The Story Does Not Change

Andrew Perriman points to the significant issue many Anabaptists today — not historic Anabaptists, mind you — have with the God of war in the Bible. Perriman pushes back. Here’s a clip, read the rest for his fuller response, but I’m curious what you would say to this sketch:

It is very troubling—especially to Anabaptists—that YHWH is sometimes depicted in the Bible as a violent God. The Canaanite “genocide” is the obvious instance. Pietersen considers various attempts made by interpreters to deal with the problem: the evil of the Canaanites was sufficient justification for the invasion; there is no archaeological evidence for the conquest anyway; the biblical account is overstated in keeping with “literary conventions of the day”; and the victories were really achieved by miraculous intervention rather than by military force.

But whatever validity we may attribute to these explanations or excuses, we “still have to deal with the actual presentation of Yahweh in the text and recognize that this presentation has informed the violent action of Christians throughout Christendom”.

Pieterson’s solution to the problem comes in two stages. First, he argues that the violence of God must be allowed to stand in the text, but that it is not the last word on the matter:

If Jesus is the supreme revelation of God… then the non-violence of Jesus must be the ultimate arbiter in the complex and ambiguous characterization of Yahweh.

So in the end the God of the Bible can be affirmed as “nonviolent,shalom-inspiring”, but “we have to recognize that this God has a violent (textual) past”—it is, in Brueggemann’s phrase, “a crucial residue of YHWH’s character”.

Secondly, Pietersen suggested at the conference, in response to a question, that a distinction has to be made between the God of the text and the God to whom the text refers. So presumably, while he would insist that the textual God has a violent past, the real God—the God to whom we respond here and now in our hearts—somehow transcends his own story and is only the God revealed in Jesus as loving and peaceful.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Paul

    Interesting take on the problem, and I think the part about Jesus being the ultimate revelation of God is a good place to start. A question: how is Perriman’s idea categorically different than the other “explanations and excuses” used to understand the Canaanite genocide? I understand that he is dealing with the issue of God’s character, but it seems to me to be very similar to the explanations and excuses used by others to explain away the parts of the OT that don’t line up easily with Jesus.

  • http://gregorysmagee.wordpress.com/ Greg

    I think that salvation history is a better way forward. Sensitivity to the covenants, along with the already and not yet of Christ’s work helps keep us from pitting Jesus against the God of the OT. God’s love, goodness, righteousness, and holiness emerge in different ways at different parts of the story. And from a salvation-historical perspective it is also clear how we are to live now, in this part of the story. We live sacrificially, loving our enemies, being witnesses of Christ to them, praying for them, and serving them, while we wait for Christ to return as King, Savior, and judge.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    This is the basic Anabaptist presentation I have heard before (for example, see Hays “Moral Vision of the NT” or Baptist scholar James McClendon, in his “Systematic Theology: Ethics”).
    I know Greg Boyd is coming our with a new book on God and war and violence (I hope soon). I’ll have to see how Boyd deals with all this but I believe he too starts and ends in some fashion with a cruciform ethics of a theology of the cross in dealing with violence (whether in the Bible or the world at around today).

  • JoeyS

    He should add that some of us believe that God was not fully revealed in the hearts of Israelites and their writings and actions reflect this. Jesus has given us fuller vision of God and has challenged many of our root assumptions about nationality, revenge, violence, and how we generally participate in the world. That the Jewish people thought God ordained their violence is an example of their comprehension of God that was unwrapping, not yet fully revealed. You see this struggle in the prophets as they have eyes to see God more clearly and lament much of the violence (whilst participating in some of it). Then you have a new prophet who tells people to put down their swords and who ultimately gives himself over to death to gain victory.

  • http://www.icrucified.com/icruciblog Jeff Borden

    But how does this address the supposed “apocalyptic Jesus” of Revelation? Shalom seems to take some pretty hard twists and turns before it arrives as we navigate the unwinding tale John’s revelation. I certainly don’t understand all the words of that book, but it appears at first glance that Jesus is orchestrating much of the “peace bringing” through violent acts. I totally understand that my reading and subsequent interpretation may be at fault though.

  • A.G. Reichert

    As difficult as it, one must continue to wrestle with God and scripture rather than explain Him away or make excuses for God. It is us that must answer to God, not the other way around.
    Job 38

    Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

    2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
    with such ignorant words?
    3 Brace yourself like a man,
    because I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Jesus is subverting violence in the book of revelation and much of the NT (actual warfare become spiritual warfare). Jesus tells his disciples not to pick up a sword in ch.13 of the book of Revelation and when it comes to the actual warfare, the evil kings and kingdoms end up turning on themselves and thus, those who live by the sword, die by the sword or evil ultimately self-destructs! The shalom of Jesus wins in the end but it works out very differently than how people think somehow “we” are supposed to make it happen in the end.

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Good point, CGC (7). Revelation 19 shows that when Jesus draws up his army against the Beast and the False Prophet for the final battle, he defeats them by the proclamation of the gospel from his own mouth and not by striking a martial blow in what we would recognize as warfare. In fact, Jesus’ army apparently just stands back and watches him win the victory for them.

  • JC Weaver

    Interesting timing. @greg_boyd tweeted this today: “Why have theologians viewed all change & emotion ascribed to God as an accommodation but never viewed violence ascribed to God this way?”
    This seems to be in line with Pietersen’s conference suggestion of the textual vs the actual. I wonder what this does to a high view of Scripture though (i.e., inerrancy). If the text is wholly true (the converse of w/o error), who can it textual assert x is true when y is actually true? I’m not saying Boyd is asserting this (I don’t think he wd say textual x is true), but is Pietersen?

  • Patrick

    I think God is as violent or not as He had to be to see that the Jews made it from the Abraham to Christ. I think those who need God to be a pacifist don’t add evil into their equations. Those that see Jesus as pacifist limit their knowledge of Him.

    I think a surviving Jew in Auschwitz around early 1945 would “get” that sometimes harsh violence and killing can serve an intrinsic good role and sometimes it can serve intrinsic evil.

    Those that view Jesus as a pacifist don’t see Him in 70 AD I guess, but, I sure think that was His judgment and execution using tons of violence.

    He had been given all judgment and authority and 70 AD had been warned about since Moses’ writings and Jesus had re-inforced them strongly in Matthew 22-24 and it came to fruition.

    Jesus openly warns some in His church of death if they don’t repent in the Revelation.

    Both cases exhibit His post Incarnation willingness to use violence like He did pre Incarnation and for the same basic reasons, although the genocide Scot details was driven by more than just extreme evil.

  • Rick

    To Number 6 and 2 above:

    I don’t think we’re making excuses for God or trying to explain him away. We have to come to a view of God that is faithful to how he is revealed in scripture finally through Jesus. We aren’t pitting Jesus against God either. But we must question any view of God that pits itself against the picture of God revealed in Jesus – no matter where we may find that view. As for revelation – even in the book itself, there are clues that the violent images must be interpreted as imagery which unpacks what happened *on the cross* – Chapter 5 for example. I agree with JoeyS in 4 above.

  • Nick Jackson

    This is a question that I often struggle with. It’s not one of those really frustrating struggles; I actually really content with the unanswered question at the moment. I am a Quaker, so I identify with the anabaptist position of peace. I used to say God was violent, but that is God’s justice, and we are not liscenced to commit that sort of violence. However I started becoming more uncomfortable with violence, so I tried to argue away what YHWH is shown as doing. I would try really irrational arguments to say why it was okay or how YHWH was not violent.

    Now I am in a place of fully acknowledging the violence of YHWH. But I don’t know what to do with it. I am tempted say, of course the god of Israel would be violent, every tribe’s god was violent. What’s important is to notice how Israel’s god is different. For example YHWH flooding the earth because people were murdering each other, as opposed to the flood in Gilgamesh, which was because (if memory serves me right) a goddess couldn’t sleep when people were being too loud.

    The trajectory of my thinking is similar to what theologian’s like NT Wright says about slavery and gender issues in the Christian Greek scriptures: Paul could not conceive of abolition or gender equality in his context, so what we get is the best a 1st century imagination had offer. This isn’t wholly satisfying when we see that Paul was in some ways more sexist than his Greek contemporaries or when I remember the context we’re talking about is genocide. Genocide is a big deal.

  • Tom F.

    Hmm, interesting thoughts. Thanks for posting this; it was helpful in light of some previous conversations here about God’s violence.

  • Patrick

    Nick,

    Since Jesus claimed to be Yahweh, since He is the exact image of Yahweh and since He validated the entire OT text and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem due to His own judgment in Matthew 22-24, it’s near impossible to view Jesus as a pacifist from my view.

    I think God has always had no other option when He uses violence as opposed to trying to nuance away what scripture clearly teaches us. I applaud your intellectual honesty here even if you totally disagree with me.

    The “Joshua genocide” always involved nephilim, which appears to be the most extreme levels of evil ever and so dangerous to the Jews they had to be eradicated. Including their animals which ought to make everyone think. What’s up with that?

    Consider how close it got to God failing to fulfill Genesis 3:15:

    1) Pure humanity is down to Noah’s family due to the nephilim

    2) Post Babel incident, God finds 1 human who follows His lead

    3) Following the narrative history of Israel, God had to nearly wipe them out in various judgments repeatedly and the nephilim tried repeatedly. It was not a case of things could be fine w/o violence, due to evil.

  • sean b

    I think I would add the historical as well as the spiritual difference of old testament period compared to the the new covenant and the establishment of the church. Israel was the only true theocracy where God was establishing his holy nation among the nations. His judgments during this time are just that, judgments from the only wise king who was punishing sin and revealing the sanctication of his people, the light to the Gentiles. I think that during the time of the church before the fullness of the kingdom and theocracy of the only wise God and king that he has stayed his hand in immediate retribution for sin, as he has not come to condemn the world but to save it. Therefore as I read the eschatoligical writings it does not surprise me that he once again comes to judge nations and peoples and the living and the dead.

  • Glenn

    How much time did God give for those in Canaan to repent? According to Kaiser, a very long time indeed. If my neighbors had been involved in the most brutal, sadistic acts over multiple generations including the sadistic torture of their own children how would one respond? Science has now shown links between genetics, family environment and the development of sociopaths. I love creative theology and understand the need to reconcile the love of God as revealed in the Cross of Christ for all mankind. I do see the story in the larger narrative of the redemption of the world. But should we rewrite all of God’s judgements (Noah’s flood, the judgements on Israel, etc.)? Genocide is also the wrong term, as Michael Horton note, this what always about ethics and never about race.

  • Glenn

    Sorry, meant to say – Genocide is also the wrong term, as Michael Horton notes, this was always about ethics and never about race.

  • Norman

    Now most of Christendom believes this below scenario from Rev 19 portends future events. It’s pretty graphic and violent and presented as portraying Christ as the Rider on the White Horse who wields a sword. It appears to be restated again in Rev 20 against the old foes of Gog and Magog taken from Ezekiel 38 & 39.

    The question becomes do we take this apocalyptic language literally or figuratively? If we take it figuratively the essence is that mortal humanity cannot stand up to the sword that comes out of the mouth of the Rider on the white horse. He strikes down the Nations because His government is set on High and cannot be defeated thus His word defeats the Nations instantly forever and ever. This is likely the way this kind of literature is intended to be understood notwithstanding our propensity to take it literally due to our evangelical upbringing. Very possibly much of the OT accounts have been written in a similar vein and need further analysis to grasp their intent.

    Rev 19: 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. … “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
    Rev 20: 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    For those who study the apocalyptic literature that permeated 2nd Temple Judaism and the beginnings of the church, this kind of literature becomes a recognizable art form that can be understood more effectively. However the church has disavowed the literature that can actually help us understand the biblical world in more depth. Our problem is we don’t take advantage of the tools available to us that can help bring better clarity to these subjects and issues. You will generally find that scholars who are adept with the apocalyptic do the better work of coming to grips with some of these issues. But like Job the realization is that God is still and always will be a mystery to us. How could it be otherwise when we attempt to decipher this world He has brought us forth into?

  • Tom F.

    “If my neighbors had been involved in the most brutal, sadistic acts over multiple generations including the sadistic torture of their own children how would one respond?”

    Really? You would today think it sanctioned to wipe out the entire people, infants and all? I could grant you the genocide thing. Call it whatever you want. Rather than ethnic cleansing, perhaps “ethical cleansing”.

    Imagine for a moment that you are one of the tortured children you imagine in this neighboring culture. You have been tortured by your own people, and now your neighbors come in, and in the name of justice and righteousness, put you to the sword because they say you are likely to become a sociopath.

    I understand that some things are mysterious, and not everything always fits neatly together, in scripture, in faith, and in life. But why can’t we just leave it at that? Why do we have to try and rescue these texts with things than end up sounding truly awful in just about every other context. Are you really okay with what you suggested? That this is reflecting God’s character and way in the world? Really? Are you sure?

    That is too high a price for me to pay. But I understand that others may come to a different conclusion.

    Peace

  • chris white

    Death is violence. Death is the enemy. Sin causes death. Is it more violent to die in war on the battlefield or to the cancer spreading to the organs? Our bodies are decaying daily and will lead to death. God decrees death for an ethnic group and he decrees death for our grandmother. Why does this upset us? All ethnic groups will be wiped out by death. Yet God also declares life to those who cling to him by faith in the One who brings life and light.

  • chris white

    How many of those folks were there–the ones to be totally wiped out? Let’s say 300K, men women and children (under 16). let’s say their culture was so bad that they deserved to be wiped out. One may make the case that yes–wipe them out, those that deserved to be wiped out–but no the children–they haven’t had a chance to be so bad or follow the true god. How many children? Let’s say a third, 100K, maybe a sixth? 50K. Who is going to raise these 50K? How many of them will look for revenge for the destruction of their family, parents, way of life?

    Our culture is so individualistic. But we are not judged individualistic but as a whole–even now–by other cultures, for good or for bad. When Israel was judged and sent into exile–was it because 100% were rebellious? No. Did children suffer, even die in those wars? Yes. Why did Daniel and his buddies have to go to exile? they were a part of a nation that deserved judgment. When a nation is evil and judgment comes on the nation–everyone in the nation suffers. That is just the way it is.

    Who is raising this pooh-pah of these wars? Sensible and righteous people? Is it not those who are promoting the survival of the fittest? The atheists are fools so says the Psalmist. They do not seek understanding and are not seeking for God. Their throats are open graves and their tongues practice deceit. they do not know the way of peace and have no fear of God.

    Death is ugly. We are right to find great distaste in it–to be saddened by its mastery over people, even whole groups of people–even though they/we deserve it. But there is a hope, a future time, when death, with all its power to kill and destroy will be swallowed up in victory! And those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have that victory NOW–so stand firm, our goal is worth the efforts.

  • Glenn

    Tom F, I just made the comment to ask what would be one of the many reasons God would have required this? Of course some say the text is wrong, God did not order this but rather the author understood God in this way. The point is, we know God is loving, holy, perfect and good. So the challenge is how do we understand the text in a way that honors God? I see many who deny that any judgement of God can be reconciled with a non-violent cruciform understanding of Jesus other than saying we know better than the author of the text. But again, do we rewrite every instance of God’s judgement in the Old Testament? Karl Barth once made the statement that who are we to look over the apostles shoulders and rewrite what they said. Why can’t we say this of the Old Testament?

  • Glenn

    Tom F, In our justice system today – I have seen teenagers who were raised in abusive homes with drug addicted and abusive parents go on to murder only to be tried as adults (even though they are teens) and spend 20 to 30 years behind bars. We are far more advanced than Israel of old and yet this is how we operate as a society. Do we blame this on God? No. But at the same time we have no other option available as of today. We need one. But Chris has a point. Perhaps this was the best of all available options at the time? But if we say God was not involved in this, how do we avoid a divided God of the Old and New Testament.
    For a recent perspective from a Messianic Jewish leader, see http://www.tikkunministries.org/newsletters/dj-jul12.php

  • Tom F.

    Chris- I don’t know how to respond. Is this your argument?

    1.) God allows/decrees some morally unproblematic death (i.e., cancer).
    2.) Death from cancer is morally equivalent to death by execution.

    3.) Therefore, there is only a problem with death by execution to the extent that there is a problem with cancer.

    I think the main problem is with 2. The Old Testament talks about death by execution as resulting from moral wrongs. Is it so far-fetched to object when execution appears to be un-related to moral wrongs (i.e., infants)? I don’t think so.

    Your comments about “who is raising this pooh-pah” seem like you are trying to attack the people who are asking these things rather than respond to their questions. Am I an atheist because I have trouble understanding these passages? Many commentators throughout the history of the church have seriously wrestled with these passages. Your comments are what drive people to become atheists: in effect, you are saying “either accept what I say the Bible says, or go outside the church”. Stop it.

    “When a nation is evil and judgment comes on the nation- everyone in that nation suffers”.

    Sure. Because we are human, we have to be raised up in a culture. Cultures are broken, and we experience pain both in the brokenness of our culture and then again when God judges that culture, apparently.

    But this is God. A God who can speak mountains in to existence can surely be expected to find creative ways to make sure judgment falls primarily on the guilty. Ironically, this is exactly what God does with the Israelites before they enter Canaan: when the parents sin by not believing in God, God has them all die in the desert while their children would inhabit the promised land. Is it so much to ask that this principle, so aptly demonstrated in Numbers with the Israelite’s sin, simply be applied in Joshua with the children of Canaan? I don’t think so.

    Glenn- Thanks for the thoughtful interaction.

    I wonder if the argument is starting to drift, though. You are now talking about “all” judgment, whereas I would like to simply focus on this particular issue. Is it fair to me to assume that in wanting to challenge an understanding on this text that I must be like those who question all judgment from God? Seems like a bit of a leap.

    Another question; if it is just a matter of accepting the authority of the Old Testament (re: Barth), why not just stop there? Why try to understand why God did this at all? By trying to offer logical explanations for what happened, you implicitly suggest that the bald authority of the OT is not enough, and that we have to make some sort of sense out of it as well. Otherwise, why not just tell me to simply stop whining and accept it, as Chris seems to have done up in his post?

    In response to your second post, I think the example you bring up is a great one. Yes, some of these children of abusive parents go on to become murders, and some of them are even put to death today. But this example is actually horribly inconvenient for your larger point.

    1.) As you point out, we do not punish these children until after they commit their own crimes.
    2.) The vast, vast majority of children raised in abusive homes do not become criminals.

    Therefore, if our current situation with children is any way analogous to the Canaanite children, the method used in the situation with the Canaanites is disastrously wrong. 90+% of children raised in these sort of homes go on to have serious personal and relational problems, but these 90% or so never go on to murder or commit any other crimes. Is it a good solution to kill 100% of these children on the chance that 1%(even 5%, even 10%) will grow up to be criminals? Seems like that would be horribly, horribly wrong (and this idea gets bonus points for having being a justification for killing children in many modern genocides).

    I think you thought the example might help me see why the execution of the children was necessary; I confess that it actually makes me understand even less why this execution had to happen at all.

    I can accept someone who says “This passage is hard to understand, but it’s scripture, and the ultimate revelation in Christ is what to focus on.” However, I feel passionately that misguided attempts to rescue this passage betray themselves and inevitably end up saying awful, indefensible things.

  • chris white

    Tom F.—thanks for responding. My point was that death comes to all, whether by the sword of man or the disease of the body. When you want God to be creative and find a way to exclude the children of a rather debase culture you make death to be bigger than it is. Death is not the ultimate end. That is the way those without God see death. And yes, those who see death as the ultimate end do not see it from God’s view.

    The children of the Canaanites were different from the children of Israel—because of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents. So the reason God did not kill all the Israelite’s including the children for their evilness was precisely because He wanted His covenant to be fulfilled by their descendent, Jesus of Nazareth.

    Certainly you are right that we suffer because of the brokenness of our culture—but is God suppose to avoid judging that culture because it would cause more suffering? What if the suffering caused by judgment is considerably less than the suffering that would be experienced by the continuation of that culture and the eternal judgment of those within that culture—of which we can, in no way, fathom. But God certainly can—and in His wisdom and mercy, declares enough is enough and puts an end to the evilness.

    As far as the Scriptures, they say what they say and yes, we always have to struggle to understand the parts that are hard to reconcile with our sensibilities. But we cannot make them say what we want them to say—nor can we just ignore them. I think I did respond to their questions—I am sorry it was in such a way you find them disagreeable. But so many “questions” from the atheists are not questions or seeking at all—but attacks that don’t even seek answers. A seeker is a humble sort of person; realizing their need for truth. Your very words declare this an issue that has been seriously wrestled with through church history—so I doubt anyone has an adequate answer for it. What answer do you think atheists or trending-towards-atheism people would like to make God more acceptable to them? There is no answer. What then to do, believer-who-thinks-the-Scripture-is-God’s-Word? Accept it as it is and do not willy-nilly about it.

    Peace.

  • chris white

    Tom F.–it is okay to say one doesn’t understand why God did something or what God said about something. If this issue of so-called genocide is THE thing that keeps a person from embracing the Good News of Jesus, well–what can one do? When creation itself testifies of the reality of its creator–when the historical testimony of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures speak of the realities of the Creator breaking into creation and becoming the substitute in the judgment for all humans sins–when the overwhelming positive testimony of the Church throughout history being the conduit of grace bringing light and life to a dying world in need of reconciliation to its creator–when the love for believers for one another–all testify for a God who is there—please–this issue is just the excuse for those who wish to continue on as the captain of their own souls.

    But those who are atheists or trending-towards-atheism folk are loved by God–and Christ died for their rescue–and we are to love them as well–with the love of Christ–seeking to be grace in their life while holding out the word of truth that can save their souls–and nothing less. Speak the truth in love. Peace.

  • Tom F.

    Chris F.-

    Why were the Canaanites so awful? At least one reason is because they sacrificed their children (i.e., put them to DEATH).

    So God gets understandably offended by this, and in judgment…has the children put to death?

    If death is no big deal, than why are the Canaanites punished for causing it?

    More broadly, you simply aren’t hearing me and I’m getting really frustrated. The “people” who object to this are just looking to be the “captain of their own souls”? I have met these atheists you speak of, and they would say that you just want to maintain your beliefs and not have to go through the pain of changing them or having them challenged. Congrats, you and the atheists have both successfully psychologized each other so that you don’t have to listen to each other. You both deserve each other, that’s for sure.

    But that’s really what this boils down to, huh. If we (Christians) don’t “hold the line ” on scripture than “they’ll (Atheists) win”. Guess what: God is the victor, and he doesn’t need you to hold off the atheists. You can let go and stop policing your fellow Christians now.

  • chris white

    Tom F. maybe we are talking about different sets of atheists. Did you not say that this issue has been a struggle to understand throughout church history? If so, do you think you or I can be clear about it for our own understanding–let alone explain it to an atheist? I doubt it. If we can’t explain it then what are we to do? Just ignore it? Just accept it? Decide that it is a later rewrite for explaining some other truth? Would any of that matter to your atheist friends? So they challenge what this means–and our response at best is–heck if I understand it.

    I am also sorry that you think I am policing my fellow Christians. I have no idea what you mean by that. I don’t understand everything in the Bible–and the more I learn, the more I wrestle with. But there are some things that are clear and consistent in Scriptures.

    Your words come across to me as if you are offended by something I wrote. What is the opposite of “hold-the-line” on Scripture? Why do you bring up the idea that I think atheists will “win”? Where do you find this competitive theme in my words? Why did you place scare marks around these phrases. You weren’t quoting me. Why do you think I am trying to hold off the atheists? Hold them off from what? You seem to know the atheists I described but then you say I mis-characterized them. A little confusing for me to follow you there.

    Atheists are lost and need us to be the witness of grace and truth in their life, of love and hope. Downplaying the Scriptures won’t be of any help to their condition. The Gospel is the power of God for their salvation. Our lives are to show that power by our love and holiness. Intellectual arguments have their place but a life showing Christ’s love is way more powerful.

    Death is a big deal–it is the enemy–a thought mentioned in my first two initial posts (#20 & #21). But it is not the end of judgment–for God will judge each and every person with pure justice, righteousness and mercy. Those who see life as ending at death and a return to the dirt of the earth will naturally see death as the ultimate winner–how could they not? They might hope to leave a positive legacy but in the end–death wins. Christianity does not see death as the winner–but that both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected. Something comes after death–but death does end the active sin of the one who dies.

    You said this in your response to Glenn in post #24: I can accept someone who says “This passage is hard to understand, but it’s scripture, and the ultimate revelation in Christ is what to focus on.”

    However poorly I have come across to you–from my perspective I would place myself as the person described in the above quote as one whom you could accept. So I am confused by your responses to me. Have I not been redirecting to the One who give life and light–to the One who gives grace and truth–to Jesus–the one whom we should put our trust in? Peace.

  • MikeW

    Scot, how did the historic Anabaptists approach the issue of divine violence, in contrast to their current misgivings?

  • John I.

    Re #6 and and its quote of “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?”

    Cop out. Unless God is speaking to you directly, that entire line of thought is irrelevant. The issue is not questioning God, the issue is understanding the words of God first. We can’t even begin to disagree with his words unless we understand them. It is the understanding, the meaning, that people are struggling with and debating, not the obedience.


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