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Is Barker right (or at least in possession of responsibly justified belief) in his book title: “God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction”?


barkervsgodbkcovIt seems atheist Dan Barker has built on a notorious remark by Mr Dawkins and has published a book bearing the title as headlined.

The question immediately arises: is he right, or is he holding a responsibly justified belief even were it in error?

A glance at the Amazon page for the book gives the following summary:

>>What words come to mind when we think of God? Merciful? Just? Compassionate? In fact, the Bible lays out God’s primary qualities clearly: jealous, petty, unforgiving, bloodthirsty, vindictive—and worse! Originally conceived as a joint presentation between influential thinker and bestselling author Richard Dawkins and former evangelical preacher Dan Barker, this unique book provides an investigation into what may be the most unpleasant character in all fiction . . . [NB: here, here, here, here, here, here & here as well as here may be helpful for those struggling with questions and concerns, as a starter.]>>

It would seem here — simply on the strength of the blurb — that, even though this book (released Feb 2) is currently no 1 in Amazon’s Religious Philosophy listing, on its face as presented it fails the basics of both theology and philosophy.

Indeed, from the just quoted and the source reference in Dawkins’ the God Delusion:


. . . it seems to be attempting well-poisoning as dismissal on a poisoned strawman caricature set alight with incendiary rhetoric fuelled by obvious resentment of God as just judge and loving creator who redeems by the self sacrifice of the incarnate Son.

Not to mention, we need to ponder the worldview foundations issue — cf. here on, esp. here on as well as here at UD —  that the ontology of a credibly contingent cosmos calls for necessary root being, and that the nature of our own experience of ourselves calls for a foundation of moral government which can only be found at the root level of reality.

Thence, we find the issue that the only serious candidate — after centuries of debates — is the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of respect, loyalty and the reasonable and responsible service of doing the good in accord with our nature and that of those who are of like  nature as ourselves.

Where, of course, we see real primary characteristics here.

Not to more than mention that, as a primary, root characteristic of the God of ethical theism (and of Biblical theism . . . I AM THAT  I AM) God is the necessary root being of reality and thus eternal. Once a serious candidate necessary being is on the table, it is either actual as foundational to a world existing, or else there is an impossibility of being similar to what blocks a square circle from existing.

One finds it hard not to conclude on the likes of the above remarks, that clever rhetorical quips about God as being a feature of fiction are leading the New Atheists to dodge a serious worldviews warrant issue.

Not a good sign.

As further food for thought, let us ponder the parable of Plato’s Cave and Jesus’ rejoinder in the Sermon on the Mount, in the onward context of what matches we may be playing with should evolutionary materialist atheism prevail in our civilisation and move the Overton Window in the interests of whatever agendas are lurking in the shadow shows:


[youtube UQfRdl3GTw4]

By contrast with Barker and Dawkins, let me here present what Locke — in laying the ideas foundation for modern liberty and democratic self government — cited from “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker” in his 2nd Treatise on Civil Gov’t, Ch 2 Sec. 5:

>>. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature [–> which in the relevant world of ideas ties back to our common creation in God’s image, by whatever means], as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]>>

Going beyond, are we in fact only seeing the working out of what the Apostle Paul pointed to in Eph 4:

>>Eph 4:17 So this I say, and solemnly affirm together with the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the [unbelieving] Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds [and in the foolishness and emptiness of their souls], 18 for their [moral] understanding is darkened and their reasoning is clouded; [they are] alienated and self-banished from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the [willful] ignorance and spiritual blindness that is [deep-seated] within them, because of the hardness and insensitivity of their heart.

19 And they, [the ungodly in their spiritual apathy], having become callous and unfeeling, have given themselves over [as prey] to unbridled sensuality, eagerly craving the practice of every kind of impurity [that their desires may demand].

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way! 21 If in fact you have [really] heard Him and have been taught by Him, just as truth is in Jesus [revealed in His life and personified in Him], 22 that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, 23 and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], 24 and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].

25 Therefore, rejecting all falsehood [whether lying, defrauding, telling half-truths, spreading rumors, any such as these], speak truth each one with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one another [and we are all parts of the body of Christ].

26 Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down.

27 And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness] . . . [AMP] >>

. . . and in Rom 1:

>Rom 1:18 For [God does not overlook sin and] the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in their wickedness suppress and stifle the truth, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them [in their inner consciousness], for God made it evident to them.

20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.

21 For even though [d]they knew God [as the Creator], they did not [e]honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God for [f]an image [worthless idols] in the shape of mortal man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles.

[–> Then, as idolatrous images in temples, now perhaps as claimed scientific reconstructions embedded in museums, texts, books, images on TV and in multimedia files etc and used to create the rhetorical impression of overwhelming scientific support for an evolutionary materialistic worldview. But in fact such a worldview is inevitably self-referentially incoherent, self-falsifying and collapses of its own weight.]

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], 25 because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! . . . .

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or consider Him worth knowing [as their Creator], God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are improper and repulsive, 29 until they were filled (permeated, saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice and mean-spiritedness. They are gossips [spreading rumors], 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors [of new forms] of evil, disobedient and disrespectful to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful [without pity]. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree and His judgment, that those who do such things deserve death, yet they not only do them, but they even [enthusiastically] approve and tolerate others who practice them. [AMP] >>

I am inclined to think so and to warn on the implications of playing with the matches of amorality and resentful rage towards the justice of God.

But the pros and cons will have to be discussed, so let us proceed to ponder the balance of issues, as a part of the wider context of worldview and life/cultural agenda issues relevant to UD, its readers and its objectors. END

PS: John Lennox gives food for thought for New Atheists:

[youtube KBlldaLkEHc]

PPS: U/D Feb 14, I suggest that comment 16 be viewed as a response to some early comments.

EA, food for thought. KF kairosfocus
I happen to agree that there is much in the Old Testament that is strange and shocking and, to our 21st century sensibilities, outrageous. I've even had the thought once or twice while reading, "I'm not sure I'd want my kids reading this stuff!" However . . . There are a couple of basic fundamental issues that anti-religious and anti-Judeo-Christian propagandists tend to miss. First, the Old Testament is not some sanctimonious, sterilized, white-washed document drummed up to convert the masses. If it were, it would probably be all sunshine and flowers. Rather, it presents real issues, difficulties and challenges of flawed humans struggling to understand their relationship to God -- all within the context of their own cultural and political and social and ethnic baggage. Ironically, this very human and flawed picture argues for the Old Testament's overall authenticity (broadly understood, not in some textual-perfection kind of sense). Second, critics of the harshness of the Old Testament, in particular the acts that seem somewhat barbaric to us today, almost never put the Old Testament into the proper context of the world of the time. Compared to other contemporary cultures of the time, the Israelite approach, as commanded by their God, was rather accommodating and loving and even quite progressive in certain respects. Does it meet with our politically-correct sensitivities of today? Not in all respects, and certainly not for those who pursue political correctness in contradiction to Biblical teachings. But much of the vociferous complaining about the Bible seems to be more a result of our failure to understand and appreciate the culture and the times, than it is a failing of the book itself. ----- As a separate, but highly related, point. Much of the complaining about God's personality or character or attributes is oh so similar to the complaints about the existence of evil in the world. And it is really borne of a similar group of sentiments. There is a very pervasive attitude among secular intellectuals that goes something like this: "If there were a God, I know what he would be like. He would be nice all the time, there would be no pain, no sorrow, no discomfort. Everyone would love everyone and all would be Paradise. Since life isn't like that, there must not be a God." Puerile. Juvenile. Illogical. Not an impressive intellectual or philosophical approach. Eric Anderson
D, Try this:
2 Cor 10: 3 For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. 4 The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ . . . {AMP]
KF kairosfocus
SM, serious thought; care to elaborate? KF kairosfocus
D, I should note, most of the brackets are AMP Bible, bringing out shades of the Gk, I only pointed to our parallels to C1 pagans. KF kairosfocus
Food for sobering thought given Rom 1 and Eph 4, cf. OP above.
Yes, the inclusion of Ephesians 4:17-27 and Romans 1:18-32 -along with the embedded comments delimited by square brackets- made your OP a powerful "food for sobering thought". Thank you. Also I appreciate that you timely posted John 8:42-47 @21 & John 3:19-21 @24. Dionisio
Frank Zappa wrote a song including the line "Can't use theirs ... it don't work ... it's all lies ... Gotta use mine..." ... which is fine but this book is no different to that thought. This is atheist proselytising, trying to convince theists that atheism is the superior religion. In other words, it simply emphasises (as if it needed it) that atheism is a competing religion. Ergo, atheists who attack religion merely demonstrate the inherent self-destructive contradiction in their claims. And that's all. ScuzzaMan
Dionisio: A similar key text:
John 3:19 This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the [c]darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. 21 But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].” [AMP]
Food for sobering thought given Rom 1 and Eph 4, cf. OP above. KF kairosfocus
KF, Thank you for bringing John 8:42-47 up to my attention. That powerful passage is indeed very sharp and rightly applies to the topic you wrote about in your timely OP. Agree with your comments @16, @21 & @22. Rev. 22:21 Dionisio
Atheists (and unfortunately also some theists) have a naive anthropomorphic conception of God. Consequently they see in Him all the defects humans have.
A key insight. One, we need to correct by going to ontological and moral reasoning about world roots. Which, then allows us to appreciate the force of I AM THAT I AM. (Which comes centuries before the significance of ontological reasoning was appreciated.) KF kairosfocus
Dionisio, Here is the text that chills me to my bones:
Jn 8: 42 Jesus said to them [former disciples who had turned against him and it seems a circle of the Judaeans as opposed to the Galileans . . . there is a regional issue here as comes out in the Palm Sunday march also . . . ], “If God were your Father [but He is not], you would love and recognize Me, for I came from God [out of His very presence] and have arrived here. For I have not even come on My own initiative [as self-appointed], but He [is the One who] sent Me. 43 Why do you misunderstand what I am saying? It is because [your spiritual ears are deaf and] you are unable to hear [the truth of] My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what it natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me [and continue in your unbelief]. 46 Which one of you [has proof and] convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 Whoever is of God and belongs to Him hears [the truth of] God’s words; for this reason you do not hear them: because you are not of God and you are not in fellowship with Him.” [AMP]
We can be so caught up in a Plato's Cave shadow show world that the truth is outside our Overton Window, leading us to reject it out of hand. The shadow show game has to be exposed for what it is first -- nor, is this blanket endorsement of empty conspiracy theorising, it is saying we must learn that historically many individuals, institutions and communities have been caught up in group think and manipulation leading to mass error, which is hard to recognise and correct so we must start from first principles of sound reasoning and carefully assess what is going on. Otherwise, marches of folly beckon as we entertain those who tickle our itching ears with what we wish to hear and reject those brave enough to speak unwelcome but soundly grounded truth. Which ever so easily blends over into hate and violence against them, starting with character assassination. Where, the book above is patent character assassination against God and those who follow God. And, explicitly, the devil is listed as producer of the shadow show of deception. Ideological blindness and deception multiplied by hard hearted-ness leads to the closed minded rejection of truth and the polarisation against those who represent it. Thence, hate, violence and even murder if unchecked. We need instead to attend to evidence and to respond to it with an open but carefully evaluative mind. (Cf here on for some thoughts on Jesus proper, and here on for thoughts on worldviews.) KF kairosfocus
God is Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and He in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:7-21 (ESV)
Footnotes: a.1 John 4:20 Some manuscripts how can he
The love of God the Father for “His only Son” (v. 9) is the source of the love that binds the fellowship of believers together as a family. By giving us His Son, the Father introduced us to the perfect love and eternal life that the Father and the Son have always enjoyed. only Son. This means that Jesus is God’s Son in eternity, as the Second Person of the Trinity. The Greek can also be translated “one and only Son,” referring to Christ’s uniqueness rather than to His eternal generation. 4:17 so also are we. Though not like Christ in the completeness of our obedience, we are like Him in our basic orientation, and stand out as He did by contrast with the world at large (John 17:16).
Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries
https://www.biblegateway.com Dionisio
OT & NT: Same God Logos: Alpha & Omega In the beginning was Logos
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. John 1:1-2 (ESV)
The creation of the world
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
All things were made through Logos
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In Him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:3-5 (ESV) [a] Or was not any thing made. That which has been made was life in Him.
The creation of mankind
26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV) [h] The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam
The Creator offered abundant blessings to mankind
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:28-30 (ESV)
the creatures’ desires vs. the Creator’s will
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV) [a] Genesis 3:1 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5 [b] Genesis 3:6 Or to give insight
Logos became flesh to offer The Way to our reconciliation
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and His own people[c] did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:10-14 (ESV) [b] John 1:11 Greek to his own things; that is, to his own domain, or to his own people [c] John 1:11 People is implied in Greek
Grace and Truth through Logos
16 For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[d] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[e] who is at the Father’s side,[f] He has made Him known. John 1:16-18 (ESV) [d] John 1:16 Or grace in place of grace [e] John 1:18 Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts the only Son [f] John 1:18 Greek in the bosom of the Father
https://www.biblegateway.com Dionisio
What else is new? The popularity of books like the new one referenced here confirms our human condition:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
There's no natural cure for the deadly malady.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) Presenting a rosy picture of the Christian life and minimizing that it is filled with trouble does not follow the lead of our Lord (Acts 14:22). It may be that the “false prophets” of v. 15 are especially those who deny that the way is narrow and hard. Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries
Rejection of the Truth is the norm in this world:
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) perishing . . . being saved. According to the Bible there will be two types of response to the gospel arising from God’s elective purpose (Is. 6:9, 10; Luke 2:34; Rom. 9:10–12; 2 Cor. 2:15, 16). This truth does not make God responsible for the perishing of unbelievers; they perish because of their own sin and stubborn impenitence. Those who believe and are saved, on the other hand, are “those who are called” (v. 24; Rom. 9:16). Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries
https://www.biblegateway.com Dionisio
kairosfocus: "... as a primary, root characteristic of the God of ethical theism (and of Biblical theism . . . I AM THAT I AM) God is necessary root being or reality and thus eternal." Well put kairosfocus, thanks. Atheists (and unfortunately also some theists) have a naive anthropomorphic conception of God. Consequently they see in Him all the defects humans have. In metaphysics there is no anthropomorphism whatsoever. The Being *is*, stop. As such it is the Absolute Reality. Creation and creatures have only relative reality. They are only as pictures painted on an illusory veil overlapped on the Being. So to say that the Being is good or bad (or whatever) is like to say that a TV set is good when displays a good character or bad when displays a bad movie. niwrad
Folks, Thanks for thoughts. It is interesting to see the variety of perspectives. I think, maybe, we need a different perspective. Of course, those who would judge God and deem him evil first need to establish a yardstick of good vs evil that rises above might and manipulation make right. Any serious examination will rapidly find out that such can only come in at the necessary being root of reality level, raising precisely the issue in the OP and onward linked that is there in Rom 1 too: the world without and mind, heart & conscience within jointly testify to . . .
the only serious candidate [to ground morally tinged reality] — after centuries of debates — is the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of respect, loyalty and the reasonable and responsible service of doing the good in accord with our nature and that of those who are of like nature as ourselves.
They also need to consider what it means for a civilisation -- such as, frankly, our own currently -- when it turns its back on the fount of wisdom and root of the right, and its leaders and people open themselves to intellectual and moral debasement and chaos. By abusing the gift of responsible, reasonable freedom as a collective, the community marches a road to ruin. One, in which the internal chaos calls out for the strong man, some new Nimrod to be the champion against the beasts and enemies without. But all too soon the true colours run up the mast and one is in the iron grip of tyranny. The oppression, evil, sexual anarchy and chaos within then alienate the good and wise and the manipulated marches of folly begin. In the case of the Athenian campaign against Syracuse, literally so. Notice how the most talented general and debater (resemblance to current events should be giving us pause) was also the most reprobate and turned betrayer against Athens, then cuckolded the Spartan king in the field. Then, abandoned lover and love child alike to flee to the enemy of all Greeks. Then, found himself under a cloud with even the Persians. Alcibiades, where art thou? Alcibiades, why is it that in the end the Athenians so mistrusted your counsel that when you -- in exile the second time around IIRC -- walked into their camp (some semblance of loyalty remained) they would have nothing to do with your counsel. And lost the decisive naval battle thus the war. Alcibiades, where art thou? Such a nation of reprobate mind and degraded community life with worse leaders becomes a plague on the earth through hubris joined to utter corruption. Its hedge of protection is gone and other states will look on in envy of whatever wealth or strategic position, or else will see it as a danger. Soon, coalitions and armies will come at the same time the chaos, folly and divided counsels within undermine any hope of a sustainable defence. Now, transfer that outline of the Athenian case to a small state sitting at one of the most pivotal land choke points, the bridge between Eurasia and Africa, Syria and Mesopotamia and Egypt. Yes, that is why Jerusalem is ever a burdensome stone. Use the metaphor of two dissolute girls rescued from -- patently, child prostitute -- slavery by and then married to the same husband (this is a time of polygamy). Girls, who (in their waywardness and wantonness) despite being married and favoured by their husband, tempt lovers and hope to gain favours from those who hold them in contempt. Even, as the lovers hanging around in the sleazy pickup bars are perfectly willing to sate their lusts on such easy pickings for a geostrategic version of today's cynical pickup artist, one night stand game. And worse, we are dealing with girls getting on in years -- so, they are willing to pay their lovers for some new, twisted thrills. That is why they are hanging out in that kind of bar. After all, state leaders are typically alpha males. And, alpha males are often both ruthless and sociopathic. Not to mention, sexual predators. The consequence is predictable, the envious lovers are going to attack, kidnap, capture the wealth so unwisely displayed in the bar and return the girls in their stubborn folly to the state of being slave prostitutes reduced to the most degrading porn-perv style servitude. (Which, we need not detail.) And of course, I am slightly adapting a description and metaphor that is actually right there in the OT prophets. In the case of Hosea, acted out. So, in that context, the onward rescue of the again subjugated girls is an act of redemptive mercy and love. An utterly different picture than that being painted above. Where, that angry at God picture sounds suspiciously like: this husband of mine does not love me and cannot perform like I need, Joseph. You are a strong, handsome young buck and I know you would enjoy learning the arts of love from me. So let's make a bargain, you keep me happy and I will protect you. Maybe, when that feeble old man kicks the bucket (hint, hint, a drop or two of this in his wine day by day would hasten the day when we can be free together . . .) you can become husband no 2. So, come be with me. After all, I am stunningly beautiful and so, so sophisticated. We can practically see the cams rolling on the porn-perv set in a Mansion somewhere in LA. (Oh, how La Reina de Los Angeles must weep over a city named for her, and how must the angels look on in shocked horror at the state of our civilisation at large.) But this story does not go THAT way. Joseph knows God and even having been betrayed into slavery by envious brothers, is determined to do the right out of loyalty to God and decent respect to his Master who has entrusted him with all his affairs, properly reserving his wife only. Joseph refused on principle, ultimately having to run out of the house naked as Potiphar's wife had grabbed his coat. She, having first cleverly arranged things so only Joseph was in the house with her. Either you lie with me, or I use my power to lie on you in ways you cannot hope to deny effectively. Leverage, the luscious carrot backed by the stick behind the back. And of course once Joseph in suicidal courage said no again, her true colours surfaced: the false accusation of rape, leading to gaol. (I suppose, not execution because no-one fully believed that brazen hussy; but appearances had to be maintained.) Joseph suffered unjustly but was vindicated. By intervention of God in due time. Notice, the contrasts? It is time we read the rhetoric such as we see above with a deeper awareness. Gomer, answer us just this one thing: why did Hosea seek you out a second time when through your own sinful folly you were reduced to slave prostitution a second time? (And what does such say about the degradation of the Northern Kingdom in that day?) Could it be that even through the heartbreak of ingratitude and betrayal, he loved you enough to hunt for you and rescue you from your degradation a second time? Gomer, Gomer, where art thou? Barker, Barker . . . ? KF kairosfocus
The people who try to disparage God are always those who know the least about Him. Blue_Savannah
The book was released on Feb 2. Dawkins had a stroke on (around) Feb 6. Hmmmm.... https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/darwinism/richard-dawkins-has-stroke-said-to-be-minor/ Jim Smith
Is this dude having been a preacher getting him undue attention. Is he using this to promote himself? YES! Why do they have such credibility when they attack Christianity but not when they promote it in the establishment?? Nothing in the bible supports anything that puts God in a bad light. All he did was in love and justice. Death for man is justice. Christ was love to conquer the justice of death. Thats the equation world. Pay attention. Anyone who he punished had it coming. In fact everyone. Yes the Egyptians first born had it coming. Yes the Jewish ones did not IF they applied the blood of Christ/lamb. Thats the equation. God only keeps people and nature alive to give time for redemption from hell. Last chance folks. Robert Byers
Once again, an atheist's book accomplishes nothing more than to prove that the author is a very poor theologian. EvilSnack
Who are you oh man? Does the clay say to the potter why did you make me this way? The irony of these sorts of "critiques" is that they say "if this is true then God iscruel etc". Yet they only look at those things of God they do not aapprove of. They never take into account the whole picture, the fact that man's life is but a mere vapour that passes by momentarily and that the fate of the soul is worth far more than any pain or any other thing in this life so for example when a child dies of childhood cancer at a young age they shake their fist and say how could a God allow such cruelty meanwhile that child has entered the presence of the Most High with no pain or thought for this earthly life, etc. You cannot critique the character of the God of the Bible unless you are willingto accept the while context. These people neither do that nor do they understand that and worse, they as a created being judge the one who created them on their own standards. How patently absurd. Dr JDD
Indeed, Mung. It's akin to me penning an angry diatribe against Santa Claus. What a fantastic waste of valuable time, if this time on earth is all we are granted. And, looking at the adjectives used to describe the god of Dawkins and Barker, it is strange to imagine that atheists can categorize these as "unpleasant". These characteristics carry no moral baggage, unless the atheist assigns them with meaning without cause. OldArmy94
There is a BIG difference between arguing that the Old Testament god Jehovah is a fictional character with a nasty disposition and arguing that The Creator is the same as Jehovah. In fact, most of humanity for more than 99% of human existence would argue against Jehovah being a valid representation of The Creator. Tying Intelligent Design to Protestant theology is not helpful in arguing the merits of ID. mahuna
That's a lot of ink to spill about a supposedly fictional character. They claim God is a fiction, but they don't act like it. Mung
I understand the sentiment. And truly, if there is a creator, he may be cruel, but only if we exact very minute timetables in our evaluation. From our perspective, subjectively, it doesn't take much for someone or something to be the most unpleasant character we've ever encountered. Our perspective by definition is infinitesimally less than that of an inventor of space-time. But this is a faulty tautology anyway. If the God of Bible exists, he is the author of everything, the final authority on absolute truth, and any amount of suffering on Earth pales in comparison to the design of such a magnificent creator. I get it. I suffer. I find offense at the seeming lack of sensibility of the Old Testament demands. But my own offense, my own outrage, is not an objective measure of one who is greater than me. Many times I have been angry and doubtful. But I merely have to remind myself that that is merely my momentary naive point of view. Our moral outrage versus the author of creation is more absurd than the moral outrage of a field mouse whose family was sacrificed in the wheat thresher for the good of vegans the world over. The field mouse can better evaluate the scale of consequence of that wheat thresher than we can evaluate the demands of an infinite being. To the titular question: if one assumes the Bible as fiction, its authors then were taking to the Herculean task of storytelling about an all-good creator who must still wrestle with his need for purity in the face of his love for his creation over an infinite timeline. From that perspective, God, as a character is hardly the most unpleasant. On the contrary, any work of fiction that presupposes a finite timeline for life and the universe, any wrongdoing would be magnitudes of unpleasantness more than the sum total "wrong doing" of God when divided by infinite time, space, prescience. jw777
Like all religious texts, Bible too has its share of violence. IMO, Dan Barker may have got a lot of things right, but the title is too crass, and frankly, I don't think the book serves any purpose. Atheists already know most of what is there in the book and theists are not going to be swayed by the arguments in the book. My opinion is based on Alexis Wesley's review at patheos.com
In Chapter 4, Unforgiving, God becomes like a father catching his son opening his Christmas presents early, informing his child that he will not forgive him until he smells the smoke of his son’s burning pet. In Chapter 17, Sadomasochistic, God is like a firefighter who starts a blaze just to get the credit for putting it out. In Chapter 8, Ethnic Cleanser, God is driving out the inhabitants of several lands, often making the native peoples into slaves whom God condones beating. Barker compares that to the forced migrations of his own Native American tribe, Lenni Lenape. But the most cogent examples were when God was compared to an abusive husband. In Chapter 15, Pestilential, Barker sums up God’s message of dealing with his bride in 2 Chronicles precisely as, “Don’t make me hurt you more than I have to. I am pestilential because I love you!” In Chapter 23, Curse Hurling, God is like a groom at the altar saying, “I do. And if she cheats on me I will beat her bloody. If she even glances sideways at another man, I will starve her and make her eat our children and pull out her hair and spread dog poop on her face and burn her possessions.” All of which are actual threats made by God in his covenant with his people.
I'm not an expert in Mayan and Aztec religions but I think their gods must have been fairly unpleasant given the number of human sacrifices their worshipers made. I wonder if the author of the book makes a quantitative argument and discusses whether other gods were more or less unpleasant than God? And does he consider Allah to be the same as God? That could have an effect on his calculus. Jim Smith
The benefits of religious belief are so well documented that it is hard to understand why anyone would want to write a book like that. From his own perspective, it is not much different from telling people suffering from pain that they were given a placebo so they shouldn't expect their pain medicine to work. Who would think that is a good thing to do? Jim Smith
Of course, believers will disagree. I do not believe he approaches this subject honestly in any way. He has one desire in writing this book - to stick his nose up at God and drag His holy name in the dirt, causing as much doubt and ill-will towards Him as possible. There is no effort to understand, just to demean. I think he does a good job of that actually. An un-educated person or a person unfamiliar with the Bible might very well be influenced negatively by this book. Unfortunately, I'm sure there will be meany people who totally close their hearts towards Christianity because of this book. I respect him for having the guts to stand up to God like this, but I don't even give him a fighting chance of winning. I think of Psalm 2 where God looks down from heaven on the warring kings who think they are something and He just laughs. God could squish any of these men like an ant any time if He wanted to. Fortunately for them, He is merciful and always willing to forgive - even them - but only if a person seeks forgiveness. I guess Mr. Barker thinks that punishing sin and evil is wrong, cruel, vicious, and downright evil. Funny how he doesn't have a problem with laws, courts, and the penitentiary system in the US. I seriously doubt if he would by happy with a judge who always forgave criminals and never held them accountable for anything. Mr. Barker has fully bought the lies of the enemy and honestly thinks he is more upright than God. I'm so grateful for the grace to see my sin, for the grace to repent, and the grace to believe in Jesus as my Savior!! So thankful! And I know many others who are as well. Good post. His biased rant against God just reveals His hatred for Him and his strong desire to oppose him as much as possible - although he would not admit that I'm sure. It totally disregards the philosophical problems of atheism as you pointed out. It leaves us with nothing to live or die for. And, personally, even if he is right, I think I would rather live as if the Bible is true. It gives me real purpose, meaning, a moral foundation as well as a philosophical foundation, strength, a positive worldview, etc. If he is right, then ultimately nothing matters so it is not really important whether I believe in atheism, an evil God, or a loving God. When I die, I die and that's the end, so I might as well just enjoy my life. If I'm happy being deluded into thinking I am really helping people by teaching them God's Word, then so be it. They feel like they are being helped and I am fulfilled by doing it. Why would I want to change that? Why would I want to choose a worldview that preaches meaninglessness, purposelessness, amorality, no future, no hope, no free will, etc. Deep down in my heart, I know that is not true. There is a purpose and a meaning to life - even to the trials of life. There is a future for us after we die. The way I live my life now does matter and I am responsible for my actions, thoughts, words, attitudes, etc. I believe that real love does exist - that it is more than just a chemical illusion I feel because of processes at work in my body. 1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: 2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: 3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: 4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: 5. The third day he rose again from the dead: 6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: 7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: 8. I believe in the Holy Ghost: 9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: 10. The forgiveness of sins: 1l. The resurrection of the body: 12. And the life everlasting. Amen! tjguy
I wouldn't waste time reading about a book like that so I hope my comment isn't too out of sync ... but my beliefs about God come from cosmology, the beginning of the universe and the fine tuning of the universe to support life, the reports of people who have near-death experiences, and communications from the afterlife that come through evidential mediums like Leslie Flint. So I'm not personally offended by people who criticize the old testament. Sometimes it seems to me that the old testament is just so much straw used in straw man arguments against the existence of God. But there are many passages in the old testament that I like because they say something true in a eloquent way so I value parts of it for their literary value. And there are usually at least two sides to every controversy. I don't have trouble finding discussions by people who don't like the God of the old testament, but I suspect there are some interesting replies to those atheists and I would be interested to hear them. One of my favorite quotes is by Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize for Physics)
The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.
A few more bits of evidence for God here: http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/62014-contents-evidence-for-afterlife.html#articles_by_subject_god Jim Smith
Is Dan Barker right? (Or, at least, does he have a responsible view?) I think, not; but what do you think, why? kairosfocus

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