Face to face with the Old Testament

Old Testament scholar

The Old Testament presents a number of problems for many christians. We are taught it is the inspired Word of God, yet it contains many things we find difficult – Genesis 1-3 is contradicted by evolution, God commands his people to invade and kill, and there are some strange events that are hard to swallow (e.g. the Nephilim, Noah’s Ark, God trying to kill Moses but not succeeding, and a talking donkey).

The Old Testament is probably a major reason why many people brought up as christians reject their belief, and it probably causes far more difficulties to christians than the New Testament does.

For many years, I put the problems aside. Jesus was the basis of my faith, and the New Testament told me all I needed to know about him, and how to follow him. I read the Old Testament mainly for understanding Jesus as a Jew, and I left the problems on the backburner.

But a couple of years ago, I started to pray that God would show me how to understand the difficult and nasty parts of the Old Testament, and then I read a few good books on the topic. Whether God has answered that prayer or not is not for me to judge, but I have certainly come to some conclusions…..

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Old Testament God angry, New Testament God loving. Right? Or wrong?

Painting of God

In the Old Testament, God, who is variously known by names like Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai and El Shaddai, is active, angry and violent – talking to Moses, defeating armies, guiding by pillars of smoke and of fire, and threatening those who disobey.

But in the New Testament, God seems to be more relaxed – a voice at Jesus baptism and not much else – while Jesus, and later the Spirit, take centre stage.

Is this a fair picture, a caricature, or totally wrong? What should christians think about the Old Testament picture of God, especially the violence he seems to sometimes initiate?

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Knowing God’s will – do we have to learn Greek?

Tug of war

It was an argument about women preaching in church.

The first guy was a moderate and a historian, and he wrote a book about why women should be allowed to preach. The second guy was a pastor and a conservative, and he argued against this view. The first guy replied, the second guy responded. Each response was slightly more testy than the one before, but still polite, I guess.

I don’t want to focus on the topic just now (that will come some other time) but on the basis of the two arguments.

If that doesn’t sound all that thrilling, please read on, because I think it is very important.

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State of the earth, 2015

Earth

I used to work as an engineering hydrologist, and an environmental manager. Multi-syllable words, but they meant I spent a lot of time collecting, analysing and using climate data, mostly rainfall and streamflow. And so I also did some reading on the then fledgling science of climate change.

I am also a christian, so I believe God wants us to care for his world, the people, yes, but also the animals and the earth itself.

So here’s a report on the state of the climate in the only world we have.

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When the Bible becomes a reason to disbelieve

Reading the Bible

I began this blog almost 4 years ago with a post that included this comment:

“In recent years I have met, mostly on the web but also in person, many believers who struggle with some aspects of their faith that they feel no longer seems right. They don’t have significant doubts about Jesus, but they do have doubts about some of what they have been taught.”

In the subsequent 4 years, many christians have emailed me via this blog, asking questions about their faith. For some it has been some doctrines that didn’t cause them to doubt Jesus, but for some, unanswered questions about the Bible have led them to the edge of the cliff of giving up their faith.

It seems there is a growing crisis of faith in the Bible, and there is more than one way to respond. Which way is right?

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If Jesus ran for President would he bake a cake?

Jesus at an election rally

It’s the beginning of the presidential “race” in the US, and although I live on the other side of the world, the outcome is important for Aussies. (For a start, if America decides to have another war, odds are Australia might join them. :( )

I have heard that Senator Ted Cruz (about whom I know almost nothing) was the first cab off the rank, announcing his intention to seek nomination for the Republican party while visiting Liberty University. (Ironically, the students were not at liberty to choose whether they could attend this event or not.)

That event would have been unremarkable to me, except that blogger and author Benjamin Corey wrote a blog about it, asking what Jesus might have said if he was invited to visit Liberty University. His comments were so powerful to me that I had to share it with you.

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World War 1 – the war to end all wars?

Trench warfare

A hundred years ago, World War 1 was being fought across Europe. In a few weeks, Anzac Day, probably Australia’s holiest day, will be the 100th anniversary of the abortive, chaotic, mismanaged attempt by the Allies to occupy the Dardanelles.

It was later said to be the war that would end all wars. Sadly, that was far from true, but there are still some lessons christians can learn.

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