It’s important to remember the the OT is not one book, it is a collection of books written over a long expanse of time by people who disagree with each other. So we have one voice saying that God punishes bad people (the law) and another voice saying “Hey, but I didn’t do anything bad so why am I suffering? And why is this guy over here who is bad having a great life!?” (Psalms, Job, etc.).
So what we have is an argument, (in fact multiple arguments throughout the OT) as people try to make sense of their world. In this particular argument we begin with the simplistic “good boys and girls are rewarded and are rich and happy and have lots to eat, and bad people get killed and suffer and are poor and sick.” Other writers of the OT pretty quickly realize that this just does not line up with reality. And so they say “Hey God, what’s going on!?” I think we can also recognize that this does not line up with reality, even if we wish it did.
This does cause a dilemma: why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question that runs throughout the Bible itself. It’s a real problem. Part of the answer we see in Jesus is that God is not the one behind the suffering and hurt, but rather this is the realm of the devil (the OT does not really have this idea of the devil and so it needs to attribute evil to God instead which is deeply problematic as w have seen). Instead we see in Jesus that God is the one who is working to heal and restore and reconcile, and calling us to do that too.
You might say that the NT tells us which of the many conflicting narratives of the OT is the right one. But then we need to read the NT first and then read the OT through that lens of Jesus rather than what we have learned to do which is read the OT and project those wrong values on to Jesus.
I’d like to suggest this however: Rather than trying to make sense of every single verse, it is much more important to grasp the big picture narrative of what God is doing in Jesus. This is all about grace, grace, grace.
The way we really learn about this is NOT through reading the Bible. It is through loving people. Really hearing them, really caring. That’s how we really are able to GET Jesus and what he was doing, and where his heart was at. Then we get why is was constantly breaking OT laws (yes really breaking them) and why he was saying “The law says this, but it’s B.S. and this is what I say instead.” If that shocks you it should. It shocked the religious folks of his time too and that’s why they called him “blasphemer, devil, sinner, traitor” and wanted to kill him. That’s why the Pharisees studied the Bible and completely missed what God was doing, and why the illiterate crowds got it.
If we read the Bible, we need to learn to read it like Jesus did. But Jesus spent most of his time just caring for people. That’s where we need to focus.
I also think we need to learn to embrace doubt and uncertainty more. That’s really hard for me as an evangelical, and especially as a theologian because I’m supposed to have an answer for everything, for every verse. All in a perfect theological system. I think a lot of us here feel that way. But maybe it’s okay if we get the big picture of grace and live in that. Maybe its okay if we don’t have everything figured out. Maybe it’s okay if we are even *wrong *about some stuff. Cause then we would need to lean on trust/faith in God and not in our perfect system.
Pretty much everyone here has questioned hell. I bet most question it because you care for those who would go there. So we object our of love. We question. But then the evangelical in us wants to fix our system so that it is again all neat and perfectly in order. It’s a NEW perfect system. We correct that one error, and now everything lines up all neat.
But what if that questioning was a good thing? What if rather than fixing it all, we instead just stayed open to growing? What if asking questions was not something to get past, but the sign of a healthy and strong faith? What if faith was not about certainty, but vulnerability?