Did God Evolve?

As stated in my post “3 Reasons to Read the Bible,” the second insight I gained from reading through the whole Bible on a regular basis is that I realized the God of the Old Testament really is the same as the God of the New Testament.  I don’t know about you, but that is a profoundly comforting truth.  For, if the Old Testament God is different than the New Testament God, then one of two things must be true:

1.  There is more than one God. 
How can that be?  The whole message of the Old Testament is that there is only one God.  Deuteronomy 6:4 is the most famous of the passages that teaches this, but it is just one of countless.  It is almost unfathomable to understand how anyone could read the Old Testament and not walk away convinced that the LORD alone is the only God. All other so-called gods are simply not.

Besides, by definition there can only be one God.  Show me another god and I will say, “Take me to your Superior.”  I don’t want to worship a lesser god.  I only want to worship the God of “gods.”  – Oops, sorry! I didn’t mean to go on a rant.

Jesus was very clear to communicate that he was not a different God than the one of the Old Testament.  To the monotheistic Jews, he claimed to be one with the Father (see John10:22-39).  There can be no doubt that he was stating the God of the Old Testament and he were one and the same.

2.  God evolved. 
It is easy to think this about God if you only read portions of both the Old and New Testaments.  On the surface it can be easy to characterize God in the Old Testament as angry, judgmental and vindictive.  Frankly, I think we do that because then we can contrast that with Jesus and characterize him as exclusively merciful, forgiving and loving.  Or we say the Old Testament was about the law and the New Testament is about grace.

That is neat and tidy.  However, it is not the full picture.  The more I read the whole Bible, the less contrast I see in the nature of God.  I do see an ongoing, unveiling of God’s plan to redeem his people and to establish his kingdom, but not really an evolution in the nature of God.

The characteristics of God that most people would like to keep locked in the Old Testament: wrathful, judgmental, and condemning, find their way into the New.  And guess who carries them out?  Jesus! (See Revelation 19:11-21)

And the traits of love, compassion and forgiveness that we tend to think only show up when Jesus steps onto the scene are clearly on display in the Old Testament. The patience and willingness of God to forgive and woo the Israelites back to him after they reject him over and over again is amazing.  Not only that, he has compassion of other nations also (see Jonah).

The writer of Hebrews states “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The “yesterday” to which he refers extends well before the birth of Jesus.  Hebrews clearly links Jesus to the God of the Old Testament and continues to make the case that Jesus is one and the same with that God (see Hebrews 1:1-3).

There are other reasons why people steer clear of the Old Testament: it’s boring, irrelevant; hard to understand; etc.  I will address these and others in the future.

Do you have a hard time reading the Old Testament?  What is the biggest obstacle you face in that regard?

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