I have had many theological discussions with Christians and inevitably at some point during our discussion the comment, “you’re taking the meaning out of context” is dropped. I think that a contextual understanding of the bible and Christianity is important also.Â Let me take this opportunity to try and put the bible and Christianity in it’s proper context.
There is plenty of terrible un-Godlike behavior in the new testament, but for sure it is easier to quote better examples of God’s loveless actions from the old testament. I have had people tell me, “…well yeah that’s the old testament but the new testament is much more peaceful”.Â I will be taking quotes for most of this article from the old testament.Â I will be doingÂ so because the old testament is particularly brutal. If you are a Christian and you believe the inspired word of God is infallible (and you have to), why does it matter that only the brutish old testament is mentioned? Having been written first, it has the distinction of being perhaps more timely and therefore more accurate (disbeliefÂ appropriately suspended)Â to the events that it describes.
Let’s start with the bronze age’s answer to Las Vegas, Sodom and Gomorrah. God was not happy with the evil taking place in the twin cities so he decided to rain down upon them “burning sulphur.” This is odd and cruel at the same time. Odd because if you were God, do you think burning sulphur would be the best way toÂ completely wipe out two cities? Cruel because it involves burning men, women and children. Wouldn’t a 30 mile wide plasma beam be more efficient or at least more humane? It’s also a lot more cool than… burning sulphur.Â Â Keep in mind bronze age constructionÂ had advanced fromÂ an earlier technique of packed clay walls to actual bricks made from mud.Â Mud bricks don’t burn well, in fact heat is what is used to dry them. Weird God would choose such an incredibly inefficient way to smite people… unless the bible was written solely by men who didn’t know what a plasma beam or anything else more advanced wasÂ than… burning sulphur. Hard to keep this story any more in context than that.
Next, let’s talk about God’s quirky sense of humor. Just imagine if you had a neighbor whose name was, oh I don’t know, ahhhh… Abraham. Let’s say some “guy” showed up at Abraham’s house one day and put a gun to Abraham’s head and tried to force him to kill his son, ahhhhh… Isaac. Then right before Abraham did it the “guy” stopped him and said “Wait! I just wanted to see if you’d do it!”Â Would we think this “guy” was funny, smart, all knowing, all powerful, peaceful, kind, or loving. No, we’d think this “guy” was vicious, cruel and twisted. I think you get the point. If God was omniscient, he would have already know what Abraham was going to do or he’s just a malevolent jerk who gets off on yanking mankind’s chain. Not very Godlike… unless God was a creation of mankind who from time to time does suffer from these character flaws. Hard to keep this story any more in context than that.
Now, Exodus 2:29-30 :
At midnightÂ the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
Does anything here strike you as odd? Yeah I know, “why should God kill the children for the wrongs of their parents?”. Sure that’s unforgivingly evil, but that’s not even the “odd” part. I’m talking about killing the firstborn of the livestock! The livestock? Here is context for you. Throughout the bible, God has penalized mankind by killing his children and/or his livestock. In an earlier article I quoted Leviticus 26:21-22.
If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins.Â I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted.
God sure has a thing for killing livestock… or does he? Seems to me far more likely that mankind in the bronze age recognized how valuable livestock was to the other bronze agers of the time and decided to use livestock as leverage in the good book. Sounds again like mankind was truly doing the story telling here. Hard to keep this story any more in context than that.
I could go on…but I think it is clear that contextually these stories and most likely the entire bible,Â were man made from start to finish. How modern day rational people can’t see that the bible is riddled with un-Godlike, but very human, behavior is astounding to me.
…Sometimes a burning bush, is just a burning bush.