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bishops-bible

Every now and then some atheist will  weigh in with the ‘your God is a monster’ assertion. He (it is usually a man) will cite some verses – always from the Old Testament – which ‘prove’  that God is a murderer. He will then make a reference to hell, and ask how anyone can be so stupid as to worship such a monster? It is a sign of the general level of Biblical illiteracy that anyone should feel at all comfortable making such a claim. They are, of course, oblivious of the fact that the most usual Christian response is: ‘how can anyone be stupid enough to believe such nonsense?’

It is unclear whether the people who advance this line of argument are so convinced that all Christians are idiots, or that they assume they have not read the Bible, or whether they are so pleased at finding yet another website to air their prejudices, that they forget that Christians read the Bible; indeed, they forget that the Bible is a Christian book.

It is almost possible to understand why, in the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, catechumens were not allowed to read the Sacred Texts. This was not, as some would have it, because priests were trying to keep knowledge from the people, but rather the result of the belief that, read without proper catechesis, people would misunderstand what they were reading; the modern Internet atheist so often proves this point.

Oddly enough, we all know what is in the OT. But what we also know is that it must be read in the light of the New Testament. If we take it purely in its own terms, we read it as faithful Jews do. But we are not devotees of Judaism, we are Christians. So we read the passages so beloved of our mocking friends in the light of Christ.

Oddly enough, we are able to distinguish between what the Jews of old believed about God with the self-revelation offered in the NT. So, whilst it was natural for those Jews to see the Father as a vengeful tribal God, that reflected their own limitations, not those of God. They wrote what they wrote without the light of the new revelation of Jesus – we have to read what is there in that light. Only in the Christian revelation do we see His True Nature.

Atheists seem a little shocked to be told that the Bible needs to be read as a whole and can’t just be chopped up to be used as polemic. The revelation offered us by Christ shows God as the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son; no slayer of His foes on offer here.

Christ did not save us by coming in Power and smiting His enemies, but by being the suffering servant who took on Himself our sins. That is the Christian God, and that is why we believe in Him, love Him, and worship Him. If our atheist challengers would take a few moments away from lecturing us to educate themselves, it would be better for them.

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