On the Nature of God


#1

The Nature of God has always been a confusing subject. God is always protrayed as an all loving and caring, and cares for each and every person, but then throught the Old Testemant he orders many extremly violent things including genocide, and is stopped by humans multiple times from annihilating the Jews. Why is this glaring contradiction so quickly overlooked.


#2

This is something I’ve often struggled with myself. It’s very easy when reading Scripture to look at the contradictions which is why I’ve found it particularly helpful, when possible, to read exegetical writings on the particular verse(s) in question by the early Church fathers and contemporary writers as well since I can largely trust their understanding and then use my own faculties in the process to come up with an adequate answer.

A contemporary author I really like who approaches this is Jack Miles who wrote God: a Biography and Christ: a Crisis in the Life of God. He tends to look at it from a literary form of analysis, but I think many lay people would get a lot out of some of his perceptions.

Another option that I personally take advantage of is talking to my priest when I’m having difficulty discerning what to think. It’s important, though, to look things through yourself and wrestle with it a bit and then ask for assistance. God gave you a thinking and inquiring mind and I think that curiosity one of God’s gifts to us to help us discern his will.


#3

I've asked that question too, and was told not to pay any attention to the Old Testament and to only focus on the New T. because the OT was irrelevant after Jesus came.

Not a great answer though.


#4

Without doubt the NT gives us the fullest, most accurate understanding of God and His nature. It's very possible that many of the OT accounts of Gods dealing with the Jews simply reflected their understanding of God at the time, with less experience, revelation, and even collective spiritual maturity available at the time, which is why scripture tells us that Jesus came when the time was ripe in human history.

In any case its the role if the Church to define the nature of God and this would include interpretation of relevant scriptural passages as needed.


#5

To some degree this might be one of those "it's a mystery" things. Also there are sometimes misunderstandings of the passages in question, for example the idea that everything the Israelites did under Joshua was ordered and condoned by God.

Another thing to keep in mind is something I recently read in an essay by G.K. Chesterton on the Book of Job. We Christians often make the mistake of reading the Old Testament books as if they were fully Christian books. They are not. The Christian concept of a saint, the idea that God's will is most perfectly done by people who are exceptionally good, is not something to be found in pre-Christian Judaism. The theme of the Old Testament (with some unique complications in the case of Job) is that everything is subject to God, is an instrument which God uses for his own purposes.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Elijah, all these people and all the other Israelites are instruments God used to accomplish His designs. They should not be considered saints, at least not simply on the basis of their importance in the Old Testament. That God made use of them does not imply anything about the personal morality of their actions. Certainly it would be a gross exaggeration to say that the Old Testament is entirely amoral, but it does not have the same kind of moral focus we Christians are used to in religious writings. This is especially true of the earliest books like those of the Pentateuch and Joshua and Judges. Revealed religion had not reached that level of maturity yet, and we must remember this when we read Scriptures dating back to those earlier periods.


#6

According to St. Leonard of Port Maurice it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that explains the difference between the past and the present, and we would be punished severely for our sins without its aid. In one place he calls the Holy Mass a prop that holds the world in place which would otherwise be unable to carry its iniquity. St. Padre Pio has a similar statement: "It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy Sacrifice of the Mass." As we have the Sacraments and other spiritual treasures of the Church to support us negligence towards God may be seen the more demeritorious. This is one more reason to have higher respect for the Holy Mass which we should attend often and devoutly.

From The Hidden Treasure by St. Leonard:

But if the intrinsic wonder and glory of the Sacrifice move you not, be so at least by the extreme necessity of its existence.
If there were no sun to shine on the world, what would it be? All darkness, horror, barrenness, and misery supreme. And if there were not Holy Mass in the world? Oh, unhappy race! We should be vessels empty of every good, and full of evil to the brim, - we should be a mark for all thunders of the wrath of God. Some are surprised at its really seeming as if since ancient times our good God had in some sort changed His mode of government. He then caused himself to be called the God of armies and of battles, and spake to the people from the midst of clouds, with lightnings in His hand. For one adultery, there fell by the edge of the sword five-and-twenty thousand of the tribe of Benjamin. For the pride of David in numbering the people, He sent a pestilence so malignant that quickly seventy thousand persons were no more. For one curious and somewhat irreverent look, he overthrew in frightful slaughter more than fifty thousand of the Betsamites. And now He will bear with patience not only vanities and frivolities, but adulteries the most base, scandals the most iniquitous and blasphemies the most revolting, vomited forth against His most Holy Name by many Christians every hour of the day! How comes this? Why so a great difference of government? Are, perhaps, our sins of ingratitude more excusable than those of old? Quite the contrary. They are much more culpable, since there is the addition of benefits so immeasurable. The true reason of a clemency so stupendous is the Holy Mass, in which is offered to the Eternal Father, the great Victim, - Jesus.


#7

We must first understand three things. One: God is pure Love, is infinite, and is the author of all life. Therefore all life belongs to Him. Two: God introduced Himself into human history through Abraham, at a time when people believed in a multiplicity of gods, whose priests and priestesses claimed their god demands many things, including human sacrifice, usually of enemies, virgins, or children. It was a time when all sorts of abominations were practiced in the name of religion. Three: All of scripture is a love story, a story of the developing relationship between God and man, a relationship that God wants to lead us to spiritual marriage with Him. God has a right to demand, simply because He is God, obedience to Him and worship of Him.

In order to introduce Himself to man and establish His authority as God, He had to demand obedience. Obedience is huge with God in scripture. He also imposed penalties for disobedience. We see this in the plagues He imposed on Egypt in Exodus in response to disobedience, and we see it as Joshua entered the promised land and was told to slay everyone without exception. We also see it when the soldier reached out to keep the Ark from tipping over and was struck dead because God had said no one shall touch the Ark. All through scripture the relationship between God and man continued to evolve and deepen, just as a relationship between a man and woman grows from acquaintance to eventual mutual love. What is expected from each in the relationship continued to change reflective of the evolving relationship. Today, God still expects obedience but is more tolerant of our free will, and thus we may disobey, but when we do knowingly and deliberately, we also assume a greater responsibility for the consequences of our actions. Our salvation is more determined by our own actions as we choose Heaven or Hell. We become more responsible for our own salvation than did the people at the time of the Exodus.
Because God caused someone to die in the Old Testament does not mean they go to Hell. It does not matter how long we live. What does matter is whether we get to Heaven. Anyone God caused to die, by whatever means, can be offered the opportunity accept Him and thus be saved. God is both a God of Justice and God of Mercy. So even though God saw the way the inhabitants of the promised land were living was an abomination in His eyes, and therefore He ordered them slain, He could still, in His Mercy, offer them the opportunity of salvation. Whether He did or not we will find out if and when we get to Heaven.

So, we should never try to judge God's actions by human standards, or expect Him to make decisions according to human reasoning. Regardless of how we perceive any of His actions in the Old Testament, they were all done in accord with His nature because He is immutable.


#8

[quote="Chevalier_IX, post:2, topic:310362"]
This is something I've often struggled with myself. It's very easy when reading Scripture to look at the contradictions which is why I've found it particularly helpful, when possible, to read exegetical writings on the particular verse(s) in question by the early Church fathers and contemporary writers as well since I can largely trust their understanding and then use my own faculties in the process to come up with an adequate answer.

A contemporary author I really like who approaches this is Jack Miles who wrote God: a Biography and Christ: a Crisis in the Life of God. He tends to look at it from a literary form of analysis, but I think many lay people would get a lot out of some of his perceptions.

Another option that I personally take advantage of is talking to my priest when I'm having difficulty discerning what to think. It's important, though, to look things through yourself and wrestle with it a bit and then ask for assistance. God gave you a thinking and inquiring mind and I think that curiosity one of God's gifts to us to help us discern his will.

[/quote]

Chevalier,

God gave you a Church and that Church gave you a Catechism that records the deposit of Faith...you may want to spend some time in the USA Catechism for Adults.


#9

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