Is God “not a very nice guy”?
B.B. from the US asks:
In discussions with a friend, he says the God of the Bible is “not a very nice guy” because of all the people He has killed. “A good, perfect God would not be so terrible.”
After the great flood one can reasonably add up the number that He directly and indirectly “killed.”
My question is how many were killed by the flood? What was the earth’s population at the time of the great (Noah’s) flood?
Thanks for your time.
Lita Sanders, CMI–US, responds:
Thanks for writing in. This is actually a very common question, and a common reason why people want nothing to do with the God of the Bible.
First, most normal people feel viscerally that the mass slaughter of human beings is wrong. Where does this value for human life come from? From an evolutionary view, life is just nature’s way of keeping food fresh, and people are just meat sacks who developed advanced self-consciousness. What value do self-conscious meat sacks have? From a Christian point of view, it makes sense why we would value human life. People are created in the image of God and thus have inherent value. It is a tragedy when someone dies, and a murderer deserves to forfeit his own life.
Because God created humans and gives us life, He also has the right to take it away from us when we rebel against Him. All people have sinned, therefore all of us have been under a death sentence. Even those who die before they are born, or in infancy before they have the mental development to be able to act on their sinful nature are still infected with that sinful nature they inherit from our first forefather, Adam. If someone enjoys a long life, every good thing they experience is an undeserved gift from God, and if they continue in rebellion even after enjoying these good gifts, their sin is compounded even further.
Notice, God doesn’t have the option not to deal with sin, because God is absolutely good. To fail to judge sin would be to fail to be perfectly good. All of us can think of sins that outrage us and if they were done to us, we would demand justice. We get that instinct from God’s perfect justice, so God must judge all sin.
How many people did God kill in the Flood? All but 8. It doesn’t matter how big the population had grown by that point; it could have been up to millions. The point is that sin had become so overwhelming on the earth that the only response was to flood the entire world. But think of the mercy involved in God saving our ancestor Noah on the Ark. All of us are direct beneficiaries of God’s mercy in sparing Noah, because we are his descendants. But because Noah survived the Flood, sin survived as well, and we see that in the continuing narrative as humanity again bands together to rebel at the Tower of Babel.
Yet God did not destroy the world again when the whole world rebelled against Him. Instead, a few generations after splitting up the nations by confusing their languages, He chose an idolatrous Chaldean man and called him to a land He would show him. He built that man’s descendants into a great nation. Unsurprisingly, that nation also rebelled against God; so much so that He sent them into exile. Yet because of His love He persisted in His plan of salvation and sent His very own Son; God became man to save us. He lived a perfectly righteous life without sin, and then died the death that we deserve so that we could be forgiven. His resurrection on the third day confirms God’s acceptance of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
Whenever someone says, “A good God wouldn’t … ” a sinful, fallible person is criticizing a being who is infinitely more wise, good, and moral than any sinner could even imagine. A good God must judge sin, and our merciful God has gone out of His way to provide a way of salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice. The cross shows us God’s kindness in a way nothing else could.