Kind And Merciful Or Harsh And Cruel?

Mural_painting_celebrating_Pol_PotOne of my favorite blogs is InsanityBytes. Recently a commenter there said he was “appalled” at “the deity himself.”

This is typical of those who claim God doesn’t exist. I’m not sure why they find it necessary to declare God to be “destructive” even as they say He doesn’t exist.

However, that tactic is true to the leading atheists of the day, men like Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens who referred to God as a tyrant.

Since these atheists don’t believe there is any evidence that God exists, I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to refute the appalling, destructive, tyrant accusations. But perhaps someone uncertain about what they believe might be alerted to the error of this thinking.

As an aside, I also want to mention that “no evidence that God exists” argument is circular in nature. One line of thinking goes like this. Christians can’t prove that God even exists. They say that Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, but all they have to support that idea is His followers. They say His resurrection from the dead is evidence of His divinity, but nobody has been raised from the dead before, so why should we believe this unrepeatable event? And again, documentation. Evidence. Followers don’t count. So called eyewitnesses don’t count. Changed lives don’t count. In fact, everything you present as evidence doesn’t count because it presupposes the supernatural. And the supernatural doesn’t exist.

So, in reality the atheist has formed his position by saying, God doesn’t exist because the supernatural doesn’t exist.

Further, he dismisses one time events such as the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection from the dead because they are impossible by natural law. Christians agree. Yes, those things are impossible naturally, but God can do the impossible. The atheist is left with only one option: deny that these miraculous events took place. Deny the book that records them. Mock and belittle people that believe them.

Back in February 2012, I wrote a response to those who leveled accusations against God that He is actually malevolent instead of good and kind and merciful. I thought it might be worth posting revised and an edited version of it today.

One argument against the “a good God wouldn’t do that” accusation leveled by atheists and some progressives against the God of the Bible is that God isn’t guilty of condoning sinful acts or thoughts or wishes simply because those appear in the Bible.

But what about the acts God not only condones but orders which seem unduly harsh, even cruel? Most often those making this accusation have in mind something like God’s command to Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites.

For someone who thinks suicide bombers or Jeffrey Dahmer or Pol Pot should not face judgment for their acts against their fellow man, I have no answer. For those who believe it’s right to hold people accountable for the harm they perpetrate, then it’s simply a matter of looking at history to understand God’s command.

The Amalekites were the terrorists of the day—a people who harassed Israel on their way out of Egypt, sniping at the stragglers who were “faint and weary.” We can surmise the people under attack, those at the back of the company, would be the elderly, the sick, and perhaps the young. For this act, which was also connected to their dismissal of God’s authority over them (see Deut. 25:18-19), they were judged.

They had some two hundred years to repent, make amends with Israel, turn to God and forsake their idols, before God brought judgment. In fact God showed great restraint and patience in dealing with them. But they did not turn from their wicked ways, so they received God’s judgment.

There are two primary reasons God gives for judging a people: 1) they are oppressing others; 2) they have taken a stand against Him.

Psalm 146:7-9 illustrates the former.

[God] executes justice for the oppressed;
[God] gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Clearly God is for the oppressed, which means He stands against the oppressor. For this, people today judge Him. In part it’s in ignorance, but it’s also an assumption–Man is good, so these ancient peoples were innocent victims of a God wanting to wipe them out.

They were not innocent.

Of course, none of us is innocent. None of us deserves to live, and in fact we won’t keep living. We will pay with our lives for the guilt that clings to us. Apart from God’s mercy, we will also pay with our souls. (But thanks be to God who sent His Son to rescue us).

Which brings up the second reason God judges people: He repays those who hate Him (see Deut. 7:10). Their hatred is most often shown in their idol worship, but also in their treatment of other people—orphans, widows, strangers on one hand and God’s people on the other.

Interestingly, God most often gives those who are against Him what they want. He lets them experience the consequences of their own actions:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head (Ps. 7:14-16a, English Standard Version – emphasis added)

The bottom line, I believe, is this: those who hate God can’t accept the fact that He is their judge. They don’t want a judge, any judge, but particularly one who is righteous, as the Bible reveals God to be. See the following, for example:

  • “God is a righteous judge” – Psalm 7:11a
  • “In righteousness He judges and wages war” – Rev. 19:11b
  • “[Christ] kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” – 1 Peter 2:23b
  • “For I, the LORD, love justice . . . and I will faithfully give them their recompense” – Isaiah 61:8a

Those of us who accept God as the one who rightly and righteously judges all He has made, trust His judgment.

Of course, God’s judgment gets muddled with pain and suffering. Suffice it to say for the sake of this discussion, that not all pain, suffering, and death is a particular judgment handed down by God. Job’s children, for example, didn’t die as a result of God’s judgment.

So the question, is God kind and merciful or harsh and cruel, hinges upon the understanding of Him as a just judge. Someone being oppressed who He rescues, someone lost who He finds, sees Him clearly as abundantly kind and merciful.

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Published in: on January 5, 2018 at 6:09 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 Comments

  1. Becky, atheists only acknowledge gods when they argue their cases against them with theists, similar to a mother pretending their child’s invisible friend is real.

    You were correct that documentation, evidence, followers and eyewitnesses don’t count in the verifying of God and the Biblical stories. Not only has evidence shown that many of the stories and so-called facts in the Bible are simply not true but the Bible was written over many decades after the events by a primitive people with superstitious minds. Of course, the Bible has also been altered and forged by certain people over the centuries.

    “Changed lives” as evidence does not count because there are many things that can do this.

    You state, “So, in reality the atheist has formed his position by saying, God doesn’t exist because the supernatural doesn’t exist.”

    This is wrong because some atheists do believe in the supernatural world, they just do not assign any of the gods to be responsible for it.

    The claim you make “The Amalekites were the terrorists of the day—a people who harassed Israel on their way out of Egypt, sniping at the stragglers who were “faint and weary.” We can surmise the people under attack, those at the back of the company, would be the elderly, the sick, and perhaps the young.”

    I read on the Bible.org web site that “Saul has no trouble killing the Amalekite men and women, and even their little children. He finds it difficult, however, to kill their king, Agag.”

    Of course, God had Saul’s three sons and a heap of soldiers slaughtered because Saul disobeyed his orders by not killing Agag and Saul supposedly committed suicide soon after. Just another day of love from the Lord.

    Well, that speaks volumes about the main characters of this story and it gets worse the more I understand about it, because I read also on Bible.org “It is easy to see why all the fighting men of the enemy should be killed, but why the women, children, and cattle? The sin of the Canaanites involved had defiled and corrupted their animals, and God would not allow any to survive.”

    How ridiculous is this as an excuse to slaughter animals and children? I guess some people will believe whatever is rammed down their throats.

    My question would be, if God had any power, why was he not able to stop the conflict from the Amalekites on the Israelis without bloodshed, after all he created the universe with a click of his fingers? There is also no scientific evidence of the exodus from Egypt and this fact must therefore also throw doubt on this murderous event anyway. Good old reliable scriptures.

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    • Steve, you prove my point by discounting the evidence—it’s too old, been changed (multiple copies of the text show it hasn’t been changed), was written by superstitious people (when in fact their rational minds can be easily proven just by reading the Bible. and on and on. Excuses not to believe, that’s what those are.

      That tactic to point the fingers at the people who have been harmed is not new. Saul had his reasons for disobeying God, and he paid by forfeiting his kingdom. God took it from him when he died, meaning that his sons would not come to power. Saul persisted in his rebellion against God and that’s what got him killed. I’ll say again, Steve, you really ought to read the Bible for yourself. If nothing else, you’d get your facts straight.

      And the animals . . . what’s the big concern for the animals that lived thousands and thousands of years ago? They would be dead by natural causes by now! But here’s one possibility. The animals would have been offered to false gods, or possibly set aside for ceremonies involving false gods. They might even have been like the animals of today’s Masi warriors that are bled so they can mix the blood with the milk and drink it. In other words, those animals were not ones God wanted the people who bore His name to use or eat and certainly not to sacrifice.

      The overarching point, though, is that God knows what we don’t. He is righteous, so why would we think we, who sin and make mistakes all the time, can decide what should or should not have happened in a land far away, to people who lived years ago? Doesn’t it make more sense to listen to a holy God who knows everything than to listen to some ignorant man?

      Becky

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  2. Nice becky.

    God is indeed merciful.

    Harsh when needed.

    Never cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done,Becky

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you miss the point as usual. “If” god exists he is a cruel god. Name one thing that is supposedly good that does not lead ultimately to more suffering. More evil. Evil breeds evil as well as good creates the capacity for more evil. Everything in the universe is in a state of decay, dying, hoping to survive, adjusting and pressing with anxiety forward. Evolving. If there was a god he would be evil. Is not this his perfectly mindful creation? But there again, leaving out the “if” makes for better talking points.

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    • Jim, I’m not sure why you say, “as usual,” as if you’ve stopped by this site before. But attacking a believer’s character or intellect or logic or ability to communicate, is a familiar tactic used by those who don’t believe in God, as if putting us in a bad light puts God in a bad light. Actually it doesn’t. I do miss the point from time to time, and I make mistakes, get things wrong. However, God remains perfect and just and holy.

      What you see and name is evil is nothing more than what the Bible records—the presence of sin that mankind introduced into the world, not God.

      What you’re missing is that God redeems fallen people and has a plan for a world without sin when His Son returns. In other words, what you declare as evil, God also declares as evil. But He’s not done. You haven’t seen the end of the story.

      Becky

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      • Looks like I made an abrasive comment. I think this was meant for another site and I have an apology for you. Sorry about that.

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