I started to leave this post as a comment on ratamacue0‘s recent post, What Started My Questioning? but decided to post it instead. Fellow blogger (and friend) unkleE left this comment as part of a conversation that he and ratamacue0 were having:
…most non-believers seem not to recognise that there isn’t one consistent portrait of God in the Bible – it changes through both Testaments – and then to choose the worst picture (which is often the earliest one) to critique. But if the claimed revelation of God is progressive, it would surely be fairer to choose a later picture.
I think most non-believers do recognize the difference; it’s just hard to forget that first impression given in the OT.
And really, how progressive is the picture the Bible paints? The NT points out that God doesn’t change, so those harsh characteristics he possessed in the OT are still being claimed by NT writers. The NT also repeats some things like “vengenance is mine, I will repay.” And it tells us not to fear those who can destroy the body, but he who can destroy both body and soul. The NT also gives us the doctrine of Hell, regardless of what that might mean.
I think some of the NT writers, like Paul and the author of Hebrews, are arguing that the method of salvation and the specific requirements God has for people are changing, and in that way the message becomes more progressive. More emphasis is placed on the mind and not just physical acts, for instance. But as to who God is, I don’t think that image really progresses from OT to NT. The same God that killed Uzzah for trying to steady the ark, condemns anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus, even though it’s hard to blame many of the Jews for saying Jesus was a blasphemer, considering the teachings in the Old Law.
Such a God is irrational. Many Christians seem to agree, which is why they don’t believe in parts of the OT. But since the NT still claims the same irrational God, I see no reason to believe in him at all. And to me, that seems much more consistent than trying to hold onto parts of the mythology, while rejecting the unsavory parts. If that god were real, and he wanted people to know about him, I think he’d keep the one source of information about him pure. Since that obviously didn’t happen with the Bible, why continue to hold to it at all? Why not put faith in a god who isn’t concerned with petty dogmas, one who simply set things in motion for us? One that may inspire people from time to time, but is largely content to let us live our lives without interference? To me, that seems to fit the evidence far better… and while I don’t have any actual belief in such a deity, I can see why some would. Why mesh it with Christianity, when it seems so superfluous?
324 thoughts on “Does God Change from the Old Testament to the New?”
I actually agree too, Arch. We don’t need a god for us to ‘see a need, fill a need’ as I once heard in a kids movie. I just happen to believe in a God that asks me to do that…you know, all that ‘love thy neighbor’ stuff. My wonder is what kind of world would it be if we ALL did that? Sounds to me a little like, I don’t know, heaven…heheh!!
And William, I understand your point, and I don’t know why there are such things as incurable cancers and earthquakes and on and on. I don’t have those answers and any Christian that claims they do is full of themselves (and not God). But I’ve seen some amazing strength and comfort come by faith to some of those people caught in the types of situations you describe, including one of my current home group members suffering from stage 4 lung cancer (the kind that many smokers get, although he’s never smoked a day in his life.) Why has he been afflicted with cancer? I have no idea. And sure, I could be mad at God as could his family (and they have been, trust me). But they have also, as many of us have, rallied around this guy and his family, just being friends–being shoulders to cry on and chests to pound on and sounding boards to talk through it all. Could you have all of that and be all of that, apart from God? Sure. But I choose to take some comfort in the strength I’m able to provide, the words I’m able to say, coming from more than just me. I also take comfort in the fact that, though we on this earth are gonna be sad and pissed and questioning long after he’s gone, that I’ll see him again some day, whole and healthy and without pain…’cuz that’s the spiritual world I choose to believe in.
If anyone’s interested, I also replied to the same comment from unkleE in this comment on my blog.
No comment of my own, (I don’t know enough to speak well on the matter,) but I enjoyed the post thoroughly.
“I’m also not saying the Bible is without contradiction. On the contrary, there’s quite a few in there. But, what if they were put in there for a reason? To make us think? To make us question?”
what reason? to make us think what?
that gawd is a manipulative liar playing mind games with us all because we are his pawns?
that’s the only logical conclusion anyone could make if that were to be the case.
anyway, Kent. thanks for the big LOL of the day
and I’m glad that you can at least see the contradictions in the bible, many xtians are much more deluded and can’t see them at all.
@SPG: You’re welcome. 😉
“But they have also, as many of us have, rallied around this guy and his family, just being friends–being shoulders to cry on and chests to pound on and sounding boards to talk through it all. Could you have all of that and be all of that, apart from God? Sure. But I choose to take some comfort in the strength I’m able to provide, the words I’m able to say, coming from more than just me. I also take comfort in the fact that, though we on this earth are gonna be sad and pissed and questioning long after he’s gone, that I’ll see him again some day, whole and healthy and without pain…’cuz that’s the spiritual world I choose to believe in.”
Muslims feel the same way about allah too.
Oh btw regarding how you rationalize that God purposely put contradictions in the bible – try arguing that the Koran is false because of inconsistencies and contradictions.
In any case their system is more sound than Christians – later revelations overrides past revelations. At least to the best of my knowledge neither protestants nor catholics have such a doctrine in play.
So sorry for the multipost – haven’t commented on blogs for a long while (did you guys miss me? hee hee)
Also, I would like to know what is the differentiating factor that made you know that your God is the one true God and is real while the other major religion are wrong?
“I feel it in my heart” is not an acceptable answer even though you sincerely believe in it.
Didn’t God smite Ananias and Sapphira for failing to declare the full income from their land sale? If the IRS operated that way Christian conservatives would be in an uproar.
If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause.
No worries with the multi-posts (don’t think Nate would mind either).
“Muslims feel the same way about allah too.”
I don’t disagree that they do.
“…try arguing that the Koran is false because of inconsistencies and contradictions.”
Obviously, most all of us know what happens when you argue that any religion is false to those who are believers. I’ve always been willing to concede that I may, in fact, be wrong. (More on that in a second.) However, I am comfortable in my faith and beliefs despite the fact that I may not have it all figured out. I just wish more Christians were willing to admit they don’t either. To my knowledge there was only one guy who did, and the religious hierarchy had him killed for it.
“In any case their system is more sound than Christians – later revelations overrides past revelations. At least to the best of my knowledge neither protestants nor catholics have such a doctrine in play. “
I’m not quite sure what your meaning is here. Could you explain a little more what form of ‘doctrine’ you’re talking about?
“Also, I would like to know what is the differentiating factor that made you know that your God is the one true God and is real while the other major religion are wrong? ‘I feel it in my heart” is not an acceptable answer even though you sincerely believe in it.”
Sorry, I don’t have any other explanation for you (and see again what I said above about ‘religion’). I’ve never been a big fan of apologetics. IMHO, apologetics doesn’t ‘convince’ anyone of anything. It just adds fuel to the discussion/debate/argument, etc. All I can say is that I’ve seen things, experienced things, within myself, my family and friends, that I can’t explain apart from believing that some supernatural hand had a sway in it. I’m not talking about shining, angelic choir, down-on-your-knees miraculous things. I’m simply talking about circumstances, events, and so on that you could put down to chance, karma, luck, whatever, but I choose to see differently. We’ve had job opportunities land in our lives just when we need them. I’ve had friendships enter my life right when I needed (or even when they needed). I’ve had my my little girl (a miracle unto herself, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story) somehow sustained in a life-threatening situations that could have ended very badly. I survived a 70mph head-on auto accident years ago that I should have died in, let alone walked away from. That alone was a major turning point in my life. But, you see my problem. None of it is supported by any “doctrine” and could easily be put down to any number of things. I just choose to see God in the equation.
(see, now you’ve got me doing these multiple comment things!~
I did some editing on my first comments and realized that what I said about “what I said above about religion” may not make sense…as I deleted it. What I said was in regards to arguing whether a particular religion is false and was, “It isn’t about religion. Never has been, Never will be.”
“If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause.”
I wonder what other conclusion can you draw then. Lets explore that –
Since both husband and wife died instantaneously on separate instances, we can be relatively certain that it is a supernatural event – e.g. either God did it or Satan did it. So since Satan did managed to kill Job’s family (by causing the house to collapse), therefore it is indeed possible.
Maybe it’s not even supernatural – perhaps the 2 of them have been evil and been planting small amount of cyanide to kill other people. Eventually this caught up with them and they died of cyanide poisoning after breathing in too many cyanide powder overtime. And it just happened that when they were being questioned separately the cyanide lethal dose kicked in. And God knew it since He is all knowing and all powerful and hence planned it such that the questioning will be just in time when they died. So essentially the 2 evil doers killed themselves.
Or perhaps it’s simpler – just the 2 of them having heart attack because their parents were siblings resulting in genetic prone diseases such as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome. And actually they are siblings as well – following family traditions! And they just have natural death during the questioning because they were under high stress during the questioning and the SADS just triggered.
Why don’t you tell us what is your own conclusion about why/how both of them died? Perhaps that may share light on how you think about this issue.
a plea for help people – How do you guys edit your comments and how do you put italics for quotes properly?
Powell, if I even tried to tell you, I couldn’t, as the HTML symbols I would need to type for you, would disappear once I posted the comment. Scroll down to the very bottom, and click on Nate’s “How to format comments” – I think you’ll find everything you need.
Thank you for your honesty about your faith.
Unfortunately it is indeed not convincing to an ex-christian who has experienced all you’ve said sans the crash at 70 mph.
Truth is not something you believe in. At least for me, you cannot simply “choose to believe” to see God in things. This is important even for Christians.
As a former church leader it is paramount that we see God and understand from Him what He wants us to do. As such, we cannot simply “choose” to see whether God is blessing this ministry or cursing it. For your own life maybe, but when you are dispensing life advice to people under your charge I personally would like to KNOW firmly. Unfortunately, traditions about “letting the holy spirit” guide you, or “you know you know cuz you JUST KNOW” in your heart cannot be good rule-brick about guiding people’s life – since we do know that the heart is deceitful while the ears are itching to hear what they want to hear.
What about “touched” by the holy spirit or the manifestation of the holy spirit? Well, I come from an Asian culture and generally Asians are a superstitious lot. So I’ve known and seen manifestation of a lot of other religion even before I was a Christian. Sure you can simply conclude that they are from the devil or other demons, or simply deluded. But the same doubt can be drawn onto your own personal manifestation experience. Once again it boils down to – how do you know what you interpret and what you experienced is indeed from God, or is it Satan trying to distract you?
A quote from late Rev. Peter J. Gomes –
the more seriously one takes scripture, the more difficult becomes the problem of its several, often contradictory, voices, and therefore the more urgent becomes the development of a persuasive principle of interpretation by which the differences are reconciled, the authority of scripture maintained, and the moral and theological life developed from its teachings affirmed.
To me this applies to Holy spirit manifestation too. So once again I must ask you – how do you differentiate? And if you haven’t thought about this question – why haven’t you? What makes you so sure that you are even reading/feeling/thinking right?
I think I got it.
Hi Powell. You didn’t quote any text to show I was wrong, so I presume you actually agree with me that the text doesn’t say that? And that any conclusion we come to is an inference?
As to what happened, my guess is no better than yours, so I don’t bother to make one. If it happened, then it was extremely weird, whatever explanation we offer, so why guess among a bunch of unlikely weird explanations?
My point was simply that it is not factual to say that the text says that God did it. Agree?
I’m not sure how you can type that with a straight face.
The scripture in question is Acts 5:1-11.
According to the story, Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and pretended to donate all of the proceeds to the apostles, but really they held back some for themselves.
Sometime while Sapphira was not around, Peter says to him, “‘…You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’
“5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.”
Later, when Sapphira comes back, Peter has her confirm the lie, and then, “9 Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’
“10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died… 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”
It seems clear as day to me that the immediate consequences following the judgement pronounced by the apostle is meant to indicate that their deaths were God’s judgement for their deceit. Moreover, the fear that subsequently seized the church indicates that they believed they had all better stay in line, or they too may be judged.
Why do you propose that they died? What are your own conclusions as to the cause? If we’re not meant to believe that it was “God”‘s judgement, then why were all the church members afraid?
Moreover, why would a good and loving god allow this story to remain in his “holy” message to us? If your (non)interpretation is correct, as an omniscient being, he would know how it would be misconstrued over the millenia, so either he doesn’t care about being understood, and/or he’s responsible for allowing Christians the world over to believe falsehoods about his (alleged) judgemental, overly-retributive character.
…A cursory google search indicates that my understanding of the passage as “God”‘s judgement on Ananias and Sapphira is generally accepted among Christians. Below are excerpts. I did not cherry pick my sources; I just took the first four hits.
Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying? (gotquestions.org)
Andrew Wommack Ministries commentary on Acts 5:5
The Lie That Brought Death — Ananias and Sapphira (simplybible.com, Australia)
How do you explain the violent judgement of Ananias and Sapphira?
I believe I’ve shown good reason to think that the passage in questions indicates that the reader is meant to believe that the alleged deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were caused by “God”‘s judgement of their lie about their donation. If you mean to claim otherwise, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate it.
Nate put that together because I had the same questions, over a year ago – don’t thank me, thank him.
I’m seriously doubting your interpretative hermeneutics.
And I’ll defer to ratamacue0’s respond to you regarding this issue about who killed Ananias and Sapphira.
I’m willing to bet a fiver that Unklee use his usual method of “they don’t represent what I believe” to weasel out of this.
If any Christian is reading here I do really want to hear your thoughts – who is being obtuse here and nit picking on technicalities and who is more reasonable.
Hmmmm obtuse…. where is Katy when you need her.
“…where is Katy when you need her” – Show of hands – who needs her?
“I’m seriously doubting your interpretative hermeneutics.”
Hi Powell, but I didn’t offer any interpretative hermeneutics – I said I don’t know. My only point was one of correcting the facts, and it seems we agree on them. If you think clarifying the facts before having a discussion is “obtuse” then you have an interesting methodology!
Unfortunately that is a cop out.
When you read it you can come out with a reasonable conclusion. For you to insist that you don’t know is trying to be obtuse.