God's so mean
I remember speaking with a witch my first year of Uni.
She was a Wiccan practitioner possessing a potent cocktail of charm, intelligence and spiritual finesse. After listening to her explain some of her beliefs and practices I inquired what she thought about Jesus. She confessed that she found Jesus to be “cool” but that she rejected Christianity. When I asked her why, she immediately said, “Well, the Bible is full of contradictions. It’s just so obvious that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. I mean, how much more different could He get?”
We continued our discussion for quite some time and the Lord softened her heart so that she allowed me to pray for her. She also agreed to read the gospel of John with an open mind and then she left. Her immediate objection about the Bible stayed with me though. It is an objection I have heard many times both before and since. What is most unfortunate is that this confusion about Scripture exists not just outside the Church, but inside as well. Many misunderstand God as being an angst-ridden teenager with control issues in the OT (Old Testament) who then matured and became cool in the form of Jesus in the NT (New Testament).
The idea that the God of the OT is different from that of the NT is a heresy (a false teaching) which has been around for centuries. It was taught in the early Church by an energetic but misguided teacher named Marcion. Marcion was ultimately condemned as a heretic by the other church leaders but his teaching can still be felt today. For example, one audio series by a well-known Bible teacher has in its ad: “Are you confused about the nature of God? Is He the God of judgment found in the Old Testament or the God of mercy and grace found in the New Testament?”*
The truth is, Jesus loved the Scriptures which he called “the word of God” (Matt 15.6; John 10.35). (The terms “Old” and “New Testament” are a modern imposition which can sometimes be misleading). Jesus never quoted the New Testament. It hadn’t been written yet! Jesus quoted the ancient prophets, the Psalms and Moses. He loved them! Jesus certainly didn’t see the OT as books containing an outdated message from an overly angry deity. He cherished them as the very words of his loving Father. He quoted the OT in the heights of his joy and the depths of his sorrow. Even in the valley of his own death he quoted it. If we read the OT correctly, we will even understand, as Jesus did, that all of those books are also about him (Luke 24.44).
We cannot claim to love and follow Jesus if we do not seek to have the same relationship to the OT as he did. More importantly, if we are going to follow the Son of God, we must know the character of God as revealed in all 66 books of the Bible. These books each have their own personality, but they sing with one voice of the one true God. We must come to know God’s expansive character which contains love, anger, goodness, kindness and hatred of evil as revealed in all 66 of the books.
One may object, “But didn’t the OT God judge people and Jesus teach love?” Think of this: the OT contains these bits of Scripture:
- “Love your neighbour as yourself” Leviticus 19
- “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” Psalm 23
- “The Lord’s loving kindness never ceases” Lamentations 3:22
- “YAHWEH! The God of compassion and mercy. Slow to anger and rich in love” Exodus 34
- “God forgives your sins and heals your diseases!” Psalm 103
There are hundreds more like these. We see God’s care and compassion all over the OT. It’s the OT which teaches us love! In the same way we see God’s severe judgment in the NT as well as the OT:
- “The chaff he will burn with a fire that never goes out” Luke 3
- “These will go away into everlasting punishment” Matthew 25
- “All evildoers will be thrown into the furnace where there will be weeping” Matthew 13
- Jesus will “take vengeance with flaming fire on those who do not know God” 2 Thessalonians 1
- “The angel of the Lord struck him dead because he didn’t give glory to God” Acts 12
- Book of Revelation (human blood flows thick through much of this book)
There is plenty to inspire the fear of the Lord in the NT as well as the OT. The truth is the whole of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation proclaim the one true God whom we have got to get to know. He’s a holy God who will one day send unrepentant people into eternal darkness and He is my loving Father who is endlessly good. All of his characteristics make sense in light of the cross.
If parts of the Bible do not reveal God as you understand Him to be, please don’t get the scissors and start cutting out those passages. Be humble enough to consider that you don’t understand God fully and that you still have much to learn about what He’s like. Have a read of Ben’s article this week and see why this is important.
Is God the same in the Old and New Testaments?