TiO 45 – {Un}Apologetic – Nature of God

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The Main Idea

It has been said that Christians worship a God who has been responsible for unspeakable horrors, for example, the wholesale killings of people because they do not agree with him. But is that really the case? Today’s teaching examines the question of a genocidal God.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How many non-Christian people do you know whom you would feel comfortable having a conversation about religion or worldviews?

Q2: What do you think is the most important thing to know or do when discussing spiritual questions with people who have differing opinions from yours?

Q3: How important, to you, is this series on apologetics?

Dig a Little Deeper

In this teaching Todd said that, despite assertions to the contrary, the God of the Old Testament is not a genocidal maniac. In fact, “The evidence shows God is holy, powerful, and true.”

Read Deuteronomy 20:10-18

Read 1 Samuel 15:1-3 <– a full reading of chapter 15 will give you context about how seriously God took his command

Q1: On the face of them, what do these passages teach us about God?

Q2: What are your reactions to these passages?

Q3: Prior to the teaching from this weekend, how would you defend or justify what you read in these passages?

What is the evidence that counteracts a reading of the above passages—and many others like them—that God is evil and cruel and genocidal? Here are Todd’s points from his sermon.

  • Charged words are misleading: when we begin with charged words like “genocide” our whole opinion is coloured by them. We end up arguing about the words and not actually considering the evidence.
  • Motivation for actions are important to consider: the Hebrew words used to describe what are characterized genocidal acts actually convey the idea of driving out people from the land and not wholesale extermination
  • Battlefield Dynamics are important to consider: we cannot argue that there is a lot of war, fighting, and killing described in the Old Testament. So it is important to understand what is being described in the stories of war. Here are some points from the interview with Joshua Butler.
    1. Many of the cities described in Old Testament stories—like Jericho, for example—are fortified army barracks, not towns in which the general population lived.
    2. Much of what you hear being described is ancient “trash talk”, much like you would hear coming from the mouths of modern sports figured.
    3. The descriptions come couched in the language of eviction, not of extermination.
  • The Biblical writers use literary devices in their writing, including hyperbole (purposely inflating things to make a point). We could point to Deuteronomy 1:28 and Judges 20:16 as examples.
  • Test the Ethical Assumptions: Is killing always wrong? Can we/should we blow up a plane to save a stadium? The assumption some would make is that people are allowed to “play God” but that God cannot “be God” when it comes to his decisions.
  • Beware of Caricatures: This is like hyperbole but is used to exaggerate or enhance a certain characteristic (or set of characteristics) of a person. We need to ask whether the descriptions of God or circumstances are caricatures or whether they are meant to actually represent the true character of God.

Q4: Which of the above points is most persuasive for you as you consider the question of the “bad” actions or commands talked about in the Old Testament?

Next Steps

The Old Testament is full of ideas and teachings that we often do not fully understand. And sometimes we do not have complete answers for the questions that arise from the hard passages that we read. We can talk about context and the evidence for the goodness of God. But sometimes all we can do is cry out lie the Psalm-writers have done.

Read Psalm 115:1-3

While it seems like a trite answer, especially when we are talking of such violent and seemingly evil actions, the Psalmist has an answer for those who would accuse God of atrocities.

Q5: What does verse 3 of Psalm 115 tell us about God?

Q6: What should our response be to this God?

Pray for the faith to trust in the God who sees the scope of our lives and of our societies from beginning to end.

The Depth (for optional study)

In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.

Deuteronomy 20:10-18

When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor. If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

1 Samuel 15:1-3

Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

Psalm 115:1-3

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.

Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

Our God is in the heavens;

he does whatever he pleases.

Resources

Here are links to some of the videos that were played during the sermon (some of these are the full context of some snippets that were played during the message):

Bill Maher: https://vimeo.com/200695848/559b8c3b77

Christopher Hitchens: https://vimeo.com/200695599/0db4cb28ba

Richard Dawkins: https://vimeo.com/200699840/201443f011

Joshua Ryan Butler interview:

Here are references to some reading material you might find helpful:

God Behaving Badly – David T. Lamb

The Skeletons in God’s Closet – Joshua Ryan Butler

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