Monday 15 February 2016

What should Christians say about those hating, smiting, torturing, paranoid depictions of God in the Old Testament?


Anonymous said...

Gnostic Christianity explains the cruelty of God in the OT rather differently.

Gnostics contrast the God of the OT with the God of the NT, asserting that they are, in fact, different gods.

There is a distinction between the highest, unknowable God, and the creator of the material world (God of the OT).

The god of the OT is an emanation from the higher, purer God.

The god of the NT is the higher God – the unknowable – the Father of All.

The Gnostics do not believe Christ came to forgive sins, but to tell the world of the true Father. He also came to show mankind how to escape the prison of the body, release the divine spark trapped within, and grow in knowledge of the divine ‘out there’ (the Supreme Father), but also within the human self – gnosis (or theosis).

The gnostic explanation, in brief, goes like this:

Sophia (literally "wisdom", and a feminine aspect of the Father, or Supreme God) desired to create something apart from the Father to which he did not consent.

In this act of separation, she gave birth to Yaldabaoth (Yahweh), the god of the OT.

Sophia was ashamed of her deed, so she wrapped Yaldabaoth in a cloud and created a throne for him within it.

Yaldabaoth did not see her, nor anyone else, and concluded that only he himself existed. He did not know the source of his power and did not know that there was someone above him.

Yaldabaoth declared, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me'.

Yaldabaoth created the physical universe.

Gnostics see this creator god as a bungling fool, who created the world as a spiritual prison.

The myth portrays the first separation, which later turned into the entrapment of the divine spark, Sophia (Wisdom), within the human form.

This spark is latent until awakened by a call (Christ, or the Christ principle is the call).

This divine spark is the beginning of restoration of Sophia as well as gnosis.

The early church called this explanation high heresy and began a long campaign to expunge it from the Christian story. They set out to destroy gnostic texts and to destroy gnostics. They were largely successful. That is until 1945 when a mass of gnostic texts were discovered in Egypt, which were made available to scholars. Those texts are available for free on line,

Gnosticism has its adherents.

Here is a link to a Wikipedia piece,


David said...

I think there is a typo here? Should 'Gold in the old testament' read 'God in the old testament'? Either way, the primary assumption that love is the correct lense to interpret scripture is one which I would endorse. I can see why that particular stumbling block has caused truely immeasurable heartache, misery, evil and suffering throughout human history. If one disregards the primacy of love all meaningful value is irretrievably lost and the aching void of absence is revealed.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, in some cases, the words of the OT were first told through oral transmission, but in most cases, the story was put into written form at the time of, or soon after, the events described. What was being transmitted was an explanation of facts regarding certain people, places, and times.

However, I no longer assume that everything in the OT is the absolute truth. Those who wrote the stories were probably either the Jewish leaders, or their scribes. The historical stories, which include instructions by God to kill the enemy, may be largely false, and simply be the desired objective of the Jewish leaders at the time. In fact, there may be no divine element in the ‘cruel bits’ at all.

Once I admitted to myself that parts of the bible might have no divine input, I thought, ‘why did God permit them to be in ‘His book?’’ ‘Free will’, came the answer. We are not stopped from doing anything on this earth, including telling lies about God. This is at our peril of course, and we take the consequences later.

I cannot believe that God would do a cruel thing. He is essence of LOVE, he is the type of love, the original spiritual form of love.

I now read the OT in a new way. Whenever I read it, I am mindful of human weakness, treachery and its distressingly excellent ability to tell whoppers. It is my duty to read every verse, every chapter, every book, and look for cruelty. Where I find it, I doubt that it is God’s word. It may have some basis in what God said, but a half lie is still a lie.

The best guide for reading the OT is the NT, and not even all of it. The words of Christ are what I look to. I find nothing cruel in them. If a text in the OT does not stand up to what Christ has said, then it is either man made, with no divine inspiration, or partially divine with a convenient interpretation placed on it by an interested (human) party at the time it was written down.

This is not the gnostic position, I described above because they ascribe delinquency, blindness and folly to the lesser god (Yaldabaoth) who created the universe. I understand why they did think like that. In their myth, the Supreme God is then completely innocent of the ‘cruel bits’.

I don’t find it necessary to split God into parts, his lesser self making mistakes, and His higher self, up there above it all, and completely innocent. Apart from making the unflattering assumption that the Supreme God is someone who buries His head in the sand, whilst he permits His lesser self to run riot, the gnostic myth forgets the obvious solution. Man is the culprit – Man is telling convenient lies – Man is being cruel and using God’s name to justify that cruelty. God doesn’t do cruelty.

God is not to blame.


Adam G. said...

That is a very dangerous approach, Seeker. We must insist that God is love. But we should not insist that God is only our current and limited conception of love. If you throw out everything that doesn't "fit," you will never learn more than you already know. Jefferson did the same thing you did. Look where it led him.