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.