Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Monday, May 16, 2016

Things the Bible says about God

Christadelphians, like all Christians, believe that the Bible was authored (via humans writing under inspiration) by a perfect being, who they call God.

If that is true, then we can therefore assume that any descriptions of God contained in the Bible must also be accurate.

Agreed? Good. This should prove rather interesting...

The perfect God who...tells lies?

See my earlier article here. The Bible plainly tells us that God told Adam and Eve they would die in the same day they ate the fruit. And then it plainly tells us that they didn't.

The perfect God who...makes other people tell lies?

Apparently God is happy to make people tell lies as well. Was it even for a good cause? No, it was to deceive a king and cause his army to suffer defeat.
So now, look, the Lord has placed a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours;
1 Kings 22:23 NET
In another place, God is said to influence people to believe a lie...
Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false
2 Thess 2:11 NET

The God of armies...who might just switch sides without warning?

2 Kings 3 describes a battle between Moab and Israel. King Jehoshaphat requested the advice of Elisha, who presumably spoke on behalf of God:
“This is what the Lord says, ‘Make many cisterns in this valley,’ for this is what the Lord says, ‘You will not feel any wind or see any rain, but this valley will be full of water and you and your cattle and animals will drink.’ This is an easy task for the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you. You will defeat every fortified city and every important city."
2 Kings 3:16-19 NET

At first the battle went pretty well for Israel...
"The Israelites thoroughly defeated Moab. They tore down the cities and each man threw a stone into every cultivated field until they were covered. They stopped up every spring and chopped down every productive tree."
2 Kings 3:24-25 NET

And then things took a sudden turn for the worse...
Only Kir Hareseth was left intact, but the slingers surrounded it and attacked it. When the king of Moab realized he was losing the battle, he and 700 swordsmen tried to break through and attack the king of Edom, but they failed. So he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him up as a burnt sacrifice on the wall. There was an outburst of divine anger against Israel, so they broke off the attack and returned to their homeland.
2 Kings 3:26-27 NET
Where did that come from? A sudden outburst of anger, for seemingly no reason at all, and God contradicts his own prophecy. Weird.

The omnipotent God ?

On a separate occasion God seemed to reach the limit of his capabilities as a divine warlord...
The Lord was with the men of Judah. They conquered the hill country, but they could not conquer the people living in the coastal plain, because they had chariots with iron-rimmed wheels.
Judges 1:19 NET
Damn them chariots with iron-rimmed wheels. Let's hope Gog doesn't have any of those at Armageddon...

The omniscient God ?

Right after creation, God was pretty happy with what he had made. However, being perfect and all, this should probably not come as a surprise...
God saw all that he had made—and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31 NET

But then, just 6 chapters in, it's a different story...
But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”
Genesis 6:5-7 NET
Just how does an all-knowing, all-powerful God end up in a situation he regrets?

Consistently inconsistent

So you know how in the 10 commandments God said:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below."
Exodus 20:4 NET

And then a bit later he commanded people to do just that...
You are to make two cherubim of gold; you are to make them of hammered metal on the two ends of the atonement lid.
Exodus 25:18 NET

The God who is everywhere...and yet...

After asking angels for advice...
So the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant that I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. If not, I want to know.”
Genesis 18:20-21 NET

Think about it. Take all the time you need.

If it was just God's representative, in what way did this man represent God?

The God who destroys cities...
I am the one who forms light and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace and creates calamity.
I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 NET
I really want to know how darkness is created...
If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible?
Amos 3:6 NET

God has a thing for blood

It's more than a little creepy if you ask me.
Noah built an altar to the Lord. He then took some of every kind of clean animal and clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma...
Genesis 8:20-21 NET
Mmmm. Real soothing. Gotta love the smell of burning flesh...
Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22 NET
Because forgiving people without bloodshed is apparently asking too much. Well, unless you're human. Then God expects you to do the very thing he can't seem to.

Perfectly imperfect

I could list many more examples of God effectively saying, "Do as I say, not as I do", commanding slavery, murdering more people than every other biblical character combined, approving of a man who offered his two daughters to be raped and then later committed incest with them, and influencing King David to number Israel and then punishing him for it along with thousands of innocent victims.

In case it wasn't clear, the point of an article like this is not to "attack God", or anything like that. I don't believe such a being exists. Perhaps you could see this article as evidence that God isn't as perfect, loving or wholesome as some want to believe. But I think there's a much more obvious conclusion to be drawn from it all. You can read through the entire Bible and this will become more and more evident the more you look for it.

The Bible's depiction of God matches the views of each human author, and his/her cultural context, every single time.

This is true for God's character, things God is said to approve of, disapprove of, and even the way God responds to events.

The simplest and most obvious reason for this is simply that the human authors projected onto "God" their own ideals and moral code. As a result, God is a much more war-like and vengeful god during times of war and conquest, and much more peace-loving as we move into the New Testament.

Of course, you could argue (and some people do) that the Bible is just the result of flawed humans attempting to describe God in language and imagery familiar to them, and so naturally they projected their own culture onto God, including anthropomorphising God. If that were the case, then how do you peel back the layers in order to discover the god behind the text? The short answer is that you can't.

But there's a deeper question to be asked. Since the Bible was not written in an age of skepticism and science, and hence it contains many superstitious themes such as demons, devils, miracles, witches, angels, and sorcery, several of which even Christadelphians do not accept today, it seems more reasonable to question the existence of the other supernatural beings in it as well. If the authors were mistaken regarding all of those mystical creatures and the magical acts they apparently performed, perhaps they were also mistaken about the source of their supposed revelations.

Is it not a bit peculiar that the Bible's writers openly state that no one has ever seen God, and that God is invisible? (1 Tim 6:16, 1 John 4:12).

Today when someone claims to hear voices but not see anyone around, we say they're experiencing auditory hallucinations, and if it happens repeatedly we may be tempted to send them to a psychiatrist. But apparently when the "voices in their head" are written down and packaged as a holy book, millions of people willingly devote their entire lives to it, many without ever questioning it!

Even in an age where information is readily available, it seems that skepticism and critical thinking are still as rare as ever. Unfortunately, misinformation is also readily available, and the uncritical masses do not always correctly identify it as such.

The big picture

If there really was a perfect god in charge of everything, the idea of it writing a book and then leaving it up to human beings to transmit the message just makes no sense. Anyone can see the flaws in such an approach, and history bears witness to just about everything that could possibly go wrong with it.

If any one religion on earth were true, then its deity is an epic underachiever, going by the number of converts as a percentage of the global population. They can't all be right, since they make contradictory claims about reality. Either all but one are wrong, or they're all wrong. Statistically, every person on earth should bet on their religion being the wrong one. That's if we assume that one of the known religions is correct. It gets a lot worse if we allow that the "one true religion" is yet to be discovered. Think about that next time you're telling an atheist that, "there's a lot of things we don't yet know, and God could be among them" - that sword cuts both ways! Suppose this to-be-discovered god isn't the one you worship either...

Objectively, no matter which way you slice it, the state of religious belief in the world is an absolute mess. If a deity did exist and wanted us to know it, it has failed miserably. It is far more reasonable to believe that either no deity exists, or it doesn't care about us. The evidence offered by religion is more easily and adequately explained by humanity's flawed ability to reason and think critically.

At the end of the day, what you believe is up to you. Still think the Bible is a perfect book written by a perfect deity? Perhaps your standards are a little low.