Recently at the University of Michigan, a grad student in a Stump the Chump* session asked me why the Bible condones practices we no longer consider ethical, such as slavery and polygamy.
My answer to this and similar questions about aberrant practices in the Bible (divorce, rape, looting, concubinage, etc.) usually boils down to this:
God is not in the finger-snapping business.
That is, God accommodates human weakness, and works on human problems gradually. Yes, God is a gradualist.
But not always. Sometimes he parts the Red Sea or casts out a demon or rises from the dead. Immediately.
But for the most part, God works on problems at the speed of humanity, not the speed of divinity.
* * *
University students, however, tend to think of God as a perfect, omnipotent Force who could easily solve massive problems instantaneously, but for some reason . . . doesn’t (more on that topic here).
Any Being with that kind of power who fails to use it is, essentially, unethical — and not worth following or believing in.
Case in point: Jesus confined his redemptive work to two or three years in the history of the planet, leaving countless people unhealed, unsaved, suffering, un-rescued, and in harm’s way.
A truly ethical and caring God would have sent his Son, somehow, to all human beings at all times and places. That’s the sort of thing that “God” — if he’s really God — can do.
Gradualism be damned . . . and so the criticism goes.
* * *
* Stump the Chump is an event on campus where students can come and ask me any question they wish about Christianity. My job is to offer a thoughtful reply.