And Another Thing…

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Open for discussion

I have recently begun studying the Bible and discussing apologetics with a very likable person who is struggling with her faith. She wants to believe, but she has some barriers that are impeding the development and threatening the foundation of her faith. Her questions are legitimate and none of them lends itself to an easy answer. I prepare for our discussions between meetings, but have never been too proud to ask for help. So I put it to you Christian readers, how would you respond to these questions? Any constructive feedback is welcome.

  • Why does God order the killing of so many people in the Old Testament?

 

  • How can believers reconcile the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament?

 

  • Why is the behavior of so many Christians so dissapointing? Not just the chuckleheads we see on television, but people we encounter in our own churches? The rude, the arrogant, the mean-spirited, the apathetic, etc.

 

Thanks for kicking in to the discussion.

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Filed under: Faith and Religion, , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. mattdabbs says:

    I will take a stab at it. First I want to say I am thankful that you are taking the time to help someone else.

    Why does God order killing of so many people in the Old Testament?
    This is one of the toughest questions in the entire Bible. There are two things that come together to help me think through this one.

    1 – It is hard to get into the head of a Hebrew from 3000+ years ago. We live in a sterilized world where we see very little of death much less take much of a personal involvement in it. They lived in a different world. Yes a life is still a life but you have to remember they lived in and among cultures that sacrificed animals on a regular basis and were far more in tune with life and death than we are.

    2 – As far as I can tell the Hebrews had a view that if you were one of God’s people (in the covenant) you were the recipient of the covenant blessings (land, identity as God’s people, other blessings). If you were not one of God’s people (Gentiles) you were under a curse. The same curse would apply to Hebrews who became like a Gentile. A lot of people would say by not keeping the law but that is probably not the case. To fall out of covenant relationship with God was more tied to not keeping the identifying markers of Judaism (Sabbath, feast days, circumcision, and dietary laws). See Deut 11 I wonder if it almost wasn’t seen as part of their humanity. To see pagan people in a pagan town doing pagan things outside of the covenant and relationship with God was to make them almost inhuman. I am not totally sure about that but I do wonder if that is how they saw outsiders which made them a little easier to kill. See Deut 4:1-14.

    Idolatry was another thing that could get God to remove his covenant blessings and promises to his people (Deut 4:15ff, Deut 8, and again Deut 11 – notice he will drive them from the land = remove the covenant promises from them as he promised that land in his covenant to Abraham). This is key because one of the reasons God commanded them to destroy so many people in the Old Testament was the danger of idolatry. God knew that if those people remained in the land they would lead his people astray by following false gods. Notice also that when God’s people went to worship idols even they were to be killed (Deut 13) so this is more than just killing Gentiles. This is about keeping God’s covenant pure and helping mankind live the way they were intended to live – in relationship with God.

    This is a really tough issue that is nearly impossible for us in our culture to get our minds around. Make sure to have a look at the above mentioned passages to try to get your mind around what they had been told by God and how God saw his people and how he saw outsiders and how blessings and curses were given to each. Peter Craigie has a book called The Problem of War in the Old Testament but I don’t know that it is all that helpful but it might give you some good background. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

    How can believers reconcile God in OT vs God in NT:
    There is so much cohesiveness between the OT and the NT. We often miss the fact that people were forgiven in the OT under the system of sacrifice. The message God sends in both testaments is the same – He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get you to respond to his graciousness, his faithfulness, and his love. He wants your heart. That message is all over the OT and the NT and to me reconciles them really well. I can give you a ton of passages on that if you want.

    Knuckleheads in the church:
    People are still people. Baptism is the beginning of the journey. The great commission was to go and make disciples by baptizing, etc. Many people get baptized and don’t press on toward becoming a disciple with all areas of their lives. Maybe they want fire insurance or want to go to heaven or whatever but haven’t ever really understood that God wants more than that. We all have struggles and there are hypocrites in the church. When you see people like that it should be some solid motivation to us to do better and not be so obnoxious. Also, our faith is not built on others. It is on Christ alone. Thank goodness for that.

    Hope that helps.

    Yes, it does help. I think that the OT incident that bothers most people is when God orders the Israelites to wipe out everyone and everything: men, women, children, livestock, etc. However, as you point out, context is everything. Thanks for participating, Matt.

  2. Shayna says:

    Hey Odgie . . . our church has some past sermons posted and available for download onto iPods. http://www.bluntquestions.com/ I thought Pastor Alan answered them better than I could. My answers are probably only satisfactory to someone who shares my beliefs.

  3. preacherman says:

    Ogdie,
    I want you to know I am praying for your friend and that God will bless your study time together.
    The reason I believe there were so many people killed in the Old Testament is because of unrighteousness and wickednesss. It is God revealing to us that He is holy and desires mankind to be holy as well. He is also showing us that men have no excuses for their wickedness. “I didn’t know that” isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans come judgement day.

    Second,
    God is still the same…Yesterday, tomorrow and forever.
    He was graceous and revealed that graceoous characteristic when he gives out the law to Israelites. I tells them I AM…”graceous and forgiving to a thousand generations who love me and follow my ways.”
    How many times could God have given up or even judged a people for their wickedness and shows them mercy, time and time again.

    Why is the behavior of Christians so disappointing. We are still human. We mess up. We make mistakes. We are sinners caught down on this earth that is cursed. Jesus never painted a easy life if you choose to follow. We will have difficulties. Sin. Yet we have the forgivenss and grace of God that sustains us in times of trouble.

  4. David B says:

    Hey Mike…great questions. I’ll give you my answers in reverse order (easiest to most difficult).

    3)Why is the behavior of Christians so disappointing? It’s easy to say that life is hard and difficult and that we all mess up…but the more I do ministry the more I am convinced of how few people are genuinely converted to be disciples. They may be dunked in the baptistry (or sprinkled as kids or make a confession of faith in a time of crisis) but their lives are not really transformed. NT scripture speaks of baptism being something of a marker of who are Christians and who are not (e.g. Gal. 3:27), but it also speaks about the quality of life that is lived (e.g. fruits of the Spirit, etc.). This is not about ‘salvation by works’, but about being created in Christ Jesus to do good works once we are saved (Ephesians 2:10). Too much bad preaching and teaching and focus on irrelevant dogmas and sectarian emphases leads people to not think about the 98% of their life that is lived before others. This has gotta change.

    2)How can believers reconcile the God of the OT and NT? I don’t think that they need reconciling or harmonizing…what needs to change is our interpretation. We often forget that just as the NT speaks about judgment and condemnation on those who are not children of God (e.g. Revelation); so also the OT speaks about the God of mercy (Ex. 33:19) and steadfast love (Ex. 34:6-7) and all those things we so often think are only NT concepts. Perhaps we have done wrong when we try to differentiate the old and new covenants and make it where they have nothing in common (and so we aren’t bound by old covenant precepts like instruments of music, etc.). Jesus himself spoke about how he came not to abolish the old law, but fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-20); the things of the OT are still for our benefit even now (Romans 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:14-17). Only our methods of interpretation help to make this so confusing.

    1)OK, this is the hard one. I agree with what the first guy said about the dangers of idolatry and about how those outside of the covenant promises were under a curse. Because they were attempting to establish a new nation based on Godly promises, it can be explained (rightly, I think) that the principle of holiness meant that wickedness had to be destroyed.
    Still, I’m not wholly comfortable with this, especially when one sees that there were opportunities for pagans to become a part of the covenant community (Ruth, Rahab, proselytes in the NT like the Roman centurion). Why was the opportunity not open for such people, especially when we see that as early as Abram all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3)? We can’t just say that for 2000 years people had to wait and suffer until Jesus came along…I can see how that would offend the sensibilities of many.
    Perhaps this links back to the second point about how we can’t wholly separate the God of the OT and NT. Though Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it (John 3:16-17), so also we know that condemnation is coming. Romans 1:18-32 reminds us that mankind can know what is right but chooses the downward spiral of wickedness…we know that such people will ‘earn’ their condemnation. Maybe the principle is the same with God ‘ordering’ the slaughter of entire nations (we would call it genocide): they so earned their condemnation that God destroyed them during the days of Noah; they so earned their condemnation that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; they so earned their condemnation that God destroyed Ninevah, Babylon, and the many other nations. But alon gthe way, God also asks his people to carry out some of this brand of destruction. It might seem harsh for us (and not always fair with our emphasis on individual salvation and the ‘innocence’ of children and a few select others), but it is a reminder that judgment will come to those who stand against the ways of God, either now or through eternity.

    Hope that helps, bro.

    Your emphasis on the failure of our teaching is a valid point Dave. The church needs to teach about change within the person as they mature in the faith, and often we don’t do that. I think it might help if we held people accountable for their growth. The question is not “have you gotten there?” but are you closer than you were yesterday?

    Regarding the death orders in the OT, one of the recurring themes I have read everywhere is God’s hatred of sin and disgust with idol worship. However, your point about His demonstrations of mercy in the OT is a valid one. Thanks for chiming in.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Re 1 — God is not like us. He knows everything. And he has ultimate control over souls.

    If I order someone killed, I’m a murderer. After all, I may have sent someone to hell who would have converted later. Or I may have killed a man who would have later fathered the next Martin Luther King, Jr. A human killing another human changes the future of the world in ways that are far beyond our knowing, which may well work against God’s plans.

    But God is different. He knows precisely how a death will change the future. Or how letting someone live will change the future. He sees the big picture.

    Moreover, he knows what that person’s eternal fate would have been had they lived. He can destroy a soul. He can even save a soul who would have repented in faith but for God’s intervention.

    Hence, when God took the life of Uzzah for touching the Ark, he did so to punish David for not consulting the Law. But God was able to instantly transport Uzzah to Paradise. For all we know, he did. Being dead is not all that bad a thing if God is on your side!

    When God ordered the extermination of the Amalekites, he knew how this would change the history of the world (certainly for the good). He also knew what would have happened had the Jews left the children alive and how it would have changed their sense of racial identity. For all we know, it may have destroyed their identity and bollixed the plan to send the Messiah to save us!

    We cannot make such judgments, and so, for us, such actions are great sin. God, however, knows the results and he can make sure the souls of those killed are dealt with justly, even mercifully.

    “We can’t know what God knows.” A seemingly small but infinitely important point. Is it possible, even likely, that the Amalekites were so corrupted and depraved that they had even passed this on to their children? Perhaps so. Thanks for participating , Jay.

  6. odgie says:

    Great comments everyone! I will respond individually to each one later, but I wanted to thank all of you for your time and thoughtful responses. I also wanted to welcome new commenter Jay Guin to AAT.

  7. Micah says:

    I like a lot of what David B said.

    I also would like to add to that. A lot of the people that were killed then were decedents of the Giants. Who are earlier explained as being born from Fallen Angels. But that is probably a lot deeper than you are wanting to go into.

    Stick with Davids explication.

  8. preacherman says:

    Odgie,
    This is off topic but on my heart.
    I would love for everyone to visit my blog.
    I have a need and pray request for everyone.
    Your thoughts, prayers and encouragement can help.
    You can make a difference in the life of a family who is suffering greatly.
    God bless you Odgie in all you do.
    Keep up the great posts and thoughts and I will pray for you during this study.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry
    Aka,
    Preacherman

  9. Why does God order the killing of so many people in the Old Testament? I’ve always wondered about that myself. I don’t think I can answer the question, but I can tell you how I have reconciled it in my own mind: I think about God being a consuming fire. He is so pure and holy, beyond our comprehension. He is all knowing and omnipotent….understanding what will happen under each and every circumstance, and He only wants what is good and holy. So if He decided to wipe out whole families or whole peoples, then I’m sure it was to further holiness and goodness on the earth. In my puny experience of life I have noticed that bad thinking and disobedience breeds bad thinking and disobedience in those within the sphere of influence. So if evil was the result of actions of several evil, disobedient people within a group, God would know how far that evil had already spread, and He would only do what was good and just. That’s all I’ve been able to figure out. I know God is all knowing and all powerful, and He loves us–and He is totally good and just.

    How can believers reconcile the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament? God is pure and holy and cannot be in the presence of evil men. We are stubborn and think we can be good enough to merit God’s favor. The law is good and perfect, but we imperfect, stubborn people could never obey the spirit of the law because of our pride and sinful nature. God had to prove to us that we needed a Savior and could not be saved apart from Jesus. Jesus was always part of the plan–He was with God at the creation of the world (Gen1 and John 1). He willingly became flesh and lived among us, showing us the true nature of God–both loving and saving, sacrificial but with a overwhelming power and sure justice. God was always this way….Jesus was His plan, because of His overwhelming love for mankind who He created.

    Why is the behavior of so many Christians so dissapointing? Not just the chuckleheads we see on television, but people we encounter in our own churches? The rude, the arrogant, the mean-spirited, the apathetic, etc. We don’t even know our own motivations half of the time. We are like the Israelites, knowing what we should be doing, but, even in the Presence of God in the form of His Holy Spirit, we sin, we judge and we are selfish. That’s why we need salvation. But we cannot and should not accept this kind of behavior in ourselves. It is right that people should question our behavior…we should always question our own behavior, because we are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ. We should be loving one another as He has loved us. We should love the world as He loved the world. We should not be judging one another, and we should be forgiving one another. We should be loving God with all of our hearts, soul mind and strength, and we should be loving others as we love ourselves–we should be loving deeply from the heart. And we aren’t doing it, and that’s why more and more people continue to be lost and why the church is disappearing instead of growing. We should be constantly asking ourselves when Jesus returns, will He find faith on the earth? I pray to God that He finds it in me…and I need to pray that every day…and in His church.

  10. PS I did not write this comment at 2:46 am….It is 10:48 PM…what kind of crazy time keeping is on this blog?? 🙂

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