A Challenge for the Skeptic
I received this question from a skeptical commenter to my website:
“How on Earth do you read the Bible and come away with the conclusion that God doesn’t destroy? Ever heard of Sodom and Gomorrah?”
The question came with a list of supporting points (see list below, submitted from ESV version). I understand that even more could have been added and it is a fair question. My reply follows the list.
1) God tears down (Job 12:14)
2) God is a consuming fire, who destroys and subdues the enemies of Israel (Deut 9:3)
3) God brings disaster and great destruction (Jer 4:6)
4) God breaks down, plucks up (Jer 45:4)
5) God determined to lay in ruins, he did not restrain his hand from destroying (Lam 2:8)
6) God stretched out his hand and destroyed (Jer 15:6)
7) the day of the Lord will come as destruction from the Almighty (Isa 13:6, Joel 1:15)
8) He makes destruction flash forth (Amos 5:9)
9) God makes a desolation (Micah 6:16)
10) God will destroy both food and stomach (1 Cor 6:13)
11) he who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12)
12) God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple (1 Cor 3:17)
13) God will wipe out the wicked (Psalm 94:23)
14) the world was deluged with water and perished (2 Peter 3:6)
15) “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,” (Romans 9:22)
“How on Earth do you read the Bible and come away with the conclusion that God does destroy? Ever heard of God is love?”
In light of the following scriptures and many others you have impossible contradictions to the theory that God destroys:
- “his mercy endureth for ever” (1 Chron 16:34 and about 40 other places)
- “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
- “the God of love and peace” (2 Cor 13:11)
- Jesus is “the prince of peace” (Isa 9:6)
- “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44)
- “to kill” is equated with “to do evil” (Mark 3:4)
- “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13)
- “do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27)
- “Jesus rebuked the suggestion of calling fire down on enemies” (Luke 9:55)
- “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17)
- Death comes from the sin itself (Rom 6:23)
- “Sin … bringeth forth death” (James 1:15)
- “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet 3:9)
- “We love him because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) (Not because He threatens us.)
- “… the LORD … will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” (Exo 12:23) (Is He stopping Himself from coming in?)
Please watch this 7-minute video (by Greg Boyd) before reading further. It makes a very clear and powerful point in an entertaining way.
Skeptic, surely you can see that “There must be something else going on”?
There are, without a doubt, serious contradictions in the literal reading of the Bible. These must be resolved. I am not going to try do that on this one page. You have a choice either to attempt to resolve these (you might just find that God is not as you thought but much better) or just accept the type of God most people understand.
“… choose you this day whom ye will serve …” (Josh 24:15)
If you want to look further, below is the list the skeptic first presented above with some thoughts and resources added (after the “>” in each case) that might be helpful for your further investigation.
1) God tears down. (Job 12:14) > The verse reads: “If he tears down …” These are the words of Job who obviously had some misunderstandings about God.
2) God is a consuming fire, who destroys and subdues the enemies of Israel (Deut 9:3) >
- Consuming fire > study coming. Read here about the Lake of Fire and the Second Death
- God is said to destroy but how?
- The verse reads “you shall drive them out and make them perish.” While God would allow it, it was Israel (verse 1) that would actually do the destroying.
3) God brings disaster and great destruction (Jer 4:6) > The verse talks about God bringing disaster form the north. This, of course, was the invasion of the Babylonians who approached Judah from the north. While God did not protect Judah, the destruction was from the Babylonians, not from God.
4) God breaks down, plucks up (Jer 45:4) > The destruction referred to was that carried out by the Babylonians upon not just upon Jerusalem but the “whole land” of Judah as the verse also says.
5) God determined to lay in ruins, he did not restrain his hand from destroying (Lam 2:8) > (See note 1, below)
6) God stretched out his hand and destroyed (Jer 15:6) > (See note 1, below)
7) The day of the Lord will come as destruction from the Almighty (Isa 13:6, Joel 1:15) > when the day of the Lord comes there will be destruction but from what source? Scripture is clear about who the destroyer is.
8) He makes destruction flash forth (Amos 5:9) > THE KJV reads “That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.” Sounds like the spoiled or spoilers (not God) come against those who (think they) are strong in their fortress.
9) God makes a desolation (Micah 6:16) > because they were following (“walk in their counsels”) “the statutes of Omri,” the results came naturally. God has ordained that you reap what you sow.
10) God will destroy both food and stomach (1 Cor 6:13) > the literal meaning is more like “bring to nought” or, as some versions say, “God will put an end to both of them.” Food and stomachs are not eternal. We should put eternal matters ahead of indulgence of appetite. Much is often missed by taking too-literal a view.
11) He who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12) > God’s goal is to give eternal life (John 3:16). Those who will not believe, are destroyed by default, not because God actively destroys but because they have chosen to separate from the Source of Life Who honors their free-will choices. The destroyer is identified in scripture.
12) God will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple (1 Cor 3:17) > Have you ever done anything to defile your body temple? Has anyone not? This is simply stating the “you reap what you sow” principle – sin/defilement sets you on the path to destruction. And the more sin/defilement, the faster you will get there. If the verse was taken literally, there would be no one left alive.
13) God will wipe out the wicked (Psalm 94:23) > God allows us to exercise our free will and have the natural results of those choices. Sin brings its sure result. God only allows it because He honors free will.
14) the world was deluged with water and perished (2 Peter 3:6) > the verse does not say God personally did it. In honoring their free will (“which said unto God, depart from us”), God could not protect the antediluvians (“what can the Almighty do for them?”) Job 22:17.
15) “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,” (Romans 9:22) > How did God show His wrath? – by “longsuffering;” by patiently enduring. You need to understand God’s wrath which is different than man’s (James 1:20).
Note 1: God is said to do what He allowed. Theologians and Bible students have understood this very well in the past and many have written about it. This applies to several of the points discussed above.
I recognize that the evidence in favor of God given above will not be convincing to everyone. A person needs to dig deeply into scripture to find the treasure of truth while taking the side of God. It is also necessary to be open to allowing the Bible to interpret itself rather than simply following tradition.
The Danger of Just Accepting the Surface Meaning
To accept the literal, surface reading only is to miss much of the deeper meaning of scripture. Here are some other considerations which should stimulate a person to dig deeper.
The Beholding Principle
The beholding principle is that by beholding something such as the character of a person, as manifested in their words and actions, we are influenced to become more like that same character (See 2 Cor 3:18). If we wish to develop a Christ-like character that glorifies God we must behold Christ Who was the exact representation of His Father. (John 14:9, Col 1:15, Heb 1:3) In beholding Jesus and seeing that He does not judge, condemn, kill or destroy will make it much easier to take on such thinking ourselves.
Judged as You Judge
People will receive the same sort of judgment they apply to others. That can’t mean that if you judge one person to be guilty, you will be judged guilty – you might judge another person to be innocent. Rather, it is if you are very condemning in your judgment of others you will have the concept that God will treat you in a similar manner.
The thing is that if we will not give mercy, we will not be capable of understanding that God can be merciful to us. If we have a merciless, condemning character, we will expect the same from God. Whatever view we hold of God’s character, we will tend to take into our own character. People can become like Cain who said, according to the KJV marginal reading, “mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven.” (Gen 4:13)
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matt 7:2)
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (Luke 6:37)
The truth about God’s judgment is very revealing.
Witness Negatively Affected
What is the effect on your witness to others if you are teaching them that God is watching their every move and recording their sins to be sure, one way or another, that every sin is punished?
Compare that to the Bible truth that God forgives every sin, that “it [love] keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5, NIV) and that neither the Father (John 5:22) nor His Son (John 8:15) judge or condemn.
Further Study Needed
Has every apparent contradiction been resolved? No, but we keep working on a better understanding while trusting that God is just like Jesus revealed Him to be.
Frankly, I would rather get to heaven and have God say to me “Glad you made it but you kind of made me look too good in your promotion of my character” rather than have Him say “no I did not do those murders and other actions you accused me of.”
I choose to take my stand of God’s side. Skeptic, what about you?