An Agnostic’s Read through The Bible

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.


4 comments on “An Agnostic’s Read through The Bible

  1. BethsMomToo says:

    When I read the Jewish Scriptures I see an incredibly longsuffering and patient God whose desire is to turn His people back to Himself, rather than let them continually be lost in their sin. I also see a Holy God. I don’t think this man understands what holiness is. He’s not alone in that oversight, however, as I have heard people who call themselves believers come to the same conclusions. I’d advise such people to spend more time reading it. Read it more than once. See how it fits together and how God’s grace is demonstrated throughout.

    My second impression is amazement at the idea that you can “vote” for your God. There’s one God and He has revealed Himself to man. Designer gods are idols, no matter what name you might call them by.

    [He REALLY didn’t get Job!]

  2. Burro says:

    I agree with your assessment of the unbeliever’s inability to come to the right conclusions about God by simply reading the O.T. I would be very surprised, especially given our culture, if an agnostic read the Bible and found it to be just in their own eyes. Apart from God’s Spirit, God’s commands will almost always seem capricious and unfair–because He is perfectly righteous and that is something we as sinners simply cannot get our heads around.

  3. Camelia says:

    Personally, I like the Jewish response better than the Christian response the unbeliever received. Who are we that we can think that we can understand God? He may not want a God that made him unable to understand everything, but then we would be gods and equal to God if we understood everything about Him. And we cannot be equal because then He would cease to be Supreme.

    I know reading this agnostic’s point of view is an exercise, but it’s pointless if he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit or does not wish to pursue the answers to his own questions.

    Lastly, I think it was funny to say, he cannot believe in Jesus because he is a Jew. What about all the Jews in the Bible who did believe?! That is like saying, I can’t believe the truth no matter if it is the truth because I was brought up not to believe that part, so I will put up my blinders and remain with my questions….

  4. Dino says:

    A terible mistake of many people is to create God in an image that they can destroy. I remember reading a book about how a Catholic woman feels lost due to her adulteress acts that no know knows about and resents the fact that she is always being watched by the God “who wiped out cities with a smile because they didn’t pray to him.” And I read that and I thought: Where is that in the Bible? If she is refering to the cities like Sodom or Jericho, it’s essential to rember to that these were terrible, evil people. And God granted mercy to those cities’ inhabitants who chose to follow him, such as Rahab, who was honored with being Christ’s ancestress, or Lot and his family. God himself said that he would not destroy Sodom and Gommorah if he could find just five righteous men.

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