Originally posted by ivanhoe
God is Truth ... then how can some accuse Him of being a liar ?
God is Life ... then how can some accuse Him of being a murderer ?
God is Peace ... then how come some accuse Him of being a warmonger ?
God is Justice ... then how can some accuse Him of being an unjust monster ?
God is Love ... then how can some accuse Him ...[text shortened]... f being the opposite of what He is ? How is it possible He can be accused of not being Himself ?
The “Problem,” Ivanhoe, is that you’re not a Biblical literalist.
When a literalistic/historicistic reading becomes normative—which I think is a fairly recent development (I’m guessing since the 18th century)—and God is seen as the actual, historical agent for the killing of infants, then those questions get legitimately raised. It has been interesting to me on here how both some theists and some non-theists sometimes assume that a literalistic/historicistic reading is, always has been and ought to be the normative one. When one reads the scriptures in some other way (midrashically, for example, or allegorically, or whatever) he might find himself criticized for reducing the scriptures to “mere myth” (two words I would never put together for myself) on the one hand, or for trying to make a lame apology for God on the other. Things like Ignatian lectio divina
are simply thrown out of court.
Now, I happen to think—though I’m far from any kind of scholar on the matter—that lectio divina
( and midrash) come a lot closer to how the original tellers of these stories meant them to be read and searched out. If, for example, Joshua claims (or the author claims on his behalf) to have been commanded by God to kill innocents, maybe we are meant to ask the critical question: “Is that really the nature of God?” Maybe the story is there as a kind of warning for people who “hear the voice of God” commanding them to do horrendous things. For a non-Christian example, look at Ghandi’s love for the Baghavad Gita
: Ghandi, the proponent of non-violent resistance, read that book, set against the backdrop of violent warfare, allegorically. Did he “read it wrong?” Or the rabbi I mentioned once before who said (in a talk I heard) that, yes, Abraham was tested by God—in the story
!—when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac; and that Abraham failed the test: no tsadiq
(just man) would willingly commit child sacrifice, even if commanded by God (and this the very Abraham who argued with God about Sodom and Gomorrah!). Another rabbi I read pointed out, in discussing that story, that we should all beware about what we hear
as divine commandments, and that Abraham’s “saving grace” was that, in the end, he was able to hear another voice. Nevertheless, if we insist on reading that story literally as a historic event, it still seems like a cruel test, and God seems monstrous.
Also, these ancients told stories the way we go to movies (and some of us read novels)—all kinds of stories, with all kinds of lessons and morals. Does the fact that The Lord of the Rings
is mythological fiction diminish the depth and richness of its lessons? Is The Agony and the Ecstasy
less worth the read because it is “historical fiction?”
Is your (understanding of) God monstrous? I don’t think so. Can you find the God that you know in those stories? I think so. Can you do it by reading them literalistically/historicistically? I don’t think so. But that is not how either the rabbis or the early Church fathers, for example, read them. Any more than it was how Ghandi read the Gita
Because of the very nature of these writings, it is perhaps more difficult to sort such things out than it is with, say, the Tao Te Ching
or the Upanishads
(though both of those are challenging reads). But I think that is our challenge if we find any spiritual meaning in them—as I think the authors intended us to do.