Monday, May 04, 2009

God, how do you justify your violent actions in the Old Testament?

We have asked people the question, "If you knew God would answer what would you Ask? Last weekend we tackled the first question: God, how do you justify your violent actions in the Old Testament? This was my approach to an issue I have never heard anyone preach on.

1. Why this is important?
1.1 For some its a stumbling block to believing in the God of the bible (Dawkins)
1.2 It is important because these acts of violence (e.g. Joshua 11:16-23) have been used as excuses for Holy wars (perhaps even contributing to some current foreign policy decisions).
1.3 It is important because there are some deeply disturbing texts in the Old Testament which leave us feeling uneasy.


2. How not to approach the issue.
2.1 The Marcion solution- Press delete for the OT.
2.2 The blame it on the Israelites solution-The Israelites recorded the events to make it look like “God made us do it”.

Both approaches leave us deleting or explaining away the sections of the bible we don’t like. Shaping God in our own image always leads to error. We have to face up to this issue it is genuine.

3. How do we approach the issue of God’s violent actions in the Old Testament? (A framework of thinking about it).

3.1 These acts make up a small part of Israel’s history and do not reflect the whole picture of the OT God, Jeremiah 29:5-7 , Jonah 3:10. - The problem is sometimes overstated.
3.2 These acts are seen in the context of God’s sovereign justice e.g. Deuteronomy 9:4-6 -we may not feel comfortable with this but God is not being inconsistent.
3.3 These acts are to be understood in light of God’s character e.g. Psalm 103:8-14
3.4 These acts are to be understood within the framework of God’s salvation plan. This plan sees a day where violence will cease and peace will reign among the nations Revelation 21:23-25

Very useful resources:

Barry Webb, The Wars of Judges as Christian Scripture
Christopher Wright The God I Don't Understand.

Reflections:
  1. I may have tried to cover to much ground and yet there were other things to be said.
  2. In our question time after each sermon (x5) issues included :
  • Our current views around war and violence.
  • Why God seems to act differently at different times in history.
  • The judgment of God, particularly in regrads to those who had been ordered to wipe out other nations.
  • How God reveals himself.
One women shared how this had been a major issue for her but simply reading the bible for herself had addressed many of her concerns and she now is a committed Christian. Encouraging!

Comments anyone?

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