Following God’s example?

By Kevin Parry

I am not an expert on the Bible, but there are some things in that book that I find incredibly disconcerting, especially when it comes to God’s moral conduct. It is often said that a leader who is worthy of respect is a leader who sets an example. When I read through the pages of the Bible, I become more convinced that if the God of the Bible exists, he is the type of leader I will not follow, simply because he sets an example that at times I find morally objectionable. I’ve written this post in the realisation that I could be mistaken, that it is possible that I’ve missed something. If so, please let me know where I’ve gone wrong.

One of the arguments for the truth of Christianity, put forward by various apologists, including CS Lewis, is that all humans are endowed with a moral sense of right and wrong. Due to the fact that this objective, moral sense exists, there must be a Moral Law Giver (i.e., God).

For arguments sake, let’s accept that this divine moral sense exists. Now, the problem is this: as a human being I must have been endowed with a slightly different moral sense than that of the God of the Bible. Why? Well, there are instances of God’s conduct that differ substantially from what I, and many others, consider to be ‘moral’.

A few examples:

  • Many would consider it immoral to kill an innocent human being, especially if it is a child. The God of the Old Testament, however, ordered the Israelite nation to kill children (1 Samuel 15:3). As a Christian, would you kill a child if God ordered you to do it? If God orders it, is it moral?
  • Many would consider it immoral to implement the death penalty for mundane, victimless actions. Again, the God of the Bible seems to act otherwise: think of the death of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8) who was struck down dead for simply trying to stop the Ark of the Covenant from toppling over. Also think of the thousands who perished simply because King David held a census (2 Samuel 24:1-15). And what of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) who were killed for simply lying?
  • Many would consider it illogical to hold individuals accountable for the crimes of their parents or their ancestors. According to Exodus 20:5 and 2 Samuel 12:7-14, the God of the Bible seems to hold individuals guilty by association.
  • Many would consider it just for a person to be judged by their actions, but according to conservative Christian doctrine, we are not saved by who we are in terms of character, or by the deeds that we perform. Instead, we are judged on the small act of belief. Mass murderers who surrender to Jesus on their deathbeds will be welcomed into heaven, but those who do not believe in the Christian message, but who have devoted their lives to charity and social causes, will go to hell.

Am I interpreting the Bible correctly here? When I read the Bible, these are some of the questions that I ponder: why does God order humans to follow a moral system that he himself does not adhere to? Why are some of his actions in conflict with the moral sense that many people – including most Christians – follow today? Why the double standard?

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