Hi, I have a question. An atheist girl I work with keeps arguing with me (not in a bad way, but she does have her opinions) about Christianity. This week, she's hung up on all the "atrocities" committed in the name of "your god", especially in the Old Testament. How do I explain the Old Law versus the New Law, and the God-sanctioned killings in the OT, etc.? I know there is an explanation and I feel her questions deserve a good answer. Thanknation, I just can't remember!
Good luck with that. And you know that we Catholics don't believe in 'luck'.
Here are the explanations, none of which is going to have much of an impact on her.
God in the Old Testament is working with a nation and setting laws for that nation. God in the New Testament is dealing with individuals and the individual's relationship to God.
I don't think that explanation is going to get us anywhere. Here's another one:
God reveals Himself slowly throughout the course of time and brings people to Him in ways they can understand as human understanding itself evolves. I believe this is the most accepted thought on the subject.
You could go with what the word "wrath" actually means in the Bible. God's "wrath" is mentioned many times, but the word is re translated from Greek and Hebrew and has various nuances (none of which are actually "wrath") when you look at the original word. The original word in many cases is "passion" or "out of breath" or "panting with passion". You could say God was upset. We understand the word "wrath" to mean extreme anger and vengefulness, but in the original language God is never wrathful. He is passionately not happy.
You might also mention that, for the most part, God actually doesn't do anything to anyone. He simply turns away from man, who is making Him unhappy, and mayhem ensues. He gives people every opportunity to get it together, sending messengers and angels and whatnot, but people never do.
She probably won't buy this either, so you could hit her with some numbers that show that God was just as sweet in the Old Testament as he is in the New Testament. Some nice person worked out this happy equation: in the Old Testament, God's love and mercy is mentioned 546 times as opposed to his "passionate unhappiness", which occurs 308 times. In the New Testament the ratio of love to unhappy is 291 to 71.
I asked Sister St. Aloysius, the math whiz, to work out the percentages on these figures and she came up with: OT 64% Love and Mercy to 36% Unhappy God. NT 80% Love and Mercy to 20% Unhappy.
So mathematically speaking, God is pretty consistent. He's only 16% more unhappy in the Old Testament.
I might say this to her, "If you actually read the book, you'll find that God never turns away from man, but that man often turns away from God. Through all the times His nation disappointed Him, God forgave them and never abandoned them and continued to guide them. He finally showed His ultimate love by sending His Son."
Although, truth be told, we really don't want her reading the book on her own. She would need to know a lot of things, like what translation she's reading and some history about the region and the people and ancient customs and all of that sort of thing. If she digs around in there by herself, it will be a sorry mess, I'm sure.
I just don't want you to get your hopes up. She's an atheist, which means she doesn't believe in God in the first place, let alone His Son. You may as well be discussing Harry Potter with her or The Wizard of Oz. Why did the people of Oz set that guy up as a wizard to run the place when he never had any power and everyone there had to know he was just that guy behind the curtain? He couldn't even fly that balloon, so we know he didn't build his wizard machine or sew the curtains. Who cares. There is no wizard of Oz.
I always feel our best bet with an atheist or a separated brethren person is to show God's endless mercy by the example of our own compassion. You seem to be doing a very good job so far by not becoming frustrated and stapling her fingers to the desk, which would be a sin for which God would punish you, even though He would understand.