Different than God? 

You often hear critics of Christianity saying the God of the Old Testament is a different God than the God of the New Testament — that this Old Testament God is mean-spirited and vindictive, but that the New Testament God is merciful and loving. (But what about the God of the book of Revelation?)

The God of the Old Testament is the same God as in the New Testament. Yet there are many awful things commanded by this God. How are we to explain this?

Many fundamentalist evangelical Protestants have their own peculiar notions of the God of the Old Testament. Some of his proclivities (according to them — but I disagree God does this)...

I explore various topics using Old Testament biblical passages. Examples of topics...


Slavery

The God of the Old Testament appears to approve of slavery. This offends our modern sensitivities.

Some questions to consider...

Slavery was common in both Old Testament times and New Testament times.

I assume that whatever moral principles are true today are also true throughout all periods of human history; that God did not change his moral law as humanity became more civilized.

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. (Genesis 17:12)

God commands Abram to circumcise his slaves (those bought with money). This implies God was not opposed to the institution of slavery as it was practiced by Abram.

Servants [slaves], be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. (Ephesians 6:5) And, ye masters, do the same things unto them [their slaves], forbearing threatening (Ephesians 6:9)

The apostle Paul does not suggest that slavery should be abolished. This does not necessarily mean that slavery is good.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament treat the topic of slavery in the same manner — they allow for certain forms of forced servitude to be practiced. It is only in our modern times that we began to consider slavery as a bad thing; and we do not learn this from the Bible. Thus, those who use the Bible as their only source of authority have no justification for claiming that slavery is a bad thing.

Two important considerations...

  1. The living conditions of the slave: Whether it was abusive and exploitative or, rather, a good deal of mutual benefit to both parties
  2. Whether modern employment is a form of slavery

Of course I reject exploitation. But my point is, you have to choose: (1) accept biblical slavery, or (2) reject slavery, and find a way to reject slavery in the Bible without rejecting that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible.


Levirate Marriage

The Old Testament practice of Levirate Marriage is the obligation by a man to marry a brother's childless widow for the purpose of providing children for her.

The Old Testament commands the practice of Levirate Marriage.

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)

How are we to reconcile the Old Testament command of Levirate Marriage with modern Christian teaching? Some possibilities...

In the same passage in Deuteronomy in which we find Levirate Marriage we also find the following passage allowing divorce...

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (Deuteronomy 24:1)

Yet Jesus clearly condemns divorce.

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. (Mark 10:2-5)

Notice that Jesus does not state that the Old Testament law was superseded by the New Testament law. Rather, he affirms that the Old Testament law regarding divorce was not from God but from Moses. The same is true of the institution of Levirate Marriage (since it is in the same passage in Deuteronomy as the commands regarding divorce).


Killing Infants

It is morally unjustifiable to indiscriminately slaughter the innocent in a war. Certainly infants would qualify as innocent.

Yet some claim that the Old Testament commands the Israelites to exterminate everyone in battle including infants. The prophet Samuel speaks...

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass [donkey]. (1 Samuel 15:2-3)

Just war theory...

  1. Nations can't attack nations without a just cause.
  2. Must avoid harming innocents.
  3. The damage inflicted can't be greater than the threat.
  4. In the Catholic view, you can't attack first preemptively, knowing they will soon attack. I reject this idea.

I assume the following...

My conclusions...


Capital Punishment for Small Crimes

In the Old Testament, God clearly commands the death penalty for an assortment of crimes including...

Two questions...

Apparently, in a society such as Old Testament Israel (or Christendom), crimes against religion and morality are truly capital offenses. Certainly in a pluralistic society such as our own these kinds of actions must be tolerated or even legalized. But this is by way of accommodation to a culture which ultimately rejected God's way. Now, we must allow those who reject God and those of other religious faiths to participate freely in society. The experiment of Old Testament Israel and Christendom ultimately failed.

In the New Testament Jesus offers forgiveness to those who should be executed according to the Old Testament law. How are we to reconcile this? Does the God of the New Testament have a different moral standard than the God of the Old Testament?

Note that Jesus never states that the guilty party is innocent because the crimes are not capital offenses. Rather, he challenges the witnesses to execute the law perfectly. In the story of the woman caught in adultery, no one will stone her, presumably because they would be obligated to also stone the man. She is guilty, but in the absence of witnesses she is set free.

These Old Testament passages have been used by both Protestants and Catholics to justify killing each other in the name of God and for burning supposed witches. There have been many abuses over the centuries.

Not every example of people wanting to stone someone in the Old Testament is for crimes specified by God. Sometimes they wanted to kill someone for various other reasons.


Jericho — A Just War?

A few troubling questions...