A Look At The “Nicer Than God” Position

Child_survivors_of_AuschwitzAtheists are eager to dismantle the framework of Christianity and to deconstruct the Bible. Sadly, it seems some in the self-styled “Progressive Christians” crowd aren’t far behind.

One point in particular has come through in various on-line discussions by those who don’t believe in God as He revealed Himself in the Bible–the God of the Old Testament is too wrathful, too vengeful to really be God. My God wouldn’t do that or say that, is a statement I’ve seen more than once.

Often a verse in Psalm 137 gets pulled out as evidence that God is too horrible to worship or that the Bible is inconsistent and can’t possibly be taken at face value or that God had to have repented of such a heinous attitude because it isn’t in line with how He showed Himself through Jesus in the New Testament.

In all honesty, the verse is horrible. Writing about the Babylonians who took Judah into captivity and razed the temple and the walls of Jerusalem and its homes and businesses, the psalmist said

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock. (Psalm 137:8-9)

Shocking!

That last verse in particular seems out of place in a book centered on God’s work of reconciliation and forgiveness achieved through Jesus.

As I’ve pondered this Psalm and particularly verse nine, a couple things have come to mind. First, I am reminded of some of the heinous things that came to light after 9/11–people parading through the streets of cities in the Middle East, cheering the deaths of several thousand people they considered the enemy; beheadings; hundreds upon hundreds of people unassociated with fighting, blown up as they went about living life; rulers firing upon their own people; hundreds of bodies discovered in mass graves.

All these rather gruesome modern day events make it clear that nothing has changed in the law of revenge in the Middle East from the time of the Old Testament.

Back then, God initiated the “eye for an eye” principle–one capable of stopping blood feuds before they got started. Particularly, God said sons weren’t to die to pay for the sins of their father. Such laws were necessary because people held grudges and sought to get even when they’d been wronged.

Today, nearly seventy years after the Jewish state came into being, certain countries in the Middle East have the stated objective of wiping out that nation. Simply put, they want revenge on their enemy.

To put this into perspective, a comparable situation would be England determined to wipe out the fledgling United States seventy years after the Revolutionary War–somewhere around 1850 when the US and England were becoming key trading partners. Or Mexico, seventy years after the end of the Mexican-American War–right around World War I–determining to retake the land they had ceded in the peace treaty.

My point? The Middle Eastern worldview is different from the worldview in the West.

Couple that fact with this: the Bible was written by people, inspired by God. However, God’s authorship does not mean He condoned everything recorded in those pages.

Jacob’s son Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. The men in a city of the tribe of Benjamin gang raped a woman, killing her, and this led to war with the other eleven tribes. Samson, a judge of Israel, picked a Philistine to be his wife. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder.

The Bible records all these events and more, not as a list of things God’s children today are supposed to emulate, but as part of the grand scheme, the big picture, the overarching story showing us who God is, why we have a broken relationship with Him, and how He went about fixing it.

Psalm 137:9 is no more a statement of God’s desires than the verses that tell about Eve’s deception and Adam’s disobedience.

Let me pull some threads together. The Middle East had a culture of revenge, and in fact, much of what’s happened in the last ten-plus years would indicate that this worldview is still in place. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 137:9 wrote from that worldview. As such, the verse is not an indication that God condoned the get-even mentality.

Here in the West we have a different worldview, informed by two thousand years of Biblical teaching to love our enemies, pray for those who misuse and abuse us, refrain from vengeance, refuse to curse but give a blessing instead.

Those “nicer than God” proponents, then, are simply reflecting a Biblical worldview, whether they recognize it and embrace it, or not.

They claim God is someone he is not based on a verse or verses taken out of context, and they claim for themselves teaching He brought into the world, normalized through centuries of Church influence, so that today even atheists believe loving our neighbor is a good thing, that mistreating the weakest and most vulnerable in society is wrong, and that enemies ought to be given trials and treated humanely rather than tortured.

Surprise, atheists and progressives! You’ve embraced a Biblical worldview–the one which has shaped Western thought. You just didn’t know it. You thought you were nicer than God, but who enabled you to learn what “nice” meant? God Himself in the instruction that shaped the philosophical underpinnings of Western society for generations.

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Published in: on February 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm  Comments (17)  
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17 Comments

  1. Odd twist on the genetic fallacy.

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    • Hmmm. Daniel, I don’t think arguing from a person’s worldview is the same as a genetic fallacy. Clearly there’s a present-day difference between the values of those in the West and those in the Middle East. Of course, that difference isn’t set in stone because worldviews are malleable. But at this point the attitudes about tolerance and peace so often espoused by those opposed to God or the Bible here in the West, are actually informed by God’s principles, lived out through His Son, Jesus. It’s hard to refute that. A study of history shows the impact of the Church on society, leading to such things as the abolitionist movements, universal education here in the US, hospitals, orphanages, and so much more.

      Becky

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  2. I know what ‘nice’ means and it is not what the god of Abraham is. If any part of the christian bible is false, all of it must be considered so as not one person can say which part then is true in an objective manner. The god of Abraham is a nasty piece of work not worthy of my time or worship. He did not create anything as the story is full of contradictions and unprovable. Such a god refuses to show himself and should not be believed.

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    • If you are still breathing, God is presently showing his niceness to you. Allowing you time to repent and put your trust in His gift to you, Jesus Christ. Our perception of apparent harshness that we see in God is due to the lack of understanding of His holiness. The most terrifying thing about God is His goodness. If He is good He must be just. And even in that, His justice on sin is an act of goodness. No one will want to be in His presence with unforgiven sin.

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      • uhm. Against my better judgement, I’ll bite. Can you prove that?

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    • Myatheistlife, I agree with your assertion that if any part of the Bible is false, all of it must be considered so. That’s why I mentioned “Progressive Christians” in this post–many of whom want to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to trust.

      It’s interesting that you say the Bible is unprovable, though you yourself give a number of assertions that are unprovable, the most glaring being the idea that God refuses to show Himself.

      The fact is, He showed Himself to Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Abraham, the entire nation of Israel, David, Solomon, all the prophets, Job, and any number of others. He also came Himself in the form of Jesus–He being God in the flesh.

      Of course, I understand you dismiss all those because you do not believe the Bible. It’s an interesting way of looking at proof–dismiss an entire body of data, then ask for proof from some other source.

      When it comes to God showing Himself, there is more. He imprinted creation with His nature, so that we can see His power and glory, His vastness and majesty simply by looking up at the night sky. Or standing on an ice field staring at the mountain pinnacles encircling you. Or riding the ocean waves, watching the approach of a twister, or any number of other interactions with nature.

      Of course, there’s also the very present personal connection Christians have with God, but like the Bible, our testimony has been ruled out as inadmissible data.

      The statement you made about God is not only unprovable but unfounded. There’s nothing you can point to about God that would identify Him as “a nasty piece of work,” and lots that identify Him as remarkably patient and inexplicably self-sacrificing. Most people find those qualities enticing.

      Becky

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      • If god were able to show himself there would no longer be doubt and there would only be one religion. What you claim as proof of your god is denied by other believers who claim they have proof for their god, and it not the god of your holy text. Since this is not the case, your evidence that god shows himself is not good enough even for people that believe in gods.

        The Christian Bible as well as all holy texts from monotheism contain claims which are not provable and must be taken on blind faith, accepted as truth without evidence. Likewise they are all open to interpretation to a degree that all monotheistic religions have broken up into sects. Even Christians cannot agree on the meaning of their holy text.

        Based on this, it is clear that the ‘truth’ of the Christian bible is up for interpretation and to those unwilling to believe with evidence this presents an insurmountable hurdle. The book says that your god showed himself to others. There are no eyewitness accounts, only the book that says he did this or that.

        ==It’s an interesting way of looking at proof–dismiss an entire body of data, then ask for proof from some other source.==

        It is not just I who dismiss it. Jews and Muslims and many other religions also dismiss the Christian bible. They also dismiss, as I do, the claim that the Jesus was a god-man. It is not simply atheists who do this. When you start counting numbers, there really aren’t that many people who believe the book like you do.

        S.Hawking and others have shown that the universe is the way that it is due to the laws of nature and no god is needed for it to be the way that it is. That is to say that we have a perfectly good explanation that does not require a god. Inserting one where one is not needed is hubris.

        ==Of course, there’s also the very present personal connection Christians have with God, but like the Bible, our testimony has been ruled out as inadmissible data.==

        Anecdotal evidence for the existence of the creator of the universe is not acceptable. Science has shown the human brain very capable of convincing itself that it experience things which are not there. Only shared experience is of value. Convincing yourself that god is real so that you can experience him is self delusion. If god did show himself even non-believers would experience it. Anything less would be anecdotal.

        Some people tend to want to skip over the old testament, ignore those nasty parts of your god to focus on the kinder, gentler Jesus version. The stories of the god of Abraham are some of the most violent stories in existence. Take for instance that ‘do over’ he took with the flood? The promised land was occupied and god ordered the Israelites to clear it in a way that would clearly be condemned world wide today. He could simply have spoken and those people would have moved away but he preferred that they all be slaughtered in the most gruesome possible ways. There are more stories too. Why don’t you share some of your favorite genocide stores from the Christian Bible with us.

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        • I would just like to suggest that “god” and “God” have very different meanings. Most monotheists don’t believe in the existence of gods. We believe in God as the ultimate reality and the primary axiom.

          Of course, we do believe that God is also the specific deity of the ancient Jewish people. That is one of the claims of revelation that we make, along with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But the specific cannot be separated from the universal. It makes no difference to my view of existence as to whether or not gods exist. I think God is wholly different, and whenever I see atheists imply that God is only a “god,” I can’t help but think that we are speaking utterly incompatible languages, without any hope of understanding each other.

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          • What is the first of the ten commandments? It looks a lot like an admission that there are other gods. False gods were handled in number 2 – the most broken of the commandments. So while you can claim righteously that there is only one, your god admits to being one of many and a jealous one at that, not like those forgiving types of gods.

            You give, in your life, special place for your god. To a Hindu your god is just one of many. Here you appear to be claiming that I and everyone else is supposed to be giving deference to your god… Not going to happen. Your imaginary fiend from the bronze age does not impress me. Your god is but one of many that never existed. I am not required by law or courtesy to give deference to your god nor your belief in that god. Perhaps you might reflect on your assertion that your god get special treatment from those that do not believe in it?

            Even though you have not made bold statements alluding to deference you have gone to the trouble to point out that you think that god and God are different and the G god is special. I can tell you this, I’ve had enough religious training to know that your god does not care what I say, only what you say. That would strongly imply that any deference you want to see for your G god is for you and not for your god. Your god can speak for himself when he comes to my house to visit. Just my tuppence worth.

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      • Myatheistlife, thanks for entering into this discussion. I find it very interesting, and I hope you do too.

        As to your first point, because someone can’t see God, I don’t see that as His fault. Just like there are physically blind people, there are spiritually blind people. Only I believe the spiritually blind are responsible for their own blindness.

        The fact that so many disparate cultures identify a being or beings greater than we, ought to say something about God’s existence. So what if we don’t agree–we’re all aware of the existence of more than this physical realm. I’d hope that would put people on a search to learn the truth about what’s beyond, but it doesn’t always work that way.

        The fact that many people disagree doesn’t rule out that one group among the many might be right.

        Men were wrong for years and years about the sun being the center of the universe, the earth being flat, the existence of gravity, and any number of things. Did the facts change based on what people believed? Of course not. Hence, the existence of God is not negated, nor is the fact that He’s shown Himself to exist, simply because people disbelieve.

        As to the “provable” of the Bible, there’s more evidence for facts in the Bible than for a number of other extra-Biblical historical people and events we accept as true. We have an astonishing number of copies of the text–far more than other ancient documents–and they are consistent. If the Bible were not a “sacred text” people would have long ago accepted it as they have the others.

        The Christian Bible is up for interpretation the same way all writing is up for interpretation. With one exception–it interprets itself to a large extent. Jesus quoted from the Psalms and from Moses, Paul quoted from the prophets, and Peter referenced what Paul said. On and on, scriptures explain other scriptures until a complete picture is woven together. I tend to believe that a good many people who don’t accept the Bible have never read it.

        Myatheistlife, it’s interesting that you’ll take Stephen Hocking’s word, and others, but you won’t take the Bible’s. You can’t verify that the universe is the way that it is due to the laws of nature any more than you can verify the existence of God, but you choose to believe the former and deny the latter.

        The choice is yours, but I hope you don’t think you’re making it based on the evidence. You’re making it based on who you believe.

        Becky

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        • Sorry for the length….

          I guess we get to a few other points. I will assume that you believe your god created all existence, including me. Further I’ll wager that you have been taught that he has a plan for your life, for everyone’s life from even before we were born. Right? He made me an anti-theist. That worn out adage: he works in mysterious ways is being used overtime on this one.

          You feel that ‘spiritually blind’ people are that way of their own volition. You say this without knowing anything, or not much, about me and how I came to be an anti-theist.

          Do you realize how many cultures around the globe thought the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved around the Earth? They were ALL wrong and this emphasizes why just because a lot of people believe something does not make it true.

          To correct you: we are all aware of the idea of an existence of more than the physical realm. Its actual existence has not been shown to be.
          Where you hope people would search for the truth you seem to discount the fact that many do, and the truth that they find is that your god does not exist and in fact is the protagonist of the most vile organizations in all of history.

          Yes, one group among many might be right. You simply don’t believe it could possibly be the atheists. It can.

          ==Men were wrong for years and years about the sun being the center of the universe, the earth being flat, the existence of gravity, and any number of things.==
          Know what? These are two very simple things that good ole YHWH could have set straight from the beginning, but no. The fact is that if we look at what we might expect to be evidenced if YHWH were real we find that there is no evidence for the existence of your god. Prayer is statistically no more effectual than random chance. When your god gets angry at the gays and sends storms he damages everything, not just property of the gays. This list of failed things which would be evidence if they did not fail the tests goes on for thousands of years worth of list. The postive claim being made here is that your god exists. I say there is no evidence and after thousands of years there is no longer any reason to expect any. But if you have, do share. Everyone is interested in truth. Even those of different religions. You don’t have to simply convince me, you have to convince them too. So you might want to start with evidence on why your god is real and theirs are not.

          ==As to the “provable” of the Bible, there’s more evidence for facts in the Bible than for a number of other extra-Biblical historical people and events we accept as true. We have an astonishing number of copies of the text–far more than other ancient documents–and they are consistent. If the Bible were not a “sacred text” people would have long ago accepted it as they have the others.==
          Reverence for the book does not make it true. There are no eye witnesses and plenty of forgeries made to support the bible texts. In the end, there really is no evidence that the bible is written by or inspired by a god, any god, never mind your god. There is no standing evidence for the Jesus character who is said to perform miracles. The Jews don’t belive it. The Muslims don’t belive it. Atheists, Hindus, and lots of other groups don’t believe it. So don’t try to convince me… convince all of them and I’ll be there listening. Trust me.

          Curiously, I’d like to know what you have studied on the authorship of the NT texts. I’ve read and studied quite a bit. You have mentioned Peter and the authenticity of Peter as an author is really pretty dubious. In fact, authorship of much of the NT is dubious. You seem to be speaking as if you believe all the claims at face value. Biblical scholars will tell you that this is probably not wise. What do you think? As for reading the Christian bible, you betcha I have. Twice cover to cover and studying it all my life. A recent reearch result shows that atheists tend to know more about the Christian bible than actual self proclaimed Christians do.

          Stephen Hawking’s work can be verified and has. His evidence is out there for anyone to examine and test and experiment with. Yes, the laws of the universe can be tested and the interactions verified. It’s called science and the scientific method and it is the BEST method yet found to discover facts of the physical world we live in. You may think it’s not possible but it is. It is done every day. The Large Hadron Collider was built for this very purpose, and specifically for the search for the Higgs Boson particle. The particle that gives all matter its mass. You should look into what science has discovered because it is truly wonderful stuff.

          I believe that you have just inadvertently admitted that the existence of your god cannot be proven. “…. You can’t verify that the universe is the way that it is due to the laws of nature any more than you can verify the existence of God….”

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        • Myatheistlife, I appreciate you taking the time to share your views. In some ways, however, we’re talking past each other–me saying the Bible is the evidence you are looking for, in part, and you dismissing the Bible as admissible. We could go into archeology and you could find loopholes. I could quote extra-Biblical texts and you’d have a reason to reject them. I’ve been down this road before. The fact is, evidence for God’s existence is there for you to see if you will see.

          I do want to remark about what you said about science:

          It’s called science and the scientific method and it is the BEST method yet found to discover facts of the physical world we live in.

          First of all, the scientific method is not the means by which people have come to believe in a big bang, it being an unrepeatable event. Granted that a group wants to replicate the event in miniature in the Large Hadron Collider, but this project has just begun and has proved nothing other than that the God particle does exist. In reality, “many theorists expect new physics beyond the Standard Model to emerge.”

          All that to say, science and the scientific method haven’t proved anything about the origins of the universe. You believe Stephen Hocking’s interpretation of the data. I believe the Bible, which never was intended to be a scientific text book and does not explain electricity or radio waves or computer processing. It does make clear that God created. Call Him the Prime Mover, if you will, the One who put the particles in space and caused them to move toward one another. No scientific law can explain a collision. In fact the Second Law of Thermodynamics refutes the idea.

          But that’s dependent upon interpretation, too.

          The point is, Myatheistlife, you do not believe in God because you choose not to believe in God.

          Becky

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  3. God is God, whether we like it or not, whether we agree with His ways or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. Plain and simple, He is God. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. If God had commanded the death of the 9/11 terrorists before 9/11, we may have considered God unfair or unjust, we would not want anything to do with a God as cruel as that! But we could not know what God knew, that those men would destroy many lives. This is just a simple explanation to one made up scenario and cannot possibly refute every other question or accusation against God, but its something to think about… And here’s something else to think about. Is every person that is against the cruelty of God, also against ALL forms of cruelty or injustice in the world? Are they against the death penalty? Abortion? Bullying? Or are they themselves guilty of the very thing they accuse God of? Think about this…ALL of humanity has been given a death sentence, we will all die. God has provided an out- Jesus! Doesn’t it seem like a contradiction of character that a cruel God could also be loving, forgiving or even merciful?!? Remember in Acts? Where God killed a man and his wife because they told one lie? What happened to this man and his wife? Well, I believe they are in heaven with God today, I believe we will meet them there. You see, the problem with our human minds are…we think death is the worst thing, but its not. The worst thing is eternal separation from God. The worst thing is facing death without Jesus. Just sayin…

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    • Great comment, Jojo. Your what-if example of the 9/11 hijackers is a good illustration of how we must look from our finite perspective whereas God looks from His position of omniscience.

      And yes, even one act of mercy on God’s part would nullify the claim that He is cruel. But we don’t have some little token act. We have His great outpouring of love in the sacrifice of Himself to bring us into relationship with Him.

      Truly, death is not the worst thing. Separation from God is, as you say!

      Becky

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  4. Yes, there is definitely a logical fallacy in atheists or progressive religious people who condemn God as being immoral. Their arguments demonstrate that they really do believe in a morality that is both universal and uncompromising. If God is not the source and essence of that universal morality, than He wouldn’t be God. In that case, the real source of morality would be God. So, in any case, He Is. And He is just and right to condemn us, because we are not more moral than He is, even though we do see the wrongness and evil in the world and in our fellow man.

    Great post!

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    • Good point, Bainespal. If there was no moral standard, how could anyone accuse God of being immoral? But where did such a moral standard come from? Animals aren’t moral, only humans, so it’s a reach to suggest evolution brought it into being. Same with creativity and a number of other attributes Christians understand to be ours because we are made in God’s image.

      Becky

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  5. […] yesterday’s post, “A Look At The ‘Nicer Than God’ Position,” I discussed one aspect of the “a good God wouldn’t do that” accusation […]

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