“It’s Not Fair…” – The God of the Old Testament Vs. the God of the New Testament

In my 11th grade English class, I had a teacher named Mr Dasher. He was an educated country boy from Georgia who was very disenchanted with the US Army, and had a killer music collection. Aside from introducing me to Young Goodman Brown, Giles Corey, and the French Lieutenant’s Woman, he also turned me on to Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, and Freddie King.

We had lots of Bible beaters at the high school I attended, and one day, I overheard Mr Dasher talking to one of them. “Now, do you believe in the God of the Old Testament, or the one in the New Testament?” he asked in his lazy drawl. I don’t at all remember the girl’s response; I think I was too busy pondering his question. Of course, I knew exactly what he meant, but I think that was the first time I had ever really heard it phrased that way.

He (as well as many others) viewed God in the Old Testament as harsh, unbending, veangeful, possibly even cruel. Whereas, God in the New Testament was loving, forgiving, and merciful. I know Mr Dasher didn’t believe these were two separate gods; he was merely mocking this girl’s faith. But this is still an interesting observation, and one that I think bears looking into.

Authority
Any time you study an issue, you’ve got to have a reliable source. You’ve got to be able to go back to something (or several things) upon which you can base observations, compare your findings, gain unbiased information. God has given us such a source in his Bible. I’m not going to spend time giving proofs to the authenticity of God’s word; that would take us so far off topic we’d completely lose sight of our intended goal.

Instead, I’m going to let you know that I believe the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible, and inspired word of God. I believe that the scriptures are “God-breathed” – that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet 1:21). And I further believe that the Bible is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

That said, we’re going to look at what the Bible says about God’s character. Does he change? Why did he do certain things in the Old Testament that seemed so harsh? And do the different testaments provide two different views of God, or is there a larger picture?

Change
Again, it’s usually in a mocking tone that people refer to the “different” gods of the Old and New Testaments. But behind the jab lies the deeper question of whether or not God acts differently between the two testaments.

For I am the LORD, I do not change; – Mal 3:6

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
– Num 23:19

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

God does not change. And if we go with the premise we mentioned earlier, that the Bible is true, then we have to accept this statement. So when we read the Bible and we think we see differences in God’s nature, there must have been some unifying purpose behind his actions. So what might that purpose be?

Why so harsh?
Before we can understand the purpose behind some of God’s actions, we need to identify the things that tend to stand out to people. Things like slavery, the Jews’ annihilation of foreign nations, and the seeming unfairness, at times, of God’s actions have caused some to question God’s purposes. After all, God is no respecter of persons, right (Acts 10:34)?

Slavery
In Leviticus 25, God hands down his laws about slavery to the Jews. Basically, Israelites were not to be taken as slaves; at most, they could act as indentured servants for a while. However, they were allowed to take slaves of other nations. Doesn’t that sound harsh? By our standards today, isn’t that kind of inhumane?

But you know, what’s interesting is that the New Testament doesn’t condemn slavery either. Ephesians 6:5-9 talks about it. These two verses sum up the point pretty clearly:

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also[b] is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Servants are to continue to serve their masters. Why? So they can be a godly example. And masters are to treat their servants well. But the actual practice of slavery is not condemned here. I think the reason for that is the same as when Jesus told Peter to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The gospel was not meant to be political. Christians could live and serve God even in a society that practiced slavery. They would have more impact by obeying than by causing revolution. God didn’t place us on this world to live a comfortable, happy life. If we can, then that’s fantastic. But it’s not something we’re promised. Consider the following verses:

14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 8:14

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more
– Psalm 103:15-16

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. – James 4:14

We aren’t on this earth for very long at all. Compared to eternity, our lives here happen in an instant. Furthermore, the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). Good and bad happen to us all, and that’s what it really means for God to be no respecter of persons.

See, God has perspective. He views things from a standpoint of eternity, but we often only view things from a standpoint of now. When you view things God’s way, you can see how what happens to us in this life doesn’t compare with the life to come. As Paul said:

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, – 2 Cor 4:17

So with slavery, we see that God’s stance didn’t change. Either way, servants were to obey their masters, and masters were to treat their servants well. As always, their physical states were not as important to God as their spiritual states.

Annihilation of Israel’s Enemies
Here’s another one that often bothers us. Several times throughout Israel’s history, they were instructed to utterly destroy the inhabitants of a certain land. In Joshua 6, all the inhabitants of Jericho were destroyed – men, women, children, and animals. The only people left alive were of Rahab the harlot’s household, because she had harbored the Israelite spies.

Why? Why did God have them completely destroy all those nations? The answer is given here:

31 “And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River.[b] For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” – Exodus 23:31-33

God had them destroy those people in order to avoid temptation. Does that still seem harsh? Remember, God deals in eternity. All of us will die… does it really matter how it happens? It wasn’t as though all those people were condemned to Hell. Even though none of them were God’s chosen people – the Israelites – we know that some of them were still saved. Paul, in his address to the Athenians, explains why:

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent – Acts 17:30

God judged these people on some sort of moral law, so when the Israelites were commanded to destroy them, it was to prove a point. It was to show the Israelites that God as no place for sin. We’re taught the same lesson in the New Testament as well.

22 Abstain from every form of evil – 1 Thes 5:22

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. – 1 Tim 6:11

34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. – 1 Cor 15:34

God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the nations around them so they wouldn’t be led astray. The Israelites didn’t completely do everything God had required of them, and they were subsequently led into the very idolatry that God had warned them about. Gal 3:24 tells us that we use the Old Law as a tutor – we learn from it. And from these examples, we can see that God despises sin, and that if we don’t remove sources of temptation from our lives, we will almost certainly be led astray. God’s methods may have been different between the two laws, but the purpose was the same.

Fairness
Finally, there are a few stories in the Old Testament that seem to go against our ideas of fairness. For instance, in 1 Chronicles 13, we have the story of David transporting the ark of the covenant. Now, God had decreed that the ark should be transported on the shoulders of the Levites. However, David decided that it would be more convenient to ship it on an ox cart. As the cart was traveling along, one of the oxen stumbled, so Uzza, who was driving the cart, stuck his hand up to steady the ark. When he touched it, God struck him dead.

Isn’t that harsh? Uzza only wanted to ensure the ark didn’t fall from the cart. And it wasn’t his idea to transport it that way, it was David’s. Yet God punished him. Why?

Again, God used that instance to teach. His commands couldn’t be taken as mere suggestions; his word had to be respected. It was unfortunate that Uzza had gotten in the way, but God had warned them about what he wanted. Was what happened unfair? Not at all! In fact, I’d say it was extremely fair. God didn’t bend the rules for Uzza; he simply followed through with what he had commanded. He was, by no means, being a respecter of persons. And for us, we learn that God means what he says.

What’s the Bigger Picture?
So after looking at all that, does God contradict himself? Does he show different qualities between the two different testaments? No. As we stated earlier, God is the same. The entire Bible shows the progression of the relationship between God and man. In the beginning, man has a direct relationship with God in the Garden of Eden. Sin destroys that, and the rest of the Bible tells the story of our redemption.

The Old Testament is given to establish a specific people that would be set apart from everyone else – an entire nation to serve God. He gives them a law to teach them how to serve him. Prophecies were established to “set the stage” for Christ’s coming, and the New Law came to complete the process, giving man an avenue to be “reunited” with God in Heaven.

When we see God’s strictness, in either testament, it’s to show us that God means what he says. He is strict. But he’s also merciful. The New Testament tells us that:

28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matt 11:28-30

And so does the Old Testament:

12 “ Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “ Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm. – Joel 2:12-13

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18 thoughts on ““It’s Not Fair…” – The God of the Old Testament Vs. the God of the New Testament”

  1. Greetings. I don’t reply very often, however you seem to be on the same page as myself on a number of things; namely, focusing on the eternal and not the temporal. It seems that we live in an age where everyone is focused on the here and now; a “here and now” that will soon be no more. I didn’t read this closely as it’s 1:45 AM and I just got off from work a little bit ago. Nonetheless, I tagged it for further reference and will place you on my blogroll. I have two blog sites if you ever want to check them out. They’re not really deep; just running thoughts on the things of God, the times that we live in and the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. This time, EVERY EYE SHALL BEHOLD HIM! My sites are
    http://www.timbob.wordpress.com
    http://www.philippians320.blogspot.com

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  2. The death of Uzzah does seem to “unfair” to many people, but it does teach us some valuable lessons about what God expects from those that worship Him.

    David and the people knew what God had commanded, but they ignored it.

    Their intentions were good. David wanted to bring the symbol of God’s presence into his city. The people came out in mass to honor God. Uzzah just wanted to keep the Ark from falling.

    There are many people who feel that the intentions of their hearts will justify them before God. It doesn’t matter if they observe God’s Law, often they don’t even bother to learn them. They believe that God knows the heart of man and that He will pardon any faults they may have, so long as their intentions are good.

    However, God teaches something else…

    Man likes to think he is pure – Proverbs 16:2 “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits.”

    What looks right to man doesn’t necessary mean it is right – Proverbs 16:25
    25 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

    Man can always justify his own decisions – Proverbs 21:2
    2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

    David and the people were sincere in their efforts.

    Have you heard people say, “God is too good to condemn anyone. As long as my intentions are good, everything will work out. It doesn’t matter how you worship God, so long as you are sincere.”? Certainly the example of Uzzah flies in the face of believing “all you have to do is be sincere.”

    To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

    God is to worshiped in spirit and truth – John 4:23-24
    It takes both the sincerity (proper heart) and the obedience to be acceptable to God.

    Uzzah died because he touched the Ark of God, but he wasn’t the only one punished. David, in front of 30,000 people, saw the anger of God. David’s carelessness led to a man needlessly dying.

    Yet David learned – I Chronicles 15:1-2, 12-15
    1David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. 2Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.”

    12He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. 13For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”
    14So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. 15And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.

    Notice David’s admission: “We did not consult God about the proper order.”

    They did it in a manner that seemed right to them, but they did not check to see if God approved.

    David was mad that God killed Uzzah, but he learned that he had only himself to blame.

    We cannot approach the worship of God haphazardly.
    -Our sloppiness could cause the destruction of others.
    -Our laziness could keep someone out of heaven.
    -Ignorance of the law is no excuse before God, we are still subject to His will.

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  3. Randy,
    Thanks for those verses, especially the ones from proverbs. They should be very helpfull in a ongoing discussion I’ve been a part of.

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  4. I pretty much agree with what you said. We could analyze example after example of God’s harshness in the Old Testament and give good explanations for each, but to me there is something even more simple that helps to explain it. Just imagine if someone came after your baby to do it harm. Would you not do everything in your power (even kill) if someone came to do this? Now we could get into debates about whether or not this would be right (and most certainly we would be expected in such a situation to trust in God and not kill – and we should obey). I have a pretty strong faith, but I cannot honestly say what I would do if someone came after my baby. But we are human and can be overcome with emotion in such situations. We are not God. What we need to understand is that God was protecting His baby – Jesus (who was to offer us eternal sin-free life, which is what really matters). So He was really protecting us from ourselves. That is what the Old Testament is mostly about if you step back and look at it. God was protecting the family line of Jesus – which goes all the way back to Adam (see Luke 3:23-38), taking whatever drastic measures needed to be taken to do so. Once Jesus finally arrived we were shown God’s nature more clearly (‘if you have seen Me you have seen the Father’). I do not want people thinking that I was saying that it is ok to kill if someone comes after your baby. It is not. Just trying to give a sense of how God was looking at what was going on here on Earth all those centuries.

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  5. Thanks for your thoughts, Danny. I don’t think I’ve ever really looked at it in quite that way, but I see what you mean. Jesus is definitely the “centerpiece” of everything — the Old Testament points toward him, and the New Testament points back to him. Thanks for weighing in…

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  6. Sure Nate. I was being as simple as I could with this topic. It is surely more complicated than I have made it – but, in a way, it isn’t. Jesus even said to the religious leaders of His day that ‘the Scriptures point to me’. He is the whole point of the Bible. We cannot even really begin to understand the Father in all His spiritual glory until we bow low to Christ: ‘no one comes to the Father but through me’. Jesus said so many things such as this. He drew lines in the sand. And it is such a beautiful thing to bow to Him because look at who we are bowing to! ‘I came not to be served, but to serve’. He literally served His disciples at the Lat Supper and got down and washed their feet, etc. All of His moral teachings were in perfect harmony with this idea. The Bible begins and ends with Jesus as far as I am concerned. We learn of the Father only through Him: ‘if you have seen me you have seen the Father’, ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘be one, just as the Father and I are one’. On and on … Jesus said so much with so few words. The entire Bible is fraught with examples of the oneness of love, faith, hope, meaning, purpose etc.

    So how is your study going?

    Peace, and God bless, Danny

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  7. As an old Bible student, let me say these comments show excellent insight. I too have thought through these issues and come to the same conclusions. Some to which have been better clarified in my brain by the comments here. Thank you.
    I particularly agree that God will allow us to (individually or collectively) suffer in this temporal existence inorder to bring us to eternal glory. As you know, the New Testament describes the Law as a “harsh task master”. That task master proved our need of a savior. I read the other day, “The law tells us to run, but gives us no legs, but the gospel tells us to fly and gives us wings of grace.” A professor of mine once told me, “you can never fully appreciate grace until you’ve come to realize the depth of your sin.” The law did that very thing. Also, let me point out that when Moses brought the law down from the mount, it was firstly, not just the 10 commandments as portrayed in the movie. It was the entire law. Most importantly, and apart from the law, Moses brought down the solution for our inability to keep the law. That solution was the temple design and ritual that foreshadowed the savior, Jesus Christ and Him saving work.
    Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not His benefits.
    Amen

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  8. First, let me start with one of my favorite quotes:

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
    ~Voltaire

    Now think of how many atrocities you could commit in the name of God based on the justification the author of this article gives. My favorite quote, justifying God committing genocide, is: “All of us will die…does it really matter how it happens?” It is truly scary to me to think that millions of people think this way. Throughout this article human life is completely devalued, making actions like murder and genocide “no big deal in the grand scheme of things.” This is, almost exactly, the thinking of Muslim terrorists when they flew planes into the World Trade Center. It’s the same product with different packaging.

    I have another saying for you: “Actions speak louder than words.” Clearly the author of this article (and I guess God) don’t believe in this. You see, rather than really explaining these passages as the metaphors that they are, completely unrelated to today, he instead chooses to just overwhelm you with random biblical quotes, like these two gems:
    For I am the LORD, I do not change; – Mal 3:6
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

    Oh, OK then, that explains everything (sarcasm)! Yet for some reason I (“I” in this case being a representation of people who question) am not allowed to question atrocities throughout the bible because I am limited in space/time/power and cannot see the big picture. Yet these Christians feel justified in judging everyone else by the standards of thousands-of-years-old poems. Christians can absurdly justify terrible things, and then claim I can’t judge them because of my limited capabilities to understand “God sitting on his throne” or whatever. In this article, slavery is OK, God doesn’t give a rip about it…as long as the slave-owners love God while they do whatever it is that slaveowners do. Rape is OK, as long as you love God while doing it (and allow the woman one month to mourn her parents that you killed, Deuteronomy 21:10-14).

    My journey into religious exploration has left me very intolerant of most aspects of religion, in particular (since I live in America and was raised this way), Christianity. Here are some examples, all of which I’ve become aware of only within the last 2 months:
    1) David Jeramiah’s rantings about the rapture, freaking people out, including my fiance’s aunt: http://www.lightsource.com/ministry/turning_point/20090222/
    2) My pastor friend in Seattle telling my neighbor his un-baptized newborn daughter would go to hell if she passed away.
    3) My fiance and I hearing about our friends’ relationship deteriorate because of one of them has fears relating to what the bible instills in us about sex (which comes from his pastor’s advice)
    4) Articles like this, which justify evil

    I reject that criticizing religion is taboo. I reject that it’s OK to believe whatever you want, as long as it falls under the category of “religion.” You can’t justify atrocities by quoting the Bible any more than you can justify them by quoting from a book by Stephen King.

    But…I am trying to become more tolerant. After responding to this article when it was forwarded to me by email, my best friend Nick, a Christian, called me to sympathize and wholeheartedly agree with the problems I have with this article. It helps me believe that it’s not all bad. Hearing the viewpoints and outlook of Christians like my friend Pastor “J”, gives me a renewed trust and tolerance of religion. They are equally (if not more so) frustrated and upset with the kind of attitude this article portrays as I am. Pastor J encourages people to question, even judge, and to keep in mind that most of the bible is metaphor. A cut-and-paste from him:

    “As per my last e-mail I briefly discussed the idea/danger of reading the bible “literally.” While there are many who do this is a mistake because the bible was written over a long period of time in a culture and language that is soaked in metaphor and imagery that we don’t know anything about. This pastor [the one mentioned in my second bullet-point above, un-related to this article] is presenting in my opinion a distorted view of what scripture teaches and if I may make a generalization a conversation with him will lead to much more frustration. Please know that there is no such thing as a taboo subject and everything should be questioned and discussed in community to help us come to a clearer understanding of various topics.”

    He’s right that these conversations lead to much more frustration, yet I still feel compelled to speak up…my tolerance is almost completely gone. I only hope you find some middle ground in your journey.

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  9. Andrew Green,

    I just now came acroos your post, and it is the only one that I’ve read so far. Something tells me that I should’ve read the entire blog and all of the pasts that compose it. But I didn’t and that’s that.

    Your post was interesting to me. I agree that we should question. Question religion, question, politicians, preachers and teachers. We should question ourselves. People, I think, tend not to question what they like, or something from someone they like or respect a lot. The Bible says to question – you are right, however it does come with the disclaimer that we should not question God (which would include the Bible).

    II tim 2:15 says to study to show yourself approved before God… Study is more than just reading a passage or two. I think that most would agree that study involves a more intensive approach. Diligently searching for something. And in so doing, we would find in the Bible, peace and love are the things that Christians are to observe. Sure, the old testiment has many brutal things down by the israelites and those men of God. Without taking the appropriate time to illustrate something you probably already know, the new law and testiment state that the old law was nailed on the cross with christ. Where the old law was for the Jews, theis new law of Christ, being complete where the old law was incomplete, and perfect where the old law was imperfect we see not to lust, commit adultery, kill, hate, lie, sex out of wed lock, divorse, and so on. We are to love, love our enemies, take care of the sick, the poor, the fatherless, and to do without so that others can do with.

    There of course are those who do not quite understand, and others who do not care, and some who have become too righteous in their own minds and miss these points (probably without realizing it). We must question what we do and hear and compair them with the beautiful, pure and peaceful words of love and hope within the Bible. The problem is not the Bible, but those who hold it and do not follow it.

    Thats my opinion anyways, and wrote this on the fly. I believe I understand your frustration. I maybe off the mark – sorry if I am. When I have time I will return to this blog and read it all.

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  10. If I made a mistake before, I am making again. I only got partially through the original article. Sorry – I dont typically do this.

    When I read the Old and New testiments as I was younger I thought that God did act somewhat different, and as a defense God was more tolerant of somethings in the old law on one hand yet more ready to inflict harsh punishment on the other. Now that I am older and have children and am, not really wiser but less stupid maybe, I look at it differently.

    I look back at my youth and see my parents overlooking some of the annoying things I would say or do. they might look past a little laziness or whining about soemthings. If I had ever “talked back”, let’s say, they would give me quite whipping. As I got older, they seemed to expect more more from me – as far as much less tolerance for any laziness or whinning and complaining. They didn’t spank me as much either.

    My parents seemed to have changed. They used to not make me cut the grass or make me take out the trash. And now, I am married and have my children. My parents don’t tell me what to do, they don’t let me live at their house and they don’t spank me anymore either.

    I believe that my parents are still the same. They hold the same values. It was not them that changed through the years of my life, it was me. As I grew I learned some things, and I was more capable of getting up if I fell because of the lessons and values that they had taught or tried to teach me. I now see the “difference of God” in a similar way. God has not changed, we have. The people in the Old testiment did not have their own stories to read and learn from like we do. They were mankind in childhood. Now, in the new testiment, we are mankind as adults. God has shown us the principles that he felt we needed and were ready for in the old testiment, and now that stage has come and gone. We are aware of those principles, it is time to graduate to the next level. In the old law they were taught not kill, now we know we should not hate. Do not commit adultery, now we know that we should not even lust.

    that’s how I see it at least. I may be wrong again. you should question it, but look to find the truth if you do.

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  11. Josh – Good stuff, thank you. I can see your way of thinking, and I don’t think it’s in conflict with mine. But I think your posts failed to address my issues with this article, and to a larger extent, the Bible.

    Here is my most basic issue with the Bible: It is vague, and can be interpreted in many different ways. Because of this, people can easily justify doing bad things based on their subjective interpretations of the Bible. This article we’re posting to is a perfect example.

    I wish more people thought like you, but your interpretations are just that – very subjective interpretations drawn from your own point-of-view, environment, personal experience, and upbringing. You took the “why does God do bad things?” debate, and you made it apply to you personally. I enjoyed your parenting analogy. Yes, God did commit, condone, and order some pretty brutal acts, like genocide, slavery, rape, etc. Perhaps this was “tough love” to a young, petulant child, as you interpreted it to be. However, couldn’t someone else look at the genocide passages, and rather than connecting it with parenting, couldn’t they make those passages justify killing people who speak out against (their) God in 2009? Yes, of course they can….and in fact, they DO!! I can understand how people could draw either of these conclusions…and that’s the problem! Sure, we question interpretations, but we don’t question the source. We just interpret that source in different ways. Well, I’m questioning the source.

    You said: “Do not commit adultery, now we know [Because of the New Testament] that we should not even lust.”

    Jesus’s opinions on “lust” and things related to it have caused so much dysfunction in the world. It turns a biological function, sexual attraction/desire, which is necessary for procreation, into a sin. We’ve all heard stories about how the church used to teach that masturbation is a sin, and repressing your sexual feelings is the only way to please God. Rather than being properly educated, children were, and still are, taught to repress these natural feelings instead of being properly educated about them. It is perfectly natural to feel sexual attraction to an attractive person. But the Bible says this is a sin. It’s like saying perspiring when you’re hot is a sin, or being tired when you don’t get enough sleep is a sin! You can’t help sexual attraction any more than you can help sweating or being sleepy. It’s a system guaranteed to create guilt!

    Now you’re probably thinking, “well no Andrew, I’m not saying that sexual attraction alone is a sin, what Jesus ACTUALLY means is…..”
    And then you go on to state your subjective interpretation of what Jesus meant. Again, THAT is the problem right there! You can use these passages to teach that masturbation is a sin. You can use these passages to teach that sexual desire is a sin (how confusing is that for a 13 year old entering puberty!!?) You can use these passages to teach that sex before marriage is “adultery,” or that homosexuality is evil. It can be interpreted any number of ways! And that’s the problem!

    So instead, how about this: The Bible, and religion in general, should have NO authority to dictate anything about sex (lust, adultery, marriage, etc.).

    You may have seen those hilarious excerpts from books in the 1950’s that give advice to wives about cleaning/cooking/procreating for their man (you can Google “Good Wife’s Guide” for an example, though this particular one may not be authentic). These are funny to us now and we don’t take it seriously, because it was written 50+ years ago. So why are we giving authority to an ancient Hebrew book? It just boggles me. The Bible should be as relevant to sexual education as those 1950’s books, or a Danielle Steele novel.

    I don’t think your thinking is bad. I don’t think that at all. I don’t find anything I dislike within your interpretations. The problem is that this book is interpreted to begin with.

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  12. Andrew,

    I find your comments to be well thought out and insightful. I follow your thought process and enjoy the way you write. I hope that my response will be presented equally as clear.

    As I tried to compose an intelligent response, which I have great difficulty with from time to time, I realized that you have a really good point. I had several paragraphs prepared but deleted them all. I was going to point out that Matt 5: 27 & 28 were not really the only teachings Christ had on sexuality. I was going to show that in the first chapter of Acts, the last chapters of the gospels, Acts 16, and Matt 18:18 and probably some more, that elude my memory at the moment, show where Christ is telling his apostles to go and teach. I was then going to show some of his apostles teachings on sexuality, like 1 Cor 7 : 1-40, Heb 13:4, 2 Tim 2:22, and so on (I still hope you look at these passages if you are not already familiar with them). I was going to give a long presentation, partly on the above subject, and partly regarding interpretation in general.

    I wanted to show that everything and anything could be interpreted many different ways. I wanted to use the current economic situation as an example. Different people look at the stimulus plan and view it differently. One may see the plan to be the best way to keep our nation’s economy from spiraling further out of control, while another might view it as a certain path to chaos. People do, as you pointed out, will take a single event, a single action or phrase and see them differently, apply them differently.

    I wanted to say all of that and then I realized that because of those points, all people will never agree. I want to clarify, so that there is no mistake in what I mean: Two people, such as you and I, are capable of discussing and thinking about what is said and changing our position and begin to interpret things in a different way than what we previously had if we are honest with ourselves and give each thought adequate attention. I just believe that people collectively and in a whole, as in the entire population, will not ever come to a complete consensus on any matter.

    There are interpretations that must be made throughout the Bible, just like anything else. I work in the construction industry. I do not know how familiar you are with the industry but you probably have some idea of contracts and probably specifications. For each contract there is a large book of specifications that say, for example, what the properties of the concrete should be in order to be used on the project. The specifications may name a particular supplier, or model of some type of equipment that is to be installed. Contractors, Architects, Engineers, and Owners all have to go by what is in the specifications and adhere to them. Many times the specifications are vague, however. A specification section might, just for example, say to use adequate erosion control measures. The contractor may think that silt fence run around the construction site is adequate, the Architect may believe that hay bales should be utilized along with the silt fence, and the owner may want sod and mulch to be laid within the hay bale/silt fence barrier. It is based on interpretation because the specification did not appear to be specific.

    On the other hand there are specifications that are very specific, Contractor to supply and install a GE refrigerator, stainless steel, model No. 0099. There is no misunderstanding within this specification. If a Contractor, after getting a job, said that that refrigerator was more expensive than the one he allowed for in his estimate to bid the job, he’ll be out of luck. The specifications were very clear and precise on what type of refrigerator to use and that it was to be supplied and installed and he will have to abide.

    The Bible is similar. Matthew 5: 27 & 28 clearly says that we should not cheat on our spouses, nor should we even think about it. True, other passages are like the first example of construction specifications I listed. The only answer that I can supply for that is that we must make the best call we can. In construction, a contractor can request a clarification to a vague specification and get instruction. We are unable to expect such clarification at times with the Bible. God will not whisper a “what I meant to say was…” in our ears. But, there is no mistake and there is precise direction when the Bible teaches we should not kill or hate, in addition to many other principles. The Bible lists other things very clearly and precisely as well, that leave no real room for interpretation. Do this, Don’t do that. In reading the Bible, it seems to me that only a Jew, who does not acknowledge the new testament or Christ, could say that the Bible teaches that God commanded them to Kill.

    I understand the frustration. I just think that there’s no escaping it. The Constitution, the Bible, history, A Modest Proposal, and the NRA can all be taken and interpreted differently. Who’s to say what is right or wrong? Why does the age of something diminish its validity? We must question things, I agree. We must question everything. But at some point what we believe will take faith of some kind. Whether it’s faith in God, or science, or our own opinions.

    I hope this discussion continues. There is more that I would like to write, however I will will not for fear of failure to present my thoughts in a clear and intelligent way. I have most likely already failed. I appreciate your point of view and I enjoy discussions of this nature. Maybe I didn’t get off point too badly.

    Josh

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  13. I am in the process of trying to reconcile or resolve this issue. I find Jesus very credible and believable. And the New Testament. I love many of the stories of the Old Testament, but then there are those others which would be so appalling to us today. The condoned (trying out sex) with younger girls whose parents were killed, was particularly troubling for me. It may be a monumental task to have explanation of reason for all that is in the Old Testament. For right now, I would have to say that although much of the Old Testament is inspired (God breathed) and factual, I am wondering if its authors took some liberties to embolden their culture and strike fear in future generations who would oppose Israel? I would like to believe in the entire Bible. But, I don’t want to throw out God or blame God if it were a matter of the authors taking liberties which were not accurate.

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  14. I totally understand where you’re coming from Robert. And thanks for taking the time to post your comment.

    I wish I could offer you a good answer for what you’re looking for. But in fact, this is still something I struggle with as well. I’d say that you should look into the evidences for the Bible. A lot of research has been done on how we got the Old Testament and the New Testament, and several theories exist in regards to how/when each of them were written. You can also find articles that deal with the content of the Bible and whether or not it agrees with itself. Hopefully in those studies you’ll find some of the answers you’re looking for.

    Good luck!

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  15. these are interesting thoughts, and I doubt that I have any useful insight to offer. I believe that there are some things in the scriptures that we will never fully comprehend, regardless of how much we study and investigate, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. In the time of the OT the Israelites also had prophets to help direct them as well as the Urrim and Thumim.

    In the NT times we do not have these things. We have the OT (where I believe we can see the character of God) and the NT (Jesus’ teachings expounding on the character of GOD). From these we can certainly see the “do’s and don’ts” as well as get an idea of the overall message, which I believe is that we should love God with all of our heart, mind and soul. And if we have that love for God that we should, then we’ll do ALL we can in service to him. None of us will be perfect, perfection comes from following Christ as closely as we are possibly able, not as we choose to follow, or not as we follow him after we follow something else…

    faith is involved. effort and devotion are involved. 2 Tim 2:15. we must try and we must seek if we are to be acceptable. Jn 14:15, 15:14.

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