Website of Dr. John K. LaShell
A growing company of self-styled “ex-Christians” is claiming that the God of the Bible is ugly. If such a God existed, he would not be worthy of worship. We should despise and hate such a monster. The “God of the Old Testament” comes in for particular scorn. One of the assured convictions of modern ignorance is that the God of the Old Testament is cruel, while the God of the New Testament is loving.
This is too large a challenge to answer in a brief column, so I want to make just three simple points.
First, many of these critics have experienced genuine harm from their religious upbringing. Some have suffered physical or psychological abuse from religious authority figures. Others felt intellectually suffocated by a demand for unquestioning belief. Still others have experienced a faith-shattering disappointment when God did not perform as they had been led to expect. Although ex-Christians often sound bitter, we who love God should respond to them with kindness and listen lovingly to the pain concealed beneath their anger.
My second point is this: Jesus and the authors of the New Testament did not sense any difference between their understanding of God and the God portrayed by the Old Testament. They constantly quoted the Old Testament in order to support their own teachings. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Referring to the Old Testament, He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The heavenly Father, whom Jesus preached, has exactly the same attributes as the God of Abraham, Moses, and David. Only a shortsighted, selective reading of the Bible can conclude otherwise.
My third point is that ex-Christians have not really come to know the God of the Bible. Many of them have prayed to receive Christ, or they have been confirmed and baptized. At one time, they sincerely thought of themselves as Christians. Still, their experience of life with God does not match that of those who really know Him.
Perhaps the best way to make this point is to see how Old Testament believers felt about God when He was not giving victory to their armies and prosperity to their land. David, when surrounded by enemies, wrote, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).
Asaph was envious of the wealthy wicked until he met God. Then he expressed his contentment by saying to the Lord, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. . . . The nearness of God is my good” (Psalm 73:25, 28).
Finally, consider the prophet Habakkuk. He was distraught when God told him that Chaldean invaders were about to bring devastation to his country. After a deeper meeting with God, however, he penned this startling conclusion. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock be should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
These Old Testament believers – and multitudes since then – have enjoyed such a sense of the goodness and beauty of God that they were willing to part with every other good thing in order to know Him better. When this sense of God’s goodness and beauty is lacking, faith may not be deeply rooted and may be easily overthrown.
Where can you find this heavenly light for your heart? Seek it from God through Jesus Christ. “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
© 2008, John K. LaShell