I found this interesting article written by a Jewish agnostic who decided to read through the Bible. He was amazed how it wasn’t required reading in high schools along with Shakespeare and other classics. Unfortunately, most of the things that he loved were just where certain phrases come from. He liked reading about Daniel, Job, and Moses, but left concerned about the God of the Old Testament.
I began the Bible as a hopeful, but indifferent, agnostic. I wished for a God, but I didn’t really care. I leave the Bible as a hopeless and angry agnostic. I’m brokenhearted about God.
After reading about the genocides, the plagues, the murders, the mass enslavements, the ruthless vengeance for minor sins (or none at all), and all that smiting—every bit of it directly performed, authorized, or approved by God—I can only conclude that the God of the Hebrew Bible, if He existed, was awful, cruel, and capricious. He gives us moments of beauty—such sublime beauty and grace!—but taken as a whole, He is no God I want to obey and no God I can love.
Then he wrote the two reactions people have had to his objection. Here’s the first:
Christians say: Well, yes, but this is all setup for the New Testament. Reading only the Old Testament is like leaving halfway through the movie. I’m missing all the redemption. If I want to find the grace and forgiveness and wonder, I have to read and believe in the story of Jesus Christ, which explains and redeems all. But that doesn’t work for me. I’m a Jew. I don’t, and can’t, believe that Christ died for my sins. And even if he did, I still don’t think that would wash away God’s crimes in the Old Testament.
Then the second answer he usually receives is this:
The second response tends to come from Jews, who razz me for missing the chief lesson of the Hebrew Bible, which is that we can’t hope to understand the ways of God. If He seems cruel or petty, that’s because we can’t fathom His plan for us. But I’m not buying that, either. If God made me, He made me rational and quizzical. He has given me the tools to think about Him. So I must submit Him to rational and moral inquiry. And He fails that examination. Why would anyone want to be ruled by a God who’s so unmerciful, unjust, unforgiving, and unloving?
He leaves his time in the Bible with this conclusion:
As I read the book, I realized that the Bible’s greatest heroes—or, at least, my greatest heroes—are not those who are most faithful, but those who are most contentious and doubtful: Moses negotiating with God at the burning bush, Gideon demanding divine proof before going to war, Job questioning God’s own justice, Abraham demanding that God be merciful to the innocent of Sodom. They challenge God for his capriciousness, and demand justice, order, and morality, even when God refuses to provide them. Reading the Bible has given me a chance to start an argument with God about the most important questions there are, an argument that can last a lifetime.
I have some initial thoughts on this, but wanted to hear what you would say. Would you have the same response these people had? Is there a conflict?
My first thought is that it is more confirming that people cannot understand unless the Lord reveals it to them. Someone like this cannot come to the Bible and earn or form salvation on their own. It isn’t a mental accomplishment someone can come to by reading or studying. There is a veil that God must remove for the sinner’s heart to understand the truths of salvation.
My second thought is that it is interesting that he is agnostic but believes he can still argue with God. What God are you arguing with? You can’t pick and choose from the Bible and form a god of your own liking. You have placed yourself as an authority over it, deciding what is acceptable and what is not.