Problem: Jesus-is-my-boyfriend theology; thinking God is different in the OT/NT; thinking Jesus is a wimp; thinking that Christianity isn’t masculine.
It has to be understood that the God of the Bible is consistent through the entire story. The Old Testament God, be it the Father in Heaven or the Theophany (Jesus’ pre-Incarnation appearance in the OT), is the same God in the New Testament. Yaweh (I am who I am), is a righteous and honorable god who is also merciful.
A oft-made complaint is that Jesus is some weak pusillanimous hippie and not at all like the OT God; that the Bible doesn’t speak to masculinity and manliness, etc. Um, have you read it? Probably not if that was your takeaway. Maybe you did but you were hopelessly biased or have poor reading comprehension skills.
What people fail to understand is that multiple things can be true at once. God can be vengeful, judgmental, and forgiving as well. Christian theology teaches that God is the originator of all things; his personal nature is as real as physics. This means that things like honor and justice derive from God. God also plays by his rules, which creates some interesting cases.
You’ve got this righteous, omnipotent being who is so honorable he will not break his own rules. Yet his favorite creation sinned, condemning them to death and eternal separation from him. Nothing these humans can do will redeem themselves. So what does he do? He decides to become a man in order to bear all the sins of the world in sacrifice. I doubt we can really understand it this side of eternity.
This attitude of forgiveness and a peaceful God in the form of Jesus is not inconsistent with the OT. All throughout the Bible, both testaments, forgiveness is clear. Does this prayer of David seem like someone who doesn’t believe in grace? “But the Law of Moses…”
It’s not contradictory for God to think homosexuals deserve the death penalty, for example, but that they can repent and perhaps spare themselves. Lots of people repented in the OT and God did not strike them down. David was an adulterer and murderer yet he repented and did great things for God, in spite of his sin. (Heck, in the New Testament the greatest persecutor of Christians was redeemed to become the greatest evangelizer of all time.)
In the OT, God does offer forgiveness and the whole Jewish theological doctrine of salvation is the hope that God will offer grace—that is an unmerited pardon from the guilt of their sins. But to condemn them, he had to make the law as well. And yes, this loving, forgiving God in the OT does have to do some really nasty stuff, even to the people he loves. “After all, he’s not a tame Lion,” C. S. Lewis might say.
Whatifalthist said to the effect that the reason the OT God is so harsh is because that’s how gods in the Middle East had to be back then. A part of this is secular historians’ making the argument that a passive god wouldn’t be an attractive figure to the Israelites contemporaries, so humans constructing a religion would give their god characteristics of a tough guy. A certain element of fear would also required to keep people in line.
Since I accept the Bible as true, I do believe that God did have to be tough with the Israelites because people back then literally needed a vengeful god to keep them in line. If you are familiar with the OT, you know that the Israelites are a “stiff necked people,” rebelled against God multiple times, and got themselves into trouble a lot. God literally asks Moses “Hey, do you want me to kill all these losers and start over with you?”
God says plenty of times the only reason he hasn’t abandoned Israel is because he made an eternal covenant with them that they will be his chosen people. He lets them dig themselves into a hole and then, after they’ve suffered the consequences and repent, he bails them out. It will happen one last time before they finally open their eyes.
So we get to the New Testament and have hippie-Jesus-is-my-boyfriend guy. This attitude is wrongly taught by too many “warehouse churches” today giving people the wrong impression that God is weak and Christianity isn’t masculine or tough. I think the Crusaders would beg to differ. Throughout history, Christianity has been as “chad” as Islam has, but those are the political sides of religion, not the “real” side.
The whole point of the Incarnation as Jesus was a mission of forgiveness and redemption. Jesus was to come as a Lamb the first time in order to be the sacrifice of sin. The Gospel is good news because the provision for man’s sin and the reconciling of mankind to God had arrived. But that didn’t mean Jesus was just some wimp.
Probably the best example of Dark Jesus is the cleansing of the Temple when he whips the moneychangers and merchants ripping people off. One of you on Twitter posted that Jesus had to sit there making a whip, which was not a quick process, probably giving a death stare to these guys before he went on his rampage. Can you imagine the terror if they knew who he was? Peter walks up to a moneychanger: “Um yeah hi, YHWH is over there making a whip and when he’s finished he’s going to beat your ass. You might wanna think about refunds and packing up your table.”
The kind of guys who think Jesus is a pussy are like the women who see their “tough” husband cry at his mom’s funeral and suddenly want a divorce because they think he’s weak. Jesus told the Pharisees off to their face—that’s like calling out Antifa in the middle of a Portland riot. Many times the Apostles got chased out of towns.
Now to modern churches. Yes, a lot of modern churches teach the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend gospel because it’s popular right now. On modern Earth, people want to hear what makes them feel good right now. Joel Osteen, anyone? It’s beyond Christianity too; you can’t criticize [redacted] or point out the hypocrisy in the LGBTQAH47 community. No one wants to hear the harsh truth, especially the Federal Reserve and Congress, let alone some IQ 90 people who feel like crap because they made bad decisions in life.
The forgiveness message takes over in a lot of modern American Christianity because it attracts a lot of broken people. If you are so burdened down by having lead an objectively bad life, supernatural forgiveness is the only way to make amends for that. Hence Jesus’ mission and Christianity. That’s why it attracts ex-porn stars, single moms, addicts, and criminals. Jesus for the sinners.
The problem with that is too many churches get stuck in the “it’s all okay” message so people don’t ever have to feel bad. Stupid preachers are one problem and the other is a business decision. These less-sincere preachers don’t want to turn people off, see attendance decline, and lose tithe money with a message of “Hey, living with your girlfriend and having threesomes on the weekend isn’t what God intended.” I exaggerate but that’s it.
Boyfriend-Jesus is popular with the single mom crowd and keeps everybody who can’t bear a strong message happy. That doesn’t work for a lot of men and does little for spiritual development. Sin has to be called out. Forgiveness is great and all but sin has consequences. Look at it this way: if you pig out once in a while, you can work off that weight and eat better, but if you just give into gluttony you’ll weight 600lbs. The western church is the 600lb woman now.
One Iranian Christian woman went back to Iran because she felt the churches here were dead and she didn’t want to backslide. Christianity isn’t for wimps. Jesus said the fate of Christians was to be persecuted and killed. He promised hardship and suffering, not prosperity. The latter is nice and all but not a guarantee. Our society right now is an aberration in world history.
So as I conclude this rant, please, sit down and read the Bible. Get a good, modern translation but not anything “woke.” The NLT is okay and so is NIV84, but also try the legion of American English translations published since the late 19th century. Once you’ve gotten the gist of it, you can have translations wars later. Read the Bible and understand the picture in full; don’t take it piecemeal from the Internet, TV preachers, or the couple times you’ve been to church.
Specifically to those warrior types who think the world is gonna end soon (it probably is), I suggest my friend Joe Dolio’s Tactical Wisdom series. It’s basically non-boring field manuals on how to basically be a Marine (or solider) but he also discusses the badass portions of the Bible like where Gideon leads a guerilla raid and uses psyops. Seriously.
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.