Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? (I)

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Whenever the topic of Islam-approved slavery is brought up by a Christian, a typical tu quoque (“you too”) response of Islam’s apologists is to point to some places in the Bible where slavery is allegedly endorsed – a response that ignores the fact that Christianity predates Islam by 6 centuries.

Slavery-in-the-bible also constitutes one of the garden variety arguments used by Atheists to virulently attack the God of the Bible. The “glue” binding both groups of Bible bashers – Muslims and atheists – is the dollop of emotional blackmail infused into their (mis)perception of slavery.

Whenever biblical slavery is mentioned by such people, it is often deployed to incite an emotional reaction connected with the racist slavery of the American south in the 18th and 19th centuries, or other brutal instances of slavery in the ancient world.

However, to read such concepts into Old Testament Israelite servanthood or the foreign slavery which the Bible permits, would be absolutely inaccurate and deceptive.

In this article, the stark differences between OT servanthood and American chattel slavery will be highlighted and passages often used by Bible haters will be explained. In the next article, we will examine passages pertaining to slavery in the New Testament.

1. It might interest skeptics to know that the terms “slave” and “master” used in the OT are not the best translations of Hebrew words ‘ebed and ‘adon. The word ‘ebed simply means “employee” or “servant” and should not be translated “slave.”

Old Testament scholar, John Goldingay, noted that “there is nothing inherently lowly or undignified about being an ‘ebed.” Instead it was an honourable and dignified term” (John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Intervarsity, 2009, Vol. 3, p. 460).

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the OT notes that ebed can refer to “servant of a household” and cites Exodus 21:2 which will still be examined later in this piece.

Mounce’s Dictionary also defines the word as a “servant.” An ‘adon in Hebrew was a “boss” or “employer” in these contexts and “master” is a bit too strong of a translation.

2. The language used in the OT hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled. They were more of debt-servanthood arrangements.

When a family incurred debt or experienced a disaster, such as crop failure, an individual could voluntarily enter into a contractual agreement (that is, “sell” himself) to work in the household of another and pay off his debt. This is stated in Lev. 25:47 “one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself.”

A scholar explains:

“Even when the terms buy, sell or acquire are used for servants/employees, they don’t mean the person in question is ‘just property’ . . .  Rather, these are formal contractual agreements, which is what we find in the Old Testament servanthood/employee arrangements. One example of this contracted employer/employee relationship was Jacob’s working for Laban for seven years so that he might marry his daughter Rachel.” (Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Baker Books, 2011, p. 125).

3. In addition to what was clarified above, indentured servitude existed primarily as a means of debt payment. These employees lived with and worked for a family for economic sustenance (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:1, 12).

It was like enlisting in the army where you forgo certain freedoms you had as a civilian to enjoy compensatory benefits. The OT affirms God ordained servitude for people as a means of survival when all other means were exhausted.

4. OT slavery was never chattel slavery like the American South was. Indentured servants had certain rights and protections accorded to them by the Mosaic law:

“The ancient Hebrews as a people knew slavery in their Egyptian bondage (Exod. 1:10-14; 5:5-14), from which they eventually were led to be free people under Moses (Exod. 12:37-42). Because of that experience, Mosaic legislation developed certain rules about the keeping of slaves: ‘Remember that once you were salves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I give you this order today’ (Deut. 15:15; cf. Lev. 25:42-45, 55).

“Even though slavery as a social and economic institution was recognized in ancient Israel, there was a clear attempt to humanize it in a way that set Israel apart from its neighbors. The social and economic structure of ancient Palestine was not, therefore, built on slavery, as it often was in other contemporary cultures and lands.” (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, Doubleday, 2000, p. 29).

This stands in contrast to American slavery. The agrarian economy of the old South was labour-intensive. Slaves were used as an easy source of cheap, mass labour.

5. OT servants were more like live-in butlers or nannies. They did not walk around with chains around their neck, enduring racism, or being worked to death like in the old South. Lifelong slavery was even forbidden.

Deuteronomy 15:16 shows servants often truly loved the leaders of the household and thought of them as family. Leviticus 25:53 says such servants were to be treated as men “hired from year to year” not “rule[d] over ruthlessly.” According to a reference work:

“Slaves were afforded a degree of legal protection in Israel. The Covenant Code stipulated three basic measures: beating a slave to death would necessitate an unspecified punishment (Ex. 21:30); if a master permanently injured a slave, release of the slave was required (21:26f.); and masters were required to provide the sabbath rest for their slaves (23:12) …

“Besides these general regulations, the law afforded Hebrew slaves further protections. They could be held for only six years (Ex. 21:2ff.; Dt. 15:12; but see Lev. 25:39f.). The Deuteronomic Code further stipulated that the master would have to provide the freedman with animals, grain, and wine (Dt. 15:13f.). They were not returnable to foreign owners if they succeeded in running away (23:15f.)…” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Goeffrey Bromiley, Eerdmans, 1988, Vol. 4, p. 541).

All of these facts destroy the emotional reaction atheists wish to evoke in people when telling them that “the bible endorses slavery.” It’s simple mindedness to meld narratives of slavery in history with this biblical servitude.

On Exodus and Slavery

A favourite passage Bible bashers use to play up their card is Exodus 21:20-21

When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

Notice that according to verse 20, the murder of servants is strongly prohibited and was punishable by death. Of course, unbelievers often ignore this truth because it doesn’t go with the grand plan.

In vs. 21, the boss is given the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t intend to murder the servant but was disciplining him for doing some moral wrong he wasn’t supposed to. In that case the boss would not be put to death since it would be ruled accidental.

This didn’t mean bosses should discipline their servants so cruelly that they died after two days or that this was somehow endorsed. That’s not what the text is saying.

It’s simply saying if such an accidental death occurs after a disciplinary punishment, the boss did not deserve death. Life for a life applied only when there was a wilful intent to murder.

God didn’t allow physical abuse of servants. If an employer’s disciplining his servant resulted in immediate death, that employer (“master”) was to be put to death for murder (Exo. 21:20) – unlike other ancient Near Eastern codes (see Christopher Wright, Old Testament Ethics and the People of God, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2006, p. 292).

Infact, Babylon’s Hammurabi’s Code permitted the master to cut off his disobedient slave’s ear.

Some skeptics gripe over the end of vs. 21 which says, “for the slave is his money,” a remark that seems to suggest the servant was his master’s property. Such distortion of the text to fit the narrative of the bible basher is understandable. We call them skeptics for a reason.

The Hebrew doesn’t say “the slave is his money.” What it says is, “that is his money.” Ancient Near East scholar, Harry Hoffner, has shown in his work, Slavery and Ancient Slavery in Haiti and Israel, that based on the context of Exodus 21:18-19 the text should be rendered, “the fee is his money” in the sense that the fee the boss would pay for medical treatment for the soon-to-die injured servant was money.

From its Hebrew context, the text is saying that the death was accidental and the boss tried to save the servant by paying for medical treatment thus, the boss should not be executed since his punishment or “fee” for this tragic accidental death was money he paid in trying to save the servant.

Finally, another “troubling passage” is Exodus 21:7-11 which makes mention of a man selling his daughter as an ‘amah, rendered “slave” or “servant.”

Here is what an Old Testament scholar has to say:

“This paricope pertains to a girl who is sold by her father, not for slavery, but for marriage. Nonetheless, she is designated a ‘servant’ (‘amah, v. 7). Should the terms of marriage not be fulfilled, it is to be considered a breach of contract, and the purchaser must allow the girl to be redeemed; she must not be sold outside that family (v. 8). Always she must be treated as a daughter or a free-born woman, or the forfeiture clause will be invoked” (Walter Kaiser, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 430).

Once the entire historical and linguistical context of the passage is grasped, the shrill assertions of the critic evaporate into thin air.

Sadly, in their seething rage to attack the Bible, unbelievers never pause to consider that the “50 bad bible verses” they cite (usually gleaned from a village atheist) consist of misinterpreted texts, context butchered, idioms or meanings of words vastly misunderstood, rudimentary, elementary exegetical and hermeneutical principles spat upon and scornfully dismissed.

A Dialogue on Christian Theology

The following was an inbox dialogue I recently had with a friend named Uche on Facebook. We frequently chat on various issues and this is one discussion that I feel needs to be read by other Christians. I have his express permission to publish our exchange.

One of the purposes of Christian apologetics is to help Believers deal with their doubts and others issues they are struggling with in their journey of faith.

This is a conversation that brings out the reason why Christian leaders should ensure that they are feeding their congregation with the solid meat of God’s Word. They should also watch out for wolves in sheep clothing who shipwreck the faith of young Believers with false teachings and reasonings that pit them against God’s Word.

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Uche: I’ve got just one question for now.

Victor: Yes go ahead.

Uche: The Old Testament writers never had a true understanding of our Father in Christ and sometimes mistook his personality with that of an angel. Yes/No.

Victor: No, I won’t call that a lack of “true understanding.” The Hebrew word translated as “Angel” in the OT is malak. When the Lord Jesus manifested to them, it’s rendered as “THE Angel of the LORD” meaning “the Messenger of God,” and He received worship.

This manifestation of Christ is called “Theophany” – before He came in the flesh. But when it was otherwise, it’s rendered “AN Angel of the LORD.” This distinction was preserved in the Revised Standard Version, but not in the King James Version, so it can be a bit confusing. But again, an angel never receives worship

Uche: So you mean God tempts humans. Genesis 22:1 [And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am]?

Victor: God tested Abraham’s obedience. [“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.” NIV]. He didn’t tempt him.

God tested him to know where his loyalty lies, whether he loved Isaac more than Him. And Abraham passed the test. He obeyed God perfectly. Temptation however is different. It’s aimed at leading a person into sin.

But because God is holy – that’s one of His attributes – He doesn’t tempt. Also, the obedience of Abraham modelled and foreshadowed the relationship of Jesus to the Father and the substitute sacrifice He made for us at the cross.

Uche: My version reads “tempt.” Why would a God who has a foreknowledge of everything, knows the beginning and end of the specimen he created still tempt/test them if he knows their end product?

Victor: Sorry what Bible version do you use?

Uche: KJV.

Victor: KJV is not a very accurate translation. I’ve documented that in at least 2 articles (one/two). In fact, if you are going to have a clear understanding of the Bible, you will need to read a modern English Bible. The 17th century [Elizabethan]  English of the KJV has a way of confusing a modern reader.

Now, God has foreknowledge of the future (Acts 15:18) but He is not the cause of what He foreknows. That God foreknows a thing doesn’t mean He made it happen.

Foreknowledge is not the same as predestination. There is one ability of choice God has given man and it’s called free will. Man must choose to obey God. God cannot compel man to love Him or obey Him.

As a teacher, I know which of my students are smart and when I pose a certain question to them, I know they will give a correct answer. But the onus still lies on them.

If they know it and pretend not to, or refuse to study in order to give the right answer, I cannot be blamed for that. Even though God knows the future, He still tests (not tempt!) our hearts.

Uche: You said temptation leads into sin. Test leads to what? Because I know it has two sides. Temptation also worketh patience if rightly approached [paraphrasing James 1:3].

Victor: Tests can either come out positive or negative. Abraham passed the test and He was blessed by God as a result. There’s no promotion without examination.

There’s no servant of God in Scripture that God didn’t test in one way or the other. Even temptation is a reality. When we succumb to it, we sin, but when we stand, we gain more strength. The Bible says God will not allow us to be “tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Again, that James 1:3 you quoted is from the KJV and that’s why you are still being confused. It reads:

“Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (to verse 4, NIV).

Uche: Why will you perform an experiment you already have inference to?

Victor: That’s why it’s called a test. If I wanted to test for the presence of Carbon (IV) oxide in a solution, I know the experiment to conduct and my inference, whether it’s positive or negative. What I get tells me the final answer I need to know.

God uses life’s situations, experiences, challenges and oppositions to test us and try our hearts. He says this to the children of Israel:

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3-4).

Uche: So you mean Jesus tested Abraham … Vs. 11 and 12 “thine only son from me?”

Victor: Exactly. Read those two verses again

Uche: Hmm. In Job 1:6, what was Satan doing in the presence of God?

Victor: Now, the events of the time of Job is the earliest in history and this was the first mention of Satan. He had access to heaven and could accuse the people of God (see Rev. 12: 9-12). So when the angels were before God, he too was there.

From the use of the term “present themselves before the LORD” in Job 1, it indicates that the angels were in worship (1 Kgs. 22:19-22; Isa. 6; Dan. 4:25-26)

Uche: I thought the name Satan was given to him as a Rebel. Originally = Lucifer? I think I get your point. Are you saying he was a rebel who was still an angel of God. Accusing brethren till God finally cast him down?

Victor: Yes. The name Satan means adversary. Lucifer means “light bearer.” He was an anointed cherub (a higher order of angel) who rebelled and made many other angels to rebel and side with him. He still has access to the heavens until his final casting down to earth.

Uche: Okay. What do you say about the bad/evil attributes about our God in the old testament.

For example when Elijah sent down fire from heaven to destroy those soldiers. Does it mean God is not interested in the salvation of their souls rather than wasting their lives. Is our God capable of doing everything thing including bad things?

Victor: I have a problem with your usage of the term “bad/evil” for God. Sounds like you are sitting as a judge over God (something many atheists do).

Before I answer your question, I must ask you, what have you been reading/soaking in of late?

Uche: Actually nothing, but just the Bible. I’m just confused, it’s looking like the Jesus came in flesh to introduce the real attributes of his father and that the old testament guys were a little bit biased because as I understood the scriptures were initiated to them by the Holy spirit through revelations and visions which they interpreted with their mortal brains.

In summary their definitions of God was a holy, untouchable, fearful and a being that can do virtually everything, but Jesus introduced a Father who is loving and caring and can do only righteous things.

Victor: Your allegation of bias against the writers of the OT and interpreting events with their mortal brains indicate that you have rejected (or rejecting) the inspiration of the Old Testament.

I am certain you didn’t get those conclusions from the Holy Spirit. From the questions you’ve raised so far, the alarm bells keep ringing in my spirit that you have changed – and I mean on the inside – your thoughts are being negatively influenced by something and you need to get rid of it. For your own good; and seek to be reconnected to the Lord.

Now, with that being said. Let me state that there are attributes of God laid out in Scripture: love, mercy, justice, holiness, faithfulness etc. These attributes work together and there’s no justification for isolating one out of the rest.

All through the Bible, we see that God is holy just as He is loving. He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden but when they sinned, He sent them out.

God in His holiness hates sin and cannot look upon sin no matter how little it is (Habakkuk 1:13). His justice demands that He judges sin wherever it is found.

When the people of Sodom and Gomorrah became exceedingly wicked, He judged them, but spared the righteous Lot and his family. There, we see God’s justice + mercy.

When the world in the time of Noah veered into wickedness, He judged them but spared Noah and his family. That’s His justice + mercy/love.

He judged the wicked nations inhabiting the land of Israel and gave it to His people. But when the nation of Israel committed the same sins, He judged them as well and sent them into captivity.

Yet in all His dealings, we see His justice and mercy side by side. That’s why Genesis 18:25 says God doesn’t destroy the righteous with the wicked. Unto the righteous He shows His mercy and onto the wicked, His judgement.

Uche: I’m forever on the Lord’s side, #Never_Turning_Back. I’ve been changed by Jesus and the change is from the inside, so you need not to be worried about any negative change. Thank you for your answers, you’ve cleared my confusion.

Actually the problem is the new president of my fellowship. This guy blows my head everyday with all these questions, teaching that those are the tenets of the Gospel, and I’m scared because most of the fellowship members have been infected with his doctrines. I now have some truths to see if I can be of help.

Victor: I knew it. I sensed you were receiving some inputs from somewhere. Anyway, I feel sorry for the people in your fellowship and the state of your president.

This is why there needs to be proper accountability and oversight in Christian fellowships.

There needs to be a spiritual cover from mature Christian leaders assessing what is being taught to the members. We live in an age of dangerous doctrines and we all need to be sharpened and grounded in the Word.

Uche: We also have a pastor who is more matured but I guess they are all [nonchalant] …. God help us.

***

Victor: Even when Jesus came, He had to take our penalty justice demanded for our sins so that we could have fellowship with God. At the cross we see the revelation of the justice and mercy of God.

And Jesus – as compassionate as He is – also whipped the people out of the temple, warned against Hell and spoke of His second coming during which judgement would be executed on the unrighteous (see Luke 19:1-23). God never tolerates sin and He will always reward righteousness. There’s no neutrality in the attributes of God.

The major difference between the servants of God in the OT and the NT was that in the former, God used them more as instrument of judgement, but in the latter as instrument of mercy.

In Luke 9:51-56, when the Samaritans refused to accept Jesus, His disciples (James and John) asked if they should command fire to come from heaven and destroy them like Elijah did, but Jesus rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

He didn’t deny that Elijah called down fire on his enemies. Nor did He question that the disciples might have been able to do the same. Instead, He reminded them that they were in a period when God was using His servants in a different way.

They were called to be instruments of God’s mercy, rather than His judgement. Just as the Bible presents God to us as our loving Father, it also presents Him as a consuming fire (see 2 Cor. 1:3-5 and Heb. 12:29).

In addition, Romans 11:22 says:

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Again, we see the two sides of God: His sternness and kindness. We must have both in mind in our relationship with God. Both are equally real.

There’s a delusion nowadays that the God of the OT is violent, fierce and harsh but the God of the NT is tender, merciful and loving. This is a form of modern Gnosticism (championed by Marcion in the early church), it’s a deadly heresy that ignores God’s dealings of judgement in the NT e.g on Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas the sorcerer and the execution of God’s wrath on the wicked at Christ’s second advent.

Answers to Seven Questions about God

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Theology literally means “the study of God.” I have observed that the word evokes a negative notion in many African Christians because of the way some preachers have wielded it over the years.

The term “theology,” as used in some Christian circles, refers to any schema of philosophy or complex, scholarly information that is beyond the grasp of common people. This is a caricature and it should be discarded.

Learning about God is the starting point of a sound Christian life. There’s no way to go without having a good knowledge of theology in this age of promulgation of false ideas about God (The Shack is a good example) as well as skepticism and atheist propaganda which usually thrive on ignorance and sophistry.

Learning about God doesn’t have to be complex. We can simplify it into questions and answers, most of which I’ve encountered from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Who is God?

Many people believe the best definition of God is found in the Westminster Catechism:

“God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” (Art. II).

God is a Spirit means that he has an immaterial nature which is incorporeal nonphysical, and invisible.

God doesn’t have a physical body that can be seen. Hence, when some people accuse Christians of worshipping “the white man’s God” or depict Him looking like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings (Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ also comes in handy), they are obviously describing the god of their imagination, not the God revealed in the Bible.

Yes, God is a revelation. He is not a concept emanating out of the Christian’s head. He makes Himself known in the lives of His people today.  That is why those who want to truly know God must seek Him.

The problem is that many people are not seeking God at all; many are not seeking Him in the right way; they have not asked the right questions and are yet to shake away their false expectations and imaginations about God.

Can God be seen?

A Russian cosmonaut once announced from outer space that God didn’t exist because he looked out of his window and didn’t see God. This is a misconception about God, no doubt. Later, an American astronaut read from space the Genesis account of the creation of the world by God. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). Just because people can’t see God doesn’t mean there is no God.

We don’t see radiation or the wind, but we know they are real because we see their actions and effects. Similarly, God’s “eternal power and deity” can be understood from the things which are made (Rom. 1:20). God doesn’t have physical presence, but the physical world He created bears His fingerprints, proving that He exists.

It’s a universally agreed fact that life can only come from life. Life didn’t spontaneously emerge from some lifeless molecules at the edge of an ancient tidal pool; it came from God, the Source of life. Common sense dictates to us that when we see an intricate, intelligent design, evidently, a Designer made it.

This doesn’t go down well with atheists/skeptics who demand an empirical evidence for God’s existence. They want God to do something compelling that will be seen by everyone, like splitting Mt. Everest into 2 parts and suspending them or shaking the Eiffel Tower, levitating it, moving it 180 degrees and changing it into a huge golden mist in the sky at high noon, with a towering figure saying “I am God! I exist!”

Perhaps then, a congress of 144,000 atheists and agnostics from all over the world will jointly decide on taking some of that golden mist into the laboratory, pass it through an electron spectrometer, and analyse its electron beam for the presence of God. Then the atheists, agnostics and skeptics, satisfied in their irrational, arbitrary and dogmatic demands will acknowledge that God truly exists.

God has placed a natural longing to seek Him in every man, but this has been thwarted by sin. Some people want to see God out of curiosity; others to worship Him and a third group of people want to see God for personal fulfillment.

Did Moses and Israel’s elders see God?

Some have asserted that there is a contradiction between Moses’ request to see God’s glory and being permitted to see the back parts of God (Exodus 33:18-23) and Exodus 24:9, 10 which says “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel” and what Jesus said: “No one has seen God at any time, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made it known” (John 1:18).

There’s no contradiction whatsoever. To illustrate: A man may see the reflection of his face in a mirror. It would be true for the man to say “I saw my face,” and also true to say “I never saw my face.”

So men have seen a manifestation of God, and it is true to say those men saw God. But no man ever saw God as He is in His invisible essence, so it’s perfectly true to say no man has ever seen God at any time.

In the Old Testament, God manifested as “The Angel (Messenger) of the LORD.” A clear distinction is drawn in the Bible in the original languages between ‘An angel of the Lord” and “The angel of the Lord.” This manifestation of God is called theophany. Notably, God has made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Why did God create us?

God created us so we could have life (Jn. 10:10). It was an act of love on His part, not of necessity at all. God didn’t create us or the rest of creation because He was lonely or because He needs us. God is self-dependent.

Nevertheless, He created us for His own glory. He speaks of His sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as those “whom I created for my glory” (Isa. 43:7). This fact guarantees that our lives are significant. We are important to God Himself.

Furthermore, he created us for us to fulfill His purpose. As we glorify Him and enjoy Him, Scripture tells us that He rejoices in us. We read, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the birds, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5; cf. Zeph. 3:17-18).

Why did God not destroy Satan immediately he rebelled?

The simple answer is: because that is the nature of God. God is just; He is entirely correct and fair in His dealings with humanity and also with spirit beings (angels, Satan and his demons).

The Bible says God is “good and upright” and all His ways “are loving and faithful” (Psa. 25:8, 10). “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).

God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet He didn’t destroy Satan because the remaining two-third of the angels that were loyal to God would think that God eliminated Satan because He (God) was afraid that Satan had a legitimate cause.

For example, there are some governments that squelch any criticism from the media and execute anyone who opposes them. But with such responses, they are not only proving that they are weak, but also making the opposition against them legitimate. They don’t want their injustice and evil to become public knowledge.

Another reason is that, if God had destroyed Satan and his followers, it would imply that He wanted to maintain obedience through power and authority only. That would be tyranny which is contrary to God’s love.

Man and angels are free moral agents. They can discern between good and evil, so God didn’t eliminate the opposition to allow man and the angels make a decision on whether to follow God or Satan.

God is Love and love doesn’t coerce, but pleads and woos. This is why God invites all men to choose, love, serve and worship Him willingly from their hearts.

Nevertheless, God in His justice has set a day of judgement for Satan and all who follow him. Their doom has been sealed. At the right time, they will be destroyed, i.e cast into the lake of fire.

Where did God come from?

This is a loaded question. It assumes a limited God; one limited by time, space and matter. That is certainly not the God of the Bible but a god the skeptic/atheist imagines we worship. Our God is not affected by time, space and matter. If He was, then He’s not God. If an infinite God can fit into our 1.4 kg brain, He would not be worth worshipping.

Time, space and matter are what we call a continuum; all of them have to come into existence at the same instant. If there was matter but no space, where would it be put? If there were matter and space, but no time, when will it be put at? So, time, space and matter cannot be independent of one another, they have to come into existence simultaneously.

The Bible answers this in Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning,” that’s time. “God created the heavens,” that’s space, “and the earth,” that’s matter. So there is time – past, present and future; space – height and depth, and matter – solid, liquid and gas. Here’s a trinity of sorts created by the Divine Trinity.

Since God created them, He is outside of them and cannot be limited by them. The one who made the computer is not in the computer. He is not running around within it changing the numbers on its screen.

Similarly, the God who created the universe is outside of it. He is above, beyond, through it and unaffected by it. He’s not subjected to the laws of the universe which require that everything must have a beginning.

Can we totally understand God?

Men cannot totally understand an infinite, omniscient, eternal God. It’s silly for us to think otherwise. While it is rational to believe in God, we know Him through revelation. Most of what we have come to know about God is through revelation rather than philosophy.

Many skeptics fondly wish God to fit into the confines of our finite minds. They want a God that they can wrap up in their sock or capture in their test tubes. They want to have God and everything that happens in this world figured out according to their own reasoning (even though they can’t even logically figure out their own lives). This is hyper-rationalism.

For example, some skeptics question how God who is Spirit could have any impact on the material universe to create it. But they can’t explain where human emotions (love, joy, hate etc.), our desire for purpose and sense of justice, morals and beauty come from. To assert that they emanate from the molecules in our brain is simplistic and ludicrous.

I mean, if your brain is just a random collection of chemicals formed by chance over billions of years, on what grounds then do you trust your reasoning process and the thoughts that you think? There is much humility in admitting that there are some things we can never understand. It is arrogance for man to insist he must understand everything before accepting its reality.

In the final analysis, we worship the eternal, immortal, invisible and only wise God while atheists adhere to what can be called reverse Gnosticism. They reject and disparage the spirit while attributing god-like abilities to matter.

Sources

Elmer Towns, Bible Answers to All Your Questions, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2003.

Reuben Torrey, What Does the Bible Teaches? Whitaker House, Springdale, 1996.

Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press, Chicago, 2008.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Grand Rapids: MI, 1979, “God.”

Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1999.

Dave Armstrong, Replies to Atheists and Skeptic Garden Variety Objections