God of War: God of Hope

Anthony Weber —  July 27, 2012 — 22 Comments
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If you have been patient enough to read the previous series, you have read several key insights that help us understand God as he is revealed in the Old Testament:

So why does all of this matter to us today?

God is offended by evil, as we should be. Actions have consequences. For the sake of the world, at some point someone must step in and stop evil and promote good.   When we read or see the atrocities of the Holocaust, do we not cheer that someone intervened to stop that?  When we read about genocide in Rwanda, or Saddam’s torture rooms, of Kony’s enslavement of children, isn’t there a part of us that rises up and says, “Won’t someone do something?”

If we were to find out that God ordered the defeat of Nazi Germany, or ordered intervention into the genocide in Rwanda, or had a plan for how to intervene in nations the commit atrocious human rights violations against their own people, would we suddenly become critical of God and say, “I thought you were a God of love?” I think we would be glad to know that Justice is part of God’s nature too, and that He was also offended by what was going on.

We read in the book of Micah that by approximately 700 B.C.,  Israel had thoroughly absorbed the worship and the lifestyle of the very Canaanites they dispossesed: they were deceitful, violent, greedy, unjust liars; they had become like  both the cultures and the rulers they had previously deposed.  Micah warned them that they needed to repent (Micah 6), but not, perhaps in the way they expected:

What can we bring the Lord? What kind of offerings can we bring Him ? Shall I bring him an offering of young calves? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall we offer our firstborn children to pay for our sins?  

No! The Lord has told you what is good, and what He requires of you: Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

Act justly and love mercy. Is it possible that a God of Wrath and the God of Grace have more similarities than differences? Can God not hold the attributes of love and justice  simultaneously? For that matter, can they even exist apart from each other? In an interview with Lee Strobel,  Paul Copan quoted Miroslav Volf, a Croatian who lived through unspeakable violence during ethnic strife in the former Yugoslavia:

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them.

My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them?

Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

This is one of the messages of the anger of God in the Old Testament: God is not indifferent with respect to those who suffer human cruelty. Is it possible to conceive of a being who embodies love  but does not become outraged at injustice?   And while not every injustice in this life is addressed immediately, God’s plan offers at least a hope that justice will have its day, if not in this life then the life to come.

“Human anger at injustice will carry less weight and seriousness if divine anger at injustice in the service of life is not given its proper place. If our God is not angry, why should we be? That God would stoop to become involved in such human cruelties as violence is…. not a matter for despair, but of hope. God does not simply give people up to experience violence. God chooses to become involved…so that evil will not have the last word.” – Terence Fretheim

 

Anthony Weber

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Anthony graduated from Cedarville University in 1995 with a degree in English Education, and from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana in 2004 with a Master's Degree in Theology and Philosophy. Anthony is a husband and father of three, an author ("Learning to Jump Again"), high school and college teacher, pastor, blogger (tcapologetics.org, empiresandmangers.blogspot.com), and co-founder of etcetera, a "street-level philosophy group" in Traverse City, Michigan.
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  • Steve Ruble

    Why does Copan mention that 3,000,000 people were “displaced” in the form Yugoslavia? I think it’s probably because he, like most people, thinks that driving people out of their homes is a Bad Thing. Except, of course, when those people are Caananites, because it’s OK to drive Caananites out of their homes. But why? 

    There’s another unanswered question in all this: why did YHWH choose a brutal, inefficient, and ultimately futile method when he decided to “step in and stop evil and promote good”? Brutal – because it required people to kill lots of other people; inefficient – because it took a long time and apparently needed to be done over and over; ultimately futile – because the people he sent in to clean up the land eventually became morally equivalent to the people he was punishing in the first place. Isn’t it reasonable to suppose that a powerful god would be more competent at actually causing his will to be done?

    • Anthonyweber

          Steve, wouldn’t you agree there is difference between displacing people (which was Volf’s term, not Copan’s) who have done nothing other than be ethnic vs. displacing people specifically because their culture is rife with the kind of violence and cruelty I described?  
         You seem convinced that God could have chosen a different way that would have been gentle, efficient,and kind.  What would that look like, in your opinion, in the ANE, and why do you think it would have been effective?  You have seemed to suggest in past comment threads that the best way would be for God to override human nature, control free will, and shift entire cultural structures so that they understand what’s going on instead of working within the worldview framework of existing cultures.   Have I understood you accurately?  If so, why do you find that image of God more compelling? If not…well, then, ignore that last question :)

      • Steve Ruble

        Surely you don’t think that the Serbs all agreed that the people of Croatia and Bosnia were perfectly nice people, but that they needed to die or be driven out purely because theirethnicity was intolerable. It seems much more likely that the Serbs told and believed stories about the wickedness of the Croats and the  Bosnian Muslims, and the threat that they posed to the good Serbs, and that that was what led to the ethnic cleansing. Sound familiar?

        Now that you’ve reminded me that the quote is actually from Volk, not Copan, I’m very puzzled. Volk is saying that he believes God’s wrath descends on the invaders who kill and drive out a people, whereas Copan is saying that he believes God’s wrath sometimes descends on the invaded, who ought to be killed and driven out. It’s especially poignant because Croatia was a Axis country in WWII, and perpetrated atrocities against the Serbs and others. But Volk (and by implication, Copan) doesn’t think that these recent recent crimes justified retaliation by the Serbs – again, Volk thinks the wrath of God will descend on the Serbs for what they did. But when it comes to the Amalekites, whose crimes against the Israelites were 400 years in the past by the time Saul made war on them, the tables are entirely turned. This just does not seem honest to me.

        • Anthonyweber

          I gave my looonnnngg answer in reply to your previous post, so here are a couple more bullet points. Enjoy :) 

          1) Ethnic cleansing is
          because of ethnicity, by definition.  What happened in the Old Testament was not ethnic cleansing.

          2) Volk believes God is angry
          at injustice, whether committed by the invader or the invaded.   

      • Steve Ruble

        I’ve posted some thoughts on what YHWH could have done instead of ordering the Israelites to invade Caanan and drive out all the people who didn’t stay to be killed in prior threads, but I don’t think I’ve suggested that he would need to override human nature and control free will to do it. I think your understanding of my position is inaccurate.

        Presumably you do not think that YHWH overrode Moses’s human nature or deprived him of free will by speaking to him from the burning bush or giving him the commandments on the mountain, nor do you think that YHWH took away the free will of the Hebrews by performing great miracles for them in Egypt and in the desert.

        Presumably you do think that YHWH’s interaction with the Hebrews shifted some pretty significant cultural structures so that the Hebrews understood what was going on. (Otherwise, what was the point?)

        So it’s pretty clear that you have to agree with me when I say that when a god appears to people in an unmistakable way, demonstrates his power through unmistakable miracles, and reveals to them information they could not have otherwise obtained, that god is not overriding human nature or controlling free will, and that doing such things does not violate his nature or anything like that.

        But YHWH doesn’t bother to do any of this stuff for the Caananites (except in one case I can think of, which I’ll get to shortly). Instead, he makes his will (and existence, and laws) known to the Caananites only through the claims made by his people and his prophets. Why? I never get tired of thinking of things it would be trivially easy for YHWH to have done to get his message across.

        – He could have made the words “YHWH is the True God”, followed by a listing of his desires and commands, echo from the sky every morning and evening for a month. 
        – He could have made the Caananite word for “NO” appear floating in the middle of the visual field of any Caananite who contemplated doing something YHWH considered wicked.
        – Slightly less intrusively, he could have made it impossible to do those wicked sexual things the Caananites liked to do by causing them to become impotent whenever they tried to do them.
        – He could have made all the idols in the land disappear and be replaced by copies of his law, which everyone was miraculously able to read.  

        That last one is slightly reminiscent of the time that YHWH did exert a fraction of his power in order to convey his will directly to a non-Hebrew culture. When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, YHWH gave them all kinds of trouble and made their idol fall down in the night as if it were bowing to the ark. This eventually had the effect of convincing the Philistines that they should send the ark back to the Israelites with an offering. But man, what a pathetic effort compared to all the things he could have done.

        You also asked why I thought doing things in a gentle, efficient, and kind way would have been effective. I suppose you are thinking of objections to my ideas above, so that you can explain to me why they would not have been effective at convincing the Caananites to do things that were Good in the Sight of the Lord, but I don’t think that’s really necessary. I would point out that the thing YHWH did do (sending the Hebrews to conquer Caanan) was not effective (because the Israelites eventually became morally indistinguishable from the original Caananites and had to be cast out in turn), which makes it obvious that efficacy is not a relevant criterion when evaluating YHWH’s actions. But in any case, I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that the best plan an omnipotent and omniscient deity could think up was to send in some dudes with swords. I mean, seriously. Do you think there was absolutely no better way for the moral reform of Caanan to have been conducted? None?

        • Anthonyweber

          Steve, I think you and I
          could co-author a book J  I will bullet point my
          responses so I don’t have to come up with clever segues.  

          1) The Amalkekites did not do
          just one particular thing for which the Israelites took revenge 400 years
          later; the Amalekites piled up crimes against humanity for 400 years, the most
          egregious of which had nothing to do with the Israelites, but were against
          their own people.

          2) Good point about the
          cultural shifts. I did not do a good job phrasing my thoughts well.  I tried to string together “override
          human nature and control free will” in front of the comment about cultural
          shifts to differentiate between coerced changes and chosen ones. I will try to clarify a bit
          more (hopefully this doesn’t make it worse):

           – The ANE cultures made suzerain treaties; God makes suzerain
          treaties (Old Testament law…another topic…)

           – The ANE cultures had Law Codes; God makes a Law Code that
          follows the same pattern.

           – The ANE cultures believed the gods were revealed through
          power; God revealed Himself through power.

               In each of these cases, God changes
          important elements, but he does not change the “language.” 
              This is probably a good place to note that the Old Testament shows a principle called “progressive revelation” at work. The OT never claims to be the apex of Christianity. God meets people where they are (using their language and cultural expectations), reveals and establishes Himself, and begins to move them in the right direction. This does not culminate in the Old Testament, but with the arrival of Jesus.  
           

          3) One of the points in my
          previous posts was that God was very clear in the language to which those
          cultures were accustomed.   I
          gave multiple examples of how the people in Canaan clearly experienced
          situations in which they knew Yahweh was a God to be reckoned with. The
          messages are clearly are not of the type you would prefer, but the message was
          unmistakable. 

               You seem to say that if God does not
          communicate to your satisfaction, He has failed.  However, based on the responses of the people (as noted in
          one of the posts), they clearly got the message. They just chose to ignore it.

           

          6) I agree with you that the
          question of why God allows the evil He does is a difficult one. I have posted several essays on TC
          Apologetics on the Problem of Evil, so I will not revisit the basic arguments
          here.

              I think all your solutions miss something
          important: the need for humanity to learn how to handle the presence of evil deeds
          in the world.  If God simply steps
          in and magically clears it up, what happens next time?  He does it again, I guess.  In the absence of those extreme cases,
          the most extreme cases that remain will be the new events into which God must
          intervene and nullify. Then, in the absence of those events… The list goes on
          until there is nothing bad left in any possible scenario.  (Now that I think of it, that means U
          of M football would be dealt with by God….hmmm).

              In a recent conversation, you noted a
          (valid) concern that Christians might not be overly concerned about justice in this
          life because we believe God will make it happen in the next.  Would your solutions not create the
          same scenario?  No one would have
          any incentive to proactively address evil; no one would have to worry about
          fighting against evil, injustice, or cruelty because God would simply swoop in
          and take care of it.

              Let’s say for the sake of argument that is a
          solution we want. Wouldn’t we be giving up any kind of moral or existential significance
          to our lives?  We could do
          whatever we wanted to, because God would always stop us if we went too
          far.  
              So which is better: the world we have, in which we are significant moral agents, or one in which we trade our freedom for safety?

          • Njoy

            Good post Anthony.  It is not difficult for me to agree with you here.  God has never been one to swoop and fix.  If we did not have free will, perhaps He would do that, perhaps He’d have to do that, but then He would be a highly manipulative God and that would be Evil, in my mind.  I don’t think any of us would like to trade our freedom for safety would we?

          • Steve Ruble

            “You seem to say that if God does not
            communicate to your satisfaction, He has failed.  However, based on the responses of the people (as noted in one of the posts), they clearly got the message. They just chose to ignore it.”

            You seem to be saying that your god is not capable of giving people a message they can’t ignore. This is not only contradicted within your own holy book (ever heard of the Exodus?), but it makes your god look extraordinarily pathetic. YHWH: the god who can’t persuade people to do what he wants, so he has to kill them. 

            “Would your solutions not create the same scenario?  No one would have any incentive to proactively address evil; no one would have to worry about fighting against evil, injustice, or cruelty because God would simply swoop inand take care of it.”

            Yep, that’s about the size of it. Just like no one needs to worry about fighting vilium, because there isn’t any such thing as vilium. Aren’t you glad that there isn’t any vilium? I assure you, the world would be much more unpleasant if it existed. 

            Anyway, I don’t know what your problem with my solution is. Do you think that the lack of atrocities in heaven implies that existence there is deprived of moral and existential significance ? I think it’s quite likely that you believe that there is a way for God to arrange things so that people with free will nevertheless commit no sins; if you think that’s impossible, I’m curious about what you think heaven will be like.

            “So which is better: the world we have, in which we are significant moral agents, or one in which we trade our freedom for safety?”

            I’m somewhat amazed that you seem to think that in order for our lives to be morally significant, the choice of whether or not we will burn our children alive must be a live question. Perhaps we should spend our time thinking up greater and greater atrocities, so that we can feel even more morally significant when we choose not to perpetrate them. And just imagine, if God had created us with the ability to burn one another alive using only our thoughts, the moral significance of each person would be even greater!

            But that’s absurd. And so is the idea that for us to be moral agents, we must be permitted to choose anything we want. God could have massively reduced our ability to harm one another without interfering in the slightest with our status as “morally significant agents”.

          • Anthonyweber

            1) On God’s Communication.  Steve,  I don’t believe you are adequately representing what I said about God communicating. I clearly noted that people can ignore Him even when he communicates clearly. I’m not sure why He becomes pathetic if people hear and do not respond. From your perspective, if a policeman tells a criminal that if he doesn’t stop his activity he will shoot him, and the criminal ignores the warning and gets killed, is the policeman likewise pathetic?
            2) On God’s Intervention.  If I understand you correctly, you would like God to continue to intervene until even the smallest of painful or unhappy situations has been mollified. I can’t help but think of what the Savage said to Mustapha Mond in Brave New World: “Nothing costs enough here.”  It sounds like God is simply another way of describing Huxley’s soma: “”There’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears-that’s what soma is.”
               3) On Moral Significance.  I like this quote from C.S. Lewis: “The better stuff a creature is made of- the cleverer and stronger and freer it is- then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better or worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best—or worst—of all.” 
               4) On Heaven. I don’t speculate with any dogmatism about what the life to come will be like. It will, I suspect, be so utterly unlike this one that the words we use to describe this life can never capture it.  Perhaps in the next life we will truly be free to go completely right or completely wrong (to use Lewis’s language). 

            Steve, here’s a really broad question: what would this life have to be like for you to believe that God was admirable? I’m not asking what it would be like for you to believe God existed; what would it take for you to think of Him as good?

          • Steve Ruble

            1) In your example, the policeman is not pathetic because the policeman is a human and has human limitations. YHWH is not human, and folks claim that he is omnipotent. If he can’t figure out how to be more effective than a human policeman, then yes, that’s pretty pathetic.

            2) You don’t understand me correctly. Again, can’t you recognize that there could be sorrow and pain and tough choices even in a world without rape, murder, and slavery? Isn’t it obvious that reducing the amount of bad stuff which happens to humans is not a bad thing? 

            3) OK, I’ll bite. Is your god free to make moral choices? What are the implications of the Lewis quote in the context of ethical essentialism?

            4) Hm, didn’t expect you to be comfortable with the idea of sin in Heaven. Let’s try something else: Jeremiah 31:33-34. YHWH promises to impart knowledge directly to each person, so that they no longer need to be taught by other people. Would this gift of knowledge violate their free will?

            What would it take for me to think God was good? Could be lots of things, I guess. Here’s an easy way: if everyone had such a high level of intuitive empathy that deliberately causing pain to someone else was as unpleasant as deliberately causing pain to yourself, then I’d be much more likely to think that the creator of the world was good. Surely such a tweak to human psychology wouldn’t have been beyond his ability!

  • 0njoy3

    Anthony, my problem is in wondering why God and all concerned didn’t forgive their enemies, and move on. 
          If God demands that we forgive everything and everyone, then since we are made in His image,  all our warring comes naturally .  That old Acorn doesn’t fall very far from the tree does it?
           That is not my understanding of God.
          I have trouble with the God of Then behaving the way He is portrayed.  I tend to think that what is described to us in the Old Testament is the viewpoint of the Hebrew mindset at that time.   After all, these books were written by Hebrew scribes, were they not?

    • Anthonyweber

      Nancy,   I think there is a misunderstanding of biblical forgiveness. It does not include ignoring history or enabling continuing evil.
           See if this analogy works: if the shooter in Colorado is punished, does that mean those effected by his actions will not be able to forgive him?  Should he simply be released if everyone forgives him, and then we all live as if nothing happened?  I also think of the crimes uncovered at Penn State.  What do we do? Nothing?  That seems far more problematic than enforcing justice.      Hopefully, the victims find a place of peace that allows them to forgive, but even if that happens, the charges will be pursued, and rightly so. Forgiveness and justice are not contradictory ideals.   

      • Lamar

         Should the NRA be forgiven for facilitating a culture that allowed the shooter in Colorado to obtain weapons of sufficient lethality to kill and wound all those people? 

        • Anthonyweber

              Lamar, it seems to me that the NRA functions within an already existing culture.  All objects – TV’s, money, guns, music, art, cars – are used or misused by people whose world views have been shaped not by the object, but by the zeitgeist of the broader culture (or perhaps within smaller communities).  It’s one reason the Bible says that the Christian battle is not a physical one, but a struggle against spiritual and cultural influences.
              The Colorado Shootings were an effect; what was the cause?

      • NJoy

        My self-preservation side/ego part of me demands justice also Anthony.  I personally have a desire to do bodily harm to people like Sandusky. ( I think Holmes is/was insane)

        I can muster up sympathy for the mentally ill, (which I guess Sandusky’s perversion would apply as well) however, sexual abuse of children…or any abuse of the innocent is my biggest pet peeve, so I at first glance want justice and I want it my way…torture is too good for Sandusky etc.

        But this forgiveness business is a bigger problem than I’d like to admit.  Too much New Age influence?  Too many Yoga and Meditative classes?   I don’t know, but in  my old age…lol…smile here Anthony….I am understanding that what God wants from me is an attitude that we are all ONE, that the Sanduskies of the world are my kin, my brother, my own flesh and blood spiritually speaking and my heart(if it is filled with the True God-like Spirit) will immediately forgive any Child Molester or Murderer, because it is a part of me who commits that heinous crime.  After all, that person’s God is my God…correct?   So…to forgive the way Christ forgave is what I am striving for..eh?
        Christ (as I understand Him) would not condemn either Holmes or Sandusky.  They might condemn themselves, but God never would, so how pompous of me to think I cannot forgive in that way.  If not for the Grace of God….etc…

        • Anthonyweber

                A lot of what you write resonates with me. We all share a common humanity, and because we are all flawed I agree that the call to forgiveness is both challenging and necessary.   As Jesus encouraged us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
                 Here are some underlying questions that seem to emerge:  Is justice the same as revenge?  If I am emotional or angry, does that mean my actions in response to say, child abuse, must be wrong?   And are justice, mercy, and forgiveness incompatible things?
                I don’t think they are.  Jesus would condemn the actions of Sandusky, for example. He spoke very strongly against the injury of children (Matthew 18:6).  This does not mean Sandusky cannot be forgiven, but there must be some way in which he is forced to stop the damage he was doing.  Justice for Sandusky is mercy for the children – and perhaps mercy for him as he is forced to confront his deeds (and himself).  
               Penn State is in trouble not because they lacked mercy or forgiveness, but because they misunderstood what those words meant, and as a result undermined justice. It seems increasingly clear that they were complicit in enabling ongoing child abuse.  If  they were “one” with Sandusky (in the way you mentioned), and if they knew God could forgive him, they should still have stopped him and called him to account for the damage he had done. That “oneness” would hopefully be a motivating factor to intervene and help people in those areas of life that bring brokenness to the world. 
              I know there’s a lot more to be said (grace is a beautiful thing),  but does that distinction resonate with you?  

          • NJoy Gries

            Yes, Anthony, your thoughts do indeed resonate with me.  I believe, if I were the mother of a child abuser/molester….like Sandusky, I would know in the deepest part of my being that I would have to report him, turn him in. But, would I have the courage to do that?  I hope so, but I would probably take his side(many mothers do) and blame his behavior on some circumstance that he, the poor soul, etc etc….you get the idea.   Johnny is never wrong you know…it’s always the teacher’s fault…

             The people at Penn State knew(in the deepest part of their being) that as well, but they failed the young boys who were being used by Sandusky with his criminal acts. 

             They failed the boys because they were selfish. 

             They wanted to think of what they knew was happening was (wrong/horrible/bad) something that could be overlooked because the perpetrator involved was such a decent and upright person(in some areas,) and besides…Paterno didn’t say anything…so you know…why get involved?

            Life is tricky this way.  It throws us into situations where it takes more courage than some of us have, to forget self  and do the right thing.  Forgetting self and our selfish desires is awfully difficult it seems to me.  And then, after doing the right thing, we are to go to the perpetrator and forgive him…not his act…(for that we string him up) we are to forgive the person because they are us and we are them….all brothers and sisters…all children of the same God.   Difficult to say the least I think…but I’m better than I used to be at this forgiveness thing…lol…

  • Lamar

    OK.  So what are you going to do about the torture done by the United States in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  What about the support the U.S. gave to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban when they were fighting the Russians?  What about Vietnam?  What about the fact that the U.S. has more weapons of mass destruction than all the other nations of the earth combined and that half of your tax dollars go to pay for current and past wars? 

    I find that a clear and complete pacifist position is the only viable way to follow Jesus and that understanding the Bible as an historical record of how human’s understood God to act, evolving as humans learned more about God’s ways and culminating in the story of Jesus life, teachings, sacrifice and ultimate victory is the most viable way to understand the total record of God’s people.  It is for this reason that I don’t have a problem with the war texts.  They are simply part of the historical record of a flawed understanding of God. 

    The idea that Nazism arose as a unique and singular evil amidst the rest of the world and that the west justly rose up to defeat it is naive.  Nazism was a natural consequence of nationalism run amok and all of the nations of the world partook in this evil in one way or another.  I’d encourage you to read Ted Grimsrud’s comments on the long term damage WWII did to our nation.  It is far better at explaining my leanings than anything I could write here.

    Lamar

    • Anthonyweber

      Lamar, I know one Christian position is to read the Old Testament in the way you recommend. I see the appeal, but I wonder where this kind of reading ends.  Is everything in the OT perspectival knowledge of God?  It seems hard to read any type of authority, history, or theology into the OT with this foundation. I also wonder why we would make a distinction 400 years later, when Jesus arrives? 
         Growing up Mennonite, I am sympathetic to the pacifist position, though I do not adhere to it.  Jesus was clear that the Kingdom of God was not connected with the sword, but Paul noted the government’s authority to wield it. 

  • http://twitter.com/GlassHouseTheo Glass House Theology

    Intriguing post, thank you for your well thought out posts. 

    You raise a valid point in that no one cries out for the blood of the Allies, even though hundreds of thousands of Germans were killed in WWII.  We all understand that, while a tragic lose of life, it needed to be done to stop an even worse atrocity.  (and yes, there was wholesale slaughter of men, women and children in WWII with carpet bombs.)

  • Curious

    Ok, I’m certainly no expert and this is a topic I’ve been thinking about lot lately. Your posts are helpful but I feel there are a few more things I would have liked you to comment on or clarified. In the texts on war that you quoted it was mentioned that no one should be spared that even children and infants should be killed. And then you go on to say that in fact there would have been no children in the cities that were actually attacked. So then why order the killing of everyone, including children? You say that people immigrating should be welcomed (but doesn’t that come with the condition that they also follow the law?) and you say that not everybody was killed and that God was fine with that. But then I think I remember, and I’m sorry I can’t give you book, chapter and verses on this, that I’ve read somewhere in the Bible that later punishment for Israel, and Israel’s immoral behavior is said to be a consequence at least in part of Israel NOT obeying the command to kill everyone and not take wives from these cultures etc. Or am I remembering this wrong? Another thing…. I completely agree that sometimes people can get so bad that they have to be stopped. If someone torments and kills people it’s better to stop that person even if that means killing him rather than having him continuing to hurt others. This of course means we have to decide when something is “bad enough” to be punished. To motivate “stopping” a person we must decide that what they have done is somehow evil and that what we do to stop that person is in fact then a response and that in this sense, even if we kill them we are doing a good thing. But then, how do we handle this when we interact with or somehow come across a group of people who think they are doing the exact same thing, only they see it as them being good and only using violence to stop “us” and in response to something “we” as a group of people have done that they see as immoral? In a way, it then comes down to which belief system is right, and of course since it is a matter of faith or belief systems there is no objective way to answer that question. So how do we deal with this?