Is God a Tyrant?
I recently watched a Nightline debate where the topic of conversation was “Is there a God?” Atheist Kelly O’Connell stated that she would “rather go to hell, then go to Heaven and be forced to worship a tyrant.” This is a very succinct way of posing the question, “How do people view the God of the Bible?”
To explore this topic we will need to pull some examples from the Old Testament depicting how God dealt with man (since the New Testament represents God’s new covenant for mankind through the incarnation of Jesus). Lets begin then, with the Book of Jonah, which says in chapter 1:1-2, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’” Here we notice that God has given His prophet Jonah the information that He wants people to know – namely that they have sinned.
Later in chapter 3:5-6, He says “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” Essentially the people in the city that God was angry with decided to heed the warning of the prophet Jonah and change their ways. Chapter 3:10 then finishes with “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”
Let’s look at one more example from the Old Testament in the Book of Micah. Chapter 1:6-7 says “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, Places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, And I will uncover her foundations.” We note again here that God is issuing the warning first. Then immediately moving on to chapter 7:9, which says, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness.” And finally Chapter 7:19 that says “He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Have you noticed the pattern? A.) First God warns us, B.) then we are given a chance to repent and change, and C.) if we do so, there is forgiveness. If not, then judgment. Now if we look carefully here these are not the actions of a tyrant -- but rather of a holy, righteous, and loving Father. Think about it, a good parent warns you when you are out of line, right? Then they give you the chance to change. If you don’t shape up, then you receive punishment. After all, what kind of a parent would God be if he didn’t care enough to exercise discipline? Be careful here however, as I am not just equating our relationship with God to the relationship of a human parent and child. Our justice can (and often is) flawed. God’s judgment is perfect.
We must also remember that the Bible tells us God is slow to anger and merciful. Can’t we see that this is probably true? For decades America has propagated sin after sin: abortion, drug abuse, greed, murder, etc. Our country was founded on faith 230 years ago… what do we stand for now?