Who was this awful father?
He was the God of the Old Testament, of course, who gave his chosen people—Abraham’s posterity—a Promised Land for which they were required to kill and displace others to obtain. It was the same God who commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test of faith—the same God who, just to make a point, went into cahoots with the devil to torment Job. It was the same father who flooded the earth and leveled Sodom and Gomorrah as responses to disobedience—the same father who relished the fear and trembling of his children as they approached him in prayer.
Why would anyone worship such a being, much less call him perfect? I would burn in hell rather than do so (not that I believe in any such consequence). In fact, I would first honor the mythological Zeus or Apollo, whom the Greeks acknowledged as imperfect and therefore not the best of role models. That amount of insight allowed them to recognize capricious behavior when they saw it. But to call moral any being who would demand the violence and destruction recorded in the Old Testament, is to embrace a worldview that chooses war over peace, punishment over forgiveness, and levitical nitpicking over love and compassion.
Fortunately there’s an option to believing in such a being. The alternative is to see God the way Christ described Him. How is that, you ask? Christ’s description of the Father is clear from the very treatise that establishes His higher law, the Sermon on the Mount. If I were banished to a proverbial desert island and only allowed to take a few hundred words of literature with me, it would be chapters 5 through 7 in Matthew. They describe, in my opinion, the most important ideas ever articulated. Not only is it a summary of what God wants from us, but it is a description of His very nature.
Christ’s guidelines for the higher law are, as I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, the following:
- Don’t just refrain from murder, bridle your anger
- Go beyond abstaining from adultery, control your lust
- Don’t stop at honoring contracts, let your word be your bond
- Do more than seek justice, forgive
- Love more than those close to you, love everyone
You might ask what this has to do with the nature of God. Jesus closes His comments about the higher law by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” In this way, Christ implies that His gospel circumscribes the kind of perfection God honors and practices. I can’t imagine our Heavenly Father so angry that He would flood the earth and kill all, but eight, of His children. Furthermore, to believe the account—and to concurrently assume that God is a perfect moral being—is to think such acts are acceptable. It isn’t too far a leap from that viewpoint to believe God wanted us to invade Iraq because of the boorish behavior of its leader. In that way, a Judeo-Christian ethic that is premised upon a vengeful and jealous version of godliness is dangerous and can lead to thug-like acts of its believers.
But is that what Christ would have wanted? Let me know what you think.