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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
Is the God of the Old Testament Different from the God of the New Testament?

This week's question comes from Donna in Loganville. She asks, "Why is the God of the Old Testament such an angry, wrathful God? I thought God was love and was the same yesterday, today, and always."

The crux of the answer is "world view." A world view is the set of presuppositions, or the lens, through which one "sees" or understands the world--especially life and life's events. Since the days of the Enlightenment much of our world view has become, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." The causes of reactions or consequences are generally attributed to a previous action. For example, people in high numbers are contracting skin cancer, but we understand our actions affecting the ozone layer are to blame.

Between the Babylonian captivity of Israel (actually, Judah) and the Enlightenment the cause of evil or unfortunate events were generally attributed to the devil. Certainly, this is the world view the New Testament writers were under. Throughout the New Testament the persecution of the Christians, many illnesses including psychoses, and all manner of terrible events were attributed to the workings of Satan and his league.

However, the composers of the Old Testament had a very different world view than we. To begin with, the Israelite understanding of a devil or Satan as an evildoer was not developed until Israel's exposure to the Persian liberators of late 500 BCE (Before the Common Era). The Persian religion had a dualistic nature, that is, good vs. evil, that seems to have been adopted/adapted by the Israelite faith. The concept of Satan was included in only the latest stories contained in the Old Testament (the one exception is found in 1 Chronicles 21.1 which is thought to be an addition by the redactors who compiled, edited, and finalized the Old Testament circa 400 BCE). Note that the serpent in the Genesis 2-3 creation story isn't thought to be Satan until the New Testament--in the Old Testament it is just a crafty animal). Before the introduction to the Persian faith the Israelite world view was that God was in charge of all the good and evil that happened in the world.

This is clearly seen in many of the psalms where God is called on to stop bringing hardships on the faithful (cf. Psalm 88) and even to "Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again" (Psalm 39.13). But beyond the psalms, the whole of the Old Testament is a testament itself to this view. Virtually every war, every petulance, every natural disaster, every invasion, and every command to slaughter foe and innocents alike is attributed to God. Indeed, in this early world view it seems nearly every single action in nature and even by nations is controlled by God--God causes droughts (Genesis 41.28ff; 1 Kings 17.1), storms (1 Kings 19.11; Psalm 29), wars (2 Kings 24.20; 2 Kings 17.22-23), and God even keeps people from doing "the right thing (Exodus 7.3; Joshua 11.19-20).

It isn't that God has changed since the beginning of time, the story of the creation, especially in Genesis 2, shows the love and compassion God has for creation from the very beginning. Instead, it is the world view of those relating to God that has changed. When every event, including disasters, wars, and deaths, are attributed/blamed on God, then God comes out looking wrathful, vengeful, and sometimes even malevolent. However, today our world view generally isn't so. Most Christians are still inclined to include demonic forces as the cause of many events rather than God, but many are blaming less on either God or Satan, choosing instead to see the consequences of our own actions as the cause of much of our discomfort.

So, no God isn't any different from Genesis 1.1 until now, only the view about God has changed.

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