God Is Neither Warlike Nor Peaceful [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Last week’s Questions That Haunt Christianity came from Shira, who asked a question that provoked an unprecedented number of comments for the series:

My question is this: How do Christian theologians deal with the fact that God is portrayed sometimes as a “man of war” who approves genocide and taking of women as war prizes, among other atrocities and sometimes as the “righteous judge” standing up for widows, orphans, and the strangers among us? I consider this a vital question because it seems to me that many people gravitate to one or the other of these ideas of God, and the actions in the world of these different groups are very distinct! I don’t know if you require a background, but I’m a Buddhist of Jewish background.

Thanks to all who commented. Here’s my response:

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Bishop Al Mohler Strikes Again

Panel Discussion: Revisiting Inerrancy from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.


Baptists don’t have bishops, right?

That’s what I thought, having been reared in the related denomination of Congregationalism. Growing up, I was taught that we — congregationalists and baptists and others whose polity is considered “congregational” — were vehemently anti-hierarchical. Our tradition started because Henry VIII and the Anglicans had not differentiated themselves enough from Rome. We were, from our founding, anti-papist, anti-bishop.

In congregational polity, nothing is more sacred than individual hermeneutical authority. That is, every believe has the freedom to interpret the Bible, the freedom to follow the dictates of her or his conscience, the freedom to worship with fellow believers.

So it always surprises me when congregationalists or baptists act like bishops. In my book, The New Christians, I wrote,

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Demons Aren’t Real, But People Believe in them Anyway [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Before I dive in to this week’s response, I just want to say that this series – The Questions That Haunt Christianity – has gone even better than I’d hoped. Over 200 questions have come in, and they are extraordinarily challenging. But, even better, you, the readers of this blog, have been overwhelming in your responses in the comment section. This week, for instance, we’ve already got 90 comments, and most of them are brilliant. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I want to buy you each a beer and talk theology.

With that, I turn to the challenging question put to us by Lee Pendarvis. A recent convert from atheism to Christianity, Lee asks,

Why do Christians continue to believe in the demonic when as far as I have seen, even in today’s multimedia infested world, we have yet to garner any evidence at all other than perhaps some youtube videos or recordings that are not at all remarkable (someone shouting curses in a gruff voice etc.)?

Lee thinks that demon possession belongs in the realm of UFOs and Big Foot, and I have to say that I agree with him.

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Why I Haven’t Given Up on the Bible

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, by Rembrandt

When conversation on this blog turn to issues of sexuality, as it did this week with Brian McLaren’s View on Homosexuality, there are always some commenters who admit that their Christian faith has broken free of the Bible. For example, R. Jay comments,

I’m a Christian for whom the Bible is not my foundation, not my law code, not my ladder, not my pedestal. I love it dearly, but I don’t need it to know God, and I don’t need it to understand how to love my neighbor fully.

In the absence of the Bible, there is still God. And to know God does not require the Bible. Devotion to it has become the most insidious of all barriers.

Honestly, I understand how some people come to this conclusion. The Bible is a primitive book, coming out of a primitive time. Even the most staunch conservatives should be able to admit that. It is reflective of a different world than the world in which we live. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not applicable to our lives and our time, but that much hermeneutical work needs to be done to understand what it means for us today.

In Brian’s own evolution of how he understand human sexuality, he has not abandoned the Bible,

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