Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion

Is God a Good Father?

In my last post, discussion turned to the question of whether or not we need God. One of my regular contributors, William, posted the following comment, and I felt it deserved its own post:

I am just having problems understanding whether humans “need” a god.

Do humans “need” a father? it may be beneficial if it’s a good father, but we can see many who get along fine who have not had a father, so “need” is the wrong term.

And what if that father is never around, left before you were born, and only left a letter to you explaining (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?

is that a good father? is that a father we need? isn’t it laughable that such a father could even begin to threaten the child for “leaving him” (since the father clearly left the child) not to mention how absurd it is to think that such a father actually does anything to really take care of the child?

I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?

543 thoughts on “Is God a Good Father?”

  1. Thank you for your comments Nate. It’s not just about the descrepencies in the NT that trouble me, it’s the OT scriptures the NT Writers used to point to Jesus. So many of these OT scriptures they use had absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. Matthew was one of the worst and in a later post, I will happily give examples. I think William has already brought this up and gave some examples. If God had a Son who had been around since the beginning, why doesn’t the OT refer to him. I know some think it does, but why didn’t God say it in black and white and even refer to His Son by name ? Not Emmanuel but Jesus. Sophia seems to have been mentioned more in the OT as she was supposedly there from the beginning too. 🙂

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  2. Nate, yes, it has been quite a day on Finding Truth’s blog! 😀

    You wrote:
    “Here’s my question: Why do you think the people of Abraham’s time expected that kind of God? Why did God have to take so long to correct so many misconceptions? How did all those misconceptions come to be in the first place?”

    Thanks for the questions. It is my understanding that the ancients worshiped many different gods, several of which were blood-thirsty (Molech is an example). Abraham would have been raised in this type of culture – people believing in many gods, thinking some of them blood-thirsty, some vengeful, others rather benign. What I do think was almost universal was the idea that when drought comes, the gods must be angry. When a battle is lost, someone surely offended the gods. When a child dies, that’s god taking vengeance for something. This is how the ancients made sense of their world (I think even the Jews continued to do this with God – attributing many words and deeds to Him which were NOT His/Him).

    I have no clue why God had to take so long to correct so many misconceptions. Perhaps He knew that it takes time to change the minds of men. Nah, no idea.

    I believe misconceptions like that arose in the ancient world due to a lack of information and an abundance of superstition. Think about what an earthquake or a volcanic eruption would look like to someone who had never ventured beyond the boundaries of their own village and had no scientific method to explain cataclysmic events. They did not have the benefits of science and understanding that we have today. I said earlier, people used to think the world was flat! I’ve heard all kinds of crazy things that have been believed. My favorite is how they used to paint maps with dragons on the outskirts … “here, there be dragons!” 😉

    I imagine that they might have spent time praying and when something happened (likely coincidentally), they might think it was their prayers (or conversely, the lack thereof) which caused the event. Superstition is a powerful force to explain cause and effect, we can see that even among “enlightened” people today!

    Anyway, that’s my theory, for what it’s worth. 🙂

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  3. Nate: Here are 16 problems in the NT and why do I say this ? These scriptures were in Older Translations of the Bible like the King James. As more NT Manuscripts were discovered , these scriptures were not found in them. Consequently they must have been added possibly by Redactors . And NO they are not trivial. Some are “Red Letter” quotes from Jesus. You will find they are still used in certain translations ie: King James, there will be a footnote explaining what I just said. So if you possess a NIV, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, The Message, The Good News, or New English Translation, you will not find most or all of these scriptures in your Bible. Mt 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Mk 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, 15:28, Lk 17:36, 23:17, Jn 5:4, Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 28:29, Rm 16:24 This is just another thing that troubles me about the NT. And when you ad to this, whole NT Stories which have been removed like Mk 16:9-20 (My NLT says , ” The most reliable manuscripts of the Book of Mark end at verse 8) and John 7:53 – 8:11 for the same reason , I think this brings up valid questions. How many more NT Manuscripts will we find with additional scriptures left out ? BTW the manuscripts they are referring to have been discovered over the past 100 years.

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  4. kc, thanks for posting those examples. I completely agree with you on these, as well as what you said about the NT’s treatment of the OT. And yes, Matthew was definitely one of the worst. Just like you, these were instrumental to my deconversion. UnkleE’s not as bothered by them, because the reasons for his belief are different from the ones that I had. But yeah, I’m just as troubled by them as you are.

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  5. I believe misconceptions like that arose in the ancient world due to a lack of information and an abundance of superstition. Think about what an earthquake or a volcanic eruption would look like to someone who had never ventured beyond the boundaries of their own village and had no scientific method to explain cataclysmic events. They did not have the benefits of science and understanding that we have today. I said earlier, people used to think the world was flat! I’ve heard all kinds of crazy things that have been believed. My favorite is how they used to paint maps with dragons on the outskirts … “here, there be dragons!” 😉

    I imagine that they might have spent time praying and when something happened (likely coincidentally), they might think it was their prayers (or conversely, the lack thereof) which caused the event. Superstition is a powerful force to explain cause and effect, we can see that even among “enlightened” people today!

    I actually agree with you completely on this. To me, it shows that there was no *true* God speaking to people back then. If he had been, people wouldn’t have had misconceptions that needed correcting. It also explains why no two cultures separated by distance and time ever came to the same conclusions about which god was true or how we got here.

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  6. When God was speaking to Abraham and revealing his plan for him concerning this small group of people (at the time) he would be leading, what was God’s plans for the already hundreds of thousands and probably millions of Chinese ? Or Indians in North & South America ? Or Europeans ?

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  7. kcchief1,

    “what was God’s plans for the already hundreds of thousands and probably millions of Chinese ? Or Indians in North & South America ? Or Europeans?”

    To paraphrase, my understanding is that Paul writes that God has written His Law on all our hearts. Gods invisible qualities are evident to everyone, so apparently people are without excuse.

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  8. William,

    Just realised I might have read too much into your “checking out question”, sorry if I misunderstood you. But whatever you meant by that, rest assured Im ok and doing well 🙂 sorry if I gave the wrong impression, I was just expressing frustration about my inconsistancy and questions.

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  9. portal001, thank you for your comment. I have read this too in the Bible. So if this is true, why would the Jews or the Christians need an OT and/or a NT ? If God could place His law in everyone’s hearts and this was enough, would it not suffice for the Jews and Christians too ? I love the concept and tend to believe it as a Deist. Wouldn’t this be a lot easier for everyone ?

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  10. kcchief1,

    no worries 🙂 Yeah I don’t know why, part of me thinks that maybe its because the Bible is more direct in its message than the Law on our hearts? I don’t know though 🙂

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  11. Also, If God revealed Himself to everyone then He wouldn’t have a chosen people from the time of Abraham, because he was rightous, because of his faith 🙂

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  12. There are times when comments get heated and I want to apologize if I have offened anyone in this group including unkleE.”

    kkchief1, please know you haven’t offended me, and I’m sorry I seem to have upset you. I regard this as a discussion about facts (which should be the same for all of us) and opinions (which will likely be very different for each of us). I don’t object to anyone criticising my opinions, and I don’t feel you have been in any way rude – in fact you have always been courteous. We have simply disagreed.

    But I am going to disregard your request to not reply to your longer comment, because things still need to be said.

    the way you spoke to me came across to me as very condescending. You were never wrong and I was never right. I told you half way through our posts back and forth we should just end it.”

    I’m sorry about that. But surely you didn’t think I would say what I didn’t think was true? And surely you said what you thought was true too. So we both think we are right, otherwise there would be no conversation.

    Just realize you aren’t always right and we aren’t always wrong. This isn’t a game and we’re not here to keep score.”

    I can reassure you I know that quite well. I don’t think you can point to anywhere where I bombastically insisted I was right and everyone else was wrong. Instead I asked questions, asked you for details and reasons. And when I got something to respond to, I presented some details I obtained from scholars and Wikipedia – these were facts, not my opinions. So I believed those details to be both factual and correct. If you didn’t, you had opportunity to disagree, but you didn’t (although I see you have now supplied Nate with some details).

    Perhaps you will hate me for saying this, but perhaps the problem was that you based your initial comments on unreliable sources (certainly the one web page you sent me was both irrelevant to the question and not very reliable). But if that was the case, why not check out the sources I have used and see for yourself? But until you do, those facts from relaible sources are right until shown to be wrong. I don’t see why you should feel free to make statements that you weren’t able to back up, but I get criticised and maligned for offering genuine facts from good sources.

    All you have to do is admit you’re searching like the rest of us and you really don’t have all the answers.”

    If I am talking about my beliefs, I say exactly that. So please be assured of that. But we were talking about what the scholars say, not what I say. I think the problem was that you have confused facts with my opinions – perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough. But we always need to get the facts clear before we form or discuss opinions, or we get nowhere.

    So I will look at the facts you have no supplied, and respond about them. But while I know you won’t like this comment much, I’m hoping it clears the air. I really am quite a pleasant fellow, but I also try to be fair to the facts.

    I hope we can be friends after all this. Best wishes.

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  13. UnkleE is not very bothered by textual problems”

    Nate, we seem unable to let go of this discussion, but I wanted to thank you for your “chiming in”, which was generally very fair to me (no I hope I don’t ruffle easily!), but also explain why this one comment is close but not exactly what I think.

    To have a discussion or form an opinion, we have to start somewhere. With the Bible, the logical place to start is what the scholars say – historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, etc. So that’s where I always start – not with the Bible of christian belief, but the Bible of the scholars. Since they are quite comfortable dealing with textual issues, so am I. And generally, the scholars have moderately positive things to say about the NT text – as you summarised.

    Once we have the facts and conclusions established by the experts, we can each form our own beliefs. You say (more or less) you would expect if it was from God it would have less errors or problems, so you don’t believe it is any more than another ancient text.

    I believe the NT gives me sufficient reason to believe in Jesus and so I accept it is inspired by God. As such, I accept that it doesn’t seem to be inerrant, and in that sense I am not bothered by the textual problems that exist (though if they were worse I might be), and I believe it is quite possible that many of the problems have good explanations, even if we may never know them. But I would like to resolve them if I could.

    So my view is a mixture of fact (obtained from scholars) and faith (my own opinions). I try to separate the two when discussing – I generally try to limit my comments to factual matters established by scholars, but if I am asked I give opinions too.

    So I think we can see clearly where you and I differ – not generally on the facts, but on the opinions we each draw from the same facts.

    Best wishes.

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  14. I think one thing should be very obvious from this discussion: Christianity is not evil. Unklee, Judahfirst, Ryan, and Josh you guys are a testament to what St. James defined as, “pure religion and undefiled.” Nate pretty much made this point a few comments ago.

    Nate, I just want to say that I wish all atheists were like you, my friend. It’s forums like this one that restore my faith in humanity. It reminds me, as Camus so eloquently proclaimed, ‘that there is much more to admire in men than to despise.’

    And, KC, Nan, and William you guys are included in this as well. Really well done.

    Regards

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  15. unkleE, in point #2, you wrote: if I accept the OT as an historian would (i.e. a record of what people thought or believed at the time, or felt compelled to write at the time, with errors and limited perspectives at times, etc)

    What puzzles me about this statement is why would you accept the OT as a record … with errors and limited perspectives … and not see the NT in the same way?

    Methinks you are applying one set of standards to the OT and another set to the NT.”

    HI Nan, I still think you may have misunderstood me. My previous comment to Nate may help explain. I have two reasons.

    1. I apply the same procedure to both OT and NT – that is, start with the best facts the scholars can give us. But this procedure leads to different “standards” because the conclusions of the scholars are different.

    The scholars conclude that much of the OT is unhistoric. Some say almost all, some say just the early parts, some in between. They cannot all be right, and archaeology has a way of throwing up ideas which wreck current theories, but I accept this broad conclusion as a starting point.

    But the same isn’t true of the NT. There the scholars are much more in agreement that most of it is pretty good history (that’s a very broad statement, but I will stand by it as a generalisation). The inconsistency is from you and some others here, who accept the scholars’ negative conclusions about the OT (though many sceptics accept the most negative view rather than the centre of opinion) but don’t accept the scholars’ view on the NT (and very definitely take more notice of non-scholars and highly sceptical scholars rather than the mainstream).

    If everyone would accept the mainstream of scholarship,we could still have diversity of beliefs, and we could get on with discussing what we conclude rather than still arguing about the facts. But you and I have been over this territory before, and I don’t suppose we will get any further now, so let’s depart friends. 🙂

    2. I am a christian, not a Jew, and both Jesus and Paul said quite clearly that the new covenant replaces the old.

    Thanks for the question.

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  16. unkleE, please present the facts for your statement,”But the same isn’t true of the NT. There the scholars are much more in agreement that most of it is pretty good history (that’s a very broad statement, but I will stand by it as a generalisation).” And what sources outside the Bible are these Scholars using to support their conclusions ? Thank you

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  17. unkleE, the reason I asked you my last question is that you tend to refer to a concensus of “Scholars” about facts you are presenting and I just wondered is there some website which shows a percentage of Scholars who agree with alleged facts of the Bible or what ? Even when I read in a book a statement like, “Scholars overwhelmingly agree with this” , I have to ask myself what this means. If the author of the book has a certain agenda, I’m sure he can find enough Scholars to agree with his position that he can state the scholars he has researched have overwhelmingly agreed with him. If you were a Morman and wanted to present an alleged fact that you believe to be true like Joseph Smith discovering golden plates in New York, Im sure he could find that Morman scholars would overwhelmingly support this. However , if he asked scholars of Islamic Studies, they probably would not. If you’re going to say the NT is pretty much historical, I would want to know what Archaeologists have to say as much or more than what Scholars have to say. Thank you

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  18. UnkleE – “Why say that stuff? Why not just say “I don’t agree with you”?”

    Yeah, I’m sorry for sounding rude – I actually didn’t intend to. And I have never doubted your sincerity, but at the same time I do truly feel like you are just dismissing the issues, however the word “pretending” was not the best one. I guess I used it out of laziness – not a good quality.

    I don’t mean that I think you’re simply deciding to ignore what you “know” is really true – not at all. You don’t strike me as that sort, an i don’t think i am either. But i do think that people, some people, have a tendency to convince themselves or let themselves be convinced of something that is untrue. Why, exactly? I cannot say. I realize that if it is possible for then it is certainly possible for me too. I guess as the facts lay out to me, in my mind it seems as if you’ve somehow convinced yourself that fiction is fact – although I’m sure you feel the same about me.

    But when people essentially say, “well yes, there are obvious problems, but i don’t think they’re significant,” or anything like that, it just seems dismissive to me. Especially in this case, where we’re all discussing why the bible’s miraculous and divine claims should be credible. I think big and bold claims should be supported by big and bold evidence.

    Sure, i could be mistaken. But like you alluded to earlier, from where i sit, i think I’m right – at least for the time being…

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  19. ”But the same isn’t true of the NT. There the scholars are much more in agreement that most of it is pretty good history”

    Hi kcchief1, it’s impossible ion a blog comment to do justice you your question, so I’ll give you a few quotes and some references.

    EP Sanders, possibly the most respected NT scholar of the last few decades:

    “Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain. Despite this, we have a good idea of the main lines of his ministry and his message. We know who he was, what he did, what he taught, and why he died. ….. the dominant view [among scholars] today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”
    (from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p281)

    “I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

    Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
    he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
    he was baptised by John the Baptist;
    he called disciples;
    he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
    he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
    about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
    he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
    he had a final meal with the disciples;
    he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
    he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

    (from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11)

    “I think we can be fairly certain that initially Jesus’ fame came as a result of healing, especially exorcism.”
    (from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p154)

    Maurice Casey:

    “[Mark’s] sources, though abbreviated, were literally accurate accounts of incidents and sayings from the life and teaching of Jesus. …. The completed Gospels of Matthew and Luke are also important sources for the life and teachings of Jesus ….Some of his [Matthew’s] special material … shows every sign of being authentic material literally and accurately translated from Aramaic sources.”
    (from Jesus of Nazareth, p 97-99)

    Classical historian, Michael Grant:

    “The consistency, therefore, of the tradition in their [the Gospels’] pages suggests that the picture they present is largely authentic.”
    (From Jesus: an historian’s review of the gospels, p 202)

    Craig Evans:

    “the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as the proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel.”
    (from http://craigaevans.com/Third_Quest.rev.pdf)

    John A.T. Robinson:

    “The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”
    (From Can we Trust the New Testament?, p36)

    You can find more quotes on Jesus in history, <a href="http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/nthistory.shtml"Are the gospels historical.

    Note that both Evans & Sanders claim to be reporting the view of the majority of scholars.

    I don’t think archaeology can help much because it can throw light on places, but not much on the text. But the much-maligned John’s gospel has been found by archaeology to report accurately several locations that were destroyed long before it was written – see Archaeology and John’s gospel.

    So that’s as much as I should write here. Please check out the references for more.

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  20. Thanks for all those sources, unkleE.

    And Persto — thanks so much for the compliment you paid me and everyone here. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. And not just because what you said was so kind, but because I so highly admire your opinion. Thanks. 🙂

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