Atheists Behaving Badly with the Old Testament
by Matt Rawlings
I see the silly Facebook memes quoting the Old Testament out of context. I usually just take a deep breath and move on. After all, I have tried to make it a spiritual discipline of mine not to argue with people on Facebook. But lately I have been reading the New York Times bestselling books by atheists and when I read what supposedly educated people do with the Old Testament, it drives me into a Tourette Syndrome type fit of profanity!
For example, Sam Harris argues in The End of Faith that a truly faithful Christian should stone his daughter to death if she attends a yoga class for it is a practice of a false god (Deut. 17:2-3). It is statements such as these that led author and atheist cheerleader S.T. Joshi to write that Harris’ are arrives at his conclusions “hastily and without a proper and judicious consideration of their full scope and implications.”
What Harris and nearly all modern atheists miss is that the laws of the Old Testament were given to a specific group at a specific time and place for a very specific reason–one in which the entire world held in the balance.
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Israel was selected by God to be a “nation of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Of course, they had been chosen long before the Exodus. God called Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel telling him, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV). Israel was to be a blessing to the whole world. How would they be a blessing? By bringing salvation to the whole world (Isaiah 49:6).
The land of Palestine was a nice little crossroads for the western world at the time Israel was called to settle it. Egyptians and the growing city states of Greece and Italy would have passed through it on their way to trade with the east and vice-versa.
God obviously called Israel to serve as a witness to the one true faith (although they blew it!). Traveling caravans would have been shocked by a people who sought impartial rather than family led vigilante justice. They would have been befuddled by a land like no other where there was to be “no poor among them” (Deut. 15:4) and where each citizen was called to show special care for the widow and orphan (Exodus 22:21-24). It was to be a culture like no other in history and completely different for its time and it was all to bring the nations to worship the one true God…