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Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties by Trent Horn

Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties by Trent Horn

Author:Trent Horn [Horn, Trent]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Catholic Answers Press
Published: 2016-07-06T06:00:00+00:00


A Dysfunctional God?

The Claim: The Bible praises God for being kind and merciful, but it also depicts God as being jealous, capricious, and even causing people to do evil. Either the Bible contradicts its own descriptions of God, or God has a serious personality disorder.

Many years ago a friend of mine was struggling to find healing after moving out of her dysfunctional home. After I gave her a book on overcoming troubled childhoods, I remember her reading one passage that brought her to tears. “Oh my gosh,” she said, “this is my father!”

The passage described an attitude the author called “king-baby syndrome.” According to the book, in a dysfunctional family the “king-baby” rules like a king whose orders must be unquestioningly obeyed. But this person also acts like a baby whose needs everyone else must meet. The alcoholic father who demands money for beer and then wants someone to console him during his hangovers is a classic example of the “king-baby.”

Some critics of the Bible argue that God is a kind of “king-baby.” They say that God is an irrational king who demands blind obedience and is also a baby who needs people to appease him. But it is not God’s temperament that needs adjustment. Instead, it is the critic’s understanding of certain passages in Scripture that describe God that needs to be adjusted.


In Exodus 34:14 God tells his people, “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” As we’ve seen, God has no deficiencies, so he does not become upset when his creatures fail to worship him. Language like this is another example of an anthropomorphic description of God. It is designed to help the reader understand the importance of worshipping only the one true God, but it should not be taken literally.

In fact, the words translated as “jealously” in this text, the Hebrew qanah and the Greek zelotes, can also mean “zeal” or “passion.” For example, 2 Samuel 21:2 uses this word to describe Saul’s “zeal” for Judah and Israel. Paul told the Corinthians that he boasts of their zeal (zelos) and that it “has stirred up” other churches to be just as zealous for the faith (2 Cor. 9:2). When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple, this act reminded the apostles of Psalm 69:9: “Zeal [zelotes] for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). God is indeed zealous for his children and does not tolerate worship of false gods that can cause his children harm. He even warned his people in Deuteronomy 12:30–31 that, when it comes to pagan religions, “Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do likewise.’ You shall not do so to the Lord your God; for every abominable thing which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods [emphasis added].”

By saying that God is “jealous,” the biblical writer is not asserting a literal truth about God’s emotions.


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