Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Counterpoints: Richard Dawkins and David T. Lamb

Richard Dawkins: "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." [1]

David T. Lamb: "While I applaud Dawkins for bringing these problems into the open for discussion, I don't agree with his conclusions. He simply isn't reading his Bible well." [2]

Forthcoming- A review of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? by David T. Lamb


Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Resources:

1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 51
2. David T. Lamb, God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?, p. 16

14 comments:

Kimberly Sue said...

I completely agree with David T Lamb! Well said. I have been on the one side where I read the Bible and knew alot about it and thought quite negatively about God in my heart. But now I am on the other side where I am "reading the Bible well," and I have to say it has been the most beautifully transforming experience. Never before have I been able to love people well, but through the Word of God and His character I am loving people more and more. That's because God is pouring His love into me.

Geoffrey Charles said...

To true believers, God never loses.

Chad said...

Mr. Charles,

To the true non-believer, God never wins.

Take care

Geoffrey Charles said...

Agreed, Chad.

Geoffrey Charles said...

An interesting counter-perspective:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/12/a-jealous-god-and-divine-domestic-violence.html

Chad said...

Hello Mr. Charles,

It's important to remember that arguments such as these, even if successful, only serve to call God's character into question, not His existence.

That being said, it seems that your friend may be guilty of not "reading his Bible well." :-)

Here is an interesting counter counter perspective.

Respectfully

Chad said...

Mr. Charles,

Further, if Old Testament ethics is a stumbling block for you, might I suggest the following books:

God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?

and

Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

Take care

Chase said...

Geoffrey,

The following quote from the link you provided:

"I love you, but so help me, if I ever see you so much as look at another god, I'll break your neck."

Is this really the type of jealously God has towards his people? Consider this quote from Lamb's book.

"The Sinai covenant was like the wedding between Yahweh and Israel, in which they committed to be faithful to each other (Ex 19:5-6; 24:3-8). But on the honeymoon the Israelites had sex with someone else. That seems like a legitimate cause for anger."

God's jealously is not driven by revenge and a desire for control. It is a jealously driven by love and justice.

If my wife were to break her commitment to me I would be angry and I would desire justice, because justice is deserved. However, I cannot deal out that justice because I do not have the right to. God does have the right to deal out justice when justice is due.

Consider another quote from Lamb:

"Anger and love are not mutually exclusive. Love for people can lead to anger over a broken relationship. Love for people can also lead to anger about injustice."

By the way, in the incident Lamb mentions in the quote above, God was ready to destroy the Israelites but He changed His mind and showed them mercy. Throughout the entire Old Testament this pattern is seen. God delivers Israel, they complain, he is patient, they promise to obey and then not long after they disobey, God becomes angry and punishes them. God is quick to love and slow to anger.

God bless

Geoffrey Charles said...

One might think that these scholarly consensus opinions I brought up are different issues. However, they are in fact related because they should inform our interpretation of the passages about God's seeming immorality. They should cause us not to harmonize those difficult passages, but rather see them in the context that consensus opinions create for us.

So, that is why I don't try to justify those seemingly barbaric passages. They have a kernel of truth (see Chase's comment), but given the background that's informed by the scholarly consensus opinions I've mentioned, they cross the line.

Chad said...

Mr. Charles,

This post deals directly with Old Testament ethics and the interpretation of certain Old Testament passages.

While the very answerable points you raise about Old Testament reliability and inerrancy are interesting, they are not the topic of this particular post.

Let’s try to stay on track.

Respectfully

Geoffrey Charles said...

Chad,

OK, but what about my point about how our underlying view of the texts themselves directly affects how we interpret the seemingly immoral passages? Surely it is the main reason we would try to justify such ideas.

As I'm sure you've heard from Bayes' Theorem, the background knowledge we have about a claim will affect its prior probability of being true.

So, if we have a disfavorable prior probability that these passages are actually true due to the scholarly consensus opinions I (tried to) mention, then such harmonizations of them don't necessarily "work."

Chad said...

Mr. Charles,

You point is understood and well taken; however, in this context we are dealing with whether or not the OT God is immoral as the text stands.

This is preciously what Dawkins does in the above quote and in The God Delusion.

Respectfully

Geoffrey Charles said...

I thought this might be of interest. It may shed some light on why in some societies marrying a rapist is an unfortunate but perhaps necessary option.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3xghfxJAO4&feature=youtu.be

Chase said...

Geoffrey,

I am not sure what you are getting at by posting the video regarding the Muslim woman. Please clarify.

Thanks.