God in the Dock 8: – God the Bible and morality (Atheism and God’s Goodness finale)

Does the God we find in the Bible prove himself to be trustworthy, faithful, good and loving?  What about those parts of the Bible that actually appear to contradict morality?  Isn’t the Bible full of examples of genocide, sexual brutality, jealousy and vindictiveness?  This is, after all, one of the arguments Richard Dawkins makes in The God Delusion.[1]

Dawkins offers a number of examples of dubious morality in the Bible, stating

“in Genesis with the well-loved story of Noah, derived from the Babylonian myth of Uta-Napisthim and known from the older mythologies of several cultures. The legend of the animals going into the ark two by two is charming, but the moral of the story of Noah is appalling. God took a dim view of humans, so he (with the exception of one family) drowned the lot of them including children and also, for good measure, the rest of the (presumably blameless animals too).[2]

Then he is particularly taken with the events when the angels visit Sodom and Gomorrah to warn Lot and his family to flee and the interesting parallel with the Levite and his prostitute at the end of Judges.  He also draws a comparison between Lot and his family being saved from the destruction of Sodom and Noah’s salvation from the flood. He observes that:

“In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Noah equivalent, chosen to be spared with his family because he was uniquely righteous, was Abraham’s nephew Lot.  Two male angels were sent to Sodom to warn Lot to leave the city before the brimstone arrived. Lot hospitably welcomed the angels into his house, whereupon all the men of Sodom gathered around and demanded that Lot should hand the angels over so that they could (what else?) Sodomize them”[3]

In the Genesis account, Lot tries to reason with the men of the City and protect the angels:

“Lot’s gallantry in refusing the demand suggests that God might have been onto something when he singled him out as the only good man in Sodom. But Lot’s halo is tarnished by the terms of his refusal.”[4]

You see, Lot’s offer is for the men to have his daughters instead. He puts his own family at risk of gang rape.  Dawkins notes though that:

“As it happened, Lot’s bargaining away of his daughters’ virginity proved unnecessary, for the angels succeeded in repelling the marauders striking them blind.”[5]

If Lot gives us a problem, then what about his uncle, the even more central Old Testament character, Abraham?  Of him, Dawkins says,

“Lot’s uncle Abraham was the founding father of all three ‘great’ monotheistic religions. His patriarchal status renders him only somewhat less likely than God to be taken as a role model.  But what modern moralist would wish to follow him?”[6]

A notable example of this is Abraham’s attempt to pass his wife, Sarah, off as his sister to the Pharaoh in Egypt.  He does this to protect his own life but he puts Sarah’s life and honour at risk and brings judgement down on Egypt. If that’s not bad enough, he later repeats the same mistake with Abimelech, the Philistine ruler.

Then there’s the events surrounding the Exodus and the Law giving at Sinai. Whilst Moses is receiving the Law, the people of Israel get Aaron to provide them with golden images of calves to worship. They break the first two commandments. Dawkins describes the judgement that follows as

“God’s monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god resembles nothing so much as sexual jealousy of the worst kind, and again it should strike a modern moralist as far from good role model material.”[7]

Dawkins concludes that:

“To be fair much of the bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised translated, distorted and improved by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors, copyists, unknown to us and most unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.”[8]

So therefore, we cannot and should not use Scripture as the basis for our morality. In fact, Dawkins argues that even most believers don’t really use the Bible as the means by which they decide what is good and what is bad.  So commenting on the incident where God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac, Dawkins says

“But what kind of morals could one derive from this appalling story? Remember, all I’m trying to establish for the moment is that we do not, as a matter of fact, derive our morals from scripture. Or if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty.”[9]

He sees evidence of Christians approaching the Bible in a pick and choose way when it comes to which parts of the Bible they choose to accept as literal.  Going back to Noah’s flood, he observes:

“Of course, irritated theologians will protest that we don’t take the book of Genesis literally any more. But this is my whole point! We pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, which bits to write off as symbols or allegories. Such picking and choosing is a matter of personal decision, just as much, or as little, as the atheist’s decision to follow this moral precept or that was a personal decision, without an absolute foundation. If one of these is ‘morality flying by the seat of its pants’, so is the other.”[10]

So how do we respond to this?  I want to suggest three responses

  1. We need to distinguish between types of Biblical Genre

Do some people pick and choose which parts of the Bible to accept as fact and which parts to obey?  Yes, they do.  Some Biblical scholars argue that much of the Bible Is intended to be read as myth and story rather than as fact. This includes people who claim to be Christians as well as atheists.  We particularly associate this approach with liberal theology. There are a number of reasons why they do this.

Sometimes, people pick and choose because they don’t like what the Bible seems to say. They find the idea morally repugnant or too close to the bone and too hard to obey in their own lives. There’s nothing new in this. One of Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees was

“Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!”[11]

Paul has a similar criticism of those who pick and choose when and what to obey in Romans 2 and this criticism reflects something of the complaint raised by the prophets against Israel.

Sometimes, such an approach comes from the assumption that stories about miracles are too incredible to be true. In other words, they start with the presupposition that God does not intervene supernaturally.

Sometimes, the discussion about whether or not to treat a Bible event as fact or fiction arises from disagreement over the evidence. Is the claim supported by the current scientific consensus? Are we happy that the archaeological evidence presented supports the claim? The challenge here is not the absence of evidence, but, as we have discussed before, when evidence is presented, there is usually some debate and discussion about its validity and meaning.  Now, we have a problem here because we like instant answers. We want the evidence to serve our apologetic purposes. Historians and scientists tend to appreciate that it takes time to analyse and evaluate. They also know that competing explanations can take it in turns over time to hold the upper hand.

For example, take the Exodus from Egypt and invasion of the Promised Land described in Joshua and Judges. Is there evidence for an invasion of Israel and the destruction of cities like Jericho? The simple answer is that yes, there is substantial evidence of those great cities being destroyed that fits with the descriptions in the Bible. The challenge is that, over the years, different archaeologists have visited the sites, carried out their own excavations and done experiments such as carbon dating to try and date the events. Guess what?  Some of the results have suggested dates that fit with the consensus for when the Exodus would have taken place; others have dated the destruction of Jericho and other sites to a couple of centuries earlier.[12] So what do you do when that happens? Well, I would counsel patience. See how the argument develops over time.  You also look for the most natural and reasonable explanation for the data.  So, for example, if the archaeological evidence matches what happened in the Bible better than any other historical explanation, then either we’ve estimated the date of the Exodus wrong or our carbon dating results are inaccurate.

I would like to suggest three responses to these reasons for picking and choosing.

First of all, I happen to agree to some extent with Dawkins. Saying that something is just an allegorical myth does not really help if the allegory appears to support an unethical way of behaving or thinking.  For example, it doesn’t matter if the Flood didn’t really happen if the story told presents a picture of a God who is vindictive and destructive because first of all, we will learn to fear Him rather than to love him and secondly, we will learn to behave like him. We will justify our own vindictive and destructive behaviour.

Secondly, just because something is incredible or hard to believe, it does not mean that it doesn’t happen. Sometimes a team like Leicester City wins the Premier League, humbling Manchester City and Chelsea in the process. Sometimes the “joke candidate” becomes a party leader or a presidential candidate.

Thirdly, just because some people make those arbitrary and subjective choices, it does not negate the point that there is a right distinction to make between the different Biblical genres. The Bible is intentionally a mixture of different genres including historical narratives, poetry, wise sayings, apocalyptic literature and some stories that are meant to be read as fiction. This also means that within the different types of literature, we’ll see rhetorical devices used; we’ll see irony, satire and hyperbole at work. We’ll realise that a story can be told in a number of different ways depending upon the author’s intention.  A Bible passage may be intended to argue a case, give supporting evidence, encourage, act as a cautionary tale and even to mock or lampoon.

A genuine and sensitive engagement with the genre and style of writing will help us to understand the message the author is communicating.  You see, the author may not always be intending us to treat the characters involved and the events that happen as examples to follow.

  1. It’s important to identify the author’s intended application

At this stage, we need to deal with a rather mischievous red herring that Richard Dawkins has thrown into the pot. You see, by mixing in those stories that he finds unpleasant and weird, Dawkins blurs the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive literature.

In other words, just because we read that Abraham, Lot, Moses or David did something, it doesn’t mean that the Bible endorses their actions. This seems reasonably obvious, but the purpose of retelling a story may be to caution against those behaviours or to give an insight into the human character. Now, if some of those stories are hideously awful and involve deceit, torture, rape, murder and genocide, then they accurately reflect the world we see around us. In our own lifetimes, we have seen such things repeated in Bosnia, Rwanda and Syria. The Bible does not shrink back from describing the full horror of evil.

The Biblical account shows that even those who are marked out as righteous fail and fall. Noah is exposed and shamed in his drunkenness. Abraham lies and puts his wife at risk; this is also a failure of faith because he tries to solve things himself rather than trusting the God who made promises to him.

So we learn two lessons from the lives of Noah, Abraham and Lot.  First of all, existential ethics don’t work. I cannot assume that what I subjectively identify as good, even if I am widely considered to be a good person, will be good.

Secondly, Paul tells us that Abraham is counted righteous through faith not by works. It’s not about him being the perfect example and getting everything right. God chooses Abraham and loves him in exactly the same way he chooses and loves you and me: by grace.

Furthermore, by highlighting the full horror and extent of evil, the Bible points to why there is judgement.  We’ve been talking about God being in the dock and that suggests that we’ll be looking for him to provide evidence of his goodness when he speaks but the Bible shows that there is another case being heard. It’s not just God who is put in the dock. We seek to put God on trial but the Bible Says that it is you and me in the dock.  We are the ones who have rebelled against God. We are the ones who have exploited creation through greed. We are the ones who have been cruel and destructive towards others.  The Bible’s account of human history puts a mirror up to us so that we can see what we are really like.

So, sometimes the author intends to give us a command to obey, or a promise to trust, but not always. Sometimes, the author intends to give us an insight into the depth and depravity of the human condition.

Sometimes, we look at the event and see something so wonderful and amazing that we are not meant to try and imitate it. We are meant to realise that we cannot do these things ourselves. Take, for example, David killing Goliath. We are not meant to take this primarily as an example of how we should face our own giants. We are not meant to place ourselves in David’s shoes. Instead, we are meant to find ourselves looking on with the Israelite army in wide eyed wonder as God sends His chosen deliverer.

Sometimes, we are meant to find wise principles and general truths to wrestle with as we seek to apply them to our own situations. That’s how the Proverbs work. They are not predictions or promises. They are general truths that apply differently to each context.

  1. We need to read Scripture in the context of God’s overarching Salvation narrative

This is particularly important when we get to those Bible passages where we find God acting in ways that we find difficult to stomach, such as sending a flood to cover the earth, punishing idolatry with death or ordering the destruction of the Canaanites.

So, we come back to the overarching Bible narrative which we can sum up as follows.

God is eternal. He is love, just, sovereign, wise. He is the Triune God who is self-existent. God is not dependent upon anything outside of Himself.

God freely chose to create this World because He is good; His creation was good, beautiful and ordered. Because He is love, He made us to have a relationship with Him and each other. God put boundaries in place to teach us to love, trust and depend on Him.  God said that the penalty and consequence of breaking those boundaries would be death.

The first humans chose to rebel against God because they wanted to be equal to Him. They did not trust Him. They believed a lie about Him. So death entered the World.

God has acted to save a people for Himself. Where we deserve the penalty of death, the Son has died in our place, defeating death.

One day, the Son will return as Judge, raising those He died and rose for to eternal life. However, judgement means that there will be a consequence for those who did not put their trust in the Son, who rejected Him and continued in rebellion against God. The death penalty will still stand. This means eternal separation from God’s loving presence. The Bible calls this hell.[13]

So when we come to events like the Flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, what do we see? I want to suggest that we see in miniature little examples of the big picture. Sin brings death, destruction and sadness. Judgement is coming. However, the God who by nature is love is the God who delights to rescue. God is saviour. God saves Noah from the Flood and Lot from Sodom. God provides a substitute in place of Isaac.

Conclusion

The problem of evil does not allow for easy answers.  Nor does the Bible ever offer us the simple answer “this is where evil came from.” However, what the Bible does is three vital things.

First of all, it refuses to accept and live with evil. There’s no place for appeasement and accommodation between light and darkness. The fact that God is sovereign and uses evil circumstances for our good and His glory is never used to justify, excuse or minimise the horror of those events and actions. Creation was designed as a place where evil and sin were absent. New Creation is pictured as a place where evil and suffering are banished from forever.

Secondly, it tells us that God has done something about evil. God identifies as the one who delivers and protects His people. God is the one who, in Jesus, steps into history and suffers the consequence and penalty of sin in our place.

Thirdly, the Bible offers us hope. It tells us to look forward to that day when suffering and sorrow will cease. We can face present suffering because that day is coming.

This brings us back to the original question. You may recall that we started out by stating that the God revealed in Scripture is a good and great God.  By goodness, we mean his love, wisdom and holiness; by greatness, we mean his sovereignty over time and space (He is eternal and infinite) and over all of his creation.

We said that atheism is a challenge to God’s greatness and goodness. It rejects God’s greatness by insisting that there is no evidence for God’s existence.  It rejects God’s goodness by claiming that the God revealed in Scripture is not morally good.  In other words, atheism says that God does not exist and, if He did exist, then if he were anything like the God of the Bible, He would not be worthy of our praise and affection.

The Bible’s argument is that God has shown His existence, His infinite glory, beauty and majesty in Creation and in His acts through history. The Bible tells us that God’s goodness is seen in the Gospel in Jesus taking our place and dying on the Cross for our sin. God’s goodness and greatness are seen together in the resurrection of Jesus and one day will be seen most fully when He comes to reign.

[1] He is not alone in this. Similar points are made by Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason and George Bernard Shaw, Why I am not a Christian.

[2] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 269.

[3] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 271.

[4]Dawkins, The God Delusion, 272.

[5] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 272.

[6] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 274.

[7] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 276.

[8] Dawkins, The God Delusion,268.

[9] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 275.

[10] Dawkins, The God Delusion, 269.

[11] Matthew 23:24. New Living Translation.

[12] See for example Bryant Wood, Dating Jericho’s Destruction (http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/03/28/Dating-Jerichos-Destruction-Bienkowski-is-Wrong-on-All-C, accessed 11/05/2016) and also, Bryant Wood, Carbon 14 Dating at Jericho (http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/08/Carbon-14-Dating-at-Jericho.aspx , accessed 11/05/2016).

[13] This means that a full engagement with the problem of evil and the question of God’s goodness does require us to think through what we believe about judgement and Hell.  We will cover this when we look at New Creation.

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5 thoughts on “God in the Dock 8: – God the Bible and morality (Atheism and God’s Goodness finale)

  1. The bible is indeed full of examples of genocide, murder jealousy and injustice. This is why reading the bible is a common reason an atheist became an atheist, realizing how much the book is whitewashed by pastors and priests when they finally read it for themselves.

    We can go from the ridiculous story of Adam and Eve, with a god that either intentionally allows a snake (for most Christians Satan) into the garden, or is not omnipotent/omniscient and doesn’t know it is there. Then this god blames every human for the actions of two, rather than being just and judging each person on their own actions. Then we go to the story of Cain and Abel where this god is an accomplice to murder, doing nothing.

    You mention the story of Noah. It is a myth that is not original to Judaism or Christianity at all, and it has no evidence at all that it ever happened. However, this is a story of genocide of a god murdering all humanity except 8, and just annihilating all life just as collateral damage, it evidently being unable to just remove the offending people. The problem in this story is that this god does nothing for hundreds of years, supposedly humanity becomes “evil”, but at the same time this old man and three sons manage to build an impossible boat whilst not being bothered once by these supposedly evil people. Indeed, there is no evidence that people are particularly harmful at all; the only thing we have is a god that is taking a tantrum since it is being ignored, after leaving humanity alone for an unknown, but evidently very long, period of time. As Dawkins, and most atheists point out, this god murders everyone, children, the old, the young.

    Now, the usual claim by many Christians is that it is okay for God to murder people is because he created them e.g. might equals right. They might add that they are sure that it is more benevolent to murder children rather than allow them to live after one has murdered their parents. Of course, we still have no evidence that anyone needs murdering at all, only the anger of a god that he isn’t being worshipped. Since there is no evidence, this story is no more real than any other disaster story or creation story given by any religion.

    The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is also curious since the supposedly rightous man, Lot, has no problem in offering his children to a supposedly ravening mob to keep them from harming two angels. So your claims of “gallantry” are simply nonsense; one wonders how “gallant” Lot’s daughters found their father’s actions. Now, why would angels allow such an offer to be made, being incredibly powerful and in no danger at all? Why would Lot make the offer at all if he was a loving father? Is it again, like Abraham and Isaac, that one just throws away children in the belief that this god demands it? The story of Lot is a curious one in that it shows that this god isn’t the character that most Christians claim, one that has a “plan” and will not change from it. Lot does quite a bit of dickering with this god, which evidently has no idea what good people are where or is just a malevolent being, creating hope with Lot where there is none. Neither version helps the claims of Jews or Christians about how good their god is. Of course, per the bible itself, homosexuality has nothing to do with the sins of S&G, it’s not taking care of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16). Add to that the fact that there is no evidence for the events of S&G and again, there is no reason to believe the claim of the bible.

    You also mention Abraham, who lies again and again. And no, Dave, it is not a ‘mistake’ of Abrahams, but a choice, one that is evidently ignored by this god. This wouldn’t be so bad but Christiansn claim that their god’s morality is unchanging, and this story shows that this is not the case. If Abraham trusts in God, why the need for a lie and why does God turn a blind eye to it?

    We do have this god shown as jealous when anyone worships another god and is murderously jealous repeatedly. This god either itself murders or demands the murder of people who do not worship it. We have this from the OT into the NT, where JC himself says that those who do not accept him as king should be brought before him and murdered, leaving the murder to mortal believers. I think it is silly to call it a sexual jealousy; it’s just plain unreasoning jealousy. And if 1 Corinthian 13 is to be believed, this isn’t love or loving at all. So much for the claim that your god equals love.

    Things aren’t looking too well for your god so far. We have an injust, jealous, murderous god. Even if the bible reflected reality e.g. that the essential events happened and that your god is real, there is no reason to think that your god is the source of a benevolent morality or that one should follow it.

    Dawkins is right in that most believers don’t use the bible as their source of morality since they don’t follow what it says. For example, Dave, how many homosexuals have you murdered? How many disobedient children? How many slaves have you told to remain where they are because it is better to be owned by a horrible master than to try to escape? How many non-Christians have you murdered because JC says that those who refuse him as king should be brought before him and murdered? You see, it’s easy to obey JC when he says help the poor and needy, but that’s not all that is required. JC says that *all* of his fathers commandments are still to be obeyed. Heaven and earth are still here. It’s a happy circumstance that most western countries have secular laws that punish theists if they would do all what their holy books insist that they do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some of them, as we have seen in Orlando, or any place where a Christian has murdered someone for not agreeing with them.

    It’s easy to see what morality one gets from the story of Abraham and Isaac: unquestioning obedience. The morality of the bible is not a good morality.

    Unsurprisingly, you offer the usual excuses given by Christians to excuse their bible and their invention of a subjective morality based on themselves, their god created in their image.

    Christians often claim that there are different “genres” in the bible and they can pick and choose because they somehow know what parts their god meant literally and what parts this god meant metaphorically or simply didn’t mean for *them* at all. The problem with this is that Christians don’t agree on which parts are to be considered, literal, metaphor or “only for the time period”. They each have invented a magic decoder ring that they claim tells them the “truth” but none can show that this is the case and everyone else is wrong. So, Dave, your problems with “liberal” Christian interpretation apply just as much to your own claims; none are supported by evidence.

    There is no evidence that your god intervenes supernaturally. Please provide evidence that it does, Dave. You might also want to square this with how free will would then work with an interfering god.

    There is indeed a problem with the absence of evidence for any of the essential events of the bible. To claim otherwise is an attempt to mislead the reader. It is not, as you have falsely claimed, simply a difference of opinion about evidence. It is a lack of evidence completely. You certainly do want evidence to serve your apologetic purposes. This is having a presupposition that you need to support; it is not looking at facts and then following them to where they lead, whether it supports your beliefs or not. This is why the scientific method works and blind belief does not. Incidentally, your claim that competing explanations take turns over time, is not correct. Explanations can complete, but when one has the preponderance of evidence, it supplants the other and that one is abandoned. Now, take for example religions. They compete but they have no evidence so they can’t supplant each other, they just make more and more baseless claims on how much more “true” they are than the next, with no evidence at all to support those claims. They use the same supposed “evidence” and every other theist claims that only they can use it and discount the others exact same arguments.

    There is no evidence of an invasion of Israel. There is evidence of destruction of little walled towns like Jericho but there is no evidence of external invaders. What the evidence does support is a civil war because no evidence shows that anyone came from somewhere else to wreak war.

    In that there is no consensus for when the supposed “exodus” took place, or evidence at all that it did, there is no way for carbon dating to agree with dates that Chrisitans and Jews haven’t come up with. It’s great fun watching Christians point to radiometric dating when it agrees with their claims but when it doesn’, oh the whining on how awful it is to use such a thing. Nice hypocrisy as always. Of course, you can support your claim of a consensus. Evidence please. All we have is an article and again, it’s always most curious to see someone try to make the date fit a story, when there is nothing to show that the story happened at all.
    I do understand that you would counsel patience because you are attempting to hope that new information is discovered that will validate your claims and so far, nothing has. The problem is the “wait and see” approach wears thin after one considers that theists have been desperately trying to find evidence for several thousand years and have found nothing to support their religions or their gods. It’s rather like being told that “real soon now, JC will be back”, so keep believing even though its been a couple of thousand years and he said he’d be back before people 2000 years ago would die. Still no end times still no sadistic fantasies fulfilled.

    Now, if you are honest and the natural and reasonable explanations for the data don’t support your claims, when what do you do? You accept that there is little reason to believe in a myth that has nothing to support it, and you realize that the evidence precludes your myth from ever happening in the first place. No evidence for exodus at all, and plenty of evidence of Ancient Egypt just going along as usual. No evidence for the entire Egyptian armor dying but plenty of evidence of Egypt’s enemies not doing a thing to take advantage of this. No evidence of a million people wandering around an area the size of half of Pennsylvania for forty years and plety of evidence of life going on there as normal, no wandering Israelites seen. Again, no consensus of a date for the exodus and no evidence for it either. It’s very noticable that you want to throw out the fact, radiometric dating and keep the baseless belief. So much for following the facts. The same physics that allows radiometric dating to work is the same that allowed you to enjoy xrays for broken bones, PET scans for soft tissue problems, energy to light your home and power everything you depend on. Theists try to pick and choose what physics to accept, loving the stuff that makes them comfy but trying to claim it is wrong when their myths are shown to be nonsense.

    One might have some hope that you do realize that Christians have little idea of what is allegory and realize that allegory can be for really nasty ethics. The flood does show a genocidal god that got cranky and murdered everyone but 8, killed every other living thing and ended up with a drunkard as his supposed best man on earth. Sicne the bible is full of nonsense like this, the bible presents a picture of a vindictive destructive petty god that one is supposed to fear, no questions asked. Your god justifies its behavior, just like Christians do when they have murdered millions, enslaved millions all because of what the bible says.
    Hmmm, now you claim that just because something is incredible or hard to believe, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That’s quite true. However, that doesn’t mean it happened either and if there is no evidence, there is no reason to think it happened. If your logic holds, then every other religion on earth is just as likely to be true as yours. However, I will guess you won’t like that logical conclusion because you want to pretend you are special.

    It’ hilarious to see you complain that “some people” making supposed “arbitrary and subjective choices”, but you make those yourself and you cannot show otherwise. Your “right distinction” is just one more subjective claim made with no evidence and the usual ignorance and arrogance of a Christian who wants to pretend that he and only he is right. Again, please do show that your version is the right one and no one else’s is. Yep, the bible is a mess, all sorts of literature and again every Christian has a different claim on what to claim as what their god wants. Your claim are no better than the rest and you hate to admit that. You have no way to know the author’s intention any more than anyone else.

    As always, a Christian like yourself tries to claim that everyone who comes up with a different interpretation isn’t being “genuine” and “sensitive”, and that Dave, is just the same nonsense that other Christians will claim about your version, that you weren’t genuine or sensitive enough. As expected, you have no more evidence your claims are right and theirs are wrong.

    It’s such nonsense when you claim that maybe the bible doesn’t endorse the actions of the characters tells about. Now, that’s very amusing considering that Chritians claim that one can learn how to behave in the bible and now you want to postulate that we can’t trust that the stories are to be educational, when this god of yours *rewards* the actions of Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, etc. Are you really that silly to think that you can intentionally try to tell false stories about what your bible contains when people read it all of the time? Honestly, it does amaze me on the lengths of deception that Christians will go to in order to excuse their bible and their actions.

    Again, about David, why did your god murder David’s son for something David did?

    It seems that, when now trying to excuse the bible by saying that it accurately reflects the world we live in, that either this god can do nothing, or chooses to do nothing. How interesting. This god of yours intentionally causes events like the genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia and Syria. It’s as bad as those humans were. It demanded such things and yep, just as you say your bible shows that your god is a horrible thing and evil “The Bible does not shrink back from describing the full horror of evil.” because your god does everything that you claim is horrible and evil.

    Yep, the bible shows that those who obey god fail. Now, how does that work with a god that is constantly interfering? This god shows it is not trustworthy because its claims don’t come true. We have the claims of a wonderful world after the flood. Funny how this omniscient god didn’t see Noah’s stupidity. Abraham is told to wander around but is given no help by this god at all. God promises to stop people from being able to work together and funny how that failed amazingly well. God promised to help an army and was chase away by iron chariots. God is trusted by Job to care for him and what did Job get? A dead family, destruction, boils, and a god that used him as a toy for a bet with supposedly the greatest evil in the universe. Umm, why does this god repeatedly need to show off? And then hurriedly have to make up to his toy by giving him a new family rather than just resurrecting those that Job loved?

    God supposedly caused plagues and the death of the entire Egyptian army but funny how no one noticed that any of this happened. Then we have the promises of the New Testament. Per C himself, everyone baptized believer will be able to heal people just like JC. And no sign of this at all, no Christians making sure that the veterans hospitals and childrens hospitals are empty. We also have the promise that anything asked of this god will be granted, no caveats, no hedging. Funny how all of those instances of genocide you mentioned earlier happened, because I know people were praying for it not to.

    Paul does say that Abraham was righteous through faith and not works, and James says that faith without works is worthless. Who should we believe, Dave? As for the idea of “grace” that again shows that your bible has nothing to do with free will but grace, that only some people will ever be allowed to accept this silly god. So much for the claims that this god needs free will or that it loves everyone. A being that loves everyone would give it the opportunity to find it, right?

    God has not provided any evidence because you have yet to show god exists at all. You have not provided any evidence of its goodness either. All you have done is try to equate goodness with what God wants and as we have seen, God wants genocide, pain, death and suffering. There is no evidence for a “rebellion” for there is no objective morality to rebel against or a god to rebel against. And since you have done a good job in showing that this god is not good, there is plenty of reason to rebel against the god you’ve created. I have no problem in ignoring a god that requires genocide, requires people to murder others for being different, requires people to murder those who disagree with it. Your god demands that humans be cruel and destructive to others. It’s right there in the bible, and it’s not a reflection of humans, it’s a log of what your god has demanded and commanded. Humans ignore this god all of the time and we have gotten much better for it. No holy writ that says that non-believers should be killed, no holy writ that says resources only belong to one people, no holy writ that says some humans should be slaves to others. We are far better than your god is depicted in the bible. The authors of the bible aren’ t pointing to god and saying “how horrible this being is”, they say and say without error, “do what this god says, no matter what or suffer the same.”

    Again, Dave, you’ve made up your religion in your image, nothing more. Your interpretations are no more true than the next Christians.

    You claim this god is love. How many of the qualities of love does this god show and how many of the exact opposite does it show? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    Hmmm, it’s not patient, not kind, it is amazingly envious and jealous for a supposedly omnipotent being, it boasts constantly (especially in Job), it is proud because it repeatedly shows off . It dishonors others by killing them for no reason. It is self-seeking, for every single thing that this god is for god and showing how great god is, desperate for “glory”. It is easily angered, constantly murdering people in its fits of rage. It does not protect (see David’s son), it does not trust anyone and murders anyone who dares disobey it, it keeps a record of wrong and damns people with it (aka the books of life everyone supposedly as in Revelation). It delights in evil because it intentionally causes harm and lies and works directly with its supposedly evil archenemy where it accepts and lives with evil with no problem at all (Revelation 20-21). There is nothing to show that it is wise since it is constantly being surprised by humans. This god of yours is quite an invention but it is not supported by the bible.

    There is nothing to say that creation is “good”. One can make a good argument that it is neutral or it is malevolent (The book “The owner of all infernal names” makes this argument”. All you are doing, again, is trying to claim God equals good and that is nothing more than a subjective and circular argument, built on the premise of might equals right.

    Oh and I ignore this god constantly as do millions and still no god revenge. Only the promises of Christians that this god will someday get around to it. Still thousands of years and nothing. Just silly revenge fantasies and claims that God is coming “soon” honest and for true. Another thousand years go by and then what?

    Hell is much more than the separation from this god in the bible. It’s nice to see you trying to whitewash your religion again. Modern humans don’t much like the idea of the fiery eternal torture that the bible promises. They invent all sorts of things in its place, again showing that the bible is just something human make up, nothing more.

    All one needs to show your claims are wrong is to read the bible, Dave. biblegateway .com is a great place to start. It’s a shame that you have chosen to misrepresent your religion. It’s no great surprise that religion is losing its foothold, especially in the younger generations. They can look up what you say and then wonder why this religion requires you to make up nonsense to explain it.

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  2. Thanks for your comments Club. Could I ask you to have a read of our comments policy for future reference?

    Looking back at my article above I think that most of your comments are actually dealt with in the article itself or in some of our previous articles on this site. NB one quick clarification, the reference to Lot’s actions as gallant is a quote from Dawkins not my own assessment – and I think he was probably being ironic.

    Re evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible including archaeological data I’ve tried to provide footnote links to supporting data and discussions as I’ve gone along. There are a number of books and websites that provide a greater level of detail than we can cover here. As a starting point, or the Old Testament I suggest http://www.biblearchaeology.org and specifically on the invasion of Canaan and destruction of Jericho try http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/01/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx On the New Testament see Craig Blomberg, The historical Reliability of the New Testament & The historical Reliability of John’s Gospel and/or FF Bruce, The New Testament Documents are they reliable? It may be that you don’t agree with the interpretation that different authors give to the evidence presented but that simply does not mean that the evidence is not there nor that it hasn’t been presented.

    Commentaries will also look at individual cases and include relevant discussion about archaeological data as well as moral questions

    We’ll be looking at Creation the Fall and the Flood in more detail in a future series.

    As you say, the Bible is readily available for people to read in their own language. Bible Gateway is a great link. For those living locally we also have free copies of Luke’s Gospel and the New Testament to give away at the moment.

    At Bearwood Chapel we encourage people to read the Bible for themselves. We try to cover the whole Bible in our preaching and teaching so that we don’t simply pick and choose the bits we like and whitewash out the stuff that might be difficult to explain or controversial. Our Engage and Sunday Night Church formats provide space for discussion, questions and challenge as do our home groups in the week. Readers living the Sandwell & West Birmingham area of the UK are welcome to give us a try.

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    • What about your comments policy, Dave? If I am breaking a rule, why not just indicate which one? It seems you wish to make an accusation but aren’t willing to indicate what it is. I read the policy, please indicate what I should be getting out of it.

      If you do find that your article answers my questions, please show how it does so. Making vague claims that there are answers seems nothing more than avoiding the points I have made, hoping that I do your work for you. I obviously don’t think that your posts answer my questions, so that doesn’t work very well. I know that the quote about gallantry is Dawkin’s, what do *you* think about calling Lot gallant?
      You have indeed tried to put footnote links to support your claims, however those links don’t provide the support you wish to claim that they do. Again, I’ve read many books claiming that archaeology supports the bible and I know that claim is not true. It’s no surprise that you get your links from a single source, a source that has a presupposition that it must support and has no support from peer reviewed journals. Craig Blomberg is another apologist who has no evidence for his claims, and no support from anyone but other Christians.

      It is not that I simply disagree with the interpretations, it is that the evidence does not fit the interpretations at all. For example, the claims about the magical flood. Some Christians want to claim that the Grand Canyon is “evidence” for that. However, since the actual features of the Grand Canyon do not fit the claims of the bible or Christians, who also can’t agree on how the flood happened, they are not presenting evidence at all, they are presenting an assumption that has no evidence to back it up, they present false claims about the Grand Canyon, ignoring reality. The same with the claims of fantastic places and temple, and the exodus. Claims made that a certain artifact is evidence but when that artifact is looked at, nothing shows that it is evidence for the claim at all, and indeed, evidence for a completely other event. Again, why can’t apologists explain why no one noticed the exodus and the events surrounding it?

      Dave, if you are going to look at “creation”, I do expect you to show how its only your god that can possibly be the creator since most if not all other religions use the argument from Romans 1 that one just has to look around to know that “their” god was the creator. If you are going to talk about the flood, you should start with when it happened and how it happened.

      Considering your posts here, I do have difficulty believing that you do as you claim and encourage people to read the bible for themselves. I would offer you a challenge, one that I have no way of checking on: read the parable of the minas in Luke to your congregation, no other commentary. And then open the floor up for questions.

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  3. Thanks for your comments. I guess we’ ll have to agree to disagree for the time being then. I think I’ve explained before that we didn’t set up this site as a debating forum. There are other Web forums that do this. I give time in face to face discussions for answering challenges and if people have genuine questions I’m also happy to receive and respond to emails.

    However, my experience is that below the line comment debates tend to generate more heat than light so it’s not my preferred medium for discussion. Hence where I think something is dealt with either in one of our articles, on another site or in traditional books I’ll refer people out to them because there’s lots of people and resources covering things in more detail. It means I can keep this site focused on its primary aims which are to help Christians & those seeking think through how what they believe (doctrine) affects their lives (pastoral).

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