The God of the Old Testament seems too harsh for our sensibilities today. Critiques against God’s intolerable actions come from both atheists and self-identified evangelicals. Pastor Lutzer examines three terrible events in the Hebrew Scriptures which reveal God’s true character. Is the God of the Old and New Testaments fair and just?
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again today as we continue this critical study, entitled, “The Eclipse of God in American Culture.” And as I promised, today we’re going to be getting into some deep weeds. Namely the depiction of God as found in the Old Testament.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Richard Dawkins. He is probably the world’s most famous atheist. He said this about the God of the Old Testament. “He is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction, jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, and unforgiving control freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty, and an ethnic cleanser…” He goes on to say “…homophobic, racist, and capricious as a bully.” Now, that comes, of course, from an atheist but even evangelicals, or at least those who want to be called evangelicals, are often very critical of the God of the Old Testament. For example, Greg Boyd who is the Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota has written a book entitled “The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.” He believes that we have to distinguish between the textual God and the actual God that exists. He would want to argue that this textual God, who makes all of these pronouncements is actually fictitious. The real God is the God who is demonstrated when Jesus died on the cross and said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” So what do we do about Moses? Was he, as Boyd suggests, demonically inspired when he commanded the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites and massacre them? Boyd says that such commands violate the message of the cross and that we should put Moses under a curse. Boyd calls God’s command to kill the Canaanites ghoulish and contrary to Jesus, who said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But the problem, of course, is that nowhere in the New Testament are we given any hint that Moses was demonically inspired. It is breathtaking to think that a man would say that, as Boyd has said it, and still want to be called an evangelical.
Even in the New Testament, Boyd continues to do his analysis. What about the Apostle Paul when he said, “God will pay back trouble to those who trouble you by punishing them with everlasting destruction”? That’s in 2 Thessalonians 11:6-9. Boyd writes that “Paul is not using a loving warning. He rather seems to be satisfying the Thessalonians or his own fallen thirst for vengeance to come upon their enemies. To be frank it would have been much more loving, and much more Christ-like, if Paul had reminded the Thessalonians to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” Boyd says “I consider it beyond question that some of Paul’s language about the opponents reflects a hostile and mean-spirited attitude.” And then once more he adds, “I certainly cannot deny that Paul’s occasional nasty name-calling is inconsistent with his teaching that followers of Jesus are to do everything in love.”
Now, next time we’re going to defend the God of the Old Testament. I’m going to be speaking about the flood, the driving out of the Canaanites, issues regarding stoning, and we’ll be reminding ourselves that God is just. Now in the midst of all of these criticisms I want to give you a word of scripture. The Bible says in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation that someday around the throne all of us will sing. “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” Let’s not be deterred by the criticisms. Let’s remember that God is God, we aren’t, and just and true are His ways. So as for today you just go with God.