WHAT KIND OF FATHER ARE YOU GOD?
Recently I had a dream in which I was sitting at a table with a man who looked at me and said, “maybe you can help me, though I doubt it because I’ve asked pastors and they can’t help”. He said, “I can’t get my son to eat what I feed him!”
I actually saw before I sat down that he was being rough about that with his son. So I asked him, “do you love your son or do you want to control him?”
He got angry and said, “no child of mine is going to make my name look bad!”
So I said, “you are saying that your reputation is more important to you than your child?” To which he got even angrier.
When I woke up I thought about the God of the OT. Let’s think about this for a few minutes.
The God of the OT vs the God of the NT has long been a struggle to understand. In fact, it was a struggle even in the early centuries of the church. So it is not a new problem, but one that has existed since the beginning. Marcion, an early church leader created his own version of the Bible by taking out the Old Testament. Now before you call him a heretic remember that the Bible wasn’t even defined as a certain list until the middle of the 3rd century and Marcion did this in around 144AD. It simply demonstrates that this is an unresolved problem that has existed since the beginning. By saying Marcion was a heretic does nothing to solve the problem.
So back to my dream. Here is a father who presents himself as one who is more concerned about controlling his child and protecting his reputation than he is loving his child. Pastors, he said, couldn’t help him. Do you remember the story of how God sent a plague throughout the land of Israel to kill thousands of his innocent children because David numbered the people against his will? In fact 1 Chron. 21:15 says 70,000 were killed and then that the Lord was sorry that he did it! And wasn’t it God who caused the ground to open up and swallow the ones who disrespected Moses? Violence and anger to protect reputation. Many examples could be given of the same thing.
”If one adds up the actual named figures of how many people God is reported to have killed in the Old Testament it will range well over 300,000, not including entire cities, communities, and, in one instance, the entire population of the Earth except for Noah and his family.” Smith, Paul R.. Integral Christianity: The Spirit's Call to Evolve (Kindle Locations 878-880). Paragon House. Kindle Edition.
How utterly different is this God than the one Jesus represented that protects the woman caught in adultery and refuses to shame the woman at the well. How different is this Father who forgives the paralyzed man before he asks? The NT reveals a Father who forgives Peter’s three time rejection of knowing him even before Peter does it and even though Peter never asks. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yet, Jesus never killed one person for the sins of another. In fact Jesus never killed anyone.
The Bible in both the OT and NT are explicit. “I am the Lord, I change not” Malachi 3:6. “He is the same yesterday, today and forever” Hebrews 13:8.
DOES GOD CHANGE OR NOT?
What are some possible solutions that have been offered?
The God of the OT and Jesus are not the same. The problem here is that Jesus said they are One. So they cannot be different even though they are presented radically different. Similarly one could conclude the God of the OT and the God of the NT are not the same being.
God changes his actions, because his ways are higher than our ways. Malachi is speaking of the nature of God, that which we find to be consistent. When John the apostle says God is love in one place and we also read God is holy, then some assume that these are “balanced”. No, these are statements of his nature. God is holy means he is transcendent and completely something, ie, similar to whole or complete. So together it means God is complete and total love. So actions in one time in history must be consistent with actions in another time if his nature doesn’t change.
The cross changes the mind of God. Or similarly, God poured his wrath on Jesus therefore there is no more wrath. We could also add God must punish sin. The difficulty here is substantial. For one, Jesus was revealing the forgiving nature of God BEFORE the cross as in the story of Matthew 9 where Jesus forgives a man with the withered hand before he repents, asks, or confesses. Further, there actually is no passage that says God poured his wrath on Jesus. Even if you look closely at Isaiah 53 it doesn’t appear that it actually says “it pleased the Lord to bruise him” rather the Greek Orthodox version and other translations say, ““And the Lord decreed/willed [the] cleansing [of] him of his wound.” In addition, if God poured his wrath on Jesus or punished sin in Jesus then why is there still wrath spoken of after the cross and still punishment for sin?
We deserve it, all are sinners and so any grace is just that… grace. This is a convenient argument but if God doesn’t punish David for instance when he illegally ate the shew bread in the holy place in the OT but then kills thousands because David sinned by numbering the people then again his nature is arbitrary. It cannot be trusted or known. One can’t know God because we don’t know which mood he is in that day. One person gets a pass and the next doesn’t.
God evolved over time. In this case, one will have to abandon the idea that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. If God evolved then the possibility exists that God is still evolving. In this case it was God who needed to be saved since he was quite the sinner.
The views of the leaders in the OT were wrong. Jesus was explicit in saying no one has seen the Father but the Son. Yet, Moses wrote that he saw God face to face. Which one is telling the truth? Regardless of the interpretive gymnastics one does it remains that one view is correct and one view isn’t. This is the idea of progressive revelation which teaches that the writer’s views of God evolve over time. Teachers of progressive revelation though tend to believe that they see more clearly but prior revelation doesn’t contradict future revelation. One cannot maintain the infallibility/inspiration of scripture if that is so though.
God was forced to punish sin because it was a part of the covenant of Law which they agreed to at Mt Sinai. For instance one friend suggested that the reason for the plague was based on Exodus 30:12-16 that David's emissary did not collect the census tax. Law of census and poll tax. Really? David ate the shewbread unlawfully and wasn’t punished. And there are multiple exceptions. Plus that would be like saying, “son you agreed that if you disobeyed me I had the right and obligation to punch you in the face.” What kind of father would keep his end of the bargain? Remember we are talking about the difference between the God revealed by Jesus and the God revealed by Moses.
The OT was to show that man could not obey, so that in the NT GOD has taken the responsibility to write His laws in our heart. A big difference in whose responsible. Now GOD has taken the responsibility. But then we must agree that God killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of them innocent men, women, and children to teach us a lesson? Wouldn’t the lesson actually be that God isn’t fair if a person was there at that time if they could be killed by God for the sin of David? Wouldn’t the lesson be to them that they aren’t safe and can’t trust him even if they are in covenant? This is the Father of Jesus? How is that different than a father who beats his child to a bloody pulp in order to teach him a lesson for not eating his veggies. Veggies, by the way, that he says he must eat because they are good for him while he beats and bruises him to prove his point?
It was all allegorical. It was intended to be a word picture of the destruction of our flesh nature or old way of thinking. Problem is Paul only once uses an allegorical interpretation while most others are purposely and clearly symbolic which is not the same thing. One would have to first prove that this was the intention of these varied authors and secondly allegory leaves the interpretation up to the individual so who determines the meaning. Christ may be the "interpretive key" but a huge amount is left to the imagination which we saw with some of the church fathers like Origen who had very fanciful interpretations.
Are these ancient stories that we can in no way ever really know for sure if they really happened as told since we are relying simply on the words of a book of which we have no original copies? This would be the view of agnostics or atheists or those of other religions that none of it is true.
It represents Stages of Consciousness. At emerging points in history people interpret experiences according to that level of understanding. Rather than it being God who killed them, one sees that particular culture was at a stage of development in history where they interpret the world through the lens of their own understanding such as a mystical level, mythical level, warrior level, etc. Problem: The problem here is two fold. One is where does it end, did it end at Jesus or is it still evolving today since things God “allowed” like slavery are things we have outgrown in the modern world in terms of what is acceptable. It is also less about the model and more about the willingness for us to see/believe it because we get stuck at our own level of consciousness and therefore level of interpretation
So does the Father kill if he doesn't get his way to protect his holy reputation, or love by being patient and kind? I’d love to know your thoughts?
Please comment below.
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