In his book The God Delusion, famous atheist author Richard Dawkins has boldly stated,
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. [emphasis mine]
Now being that biblical Christians believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same, Dawkins’ charges carry over into my daily discussion of reasons for believing in Jesus Christ.
Dawkins’ accusations against the God of the Old Testament are based, in part, on passages like Deuteronomy 20:16-17. There, God commanded the Israelites to kill every living being in the cities of six Canaanite ethnic groups. Of course, Mr. Dawkins would never command anybody to carry out genocide or ethnic cleansing against anyone. That would be morally reprehensible. But are all things that are wrong for humankind also wrong for the Creator of humankind?
Dawkins and people like him find a place where God is quoted as saying, “For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:5) Again, they pass judgment on the God of the Old Testament according to their own human standard. But is it not possible that there’s a kind of jealousy for the well-being and protection of those we love?
So Why Do I Believe God is Good?
First, it needs to be pointed out that God does not change. In fact, it is precisely because God does not change that humanity has not yet been judged. In the middle of pointing out man’s boundless capacity for evil, God says, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6) The holy Creator of mankind is slow to anger, while mankind is quick to engage in abusive, destructive behavior.
Regarding the six ethnicities that God had commanded the Israelites to wipe out, God had already given them almost 500 years of warnings to quit their disgusting habits before He judged them. From the time of Abraham all the way to the time of Moses, those nations had burned their firstborn babies as sacrifices to their false gods and engaged in cultic sexual intercourse in their public religious ceremonies! Additionally, they had been murdering the weak, the lame, and the elderly among travelers in their area.
Meanwhile, when Moses asked God to let him see God’s full glory, God told Moses that He is so holy and pure that sinful man would die in the presence of God’s holiness. Nonetheless, God had Moses stand hidden in a cleft in the rock of a mountain while God passed by. As God let Moses sense His goodness passing by, God declared His Name to Moses. God said,
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But He by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Reexamine this quote. How many generations of the faithful does the LORD show love to? “Thousands!” And what’s this about “dealing with children and children’s children?” As the sin practiced by the father so often gets picked up by the son and the grandson, God deals with each generation of “the guilty” separately as it continues in wickedness or departs from evil. Compare three or four generations to thousands of generations!
God does not change. God—the only entirely righteous, all-knowing, all-wise Being—is the only One who is in a completely fair and just position to judge the hatred, pride, greed, arrogance, and abusive behavior that is so typical of the human race (which God had created pure in the very beginning).
Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) As the Father has been patient, so the Son Jesus is patient toward you and me.
Even as Richard Dawkins and others mock, asking where is this invisible God? We have the word of God which reads,
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because He does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief … what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? (2 Peter 3:9-12)
Come to Jesus, Mr. Dawkins. And if you have not yet done so, dear reader, come to Jesus.
For Excellent Further Reading:
Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Baker Books, 2011.