The Violence of God and Evil

I was thinking a bit more about the violence of God and the source of evil today (as these topics are consuming my thoughts recently), and I remembered a paper I wrote back in 1999 while at Denver Seminary for a class I had with Douglas Groothuis. It was on the nature and source of evil.

I was curious what I thought about this topic nearly fifteen years ago, so I waded through the files in a file cabinet I have lugged with me through fifteen moves, and miraculously, found the paper!

I remember thinking that my paper was “groundbreaking.” (What seminary student doesn’t think this about his every research paper?) When Dr. Groothuis gave my paper back to me, he gave me a good grade, but not because he agreed with me (he strongly disagreed). Instead, he graded me based on my research and thought process. (This, by the way, is one sign of a good professor… to grade based on research and thought, not based on whether or not the student agrees with the professor.)

Here is what Dr. Groothuis wrote on the last page of my paper:

God and Evil Paper

Guess what I concluded in my paper?

I concluded much the same thing that I am writing about in my recent series on the violence of God in the Old Testament (see the link list at the bottom of this post). In my paper from 1999 I argued that although God did not cause evil, He is nevertheless somewhat morally responsible for it because He created a world where such evil is possible. The actual source of evil is within the free will of God’s creatures (humans and angels), and since these were gifts of God to His good creation, when these gifts were misused and abused to do things contrary to God’s will, evil resulted.

Dr. Groothuis was not convinced. And I know from the comments on this blog that many of those who read this blog are not convinced either.

I am okay with that! It is fine to disagree. I fully understand that what I am proposing is difficult and challenging. But the reason I am convinced of it is because I can think of no other way to (1) allow Jesus to truly represent the fullness of the Godhead (Col 2:9) and (2) maintain the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

God looks like JesusIf God truly is violent and bloody, then during His life on earth, Jesus masked and hid this aspect of God, which indicates that He was not fully revealing God to us. But if Jesus truly is the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3), and if it is true that if we see Jesus we see the Father (John 15:7-9), and since Jesus never behaved violently toward His enemies, but told us to love them and serve them instead, and indeed, rather than killing them, Jesus died for His enemies, then this must be what Good looks like as well!

I can not make the pieces of this puzzle fit together in any other way. Even a little bit of killing and bloodshed by God is more than the zero amount of violence carried out by Jesus Christ. 

Anyway, it was interesting for me to see that my conclusions from nearly 15 years ago have not changed all that much…

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.

Also, when I am done with this series of posts, I will be publishing them as a book. If you want a free digital copy of this book when it comes out, make sure you have subscribed to my email newsletter.


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