The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
Get the Book!

The God of the Bible

It is a little known fact among lay Christians that the God of the systematic theologians and the God portrayed in the Bible is not completely compatible. The systematic theologians say that God is all-good, all-merciful, all-knowing and all powerful. What does the Bible say?

The Bible says God:

We can summarized God's attributes according to the Bible as a vengeful, murderous, hot-blooded, deceitful and forgetful (?) being. A far cry from the loving, merciful, eternal, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient and immutable God of the systematic theologians.

God Commands Atrocities

The belief that God's love is boundless do not find support in the Bible.[a] For this God supposedly ordered Moses to completely destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan. The passage below is God's command to Moses, taken form the book of Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 20:10-17
"When you draw near a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, 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 male to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemy, which the Lord God has given to you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. In the cities of these people that the Lord your God gives you an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amoriotes, the Canaanites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded."

In one command this "loving" God commanded the Israelites to enslave the cities which made peace with them, kill all male inhabitants of cities who are not in their "inheritance" (who had the sense to defend themselves from invasion) and to completely wipe out all the inhabitants of the cities in their inheritance. In one fell swoop this God commanded enslavement, murder, probably rape ("the women ... you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemy") and pillage. One sometimes wonder how Christians could reconcile the same God, through Jesus, saying "love your enemies" and yet commanded these atrocities. [b]

The case above is not the only time God has commanded the Jews to commit atrocities which would make even Hitler or Stalin proud. There are numerous cases, some of which are given below as examples:

Deuteronomy 7:2
"and when the Lord your God gives then [the enemies] over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them..."

Numbers 31:7
They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and slew every male.

Numbers 31:17
[Moses said to them] "... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by lying with him..."

Back to the top

God Commands Revenge

Another command of God which could only be described as rabidly vengeful is found in the book of Numbers. It concerns the Amalekites who were a Bedouin tribe. Shortly after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt the Amalekites attacked them. And we are told that four hundred years after this one event, God commanded Saul through the prophet Samuel to avenge this remote event [1]

I Samuel 15:1-3
And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore hearken to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, `I will punish what Am'alek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Am'alek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'"

It takes an immense amount of special pleading (and a large dose of blind faith) to call this God ""good", "loving"" and especially "merciful." He has shown himself to be incapable of forgiving a transgression committed four centuries earlier. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the only parallel I can think of in modern times to this kind of genocide are those practiced by Hitler and Stalin.

Back to the top

God Repents His Evil

The examples above are atrocities taken in wartime and while despicable they do have parallels in non-religious situations. The example below has no parallel outside the Old Testament. God caused David to call a census on the people of Palestine (I Samuel 24:1-9). And after that punishes the people, by killing 70,000 of them, and then, just when the angel was getting ready to wipe out Jerusalem, He, the omnipotent and omniscient God repented his actions and told the angels to stop!

II Samuel 24:15-16
So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and there died the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented of the evil, and said to the angel who was working destruction of the people, “It is enough, now stay your hand.”

If the above was done by a human king we would call him an immoral person; for what kind of a man would kill 70,000 of his own people indiscriminately and only then repented of his actions. If we call such a king evil why do we persist in calling such a God good?

Back to the top

God Commands Human Sacrifice

Most Christians are probably familiar with the story of the patriarch Abraham being called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac on top of a mountain. Here, God at the last minute stopped the sacrifice and placed a lamb in Isaac’s place. (Genesis 22:1-19). The main theological point here is that Abraham withstood the ultimate test of God and hence showed his faith. An implicit part of this story is that God does not allow human sacrifices. This is far from the truth. The Old Testament has many instances where human sacrifices were called by God: [2]

Leviticus 27:28-29
But no devoted [c] thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. No one devoted, who is to be utterly destroyed from among men, shall be ransomed; he shall be put to death.

Notice the statement that is being made in the passage above. It is saying that no one which has been offered to God can be replaced-ransomed-by something else; that person must be killed. It is an obvious sanction and demand for human sacrifice!

Another interesting story of human sacrifice is given in the eleventh chapter of Judges:

Judges 11:29-39
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah...And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If thou wilt give me the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s and I will offer him up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand...So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel. The Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and behold, his daughter came out to meet him...she was his only child...And when he saw her, he rent his clothes, and said “Alas my daughter! ...I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” And she said to him, “My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone forth from your mouth...Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity...”...And he sent her away for two months...And at the end of the two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow which he made.

It should be mentioned that Jephthah is numbered among the heroes of the Old Testament by the author of Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:32-33
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice...

Here is another story on human sacrifice, this time seven persons had to pay for the guilt of their father, Saul:

II Samuel 21:1-9
Now there was famine in the days David for three years, year after year; and David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”...And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you?”...They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them up before the Lord at Gibeon on the mountain of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”...and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the Lord, and the seven of them perished together.

It is obvious from the above passage that it was God who called for the killing of the seven sons of Saul. And it was only after this was done that God finally answered the prayers to end the famine (II Samuel 21:14).

Back to the top

God Condones The Murder of Children

A typical ploy in Sunday schools and catechism classes for children is for the teachers to point out passages in the New Testament that shows Jesus' (and God's) love and special concern for children. But the other side of the coin is not mentioned. There are passages that show men of God, prophets, who treated children brutally. One example is from the second book of Kings. Here the prophet Elisha was insulted by some children because of his baldness. Instead of ignoring their childish pranks; he cursed the children and God answered by sending in two bears to tear the little children apart:

II Kings 2:23-24
He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" And he turned around and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out from the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

So much for the loving and forgiving God of the systematic theologians.

Back to the top

God Uses Deception

One of the ten commandments is an explicit prohibition against lying:
Deuteronomy 5:20
"Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor."

Apparently this rule, of not telling lies, does not apply to the "all-good" God, for the Bible describes him as using deception and deceiving agents for his own ends: [3]

I Kings 22:23
"Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has spoken evil concerning you."

Ezekiel 14:9
"And if the prophet be deceived and speak a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel..."

II Thessalonians 2:11
Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false.

No other word can describe God's behavior except "liar". In fact some of the behavior of the divine being smacks of an insane mind. How else could one explain the fact that God killed Uzzah, who was simply trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling:

II Samuel 6:6-7
And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

The next example shows that God is either not omniscient (since he seems to have forgotten that he had revealed his name to Moses' predecessor) or not all-good (since if he told Moses what he should know to be falsehood): [4] [d]

Exodus 6:2-3
And God appeared to Moses and said to him, "I am Yahweh, and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them."

But it was precisely what he did, according to Genesis:

Genesis 15:7
And he [God] said to him [Abraham], "I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans"

Genesis 28:13
And behold, Yahweh stood above it and said [to Jacob], "I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac"

There are several more passages that show God not to be omniscient; he was unable to see the consequences of his actions and actually regretted them: [5]

Genesis 6:5-6
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Back to the top

The Hot Headed God

Another incident in Exodus is even more stunning (from a believer's standpoint). The incident was set during the exodus, when some of the Israelites lost their faith and made a golden calf, which they started to worship. (Exodus 32:1-6) This incident angered God such that he wanted to immediately kill these, his chosen, people:

Exodus 32:9-10
And the Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, but of you I will make a great nation.

The amazing part here is that Moses, a mere human, succeeded in reasoning with God, the all-knowing, intelligent being, to make him, the immutable God, change his mind (Exodus 32:11-13). And God, the immutable, the omniscient, actually regretted his evil intentions:

Exodus 32:14
And the Lord repented of the evil he thought to do to his people.

Back to the top

God Cheats

There is a curious passage in Genesis that even narrated a wrestling match between God and Jacob! And what is even more curious is that, this God, actually losing the tussle, cheated by dislocating Jacob's hip!

Genesis 32:23-30
And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said "Jacob". Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob but Israel (He who strives with God), for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name." But he said, "Why is it that you asked me my name?" And then he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peneil (The Face of God) saying "For I have seen God face to face and yet my life is preserved."

The believer can, of course, cite other passages in the Bible that describes God as loving and good. But all that he would succeed in proving is that the Bible contains contradicts one another.

Back to the top

Notes

a.We are here talking about words such as "love", "mercy" and "goodness" in the way the average human being understands them. The theological attempts at skewing the meanings of these words has been shown in the previous section to be unsuccessful.
b.The solution of the skeptic is simple: this God never existed; the various writings in the Bible reflect different attitudes of different people in their imagination about the supreme being.
c.Devoted here actually means the irrevocable offerings, whether things or persons, offered to God.
d.The three quotes from the Bible below are from Anderson's "A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament p24-25

References

1.Howell-Smith, In Search of the Real Bible: p29
2.Smith, Atheism: p77
3.Howell-Smith, op. cit.: p27
4.Anderson, A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament: p24-25
5.Howell-Smith, op. cit.: p50

Back to the top


[Home] [The Central Thesis] [Christianity] [The Bible] [Jesus] [Paul] [God] [History] [Pascal's Wager] [Bibliography] [Links]
© Paul N. Tobin 2000

For comments and queries, e-mail Paul Tobin
Hosting by WebRing.