God is a consequentialist part 2 - the Old Testament inconsistencies

So now having exposed in the last post how God values moral actions, let me look into internal evidence from the Bible which shows that God espouses a moral absolutist code, and yet proceeds to contradict that ruling somewhat hypocritically in his actions.

Let me recap. By seeing moral value in the greater good that supposedly (this is just an assertion from theists to explain away the Problem of Evil) comes about from a moral action, God is deriving the moral value of that action not from any intrinsic character, but from the context; from the consequences. For example, the suffering and death of Jesus is excused from the greater good this supposedly entails (the confusing notion of atonement) and the 2004 tsunami killing 230,000 people and millions of other organisms is explained as morally good in the consequences which this brings about. We do not know what these consequences are since God decides it is a good idea not to tell us, but suffice it to say that we must (as theists claim) understand that this is part of God’s greater plan, mysterious as it is. Since God is morally perfect, the plan must also be morally perfect. Thus any action or omission (inaction, or choice not to act) is defined as being morally perfect. Therefore, the tsunami was both designed tectonically by God in actualising the physics of this universe, and allowed to happen by God choosing not to intervene and stop it due to some greater good which we struggle to fathom. As a result, we are assured (by theistic experts with no small dollop of question begging) that here is a greater good, and subsequently, as I have surmised, the good of such an action or omission is derived by the consequences.

(Apologies for the length of this post (they will normally be shorter) but there is a lot to cover, and input from B__e is also used.)

So, let us look at the moral rules which we do have, rather explicitly, in the Old Testament. I do not want to worry about contradictions in the text, or that there were more than ten commandments, or even about the full 613 mitzvot which prevail but seem to disappear from relevance when Jesus pops up. I want to look at the 10 commandments at face value, and accept them as being the rules which they claim to be.

Ex-Christian and poster on this site, B__e, has provided some good analysis on these points as we have both ruminated upon such issues. Below is a spliced together analysis, with some quoted additional material from him.

As Exodus 20 sets out:

Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“ I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“ You shall have no other gods before Me.
“ You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“ You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “ Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
13 “ You shall not murder.
14 “ You shall not commit adultery.
15 “ You shall not steal.
16 “ You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “ You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

So we have 1) no other gods 2) no idolatry 3) no swearing 4) keep Sabbath holy 5) honour father and mother 6) no murder 7) no adultery 8) no stealing 9) no lying 10) no jealousy

Let me see God’s track record on his own absolute commandments, and whether he would end up in heaven (spoiler – he might not…).

1) obviously God cannot worship other Gods. However, he does have Jesus and the Holy Spirit to confuse matters, and he did have a council, and there was Asherah, referenced just a few times in the OT. But that’s another post.

As B__e adds:

Deuteronomy 6:4 reads:  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  This statement is a cornerstone of the traditional Jewish faith.  Jews, Muslims, Arians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to name a few, think that Trinitarian Christian theology would have God breaking the first commandment on a regular basis.  As it says in the Qur’an, “the Messiah, Isa [Jesus] son of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word … believe therefore in Allah and his apostles and say not, Three.  Desist, it is better for you, Allah is only one God; far be it from His glory that He should have a son.”
Incidentally, the Trinity, often regarded as one of the most important doctrine of traditional Christians, is also one of the best arguments against the bedrock Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture.  Does any “simpleton” clearly find in the Bible that Yahweh should be described in the unintelligible formula of three Persons but still one God?  Do the Scriptures clearly represent the incomprehensible interrelationships between an uncreated Holy Spirit who proceeds through a Son who was “begotten” but not made and who is consubstantial with his eternal Father?  Is there any wonder why so many people of faith think that the Trinity is a bogus construct that is a cover for polytheism?  

2) No likeness of what is in heaven above? Like the images on the Ark of the Covenant? Like Jesus being the “image of the invisible God”?

3) Not relevant as God doesn’t take his own name in vain, I don’t think. Maybe he does…


In Matthew 27:46 (quoting Ps 22:1), Jesus in his despair calls out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  This would seem both irreverent and improper, as He appears to be losing faith and asserting that God has abandoned him.  From a Trinitarian perspective, this verse is especially interesting as (1) Jesus would know that God had not forsaken him because he is God and (2) he was in effect calling out a question to himself.  (I.e., “Myself, myself, why have I forsaken myself?”)

4) Sabbath. Because Jesus performed miracles of healing on the Sabbath, some Pharisees accused Him of breaking the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10; Mark 3:2, John 9:14–16). John records that Jesus performed a healing during one of the festivals in Jerusalem. John's gospel records what happened next, when Jesus confronted His accusers: "Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.' Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:17–18). From this, many assume that the Pharisees' accusation—that Jesus broke the Sabbath—was correct, and that Christians as a result are free to do so. Scripture also records that Jesus' disciples were walking through a field on the Sabbath when they plucked and ate heads of grain. Seeing this, some Pharisees asked them: "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?" (Luke 6:2). Many accept that the Pharisees' accusation is correct, and that by their actions Jesus and His disciples did not keep the Sabbath.

5) Honour your father and mother. Luke 14:26: “ If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” 

And then there is, perhaps, Luke 11:27-28: While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”


Furthermore, Jesus certainly pained his parents considerably by staying behind in Jerusalem without their knowledge when he was only twelve years of age.  As the Gospel of Luke states, ”When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”  Being God, Jesus would have known that his parents were worrying.  Yet he seems to callously reply: “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  (Lk 2:48-29).  If you had a 12-year-old son who deliberately ran off in a big city knowing that you would be very worried (and also delaying your trip home), would you not feel dishonored?

6) Murder. Pah! This could take a long time. This ranges from taking innocent lives (babies, unborn foetuses) to anyone else. God did this personally, but also ordered it on a mass level. I will leave it to http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/godkills.htm who totted up a huge 2,270,365+ deaths.

7) Adultery. Of course, God gave David and Solomon permission to have a good number of concubines in the Bible. Now, strictly speaking, adultery might be seen as having relations with another man’s woman so concubines don’t count. But there is certainly a grey area here. Moreover, this law being punishable by death means that there is inconsistency in the punishment doled out by God. Some die, others not (2 Samuel 3:7, 2 Samuel 16:22, Judges 19:2), and others have a third party punished on behalf of the perpetrator. As 2 Samuel 12 states, in punishing David’s affair: “And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick… on the seventh day, that the child died.” Nice. So at best, God is wholly inconsistent in his absolute laws, seemingly judging (according to the punishments) their moral worth according to their contexts and situations.

8) Stealing. The plundering of the Egyptians. The sacking of Canaan. See A for Atheist’s post for more detail on the consequentialist approach here.

9) Lying. The Hebrew midwives lied to the Pharaoh's men about male children born to the Israelite women (Exodus 1:19). Then, the very next verse indicates God approved: “So God was good to the midwives” (Exodus 1:20). God not only sanctioned the lie, He even blessed the midwives because of their deception.

I LOVE this from B__e:

Jesus claims repeatedly in Revelation 22 that he is “coming soon.”  (He’s quite late now.)  

And then 2 Chronicles 18:18-22:   Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”

And then Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12:  and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

10)  Jealousy. Exodus 20:4-5 4 “ You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me…" Nice guy, this God chap.

As B__e adds:

Furthermore, Yahweh’s words clearly demonstrate his injustice as (1) He cursed all people in the Fall and made them morally weak, (2) He had not provided the Holy Spirit at Pentecost yet (which is supposed to help in some way), (3) the verses themselves show that God planned on punishing people who were not even born yet for things they were not a party to, and (4) in His perfections, He would have been in no way hurt because certain frail mortals gave worship to other imaginary beings.

All in all, this tells us that God is
1)      inconsistent in absolutists terms.
2)      if he has reasons for the above, then the motivation for such moral judgements is not the intrinsic character of the moral action, but the context and consequences.
3)      God is a moral consequentialist.
4)      God is a hypocrite.

Over to B__e:

This post is not meant to suggest that the Ten Commandments have no moral value or that people should be free to kill, murder, steal, and lie at will.  (Who would want to live in a society like that?)  Rather, it is an attempt to illustrate that the simple fact that the Bible is a mixed bag.  As Mark Twain aptly noted, “It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”  Many believe that life would be too confusing without a perfect Bible as an absolute guide to morality.  I believe the more relevant observation is that, based on the actual content of the Scriptures themselves, they are simply not a perfect moral guide regardless of what any other options might be.  The human race is much better off following common ethical principles found among most every group and nation—namely, compassion, honesty, justice, loyalty, courage and the like.  

Either that, or the Bible is false. You buys your ticket, you takes your choice.

[This post includes some welcome input from B__e. I could not include it all for space, but his entire individual post can be seen here - it is worth checking out.]