A god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intention--could that be a god of goodness. Who allows countless doubts and dubieties to persist, for thousands of years, as though the salvation of mankind were unaffected by them and who on the other hand holds out the prospect of frightful consequences if any mistake is made as to the nature of truth (p. 182).Loftus argues that if finite man can see what improvements could have been made in the clarity of the Bible in order to eliminate confusion, strife and suffering, why could not an omniscient God have foreseen the problem and thus made his will crystal-clear so that only the stubborn or defiant would have failed to see it?
Areas that could have been made more clear include moral issues and doctrinal issues. Two of the most significant moral issues in human history which the Bible helped to perpetuate is human slavery and the inequality of women. The Bible clearly condones slavery. As a matter of fact, prior to the Civil War in the United States, conservative Christian theologians, especially in the South, defended ownership of slaves based on specific biblical texts (typically it was the more liberal Christians who tended to oppose slavery). As Loftus points out, one simple addition to the 10 commandments, such as, "thou shalt not own another human being as property," would have prevented this barbaric and inhumane practice, at least by those who claimed to believe the Bible.
With regard to the place of women, the OT clearly identifies women as the property of their husbands. Their rights are extremely limited as compared to men. In the NT, while the situation is somewhat better, women are still seen as inferior to men. Untold hardship and suffering has been inflicted on women throughout the centuries because God did not clearly state their equality with men. Did God not care about the suffering that would take place due to the Bible's failure to condemn these practices? I think it makes more sense to see the Bible as reflecting the moral sensibilities of the time and culture in which it was written than to suppose an all-loving and all-knowing God is the author.
The Bible is also unclear with regard to a number of doctrinal issues. This ambiguity has resulted in Christians persecuting Christians and even killing Christians who differed with them on doctrine. For example, the Eucharist has been a major contention between Protestants and Catholics. Did Jesus mean for his words, "this is my body" and "this is my blood" to be taken literally or symbolically? Wars between Catholics and Protestants in 16th and 17th century Europe brought the death of at least seven million people. While there were certainly other issues involved in the conflicts, there is no doubt that religion played a major role. Protestants have also killed each other over doctrinal disputes. Calvin is known to have had Michael Servetus burned at the stake (for denying the Trinity) and Anabaptists drowned (for rejecting infant baptism). In the American colonies, various Protestant sects persecuted, including imposing fines and imprisonment, other Protestants for disagreements on doctrinal matters.
Even today, while physical suffering is usually not inflicted, there is enormous division and strife in the "body of Christ" over various doctrines. Christians simply cannot agree on even the most basic elements of their faith, for example, how one is to be saved, whether that salvation can be lost, whether man has the free will to choose to be saved or whether the choice was made for him through predestination, whether or not there is a hell for the eternally lost and if it does exist what the nature and duration of the punishment is to be. The list goes on and on.
How do Christian apologists respond to the problem that Loftus has raised in this chapter. Christians might finally respond by claiming that no matter what God revealed it would still be misunderstood by the Church to some extent and used to justify harming other people (p. 201). But as Loftus replies, if God had been at least as clear as human beings today could be in revising the Bible, There would be no way the historic church could biblically justify religiously motivated crusades, wars, heresy trials, witch hunts, or slavery (p. 201). The simple fact is that the Bible does not read as one would expect a divine revelation to read. It reflects the mindset of late Bronze age peoples, not the mind of an omniscient being.