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16th June, 2008

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Is God a monster?

Richard Dawkins describes God as, among other things, "a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser". Many would echo his sentiments. After cataloguing the litany of mayhem wrought by Israel while conquering the land given them by God, Gareth Jones says,

This must surely be a difficulty for every thoughtful reader of the Bible. While it may be possible to think in terms of a just war, one can hardly justify genocide.1

Jones concludes that just as "parts of Scripture are scientifically wrong, we must be clear that some parts are also morally wrong". Those who believe that Scripture does not err in science and that God does not act immorally must come to terms with passages such as Deuteronomy 20:16-17:

But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them. just as the Lord your God has commanded you.

Something would certainly have to be wrong with anybody who does not shudder at the scene, in their mind's eye, of soldiers putting men, women, and children to the sword, and of bodies lying in serried ranks along the narrow streets. But was it a monstrous act? No. It was a just - yes, just - and a merciful - yes, merciful - act of God. How can one say such a stupid thing? One only has to look at all the other works of God to recognize that His wisdom and intellect surpass all human understanding. He has stretched out this mind-blowing universe. He has given us the most desirable planet imaginable to live on. He gives us rain and abundance. He gave us the gifts of sex and babies and friends, not to mention the gift of life and consciousness itself. No wonder the Psalmist said,

O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep (Ps. 92:5).

Who do we think we are to interrogate Him? God is our judge, we are not His. God is loving and faithful. He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and perish at our hands for the purpose of our atonement. But He is also scrupulously, infinitely just. His works of justice are great, and deep

beyond our understanding. We trust our own governments to decide when to kill other human beings in war but think that God doesn't know what He's doing. When men declare war on their fellows, they bring grief and despair, missing legs and arms - and orphans. God's few wars mercifully brought deep sleep to all whose names appeared on His execution warrant.

What we should really have difficulty grasping is that God continues to make the sun shine and the rain fall on our God-rejecting cities and nations. Though He is angry with the wicked elements of mankind every day (Ps. 7:11) He refrains from wiping this ungrateful human race off the face of the planet. What self-restraint!

God waited over 400 years until the guiltworthiness of the inhabitants of Jericho and other Amorite (Canaanite) cities had reached "fullness" and made them deserving of death (Gen. 15:13-16). They were warned. Their suffering, when the time for justice came, lasted a few hours at the most. Death, when it came each one's turn, was instant and painless. By the time the sun set on the day appointed, total silence hung over Jericho's ashes. No funeral processions, no distraught mothers weeping beside the lifeless body of a baby. No dazed elderly folk wandering around in total shock. They are all in deepest sleep, unaware of the passing of time, awaiting the "resurrection of judgment" (Heb. 9:27), or justice. Before you finish reading this blog, they will wake up. Parents and children will blink, look around, see each other, and wonder what is going on. The trauma of the last few moments of their memories will be quickly forgotten as Jesus Christ speaks words of comfort to them, assuring them that all will be well. if they turn to God. They won't be incensed at Him for having decreed their death; they will know they were warned and that they ignored it. No, God is no monster! Let us bow before His perfect justice; may we fear to deride His judgment.

Woe betide any who dare justify their own murderous acts of killing by declaring it to be the "will of God". The Canaanites and Amalekites who came under God's ban are all dead. He has not issued any more such decrees. To us He says, "Thou shalt not kill". Those who ignore His commands and make monsters of themselves are in serious trouble.

11999, Sacred Violence: the dark side of God, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vo. 20, No. 2, 184-199, p. 186


Faith and reason articles

See also the blog "God is a monster, therefore He doesn't exist"

For much more on this topic, see "The slaughter of the innocents?"



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