Knowing God is not always straightforward and even by merely ‘taking Him at His Word’ we can end up with vastly different conclusions. For example there are those among the Christian family who have a hard time reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament as though there is a change not only in His operation but His character. The heart of the charge is the Christian God of forgiveness, love and kindness. This God seen in Jesus Christ is all about humility, meekness and peace-making. Although that is not necessarily like being a wimp, it is definitely anathema to the gung-ho, right-wing Christian expressions of some.
So the problem this softer love-based expression of Christianity has with God is of the One who wipes out the earth in a flood, kills the firstborn of the Egyptians to get them to release His people from slavery and then gets His people to conduct the virtual wiping out of peoples in the conquest of their lands. There is of course the same God who instructs Saul to completely wipe out the Amalekites and then finds a man after his own heart who is a warrior king in David. This brutal, violent, some would argue even bloodthirsty portrayal of God, some argue, cannot be equated with the God of Love in the New Testament.
I understand the problem, especially in the light of some completely misunderstanding the OT dispensation and relationship with Israel and then thinking what applies to OT Israel is applicable to the NT church thus legitimising crusades, inquisitions and other horrific episodes in the history of the church. Even today some people’s perception of Christianity as a political force is very harsh and near to gun-toting supporters of military conflict in the defence or advancement of Christian or closely Christian values.
It’s a tough one. For all that, though, I don’t buy into the alternative of some who either take responsibility out of God’s hands and proclaims the supremacy of free will. I also don’t buy into others who would have me believe that to resolve the problem is to understand that just as mankind has progressed so has his understanding of God, thus the God of the old days was necessarily barbaric and brutal because that’s all that man understood. Now in the light of Christ we grow up into a proper understanding of a God who virtually wouldn’t hurt a fly because He’s all love.
I still firmly believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. A crucial role of God is as judge and the soft, cuddly, pacifistic god created by some doesn’t account for His role as judge. Especially a role that Jesus talks about often and not in such soft, cuddly and pacifistic ways. When we then consider how the guy who talks about love the most – John depicts Jesus in Revelation, the challenge is not to mould God into a PC, socially-friendly model, but to mould our minds behind a God who is love and a God is judge. A God of mercy who still promises to bring about vengeance and repayment in due time.
That is not a reason for the Rambo-Christians to rub their hands in glee and start the judging now. That is not a reason for the limp-wristed, soft-Christian to reject God as revealed in scripture and opt for a god in their own image. This is every reason to further submit ourselves to who God is and follow in His way, however hard that is to figure out.
For His Name’s Sake