Luke 4:18 “God the Father has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To preach deliverance to the captives, and to free those who are oppressed.”
Over 20 years ago, Tom Bisset published his book ‘Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith’, where he listed the top four reasons: “1) They had troubling, unanswered questions about the faith; 2) Their faith was not “working” for them; 3) They allowed other things to take priority; 4) They never personally owned their faith.” All these reasons are alive and well today in our young people, especially in many atheists I know.
But are these reasons valid? Questions 2-4 are not valid reasons, since following Jesus Christ isn’t about making Him ‘work’ in your life, nor is your personal relationship with Christ ever going to work if you don’t own it by making it a priority (just as claiming to love someone doesn’t cause you to realign your priorities).
That leaves reason number 1. For the next few weeks, I will address several of the most common questions from atheists that, because they claim are unanswerable, have caused them to reject the God of the Bible. The first question I often get, for why atheists reject the God of the Bible, rarely points to the character of Jesus Christ. Instead, they point to what they claim is the abusive character of God the Father.
This questioning of God came at me in a post from an atheist who quoted the latest defender of godlessness, Jamie Lee Finch, a self-proclaimed ‘sex witch’ who abandoned her Christian faith in favor of living a self-centered life that she claims freed her from the shackles of a God who demanded obedience in order for her to feel loved. Here’s the quote from Finch’s book ‘You are Your Own’.
“So often for those raised within evangelical environments, any single moment of perceived failure, any mistake, any step outside the previously established lines can paralyze with life-altering fear, anxiety, shame, and dread, because the trauma of early teaching is essentially playing on a loop within us.
Our brains developed in a state of restriction, hesitation, and lack, rather than a state of permission, wholeness, and freedom. This is why any misstep threatens identity, threatens worthiness, and threatens belonging. Because of being raised on such thin ice in relation to our human nature and the whims of an abusive deity that Jesus had to come and pacify and prevent from torturing and abusing us forever.
When raised to believe that left to our own devices we deserve to be punished and tortured forever, worthiness, belonging, and safety are entirely conditional. Our comfortability with our own identity is conditional. Pleasure becomes dangerous. Pain becomes discipline. And discipline masquerades as love.”
In these short paragraphs, Finch claims: 1) the abusive deity of Christian teaching is responsible for her brain developing away from feelings of freedom and wholeness toward restriction and lack; 2) and because of this, she lived everyday on ‘thin ice’ that separated her desire to follow her human nature versus the ‘whims’ (which means ‘sudden unexplainable changes of mind or mood swings) of an abusive deity, which finally led to 3) this abusive deity forcing His only Son, Jesus Christ, to come and pacify His whimsical character so He would be prevented from torturing and abusing her forever.
My response was simple: “I don’t know what kind of perversion of Christianity you must have been raised in, but it wasn’t based on the clear message of Jesus Christ: ‘The Father has sent Me to heal the broken hearted.’ (Luke 4:18). ‘Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.’ (John 8:32).”
Our verse for this week, from Luke’s gospel, was spoken by Jesus Himself. He read from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, which is a prophecy of God the Father’s promise that He would send a Savior to mankind who would free anyone with a broken heart from the pain that sin has wreaked in their lives.
And even more, this Savior, sent not by an abusive deity but by a loving, merciful Father, would deliver anyone, even Jamie Lee Finch, from their captivity of their sin. Jesus ended His speech by saying “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21).
In other words, God the Father’s promise is fulfilled in Jesus. He physically came in 32AD, and He is alive today, and He is the gift from a loving Father who esteems you to be of such immense worth to Him that He has personally acted to provide the way for you to reciprocate that love He has for you back to Him. This isn’t child abuse. This is amazing grace from a loving Father.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #367
4 thoughts on “Answering Atheism’s Questions Part 1: Is God’s Character Abusive?”
Is the Christian god abusive? Well, that depends on which version since each Christian comes up with one they create in their own image.
Generally, abusive would mean “ using or involving physical violence or emotional cruelty”. So, does god use physical violence? Yes. Does it use cruelty: the state of inflicting injury grief or pain? Yes. The bible has many instances of this, allowing Satan to murder Job’s family, killing david’s son for David’s sins, killing children for the actions of heir parents, using young girls as war booty for Israelites and for treasure for its temple, insisting that if a man is a slave and he is freed but his family is not, he has to choose between freedom and them, blinding a man so this god can show off, etc.
Some Christians, like you, try to make a division between Jesus and God, but that doesn’t work so well since this “son of god” says that everything his father does and commands is okay by him, and that all of those silly commandments in the OT have to be follows until earth and heaven pass away. They are still around. I haven’t read Finch, but she seems to be quite happy to get away from the lies of evangelical Christianity, having recognized that Christians make up their own nonsense and then try to convince others that some magical being agrees with them and only them. Her quote ““So often for those raised within evangelical environments, any single moment of perceived failure, any mistake, any step outside the previously established lines can paralyze with life-altering fear, anxiety, shame, and dread, because the trauma of early teaching is essentially playing on a loop within us.” Is quite true since people use fear and ignorance to try to control people and it is especially hard on kids. And when those kids grow up and realize that they were lied to, it’s even harder since they really did trust those who lied to them.
I happily wasn’t an evangelical Christian, I was a Presbyterian, which has its own whole other bit of problems since Christians do get cranky when non-Christians wonder which is the real version, predestination vs free will, Catholic vs protestant, etc. I do know tht Finch is a bit confused on her bible knowledge but her version is as good as any other for why this god had bit of a personality break between the OT and NT (depending on the author of each book of course).
There is no “clear message of Jesus Christ” and that is why a lot of younger folks (I’m in my 50s) realize that there is no reason to believe in Christianity at all. We have the god/Jesus of preachers like Jeffress who ignore their bible as long as they get power, we have Joel Osteen who is sure that prayers are answered like the bible promises and everyone can get rich, we have liberal pastors who are sure that this god doesn’t hate homosexuals or other Christian of varying sects and we have Christians who are sure that this god hate Catholics, or Protestants, or whatever flavor they don’t follow. I grew up watching protestants hate catholics.
They also realize that there is no evidence Jesus existed, or that he was the messiah described in the OT since he doesn’t fulfill those promises at all.
We also have the problem that the verses from Isaiah claimed in Luke weren’t about a messiah at all, but were Isaiah speaking about himself. When such a false statement is so easily found out, there is little reason to believe the Christian who made it. The author of Luke claims that some prophecy is being fulfilled but has no evidence for that at all, but it does make a good story.
When the whole bible is read, one finds that this god is abusive. This god supposedly, per Paul, picks and chooses who can accept it and who cannot, damning those for something they did not do (Romans 9). This is analogous to a father beating his child for an action they did not do and could not do. We also have Jesus reportedly stating that he uses parables to make sure some people can’t accept him. So this belies the claim that this god wants to “free anyone”.
As to the claim that JC came physically back in 32 CE, Christians don’t agree on this, nor is there any evidence of any of the supposed rather dramatic events around the cruxifiction at any time they do float as the “truth”, the major earthquake, the sky darkening, and the dead rising from their graves and wandering around Roman-occupied Jerusalem around the Passover. One would think that the Jews would have noticed this and the Romans would have had their hands full.
If we are to believe the bible, this god either intentionally let Satan into the garden or was too stupid to keep it out, away from two humans who knew absolutely nothing at all, including that it was supposedly good to obey this god. Then this god blames the humans for its failure, and casts them out of eden. After supposed thousands of years, this god repeatedly tries to fix its mistake, with a flood (no evidence), with commandments (no evidence of an exodus) and then finally it decides it needs a human sacrificed by torture to make itself happy. It depends on Satan to make this happen since no “betrayal” then no supposed salvation.
We end up with this “Father” in Revelation, where this entity forces humans to work with Satan to accomplish what this god wants to have happen (Revelation 17). Then after this god kills every non-christian on earth, this god intentionally allows Satan to corrupt the Christians that are left.
This is not a loving father, this is a lunatic.
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I left Christianity for number of reasons, initially identifying as agnostic, and then later as an atheist. In part I found Yahweh in Genesis a horrible character. But that was only a small reason for questioning my faith.
To answer the question in the title, I’m not sure what the character of God is. He/She or It hasn’t seen fit to reveal himself or his character in any detectable verifiable way that can be only traced to Him.
However the God portrayed and described in the old and new testaments of the bible would be definitely and accurately labeled as abusive if He were anyone else. But since He’s God and what He calls good is good and what He calls evil is evil, and what he defines for Us isn’t necessarily the standard He holds himself to… He gets a pass.