This is a follow-up to my last post, Atheists: Forget the Old Testament, in which I introduced the concept that the Old Testament paints an imperfect picture of God. The writer of Hebrews makes this point, as well as the Gospels of Matthew and John.
John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Logos – the Word – of God. (Interestingly, Aristotle’s concept of logos was “to argue from reason.”) Logos was also identified in later Greek philosophy with the creative force of the universe. In the first chapter, John states:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Logos (who was “in the beginning”) became flesh. In verses 17 & 18 we read,
17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Here John makes an interesting contrast: In the OT, we have the Law, and a God whom no one has seen. In Jesus, we have grace and truth, and God is now known through Jesus. The implication here is that even though the Law does testify to God’s holiness, it doesn’t give us a good picture of God (the Father). Only Jesus, the Logos, “God the one and only,” has made God (the Father) known.
Now, the Old Testament contains some great stuff; however, whenever we start to get an idea of God from the OT, we should stop and ask, “What would Jesus do?” Assuming the Bible authors were correct in that God does not change, and that Jesus indeed is a perfect representation of the Father, we need to compare our Old Testament notions of God to what we know about Jesus. If there’s a conflict, who do we believe? On one hand we have an imperfect, incomplete revelation of God, on the other, a perfect revelation.
This is not to say we now know and understand everything; Paul makes it clear in 1 Cor. 13 that we don’t. However, we have the testimony of 4 Gospels as to the character of Jesus. We saw his reaction to sinners, and his reaction to the self-righteous. We saw his emotion concerning death, and his anger when confronting hypocrisy. How dare we take an Old Testament stand on issues where Jesus would seem to have taken the opposite stand?
Interestingly, Jesus held a higher standard than the Pharisees did when it came to sin; not only is action sin, but so is desire! However, whenever Jesus confronted someone caught in sin, what was his response? He forgave them, he healed them, and he had dinner with them!
What this tells me about the seeming contradictions between the “old, mean” God and “gentle” Jesus is that it may not be our perception of God which is the issue; perhaps it is our perception of the nature of sin. Time and again Jesus spoke of and dealt with sin as if it were a sickness, a plague from which humanity was suffering. Come to think of it, so did the God of the Old Testament!
The problem with the WWJD test is that we end up with seeming contradictions which we are unable to resolve. What do we do then? My personal opinion is that we hold to what is clear, and wait for the fog to lift on the rest. We have to get used to the fact that we still see only in part. We just have to remember, Jesus’ own words, “no one knows the Father except me.”
There are those, of course, who will insist on holding on to the OT sketch of God, especially if there’s someone to condemn, or if you need a God to hate. Choosing an imperfect picture of God over the Logos tells me more about the person doing the choosing than about God.
I do believe God died for all (the entire world), and all are forgiven by Him. But this is accessed by faith, and faith is a gift of God.
I was given faith in my baptism. When I was in my 40’s and started going to church with my wife (I didn’t really want to go)I heard the gospel proclaimed in it’s purity and received the Lord’s Supper and lo and behold, my “lightswitch” turned on.
I believe that the Bible is God’s revealed Word. Sure.I acknowledge that not everyone who reads the Bible comes to faith. I read it off and on for years and it didn’t mean a thing to me.
Mike, listen to this sermon (only 20 minutes). It addresses what we are talking about. I have linked to it here before, but it is really a terrific sermon.
Most Christians would not accept the premise of the sermon, but it is Biblical and I believe it to be true.
If there weren’t missionaries, there would be no Christians outside of Jerusalem. You forget, perhaps, the Great Commission?
Faith is not the forest… truth (i.e., the Big Picture) is the forest. Root rot? please. No one is denying the Bible… it just needs to be seen in context.
Ehrman is a fool, plain and simple. He breaks the rules for evaluating historical documents. I will state again that I suspect he does this to protect himself from facing truth. his problem is not intellectual; if it was, he’d easily resolve his issues.
I don’t think he does. The real question is, “why do people reject the truth?” It’s not intellectual. Again, I suggest a reading of CS Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” would perhaps be enlightening. (It’s not to be taken literally, by the way.)
Then the reason that I don’t believe must also be “His will…not mine.” Small comfort, Steve. You apparently were given faith without seeking while I sought in vain and couldn’t find it. The ex-Christian atheists find this vanity as well.
Why does God choose some and not others? If it is God’s will and not Man’s, why do those not in areas not culturally Christian find themselves denied of God’s Faith Will? You were brought up in a culture that is predisposed to Christianity (despite pleas of persecution, you know this is true.) What makes you think that if you had been brought up in a culture predisposed to Hinduism, Islam, Shinto, Buddhism or other religions that you would not have succumbed to Satan’s allure in the form of “false religions?” How do you know that you wouldn’t be as ardent a defender of Allah as you are of The Logos?
When you examine this, you don’t know. Yes, there are Christians in those lands, but only because of missionaries, and without missionaries it is unlikely that there would have been any such Christians. How do Christians spread the Word if not with the Bible (see the military attempts to preach to the Afghanis contrary to the rules of the U.S. Military codes.)
Why are Creationists trying so hard to get the bible taught in schools?
Don’t try to deny that the Bible is a pillar of your faith, and if as Alden says, Faith is the Forest then to look at the scriptures close up as trees and while examining the roots find rot, it is not hard to see there is a concomitant lack of support for faith. You yourself will Faith and name the will as God’s.
It is you and Alden who are, in fact, missing the entire message of ex-Christian atheists. Ehrman writes about the textual criticisms of the Bible and its weaknesses because this is where his scholarship as a Christian led him.
I had to rely on my feelings…I would never believe.
I trust in His Word and in His sacraments.
He has given me enough faith to believe, in spite of my continual efforts to walk away from Him.
The only reason I believe is His will…not mine.
Steve, many of them had faith but found it empty. Everything seems self-evident when you have a will to believe, and it even “Feels” real enough to say that you know it.
Mike, In your last sentence you’ve just done exactly what I’ve been talking about.
The other problem with both atheists and fundamentalists, as I mentioned in the prior post, is that they both tend to be literalists, when it suits their purposes.
If someone really wanted to understand the Bible, it can be done. There’s a remarkable story line that emerges. Critics like Bart Ehrman miss the forest for the trees (and often they even miss the trees). Bart seems to steal a lot from folks like Marcus Borg (he even credits Borg, once), who note many of the same issues, but at least Borg knows enough to grasp the metaphors and see the big picture. I still disagree with Borg on many, many things, but I tend to respect him more than the Ehrman-types. Better still are people like NT Wright or Ben Witherington.
To non-believers the scriptures make no sense. They have not been enlightened by faith.
A God that incarnates Himself as a mortal and endures hardship and death at the hands of those for whom He came to save…a monster?
Hardly. But then again…I wouldn’t expect you to understand it.
I think you completely miss the point of biblical criticism by atheists. The reason that we point to the absurdities of both the new and old testaments is not because we have a god to hate, but to point out the issues that show that the books are all too obviously a work of people and not the word of a deity.
Of if it is in fact the word of a deity, then that deity is a childish monster.