God is Guilty

God is GuiltyI am beginning a short series of posts on how to understand the Old Testament passages where God commands Israel to slaughter people. I have an idea “in the works” for how to deal with these troubling texts.

By way of full disclosure, I have not read this idea anywhere else, which means it is probably wrong and may get condemned by some as “heresy.”

So far, the only person in the world I have talked about this with is my wife. She lovingly stayed up until almost 2 AM the other night discussing this idea with me, and in typical Wendy fashion, punched numerous holes in it. That is one of the many reasons I love her! She may not consider herself a theologian, but she has what I call “intuitive theology.” She knows the heart of God more than anyone else I know, and so while she may not know all the logical arguments or Scripture passages for various theological views, she senses rightness and wrongness in various theological positions.

All this is to say that Wendy is not yet convinced of my view, but wants me to incorporate an alternative view (which I shared with her a few months ago but have not ever read anywhere else) into this new view. I told her that I am not sure it is possible to do, but I would try.

That is what these posts are about. I have these two competing and alternative views on how to understand the difficult texts in the Old Testament, and both have major strengths and weaknesses (just like all theological views). The greatest weakness of both views, however, is that I know of no other theologian who holds them. So I feel like I am tilling rocky soil… it is slow going.

But I always think best when I write, and I always appreciate the interaction from other thinkers and writers (that’s YOU), and so am going to write this series of posts and see where they lead. I may end up painting myself into a corner, in which case I will have to scrap the whole project. OR, maybe as a result of tilling this rocky soil, we will find fruitful ground in which to sow our theological seeds by reading the Old Testament in a whole new light.

So, are you ready for the ride?

Let’s begin with this:

If God went to Trial, God Would Get Condemned

I watched a fascinating movie several years ago called “God on Trial.” It takes place in Auschwitz when several of the Jewish prisoners there decide to put God on Trial for the crimes He has allegedly committed through the centuries. Spoiler alert: There is a compelling section of the movie where they ultimately decide that God is guilty. Yes, they hand God a “Guilty” verdict.

I just searched online, and found the clip on YouTube:

In fact, after a little more searching, it turns out you can watch the whole movie online! Wow. You really must watch the entire movie. It’s not really a popcorn movie, but grab a comfortable chair, put your brain into “thinking” mode, and watch this movie:

The thing I like about this movie is that the script struggles with the hard questions. The Jewish prisoners are honest with the text of Scripture. They take it at face value and do not try to sugar coat what it says or explain it away. They do not retreat to some of the typical answers such as “The Bible is wrong” or “God was accommodating Himself to a fallen world.” No, they recognize that what the Old Testament says really happened, and that since God takes credit for it, God is guilty.

If we are going to properly deal with the pain and suffering that is all around us in the world, there is no other way of dealing with the pain and suffering in the Old Testament. We must face it directly. We must deal with it head-on.

Along with these Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz, we must pronounce God guilty (No, that is not the idea I will develop, but it gives a hint at the direction we are going).

Exhibit 1

I can already hear the objections from the defense attorney (the church). “Oh no! You have misunderstood the text! You are taking it out of context! You are misreading it! You are maligning God!”

No, we are not maligning God. God has already maligned Himself by inspiring biblical writers to record horrendous acts against people, many of which appear to be on the same level as those crimes committed by men like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein.

Psalm 137 9In numerous places in the Bible, God seems hell-bent on slaughtering people, including women and children. One of the most gruesome texts in all the Bible (maybe in all of history) is found in Psalm 137:8-9:

Oh daughter of Babylon,
who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you
as you have served us!
Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

Yeah. Can you imagine singing this Psalm in church?

But it is in our inspired, inerrant, authoritative Bible, along with many other passages like it.

Passages where God tells the Israelites to kill every living thing, men, women, children, and even animals (Deut 2:34; 20:16-17). Passages where God says “Show them no mercy” (Deut 7:2). Passages which depict bloodbaths which rival the most gory Hollywood productions of our day (Josh 10:30, 32; 11:11, 14; 2 Sam 4:12; Num 31:7-12).

God is guiltyIf you haven’t struggled with these depictions in Scripture, either you are not reading your Bible or you are not hanging out with non-Christian people (This is the most common criticism of the Bible from non-Christians).

Since I believe in the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God, I must take these texts for what they say, and compare them with other texts which condemn murder and the slaughter of other people and say, along with the Jewish prisoners in the movie above, and along with atheists and agnostics of our day, that God is guilty.

If we allow the Bible to say what it says, we must conclude that when it comes to the charge of mass genocide, God is guilty.

If God is Guilty, Why Worship Him?

The question then is “Why do I still believe? Why do I still love? Why do I still worship?”

Ah, well, that is where my idea comes in, and which we will begin to unfold tomorrow.

I have been struggling with this question for several years now, and while I am not ready to claim I have a “solution” (nothing but pride would make such a claim), I do have a theological hypothesis which will be tested against Scripture. I do not have a perfect answer to this dilemma, but I am constantly working toward a solution. It is a hypothesis that will probably get me condemned as a heretic by some… but that’s nothing new.

The hypothesis is going to take several posts to unfold, and since it is little more than a hypothesis at this point, I doubt that I can answer all questions or make this hypothesis fit nicely into all texts. But I am laying it out here on this blog because I value the input from all of you.

So please, disagree if you want to, but also be gracious. I am learning along with you.

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

Also, when I am done with this series of posts, I will be publishing them as a book. If you want a free digital copy of this book when it comes out, make sure you have subscribed to my email newsletter.

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  1. says


    I do know Hebrew and Greek, and sought the truth my whole life, and live to be blameless before Him, and in the process have come to exactly the opposite conclusions as you state above.

    • David says

      Actually, Jeremy, I was responding to Paul Winter. I’m not sure what you mean by saying that you have come to the opposite conclusions as to what I stated. Are you saying that you are absolutely certain
      that, first, there is an original for each of the writings in the
      (Protestant) canon, second, all those originals were inerrant and
      complete, third, Jesus is Yahweh, fourth, bible translations are not
      constrained by their translators’ theology, fifth, creeds have not
      become idols, sixth, there is such a place as hell, seventh, the laws of Yahweh are not perfect and not a blessing of life to us? If you are absolutely certain of all,
      then I have nothing more to say, because you are so sure of yourself
      and I am not here to convince you. But if you don’t see any
      theologically motivated mistranslations that pervade modern bible
      versions, your knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is questionable.

        • David says

          I am doubtful of all of them, but I am certain of some:
          (2) There is no collection of texts that comprise the (inerrant and complete) “word of God”. All we have are human writings, which we have to sieve through to find out which parts of which are reliable, and from what I have found majority of the Hebrew writings are truthful, despite their occasional errors. Not so for the “new testament”.
          (3) Jesus is the son of God, not Yahweh himself. The sources of the trinitarian doctrine is quite clear from history, and with it came beliefs in various things like transubstantiation, theosis, that Mary was a perpetual virgin free from sin, infant baptism, ecclesiastical hierarchy, bishop succession, the phoenix, that the world is made up of fire, water, earth and air, and that things formed of one element are immortal while things formed of many elements are mortal.
          (4) All modern bible versions I have looked at are theologically constrained. This fact cannot be argued. The best I have found are the ASV and Darby’s. Amazingly, the English translation of Darby’s French translation is still far better than other translations, though it is a double-translation. The WEB, supposedly an updated ASV, has unsurprisingly been bent into the editors’ theology, and so becomes useless.
          (5) Creeds have become idols to many so-called Christians. Not only that, some have even their “church ministry” or their “spiritual leaders” as idols. This also is incontrovertible, and I believe you have seen many such ones with your own eyes, who would rather stay with their idols than seek truth.
          (7) The law of Yahweh is perfect, and is for ever. Yahweh himself promised that if we keep his laws, we will live. This is because his laws are truly good for us.

          As for the other two, here are brief explanations for why I believe them:
          (1) From both internal and external evidence it is highly likely that the writings have passed through many editors, and some probably were compilations of previous writings or even merely sayings. This does not, however, imply that the results are no good, since they are largely the only good sources of insight into ancient Israel and their knowledge of Yahweh, their God. It is not hard to believe that the Pentateuch, for example, was not written down by Moses at all, but yet is mostly comprised of what he taught.
          (6) As Paul Winter acknowledged, there is no evidence in the Hebrew writings that there is such an eternal place as hell for those who reject Yahweh. Rather it is very clearly portrayed that death comes to the righteous and unrighteous alike, and our bodies will return to the dust and our spirit (source of life) will return to the God who gave it. The focus is always on living a righteous and blameless life on earth, rather than waiting for a future life. However, in a few places we also see that God will raise the dead and judge all, and there will be only two groups of people, the righteous and the wicked. The righteous will go into eternal life and the wicked will go into eternal shame. It is not stated that the wicked will endure eternal suffering, so I believe that they will be simply destroyed, even as the ancient Israelites always said God would do. After all, Yahweh made it clear that he never desires the death of the wicked, but that they would turn to him and live, and so it does not make sense that he would force them to eternally suffer death, since it is for no purpose except perhaps God’s satisfaction, which does not seem to fit with his nature.

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