By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Winter 2012
Is God “Barbaric” in the Old Testament?
I am a believer in Jesus Christ and based upon the four Gospels, His primary teaching is about LOVE, COMPASSION, MERCY, EMPATHY and HUMILITY. That makes sense to my logic, where many of the other writings in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments do not. I consider the Old Testament as portraying God in such a barbaric manner, that it defies human conscience, as does the fictional book of “Revelation”.
A: Christ taught the best way is love, compassion, etc. as you describe. But how does He, or how do we, solve the problem of people who are evil toward others? Should the man or nation most skilled at war be able to continually take from those who are peaceful producers? Should those with continually destructive habits such as lying, cheating, substance abuse and immorality be permitted to forever make their own lives and the lives of others miserable? Or should God remove free will and force everyone to do good all the time? Old and New Testaments show us that God allows people to do evil to themselves and others hoping they will see the effects of their evil and repent. When they do not repent, He sends a judgment—sometimes a plague or “natural” event, sometimes an invasion from another nation. Death is not an end, because God promises to raise everyone from the dead (John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:12-13).
All four Gospels contain numerous references to Christ’s judgment on evil doers, including the great prophetic chapters (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke21) which contain statements like: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The trials that God allows are for our good. “‘For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:6-7). The purpose of this life is to become like Christ so that we can live and reign with Him. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).
Originally published in SVM Winter 2012