"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)
First of all, I have no problem accepting the fact that humans cannot imagine anything that has no grounding in the things that humans experience. I'm sure that Og, (my favorite cave man!) could not have understood "billyons and billyons" (with apologies to the great Dr. Sagan) since he had no concept of "5", for example. (Of course, I'm not really sure that ANY of us REALLY comprehends "billyons and billyons" now, but I digress.) I do think, however, that our ability to augment or diminish from experience is much greater than Michael appreciates. The idea that humans who see things end cannot use that to imagine things NOT ending (the infinite) is just silly.
I also have no problem believing that the first religion was monotheistic. It doesn't matter, and makes no difference to my argument either way. I will be happy to show how and why Og invented god in the first place, but not in this post, since I expect this one will be very long as it is.
Michael agrees that the polytheistic (and other "false religions"
Here are some passages that present Yahweh anthropomorphically:
Genesis 3:8 They heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.
9 But Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
10 He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate."
Yahweh is presented as someone who can be heard walking in the garden. This is inconsistent with the doctrine that evolved much later, which presented God as a spirit: "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). When Jesus urged his disciples to touch him, he said that "a spirit has not flesh and bones as you behold me having" (Luke 24:39). So if God is a spirit, how could Adam and Eve have heard the sound of him walking in the garden? The best explanation is that at the time the Garden of Eden yarn was written, the writer had an anthropomorphic view of God. God was just a physical entity that made sounds like any other physical entity would, and so when he "walked" in the garden, the sound of his walking could be heard.
There are numerous OT passages that presented God in human terms. One of the most obvious ones is Exodus 24:9-11, where Moses and some of the elders of Israel saw God on Mount Sinai: "Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his FEET there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his HAND on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank." This passage presented God as an entity that (1) could be seen, (2) had feet, and (3) a hand. The last verse could even be interpreted to mean that THEY (Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, the seventy elders, and God "ate and drank."
Furthermore, God was presented as having a backside:
Exodus 33:17 Yahweh said to Moses, "I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."
18 Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray."
19 And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, 'Yahweh'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live."
21 And Yahweh continued, "See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock;
22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by;
23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."
Even though this passage has Yahweh saying that no one could see his face and live, just before this (in verse 11), it says that Yahweh spoke to Moses "face to face." Regardless, this chapter presents a very anthropomorphic view of God. He had a physical backside that Moses was able to see, an attribute that would be contrary to the NT claim that God is just a spirit.
In Genesis 11:5, Yahweh "came down" to see the tower that the people at Babel were building to reach heaven, as if an omnipresent, omniscient spirit would have to "come down" to see what was being done at a specific place. At that time, however, the omnipresent and omniscient attributes of God had not evolved, and so he was presented as an entity just like humans who had to be on the scene in order to see and know what was happening.
And how about this in Genesis?
18:1 Yahweh appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.
2 He looked up and saw three MEN standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.
Notice that all through this chapter Yahweh is presented as one of three men who appeared to Abraham. The fact that the writer presented Yahweh as one of the "men" throughout the chapter shows that the writer very definitely had an anthropomorphic view of God. Here is the rest of that chapter - notice the shifts back and forth from "men" to Yahweh.
3 He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.
4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.
5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."
6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes."
7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.
8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent."
10 Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"
13 Yahweh said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'
14 Is anything too wonderful for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son."
15 But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."
16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way.
17 Yahweh said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice; so that Yahweh may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."
20 Then Yahweh said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!
21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know."
22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before Yahweh.
23 Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
26 And Yahweh said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake."
27 Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there."
29 Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."
30 Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."
31 He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."
32 Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
33 And Yahweh went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Two of these "men" were evidently considered the "angels" that went to Sodom to warn Lot to leave. Notice that in verse 22 "the men" turned and went to Sodom, but one of them stayed to converse with Abraham through the rest of the chapter. This one who remained behind was called Yahweh twice (vs:26 and 33). Then chapter 19 opens by saying that "The two angels came to Sodom at evening." Hence, it is evident in this chapter (18) that the writer presented God (Yahweh) as one of three "men," two of whom were angels.
And let's not forget the wrestling match with Jacob (Gen. 32:22-32).
24 - So Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him till daybreak
25 - When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
26 - Then the man said "Let me go, for it is daybreak" (You aren't going to say the bible god is "all powerful" by any chance, are you? God is not only not stronger than Jacob, but he's not stronger than iron, either.
Judges 1:19 - And the lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.)
28 - Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel because you have struggled with god and with men and have overcome"
30 - So Jacob called the place Peniel saying "It is because I saw god face to face [god has a face again!] and yet my life was spared."
So the bible presents god (at least sometimes) as if he had a human form. Now, what about human traits, like jealousy, evil, sadism, and regret.
Jealousy - Exodus 20:5 - "You shall not bow down to them [other gods] or worship them; for I, the Lord your god am a jealous god, punishing the children for he sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me...
(Hey - we got vindictiveness there too! Of course, it's pretty hard not to, since god is vindictive all over the place!)
Evil - Isaish 45:7 - "I make peace and create evil. I the lord do all these things."
Lam 3:38 - "Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?"
Jer 18:11 - Thus saith the lord; "Behold I frame evil against you and devise a device against you."
Ezek 20:25-26 - "I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live. And I polluted tham in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord."
Sadism - there's so much of this it's hard to know which to choose. The best one, of course, is how god let (and even encouraged) Satan to torment Job, just to prove that Job loved god. (WHY, is anybody's guess!) We can also include Exodous 10: 1-2 - Then the lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous sighs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the lord." And let's not forget how god made Abraham believe that he was going to have to butcher his own son for god. (And DID require Jephthah do butcher his daughter!) If that isn't sadistic, I don't know what is!
regret - Exodous 32:14 - And the lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Gen 6:6-7 - And it repented the lord that he had made man on the earth...And the lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth...for it repenteth me that I have made him." (This also destroys the all knowing portion of god - if he were all knowing, he would have KNOWN that the people he made were going to become evil, and thus would have nothing to regret!)
Jonah 3:10 - ...and god repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
And as for consorting with humans in carnal ways, if getting Mary pregnant wasn't deity-mortal sex, I don't know what is!
Luke 1:26 - And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
I'm sure I could find more human characteristics of the bible god, but these are enough to prove my point. Now, I KNOW you're going to say that god being jealous and not wanting his people to worship other gods IS NOTHING LIKE a guy being jealous and not wanting his girl to date other guys, or that god allowing and encouraging Satan to torment Job IS NOTHING LIKE my allowing and encouraging my neighbor to torment my daughters, (which I don't, of course - did I really need to add that?) and I really don't want to get into that muddle, if at all possible. Getting into what a bible verse REALLY means is not my cup of tea - that's why Farrell has the errancy list. Besides, the whole point was to show that the bible god is very much as one would expect from a human-made deity. So let me just ask this - is there ANYPLACE in the bible where god is described as, or does something that is SO incredible, SO unique, SO original, that human mind could NOT conceive of it based solely on human experiences?
(With much thanks and acknowledgment to Farrell who gave me great help on the bible verses stuff.)
CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.