Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Is God Violent? (2)



Some will take that question and go the direction of saying, "Of course, God is violent. You only have to read a short way into Genesis to see that!" In a certain way, they are right.

Genesis 6-7 contains one of the more horrific stories in the Bible. Though we depict the story in our children's wings at church and in our nurseries at home with rainbows and loveable animals, the story is really quite disturbing. God is disappointed and angry because the heart of humankind is only intent on evil all the time. So God who created everything in the opening chapters of Genesis decides to express his anger by blotting out everything:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
(Genesis 6:5-7).

If there was any doubt that God was just blowing off steam, a short chapter later God makes good on his threat:

The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains ... And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth.
(Genesis 7:19-23)

If this served as the only place God is violent, we might be willing to pass over it as an anomaly. However, we can't. Too many other instances exist of God being violent to dismiss this one so easily.
This isn't simply a philosophical question. 

In addition to what we stumble over in the Bible, unfortunately, too many acts of violence happen today that are justified as divinely sanctioned. Notice a connection?

So, for many the question isn't even worth asking. As someone said to me on a bus to Cambridge after learning that I was a Christian, "How in the world can anyone be a Christian? Do you know how many wars are going on right now in the name of G-O-D?"

I want to spend a few blog posts dealing with how I have come to respond to this question that I raise for myself. I hope you stay with me as I do.