Today, I am going to go into Dawkins’s view of the Old Testament. Again, this is what happens when you let the biologist out of the lab. I make it a point to not comment on the science of Dawkins. Why? It’s not my area. It’s not that I don’t care about it, but I know where my strength lies and I prefer to stay there. There are others out there who can and will and do critique Dawkins there.
Fortunately, the Bible is not an area I think I am weak in and I can see the errors Dawkins is making, so let’s dive into his look at the OT.
Dawkins begins with some rants about religious fanatics. Now with these, I agree. Some people are very fanatical so much so that they say things they ought not to say. Unfortunately, Dawkins considers this mainstream and all Christian intellectuals are painted with that brush.
Now Dawkins points to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first thing he really criticizes is the treatment of women in that culture. I’d like to point out that the Bible nowhere supports Lot’s offering up of his daughters to appease the crowd. In fact, the biblical culture was revolutionary for its time in raising up the status of women as compared to other ANE law codes.
Dawkins also complains about Lot’s wife who died because she looked back. Now to him, this is a simple matter. Not so in the ancient mindset. It was saying that she wanted to return to that world. It could be by that pause, that she got caught up in the brimstone falling and paid for it with her life.
Now we should all know about what happened with Lot’s daughters next. Why does Dawkins bring this up? If he wants to show this as an example of human depravity in the Bible, then he’s right. This is not affirmed in Scripture. It merely records what happens and shows how depraved the daughters had become by their culture. (Which Dawkins will complain that God destroyed.)
Dawkins compares this to what happened in Judges19. Readers. I urge you to look up the references, but he talks about the man who had his concubine gang-raped till she died and then cut her up and sent her pieces to the twelve tribes of Israel. Dawkins leaves something out. Before this is what is told happened when there was no king and each person did what was right in his own eyes. Again, the reader is pointing to the depravity of the kingdom and most likely using this to support the Davidic dynasty.
Dawkins does not know the difference between the Bible recording history and approving of acts in history.
Dawkins also condemns the deceitfulness on the part of Abraham in lying saying Sarah wasn’t his wife. Unfortunately, it’s the same blunder. It doesn’t mean that this was approved of. The father of the faithful was not always faithful. If he wants to point that out, more power to him.
Now he complains about the testing of Abraham. Dawkins points out that the sacrifice never took place, but he acts like it doesn’t matter. It matters entirely. Also, in Jewish tradition, Isaac was a willing sacrifice. It’s not likely a 115 year-old man will overpower his 16 year-old son.
Dawkins has repeatedly in this chapter talked about apologists who try to allegorize this. I can’t think of who he’s talking about. The apologists I know, including myself, treat this as a historical event. The point was that God did provide a sacrifice. It is a picture to point to the coming Christ.
We now come to the story of Jephthah and his daughter. I do not believe an actual burnt offering took place though. No priest would have allowed it. Instead, it is most likely that the girl went into temple service which is why she mourned not her coming death, but her never marrying. (even if it was a burnt offering, there’s no record God approved of such a thing.)
Dawkins also complains about the golden calf and God complaining about idolatry. Yes Dawkins. God claims exclusive right to worship. To not worship him when you are in a covenant with him is idolatry. Of course, we can’t expect Dawkins to understand the treaty system of the time.
Dawkins then speaks about the destruction of the Midianites by Israel in Numbers 31. He talks about some of the virgins simply being captured and then assumes, “Oh! It was for sex!” No. They most likely were adopted into Jewish families or went into tabernacle service. Sex is not mentioned in the passage. The reason it was virgins spared is that they could not be behind the sexual seduction of Israel in Numbers 25.
And of course, we have the usual whining about the destruction of the Canaanites. Please understand that this is a specific time and place. Also, understand that God treats sin seriously. He punishes it. It’s amazing that they complain that God doesn’t do anything about evil, but when he does something about evil, they complain. Someone wanting more information on this one is encouraged to go to the Christian-thinktank.
And where would this be without the complaining about the Levitical Law. Sorry Dawkins. Being disobedient to your parents was a lifetime crime that was done by an older child who was living in rebellion. Little kids did not typically get drunk as the parents speak of the child.
As for the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath, this man was showing contempt of the law of God in the theocracy. The law was clear and the man violated it knowing the consequences. You can say you don’t like it, but disrespect for the law could not be allowed. We all know how Israel turned out when it did get away from the law.
Now Dawkins might say that none of us would act like God in the OT. Well, he’s right. I wouldn’t. There’s a simple reason for that.
I’M NOT GOD!
Now does it make a difference that God ordered these attacks? In a word, yes. Of course it would! God can order the taking of life because he is sovereign over life. Note also that the Israelites never went out and conquered the lands of the other nations. In fact, David could have been punished for taking the census because that was his plan.
Dawkins will move on to the NT. We will do the same on another day. I find Dawkins completely lacking in his eisegesis of the OT though. (And he still has given no standard by which to condemn these events.)
For the record, I also want to say Christians should not be caught off-guard by these stories. If you are familiar with your Bible, you should know them already. Maybe the reason so many don’t know how to respond is that they don’t know their Bibles like they should.