find it interesting that a doctrine of strict inerrancy or verbal plenary inspiration is never allowed to be questioned.

Ironically Im not sure if there is much reason for reading the bible in that fashion, other than the fact that is what was taught to us (especially us americans since the 19th century) Granted, being willing to challenge that paradigm means that lots of work must be done to understand the bible and the Holy Spirit’s speaking thru it.

But the jews did just that in the form of the talmud and mishnah and different rabbinic schools and yokes. Im not one hundred percent opposed to strict inerrancy, but scriptures like this one being discussed either lead to a reworking of our biblical interpretation, or a reworking of our understanding of the word love. I think it is unavoidable. Those are just my thoughts though.