The Character of God in the Bible

I’ll play devil’s advocate here (god’s advocate?) for a second. I think a lot of theologians would probably have some pretty good arguments centered around the development of moral character in humans that could potentially address some of these questions. For me, the problem is less about the coherency or believability of these stories in the context of an omni-God (I don’t think the ancient Hebrews even saw him that way) and more about the way these descriptions of God’s character influence modern Christians’ ideas of what “good” actually is.

What sin did those little babies commit?

You forgot to include death. Remember he is going to be the way to death for nearly much of today’s human population.

You are certainly OK with innocents dying if you believe God’s murderous action on the Egyptian firstborn babies was good.

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Are you willing to say, without caveat, that if God truly commands something it is never immoral to carry it out? Can God be immoral, according to you?

Oh and they were eventually roped back into that cycle when they needlessly slaughtered the citizens of Jericho, right?

I can only speak for myself. I believe (or have chosen to believe) in a good God, so that anything God commands is moral. From that I conclude that if anyone tells me in God’s name to do something manifestly immoral, like slaughtering babies, he’s not speaking for God. That applies even if I’m the one who thinks he hears God giving the command.


Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 3

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their [c]condemnation is just.

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open [d]tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

There’s an awful lot of that kind of allegory in the OT. See also Yahweh’s tendency to kill innocent people every time David, that man after his own heart, messed up. Including killing his kid with a disease as punishment for David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.

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Or more likely a myth.

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I know it wasn’t directed at me, but I’ll accept that challenge. :slight_smile: Might be a little bit, but I’ll put an essay together and post it as a new thread.

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Oh yeah. I don’t think treating it all as allegory is an a realistic option for most believers, but Gregory’s example demonstrates that at least some Christians have long been aware of the problem.


In other words, you are the final arbiter of what is counted as ‘good’- not God. Even if God himself spoke to you, you would only obey if God’s command was alright with you.

If humans can’t decide what’s good, then how can you, as a human, conclude that God is good?


If I was a citizen of Jericho and you were an Israelite soldier, would you hide me away to save my life or kill me and my family according to Yahweh’s orders?


So we are scripture-balling now. Take this:

Revelation 19:11-21 ESV
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”

This is how Jesus is going to be the way to death for atheist, agnostics, muslims, animists, buddhists, hindus and evolutionists :hear_no_evil:

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That seems the safest procedure, since as a human I can’t actually know whether God is speaking to me. Neither can you. You can make up rules (‘the Bible is inerrant’) that let you pretend this isn’t true, but it is. Given the many, many people who have committed horrors because they thought God was telling them to, how could you be sure you weren’t about to become one of them?

Since this kind of uncertainty is an intrinsic part of being human, I’ve decided to err on the side of not killing babies.


It is logically impossible for the ultimate judge and arbiter to be anything other than good. It is from God that the concept of ‘goodness’ originates to begin with. There is no standard higher than God. Our concept of goodness is right, so far as it comports with God’s will, and wrong anywhere it deviates.

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At the heart of Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity and the cross. 3-in-1 shows that God can be loving in and of Himself. He is love. The cross shows that God is loving towards us. He gives us the commands to love Him and our neighbor. In our hearts, we know that love is good. He created us to be able to know it. Sin is what obscures our knowing what is good.


If God told your neighbor to kill your family would you be OK with them being executed? Or will you claim you are the only one who knows what God really wants?


Show us the logic. Simply asserting something is logical does not make it logical.

Both of those are assertions that require evidence. Not a good start.

Yet another assertion without evidence.

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Hey John,

I apologize that I am late to the party. I personally think that the literalist interpretation of the bible renders good many things that are reprehensible: murder, virginity cults, slavery, racism, sexism, and so on. One can try and justify these through DCT and many do but others do not.

The way to interpret the bible is pretty much as important as the bible itself (if one even cares). It was not written in perfectly logical structures which is really weird considering the potential. The only way that I can reconcile it is to interpret in it in the light of building a spiritual relationship and allowing the community/personal experience to be part of that conversation even though they are imperfect (1 Cor 2, 2 Tim 3:14-17).

The only way that I can even look at the OT is to start with the premises that God is indeed loving and that humanity’s attempt to search for him and follow commandments is a clusterfuck of shitty things intermixed with some good things. Jesus basically re-interpreted the entire OT but even then I think that some aspects were used as hyperbole to communicate spiritual truths.

Moving onto more Pauline theology, Paul was clearly writing for Christians to emphasize spiritual transformation and play the long game on societal change and I honestly struggle with that as well.

There is a lot of tension and some choose to escape it. I see more meaning in the struggle

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