Some general considerations about the failings of “God” as fundamentalists see “Him”…
The primary fundamentalist opinion that things claimed in the Bible are true, “because the bible is God’s inerrant word,” is completely ineffectual – unless it is addressed to fellow believers. One needs first to show how the Bible is the Word of God. Insistent claims to that effect are by definition unpersuasive when one’s targeted audience is non-believing. Perhaps only those of a pre-existing fundamentalist mindset can be persuaded by the eternally circular argument, “The Bible is true because it’s the Word of God/the Word of God is true because it’s in the Bible.”
Further, all too many biblical literalists claim to believe the entire Bible but clearly pick and choose what they will believe – and what they will ignore.
An example of this is fundamentalists’ attitude toward sacrificial atonement. The Bible contains many instances of sacrificial atonement-conditional salvation. But it also contains many examples of salvation not dependent on sacrificial atonement, illustrating the point that the Bible is ambiguous on some central religious issues. Fundamentalist denial of such ambiguiy can only be ascribed to the pick and choose method, which is usually biased toward Protestant fundamentalism. Fundamentalists, following Reformationists such as Luther and Calvin, insist that salvation is by faith alone (sola fides), and they do not like it when it is pointed out to them that the Bible – specifically and especially the Christian Testament – is ambiguous and inconsistent vis a vis salvation by atonement. For example, even – already – in the Jewish scriptures Yahweh condemns Temple, priesthood, and animal sacrifice, going so far as to ascribe those institutions to sheerly human invention; and in the New Testament (NT) salvation comes not only by grace and/or Jesus’ redeeming crucifixion, but rather by love and good “works.”
In the name of Biblical fidelity fundamentalists ignore non-atonement scriptures. But in reality they are motivated not by Biblical, but by Reformationist notions of fidelity. This places them – as claimed biblical literalists – in the paradoxical position of denying God’s Word in favor of man’s (Reformationist) theology. So in a real sense the typical “anti-works” fundamentalists – inasmuch as they claim to base their soteriology solely on the Bible – are really Unbibilical Biblicists.
The Bible (in addition to its pro-atonement soteriology) in other passages explicitly states that observance of Torah ethics suffices for salvation. The Gospel (Matt 25:31-46) attributes this teaching to Jesus himself. When the Son of Man will return as world judge, the Matthean Jesus specifically states that those who have practiced kindness will be saved, while those who have not, will not be saved. Jesus’/the Bible’s statement is clear, stark, and unambiguous. If fundamentalists were to (correctly) say in response to having this pointed out to them, “Yes, some scriptures say that salvation is based on works and love, while others say salvation is based on ‘faith-alone’ soteriology’ ” – that would be fair. But they don’t.
Their denial of scripture’s multiple soteriologies invalidates any claim they make to being objective and attentive bible-readers. They act this way in spite of the fact that scripture at some points plainly contradicts the tenets of Luther and Calvin, in whom fundamentalists’ loyalty really resides.
It can be reasonably said, then, that the Biblical God – even as read literally – contradicts the fundamentalist deity at an number of points. Using their own terms, therefore, it is the case that the fundamentalist God must be the false one, since that God strays from the scriptural God.
Another fundamentalist flaw is the tendency to champion Yahweh’s worst behavior, based on uncritical, literalist readings of Yahweh’s exploits in the Hebrew Bible. But such examples of divine misbehavior have also managed to creep-and-crawl their way even into the NT, e.g., in the book of Acts where Ananius and Sapphira are struck dead by the ever-vengeful Covenanter, and in the book of Revelation where the returning Christ is prophesied to squeeze out his enemies’ blood like grape juice from his winepress.
Fundamentalists frequently claim their god’s superiority by stating that without the Hebrew God there can be no morality. Yahweh is seen as the font of morality, goodness, holiness. Yet it is none other thanYahweh who directs the killing of Canaanite religionists, and the burning and vandalism of their shrines… is that moral? Yahweh directs killing even of Jewish magicians… can that truly be said to be moral? Yahweh demands stoning of adulterers (only females, of course!)… is that moral? Yahweh directs wars of genocide in which even children are not spared… is that moral? Yahweh lies and instructs Moses to lie… is that moral? In one instance, Yahweh demands that a prophet persuade a neighbor to strike down the prophet; the neighbor morally and righteously refuses this violent act and Yahweh permits a lion to kill him.
Such examples go on and on, ad nauseum. “Without God there is no morality.” Better: “With Yahweh as God, morality itself is hopelessly compromised.”
Fundamentalists often ask, in relation to divine morality contrasted to human morality, why (for example) it is immoral for us to kill each other, but not immoral for a lion to kill a hyena. Such questions are usually asked in opposition to evolutionism: if we are nothing but “evolved matter” (the argument seems to run) then why is killing one another not just as amoral and blame-free as one animal killing another? The reply that I would make is: human killing human is immoral because, unlike the hungry lion who kills a hyena, we kill not just for survival, but for sport, jealousy, cruelty, power, religious-political domination, etc.
Here again, Yahweh fails the test: he says, “Thou shalt not kill…” – but then in effect he goes on to say, “… except for the Egyptians, the Midianites, the Canaanites, and anyone else I damn well feel like killing.” Since Yahweh – supposedly omnipotent – could invent or frame any other arrangement for pacifying Israel’s enemies, but instead chooses murder as his preferred method, it can reasonably be suspected that – unlike the lion – Yahweh does kill for power, religious-political domination and perhaps, even, sport. (Some “highly moral” god. Enlisting Yahweh as a master of sound morality is a little like enlisting Hitler in support of Jewish child care.)
Fundamentalists typically associate Yahweh’s commandments in the Hebrew Bible with his superior morality. In the first case, this is to ignore the fact that – except for the requirements to worship only Yahweh and to keep the Sabbath – the rest of the Commandments are derived from the legal codes of nations that neighbored Israel. And in the second case, it is to ignore the fact that Yahweh’s commands are indeed frequently immoral. The Hebrew Bible is full of Yahweh’s judgments, commandments, commands, directives, instructions, injunctions, rules, prohibitions (and punishments for violations of same) that range from sensible to savage to downright silly. Not to mention the embarrassing fact that Yahweh himself frequently violates the letter and the spirit of things he has commanded. That he (rarely) “repents” of his own brutality only underscores Yahweh’s deeply entrenched madness and petty cruelty.
The flawed fundamentalist god and flawed fundamentalism mirror each other. The two fit like a glove. Fortunately for religious studies in general, they are easily seen through and refuted, thereby leaving more time to explore other, more rewarding, issues.