The Untamable God

01 Mar
Untamable God

from Google Images

Some Biblical critics may argue that the proposition that Israel waged war with the Canaanites at the command of God, gives carte blanche permission for all would be religious terrorists to do as they please and claim “God told me to do it!”[1] This was the battle cry of the Crusades, and it is behind the jihad terrorism of our day, including the 9/11 tragedy. Yet, this reasoning cannot be reconciled with the Bible. God’s commands to Israel under Moses and Joshua were unique and never again repeated throughout Israel’s history. Saul didn’t seek to have the Philistines devoted to destruction, and David didn’t seek such a thing in any of his campaigns against the nations surrounding Israel. Neither did any of the kings of Israel or Judah seek to devote any of their enemies to destruction in the wars they took part in later. One cannot reasonably justify war or indiscriminate killing by using the Bible for one’s support.

Due to our rejection of the Gospel in our modern Western culture, we don’t seem to have progressed much beyond the ANE civilizations, as it pertains to our relationship to and understanding of God. The ancients had no faith in God and neither do we. Moreover, they were afraid of God and tried to control him and so do we. We are afraid of the Canaanite-punishing-God and try to replace him with a more tame, manageable god—someone who’s nice and comfortable and who doesn’t make life too inconvenient. The modern charge of the atheist that humans make god in their own image isn’t far from the truth, except for one thing—who would ever make up the Biblical God? He is simply not the kind of God mankind desires to create!

“It would be a strange, defective God who didn’t pose a serious cosmic authority problem for humans. Part of the status of being God, after all, is that God has a unique authority, or lordship, over humans. Since we humans aren’t God, the true God would have authority over us and would seek to correct our profoundly selfish ways.”[2]

Life isn’t always easy; it gets complicated. Often we end up puzzling over tough issues, whether personal or those affecting lots of folks at the same time. The book of Job is like that. He didn’t have a shortage of know-it-alls who tried to straighten him out, but he kept asking “Why?” – Why do bad things happen to nice folks? The point is that Job never really got an answer to that question, but he was confronted with the idea that God is trustworthy. We may never be fully satisfied with why bad things happen—especially when they happen to good people—innocent folks like children. Yet, if we can believe in a God who loves us—all of us, then the whys aren’t always that important. We can trust them to a loving God, who claims that his thoughts and ways are much higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Morality can get pretty complicated, but the bottom line is a question of origin. Is morality what man says it is or what God says it is? Are we the judge or is God? It must be one or the other. And, this is at the heart of the whole question of the fate of the Canaanites. The issue of who’s the judge of such things began in Eden (Genesis 3), when our first parents decided for all of us that God wasn’t trustworthy. Rather we would decide our own fate by trusting only in our own ability to get things done.

God’s answer to this rebellion came centuries later when he called Abraham out of Mesopotamia. It was here that he decided to reverse the curse in Genesis 3:17 and bless all nations through Abraham, because of his obedience (Genesis 22:18). Adam embraced his freewill and wouldn’t trust God to continue to allow this freedom. Therefore, he plunged mankind into rebellion. Abraham, on the other hand, believed God intended to bless Isaac, and he permitted God the freedom to do that in his own way and in his own time—which was the point of the sacrifice. Freedom for man and freedom for God go hand in hand. And, that’s the difference between receiving God just as he is and seeking to tame the untamable God.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[2] Paul K. Moser, “Divine Hiddenness, Death, and Meaning,” in Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 221-22.

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in apologetics


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