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Concerning The Nature Of God

Discussion in 'Bible Study' started by Niel_W, May 20, 2014.

  1. I want to pose a religiously philosophical question that occurred to me. I was recently thinking about the nature of God in Christianity, and I came across a few contradictions that I found were worth exploring.

    First off I just want to confirm three important points that, from my experience as a Christian, form the foundation of God:

    1. God and His Word are unchanging. (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17)
    2. The God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament
    3. Jesus was the physical incarnation of God (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:16)

    A perceptive reader may begin to understand where this is going. If you really comprehend what these three statements are saying, then you will see that it is logically impossible for them to all coexist.

    The root of the problem lies in whether the God in the Old Testament is the same God as the one in the New Testament. Traditional Christianity would state that, yes, they are the same. However, the OT portrays a ruthless, vengeful God of racial elitism who directs his people to kill those of different cultures and beliefs. The NT, on the other hand, is, through Christ, a compassionate and merciful God who stresses the importance of love and forgiveness. Clearly, there is a change that takes place between these. How is it that these two vastly different personalities of God can be of one who does not change? Furthermore, in the New Testament, we are introduced to the idea of Salvation and the Holy Spirit, which is a change to God’s Word from the former “eye for an eye” doctrine.

    There are two solutions as I see it. The first is that they are actually two different Gods. I don’t mean this in the blasphemous or idolatrous way of having two physical Gods. Instead, that one is simply mythological - not in a derogatory way, but rather to mean He was man made, or even mystically experienced, for the purpose of explaining life and providing social order from a spiritual base. This would most likely be applied to the Old Testament God, seeing that He shares many traits with the governing gods of other ancient religions. The second solution is that God does in fact change. However, this would initiate the need for a major alteration of the Christian doctrine. If God changed His ways between the OT and the NT, then the scriptures are either inaccurate or their meaning is buried deeper than we’re looking. The rising issue with this is that of morality and the way to please God. In the OT, to worship God, you had to offer certain sacrifices and perform specific rituals. That was drastically changed when God sent Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice. Who’s to say that our approach to God can’t be different today? Who’s to say that the morality of 2,000 years ago has to be upheld the same way today? We would have to rewire our perspective on how God can be relevant in modern times.

    Now, the third belief, that Jesus is the manifestation of God, relies on which of the first two are deemed true. If God truly is an unchanging God, then that means Jesus was only the manifestation of either the OT or NT one, because they’re too different to be one unchanging being, as I pointed out. It would make most sense for Jesus to have been the NT God because His teachings were not the same as the OT God. However, God Himself doesn’t make much of an appearance in the NT, except for the Baptism scene, where God acknowledges Jesus as His son. So, all we know about the NT God is from Jesus, considering the OT God is a fabrication (again, not derogatory). This would make the mystics’ perception of Jesus more accurate. The mystics believe that Jesus was a manifestation of God, but not the only one. Under their view, Jesus was the roughly first in Western culture to realize that God is within us already (Luke 17:20-21) and by certain spiritual practices, like prayer, we could all become what Jesus was, with love, compassion, and forgiveness as the true qualities of God. This is difficult for Christians, because the doctrine is that only Jesus was God and that we are forever sinful and imperfect. However, if the God of the OT is merely a symbol, then there is little evidence that there is a One True God that literally became human to die. Jesus becomes an archetype for us to follow and imitate to the explicit extent of actually becoming who Jesus was.

    Finally, if the OT God and the NT God are in fact the same, then we’ve concluded that God can in fact change, rendering the scripture only applicable to the times and culture they were written. Under this view, the One God came to earth as a human to tell us the He was changing his doctrine from “follow the law, love your neighbor, and eye for an eye” to “the Law no longer binds us, love your enemies, and turn the other cheek”. There is no denying that this is certainly a change and that this definitely goes against the statement that God is an unchanging God. So in this option, Jesus can still be the literal and single manifestation of the One God.

    So, now we have either:

    1. God is unchanging
    2. The OT God is a symbol, while the NT God is within us
    3. Jesus was a man who attained union with God


    1. God can change
    2. The OT God and the NT God are the same
    3. Jesus was God making a change

    I realize that this is based on philosophical technicalities, but each option does force us to change our interpretation of the Bible and the whole Christian belief. The matter can’t just be “taken in faith” because faith depends exclusively on the nature of God, which is at stake here.

    I hope this is thought provoking. I’m only just getting started with researching this subject and I’m hoping I’ll get some insightful feedback.
  2. God has never changed. He is the same God of both covenants!

    God is neither ruthless nor vengeful, but He is just and at the same time merciful. He is still a God that hates sin and will pour out His wrath on it one day.

    What you do not seem to understand is that God works in dispensations. We are fortunate to be living after the cross in the age of God's great mercy. He has sent His Son to come and bear the sins of the world on His body, and all the punishment due them fell upon Him. This is His grace in action---and this is how He can extend mercy upon us, for the sake of His precious Son, who is now building His Church. This is the time for building His Kingdom! God is extending His mercy and reserving His wrath for the set time He has set aside for Judgment.

    Make no mistake. God is not changed. You are simply looking at Him from the vantage point of His wonderful mercy.
  3. Maybe I was slightly vague. This was my first draft and I didn't really proof read. Let me clarify
    I understand the premise that the crucifixion is a gift of grace and that we have the opportunity at redemption until the Last Judgement. BUT, isn't to 'work in dispensations' proof of change? To have separate ages or time periods, something has to change to get from one to the next. It's like the cycle of seasons; does summer not change to fall? And fall to winter? It's clear that to have a period without grace and salvation is much different than one with. Difference implies change. Mercy and wrath are different and change is required to go from one to the next. That's what we witness from the OT to the NT, and then from the NT to Revelation (if you interpret it as literal future events, which is debatable) but scripture indicates that God does not change.
  4. God doesn't change. He simply moves from one way of dealing with man to another. It isn't a change of who He is. A parent deals with one's growing child throughout his/her stages of development, and for that matter, the parent deals with each child within the same family in ways that are appropriate for that individual child, but that parent is the same person, acting within the parameters of his/her character.
  5. Being a free will theist I would disagree with point #1 that God is unchanging. There was a very definite change between the old and the new covenants that changed our relationship with God. We went from sinners covered by the blood of bulls and goats through to becoming adopted sons through Jesus sacrifice.
  6. Heb 1:1 ¶ God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
    2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
    3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

    2Co 3:13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.
    14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.
    15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.
    16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
    17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
    18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
  7. #7 Abdicate, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
    Look at it like this: The law of gravity says I cannot fly. But there is another law, the law of aerodynamics that supersedes the law of gravity. This law allows me to fly.

    The God of the OT demands perfection. The God of the NT demands perfection. Jesus' death on the cross superseded the law of perfection because Jesus took His perfection, paid the price for our imperfection, and gave us His perfection. His righteousness to us and our punishment for sin to Him.

    Here's a story one told me once:

    In a country there was a judge of the highest court in the land whose son had committed a crime and there was overwhelming evidence of which the public was aware that the son was guilty. The son came before the court where his father was the judge to be tried for his crimes. Having heard the evidence the judge rose and declared the son to be not guilty in defiance of the evidence because he loved his son. Now, would we consider this judge to be just, no. Would the judge command any respect in the future, no. Could the judge continue to be a judge in light of this unjust ruling, certainly not.

    Now, an alternative version.

    In a country there was a judge of the highest court in the land whose son had committed a crime and there was overwhelming evidence of which the public was aware that the son was guilty. The son came before the court where his father in was the judge to be tried for his crimes. Having heard the evidence the judge rose, declared the son to be guilty, and imposed the maximum fine of $1,000.00. The judge then stands up and lays aside his gavel, removes his wig and his gown (which are the trappings of his power), steps down from his bench and walks onto the floor of the court room; he then approaches the clerk of the court, pulls out his wallet and pays the $1,000.00 fine on behalf of his son. He then returns to the bench, puts his wig and gown back on and picks up his gavel again thus returning to his power over the court. Now, would we consider this judge to be just, yes. Would the judge command any respect in the future, yes. Could the judge continue to be a judge in light of this unjust ruling, absolutely.

    Jesus' last word in Greek on this earth before He died was "It is finished" That word is: Τετέλεσται

    Jesus paid for the sins of men.

    Colossians 2:10-15 (KJV)
    And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
    Cosmicwaffle likes this.
  8. Context is what is missing for you. Jesus knew and followed the scriptures, which were the Old Testament, also known as the law, given to the Jewish people. So on many accounts of Jesus taking on the Pharisees, it is clear that His Father is the God of the New Testament and the Old, same God. Jesus also corrects the Pharisees on divorce, among other things (sabbath), stating the idea of divorce was not so at the beginning. God allowed Moses to give this to them because of their hard hearts. So God made exceptions/additions as the people needed them. The laws of this so called "mean" God were meant for a hard hearted, wild, out of control people to teach and tame them over time. Grace was here then and grace is here now. Only the people changed over time and God dealt with them accordingly.
  9. An example, however imperfect it may be, is how a parent raises a child from infant to adult. A good parent sets rules for the children to follow. You may have to be harsh with the child from time to time. A toddler may need a spanking or their hands smacked for trying to play with an electrical socket. A child who bites others needs to be stopped. When your child is in danger, steps need to be taken to minimize the risk and teach the child to avoid the hazards. Many times I thought my parents, especially my dad, were unfair and just plain mean. As an adult you see the need for what they did and are thankful they made the hard choices to teach discipline. Parents sacrifice their treasure to help the child with college, a wedding, or other major choices and undertakings.

    In the same way, God had to wait to send His Son until mankind was ready to understand His sacrifice and accept it. He was harsh with mankind at times because of their immaturity. Now that we have grown culturally beyond spending all our time procuring food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs, He can deal with us more philosophically, explaining the "why" so we will understand, rather than the "because I said so" way of dealing with children who are lacking the ability to comprehend the "why".
    Cosmicwaffle and Euphemia say Amen and like this.
  10. How did you miss Jonah 4:2? So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

    Then there is Psalm 51:17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

    and Lev 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

    The only thing missing in the NT is that there is no longer a 'chosen' Jewish race...to protect....to keep holy...for Jesus.

    So lets '''judge''' God here. We have a Jewish race that just escaped Egypt. News of this miracle must have traveled fast. News of the sea parting and God being with them, even faster.

    Now if you were a leader, knowing that this race of GOD FEARING people who CLEARLY had God on their side...was coming to your territory, in desperation, would you not, open your doors and welcome them in?

    Nations got annihilated because they opposed a good God and His good people.

    His people lived under the harshest laws ever seen by mankind....they stoned someone for adultery. For murder. Surely if any of them approved / respected the good laws they had and strived to uphold, God and them would have had mercy...

    When we look at Sodom and Gomorrah, non Jewish cities....you think God would not do that today? 2 Pet 2:1 gives us an indication that He will '
    But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves'. We just need to use lateral thought and grasp that since the cross, we can be 'children of God'. God is now able to distribute us all over the world like salt. So there will never be a Sodom and Gomorrah as there will be many Christians there. But lets make no mistake that God deals with the wicked....when they reach a point of no return...as He always has.

    Do you have scripture for your racist comment? or any other. I think fruitful discussion would be dealing with the actual examples and scripture, not making assumptions.

    The Holy Spirit was there OT. Eye for an eye was in law given to the Jews....not the Chinese....or the Russians.....or the American Indians. As Christians we can certainly understand God's heart behind them too. Murder is evil. Adultery is evil. There will not be any such in Heaven, OT or NT.

    Jesus comes when the world as a whole becomes like Sodom and Gomorrah, then God will deal with the wicked as He did OT.
  11. #11 aha, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
    Yes indeed, I think it is philosophical technicalities....

    A little math I think will help to explain : )

    10.... then hundreds, then hundreds more of equations.... yes, seems changing...
    But the sum of the laws and prophets is timeless, unchanging…

    What is the "sum" means?

    Imo: it is the spirit of the law....

    The spirit of the law is higher than the legal form, legal appearance of the law...
  12. Would you mind sharing where your quote is from?
  13. #13 aha, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
    Quote? you mean my proposed answer?

    I used to take some taxation course : )

    There is this principle called ‘substance over legal form”…

    That is, the substance of the law is higher than the text, the legal form.

    Substance Over Form Doctrine is the doctrine which allows the tax authorities to ignore the legal form of an arrangement and to look to its actual substance in order to prevent artificial structures from being used for tax avoidance purposes.
  14. Many people, especially atheists, see contradictions in God's actions and cannot reconcile the God of love and the God of wrath as the same God. What I see them do is take culture and behaviors of mankind today, which they understand because they live and experience it, cultures and behaviors which have been HEAVILY influenced by Christianity, (Christ), over the centuries, and make judgments of ancient times, assuming ancient peoples were "just like us" in terms of wants, desires and doing the right thing.
    If someone stole something from you, or raped you, or any other kind of offense against you, there was no police to call to help you, no ambulance to help, no guns to defend yourself. The only thing to rely on was your extended family unit or tribe, or the governing entity(king), if you were in his good graces and if it wasn't the king himself who was the one stealing, raping or otherwise offending.
    People cannot imagine the level of evil which occurred in ancient times. Asked "What is the worst thing ever done by humans?" and you will probably get, "Hitler and extermination camps", or, "Stalin and his killing of anyone who stood in his way", or , "the crusades" or "Spanish Inquisition", or whatever. Just try to understand what God was dealing with in the OT. Marauding bands of rapists in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis and Gibeah in the book of Judges chapter 19 show just a little of what went on in some towns and cities. Before the Flood, every desire of mankind's heart was only evil, all the time. Imagine the worst things you hear of on the news: rapes, killings, tortures; and this is what was happening all the time from everyone, except Noah and his family.
    2 Kings 6:24-29 tells of two women who entered into a pact that, since they were starving, they would cook and eat each of their sons. They cooked and ate the first one, but the mother of the other son hid her son. Yeah, real civilized people there.
    Why did the followers of Baal need to be wiped out? They were known for killing their children as a sacrifice to their "god". Sexual deviants were pervasive. How bad do you, as God, let it get before doing something about it? None of us has the long-suffering mercy to allow sinful people to go on living, hoping for them to repent of their ways.
    Thankfully God has sent Jesus at the right time to change the course of history, and while we still are born with sin and evil in our being, we now are able to be saved from ourselves and become what God had intended us to be in the first place. Jesus makes the difference.
    Euphemia likes this.
  15. As far as "does God change?", He, himself, is not bipolar or schizophrenic in that He is angry God one century, and merciful, happy God the next. He does change how He deals with people, based on what those people need, and where they are in their life.
    1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
    12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

    So, here we see the promise that when we need the help, it will be there. Other times He lets us get through on our own to learn and grow spiritually. God deals with us depending on our choices. And since our choices change when we learn of the better way, the way God deals with us will change. God is the same, yet we see different revealings of Him based on the circumstances of what we need.
    CCW95A likes this.
  16. If we want to understand the nature of God all we have to do look to ourselves. God is not like us, we are like God. If we get angry, God gets angry, if we rejoice, God rejoices. When we show mercy, God shows mercy. We have the same desires to do what is right, and we know when we or others do wrong. We get upset when unrighteousness prevails, and we rejoice when truth rules. We inherited these same traits from our maker. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to remove the memory of them from all the earth."
    Are we not the same in our actions when we see evil, or when we see righteousness prevailing? God's thoughts on sin will never change, and the penalty for it will never change. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." There is no get out of death card available to keep one from such a penalty, and God will never change his mind about it. His Word is steadfast in this regard. The only way the Lord could keep true to his Word and still save his man that he loves required Wisdom that the Devil did not know or he would have never crucified the Lord of Glory. The penalty for sin is death. Once a man dies thats it, you can not bring him back to life, and the Devil knew that. What the Devil did not know was God already knew all who would accept his Son as their savior and he placed them in Christ before the world began, so that when Jesus lived a sinless life and then died on the cross all those in him would also die. But since a sinless man died without sin he was not holden to death, and being raised back to life from the dead we also who were in him would also be given life. The penalty for sin was paid without breaking God's Word. We became righteous by being in a man called Christ Jesus, in exactly the same way we became sinners by being in a man called Adam.
  17. You seem to be confused about the truth of the gospel?

    2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

  18. Let me ask you this then... You say that the law of the crucifixion supersedes the law of perfection, as the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity. This is correct. However, there was a time when we didn't know about aerodynamics. We thought it impossible that we could fly. Did the people of the old testament know that the future generations' relationship with God was going to be drastically changed through the crucifixion? Sure, there were prophecies of the Messiah, but no specifics were outlined. If something like this could take place, what's to say that we're just not aware of another change to come? What if our generations are like those between the OT and the NT? You could use the End Times argument as the next "era", but remember: the Messiah was predicted. They knew he was coming. What they got, however, was drastically different than what they expected. What this means is that you can't be so confidant in the consistency of these beliefs.
  19. Niel, The Old Testament prophets did not have a clue to what was coming in which they prophesied about. After being used by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the Word of God, they searched diligently looking for answers to what they just prophesied about. It was finally revealed to them that it was not to them, but to us that these things would have meaning. All these things were written to the New Testament saints for our learning.

    1Pe 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
    1Pe 1:11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
    1Pe 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

    Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
  20. I guess we need to agree to a definition of "change". Here are the common definitions:
    1. To make or become different
    2. Make or become a different substance entirely

    Now, in regard to the first one: to become different. This is when the qualities of object go from one way to the next. For example, we say "the traffic light changed from red to green". Now, the traffic light is still a traffic light, but it has gone through a transformation in which its qualities and its purpose are now different. Perhaps more closely related to our discussion would be when the demeanor or personality of a person is altered. A person who was at one time a happy, outgoing person returns after some time and is now a depressed, angry cynic. We say to that person "you've changed". The person is still himself, but with drastically different qualities. This is the type of change that occurred between the OT and NT in God and the relationship between Him and Man. He is still considered the same "God" yet each have clear and distinct qualities. One is of order and justice, while the other is of love and mercy. Now, even if God stresses a particular quality at one time or another, this fluctuation in trait is still a shift.

    Definition two implies that the very object becomes an entirely different object. A proper illustration is the growth of a seed into a plant. We no longer call a flower a seed, even though we know its history. A less accurate, but still sufficient example is the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Considering that God is without physical form, and can only be judged by His qualities, we have to admit that this change did in fact take place. Although it has been argued, there is little evidence of consistency between OT and NT. There is no cherubim guarding the gates, there isn't any fire and sulfur raining from the heavens, there are no tests to kill a loved one. In fact it is the exact opposite. Therefore, if God is measured by His qualities, and His qualities certainly did see a change, then the only conclusion under this definition of change is that God has changed form.

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