It seems like everyone wants to save us from the God of the Old Testament.
It is good to speak of “progressive revelation” as long as we do not mean, “Progress from lies or falsehoods to new truth.”
If we say, “What that text says is an outright falsehood” we can’t call it “revelation”. If in time we reject what that text says we haven’t rejected “revelation,” we’ve rejected falsehood and gained truth with aid of revelation.
It’s all right to have God revealing truth suited to a particular set of circumstances and occasion and then reveal further truth suited to a new situation. We can easily call that “progressive revelation”.
What we can’t do is say, “God spoke or taught falsehood and then later taught truth that contradicted what He said earlier.” Whatever that is it is not “progressive revelation.”
It is true of course that humans have held false views and later learned truth that contradicted those falsehoods. But, again, it is not true that GOD taught them the falsehoods that humans left behind.
Of course, those who have no faith in God dismiss entirely the notion of “revelation.” They hold that all falsehood is the product of human ignorance or human moral frailty. But that’s another discussion and here we are dealing with those who believe GOD is and that He has “revealed” Himself and His purposes.
If that God reveals Himself in and as Jesus He doesn’t teach falsehood nor would He command people to do anything indisputably evil, immoral. But we are increasingly hearing that God has done that kind of thing! On the other hand there are [to borrow a phrase from strong feminist, Phyllis Trible,] “texts of terror” and texts “of cruelty” in the OT that God textually takes responsibility for. (I purpose to make some observations on those, God enabling me.) What are we to do then?
Many fine people, very sensitive people understandably are afraid to attribute cruelty and immoral behavior to God so they’re very relieved to hear from popular writers that the fault lies in the Old Testament, the entire Law and the Prophets. They’re told, “God wouldn’t do that kind of thing nor would He urge others to do it.” When berating the God of the OT for commanding very distressing things the critics don’t use weaker words like “kill” or “slay” or “put to death,” they insist on words like “massacre” or “genocide” (and on occasion I’ve heard “murder”); these words make it easier to put God in the dock and accuse Him of heinous crimes. The accusation isn’t, “God ordered His servants to put individuals and ethnic groups to death!” It’s “God ordered His servants to commit genocide or to massacre children and entire ethnic groups.” Yes, and some are calling it “murder”. This shrewd choice of words frighten the sensitive and those inexperienced with regard to the Holy Scriptures.
The choice becomes razor-sharp. GOD is either a hideous and vicious Being or the Holy Scriptures flagrantly misrepresent Him. So it’s choose GOD and reject the Holy Bible (the OT in particular) or choose the Bible and reject the God it teaches us about. Fierce atheists like Richard Dawkins or the late Mr. Hitchens don’t hesitate for a moment—they rage against both—a genocidal lunatic and the Book that calls us to trust and praise Him.
We sense that you can “kill” in war and somehow justify it but even in war to say an army committed “genocide” or “massacred” thousands makes even patriots cringe.
Still, even people who via their government order their fathers, sons and daughters to carpet-bomb and kill the enemy (including women, children and male non-combatants); these prayed for to God to help them accomplish it! And having sent their troops to kill, they know full well that hosts of old and young and non-combatants would be killed, a growing number of church-going believers put God in the dock and rail at Him for doing in ancient war situations what they have prayed for His help to do even now.
(I purpose to say more about God’s connection with the things that in this modern age we beg Him to empower us to do. We beg Him for that power in the name of Jesus Christ!)
Imagine this: a preacher or some sensitive soul says they’re afraid of an OT God who in a war situation would call for the death of the enemy combatants, their wives and innocent children but they’re not at all afraid to beg God to kill whoever and as many as it takes to preserve our freedom, our civil and CHRISTIAN freedom don’t you know. When He does it for us it’s a gracious answer to prayer and we thank Him for it in the name of Jesus, the OT coming “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6; Zechariah 9.9-10 & John 18:36). When He does it for others (ancient Israel for example, in their situation and for the same reasons we call it intolerable and unforgivable genocide or massacre.
Imagine such people putting God in the dock and treating Him as a genocidal tyrant, a cruel despot “drunk on punishment” as one still prominent post-modernist spoke of him several years back. Imagine those and then imagine them being upset with God for not answering their prayers for victory that destroyed the enemy as well as the innocents and created resultant years of poverty, disease and militarist oppression for countless innocents that might have survived.
I don’t wish at this point to introduce any proposals about WWII but we can always find good reason to speak of collateral damage. We hate it that innocent children and non-combatants die or are maimed or left destitute in ruins but we find good reasons to purposefully afflict these horrors on the powerless, the voiceless children, women and men. America’s bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Britain’s utter destruction of Dresden and the devastation of Hamburg are sufficient to make the point. Here I’m not denying the cogency of the reasons offered for “why we had to do such things.”
I only wish to say that we hang on to our profession to be followers of the Lord Jesus and justify our doing such things and then in Church we commit to Jesus as His followers. And in the same meetings preachers comb through the Old Testament, find some texts and rage against the God spoken of there as worthy of praise and nod approval as the speaker calls Him a genocidal and immoral wretch.
We who profess to have received “progressive revelation” still pray in the name of JESUS for death-dealing power while we condemn God for calling for the same thing! If we don’t condemn Him we condemn the Holy Bible that Jesus called the center of God’s call for love for all even in a world that has alienated itself from Him
The current way out for those who believe in God and don’t want to give Him bad press is to say, “I worship God and not the Bible.” (One hears it often said with a tone of moral superiority. As if all who disagree worship a book rather than the God and Father of the Lord Jesus and in His Holy Spirit. Isn’t it interesting what “a better view of God” can do to some people?) In any case, the Holy Scriptures, to which we go for our knowledge and understanding of God become a merely human production and the production of pagan and savage-minded humans.
“God wouldn’t do that or say that! He wouldn’t order the death of innocents. We cannot and will not worship a God like that, a God that orders genocide and infanticide!” By this we think we’re saving God but it’s at the expense of the Holy Bible (Romans 1:2)!
What would you think of the ‘Good Samaritan’ if he could with consummate ease have prevented or stopped the brutal beating of a man by a group of murderous thugs and did nothing about it?”
What would you think of a God who with consummate ease could prevent genocide, starvation and dreaded diseases and does nothing about it?
You think we have a problem with a God who in scattered verses calls for obedience in war that includes very distressing things? If we abuse Him for that, we need to know it’s the least of our worries.
If you’re of that mind, let me suggest that you throw away your Holy Bibles as many are urging you to do. You know no GOD apart from the one in the Holy Scriptures that culminate in the glory of the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ who read the same Old Testament as you do.
You don’t know any OT texts He doesn’t know well and here is how He summarized their moral/ethical teaching (Matt 22:37-40): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” This Jesus got from Deuteronomy, a book much maligned by OT critics. And the God He calls us to love is the God He and His contemporaries read about in the Old Testament. That’s the very God the gullible are quick to accuse of sadism and genocide. And do read Paul who follows His Master in Romans 13:8-10, quoting from Deuteronomy 5:1-22 and 8:4-5.
If you met Jesus today, not knowing who He was until He told you, and you told Him the Old Testament was woman-degrading, genocide approving and savagely pagan in its message, He would listen.
If you then told Him that the God presented in the Old Testament was a sadistic brute He would tell you, “No, those Holy Scriptures if you at all understood them and believed Me—they point to Me and have led millions to Me! And the God you would find there is My Father, I am His beloved Son, His perfect image, and He is greater than I am (John 14:28). Not even I or My glorious life is wonderful enough to reveal the depth and glory of His beauty and righteousness and generous faithfulness as He works to redeem a world that hasn’t wanted Him.”
Hold on to your Holy Bible and in particularly the Old Testament—Jesus did, He fed on it and quoted Deuteronomy when He met Satan alone in the wilderness. Jesus is not only sweet, strong, saving, righteous and just—
He’s the interpreter of the Old Testament that is being maligned by even the “wise” who have been carried away and are leading others away from God, the God of the Holy Scriptures that Jesus fed on, and from which Timothy and millions of others have learned of salvation through grace and faith (2 Tim 3:14-16).
(I purpose to say some more about this if it is thought useful. God bless.)