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Today we’re continuing our critique of the Richard Dawkins book, Outgrowing God. We have been talking about his main criticisms of Christianity in each chapter. In this episode, we are in Chapter Four: “Is God Really Good?” We are going to take a few of Dawkins’ examples and channel Paul Harvey as we look at the rest of the story and see if they really show that God isn’t good, as Dawkins claims.
Main Points Covered:
- Quick Note: At 8:37, we mention the episode will be about child slavery, but we meant to say child sacrifice.
- In Chapter Four, he discusses the deaths in the Bible (including the Canaanites, Noah, and child sacrifice).
- He comes from the standpoint that from this view, we should be able to determine whether or not God is good.
- He then compares God to villains in pop culture and mythologies (Moriarty, Zeus, Thor, Darth Vader, etc.)
- There are two ways you can read the Bible, prescriptively (“this is what you should do”) versus descriptively (“this is what happened”). Depending on how you read the Bible and how literally, you will have different views on Christianity.
- Despite what Richard Dawkins has studied in Evolutionary Biology, his studies in Theology have not surpassed what 9 to 16-year-olds know.
- He has a couple of arguments but doesn’t dig any deeper.
- We talked about the debate between Matt Dillahunty and John Ferrer in 2018 where they discuss whether or not God is good. In this debate, the question is raised by John Ferrer: “Do you care about the context? Do you care about the history in which this was written?” and Matt Dillahunty said, “No.”
- If you take context out of it, you can twist it into anything you like.
- Three places we have used as examples of when the Bible speaks of child sacrifices are with Jeremiah 32:35, Leviticus 22, and Genesis 22.
- In Genesis 22, there is use of the word “testing,” which begs the question to be asked, “Is testing a bad thing?”
- In the Hebrew connotation, testing is used when meaning either to tempt or to prove. When we say prove, we mean to prove something as solid or reliable.
- This phrase (to test) is sometimes used by Satan (as in, to tempt into sin), but with God, it is to prove with faithfulness. There are also plenty of places in the Bible which talk about God proving himself as well. A few examples are in Exodus 17:12, Numbers 14:22, and Deuteronomy 6:16.
- It is inappropriate to ask God to put Himself to a test, especially if you are to think of the authority and subordinate relationship.
- The idea of testing is meant to increase someone’s belief because if you put your money where your mouth is, you’re more likely to stick with it.
- Context is important, especially in historical times and documents. In a time when there was talk of child sacrifices, it was during a period where sacrificing children was rampant, so the idea of sacrificing your own child was normal during that point in time.
- God disapproves of this practice. Deuteronomy 12:31: “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”
- We also talk about typologies (in studying scripture, typology refers to something that is like Jesus) when we speak of “Take your son, your only son,” to mean unique son instead of the one son you have.
- God tested Abraham, He didn’t command child sacrifice – a big difference. Verses 4 and 5 say we will come back to you.
- Richard Dawkins’ argument that God was mean doesn’t have basis because God had reasoning behind all of the things He did. Otherwise, He would have seemed wacky. There was a whole design and purpose – a telos (Greek work for “end goal”).
- Richard Dawkins perceives that God was mad at the Israelites when they served other gods, when in reality, you have to look at what the Israelites were doing to understand His righteous jealousy out of a love for them. They were worshiping other gods by having sex in the temples to these gods as an act of worship, and then sacrificing the babies conceived from that sex as offerings to those gods. Yahweh knew this was not good for the moral health of His people and would not stand for it.
- Jephthah is an example of why not to make stupid vows. His vow was to sacrifice his daughter to God (which was what he would do in order to serve other gods). This is a story about why we don’t make vows and what happens when we think we can transfer our worship from false gods to Him. Jephthah tried to serve God in the way that he served the other gods and the Lord allowed him to suffer the consequences.
- The Takeaways:
- God is against human sacrifice, always was, always will be.
- Contrast between the ANE (ancient Near East) pantheon of gods from God
Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins
Atheist Debates – Do we need God for Morality? Matt Dillahunty and John Ferrer Debate 2018 – We compared this debate to Richard Dawkins’ question “Is God Good?”
From Creation to the Cross: Understanding the First Half of the Bible by Albert H. Baylis – This is a really great book which is a readable survey of the Old Testament.
Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament by Jean E. Jones – This book pointed out that the phrase “Take this son, your only son,” has a different meaning that most people think. The term “only” meant “unique” and not “one.”
“First Person: Human Sacrifice to an Ammonite God?” – A resource used to clarify the history of human sacrifice. Specifically, this article talks about the archaeological evidence of human sacrifices.
Hillary’s article – “How Dawkins’ Outgrowing God Capitalizes on Our Culture’s Inability to Think Critically” – In order to delve into the topic more, read more about it in Hillary’s article.
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Quotable quotes:That is one of the unfortunate tendencies that you do see at times with folks who are atheists and who are tackling scripture, is that they don’t exactly give a fair presentation of what the argument is. Click To Tweet
– Amy DavisonOne of the things we’re trying to (accomplish) in Mama Bear Apologetics is (teaching others to ask) how do we think through this and present things fairly? Click To Tweet
– Hillary Morgan FerrerThe heart cannot follow what the will cannot obey. Click To Tweet
– Hillary’s PastorBecause God is going to bless Abraham, He’s going to make him into a man of faith…Yahweh tests them as He tests all: not to tempt to sin but to cause increasing recognition of His ways. Click To Tweet
– Albert H. Baylis in From Creation to the Cross
Hillary Morgan Ferrer is the founder of Mama Bear Apologetics. She is the chief author and editor of Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies and Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality: Empowering Your Kids to Understand and Live Out God’s Design. Hillary has her masters in Biology and has been married to her husband, Dr. John D. Ferrer, for 15 years. Don’t let her cook for you. She’ll burn your house straight to the ground.
Careful! Your understanding of the Bible could do with improvement. In Ez. 20:25–6, God is speaking: “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am Jehovah.”
Is it? Elijah had a public test, god against god, when he confronted the priests of Baal.
It’s thought by the way that Jepthah gave his daughter to serve in the temple rather than actually sacrificing her.
I don’t know if any of your more recent episodes address this, but on the child sacrifice-ish topic. A college friend of mine that has since turned, I would say atheist at this point, likes to share scripture in a very twisted and perverted world view. He claims that priests performed abortions, according to Numbers 5:11-31. I’ve already responded to which he just twists mine and the Bible’s language to his own desires, but I’d love to hear MBA thoughts on this and other Levitical laws.
We recently did a study on Jephthah. The study resulted in the conclusion that Jephthah did not kill his daughter, but gave her to God in the same way some gave their first born son to God. He promised that she would not marry and be a virgin for the rest of her life, meaning he would have no descendants (because she was his only child). Then, he sacrificed a burnt offering at the temple that was in place of her…like a young, perfect lamb. This fits with her reaction of going off to spend time with her friends “because she would never marry”.
36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.” (NOTICE : She was NOT mourning that she would die, but that she would never marry.)
38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. (NOTICE: Again, the emphasis on her virginity.)
From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
Just a thought.
I have long struggled with the passage of Abraham and Isaac. It just seems so out of God’s character. As I was listening to the podcast there was discussion that when God or an authority figure proves Himself (or is tested), He reveals more of himself. A small light bulb/aha moment. Abraham willingly took Isaac to the altar. God stopped him. Maybe Abraham needed to learn who God really is – to better understand God’s character, that God would never ask him to sacrifice a child. Just a thought that helped me think about it differently. God is always looking so far ahead of our here and now thoughts.
I found this enlightening…
Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
The Midrash records that isaac was an adult at this point-some versions say that he was 26 and others say 37. If that is accurately recorded, then this wasn’t child sacrifice at all. It was both Abraham and Isaac submitting to God. Isaac would have been plenty old enough to say no and also to overpower his father and not let him tie him down but he chose not to, trusting both God and his father. Just for fact checking, this is found in Midrash Genesis Rabbah 56:8.