The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and I believe we grow in our faith through the study of His word and in gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ to receive Him in word and sacrament. We are also instructed to be able to defend our faith and have been given a faith that is grounded in history and logic. Beyond the daily study of scripture, I'll occasionally post to this page with personal thoughts related to faith and reason.
Often, I encounter the assertion from people that the God of the Old Testament is one of wrath, and the God of the New Testament is one of grace as if they were somehow different gods or different manifestations of the same god. One contrast that often gets submitted is concerning the woman caught in adultery:
They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 7:53-8:11 (ESV)
The argument I hear from people goes something like this: In this story, Jesus acts in opposition to the God who gave Moses a command to stone a woman caught in adultery. This means the God of the Old Testament must be different, or the Bible contradicts itself. Of course, this is the very test the scribes and Pharisees were placing in front of Jesus in this account. They understood the mercy that Jesus had shown to tax collectors and sinners and thought that if Jesus showed the same mercy to this woman, they could prove He was a blasphemer. Jesus may have performed miracles, but He could not possibly be the Son of God if He acted against the Law of Moses which they knew to be from God.
Admittedly, their logic was sound. Anyone who claimed to be the Son of God but contradicted God's Law was misusing the name of God and should be stoned for his blasphemy according to Moses. However sound their logic may have been, it was based on a faulty premise. They believed that when Jesus showed mercy toward sinners, He was ignoring their sin. Jesus did not ignore their sin. He paid for it with His own life on the cross.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Jesus knew the consequence of this woman's action, and instead of lifting up a stone to carry it out, He took responsibility for it.
The Old Testament covered a much longer period of time than the New Testament. When we read of nations being destroyed by God through Israel, it came after decades or even centuries of sin. Even then, God's justice was carried out in two measures: judgment and mercy. Every time Israel was called to go up against a nation in opposition to God, the people were given an opportunity to repent. It was only those nations which hardened their heart against God's calls for repentance that received judgment. If you don't believe me, I encourage you to read through my study of Jonah. God's mercy was so great that He forgave Nineveh when the people repented, and Jonah was furious about it. He prayed to God, "O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." (Jonah 4:2)
Even in forgiving Nineveh, God did not ignore their sin, for Jesus paid for the sin of all mankind: past, present, and future. We live in the age after the cross so we can mistake God's mercy for inaction or take it for granted. However, we have the promise of Christ that He will one day return to judge the living and the dead. Do not despise such a great mercy, but receive it with joy and be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.