God is NOT Violent

In the previous posts on this topic (see the list at the bottom of this post), many people have raised several valid objections. In the next few posts, let me see if I can clarify my position, and also respond to a few of the objections. This post will try to restate the position in a way that might make more sense… hopefully.

Many believe that Jesus is the “loving and peaceful” side of God, while God in the Old Testament is the wrathful and vengeful warrior God.

God is not violent

But if Jesus truly and perfectly reveals to us what God is like, then the only “side” of God that exists is the side revealed in Jesus Christ.

Is God a Violent Warrior?

To put it another way, if Yahweh was a warrior God, and Jesus revealed this type of God to us, Jesus would have stepped down off the cross, and called a legion of angels to His defense. He would have slaughtered the Romans, and set up His throne in Jerusalem to rule the world with an iron fist (Yes, we will get to the Book of Revelation in later posts). He would have commanded the entire world to bow before Him, to pay homage, and offer tribute. He would have crushed all who rebelled against Him, and set up ways to control every living thing.

His disciples were looking for just such a Warrior King. They were waiting for it. Many times they asked Jesus to act upon what they thought He should be doing (cf. Luke 9:54). I believe that Judas, in betraying Jesus, was trying to goad Jesus into just such an action. Judas wanted Jesus to be King, but grew impatient with the way Jesus was going about it, and so betrayed Jesus as a way to force Jesus’ hand. But Jesus didn’t rise to the challenge. Instead, He died. When Jesus died, all of Judas’ hopes and dreams died as well, and so Judas went out and hung himself. As a result, Judas died without ever knowing the full truth about Jesus.

What is the truth?

God is Not Violent

On the cross, Jesus shows us what kind of God Yahweh is, and how Jesus came to rule and reign, not by might, nor by power, but by self-sacrificial service and taking the sins and guilt and blame of the entire world upon Himself.

This is the kind of God revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the kind of God Yahweh truly is.

God is peacefulIt is on the cross that Jesus put to death the violent portrayal of God in the Old Testament and revealed once and for all that God is not like that. It is on the cross where Jesus revealed what God is really like: He is loving, kind, forgiving, and would rather take the blame for the sins of His children than accuse and condemn them for misusing and abusing the freedom He gave.

By taking the sin of the entire world upon Himself, Jesus revealed that this is what Yahweh has always been doing throughout time and history. He has been taking the sin and guilt and blame of the entire world onto Himself.

By inspiring the human authors to write what they did, God made it look like He was the one responsible for the actions of Israel, the destruction of the flood, the murder of the firstborn males of Israel, and the slaughter of Canaanite women and children. All of these things were going to happen no matter what, but God took the blame for all of them by inspiring the biblical authors to write what they did about Him. God takes the blame. He accepts the guilt.

This is what we see in Jesus Christ. God, when standing before a court of human sinners who have set themselves up to judge and condemn Him, accepts their sentence. He nods His head in agreement with every angry accusation. When the charges are read, He enters a “Guilty” plea. “Christ, in His sinlessness, took responsibility for our wrongdoing” (Martin, 2 Corinthians, 144).

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

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  1. says

    Thank you in return, Clif. I think that God wants us to know Him better, which is one reason Jesus came… to reveal Abba to us. None of us have all the answers to our questions, but as we journey with Jesus together, hopefully we all come to a better knowledge of who He is and how much He loves us!

  2. MarkR says

    Justice is sometimes violent in action. God is just. I find no reason to state that God is violent in a malevolent way. However violence can be a means to justice. Violence was administered to Jesus in our place- so Gods justice would reign. It had to be. At the second coming violent men will be overcome and the means are violent. So NO GOD is NOT violent per se- but He uses violence. The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT. His justice MUST be adhered to- violence is a means. Jesus even states to carry a sword. Defensively of course but possibly utilizing violence. This debate reminds of the gun debate wherein a means is juxtaposed with a TOTAL character trait- in other words “If you Joe citizen have a weapon for protetction you are somehow evil and wrong”. By the same token if God uses violences He is unjust and wrong. Both are wrongheaded concepts.

    • says

      I see what you are saying. Yes, it all depends somewhat on how violence is defined. Certainly, discipline can be viewed as violence, especially by the one being disciplined.

      As for Jesus and the sword text, there are alternate ways of understanding what Jesus was saying there, and note that when Peter actually uses a sword, Jesus tells him to put it away. All of that is fodder for a future post though.

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