You have seen them – caricatures are especially prominent during political campaigns. An artist will draw an exaggerated picture of a person, emphasizing some prominent feature of his or her appearance. Maybe its big ears or a prominent nose that is chosen as the feature of emphasis. Caricature is a way of making fun of a person, belittling, dehumanizing and discrediting them. That is why they are used so widely in political campaigns.
It is bad enough when such is done to political candidates or prominent persons, but it is another thing altogether when someone chooses to caricature God. I don’t mean the grandfatherly cartoon character who walks around on clouds and says funny things. I mean the false and exaggerated pictures we draw up in our own minds of what we perceive God to be like.
It is truly sad that the atheists and enemies of God use caricatures to discredit him. Here is an example of what I am talking about from one of the most prominent atheists of today. Of God he says…
“Arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic-cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins).
According to Dawkins, God is just a fictional character who happens to be the vilest, most evil villain of all time. Are any of these charges against God true? We won’t look at all these charges against God, but let’s look at a few.
The charges of God being vindictive, bloodthirsty and an ethnic-cleanser probably stem from the wars we read about in the Old Testament. Take the case of the Amalekites and see exactly what happened and then you judge for yourself. In Exodus 17, while they were at Rephidim and just after God had miraculously provided water for his people by causing it to flow from a rock when Moses struck the it, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. This was no ordinary frontal attack. In Deuteronomy 25:18 Moses reminded his people exactly what the Amalekites did to them. He said, “…he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.” It was on account of this cowardly act of violence against his people that God told Moses to “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14).
These people were known far and wide for their evil ways.
“Even the Babylonians had a bad opinion of them, calling them “Khabbati,” or “plunderers.” The Amalekites and Caananites, among other nations, practiced child burning, torture as public entertainment, and sexual immorality as sport.” (Amazing Facts.org).
The Amalekites and other people of the land of Canaan were totally corrupt. God does not allow evil to continue always. The world in Noah’s day was destroyed because “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5).
Years later God passed sentence on the Amalekites. He told Saul, the first king of the Israelites to “strike Amalek” and “devote to destruction” all they had.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:2-3).
Why did God wait this long before punishing these wicked people? Why did he wait 100 years in Noah’s day? It was not because he is slow and forgetful concerning his promises. God is really longsuffering – he does not rush into an action of this magnitude precipitously. He gives people time to repent because…
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (1 Peter 3:9).
Does God have the right to destroy people in this way – even sentencing children and infants to death? Remember, God is both creator of man and the giver of the law by which he intends man to live. When he is insulted, his law disregarded and man turns away to idolatry with its attendant evils, God has every right to judge them. He knows the hearts of men and knows when they have reached “the point of no return” or when they will not repent. When there is nothing there in way of repentance, God has every right to terminate their existence on the earth. It is a judicial decision, not an impulsive, vindictive act. Neither you nor I have the right to second guess God’s decisions.
When God’s law has been violated the integrity of the law must be upheld. God’s character has been impugned because he is the authority behind the law. Law would have no force at all if there were no penalties attached and if those penalties were not enforced. And God would not be God if he did not uphold his law.
As for the children, where would they be better off? With their corrupt, violent, idolatry besotted people awaiting becoming a sacrifice to Molech or in the arms of a loving God who would give them eternal life and blessing? This surely is what happened to those children who had not yet corrupted themselves with the sins of their parents.
But it is not only atheists who draw up caricatures of God. Whenever anyone selects one feature of God’s nature and focuses on that to the exclusion of other equally important attributes the result is a caricature – an inexact, exaggerated or deficient concept of God. When we dwell on the love of God to the exclusion of his justice and judgment, we have an incorrect picture of him. There are people who believe God is so good and so loving that he will overlook sin – particularly their sin. But we must remember that sin is the transgression of God’s law and he must uphold the integrity of his law. If he did not, then he wouldn’t be God. He would be like some kindly old grandfather whose only desire is that “everyone get along and have a good time.”
When we weigh his grace against his law and his justice and come down on one side or the other instead of having a balanced view of God as being both a merciful, gracious God and the judge of all the earth, we create a caricature of God. God is the “God of all grace,” (1 Peter 5:10) but he will also be the “righteous judge” before whom we all will stand in the last day. (2 Timothy 4:8).
How do you view God. Let us be very careful about the conclusions we draw about him and what he will and will not accept. Let the Bible inform your understanding of him and not popular cultural views that only offer caricatures of his majesty.