Who/what is God?
Liberal Christians and die-hard Christian apologists can tell us that their Jehovah is a complete different God from the vengeful Jehovah of Old Testament (OT). He now also has complete different values and opinions than he had back in the good old days the Bible so vividly tells us about.
When discussing the Bible’s less favourable descriptions of the Lord Almighty, and the often confused and outdated morals of the texts, one is accused of misinterpreting the texts and having got the whole thing wrong. God is nothing like that; he is pure love and goodness. This because the believers choose to ignore the nasty parts of the God-image the Bible portray.
The Old Testament is no longer so canonical and inspired by God anymore among liberal Christians. The introduction of Christ and the New Testament (NT) has kind of made the old one obsolete. Still, Jesus himself is of the opinion that before shall the heavens and earth perish before one single syllable of the old laws will be changed (Mat 5,17; Luk 16,17;).
So according to the Bible, Jesus feels the OT should be considered still as fresh and topical. On that however, Jesus differs from the modern liberal Christians, so they pretend that he didn’t really mean it. For they know of course best, and are arrogant enough to feel that they as modern personal Christians are above the very Bible itself. Kind of a cheeky and frisky way of being a Christian, if you ask me.
Let’s take it from the beginning. The Jewish/Christian image of God we find in the Old Testament texts. It is here his person, his deeds and opinions are revealed by his inspired biographers. That many of today’s liberal Christians don’t find this image of God to be very flattering to say the least, and maybe a bit of an embarrassment, is a pity, - but OT is the only source we’ve got in this case. This has also been the very literal and official image of God for over 2000 years. People have been burned at the stake for not believing in it literally. But now, when the OT Jehovah not longer fits with today’s standards in ethics and humane values, then we no longer bother with the sources and rather dream up an different image of God based on personal wishful thinking and political correctness.
Yes, the God of the Old Testament is a terrible bastard, but dreaming up a more likable and benign God, does not make him any more real or probable.
The moral is obviously: “Screw the Bible, I make my own God! A kind of a Father Christmas version of Jesus, a little sterner but with the big white beard.” When somebody who has actually read in the Bible discovers that the God in OT is more of a vengeful Satan than a benign God, the Christians raise their shoulders and claims that one has just misunderstood it all. The God Almighty they know (that is: the version they have fantasized up) and believe in, is not like that anymore.
It is as if I one day should find that Walt Disney’s version of Mickey Mouse is dead wrong. Because in my mind the “real” Mickey Mouse is a huge, talking, blue banana tree with blinking lights and a propeller. Besides, I know that my Mickey Mouse does actually exist in reality, but he is invisible of course. And I would be completely unaffected by the fact that it was Disney who invented the figure in the first place.
Bronze Age Texts
Dealing with Bonze Age texts describing incredible miracles, people living for hundreds of years, fictional kingdoms, great floods, big crazy plagues and other completely unbelievable stories, - we should take their value as historical sources with more than a pinch of salt.
However, it is more difficult to ignore the ethical and moral content these texts are presenting. When it is written, black on white, that the Lord thinks the death penalty is completely suitable for “crimes” as homosexuality, long hair on men, working on the Sabbath and for disobedient sons, then it is hard to interpret this as particularly positive or loving. When it is written in the same texts that God killed hundred of thousands of the enemies of the Hebrews (including elderly, women and children), it is very hard to discover the positivism, happy joy of life, humanism or love in this. Unless you’re very religious of course. Then Gods crimes are delightful great deeds and magnificent proof of his “love”.
In view of its time?
One can of course choose to ignore these troublesome bible passages, or rather more popular; “view them in the light of their time”. But that doesn’t really help does it? Killing innocent people is of course utterly immoral by any standard in any age.
If God is eternal, unchangeable and all-knowing, as is usually claimed, with what right or mandate can Christians of today set his holy laws and regulations aside? Wasn’t God quite so smart or ethical two thousand years ago, or are the scriptures not to be considered completely credible as sources of the Lord’s persona anymore? If the scriptures are not to be trusted anymore, one should think that the logical consequence would be to remove them from the Bible. Why keep texts that one believes are not representative for one’s religion and God’s person?
Of course there are bound to be problems when people in our time insist to have their lives guided by some bizarre religious Bronze Age texts. These are texts written in a strict ethnic and tribal society with a very restricted and superstitious understanding of the world. A society based on magical thinking and strong patriarchal and religious traditions. These varied religious texts are still being open for different interpretations and has been used as arguments for wars, crusades and genocides up trough history. And every one of the thousands of different Christian congregations thinks that is only them who administer the only “true” interpretation.
When dealing with Christianity one has to begin with examining the texts of the Bible and their contents. The question is not whether God really slaughtered all the Amonites with saws, chains and axes and threw them all in burning furnaces (2 Sam 12,31; 1 Chron 20,3). What’s important is that this is a fabulous deed ascribed to the Lord and something his biographers thought was a great and important enough event to include in the texts. To interpret such a cruel mass murder as a positive thing, whether one consider it just a symbolic story or not, is impossible unless you are barking mad or a sadist (or religious?).
To pretend that these passages of the Bible is of no concern for the “loving God” of many of today’s Christians, is like considering Adolf Hitler as only an insignificant and misunderstood amateur painter and vegetarian from Austria, completely ignoring his political and criminal record.
(c) R.L. Børsheim
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