I was browsing through Ebon Muse website Daylight Atheism and I found Ten Questions to Ask Your Pastor. I am a pastor’s wife and I decided to provide my answers to these questions. My answers are brief, but I hope that they get to the essence of each question in a way that is fair and respectful to the question. If anyone would like me to elaborate on a point or a question later please ask me in the comment and I will try and accommodate you. I will post my answers in two post dividing them five questions at a time due to cut down on the length of doing it as one post. I welcome you to read and to think about my answers, some are repetitive of topics I have addressed before, but are readdressed for the sake of answering this particular list of questions.
1. Why is God called loving or merciful when, in the Old Testament's stories of the Israelite conquest, he specifically orders his chosen people to massacre their enemies, showing no mercy to men, women, even children and animals?
The Old Testament shows us the natural consequence of sin. It shows us the severity of sin and the problem of sin. God physically gave them laws for their protection. These laws were not His whims, but rules to protect their heart and life. They needed to know these things and they needed external enforcement of these rules so that they could taste the goodness of life instead of taking on the weight of sin. God did not at this point co-habitat with man in our hearts for that was going to be made available once Christ came and fulfilled the requirements of the law and showed us and enabled us to live a new way a better way.
In the Old Testament, God was showing them His power. He demonstrated His authority. He gave them leaders to show them how to live in a way that was not going to lead to their destruction. He spoke to the people through Prophets and he gave them warning after warning. He was patient with them. Consider Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn the people that their ways were going to cause their destruction and they needed to repent. (Repentance means change the way you think turning around away from the path of destruction. It doesn’t mean being really sorry.) The people did just that and were saved from destruction. It wasn’t God’s desire to destroy them for their actions, if it were He simply would have done it without sending Jonah to warn them. Jonah is actually dismayed that God saved them; he says “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2) He says this is why he didn’t want to waste his time warning the people, because he knew God could relent. He didn’t understand why he had to go through the trouble of warning them when God wasn’t going to end up destroying them. His selfishness was showing through. God tells him, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11)
If you pull these stories often cited by atheists out of context of the whole of what the Bible reveals to us about God it will look like God is a vindictive annihilator. I am not sure how you can read through Scripture and miss the warnings, the mercy, the compassion and see that all acts of judgment were few and far between and very slow in coming. But when you learn more and you see His holiness in context of His love and goodness and His justice in context of His goodness you will see more clearly. When Moses is working with God to free the Israelites, God sends these plagues as warnings to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He doesn’t come sweeping in and destroy them all and have Moses leave with his people. He is patient. More patient than the Israelites wanted Him to be. He gives ample time for Pharaoh to do the right thing and when Pharaoh remains resolute in the face of all the demonstrations of God’s power, the consequences of His rebellion are brought to fruition.
Also many who are adamant about God having done something unjust the few times He exacted judgment must consider if they believe there is ever a just war? Is there ever a just reason for bloodshed on a human level? If so, why do you not see that there could also be a just reason that God had for doing what He did? We who can’t see the whole picture of the outcome of a war, or the outcome of a battle can see good reasons for going to war and taking lives even when some of those lives will be innocent lives of citizens and not soldiers. Yet God sees the big pictures, He knows the complete ramifications of His actions and He knows the hearts of man to know what the eternal consequences may be and what choices they would make if left to their own ways. Do you not think a perfect God capable of making such a choice and it be good? We have this idea in our minds that good always means pleasant and that just isn’t correct.
2. Does it make sense to claim, as the Bible does, that wrongdoing can be forgiven by magically transferring the blame from a guilty person to an innocent one, then punishing the innocent person?
Does this question forget about question one where it is proposed that God is wrong to punish a guilty person? One can’t have it both ways.
God shows us the severity of sin and then shows us the One who will take the pain of sin for us so that we can be redeemed and free from the judgment. It is a loving act. It isn’t a logical act. Is it logical for any person to die so another can live simply because of love? Yet this happens all the time. One person takes the bullet for another protecting the other by their love and sacrificing themselves. If a created person can act in such a way, why are we confused by a perfect person, Jesus, doing so?
3. Why does the Bible routinely depict God as manifesting himself in dramatic, unmistakable ways and performing obvious miracles even before the eyes of nonbelievers, when no such thing happens in the world today?
How do you know no such things happen today? I’ve seen them happen today. I’ve read countless stories of them happening today. I’ve met many people who can tell me example after example of it happening today. His miracles are a sign of His existence, His love, His kindness, His authority and the power that He gives to those who walk with Him through life. He demonstrates His love through us by healing the sick. We live in an age of an increase of miracles happening in and outside the Church. Many are happening in the malls, on the streets, and in daily life as we Christians are out about our business. Many Christians are actively going out and seeking the sick and injured and physically handicap to bring healing to them and many are seeing results, not every time, but enough to know God’s still doing miracles.
4. Why do vast numbers of Christians still believe in the imminent end of the world when the New Testament states clearly that the apocalypse was supposed to happen 2,000 years ago, during the lifetime of Jesus' contemporaries?
The Bible does not state that it was going to happen 2,000 years ago. Jesus said before this generation passes away you will see the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is here now and is demonstrated in the lives of each believer. Moreover, I do not believe the world will end. I believe the corruption of the world will end, but not the world. The Bible says that what can be shaken will fall away but what is unshakeable will remain. It also said the corruptible will put on incorruptibility meaning that what is now corrupted will be restored to something not-corrupted. The earth isn’t going anywhere because God gave humans authority and dominion over the earth. The earth will be made new and sin and corruption will be gone from it one day, but it’s not going to be destroyed.
5. Why do Christians believe in the soul when neurology has found clear evidence that the sense of identity and personality can be altered by physical changes to the brain?
The soul is something spiritual, not physical. I’m not sure science could find something metaphysical. I have not researched this area of science so I really can’t say more than that.