The Old Testament has always been a struggle for me. I find far too many places where God’s wrath is brutally shown. This is in such a total contrast with Jesus Christ I know in the New Testament. It is almost like the good cop/bad cop scenarios that play out so much on the TV cop shows. I tend to refer to it as the all powerful God vs. the all loving God. Can the two really co-exist or did God basically change his management style between the Old Testament and the New Testament or you could say between the old and the new covenant? These are the things I have been thinking about lately. I know they are theological in nature and I have sworn off that sort of thing but it still crops up from time to time. I just can’t seem to help it.
I must admit that I almost ignore the power side of God. In that sense I seem to be in conflict with many evangelical religious establishments today who revel in God’s power. They deem that God is all powerful and absolutely everything that happens happens because He has willed it. One of the dictionary definitions of the word will is: the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action.
So following this “all powerful” to it’s conclusion means that God deliberately brought millions of children into existence so that he could kill one every three seconds today by depriving them to have safe drinking water or enough to food to eat! Or in another example he purposefully created all the dictators of the world so that they could kill thousands (millions collectively) of the people for little or no reason. The people who pray to the all powerful God say they don’t understand these sort of things but God must have a divine purpose for his extreme brutality. I find it very difficult to even contemplate praying to that kind of god.
Here is how I see all of this:
I kind of believe in the God of the Possible as illustrated by Greg Boyd in one of his many books. That along with the fact that God gave man free will answers the good god/bad god dichotomy for me. No, God is not responsible for all those children dying. That pitiful condition belongs totally to us humans. We are the ones who can’t seem to get along with one another.
Jesus told us to love one another; we just can’t seem to get that right especially when it comes to loving across national borders. God gave us free will and except for some very very rare circumstance he does not go back on his word. It is not God doing his will, as some say, that causes all the suffering in the world it is that WE don’t do God’s will to love one another.
I know I have no right to speculate but so many theologians do it every day so here goes. I do kind of believe that God did change his approach on how to guide us between the old and the new covenants. He could see that the “powerful God” approach just didn’t work with us sinful human being and at that point He just decided to love us anyway. God’s love is called agape love that is it doesn’t have conditions attached. What the ramification of that has concerning heaven and hell are a matter for a future post.
3 thoughts on “Contemplating the All Powerful God and the All Loving God…”
God’s nature is love and unchanging. We do see him being talked out of wiping out Israel and mankind by Moses when the children of Israel were once more at their “sinning” best. That part of His nature was interesting to me – that he could change his mind about an action. If He is all knowing why the need to make those changes at all? Many questions but I still love Him. And God as represented by Jesus is someone I can love totally and with abandon.
Perhaps the “move” from wrathful to Loving God is a more on us (as a people at first and then more and more on an individual bias) in the way we viewed Gods actions. The change stemming from a better understanding i.e. maturity. ( Let me bounce an analogy off of you and see what you think). Much like, as a I grew up my child-like mind viewed my parents discipline as harsh and unfair but I still trusted I would always be taken care of. I relied on them for everything. (call this Genesis like thinking) As a teen I understood the rules and restrictions but I lacked the full understanding of the “why”. I had my own job and ergo some of my own money so played with the idea of independence, I took chances. I didn’t always obey but learned that even if my folks didn’t find out and “I got away with something” there were still unforeseen consequences for my actions. (Call this Post Exodus). As a young man in the military I gained a better and respect for rules, I learned they are most often put in place to protect. In my 22 year career I did my best to live by them and not question them. (call this Kings maybe?) Now retired and with a teen of my own. I fully understand that my folks had nothing but love for me, they were only teaching and protecting me, (the Air Force didn’t “love me” but it did teach provide for and protect me) they would die for me as I would my own child. (New testament) Maybe God had to take on human form in order to show the power of love and trigger that switch of understanding. It must have been time to cut the apron strings and say I have shown you how to live it is now your choice again as a people and as individuals. If this is the case it is sad we had to have a such a shocking demonstration for us to move to our spiritual adulthood. I know there are other more theological reasons for Christ’s crucifixion but for sake of this analogy let’s play with a more simple idea. I could write more and I am sure I could have said this better but I think it makes my point and should open up some thoughts.
Love in Christ
Chris, thanks for your insight. Given the fact that I believe the Bible was written by men with inspiration from God your logic has some possibilities. The Old Testament writers just had a different view of God than they did after Jesus’ coming. Maybe God’s direct intervention gave them more insight as to the “true” nature of God.
But my literal and inerrant friends I’m sure will not agree with this view at all. They deem absolutely everything in the Bible is literally true and without any possibility of error. Therefore they could not in the least bit fathom what we are talking about here. It would be sacrilegious for them to even consider the possibility!
But I do like the possibility that God didn’t change; what changed is the writers view of God.