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February 4, 2012 / Daniel

David Lamb on the Goodness of the God in the OT

So I started reading God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?  The author is David T. Lamb, an OT professor at Biblical Theological Seminary.  I came across the book at my local public library!

The author begins by citing Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion.  Dawkins writes,

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

The goal of Lamb’s book is to address Dawkins’ disturbing portrayal of the God of the OT.

Lamb asks, “How do negative perceptions of Yahweh affect readers of the OT?”

He gives three answers.

1) Our view of God will directly affect how we either pursue or avoid God.

“If we believe that the God of the OT is really harsh, unfair and cruel, we won’t want anything to do with him.  Who would want to have a close relationship with a divine version of Adolf Hitler?”

But the folks who really knew YHWH in the OT want to spend more time with him.  Not less time.  They went out of their way to be in God’s presence.  Consider Psalm 84:1-2.

 How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

2)  A negative perception about God could also affect a personal passion for reading Scripture.

Even among most Christians today, the OT is ignored.  Why?  Lamb argues that we ignore the OT because we are uncomfortable with the God of the OT.   However, if we have an accurate understanding of God in the OT, we will treasure the OT as the revelation of a God who shows steadfast love for his people.

3) Our view of God affects what we think God’s followers should be like.  

Greg Beale argues that we become what we worship.  Lamb carries this out in the arena of apologetics.  “If God really were angry, sexist and racist, it would follow that Christians would be as well.”  However, the flip side is also true.  If the God of the Bible is a gracious, loving, just, holy God, then his followers must have the same sort of character qualities.  

What is your impression of the God of the OT?  What gives you this impression?


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