Here is my list of theological dilemmas (“doctrines”) that divide up Christianity into its many, colorful and flavorful varieties. To this list I am adding another theological question by which to understand Christians:
The Deadly Yahweh Dilemma
It is obvious to any Bible reader that in the Jewish scriptures Yahweh displays far more deadly attributes than Yahweh does in the Christian scriptures. Exceptions exist of course: with kind, wonderful images of Yahweh in the OT and a horrible Yahweh seen in the NT (see the Book of Revelation). But overall, the differences is clear — the Deadly Yahweh Dilemma has existed since the beginning of Christianity and Christians have devised several different clever solutions.
Below I outline what I see as the five most common Christian apologetic “solutions” to Deadly Yahweh Dilemma. In quotes I put how I imagine a Christian believer phrasing this theology.
Conservative Christian Apologies [Biblical Literalism & Inerrancy]
- Non-Dispenstationalism: “Yes, Yahweh is deadly in the OT and in the NT (see Revelation which also speaks of his rightful wrath). Deal with it – God is not be messed with. He causes hurricane, pestilence and disease to punish sinners. He used Israel to wipe out evil pagans and he continues to punish nations who don’t obey him. He is forever the same.”
— See my post on Yahweh kills Innocents where literalist rabid Christian insists if the Bible tells us a whole city or nation was evil and destroyed it, then it is obviously true. Really? Even know a whole city that is completely evil?
- Dispensationalism: “God treats humans differently through history and thus appears to change. God now treats us differently because we are under a different dispensation. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection he is now forgiving — we are in a dispensation of grace because his requirement for blood for sin was paid by his son’s sacrifice. But you should still be a bit afraid for he is still a just God.”
This is Dispensational Theology.
- Two Different Gods: “The OT God and the NT God are two different gods. Our Father (the NT God) is all loving and kind.”
This was Marcion’s option in the first century of Christianity and had many followers. But it was finally ruled a heresy and has largely disappeared. Here is a good post to explore it further. Marcion was a literalist too — as were many Church Fathers. Indeed, understanding Marcion can help Christians see a lot about how the Bible was created (not by a god but by people with agendas). Actually, many Casual Christians hold something close to this heresy and don’t even know it.
Liberal Christian Apologies
- Inaccurate Wrestlings: “The OT is just stories of folks wrestling with the idea of God. They had limited, culturally constrained insight. God didn’t do that stuff. So they can be wrong and horrible, but the NT isn’t like that. The NT authors stories were much more accurate. We get much closer to seeing what Yahweh (Jesus’ Father) is really like there.”
- Only Principled Myths: “The OT authors never told those OT stories with intent to be taken literally, but instead as a literary device to point to deeper principles. One of those principles was ‘Jesus is coming’. So we should just relax about Deadly Yahweh Dilemma — it is a false dilemma. Those scary Yahweh tales were just stories to capture the audiences attention with intent to teach something deeper.”
Question to Readers: Can you think of other apologetic categories I have missed?