Faith doubts..especially from OT

Hi everyone,
I have no idea how to answer a Non-Christian acquaintance and I am having a crisis in my faith with my doubts. We were talking about “If God is God… then how can any evil be good at one time and then changed at another time to be something bad?”

The person in question brought up how in Genesis Chapter 20 you have the story of Abraham telling “Abimelech” that Sarah was not his wife, but, his sister and that in the truth coming out that Sarah was indeed Abraham’s wife. Abraham then told Abimelech that Sarah was his half-sister due to the fact that she was his father’s daughter.

Here is where the original question of how can an evil such as “incest” be condoned with Abraham by God in marrying his half-sister and later be looked at as evil?

I honestly am not well-versed in the OT or in Jewish culture/society during these times. So I had no idea how to respond as in my mind this is indeed incest… unless, in my poor knowledge of OT scripture in Abraham saying Sarah was his father’s daughter has some other meaning like you have in the use of the word “Brother” in the NT that didn’t actually mean a blood relative, but, as a term used for Christian brethern.

If I am mistaken in anything I say or in my assumptions on the OT, then please correct my errors. I just feel attacked with doubts.

I find examples like this and another such as Lot’s 2 daughters deciding to get their father drunk and have intercourse with him in order that their ancestral line does not die out often makes me have doubts as to my faith, but, does this mean I shouldn’t read the OT at all anymore?

This would be as if I am feeding into the fear that if I continue to read the OT I will just keep finding things that bother me and make it hard for me to reconcile Our Lord’s new covenant in the NT and of the salvation that he brought to all when what we condone as evil was thought of as ok in OT times.
Isn’t evil always an evil?

How can God condone such things? How can incest be ok at one period in time or that 2 daughters have sex with their father? We speak as Catholics as having trust in God’s will… doesn’t the acts of Lot’s daughters go against this trust since they feared their lineage dying out and why should Abraham choose his own half-sister for a wife?

I am confused and the devil is playing hardball with my faith. :frowning:

I hope someone can help me out.

God bless

Maybe I can give some general principles for you that you can apply as you read:

1.) The Bible does indeed describe sin. That doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement of sin. Keep in mind the Bible isn’t a Catechism of how to live your life. Sometimes it’s merely narrative.

2.) God does not will evil, but merely permits it so that a greater good may come from it. God can write straight with crooked lines.

3.) God’s teaching (revelation) was progressive, and people were responsible for what they knew. We can speculate as to why God didn’t throw all of his teaching at us at once. Perhaps God knows how stubborn humans are. Look how long it took man to get over the idea of worshipping multiple gods and associated idols.

For further problems of evil in the future, be sure to read your Catechism and be aware of the principle of double effect:

The New Catholic Encyclopedia provides four conditions for the application of the principle of double effect:
*]The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
*]The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
*]The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
*]The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect” (p. 1021).

It’s not an easy concept, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Hopefully others can contribute more than I have.

Dear Maryam,

I think the difficulty lies in thinking that God
condoned the behavior you’re referring to.
There is a big difference between

what happened, and thinking that God
approved the behavior.

I grew up with a saying: God writes straight
with crooked lines.
He can forward His plan of salvation despite
the sinful behavior of some of his Chosen People.

I think it helpful to highlight…not the sinful
behavior reported in the Old Testament…
but rather God’s steadfast love and His
faithfulnes to His covenant, even when
some of His people were not faithful to Him.

Does this make sense?


PS: If you profit from reading the OT, perhaps
you could find a scripture study group with an
expert present who could answer your questions
so that you could have immediate resolution
of an issue.

I think reen is exactly right.
The story of what Lots daughters is a case that I know of.
The practice of incest with the ritual that went with it is actually associated with the condemnation of Sodom.

Lot realized that his daughters were rotten, if you read back to the story in the city of Sodom, Lot was even willing to offer his daughters in place of the strangers who had done no wrong.
It was better in Lot’s eyes that his own wicked daughters suffer than an innocent stranger.

The children of Lot would later be among the political enemies of the Israelites as they entered the promised land. Lot was the only just one in the bunch, and he was drugged in order for his daughters to get away with the pagan practice they carried out.

Even though the bible records the events, the record is not an approval.

DeFide… your (name removed by moderator)ut is appreciated. :slight_smile: I personally don’t have the head to analyze evil in terms of “double effect”. I do agree with your point that perhaps because society at the time was rampant with “Paganism” that they did not have the full revelation of Truth as was later given to us by Christ in the NT, then that could account for much of the sins we find in the OT.

I just see wrong as wrong and “sometimes” there may be exceptions such as a person acting in self-defense when attacked and without wanting to, takes the attackers life. But, in the example of Lot’s daughters or in Abraham marrying his own half-sister I don’t see it as one of those “exceptions”. They were aware of what they were doing and not kids who through some trauma and lack of life experience are just acting out.

I may seem stubborn or stupid in my thinking, but, always open to corrections or clarifications.

Thank you again…

** reen ** Your post makes it alot easier for me to stand back and look at the OT from a different perspective than the one where God would condone the sins of those in the OT, to one where we have many accounts in the OT of people just as flawed as humanity continues to be now.

So, I thank you for that. :smiley:

BUT, I wonder why God would choose Abraham (a man who was married to his half-sister) to be the father of many nations? I know I keep coming back to this. Perhaps someone can better explain what part the sin of this kind of a marriage was of merit because I can’t see it to be honest.

** Huiou Theou ** I had never heard of the story of Lot put into this light. If Lot was aware of the flawed character of his daughters, then it would account for his offering his daughters to the mob outside his door instead of his guests. This is something that makes sense to me as well as how the descendants of Lot’s daughters came into God’s plan.

I will have to pound into my head the following “The OT is a record of God’s chosen people flawed as they are and in no way a sign of approval by God of sin.”

Thanks for all of your posts and forgive my stupidity.

God bless you all

Hi MaryAm!!!

BUT, I wonder why God would choose Abraham (a man who was married to his half-sister) to be the father of many nations? I know I keep coming back to this. Perhaps someone can better explain what part the sin of this kind of a marriage was of merit because I can’t see it to be honest.

The Bible is pretty clear about the piety of Abraham, his love of God, from which God made him righteous. However, he is human, and sins. Is this different from David, who has a very significant place in God’s plan, was the ancestor of Jesus, yet sinned grievously as was forgiven yet punished by God? How about Moses, who also sinned and was forgiven yet punished by God in not reaching Canaan.

I think there is a tone in the Bible, throughout, that we as humans are sinners; we love God and Jesus, we will be forgiven for our sins, there may be some punishment (hence our interest in indulgences ;)). I learned from the Bible that all these great people, chosen by God for their love of him, were very human like me.

we’re praying for you, maryam!

Dear doubter,

I have recently found an excellent source to help me understand the OT better. Scott Hahn “Finding Christ in the OT” In both cases that you bring up he discusses and identifies reasons why they happened. Remember not everything in the OT is supposed to be happy. There are plenty of instances of horrible things happening. I will use one example of incest in the Bible and hope to explain its purpose. Remember Noah’s sons. He had 3 and in Genesis it explains how the middle son “uncovered his fathers nakedness” this is talking about sleeping with his mother. Why does the Bible talk about this? because it shows the great sin that he committed. Why did the son do this? It wasn’t for sexual gratification but a power play to become the family patriarch. He wanted to take over the power of the family and sleeping w/ his mother and taking his father’s robe would show his motivation. as a result, Noah cursed him and his line. Caanan and Egypt were to come from his line and we know that they were bad people who formed pagan nations.

On your question, Abraham claimed that Sarah was his sister due to the legal system at the time. Sarah had much more protection as Abraham’s sister than as one of his wives. Scott Hahn very skillfully addresses this. i suggest that you buy these tapes and learn for yourself. i promise that your faith will increase. hope that this helps.

Hi Awalt!!! :smiley: :smiley:
I think that what you and others have stated is something I have to come to grips with regarding the OT… That humans are humans and that in God choosing “certain humans” (despite already knowing their weaknesses) in order that God’s divine plan may be carried out, I shouldn’t question God’s motives or question why great sins were committed by people chosen by God weak as they were at times.

I think this plays into the mentality that many ppl have regarding saints and at their being shocked if they read something that makes the saint appear more human, than on some cloud pedestal in their interpretation of how a saint should act.

There are many who think that saints are 100% free from all weakness and this is just not so in many cases.

You are correct in that this just shows how human ppl in the OT are and that it should give me a “sinner” with all my failings the hope that even with all my ‘human failings’ God loves me regardless, even though he still despises my sins.

Thanks Awalt… and I hope your are not being too “hammy”. :wink: lol


Thank you Antiaphrodite for your prayers. God bless you :smiley:


Thanks Thirsty for referring me to Scott Hahn’s book “Finding Christ in the OT” and for your examples. I think I have to really educate myself more on OT culture before I go any further in my OT reading.

Thanks again to all who posted and God bless all of you. :smiley: :smiley: