Many times those who want to reject God on the basis of his being harsh and vindictive resort to the Old Testament where God's justice is the main focus.
Ripping passages out of their context they point to what we consider harsh behavior and reject God as unworthy of following, with atheist Richard Dawkins going as far as to declare that God is unworthy of the universe.
Many seem to think the God of the Old Testament is radically different from the God of the New Testament and they use those perceived differences as a reason to reject the supernatural origins of the Bible.
In doing that, they reject also the authority of the Bible, choosing instead to fabricate a spirituality that is just to their liking. They become an authority unto themselves.
Those who claim that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament only prove that they haven't read either in a serious, in-depth, way.
To be sure, in the Old Testament we see a God of wrath and judgment but we also see a God of love and compassion. Same is true in the New Testament. Look at the book of Revelation and you will be struck with the immensity of God's judicial wrath.
Critics who want to reject both the authority of Scripture and the authority of God over their lives have become experts in presenting half the story.
Others, anxious to live their lives on their own terms, are equally anxious to accept the misrepresentation of the critics as undeniably true. Instead of finding out what the Bible actually says, they merely accept the assessments of the critics and never bother to find out for themselves if what is being said is accurate or not.
Those who reject the Scripture on the basis that it seems to them that the primitive God of the Old Testament, marked by wrath and violence, gives way to the non-discerning God of love in the New Testament (possibly because somewhere along the line he decided the whole wrath and vengeance thing wasn't working), haven't taken the time to read for themselves that which they have chosen to reject.
If you read the Old Testament you will find verses like Exodus 34:6-7, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6 7, NIV84).
In a graphic example of this truth, the Prophet Jonah is called upon by God to go and preach to the city of Nineveh. Jonah is not happy about that; he hates the Assyrians. He grew up watching them raid the towns of Northern Israel where he grew up. He saw them commit horrendous crimes that would make even Hitler seem like a choir boy.
Why doesn't he want to go? Let him tell you from his own pen, "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, 'O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. 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 4:1 2, NIV84).
Jonah, who lived in what many consider to the dark ages of God's character development, recognizes the truth about the God of the Old Testament that critics try to cover up. Namely, that He is still pictured as the God of infinite compassion, mercy and love.
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.