DISPELLING AN ATHEIST ILLUSION
The Case for a Consistently Pro-Life God

November 2013By Frederick W. Marks

Frederick W. Marks is the author of eight books, most recently Think and Believe (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2012).

Of all the queries put to me as a street evangelist with the Catholic Evidence Guild, one, in particular, stands out: “How can one vouch for the reliability of the Bible in its entirety, given the Old Testament slant on capital punishment, mass killing, polygamy, and divorce?” In The God Delusion, atheist Richard Dawkins speaks for many when he indicts Hebrew Scripture for its supposed callousness regarding human life, and there is a reason why this line of attack is so popular among skeptics. It is easy to state and tough to counter. As Mark Twain once remarked, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” One might add that small lies are easy to bring down; it is the big ones that remain standing because those who fall for them can’t imagine someone as intelligent as Dawkins promoting gross falsehood.

As for the Old Testament, suffice it to say that many crimes were capital offenses in days of old because the ancients had little choice in the matter. There were no handcuffs, manacles were weak by today’s standards — the Gospel of Mark furnishes one of the more graphic instances of chain-breaking (5:3-4) — and maximum-security prisons were unknown.

As for the alleged blood lust of Jewish commanders, it is more imaginary than real since they did not act on impulse — the marching orders of Saul and Joshua, for example, came from God Himself (Deut. 7:1-2). And who were their adversaries? The Canaanites, who, along with other pagan tribes, practiced cult prostitution, child sacrifice, cannibalism, and unnatural vice (Lev. 18:3, 21-27; 1 Kgs. 14:24; 21:26). For good measure, Yahweh gave them ample time to repent before their destruction by sending an advance army of wasps (Exod. 23:28; Deut. 7:20; explained in Wisd. 12:8-10). But even if this had not been so, even if the Almighty had not signaled His displeasure, He is free, by definition, to call His children home whenever He pleases and by whatever agency He chooses, whether it be disease, a natural disaster, a state executioner, or an invading army.

In the case of divorce, it was permitted by Moses but not approved, much the way adultery is permitted but not approved under American law; and far from sanctioning remarriage after divorce, God is on record in the Old Testament as “hating” it (Mal. 2:16). Nowhere in Sacred Scripture does a prominent Jew ever put away his wife. On the contrary, it is Hosea’s patience with an adulterous spouse that is held up for imitation. To be sure, Abraham dismisses Hagar (Gen. 16:1-6; 21:14), but she is a concubine given him by an unhappy Sarah, and not his wife.


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