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Why Is the God of the Old Testament Worthy of Worship? His Moral Perfection

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Skeptics of Christianity love to point out all the difficult passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. By noting these difficult passages, skeptics explicitly or implicitly imply that Christians are foolish (or even deranged) for worshiping the God described in the Old Testament.

My problem with this implication is that the number of difficult passages are dwarfed by the number of passages that clearly describe the greatness of God. These passages come in a wide variety and they are found all over the Old Testament. The skeptic’s approach is, therefore, totally unbalanced – it does not take into consideration the totality of Scripture.

So, to the skeptics who question why I worship the God described in the Old Testament, it’s not only his wisdom, his majesty, his beauty, and his holiness, but his moral perfection.

The Old Testament affirms in many places that God is morally perfect.  According to Norman Geisler in his Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation, holiness, “Another attribute of God is that of absolute moral perfection. God is morally impeccable: He is not simply an infinite Being; He is an infinitely perfect Being.”

How does the Old Testament connect God with moral perfection?

God Is Morally Perfect

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).

“As for God, his way is perfect” (2 Sam. 22:31).

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (2 Sam. 22:33).

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16).

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless” (Ps. 18:30).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19:7).

“The LORD will fulfill [perfect] his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands” (Ps. 138:8).

“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (Isa. 25:1).

 


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Comments

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    I can see that there are verses that claim that God is perfectly moral, but how do you reconcile this with passages where God does things that seem to be quite immoral? Obvious examples include mass killings and endorsing slavery.

  • sean

    Were I to agree that the god of the Bible is a figure that acts morally, I’d probably never question why you worship him. It’s the actions and commandments that display an extremely immoral god, and the fact that you (meaning Christians in general) seem to not recognize them as being important to your claim that he is morally perfect; that is what make skeptics question your decision to worship this god.

    Perfect means no flaws. He cannot perform one immoral act and still be morally perfect. So even if the number of immoral acts is very small and insignificant in a general sense, and I wouldn’t say it is, it makes all the difference in the world when you’re talking about perfection.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine
  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Dear Bill, if it could undoubtedly be shown that SOME Biblical verses describes God as being a cruel tyran and contradict those you have mentioned here, what would be your reaction?
    Would you cease being a Christian?

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    This seems to be a conservative protestant problem which stems from the assumption that God speaks to us directly through the Bible.

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/moral-indignation-and-divine-genocides-moralische-entrustung-und-gottliche-genozide/

    http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/tag/god-of-genocide/

  • sean

    Alright, so then you’d say that the holy spirit is more your moral guide than the Bible? Since the Bible is not an accurate picture of God’s morality you turn to what the Holy Spirit tells you. That about right?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I would have to completely overhaul my theology and my view of the Bible. I have no idea where I would end up after that process.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    With regard to killing, I see that God, as the author and creator of life, is the only being who can legitimately take life. Therefore God is never immoral for taking human life. That is his right.

    With regard to slavery, I see God commanding the Israelites to give unprecedented rights and guarantees to their servants/slaves. Temporary slavery was the best way for many people to escape their debts in the ANE, so I see God making sure that this economic reality was heavily regulated. Please read my blog series on OT slavery for more information.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Thanks for your honesty!

    2013/10/28 Disqus

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I’m curious what it is that God allegedly does in the OT that is immoral for him to do. Can you give me one example?

  • sean

    He demands recompense in the form of harming, and indeed killing, other beings in order to absolve people of sin. The route to forgiveness for a transgression should not be more harm. That’s immoral!

  • sean

    This is an interesting doctrine. Would it then also follow that someone who creates the cure for cancer is moral if he uses copyright law to stop others from using it and does not offer it himself? He just sits on this information and watches as people suffer end die. It would seem to me that since he’s the author of the cure, he should be just as allowed to withhold it without being considered immoral. Personally, I’d say he can’t. Your thoughts?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    There is a massive difference. God can bring people into and out of existence. If a person dies, God can bring them back to life. Reversing physical death is simply not a problem for God.

    The person who finds a cure for cancer does not have these powers, and therefore is obligated to try and save as many lives as he can.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    In the Old Testament, the sins of Israel were paid for by animal sacrifices. Other people groups, Canaanites in particular, would sacrifice humans to appease their gods. (Hint: that is one reason God commanded Israel to push them out of the land.)

    The purpose of animal sacrifice was to teach the Israelites how serious sin is. The animals to be sacrificed were the finest, most valuable animals that the Israelites owned. They depended on these animals for their livelihood, so sacrificing them was extremely painful. It taught the Israelites that sin comes with a penalty, and thus the goal was to encourage them to be righteous, to love their neighbor, to love God.

    I find it difficult to understand how this process of teaching the Israelites to be moral could be immoral. What am I missing in your complaint?

  • sean

    That there are other factors. Without considering the well being of the animals, it’s fine. But they’re harming the animals for no reason. That’s not fine.

  • sean

    So then you’d say God is obligated to resurrect all the dead people? With the cancer curer. it seems that since he has this ability he has the obligation. Since God has the ability to resurrect the dead, does he then have the obligation to do that to the best of his ability, which since he’s all powerful, something he will succeed at every time.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    God is going to resurrect all dead people. That is what the Bible teaches.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    What do you mean for no reason? The animals are being sacrificed for a very good reason, to teach the Israelites the seriousness of sin. They learned that the wages for sin is death.

  • sean

    Fair enough.

    But then why is the cancer curer obligated to save the living if God’s just going to do it anyways? For example, I’m generally obligated to save a drowning person, if I have the ability and strength. But if there’s someone else like a lifeguard doing it already, I no longer have that obligation, right? The person with the cure for cancer is like me, and God is the lifeguard. Why does the cancer curer have to reveal and allow for his cure to be used if these people will come back to life anyways.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    God is not necessarily going to save the person with cancer. People with cancer die all the time. What God guarantees is that every human will be resurrected at a date in the future. This resurrection will be followed by a judgment, and that judgment will be rendered based on what humans did during their earthly lives. Therefore our earthly lives are not to be thrown away or taken lightly.

    Let’s look at it in a different way. God is not just another person. You keep wanting to apply the exact same moral obligations to God as apply to humans. That is just a gross error and misunderstanding of who God is.

    Our moral duties are given to us by God, and he has told us that we are to value human life, that we are to save human life when possible, that we are not to take human without proper justification.

  • sean

    “What God guarantees is that every human will be resurrected at a date in the future.”

    So their death is an intermission, one which will happen in no time at all from the perspective of the dead person. I don’t see then why it matters if they die. It matters in the sense that you will miss them for however long it is that you’re alive, that’s true. But if we were to all die right now, we’d just skip ahead to the point where we get resurrected by God, right?

  • sean

    By no reason I meant no sufficient reason. You’re right to point out what I said. There’s a big difference. But here’s the thing; by sacrificing an animal you are ending the life of a conscious creature that’s not going to get to go to heaven. It’s arguably more moral in you theology to kill your infant child, since he or she will exist onwards after death. It seems to me that killing a person in this life should always be more moral than killing an animal, since we don’t really die, just our bodies do, but the animals have no soul and they really really die.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    No. We are conscious during the intermission, but without a body.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Who said animals have no soul and will not exist in heaven? There are biblical passages which seem to suggest that higher animals do indeed have souls and will exist in heaven.

    But what is more problematic about your view is that you are equating human life with the life of higher animals. That seems like crazy talk, to be honest.

    And to say that we should kill infants to get them into heaven is also crazy talk. God explicitly condemns the killing of innocent human beings throughout the Bible. We humans are never to take another human’s life without proper justification, and sending a child to heaven is definitely not identified as a proper justification.

    Remember that it was the Israelites who stood out among other ancient near east people groups because they did not sacrifice their children to their god. The surrounding people groups did sacrifice their children and that is one of the reasons given in the OT for God’s judgment on those groups.

    The Hebrews were unquestionably morally advanced well beyond the nations that surrounded them. This has everything to do with their theology. The God they worshiped, as described in the last several blog posts, set them apart from their nihilistic and barbaric neighbors.

  • sean

    Two questions. One, is this a different experience from the experience we will have in heaven, and if so how? Two, how much of this is canon?

  • sean

    “Who said animals have no soul and will not exist in heaven? There are biblical passages which seem to suggest that higher animals do indeed have souls and will exist in heaven.”

    Specifically horses, and that’s it.

    “But what is more problematic about your view is that you are equating human life with the life of higher animals. That seems like crazy talk, to be honest.”

    Nope, I’m saying we should take greater measures in protecting temporal beings over eternal ones like ourselves who need no protection to save our being.

    “And to say that we should kill infants to get them into heaven is also crazy talk. God explicitly condemns the killing of innocent human beings throughout the Bible. We humans are never to take another human’s life without proper justification, and sending a child to heaven is definitely not identified as a proper justification.”

    I agree. I wasn’t saying it was better for us, just better for the kid. The kid won’t be at fault. It would be better for the kid, with respect to ability to get into heaven, no?

    “Remember that it was the Israelites who stood out among other ancient near east people groups because they did not sacrifice their children to their god. The surrounding people groups did sacrifice their children and that is one of the reasons given in the OT for God’s judgment on those groups.”

    True. But that’s more of a self-interest thing as opposed to the interest of the kids.

    “The Hebrews were unquestionably morally advanced well beyond the nations that surrounded them. This has everything to do with their theology. The God they worshiped, as described in the last several blog posts, set them apart from their nihilistic and barbaric neighbors.”

    To some extent. Though neighbors is a little narrow. Should we consider rome and Greece?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    It is a different experience in that we won’t have a body. This intermediate experience, between death and the resurrection, is a commonly held belief among orthodox Christians.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I have no idea why you think only horses have souls. The biblical text expands far beyond merely horses.

    Your comment that we should take care of temporal beings over eternal beings is exactly the opposite of what I think. Eternal beings will have far more impact on the world, and so we should really care more about them and the progress of their moral training.

    And, no, it’s not better for a kid to be killed. For the Christian, our life on earth is part of what we were designed for. When we are robbed of this life, we are unable to fulfill the original purpose God had for us on earth.

    So even though we can be comforted in the knowledge that a child who is killed will be with God, it is still an injustice and a crime if another human being was the cause of the death. Only God has the authority to give and take life on this earth.

    Ancient Israel was established around 1400 BC after the Exodus from Egypt. When you mention Greece and Rome, what time period are you considering?

    Regardless, I’m not saying that every people group was as barbaric as the Canaanites, but there is no doubt that a large number of Israel’s neighbors from 1400 BC down to 500 BC were.

  • sean

    But we don’t have physicality in heaven either do we? Would our existence in this intermediate time be sensory deprived? Presumably it would not be when we are in heaven.

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