From Greg Boyd’s blog, a post about his forthcoming book:
While most of the Bible exhibits a “God-breathed” quality, reflecting a magnificently beautiful God that is consistent with God’s definitive revelation on the cross, we must honestly acknowledge that some depictions of God in Scripture are simply horrific. They are included in what is sometimes called “the dark side of the Bible.” To give just a small sampling, we find God portrayed as doing things such as:
* …causing parents to cannibalize their own children (Lev. 26:29; Jer. 19:9; Lam. 2:20; Ezek. 5:10)
* …causing pregnant women to having their wombs ripped open and their children dashed on the ground (Hos. 13: 16)
* …refusing to allow any compassion to keep him from smashing parents and children together (Jer. 13:16)
* …commanding the Israelites to slaughter every man, woman, child, infant and even animals – “everything that breathes” – though they are not to harm trees, for “trees are not your enemy” (though babies are?) (e.g. Deut. 7:1-2; 20:16-20)
* …telling Israelite men that, while everyone else in a region is to be mercilessly slaughtered, they may spare women they find attractive and marry them. However, if they later “find no delight in her,” they may turn them out on the street (Deut. 21:10-14)
* …commanding parents and others to stone to death children who are stubborn or who strike a parent (Ex. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 21:18-21)
In my forthcoming book, Crucifixion of the Warrior God, I have an entire chapter of material such this. It is not easy reading! Now, out of obedience to Christ, who consistently spoke of the Hebrew Bible as divinely inspired, and in solidarity with the historic orthodox Church, I feel obliged to confess all Scripture, including horrific material such as this, is “God-breathed” (theopneustos, 2 Tim. 3:16). At the same time, I believe it is also vitally important that we remain ruthlessly honest with ourselves and others and God about this material. How else can we describe material such as this as anything other than horrific, macabre, grotesque, and even revolting? If a portrait of God commanding people to slaughter babies and causing mothers to eat them doesn’t qualify as revolting, what would? If you found material like this in any other ancient or modern text, would you hesitate for a moment from labeling it as macabre, revolting, or some such phrase? If we are honest, we cannot deny it. So how does horrific material like what I just reviewed suddenly become less revolting by virtue of being found in our sacred text rather than someone else’s?
… I know it sounds impious to describe any of God’s inspired Word to be horrific or revolting, but I am actually in good company in speaking this way. No less an authority than John Calvin was willing to describe some of the portraits of God in the OT as “utterly barbaric,” “crude” and “savage” as he affirmed that God had to condescend to give such brute laws because his people’s hearts were so “hard,” “incorrigible” and “depraved.” So too, Calvin admits that God’s command to destroy “everything that breathes” in Jericho “would have been savagery” (immanis) and would have been “a deed of atrocious and barbaric ferocity” (quad atrociter et barbara saevitia) were it not God who commanded it. Elsewhere Calvin describes some of God’s commands and actions as “harsh,” “savage” and “barbaric’” (durum, immane, barbarum) as well as “savage and fierce” (saevi et atroces), as involving “execrable savagery” (detestabilis immanitas), and as constituting a “barbaric atrocity” (barbara atrocitas). I appreciate Calvin’s candor!