Big Bad God of the Bible.
Is God a bully? Is he mean? If not, then why did he do so many murderous things in the Bible? Is he mad at us, at everyone, at me? How can I work things out with him so that he is no longer angry with me and my actions?
Here is the first chapter of this book for you to copy, read, or send on to a friend:
Why This Book?
I recently delved into a compelling quest—under, I hope and believe, the guidance of the Spirit of God. In short, I read a number of books by atheists. One by Bertrand Russell said little to me. Just intellectual garbage. Several others simply seemed angry and strident, like those by Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan, and others. But two stood out: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, the author of many books on his favorite subject, the evolution of the universe, along the lines of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. And Sam Harris’s book, Letter to a Christian Nation.
Both men said things that showed me right away about their purpose and intent: to obliterate Christianity, the Bible, God, and Jesus as fictions of the most poisonous kind. Their hope was to provide the “facts” available in our world in such a way everyone on Planet Earth would be forced to admit that God, Jesus, and the Bible are nothing less than huge lies foisted on gullible people. Rejecting their arguments meant you were nothing less than a sanctimonious idiot, who really didn’t deserve to live in our world.
Frankly, I found these writings superficial and full of holes wide enough to drive a universe through. Repeatedly, they relied on old arguments to prove their points, arguments that have been decimated by years of fact-finding and truth-telling on the part of the defenders of the Bible and God. When their arguments became tedious and laughable, they often pulled out so-called “facts” that anyone who knows much about the Bible could easily tear to pieces as “straw men” or “fictions.”
I repeatedly came across passages like this:
Nobody knows who the four evangelists [writers of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. Much of what they wrote was in no sense an honest attempt at history, but was simply rehashed from the Old Testament, because the gospel-makers were devoutly convinced that the life of Jesus must fulfill Old Testament prophecies. It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all . . .
Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament(and obviously the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.
I have to wonder what “reputable scholars” Dawkins refers to—the members of “The Jesus Seminar,” who have been discredited time and time again as flakes with axes the size of Gibraltar to grind? Has he consulted any of the great names in Christian scholarship like Charles Hodge, Karl Barth, F. F. Bruce, Carl F. H. Henry, Charles Ryrie, Alister McGrath, or John Walvoord?
I also wonder about someone who so easily dismisses the Bible as an “unreliable” historical record, when anyone who honestly reads and studies it will soon find it the most accurate eyewitness report we have from ancient history. Especially when you compare it with other writings from antiquity like Homer's Iliad, The Gilgamesh Epic, or Caesar's Gallic Wars. The Bible instead is a book quoted and substantiated by numerous others who were not believers and who did not care a whit about it as the Word of God—Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and many others.
A truth I discovered as a student in seminary is that at one time archaeologists set out to prove the Bible false in many of its historical details, especially in the 19th century when Bible skepticism rose to its heights. Today, though, renowned archaeologists like Kathleen Kenyon, Nelson Glueck, Frank Gaebelein, and Bryant C. Wood confirm the Bible’s accuracy. For instance, Gaebelein writes, “The attitude of suspended judgment toward Bible difficulties . . . is constantly being vindicated, as archaeology has solved one Biblical problem after another, and as painstaking reexamination of discrepancies has finally led to answers.”
Their discoveries have proven over and over that the Bible is accurate down to the minutest details. Has Dawkins ever considered any of this evidence? Moreover, has he read Matthew or John, who were both disciples of Jesus? Where then does he get this idea that they didn't personally know him? Unless, of course, he's of the school that doesn't believe that Matthew wrote the book of Matthew” or that John wrote the book of John. Like Mark Twain once quipped, “If Moses didn't write the first five books of the Bible, then it was another man by the same name.”
But Dawkins just waves his hand and the whole Bible along with its portrait of Jesus is sent packing. Does he really think that will ride with people of the twenty-first century who actually appreciate dealing with the facts rather than a recitation of old and worn-out clichés? Does Dawkins really believe the worldwide prevalence of faith in God and Christ can be deconstructed by an argument he's put together from his own imagination? If the Bible is as replete with errors as he says it is, and if it’s a complete hoax on the level of the Piltdown Man, then why hasn’t it been totally discredited to the point that its followers are reduced to a few churches in places like Podunk, Mississippi, and Fool’s Haven, Texas? If this is all so obvious, why are so many of us so deluded? Basically, according to people like Dawkins, because we’re nut cases, idiots, or both.
At another point, Dawkins writes that the God revealed in the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Frankly, when I read something like that, I have to wonder if Dawkins has ever given most of the Old Testament a fair and open reading. To be sure, there are problematic passages, with God exhibiting some hair-raising responses to sin and problems in his world. At times, he truly does look like "the big, bad God" of my title.
But from that I have to ask two questions: First, if the Bible is the Word of God, then why would God allow himself to be portrayed in such a terrible light, if not for some deeper purpose we should all long to discover? On the other hand, if, as Dawkins and others claim to believe, the Bible is just a book like any other written by fools and charlatans, then what does it matter? Why is he so strident about it? If the writers made up most of it, how do we know any of the things God supposedly did were really done by him in the first place? What basis does he have to quote it, let alone speak of its revelations as if they’re even remotely true?
So on that front, it's a wash. Discard the Bible. It's just another book. Forget what it says. The God in it is an idiot, a miscreant, a bully, and no one anyone would want to know personally.
Regardless, I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and all those horrid episodes a means to reveal something precious and wondrous about the God who wrote about them. Only an attitude that says, “Okay, I’m not sure I understand why God spoke of this, but I’ll give him the benefit of taking a hard look at it just to see if there’s anything deeper than a reason to reject him.”
This book, then, is a discussion between myself and a number of unbelievers with serious questions like those these atheists and others raise. The person I introduce at the beginning, Doug (not his real name), was someone I encountered at a Christian writer’s conference. We talked for quite a while and he proved to possess a clear-thinking, incisive mind well worth exploring. Those initial statements made me wonder where our discussion might lead if together we probed and found answers to the questions he voiced, the same kinds of questions any “seeker,” atheist, or unbeliever might bring up if they had the chance.
The story line is pure fiction. The main character, Mark, is a fictional character in terms of the plot and dialogue. In that respect, this is an unusual apologetics book. Instead of the straightforward preaching you find in most of them, it’s a story, almost a novel, in which Mark and various people discuss the great questions of our world and how the Bible explains them.
Thus, I hope you will stick with the story. I’ve tried to make the plot interesting and compelling, so that this is not just a preachy, formulaic apologetics book. However, my purpose remains to present real biblical answers for the “horrible” doctrines, events, and situations revealed about God in the Bible.
You either come to the Bible with the attitude of believing that all those terrible things God did have a definite purpose on his part to teach us something about himself and his world, or you come with the attitude of seeking to collect more ammunition for your discussions and diatribes against him.
Either way, I think you will find this a compelling read. I have found that God is not afraid of any question we might hurl at him. And he certainly does not shy away from revealing to us the stark truth, some of which may shake us to the depths of our souls. Much of it, though, becomes a source of real hope, joy, and peace in a trouble-filled world.
So, if you find Dawkins, Harris, and their ilk convincing, fine. But please give God a chance to answer from the pages of his Word. The risk of summarily rejecting him and his gifts is great.
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006), 96–97.
 Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 1:31. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006), 31.