Thursday, February 28, 2013


I have a friend who teaches New Testament studies at the college level. He is intensely smart, intellectually rigorous, and steeped in knowledge of the Bible. Where God is concerned, my friend is pretty agnostic. I can’t share his position but, in his case at least, I can respect it.

He once told me that he wanted to begin a speech to the student body saying, “I don’t believe in the God of the Bible. There isn’t one.” He was being deliberately provocative. That’s one of the reasons I like him. He didn’t give that speech. That is another reason I like him.

So what did my friend mean by saying “I don’t believe in the God of the Bible. There isn’t one?” Just this: the various books of the Bible present different portraits of the God of Israel. The anthropomorphic God who walks in the garden of Eden in the cool of the evening (Genesis 3:8) is quite unlike the cosmic God of Isaiah’s vision, the hem of whose robe filled the Jerusalem temple (Isaiah 6:1). Is the God who commands Saul to annihilate all of the Amelekite men, women, children, and even their animals, (1 Samuel 15:2–3) the same God who is described simply as “love” in 1 John 4:16?
In brief, the Bible does not present a single, consistent depiction of God. The various writers of Scripture had different outlooks, different experiences of God, different theologies. To minimize or even ignore this simple fact does the biblical writers, the Bible, and even God a real disservice.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as monotheistic as the next guy--well, the next Trinitarian guy, anyway. I just recognize that the Bible's various writers didn't always see the one God of Israel quite the same way.

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