Personally, I blame Pam.(No, not really, Pam!) She encouraged us to ‘do’ theology, irrespective of whether we are academically qualified to do so. So today I am asking an ignorant question which has been bothering me for some time. I would love to hear your views on this.
Richard Dawkins puts one extreme of the argument:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
That’s telling us, Richard! And the corollary is that the God of the New Testament is a God of love, sweetness and light.
The traditional Christian answer is ably covered in the above video by Dr D A Carson: he points out that there are many passages in the OT where God is loving, and there are many parts of the NT in which God is stern. He says that both God’s love and his judgment are ‘ratcheted up’ in the NT to meet in the cross itself. I accept and think I understand what Carson is saying.
On the other hand, we regard it as uncontroversial that Christian theology has a history – there is even an entry in Wikipedia. Since the birth of Christianity, our understanding of the Christian God has varied through the centuries, with a series of what have been called heresies and doctrinal splits within the Christian Church.
The books of the Bible were probably written between the 9th century BC and the 9th century AD. Without even searching the text for evidence, does it seem likely that our perception of God, our theology, remained constant throughout that period? In my corner of the Church of England, we do not believe so: on the contrary, we believe that the Old Testament is a portrayal of our growing understanding of God. But then we do not believe that the Bible is inerrant.
So my question is, how does this work if inerrancy is part of your faith?: do you believe that our theology did not change throughout the period that the Bible was written? (The logical problem is that if the Bible’s depiction of God is inerrant in the earliest books, it must be inerrant also in the most recent, yet if this depiction changes between the two there would seem to be a difficulty).
Christianity already requires us to believe ‘several impossible things before breakfast’: most of us manage to do so not by repeating 2+2=5 like a mantra, but through prayer and taking things on trust from a God in whom we believe.
Note: I apologise if you find the question offensive. It is not my intention to attack anyone’s beliefs, simply to explore our different views on the Bible.