Is The God of The Old Testament a Moral Monster?

Is The God of The Old Testament a Moral Monster?

One of the persistent charges against the Bible is that the “God” of the New Testament is a lot nicer than the “God” of the Old Testament. Ever heard that one? This was first popularized in the second century by a man named Marcion. Marcion concluded that the teachings of Jesus were incompatible with the belligerent God of the Old Testament. For example, what about those times, in the Hebrew Bible, when He ordered His people to commit genocide and obliterate entire cities? Many ask, “Did God really order that people and cities be annihilated in the Bible?” Consider 1 Samuel 15:3, where God said to King Saul, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (NIV).

Enter popular author, Greg Boyd, who says that his mission is to “rescue” God’s Old Testament reputation. Boyd is a brilliant, passionate Christian leader and founding pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. He writes passionate books (lots of them!) and preaches passionate sermons. In his recent book, Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence (2017), Boyd argues that we’ve radically misunderstood many Old Testament passages. In brief, Boyd argues that we need to read all of Scripture through the lens of what we know of Jesus on the cross: namely, a loving Messiah who refused to be violent. Boyd develops an interpretation of Scripture that he calls a “cruciform hermeneutic.” He wants to show us how the Bible’s violent images of God are reframed and diffused when interpreted through the lens of the cross and resurrection.

Boyd writes, “I would argue that Moses’s claim that Yahweh told him to command the Israelites to mercilessly annihilate entire people groups is antithetical to the message of the cross . . . in this light, I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that the ‘show them no mercy’ command that Moses allegedly received from Yahweh, was not, in fact, a bona fide command from Yahweh.” Say what!?

So, how do we approach these “texts of terror”? They can be difficult to come to grips with, but that doesn’t mean we can just toss them aside. Did God really kill people in the Bible? In a word, yes! Did He order genocide at times? Yes! Deuteronomy 9:4 tells us why: “. . . it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you.” Boyd’s undermining of what God has said reminds me of a question posed to Eve in the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say . . .?” It’s always dangerous to claim that God didn’t say something, especially when He did—very clearly—again and again and, well, again! Greg Boyd is preaching very dangerous theology these days. He is twisting Scripture to fit his own private preferences, and that is extremely troubling. Bottom line: he is teaching people to not take God at His Word which, at the end of the day, is deadly.

by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor