Good God, Bad God?
Many people in and outside of Christianity have issues with the stark contrast between the alleged warlike, hateful God of the Old Testament (OT) and the alleged never-violent, forgive-the-unrepentant Jesus of the New Testament (NT). If you haven’t yet read my documents on salvation (Go To Heaven! and Salvation Under the Microscope), please do before reading this. You might also want to read Twisted Sister and Critique of When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
Solving this seeming dilemma begins with understanding what happened in Eden. God did not create a world of death and suffering. But neither did He create people as robots for His entertainment. And such sentient beings, in order to have the capacity to genuinely love and relate to God, would have to have the free choice of rejecting Him. He had put Adam and Eve into a perfect environment but told Adam to guard it (Gen. 2:15) before Eve was made. Adam failed in this charge and God said,
It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a strong one facing him. (Gen. 2:18) The serpent had entered the garden, and knowing Adam would not intervene, picked on the less experienced Eve.
God had told them (Gen. 2:17, 3:3) they would die if they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (ref. as TKGE), but did not specify exactly what kind of death this was. Nevertheless, He did not add any other punishments to this disobedience (the curse on the ground was only added after Adam blamed God and Eve, and only Adam was from the ground). And that’s what
sin is, defying the will of God. But why would God issue a punishment that seems so harsh to us for something like eating fruit? We can speculate about the fact that God is perfect and holy, and that the issue is Who had been offended, not exactly what the offense was. Yet at the same time, what had God asked of them that was so hard, especially in a perfect environment? Anyone so weak would surely not be able to stand against far greater pressure, so it might be that God had to introduce death in order to limit the consequences of sin (see Gen. 3:22).
But consider this: why didn’t Jesus ever condemn that OT God? Why did he tell people in His day they would suffer judgment (Mt. 11:20 for example)-- and then praise God for it? Why did the OT God write,
Kiss his son, or he will be angry and you and your ways will be destroyed, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him in Psalm 2:12? Note in that Psalm that people are rising up not only against the Lord but also against
his anointed, and that the Son would
break them with a rod of iron.
And most important of all: Is Jesus not God? Are not all the persons of the Trinity one in essence? Can the character or essence of God then be divided into
kind? Clearly the Son is seen prophetically in the OT (Ps. 2:7 says,
today I have become your father) and recognized as the OT God in the NT (John 1:1, Phil. 2:5-11). Unless one wants to argue that the Trinity has a split personality, Jesus cannot be separated from the Father (John 8:54, 10:30) in being or essence; they have one divine will. The three persons are each unique yet share one will, making a
compound one. But Jesus alone shares our humanity, so only Jesus could reconcile the divine and the human, and his human will alone was subservient to the Father.
But the point I want to emphasize here is that you can’t divide the OT God from the NT God, nor the Creator from the Savior (Col. 1:15-20). So whatever divine character flaws are charged to God (as if His creatures have the right to put Him on the witness stand!) must also be charged to Jesus.
What Jesus showed us in His humanity is that God is both just and merciful, holy and forgiving, harsh and gentle. The differences are not with some kind of divine psychotic delusions but with treating people as individuals instead of merely parts of a whole. To never judge the motives of individual sin is to ignore individual responsibility and deny justice to victims. If someone repents of wrongdoing, God is merciful, but if they refuse, He is just. Do we, even as flawed humans, sometimes show mercy? Do we not know when to show it and when not to show it?
God-- which He is and we’re not-- isn’t obligated to report to us every reason for everything He does. The nations of the OT that were to be completely destroyed, children and animals included, likely had been corrupted to the point where their continued existence would spread their infections (physical and spiritual) to more people. Did He not agree to relent on the impending judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah if Abraham could find even ten good people there (Gen. 18:32)? Can we presume God never gave those other destroyed nations a chance? But regardless, the question is whether we trust God’s judgment or instead think ourselves worthy of condemning Him. Truly, even many Christians do believe that the clay can tell the potter what to do (Rom. 9:20-21).
bad God / good God belief only sees on the surface and makes God into a mere super-human with the same flaws we have, much like the mythological gods of ancient Greece and Rome. It presumes that God has no other reasons for what He does than what we can imagine. Yet even in this God is merciful (see Ezekiel 18:25), saying
Come, let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). Jesus did not come to undo the will of the Father (John 5:30), nor was He forced to save us (Phil. 2:5-11). It is humanity that needed cleansing, not the Father!
We think much too highly of ourselves. We forget that our very sense of justice and fairness and mercy comes from God and is a lesser, flawed version of it. We cannot see all God sees nor comprehend all God comprehends (Isaiah 55:9). Yet even within our limited capacity, we should be able to grasp the fact that God is One and that He cannot be charged with evil, since He alone is the definition of good. To accept Jesus is to accept the Father (1 John 2:23); it’s a package deal. Jesus Himself said He is the way to the Father (John 14:6), a very strange statement if the Father were
Who would want to paint such a picture of God, except Satan? Who else wants to be God and paint his adversary as evil (which Satanists believe is the truth) in order to pull people away from Him? Who would take advantage of our short-sightedness and simplistic rationalizations so we would turn against our Creator? Who is it that wishes to sit in judgment over God? (And I should add, who but a fool actually swallows the lie that Satan would treat us better?)
Whose side are they on, who say the OT God is