The Vengeful Philosopher and the Loving Romans

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, November 17, 2016 1 comments

by Steve Risner

After a long break (the longest I believe I've ever taken) from posting, I am able to get back to it! Life has been exceptionally busy but, praise God, there's light at the end of the tunnel! Where were we? Oh, yes. I was responding to some statements made by an atheist I went to high school with. He made some very irrational statements concerning atheism, Christianity, and our nation. The last few blog posts I wrote were centered on our Christian heritage. You can find those here, here, and here. This week we'll take a closer look at what this atheist claims Christianity is. It's pretty interesting.

He's written a 5 part “oversimplified” (in his words) take on Christianity for me. His first point is this: “Some philosopher 2000 years ago softened the image of the vengeful Old Testament God and became a legend when he was martyred by the Romans.”

This one is rather large in its implications. Jesus was far more than a philosopher. He never claimed to be a philosopher. However, He did claim to be the Son of God and He claimed to be the only way to spend eternity in heaven. In fact, I contend this is why He was killed. Todd Friel of Wretched Radio says, “Philosophy seeks truth but Jesus proclaimed He Himself is the truth. Jesus did not ponder what might be right, He proclaimed what was absolutely true.” He continues, “Philosophy is the pursuit of rational wisdom, religion is the pursuit of supernatural wisdom. Christianity, while rational, is a belief system. Philosophy has no authority. One philosopher’s claims are as valid as the next. Not so in Christianity. The Bible claims that the inspired Word of God is the sole standard of truth. Philosophy changes with the times, Christianity does not. Philosophy typically rejects the supernatural, Christianity embraces it. Philosophy is man-made, Christianity is God-inspired. Philosophy does not offer forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, Christianity does.”

It's a fairly open and shut case that Jesus Christ was not a philosopher. That's the first part of his comment that is a misunderstanding. Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God and proved it. There is no way to explain the birth of Christianity outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well, no rational and honest way. I wrote about that last year in “The Birth of the Way.” I see his claim that Jesus Christ was “some philosopher 2000 years ago” as a very feeble attempt to minimize His importance and impact on the planet. Quite frankly, no person has impacted the world more than Jesus Christ, period. He's not just “some philosopher.” The case of the authentic resurrection is amazing. There's really no way for this atheist to deal with that other than to ignore the obvious.

He goes on to say that Jesus “softened the image of the vengeful Old Testament God.” This is actually a very common, unbalanced view of God based on cherry picking Old Testament and New Testament passages. I've even heard some argue that Allah is like the God of the Old Testament. Rubbish! You see, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one in the same. They are revealed quite similarly, in fact. It's unbalanced or a half-truth to say that the God of the Old Testament is full of wrath or vengeance and the God of the New Testament is about love and grace. Both of these statements are true but can also be reversed. The God of the Old Testament is full of love and grace while the God of the New Testament is vengeful and violent. They are one in the same. Let's take a look.

The Word is full of passages that read similarly in their description of God's love and grace. You can find a few of these in Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Or Nehemiah 9:17 which says, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” There are many different passages that indicate the Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love, gracious, merciful, and forgiving. However, He is also found to hate sin and love justice. He is slow to wrath, but when His patience has been exhausted, His power and might are clearly seen. This is in contrast to the most widely known verse of the Bible—John 3:16: “For God so loved the whole world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish be have eternal life.” Hidden within this verse is the irony. In giving His Son, God clearly demonstrated to us all that the God of the Old Testament is indeed the God of the New Testament. The penalty Christ suffered on the cross was brutal, bloody, and violent. It had to be, in order to satisfy the high price of sin. I don't think this atheist would watch the Passion of the Christ and say, “Well, that certainly softens the image of the vengeful God of the Old Testament.” It's horrifying.

But I would go so far as to say that claiming God is “vengeful” is even a little intense. He treats mankind like any loving father would. He gives us space. He calls us to Him. When we go our own way and go against His will, there are consequences. That's not vengeance. That's just the way it is. Negative consequences are a part of life. How much love would God have for us if He didn't discipline? His Word even tells us it's because of His love that He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5-11).

So it's clear to see that the Old Testament tells equally of a God of love and grace while showing the balanced side of justice and anger. But the New Testament also reveals both sides of our God. He is the God that “so loved the world,” while Romans 1:18 tells us, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” The fact is simple: God is unchanging. This is one of the wonderful promises God gives us in His Word. Read the book of Revelation and tell me God seems different than He does in the Old Testament. You can even read of Jesus making a whip and chasing people out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). These and so many other truths of God that make the case pretty cut and dry. God is unchanging. He is full of love and He's full of wrath. He's full of grace and He's full of vengeance. That's called balance. Atheists and other non-believers frequently cherry pick passages of Scripture to make a point that is generally easy to debunk simply by turning the page and reading a little further.

This atheist’s final comment is that Jesus became a legend because the Romans martyred Him. Again, if you read my blog post called “The Birth of the Way” linked above, I think you'll find it rather silly to believe the account of the resurrection as anything but true. Christ is not a legend. Christ is the risen Savior of all humanity and history supports this idea. Christ was killed because the Jewish leaders of the time threatened violence if He wasn't crucified. Christ was not a political threat nor did He claim any earthly authority that the Romans believed they had. His kingdom is not of this world; He said this to Pilate. It seems strange that a nonthreatening figure who healed people would make the Romans want to destroy Him. But the jealousy and greed of the Jewish political machine inspired the people to yell, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Either way, I don't think it matters if you think the Romans were the sole conspirators in the death of Christ or if you feel the Jews of the day had their hands in it. Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for your sin and mine and He rose again on the third day. This awesome truth is what this atheist desperately wants to distance himself from. He doesn't realize the truth will set him free.

Next time, we'll look at point number two from this atheist about Christianity—that Jesus's words were not even written down for centuries after His earthly ministry ended. Whoa boy!

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