Over at OnFaith, Brandon Withrow has published an article on the growing rift emerging among evangelicals on how to handle the biblical depictions of God as violent. I was interviewed for the piece, along with several others.
Early in the article, Withrow observes:
Many Christians today are critical of the violence they see in other religions — especially Islam — but there’s an inescapable cognitive dissonance if you are appalled by the violence done in the name of one religion but not by the violence done in the name of your own.
As is well known, this is the very point that Richard Dawkins and other atheist writers have pointed out in recent years, and it presents a genuine theological problem. Though Christians, including evangelicals, quickly condemn genocide today, it is hard to do so if your God commanded genocide yesterday.
I am glad to see Withrow addressing this issue. I’ve blogged about this myself quite a few times (e.g., here here here here here here). Recent release of the movie Noah has raised the issue yet again.
The fact that in the Bible, too often to be ignored, God either kills, commands others to kill, or is compliant when they do, is a vexing theological problem that goes back to the early church. In my experience it is among the top 2 or 3 issues raised by those confused or skeptical about the Christian faith.
Hiding under a blanket won’t make this go away. It has to be addressed in a manner that goes beyond the defense of inerrancy and literalism. And it certainly has to rise above the unfortunate culture war (pun unintentional) rhetoric of recent months.
Here again is the link to the article.
Withrow teaches religious studies at The University of Findlay and is most-recently co-author (with Menachem Wecker) of Consider No Evil: Two Faith Traditions and the Problem of Academic Freedom in Religious Higher Education. He regularly blogs at The Discarded Image. He has also posted here at rethinking biblical christianity… (here and here).