What do I think of Joshua Butler’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Sometimes you hear about someone you really like or meet them. They seem like a great person upfront in their public image, but then you see something behind the scenes. This person has skeletons in their closet. Everything is called into question then.
Many people think God has a few in His closet.
How could a loving God send people to Hell?
Why would a loving God judge anyone?
How could a loving God be so genocidal in the Old Testament?
Each of these can be a deal breaker for so many people. Why would I want to serve a God like that? These are valid questions, but Butler turns these on their heads. Each of these is actually good news for most of us.
One of the reasons for this is we don’t take sin seriously. We say to just let it be. It’s not really hurting anyone. Right? Imagine if we took the same approach to someone being treated for cancer. “Don’t worry. It’s just a little cancer. You want to keep some of it in you. Right? A little cancer won’t hurt you will it?”
The analogy, like all analogies, is not perfect, but if we treated sin like cancer we could find our lives quite different. If we don’t, then God has the answer of Hell. At the start, Butler has it clear that this place is not a torture chamber. Part of the problem is we have an idea that Heaven is up above and Hell is down below, such as the old email chain about Hell being found underneath Siberia. (Ridiculous since Percy Jackson showed us all that Hell is really under Hollywood, but I digress.)
This is false. Heaven is some place far up there and Hell is some place way down there. This division doesn’t really help us as we make this world an awful place to escape then. This is the world of God and God made it to be dwelt in. That does not include Hell. Nothing in Scripture indicates that Hell is made for humans.
Hell is really an intruder in this world. However, what if someone doesn’t want to choose God in this life? What does God do with them? He gives them what they want. Those who want to join in the rebellion and fight against God get the results of fighting against Him and choosing against Him. Still, it is not a torture chamber. It is a place of shame and sorrow where one realizes what they have lost.
Judgment, however, is still good news. After all, if anyone talks about the problem of evil and asks why God doesn’t intervene, they want judgment in some way. “If I was God, I wouldn’t let someone get raped.” This is a real need for us. We want to see justice done.
This is then good news. There is a God who will deal justice and does deal justice. We don’t really want a grandfather in the sky who says the children will be children, unless, of course, it’s our own sin that we’re talking about. We don’t want God to judge that.
But for those who do evil, there is a day of reckoning coming. God will not let someone do what they want forever and for those of us who do hunger for justice, that is good news. For those who are living in a sin of some sort, that is very bad news. Nothing will escape His eye. Nothing. We have to give an account for everything that we do in the body. If you’re a Christian and you read that and there is no nervousness in you over that thought, you really need to examine yourself.
And sometimes, that judgment came in the Old Testament in holy war, but is that really like God? Butler argues that what happens most of the time is not living cities are attacked, but more military outposts. These also often include the idea of driving out instead of killing.
But doesn’t the text say women and children are killed?
This is language of totality and is really trash talking. It doesn’t indicate women and children are killed, especially since they were rarely in these military outposts. What about Jericho? Consider first off that Jericho could be walked around 7 times in one day. Sure, Rahab was there, but it wasn’t uncommon to have a woman be a tavern master for the men and sometimes, she would be a prostitute if men wanted more than a drink.
Consider as Butler suggests, a basketball team in the locker room after a game talking about how they demolished and destroyed the other team. Final score? 120-105. Hardly a complete shutout, but that language is used. What you see in the genocide passages is actually trash talk.
I have only given brief explanations, but this book is an extremely powerful book. Skeptics who want to complain about these kinds of passages really need to read this book. Even Christians who have studied apologetics for years will get food for thought.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)