God Is a Monster
by Don R. Camp

This may be the number one complaint I hear on skeptic and anti-theist websites.  And of course, it is the center-piece in Richard Dawkins’s argument against God in The God Delusion.
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

That’s quite an indictment.

As evidence for the prosecution a variety of biblical stories are presented: Noah’s flood (Genesis 6,7), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), the order to destroy the   Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) and Midianites (Numbers 31), and some others.
 
The point in each is that all are destroyed: men, women, and children. And that seems, brutal and immoral and monstrous especially to our modern sensibilities. We like to see ourselves as morally advanced, superior.

In the process of painting ourselves as superior, we forget. We forget, in particular, World War ll. So let me remind the reader what happened.

Hitler rose to power as chancellor of Germany in 1932. His new position allowed Hitler to Hitlerimplement the plan he had articulated in his book Mein Kampf  published six years earlier. His thesis was that the Jews and Communism were a scourge. They were the cause of the evils that Germany had endured. And he argued "the nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated. "

The international poisoners were the Jews.

Over the next 13 years Hitler and Germany murdered 12 million of those international poisoners, 6 million Jews and 6 million others. The monstrous means – I use that term intentionally – were gas chambers, death camps, firing squads, hangings and  medical deathexperimentation in which men, women, and children were disposed of as if they were rabid dogs. And Germans for the most part joined without protest, though the few protesters, of course, were exterminated along with the poisoners they hoped to save. 

Europe, of course, rose in defense against the world threat of the Third Reich.  Britain and France declared war in 1939. Britain sent a force known as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) into Europe in 1939. By June the next year the BEF and the French army found themselves backed up against the coast along the British Channel at Dunkirk and in danger of annihilation.

It looked like Hitler would realize his dream for a master race in control of Europe and perhaps the world.

With the survival of England at stake Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax called for a national day of prayer. Thousands of people across England and the United States, knowing the peril and something of the horrors Hitler was inflicting upon Europe, prayed. And in a miracle 338,000 British and French troops were rescued from Dunkirk by a flotilla of boats small and great that brought the troops off the beaches undercover of a fog that prevented the Germans from attacking. God, or so those who prayed believed, saved an army and a nation that would return to Europe and defeat Hitler.

A year and a half later the United States entered the war after being attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor. We brought to bear our weapons and men, among them one who is my friend, old now but still able to remember his part as a pilot of a B-17 that bombed the munition Dresdenfactories, the rail yards .... and the cities of Germany.  He and hundreds like him bombed the cities of Germany to rubble, including in February of 1945 the city of Dresden.

Dresden was fire-bombed in a mission that extended over several days and resulted in the total destruction of Dresden including 23,000 men women and children. A witness to the aftermath describes searching the shelters for survivors and finding nothing but jellified bodies and ash. It was horrific. As were the bombings of Tokyo and Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

From the vantage point of 70 years we are conflicted about what we did. I asked a young man not long ago if he would have joined the attacks. He said he would not. But the people of Britain and America in 1945 had fewer reservations. They, by this point in the war, knew of the death camps. They knew of Hitler’s orders to exterminate the Jews. They knew of the death marches in the Pacific theater of the war. They knew that it must end and this evil must be punished. As unspeakable as the death and destruction of our attacks on Dresden and Nagasaki had been, they understood that it was necessary and just.

And that is what we see in the Bible. At the flood we see a civilization that has sunk so far into immorality that there was no hope, whose every imagination was evil. At Sodom we see a city that joined in gang rape and murder for the sake of a night of gay sex, and there is every indication this was not an isolated crime. Regarding the Amalekites we see a people group who had repeatedly and without provocation brutally attacked God’s people, destroying whole cities men, women and children and over a period of 300 years. The Midianites had mounted a concerted and prolonged attack on Israel that included an attempt to tempt Israel to sin and abandon God. Their crimes were great.

As with Germany, their crimes had to end and their brutality had to be be punished. It was horrific. But God had to not only end the threat to the world of that day but make them an example of justice for all who might choose to follow their example.

Today, we are separated from these events by many thousands of years. And we are, as we are after being separated from the events of World War ll, conflicted. Even Christians who are convinced that God does right are conflicted. It is no wonder that the skeptic and anti-theist are outraged. In their minds God is to blame. God is immoral. God is the monster.

They need to go to YouTube and watch the films of German atrocities, films done by the Germans themselves. They need to see the pictures of the piled dead bodies in the death camps and watch as German soldiers line up women and children in front of hastily excavated trenches and coldly shoot them in the head along with children in their mothers’ arms. They need to remember. And then they need to ask was it just that we leveled cities in our mission to end those crimes.

And they need to ask if God was not just in bringing that to pass.

Most Christians of the 1940s who understood the times would say it was right, though they would have said it through their tears.

But there is more to the story of World War ll than destruction. There is salvation. And if we step back a bit to look at the big picture, salvation is the point. Obviously Europe was saved from Nazi Germany and the oppression of the Third Reich. The United States was saved. But more significantly the Jews were saved.

The Jews are God's chosen people. The Bible tells us that God has a plan for them that stretches from Abraham to the end of human history. He promised them his eternal protection, even if there were episodes of Jewish unbelief, even if they rejected their Messiah, even if they too were disciplined by God.

And in World War ll God did save them.

By the end of the war the Jews in Europe had suffered terribly, perhaps they had endured more suffering than any other group. Yet their pain was not over. The Jewish refugees from the war and its aftermath were not welcomed in many of the European states, Britain in particular. In consequence the Jews pressed their claim to a homeland in Palestine. And "on November 29, 1947, after much debate and discussion, the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into two states ­ one Jewish and one Arab."

The Jewish people had their long sought permission to return to their land. The return was epic. It was even made into a epic film, Exodus. And it was absolutely as God had predicted 2000 years ago. God had once again saved his people.

If we look at the Bible events that are often pointed to as ugly, inhumane, unjust, and immoral and look to the reasons for judgment and the outcome, we see not so much destruction as we see salvation.

At the flood God is saving a people who will establish a new civilization in which righteousness was the goal. At Sodom God saved Lot and his family. In the exodus when Egypt was judged God saved a people who become his nation. With the destruction of the Amalekite city, God saved his people from their depredations. With the destruction of the Midianites God saved Israel from national annihilation.

When Israel herself suffered God's judgment under the Babylonians, God saved a remnant and eventually brought them back to their land. He did it again when Israel rejected the Messiah. Jerusalem was totally destroyed along with millions who had fled to other cities. But those who survived returned. Then again the Jews rebelled against Rome and were finally driven from their homeland in 135 A.D. to live as men without a nation among the nations. But again they were saved and returned to Palestine in 1948.

God is about salvation not destruction.

Regardless whether you understand or agree, that was God’s purpose at the flood, at Sodom and in his command to Saul to destroy the Amalekites. It was to save. I am as grieved as anyone at the horrible scene. But I am glad there is a God who pursues justice. I would not want to live in a world dominated by the monster of Nazi Germany.