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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

By Mike Edwards

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The amount of violence recorded as commanded by God is undeniable such as ordering the death of women, children, infants and animals in war (I Sam. 15:3). Many assume a Book supposedly inspired by God means God approved what was written about God. Who is to say the writers weren’t on the same spiritual journey we all are on – discovering what God is really like! Violent views of God can often lead to justifying wars and killing infidels in God’s name.

It is best to admit we can’t prove God inspired (aka approved) all recorded in the Bible.

Let’s be honest. We can’t prove God took over the biblical writers’ minds to control what’s written. Writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” written hundreds of times could be a figure of speech expressing an inner impression about God – right or wrong. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t intentionally lie but were honest about their understandings of God at the time. This may explain violence wrongly contributed to God. I think best to not use the word “inspired” as most associate that with God agreeing with every thought or belief the writers had about God.

Did God approve certain violence to bring the Israelites freely along to the truth?

It is argued Israel’s laws were a step up from other ancient near eastern laws. At times maybe they were, but it is rational to question many laws set forth. God surely didn’t approve a woman being required to marry her rapist (Deut. 22: 28-29) or killing boys and non-virgins but sparing virgins for the warriors (Num. 31:18). Did God accommodate because the Israelites couldn’t handle the truth that requiring a woman to marry their rapist or family murderer is further victimization? I doubt it!

Is violence by God simply warfare exaggeration or hyperbole?  

Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. But, even if God didn’t mean to be taken literally, why would God inspire violent metaphors like I Sam. 15 to include women, children, infants, and animals? Imperfect, human leaders don’t even use such language. I question if the writers heard God correctly to command such language even metaphorically.

Maybe the violence commanded by God didn’t take place?

Archaeology can suggest biblical events never happened and were recorded centuries later to convey spiritual truths. The creation account in Genesis may not be an actual historical event. It is also pointed out many of the genocide-like commands supposedly from God were not carried out as survivors are listed later in the story. Maybe extermination passages are meant to be understood within the context of initially driving out the enemy. The problem though is that God supposedly said these violent commands – not if commands were obeyed, didn’t take place, or were hyperbole.

Is violence explained because God can do whatever the Hell God wants?  

It is normal to feel compelled to justify passages above because God’s actions in the OT aren’t always moral from a human perspective. So, it is suggested God’s ways don’t have to be fair because God is God. Yet, the Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or imitate God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). If human and God’s morals are different, how can we know how to be perfect like God? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” God’s morals are not some mystery. God’s good isn’t sometimes evil.

Objections when claiming the Bible doesn’t always depict God perfectly.  

  • We can’t know God if we can’t trust the Bible. See here.
  • God wouldn’t allow so much uncertainty. See here.

 God’s uncontrolling rather than controlling love can explain much of the OT.

Many practices in the OT such as animal sacrifices and other behaviors supposedly desired and commanded by God were humans’ understanding of God during those times. God’s love never controls one’s beliefs but seeks to influence for good. Freedom is necessary for authentic, lasting relationships. I have no doubt that the Bible has God’s blessing. So much wisdom has been gained by reading and reflecting. But, God never intended a Book to not be questioned or to take the place of a relationship with God and others. God seeks to influence so we might make choices in the interest of ourselves and others in the long-run.

 

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Mike Edwards

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I have written on this topic ad nauseum. Issues not addressed in this Post see here. Many scholars acknowledge the Bible has numerous contradictions which is reason enough to question the Bible’s inspiration since God is assumed to be perfect. Does God take pleasure in destroying (Deut. 28:63), or does God take no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11)? Does God punish children for the sins of parents (Ex. 34:7; Num. 14:18), or does God never punish children for what parents do (Ezek. 18:20)? Questioning the Bible may lead to knowing God better.

Why wouldn’t we question since we can’t prove the Bible is inspired by God?

Circular logic is used to argue the Bible is inspired by claiming the biblical writers make such a claim. Besides, the passage most commonly used to defend inspiration is – “All Scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) – is subject to different interpretations. God-breathe could literally mean God-spirited, meaning God uses writings to touch our spirit. Humans are said to be God-breathed and we aren’t infallible. Also, this passage can only refer to the Old Testament since the New Testament and Jesus’ words hadn’t been collected.

Questioning avoids the slippery slope of inspired interpretations.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the biblical writers/editors always understood God perfectly because the Bible is literature which requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to personal circumstances. Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret differently what God thinks about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, and the afterlife which impacts ever person every born. Infallible Books, as opposed to fallible Books, often lead down the slippery slope of justifying interpretations as if infallible.

Questioning avoids justification of violence and other immoralities in God’s name.

The idea of an infallible or inspired Book has led to assuming God’s views on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible. Terrorists kill infidels in the name of God. Extremists don’t question putting men in authoritative positions over women. One country only recently loosen restrictions on women’s ability to travel without male guardian permission. WHAT! Such ideas could only come from a supposed infallible Book about God. Imagine if terrorists or extremists had to question if God didn’t endorse words in a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to less violence and violation of rights.

We must question if God really condemns women, gays, and other religions!

How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? How could a loving God condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? How could a loving God approve only Christians go to heaven, when the majority of people born into this world rebel or adhere to the religion where born. Is God a God of chance? 

Jesus as the final authority on God isn’t the solution.

Even if we argue all of Scriptures must be understood through the life and death of Jesus, since Jesus was God, this doesn’t solve knowing what God would do. We still have to interpret Jesus according to a Book. Rational people don’t agree on God and violence according to Jesus. When Jesus said love your enemies, does this mean He would say never to kill to love innocent victims when no other option seems to exist? We can’t always know when Jesus spoke about certain subjects without stating exceptions or used hyperbole for emphasis. It is better to question than go down the slippery slope of an inspired Book by God.

It is claimed we can’t know God if not through the Bible. 

Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! Who doesn’t know a good God hates beheading people because they don’t share your beliefs unless a supposed infallible Book supposedly speaks for God? God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral intuitions. Criminals often don’t defend their actions; instead, they deny committing such crimes. A Book couldn’t be God’s only type of communication because a copy of the Bible and knowledge of Jesus hasn’t been available to the majority of people born into this world. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from an inspired Book. How can we decide what God is really like? See HERE

Is certainty really better than uncertainty about the Bible?  

Total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. Biblical scholars can’t agree if God desires preachers or priests be women or gay? It is suggested viewing the Bible as “inspired imperfection,” or we should view all of the Bible through Jesus’ eyes. As mentioned, even if Jesus was God in person His words still require interpretation. Uncertainty, not certainly about God, protects against imposing beliefs on others which is not God’s nature. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

What good is the Bible if we don’t know what passages are inspired by God?  

I believe the Bible has God’s blessing. There is so much wisdom to be gained from interacting with it. The viewpoint that God didn’t inspire the Bible, or at least admitting one’s interpretation isn’t inspired, could lead to less violence in God’s name and forcing other immoral opinions on others. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. Question biblical texts by writers that give qualities to God morally questionable. Aren’t we created in God’s image? 

God never intended a Book to take the place of a relationship with God and others. Even the Bible tells us the Word of God isn’t a Book but Spirit who lives in us (Jn. 14:16-17). As long as we read the Bible with a questioning spirit motivated by love rather than blind obedience, the Bible allows God’s spirit to influence making unselfish decisions for a better world. Certainty has only gotten us more violence, sexism, homophobia, etc. Discuss different views of God by defending our reasoning, respecting the opinions of others, and committing to growing in understanding.

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By Mike Edwards

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One may only believe God required a violent death of an innocent victim, much less God’s own child, because an inspired Book by God supposedly makes such a claim. How is it forgiveness if payback is required? How does an innocent person suffering really atone for another person’s sins? Even imperfect human parents don’t only forgive a child by punishing another child.

Freedom created by God is a farce if Jesus had to die! 

If Jesus had to die, then Judas had no choice but to betray Jesus. If God predetermined that Jesus had to die so God could forgive our sins, those who killed Jesus where not free to choose otherwise. Crucifiers were not free to come to their senses that one simply claiming to be the Son of God doesn’t deserve to die a gruesome death on a Cross.

Child sacrifice was an abomination to God in the Bible. 

Interpretations suggesting God requires child sacrifice must be wrong. In the Old Testament God through prophets declared child sacrifice was an abomination (Lev. 20:2-5; Jer. 32:35). Did God break the Ten Commandments “Thou shall not murder?” Old Testament passages interpreted as Messianic prophecies could be conditional – Jesus will be killed if people don’t turn from evil.

God and Jesus forgave others before the Cross.

In the OT before Jesus was born, God often forgave the Israelites. In the New Testament Jesus is recorded as forgiving others before dying on the Cross (Mt. 9:2; Lk. 7:48, etc.).

God requiring violence opposes God’s non-violent nature.

Most agree Jesus’ message was one of non-violence, though sometimes violence may be necessary to protect victims. Turn the check, go the extra mile, etc. are familiar sayings (Mt. 5:38-42). The Bible also encouraging striving to be perfect by imitating God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). Believing God requires violence often leads to humans justifying violence in the name of God. The Cross actually reveals our ugly violent nature not God’s.

Why did Jesus die?

There are many possible explanations why Jesus died other than God killed Him so God could forgive. We may still be talking about Jesus because He was willing to die, rather than power over others, for a message He believed in. God has always sought change through influence than coercion. Jesus sought to inspire that an unselfish life empowered by our Creator is worth living. It was Jesus’s willingness to die, not His miracles, that has changed billions of lives.

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By Mike Edwards

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We can’t prove God inspired every word of the Bible unless taking a writer’s word for it. Besides, biblical writers claiming inspiration could mean God uses writings to interact with us without declaring such writings are infallible views of God. Since the writer didn’t claim God spoke audibly, we can question if the writer’s impression was correct when recording God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”(I Sam. 15:3).

An inspired Bible leads to justifying violence and other immoralities in God’s name.

The idea of an infallible or inspired Book has led to assuming God’s views on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying killing infidels in the name of God. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the Old Testament have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists had to admit that God possibly didn’t endorse words they interpret to deny freedom of beliefs!

Terrorists aren’t the only ones who don’t question if God inspired the writer’s thought or if their interpretation is correct. The Bible is used to prove many contrary views such as mutual or hierarchical roles. We must question if a loving God would put men in leadership position over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral sense, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

What can you trust about God if not the Bible?  

Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! Who doesn’t know a good God hates beheading people because they don’t share your beliefs unless a supposed infallible Book supposedly speaks for God? God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses. An infallible book has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Questioning encourages honest, open dialogue as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

We are free to question how best to love others.

The viewpoint that God didn’t inspire the Bible, or at least admitting one’s interpretation isn’t inspired, could lead to less violence in God’s name and forcing other immoral opinions on others in the name of God. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents, so we can reflect on what God is really like and how to best love others.

 

 

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By Mike Edwards

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There is so much violence throughout the world. Evil is alive and well even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Must God-followers always lay down their arms according to Jesus’ words and example? Would non-violent reactions end wars and evil, or does evil end when all individuals and nations decide to stop victimizing others.

More and more God-followers are rightly advocating for a loving than wrathful God. Many suggest since Jesus is God Himself, we should follow His words if we think they contradict an Old Testament prophet’s understanding of God. Progressives, for lack of a better word, would likely agree the Bible was not written so we can simply turn to a page to get an answer for our problem. I might give my kids different advice though dealing with similar circumstances. Should you confront, divorce, etc.? It depends! Seek God and the wisdom of others who are slow to be certain.

Quoting Jesus doesn’t settle it!

Progressives accept that the Bible, since literature, requires interpretation. Love isn’t dogmatically claiming my interpretation is right and yours is wrong. One interpretation of Jesus according to the Bible is that His example and the Cross mandate we must not respond violently. But, should we always respond as Jesus did on the way to the Cross? The Apostle Paul didn’t. When in danger, Paul threaten God on others and appealed for government protection (Acts 23).

Some biblical scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how we might respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Does this and other passages rule out individuals or nations defending and killing if necessary when being attacked or even under the threat of attack? Depends! Jesus didn’t condemn a Roman soldier’s faith for serving his nation (Lk.7:1-9). 

Can we at least agree …….

Research is sited to suggest non-violent responses can deter further violence. We should always strive to not respond to violence with violence if there is another way. We don’t seem to agree that when violence seems unavoidable, that we can be grateful for those who protect us when people cannot be “talked or exampled” from violence. When we dogmatically claim God never advocates violence, we imply people are not being Christ-like when they must kill when serving their military, police force, or family. We don’t know what God would always do!

What would God do in your situation?

Can you have a security plan as a church or family that would use violence? That is a personal decision between you and God. You have to decide for yourself if to attend a certain church or go elsewhere. Personally, I hope I am God-loving enough to not respond to a situation with violence when other options exist. Jesus’ example encourages non-violence but sometimes self or government protection is necessary because evil is still very real. I am convinced we can love our enemies and love the innocent by protecting them from harm. The Bible doesn’t settle whether God would never advocate responding to evil with violence!

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By Mike Edwards

If you read the Bible closely enough, who blames those who challenge God morally. Did God really kill all but eight in the world by a global flood because God couldn’t handle rejection? We condemn people drowning a litter of puppies in the river. Other ancient literature spoke of local floods. Perhaps the writers use hyperbole to make a point, but that doesn’t explain all of the OT.

I Sam. 15:3 is only one of many passages that reports God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” God orders killing non-virgin women but not virgins: “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:18). Really God! Exodus 12 claims God intends to kill firstborns without lamb’s blood on their doorframes (Passover).

How one views the Bible leads to different explanations.

Did God control or guide the writers’ thoughts to perfectly represent God which then requires explaining certain actions by God, or did God not interfere with writers misrepresenting God at times? OT writers could have been influenced by surrounding cultures as to what an all-powerful God should look like. When the OT records “God said,” this isn’t audible speech but could be a figure of speech conveying figuratively an inner impression felt from God – right or wrong.

We can’t prove God did or didn’t inspire the Bible. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind recordings wouldn’t be questioned. Writers may have contributed actions to God that weren’t true. This explanation can help Scriptures not being used blindly to justify violence God supposedly approved.

Is violence explained because God can do whatever the Hell God wants?  

It is normal to feel compelled to justify passages above because God’s actions in the OT don’t always seem moral from a human perspective. So, it is suggested God’s ways don’t have to be fair because God is God. Yet, the Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or imitate God (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). If God’s actions don’t seem fair at times, should we imitate such actions? If human and God’s perfection are different, how can we know how to be perfect like God? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” 

Is violence by God simply warfare exaggeration?  

Warfare rhetoric was common in ancient literature to induce fear and victory. A US leader may say we will completely destroy ISIS. But, even if God didn’t mean to be taken literally, why would God inspire such violent metaphors in I Sam 15 to include women, children, infants, and animals? Humans leaders don’t even use such language against terrorists. I question if the writers heard God correctly.

Did God approve certain violence to bring the Israelites freely along to the truth?

It is argued that Israelites laws were a step up from other ancient near eastern laws. At times maybe they were, but it is rational to question many of the laws set forth. Did God really approve a woman being required to marry her rapist (Deut. 22: 28-29) as if this was a step up to protecting victims from a life of shun? Did God walk on eggshells because the Israelites couldn’t handle the truth that requiring a woman to marry their rapist is just further victimization? I am convinced only humans, not God, thought this was a good law at that time.

I know, I know. If you can’t trust the Bible what can you trust!

Who doesn’t know God hates murder, sexual abuse, stealing, adultery, even not treating others like you want to be treated? Terrorists rationalize forcing beliefs about God on others, or be killed, because God supposedly inspired such thoughts recorded in a Book. Total certainty about God according to the Bible is an illusion. Biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t agree what the Bible says about hell, women, gays, etc. Different opinions standing side by side, as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. 

It matters if the Bible is viewed as inspired by God or not.  

The idea of an infallible Book has led to assuming God’s view on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible or Quran. It is seldom admitted interpretations of a supposed infallible book could be wrong which has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. Fallible books can’t hide behind assumed infallible interpretations, which lead to misunderstanding or rejecting God for the wrong reasons. We can’t prove when the Bible records “God says” that God really inspired such words. Questioning leads to less justification of violence.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“Non-Violence is one of the byproduct of “loving your enemies”

In the history of our American culture, the “Hero” motif has always captured our imaginations in the cinema world.  We love to see the good guys prevail and the bad guys lose.  It is just the dichotomy that we enjoy to see in the movies. Take for example the new film: Avengers: Endgame (amazing movie, I recommend it.) This is the ending to a twenty-two film and over a decade span, which stunning cinematic magic has brought the hero genre to the forefront of pop culture.

Now, I get it. Bringing these cherished comic book characters to life has definitely sparked the familiar essence of good vs. evil–which has been imbedded in us as a species, since the beginning.  Evil must be defeated for the good to survive and thrive. But, is the only way to destroy evil by violence?

As I mentioned in a previous post, the use of violence to prevent violence just doesn’t work. As participants of the way of Christ, the use of violence is antithetical to what Jesus taught and died for. It is really a tough pill for our American way of life to swallow. Human history is soaked in the violent-blood of Cain instead of the enemy-loving blood of Christ. I get it. We all want to survive and not be destroyed and wiped out. But, are we willing to really believe in resurrection? Are we trusting on a death that leads to life?

We “Christians” have taken the violence a little further along in the spiritual evolution of Cain to following the blood of Abel. It’s vengeance instead of just all out violence. Theologian Michael Hardin points out why we do the Eucharist for this very reason:

“How many times have you read in a news report about someone being killed and the family calling for justice? How many times have you read or heard others say that someone who committed a criminal act ‘got what they deserved?’ Retaliation, eye for eye, lex talionis, is the way we humans do justice. This is the voice of Abel crying out from the ground for vengeance. “Cain bombed my city and killed innocent me, O God, now kill him to balance the books of the universe.” We hear this voice in many of the Psalms where the singer, who is persecuted, cries out for revenge.

Yet, when we take the cup to drink the blood of our Victim, Jesus, Son of God, True Human, Lord of the Universe, is it revenge we hear? No, it is the cup of forgiveness. In his blood we find only forgiveness. There is no hint of revenge either now or in the future. All revenge or retaliation by God is forever forsworn. As the writer to Hebrews says, “Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than that of Abel’s.” Jesus blood does not cry out for justice, his blood cries out for mercy”.

Beautiful! Mercy and forgiveness is what this new creation in The Universal Christ is all about! This is what stops evil. When we let go of the violence of Cain and the vengeance of Abel, we step into the flow of love that Christ showed on the cross: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. What a profound statement and a whole new way of interacting with our so-called “enemies”. If the cross shows us anything about God, it’s revealing how God reacts to enemy violence: LOVE.

Yes. It’s love that defeats evil. This love is a non-violent resister to the principalities and powers of darkness that come about when we think violence solves the issue. We must come to grasp to the reality of the Spirit that always loves–brings joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is a meaningful trajectory to this way of enemy-forgiving love.

This changes the whole concept of hero. The hero of the story is always the enemy-loving symbol of forgiveness not revenge. We are not here to survive but to thrive. Look, violent marvel hero movies always tickles my fancy (along with the rest of the western world). I am not trying to stop you from going to the movies for God sakes. All I’m pointing out is to truly be the hero who saves the day, it comes by non-violence. Let us be Forgivers that bring new life, not Avengers that end it…

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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