The atrocities of God
When we hear of events that turn our stomach being done by those who claim to have been instructed by God, how should we react? Recently, extreme Muslims in Afghanistan hanged a 7-year old boy after a kangaroo court found him guilty of spying for the Government. Apparently there had been a suicide bomber at a wedding in his village who had killed himself and 40 others. The boys grandfather, a village elder spoke up against the Taliban and in retribution the Taliban had the young boy executed.
This is but one of the unspeakable acts of horror committed by followers of extreme Islam, yet when we protest, Muslims are apt to point to the events of the Old Testament like slavery, stoning of adulterers, and various genocides as evidence that Christianity is not squeaky clean. How should we answer these attacks?
Liberal Christians have no problem. They see the stories of the Old Testament as simply stories, myths and legends told by a primitive people to explain their existence, to be given no more credence than the story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf at the foundation of ancient Rome.
It is we evangelicals who have the difficulty with our assumption all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. On the face of it we have difficulties with reconciling modern mores with all that slaughtering of the Amalekites that went on. Some of the punishments in Mosaic Law must give us pause. How are we to resolve this problem.
When we question God’s word, a good place to start is the Book of Job. Here Job got the chance to directly question God on what his motives were. God’s answer was not to explain himself but to ask Job what qualifications he had for deciding what was right and what was wrong. So this is where we should begin: from God’s perspective rather than our perspective.
In a sense the first great atrocity that we have to contend with is Adam and Eve getting thrown out of paradise.
This is where it all begins. Is this an arbitrary act by God? Is this unfair or unjust? Is it an atrocity?
Consider from the point of view of Adam and Eve. God made man in his own image. He made him, male and female to rule over the fish, the birds, livestock, over all the earth and every creature that moves over the face of the earth. . He gave them the instruction to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to rule over it. He gave them every seed bearing plant for food, and every tree that has fruit for food. And God saw that it was very good.
God placed Adam in a garden that was well watered by a river. It was a garden that grew all manner of trees, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. God introduced him to all the birds and beasts so that he could name them and gave him a companion, a helper suitable for him, a wife with whom he could become one flesh.
Only one restriction was put on man’s activities. “You may not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
But the woman was tempted by a talking snake. “Did God really say?” “You will not surely die.” “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.”
She ate and gave it to husband to eat and innocence was lost. He blamed his wife (whom you put here with me) and she blamed the snake.
How was God to react? Should he give them a second chance? Should he deny what he said and say, “I was only joking”? Should his justice become a mockery?
No, the die was cast; some things cannot be undone. For the woman childbirth would henceforth be a painful experience and she should be ruled by her husband. For the man the ground would be cursed. There would be no more easy pickings. Food would be produced by painful toil. Thorns and thistles would grow where he wished for crops and it would take the sweat of his brow to provide for his family. And although he did not die that day, death for mankind entered the world that day. He would return to the dust from which he had been created.
So Adam and Eve were dismissed from Paradise.
Life thereafter was no paradise, but one of pressure, difficulty and pain; brutish and short. (I know 930 years seems long to us, but compared with eternity…) It was no longer life but a life sentence. The very ground was cursed. Paul tells us that the whole creation is subject to torment. Look around – China, Haiti, Turkey – you’ll see that it was and still is.
But even as they are expelled there is hope for a second chance. He says to the Devil “The woman’s offspring will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” It was a prophecy of Jesus Christ, the offspring of the woman, who would yet redeem Adam’s fallen race. And as they left the garden God provided clothing for them in the form of animal skins – which could only have come from the sacrifice of an animal. Here already was a type of the salvation to come from the shedding of blood.
In his justice he remembered mercy.
From Adam’s point of view he might try to absolve himself from the consequences of his disobedience (as he always does) but from God’s point of view his justice and veracity are the building blocks of the Universe. It would collapse like a house of cards without them. But he would find a way of escape.