Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins wrote:
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… malevolent bully. Those of us schooled from infancy in his ways can become desensitized to their horror.
When I ﬁrst read this, I was infuriated. His comments are based on two entirely false allegations.
First, the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. There aren’t two Gods in the Bible—a mean Old Testament God and a nice New Testament God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph is also the God of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John.
Second, Dawkins is dead wrong, not because he paints God with too cruel of a brushstroke, but because he’s too ﬂattering. This soft depiction does a tremendous disservice to the cause of Christ. Why? Until you realize how vengeful God really is, you’ll never feel an urgency for your friends and family members who are without Christ.
I’ve taken some of Dawkins’s accusations and lined them up with corresponding biblical passages.
When I think of infanticide, I think of news stories: Susan Smith driving her sons into a lake, or Andrea Yates drowning her ﬁve young children in her bathtub. But praying the Lord’s Prayer to a baby killer? The fact is there are many instances in Scripture where God told His leaders to kill infants. The most famous occurred in 1 Samuel 15:2–3.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
If you think that’s bad, how about the time God caused the deaths of a few hundred thousand ﬁrstborn babies the night before Pharaoh released God’s people from captivity in Egypt?
“Bloodthirsty Ethnic Cleanser”
When I think of ethnic cleansing, I think of those killed in Bosnia or the massacres that took place in Rwanda. But before the Tutsis and Hutus made headlines, the God of the Bible called for the systematic extermination of every indigenous people group in the land of Israel.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites … and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you … you must destroy them totally.… Show them no mercy.… For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deut. 7:1–6)
One of the most reprehensible events of the 20th century is what historians call the Rape of Nanking. The capital of the Republic of China, Nanking, fell to Japan on Dec. 13, 1937. The Imperial Japanese Army unleashed a campaign of ruthless torture on its citizens, especially toward women. Thousands upon thousands of women were raped, and many were taken as sex slaves.
The shocking thing is that the God you follow ordered similar atrocities perpetrated upon the Midianites, Israel’s neighbors.
The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”…They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man.…
The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, ﬂocks and goods as plunder…
Moses was angry with the oﬃcers of the army… “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:1–2, 7, 9–18).
As you read, you might be thinking, God changed the way He dealt with His people after Jesus rose from the dead and inaugurated the new covenant. That’s just the Old Testament. God doesn’t treat people like that in the New Testament.
How about the time when a couple named Ananias and Sapphira claimed to be more sacriﬁcial than they really were, and as a result were struck dead on the spot (Acts 5:1–10)? How about the warning the apostle Paul gave to the Christians in the ancient Greek city of Corinth? He instructed them to take the Lord’s Supper with the utmost seriousness or some might die as a result: “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 11:30).
Why do I bring up Scriptures that cast God in an unﬂattering light? My answer is simple: This is not about saving your friend from hell. It’s about saving your friend from God. Hell is simply the end result of God’s justiﬁed wrath. It’s the ﬁnal permanent expression of His anger toward those who have purposely chosen to reject His lordship over their lives.
That’s why until you understand how violent and inhumane God really is, how utterly wrathful the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ can become, you’ll never feel the urgency to help your non-Christian friends escape His detestable clutches.
Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
That has to be the biggest understatement in all of Scripture.
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