By His very nature, God is utterly beyond our comprehension. It is very dangerous to try to evaluate God’s actions from a human perspective. For example, recently on Facebook someone commented on my Wall (or whatever we call it nowadays) that the God of the Bible is a genocidal maniac who slaughters children.
Now I understand what would make a libertarian atheist say that to me. (For those who don’t know, I used to be what I called a “devout atheist” in college, and I planned on writing the best critique of the Bible to date, because I thought guys like Paine and Mencken hadn’t done a thorough enough job.) But it really makes no sense at all.
If the God of the Bible exists, then every moment of existence in the entire universe is a direct manifestation of His will. If He hadn’t flooded the world, for example, all of those people still would have died, either from being murdered by other humans or from accidents or from “natural causes.” No matter what, God would have killed these people, if you are going to say He killed them with the Flood.
Thus you’re reduced to saying that you hate God and think He’s a genocidal maniac, because He had the audacity to invent the idea of humans and not grant them immortality. It is literally complaining about being born.
The big problem with the atheist libertarian critique of Christianity is that it takes the actions of the God of the Israelites and imagines they are committed by a very powerful alien, or by a human with amazing technology. Yes, that guy would be a bad ruler.
But the God of the Israelites isn’t a human who has a lot of power. No, it’s more like an author who writes a novel and creates an entire universe in his mind, filling it with characters who live and die, sometimes horribly. Is the author a moral monster because he causes certain characters to do evil things to other characters? Of course not. This is true, even though if the author made a character in the novel become very powerful and start bossing other characters around, then the dominated characters would plausibly call him a tyrant.
Hmm, well how do we decide whether we think the God of the Israelites is good or evil? After all, it’s really hard to even begin to evaluate someone so beyond our nature.
Fortunately, He became a man and walked among us. If you want to dismiss the gospel accounts as fairy tales, fair enough. But to the extent that we analyze them at face value, there’s no doubt that Jesus was the greatest vessel of goodness humanity has ever produced.
Jesus wasn’t a “nice guy,” He was a good man. He showed compassion and gentleness to the powerless, but He had such stinging rebukes of the powerful that they ultimately had Him killed. And let’s not forget that He actually started flipping tables when He saw people turning the temple into a den of thieves.
So if you want to understand God’s character in a way to which we can relate as humans, look to Jesus. There should be no doubt that He is good and can be trusted.