When it comes to things like faith and religion most people have been conditioned to think and believe in very narrow and specific ways.
So much so that they are entirely unaware of how their bias has prevented them from seeing the bigger picture and they fail to see how their limited perspective is preventing them from a greater freedom.
For example, if you were to clear your mind of previously learned conceptions and ideas about God and looked at the bible objectively you would see some really weird stuff.
If you could hold the Bible at a distance and do a complete reexamining of how the Bible describes God you might even come to the conclusion that if the God of the Bible were one of us we’d lock him up and throw away the key.
Christians and the Church have gone to great effort and done a lot of theological gymnastics to fit what the Bible says into what they think the Bible says based on what they’ve been taught about the Bible.
We’ve normalized some pretty outrageous stuff.
Let me give you one glaring example.
In the Old Testament God is portrayed as a violent dictator bent on genocide. Take a look at Deuteronomy 7:1-2+6
-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 Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. ……. vs 6 6 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.
According to this God demands the total destruction of 14 nations. This is what we would call Genocide.
If God was one of us he’d be tried and found guilty of endless war crimes against humanity because in order to create a holy people, a separate people, a chosen people, a pure people he was willing to slaughter those who were not like them.
He was going to have to wipe out anyone that stood in the way of this chosen few or anyone who might pollute the gene pool.
Even the craziest of violent dictators in recent human history have had the courtesy to narrow their genocidal target to a handful of primary people groups they were trying to wipe out.
The God of the Bible has 14 nations on his list.
If you were able to re-write history wouldn’t you go back and do something good like lock up Stalin or Hitler before they unleashed hell on Earth?
And yet….. Christians come up with a long list of ways to justify this kind of stuff.
God is Holy…..
He had to keep his people pure……
He can’t tolerate the wicked…..
He was slow to anger……
Oh, well if you put it that way ……
Those reasonings don’t sound much different than any other propaganda from any other followers of any other sadistic ruler.
How does any of this fall in line with the God of love who is portrayed in the new testament?
How does any of this fall in line with the God who condemns murder?
How does any of this fall in line with the God who commands the love of others and our enemies?
Do you see what I’m talking about? We’ve normalized genocide as a sign of righteousness and holiness.
Could it be that we’ve mishandled, misread, and misunderstood the Bible and the Divine being that the Bible describes?
Could it be that we’ve failed to see that the God we’ve created from the Bible reflects something that God isn’t?
Could it be that we’ve built our theologies and doctrines on a gross picture of who God is not?
Could it be that we need to rethink the whole scope and spectrum of the God we believe in?
So where do we go from here?
That’s a great question.
I think we must learn how to handle the Bible a bit differently. We must be open to the idea that maybe the ancient humans were struggling to comprehend this spirit/force/being/presence that is the source of all things. And despite their best efforts, there might be some slight misrepresentation of the true nature of God.
For example, in the opening chapter of the book of Hebrews, the author speaks of how God spoke to the ancients in different moments and different ways and how it’s not until Jesus comes onto the scene that we have an exact representation of God.
Which is to say…. they didn’t have it all figured out when they were trying to figure it out.
It’s a bit like parenting.
No parent has it all figured out.
We do our best to try and figure it out as we’re figuring it out.
So maybe rather than trying to justify the brutality and violence of the God of the Old Testament we acknowledge cultural norms and standards of the day.
So maybe rather than trying to justify the brutality and violence of the God of the Old Testament we acknowledge that they didn’t have a complete picture of who God is or what he is like.
If you do this you’ll begin to see that much of what was attributed to God may not have been God at all.
If Jesus is the exact representation of God then our we must compare the entirety of the bible to a picture of sacrificial love.
John 15 says this …. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Does this sound like a God of wrath, vengeance, and genocide to you?
Does this sound like a God who commanded the complete destruction of 14 different people groups?
Jesus came to be a picture of God for us.
Maybe the reason he had to come was that the people weren’t getting it. They misunderstood the character and nature of God.
Maybe the reason he had to come was to set the record straight. They made God in the image of what they understood the gods to be like rather than who he was trying to show them he was.
“I’m not what you think I am” – God
“I’m so much better than what you’ve made me to be” – God