Apologeet.nlThe God Delusion #5
#5 God Must be Horrible: Sadomasochistic, Capriciously Malevolent Bully
I believe it was 2006 that Mr Dawkins published his book, the God Delusion. I have never paid to much attention to his writings simply because I thought the hype would die a fast and silent death. His book isn’t, what you would call, a very sophisticated philosophical book. It is smoothly written, but it lacks a lot, philosophical speaking. Anyway, I was wrong about the dying stuff. Many still love his audacious mantra with which Dawkins starts the second chapter:i
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
I have always wondered what one could answer this foolish but immensely popular statement given by Mr. Dawkins in his equally foolish book, the God Delusion. Sceptics, Atheists, and many un-believers love these kins of rhetoric. It sounds so challenging! It sounds tough. But, in reality it gives away a total misunderstanding of the Biblical God. Minster Dawkins might know a thing or two about biology, but theologically speaking, he fails big time.
So, let’s discuss a few of these titles he so boastfully assigned to the God of the Bible. Let’s see what we can say about it without going into endless debates.
According to the Oxford dictionary, sadomasochists get pleasure from hurting somebody and being hurt, especially during sexual activity.ii If the God of the Bible is a sadomasochist than the questions arise: To whom and from whom?
I just have a hard time to see where this accusation comes from. Is it something which plays a role in Dawkins’ own fantasy? Is it because he, as a mere humanbeing, has certain temptations and as a result can’t imagine that God, or rather Jesus, was able to withstand these temptations.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man
I have no idea! What I do now however, is that we, humans, are tempted all the time.
but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Let me keep this foolish accusation short. Dawkins is taking a huge risk by calling the God of the Bible these names. Not even Satan dared to do this. What’s more, Satan actually uses this kind of perverted sexual lust to snare people in a never-ending loop of sin. Well, never-ending isn’t quite right of course, because we know Jesus can help us escape. Still, when we look at the Bible, we see that God put all sorts of rules in place to keep fornication far away from His children.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 7:1-5
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
A Christian will not exploit, harm or abuse his or her partner. There is no place for sadomasochistic action within a Christian-marriage.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
These laws cannot come from a deprived, sadomasochistic god. These words come from a God who authored everything that is good, just, desirable, and truth. I cannot do else than concluding that Dawkins, and all others who gladly repeat after him, are confused, and their pervert preaching seems to come forth out of their own imaginations. Can it be that the usage of this kind of language betrays their thoughts?
Capriciously Malevolent Bully
Capriciously needs to be seen in a way that someone shows sudden changes in attitude or behaviour without good reason.iii Whereas a malevolent person is someone who is has or shows a desire to harm other people.iv And finally, I think we all know what a bully is, right? A bully is a person who uses their strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people.v
To start with the idea that God would be capricious, or in other words changeable or impulsive. If God is impulsive, it would make Him arbitrary in His acts. On a good day, someone will be saved, but on a bad day the same will be lost. The complaint that God is capricious comes forth out of the assumption that, unless we can explain His doings, we may sit in judgement upon them and him.
For example, the god of Islam is indeed impulsive. Allah might forgive or he might not. No one can will really know whether he does or not. The quaran teaches that Allah cannot be known. He is totally hidden and unpersonal. How different is it with the God of the Bible, YHWH. Yes, He is hidden but revealed Himself in creation and through His son, Jesus Christ. God is not capricious.
God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
God cannot contradict himself. He cannot be what He is not. He cannot do what is contrary to His nature and His nature is just. I think that many are reluctant to seek God because a shallow reading of the Bible makes Him seem so unpredictable. Still, if we honestly read the Bible, we see God the Father acting out in the same way through and through, I mean that His character isn’t changing. True! Sometimes, there were you expect Him to punish He forgives instead. Why is that? That is not because He is changeable! That is because He wants to forgive when possible!
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If we want to accuse God of anything, then it should be of being compassionate and merciful. The apostle John knew this when he wrote his famous words in John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Nothing capricious in that statement!
Here again, Dawkins is just saying the same but in different words. He believes that God has a desire to harm people. Let me just suffice by saying that, the God who commands to love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 19:19), and to do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31), can’t possibly be malevolent in any way. He gave Himself as a ransom, not to harm us but in order to benefit and bless us with a restored relationship.
Really? Do we read about God’s wrath in the Bible? Yes. Does this mean God is a wrathful god who is always looking to seek and destroy anything that comes in his way? Absolutely not. God, although corrective when needed, is a loving and caring Lord.
I think this idea is infused by our own preaching. How often do we try to scare people into believing? How often do we think it is wise to confront unbelievers with hell? True enough, there is a time and place to teach about hell, but I don’t think it is always the best tactic when it comes to evangelism. Did you know that Jesus’ teaching about hell, or the Gehenna as He called it, was mostly, or should I say only, among His followers. He warned His followers for this place but preached in a different way towards the unbelievers.
Then also, throughout the centuries we have seen that certain people used God as an instrument to ‘bully’ dissidents into submission or to ‘bully’ those who were weaker in order to get more money out of them.
What Can we Learn Today?
We, Christians, should be very much aware that people look at us. Unbelievers might even form an idea about God after looking at us. David Will once sang about this idea:vi
You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.
It is a quote that sticks. I am sure the Lord will not limit His grace by showing Himself to unbelievers only once or only though one of us. But it does help us to think a little more cautious about the way we live our lives and the way we share the Good News. Do you even wonder what kind of Jesus you’re showing to the world around you?
No, we don’t have to be perfect for people to see Jesus in us. However, Jesus will shine through us when we live honest, compassionate lives. As said, there is a time to be clear and strict, and there is a time for being kind, loving, and merciful.
Helen Paynter says,vii
that the careless use of some Old Testament stories presented without context and as entertainment to children can be damaging and brutalising.
I too share the discomfort when hearing the violent language of some of the old hymns. And what to think of Psalm 137, which was used by Boney Mviii in the 70s? They did not include the last verse in their lyrics: Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
The ‘flat’, literalist, fundamentalist readings of some biblical texts is not helping our case. Reading the Bible like that can even be dangerous. It is good to know that most biblical, note that I said ‘biblical’, scholars do not hold to that way of reading God’s word.
People, like Dawkins, use a clever trick. They use this unhealthy way of interpreting the Bible as authoritative for the whole of Christian theology, even though it is just a very small group within Christianity that is using this flat literalistic way of reading. Sure enough, there are cases in the Bible were this way of reading is just fine. However, many other events and commands in the Bible need a clear explanation of the context in which they happened or were given. Still, many atheists love to use the ‘flat’, literalistic, fundamentalistic way of exegesis as descriptive of the God that we worship.
We can identify this tactic as a classic ‘straw man’ argument. In this argument they use the weakest version of the opponent’s argument and then start to attack that specific version. That way they seem to get away as the victorious party without ever addressing the strongest version.
Back the Paynters words. I said that I share her discomfort when it comes to the brutal words—not only in old hymns but also in the Bible. The story of Noah is really not that nice at all. Thousands, maybe even millions of people, drowned in a monstrous flood with probably huge mudslides. It is not a bedtime story with some cute animals on a boat. We need to be brave enough to help our children to get the context. We need to be considered when talking about this kind of events with people around us. No, that’s not easy! But we need to try to help others to understand the situation in which God decided to allow certain things to happen. Without proper context, Bible stories can easily become stories about only hatred, while, in reality we can always find God’s goodness in events surround these stories.
This was fifth part of this quote. I hope, and it is my prayer, that people who are troubled by these dumb atheistic ad hominem fallacies, will open their hearts and minds to the word of God.
For the Christians who watch this video, I would like to challenge you not to shy away from these attacks. Study God’s word! Arm your children against these attacks. Don’t think your child will learn this in Sunday school. For the teenagers among you, don’t assume you will get help when the atheists come after you with their vocal attacks. Prepare yourselves, read, study and be ready always!
In any case! Do let me know your ideas in the comments of the video or article below. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video.
I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please take a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video. And finally, you’ll find the links to the other videos I’ve made about this topic… All, in the same description.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and we’ll see each other in the next video!
i Dawkins, R., The God Delusion, Bantam Press, London, 2006, p.31.
ii Oxford University Press, Sadomasochistic, <https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/sadomasochistic> [internet] 2022, accessed 20-10-2022.
iii Oxford University Press, Capriciously, <https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/capriciously> [internet] 2022, accessed 20-10-2022.
iv Oxford University Press, Malevolent, <https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/malevolent> [internet] 2022, accessed 20-10-2022.
v Oxford University Press, Bully, <https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/bully> [internet] 2022, accessed 20-10-2022.
vi David Will, You’re The Only Jesus, The Imperials, Album: Side by side, 1983.
vii Paynter, H., Dead and Buried? Attending to the Voices of the Victim in the Old Testament and Today, Whitley Publications, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, 2018.
viii Boney M. (uploaded 18 Mar 2011). Rivers of Babylon [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/2FgDles4xq8