Why liberal theology isn’t the answer
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I don’t like conservative theology. If there is a God, I’d much rather believe in the cuddly, liberal type who opens heaven up to anyone who tried to be nice, rather than the angry, vengeful one who condemns people to eternal torment because they were brought up as Hindus, or fell in love with someone of the same sex, or liked to eat black pudding.
Reading through the Bible, it’s easy enough to interpret stories to fit in with your chosen viewpoint, in much the same way as we process facts according to our existing beliefs. But my liberal drift was significantly accelerated by some of the events in the Old Testament in particular. If God is like that, He’s a monster. If He isn’t, these accounts are the work of flawed humans, not divinely and perfectly dictated.
I don’t believe that a God who wipes out the entire population of the world, orders genocide, approves filicide and even slaughters young boys for being cheeky is consistent with the message of Jesus. There are plenty of passages which show God in a rather more favourable light, but conservative theology relies on the Bible being a true and divinely inspired account, which would make God both nasty and inconsistent.
It’s hard to see how anyone can hold a conservative theology when you consider what a vicious, hateful God is portrayed when you take the Bible literally. Or is it?
I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but I think that conservative position makes as much sense as the liberal alternative. Here’s why.
The big challenge faced by those who uphold the view that genocide is commanded by a just God, as William Lane Craig does, is that this means that God’s behind an act which at the very least offends our sensibilities, and at worst is grossly immoral. Typically, they find ways to suggest that there’s a bigger picture, that it’s arrogant to dismiss it from a comfortable modern position without God’s omniscience, and invariably that if there isn’t a God, there’s no objective moral standard to judge Him against anyway.
I find those arguments incredibly weak (especially the laughable apologetic that starts by assuming that God doesn’t exist, in an attempt to prove that He was right to do certain things), but that isn’t just a problem for conservatives – liberals have the same problem.
If you believe in God, you need an answer to the Problem of Evil. It’s the big one that won’t go away. There’s only one problem – no one has ever managed a truly convincing answer. The best on offer, one which pops up all the time in slightly different guises, is that we don’t fully understand, but it all makes sense from a divine perspective.
That’s the very same argument as is used to justify Biblical genocide.
To be a liberal Christian, you have to believe that a loving, gentle God stands by and allows the most unimaginable horrors. Earthquakes, floods, murder, rape – the loving, caring God watches on, sitting on his hands. But He must have a reason, right? He must know what he’s doing.
Exactly. He must. If He exists.
So once you’ve swallowed the camel of a nice, friendly, inclusive God who does nothing while innocent people suffer, what’s the problem with the gnat of a few slaughtered tribes who stood in the way of His chosen people? At least there’s an obvious reason for their suffering, even if it’s the fact that they were in the way, or worshipped the wrong God.
Until anyone can come up with a good answer to the Problem of Evil, liberal theology looks like little more than window dressing.
Photos by Beverly & Pack, used under Attribution License