Christianity has taken its’ share of beating, too.
Islam has been in the news recently, with many wondering what it actually stands for. The Islamic State doesn’t seem to be helping their cause.
Even President Obama recently said “no God condones this kind of terror.”
So it begs the question of what kind of God is in Islam. What kind of God sends messages to its’ “Seal of the Prophets; commanding to destroy his own creation?”
And Mr. Obama also recently said America is not at war with the religion of Islam, but it is at war with terrorists.
But Christianity has its’ skeptics, also.
Since other posts have looked at Islam and its’ many interpretations, it seemed right to answer the same types of criticism and questions about Christianity.
With Lenten season underway for Western Catholics and beginning Monday for Eastern Catholics, there is more focus on Christianity.
The God of Christianity isn’t evil somehow, is he?
Foremost, some say the God of the Old Testament is evil, and asks how it can be reconciled with Jesus and love in the New Testament.
They ask how this can be the same God.
This posts examines the notion that the Old Testament God of the Bible is violent, or somehow evil, based on a verse in the Book Of Samuel. This post asserts God is not only not evil, but was trying to eliminate evil.
The quickest, simplest answer is that the Old Covenant law (such as “an eye for an eye” was supplanted by the New Covenant of love (such as “love thy neighbor” or “love thy enemies”).
Let’s see how that could be.
Let us start by looking at God’s law in the Old Testament. To some it conjures images of “an eye for an eye” or a stoning for violating a Commandment.
And, some respond by thinking the Old Testament God is violent. (This is, of course, before the New Testament love that Jesus preached).
Here is one Bible verse people frequently ask about, especially in relation to a hostile Christian God. It is the verse brought up the most when people try to say the God of the Old Testament is evil or violent. It can be found in 1 Samuel 15:3,
“Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’“
People use this quote to assert the God of the Old Testament is evil or violent. Some say the violent language contradicts other parts of Scripture, and wonder how any God could direct such a thing.
This is a case where context is important. It is referring to polytheists in Canaan that did not obey God. It was a case where God wanted evil eliminated so it didn’t reproduce.
The entire culture had been corrupted by the sin of the adults.
Also, the typical Israeli rules of war at the time had a warning and declaration period of a coming war. Anyone could flee before it happened, if they chose. Only those who voluntarily chose to stay faced the war.
It is a similar concept to what is revealed in Islam in the Qur’an. Verses mentioning violence against nonbelievers are actually referring to a specific time and place long ago (per the Arabic translation). In the Qur’an they usually refer to the polytheists during the time of Muhammad.
The Bible and Qur’anic verses are to prove a point. The point is to learn why the response was that in those situations. These responses are not to be taken lightly or out of context.
The verses do not mean for people to go and destroy things in the same manner now. Even in Islam It is forbidden to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings, according to Muslim scholars.
In Christianity, also, modern times are meant to be taken into account. But, in Christianity a New Covenant fulfilled and supplanted the Old Covenant.
Also, Saul spared some things (animals) because his human mind told him to do so. It is a mistake we all likely make sometimes.
The point is God wants you to obey him fully, and not just in the parts you think are justified.
That is an important Biblical lesson: just because something seems “right” to you, doesn’t mean you should take it upon yourself to disobey God’s Word. His plan is based on knowing everything, not what your limited human mind knows.
Another important point to remember is this:
This is not saying this is okay to do now (slaughter), or for someone to rationalize because it was done before. Scripture events were a specific time, place and set of circumstances.
Islam uses verses of violence – like this Bible verse could be translated – to do evil through all times. It is debated whether that is what is implied in the Muslim religious text.
How could the verse in Samuel above be interpreted? Here is one explanation:
“The neighbouring nations might know that these terrible executions of the Israelites upon some particular nations, did not proceed from any views of profit or interest to themselves, but were done in obedience to the commands of the Lord of all, to punish those whose iniquity was full.“
In other words, the God of the Old Testament was eliminating an evil that had spread to large numbers in Canaan. The evil affeced all society and God didn’t want it to reproduce.
(Some Biblical commentaries explain this “wiping out” also symbolically points to the fact that evil will eventually be wiped out from the earth).
Other people point to things like the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the destruction of Jericho to make the point that the Old Testament God is somehow evil. If you look beyond the surface, though, God is actually trying to eliminate evil to protect his people.
Some clergy point out that, in the Bible, those with evil intentions are nameless, while you learn the names of the others.
Like other verses in the Bible, the quote in the Book Of Samuel is pointing to other things. The violence is not meant to be the emphasis, but obeying God is the emphasis.
Rabbis teach Judaism wants people to pursue justice and mercy. For better social order as a whole, eliminating evil in the way might be one part of this.
A “New” Way
What are some takeaways from this post?
One is it should be pointed out that the Old Covenant was supplanted by the New Covenant of love by Jesus.
Also, Jesus did not abolish the law; he fulfilled the law. Thus, the New Covenant includes the Old Covenant.
The New Covenant is love, and that is what you should take away. In other words, the so-called “violence” in Samuel 15:3 was ultimately to show you love.
Your mind might not have thought it was about love at the time you first read 1 Samuel 15:3. That is why the lesson was important.
Verses like 1 Samuel 15:3 are uncommon and refer to when society as a whole is in danger. God looks after his people, even if it does not make sense to the human mind.
Islam has similar consequences for large scale spreading of ill on society, such as in the Quran 5:32-34. These punishments are for people who have had numerous changes to repent and are a danger to society as a whole.
Notice in the Bible and the Qur’an the violence is directed at polytheists (belief in many Gods) who have had chances to repent.
The lesson is not to go your own way when it sounds “right” to you, but to follow God’s Way, even when it doesn’t make sense to you.
Your own way does not lead to your salvation, which is what God ultimately wants.
God sent his only Son to fulfill the commandments of the Old Testament for you.
And, please don’t forget. The Gold of the Old Testament is often referred to as slow to anger and abounding in mercy. He also did things like selecting women as leaders in Israel, directing them to remove the evil Canaanites, and even freeing slaves after 7 years.
Deuteronomy 10:18 reads,
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows his love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”
And Christian interpretation can be a certain way because the emphasis changed with the incarnation of the Messiah on earth.
The Old Testament – and its’ law -is not the path to salvation for you: The New Testament – and its’ love – is.
Ultimately, God is anything other than evil.
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