Is the Bible faulty or is God merciless?
"You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise."
You Alone can Rescue - Matt Redman
In recent weeks the Bible has again come under severe criticisms regarding some of the seemingly harsh instructions in the scriptures. Verses with orders from God to wipe out an entire family when a sin is committed, and other scriptures which advocate harsh punishment for disobedient children are some of those causing the most angst.
God is depicted in a light which makes Him seem less than the compassionate and loving Creator we are taught about in the Bible.
Bishop-elect Fabian 'Fireball' Steele of the Mount of God Tabernacle in New Haven, Connecticut, weighed in on the issue, and for him, people often use the scripture for their own convenience.
"Irrespective of how one views the Bible, it is indeed God's word, and it is, amen. God is God and He does whatever He pleases, however He pleases and wherever He pleases. Psalm 135:6, The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in heaven and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths," he said, adding that he is establishing that God is God in whatever He does.
Referring to the story of Achan's sin found in Joshua 7 which caused his entire family to be destroyed, Bishop Steele said it is a punishment that seems overly harsh to us today.
DISOBEDIENCE BRINGS RUIN
Pointing out the reason for the severe penalty, God inflicted upon Achan, Bishop Steele said Achan's sin affected the entire nation of Israel.
"The nation as a whole was in a covenant relationship with God, and when one member transgressed that covenant, the entire nation's relationship with Him was damaged. Achan's sin defiled the other members of the community as well as himself. A similar situation is seen in the sin of Adam and Eve and its effect on the whole of mankind. Adam and Eve's rebellion destroyed the perfect communion the human race would have enjoyed with God," he explained.
Steele said it's foolhardy to think that one's sins affects only oneself.
"Disobedience brings ruin, even upon the innocent. Sin's effects go beyond the initial sinner. God gave Achan a night to consider his sin and come to Him in repentance (Joshua 7:13). Achan did not avail himself of God's mercy and patience, however. The gold and silver Achan coveted had a stronger pull on his allegiance. Is it any wonder that, in the face of such insult, God would choose to destroy him?" he questioned on the often misunderstood story.
In relation to Achan's family being destroyed with him, Steele said it could be that his children had already begun to exhibit their father's traits of covetousness, disobedience, and disrespect for God's commands.
"Most likely, they had actually helped Achan hide the stuff and were, in fact, accomplices to the crime," he speculated.
Acknowledging that there is no way to know all of God's reasons for what seems to us as harsh in how he punishes those who disobeyed back then, Steele said the biblical narratives give us sufficient information to understand that God is holy and that He is not to be disobeyed without risking dire consequences.
"Good and bad traits of fore-parents and parents oftentimes follow their children, hence it is called generational curse. The Bible mentions "generational curses" in several places (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). God warns that He is "a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me," highlights Steele.
Responding to the issue of unfairness regarding everyone in the family having to share the punishment of one member in it, Steele said the effects of sin are naturally passed down from one generation to the next. According to him, when a father has a sinful lifestyle, his children are likely to practise the same sinful lifestyle. "So, it is not unjust for God to punish sin to the third or fourth generation - those generations are committing the same sins their ancestors did. The cure for this is true repentance and breaking the curse from our parents and grandparents," he said.