In many conversations between Christians and atheists, the point is brought up that historical or biblical matters need to be placed in their proper context in order to be understood properly. So in the grand tradition of putting the right lens on something to understand it properly, I wanted to outline why Christians today are very out of touch with their roots. I honestly believe that if you brought an ancient Hebrew back from the dead and plopped them into a pew on Saturday, they’d have no clue what was happening to them, and here’s why.
Ancient Hebrews believed that God was the cause of everything.
Modern Christianity has this pesky habit of attributing to God all of the glory and none of the blame. When something good happens for a Christian, like a promotion, they will shout that they know their prayers were answered by God. When someone asks them why God visited a tsunami upon thousands of unsuspecting people, they respond that we cannot know the will of God (the “mysterious” clause).
However, these don’t really hold up to Scripture, in terms of what ancient Hebrews believed.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness flourish with it;
I, the Lord, have created it.
God is not really equivocal here in letting everyone know who’s runnin’ this bitch. But the subtle distinction here is that modern Christians have divorced themselves from the idea of the God that controls everything to the God who is simply good and only in charge of good. Moreover, they’ve invented this outlet whereby God allows bad things to happen, but does not cause them. I suspect that is because they intuitively know that if he has complete control, that means complete responsibility, so they need to find a loophole for that. But while that is something that they shy away from, it clearly isn’t something the ancient Hebrews did.
God wasn’t about love – he was about power.
Speaking of running this bitch, the God of the old Testament was suffering absolutely no fools. I mean, that guy was picking fights all over the place. He kicked his first creations out of the Garden of Eden for eating a fruit, straight murked some innocent Egyptian children, drowned EVERYONE, and his idea of love was to let 10 people escape from Sodom before he turned that shit into Armageddon with no Bruce Willis.
And then AFTER lunch…
What these and many other stories show, I think, is the cultural values of the people that wrote them. This is a topic covered in this video: (Morality – Not so Good books). Ancient Hebrews equated morality with power, and that’s why the claim that their God was more powerful than all others made him the one to follow. What else do you think stories like Elijah and the prophets of Baal are supposed to communicate to their audiences? That God loves them or that he’s strong as an ox and you’d better bow?
The truth is that calling Yaweh a god of love is anachronistic, to say the least, because it’s imposing a common current conception of what God is about on the beliefs of the ancient Hebrews and what they thought he was about. They thought that what was strong was right, but now we know a little better (I’d like to mention a notable example, but I’d rather not Godwin myself.)
These are just some of the ways that Christians gloss over the fact that an ancient Hebrew, should they come into one of their churches today, would not have a good time, and very well might try to kill someone.
More on this series Wednesday! Question: Can you think of any notable examples of divorces between Modern Christians and ancient Hebrews? I’d love to hear from you!
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