This post is the first in a series of posts where I'll be critically examining Biblical claims.
1 John 4:16-18 (NIV) -- "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
Isaiah 8:13 (NIV) -- "The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread"
Jeremiah 5:22 (NIV) -- "'Should you not fear me?' declares the Lord. 'Should you not tremble in my presence?'"
Hebrews 10:31 (NIV) -- "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
The Biblical god is love. The Bible itself declares that "there is no fear in love"; yet the god of the Bible declares himself as "the one you are to fear" and "the one you are to dread".
Furthermore, the Bible declares that "the one who fears is not made perfect in love". However, Bible readers are exhorted numerous times to "fear" their god. While an argument may be made that "fear" referenced in some verses has a different definition than the "fear" referenced in other verses, I am confident that the explicit inclusion of terms such as "dread" and "tremble" should illuminate for us what kind of fear to which the text is referring, if the translation I have in front of me is has an accurate translation (it's NIV). So, the Biblical audience is repeatedly urged to fear their god, but those who fear are not made perfect in love, which their god is claimed to be. Is the Biblical god a god of fear or a god of love? According to the texts, the Biblical god is alternately both a god of love and a god of fear. However, the verses are clear here that fear is not a sound basis for love. Fear is not what love is. But the Biblical god is presented as a being to be feared, whom one should dread and also tremble in its presence.
But Aren't You Rejecting Love?
I believe that there is a greater love outside the contents of this book than there is within its contents. Yes, fear does nothing to grow or enhance love for one another. However, the Biblical god relies upon coercion and fear. Why not love for love's own sake?
Much of the Old Testament (and the rest of the Bible) was written by people who had a different understanding of the world than we do today. At that time, violence and bloodshed was a critical part of survival. Fear meant protection. Fear meant safety. Fear meant respect. The world was a much different place for those who wrote the Bible than it is today. One can imagine why people living in such fearful times would associate "fear" with "power". There's no real harm in acknowledging that our world has changed in the last few thousand years, and that our moral standards have also changed in the process. I agree that love, with a solid foundation in human empathy, is a powerful and worthy quality. I also agree that extreme levels of fear are counterproductive in preparing the groundwork of love.