Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God of Violence and/or the Prince of Peace?

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Most of the time when discussing violence and the kingdom of God the key scriptures that are brought up are text such as Matthew 5 which is part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, which includes some very tough teachings about loving our enemies and not taking revenge. It is very hard to walk away from any of Jesus’ teachings with the conclusion that it is ever ok to respond to any situation in violence.

However, for those who like to try to justify violence… the God of the Old Testament is often the focus. They will bring up texts such as the battle of Jericho or Sampson killing thousands with what seems to be the help of the Spirit of the Lord or God's prophets slicing people into many pieces.

So how do we justify the undeniable difference between the seemingly violent God of the Old Testament and the non-violent Jesus (Prince of Peace) who in the gospel of John claims that if you have seen Him then you have seen the Father? In other words, Jesus is saying if you want to know what the Father is like then you need to look no further than Jesus himself. If Jesus and the Father (of the Old Testament) are one, then why do they appear to be so different?

I think how one views the Bible as a whole will ultimately affect the way one will answer this question.

So what do you think? Does the Old Testament accounts of violent events which God seems to condone war and violence and in some instances where He even commands the killing of innocent children justify or over rule Jesus’ teachings of non-violence? Or is it possible that the giving credit to God for these violent acts is more of a reflection of the author’s and the people’s understandings of who God was at those particular moments in history? (You could compare this to examples today such as Sarah Palin and many American’s believing and claiming that the Iraq war is/was God’s war. Because of course God is on our side. Insert Bob Dylan song here.)

1 comment:

Matt said...

In the New Testament, the Christian inheritance is a heavenly land, not an earthly one, and the language of warfare used is spiritually (1 Peter 1:4; Eph. 6:10-17). The New Testament in Romans 13:1-6 establishes the civil government as set up by God and primarily responsible for maintaining justice. Later 1 Peter 2:14 establishes that the civil government is to come and punish the evildoers, which today would be a Biblical basis for police officers and army personnel. This verse also gives a biblical means for going to war with another nation because it is the civil government protecting its people from an evil group of people who desires their destruction.

Some question how a people could be commanded to go to war in one passage and then not to murder in another and it not be contradictory? In fact it is examples such as these that people will commonly use as their argument for the Bible being errant. But as has already been seen, there is no contradiction when it falls under the category of a war of defense against evil, which is clearly the case in these situations from Deuteronomy and Joshua. In fact the Hebrew word that is used for murder in English in the sixth commandment is used at least 49 times in the Old Testament, but it never refers to the killing of one in war, therefore showing that the commandment does not apply in the case of just killing that takes place in war. (Key is it being just)
*Taken from a paper I wrote recently*