“God Condones Violence”. Does He Now?

This is something that I’ve been meaning to study for such a long time but to be honest I’ve been worried that I won’t find the answer—or that if I do, it won’t be the answer that I want.

The UK is fast going the way of France in that secularism is the flavour of the month. I know people who claim to be atheist but are so concerned with religion it makes me wonder if they are anti-the system or anti-God Himself. Because there is a difference: you can’t hate something if you don’t believe it exists. It’s popular now to just hate God, to mock the Bible and anything resembling religion, not because people are angry at religious intolerance or corrupt clerics (because if they were then they would start a movement or campaign or something, not mock well-to-do people on internet forums) but because everyone else is doing it and at the moment it’s fun.

As this has become a popular standpoint for a lot of people, so-called Voices of Rational Thinking have emerged, skimming over Bible passages, picking out the ones that sound odd and making entire theories and speculations about them. They extrapolate Bible texts and share their “solid” theories with others who will never search for themselves to even check if the passage is in the Bible. This is passed onto others until a warped image of God is established. This is why God gets blamed for all of the world’s ills; why people get angry at God for the Holocaust and not Hitler, or the one from which minds like Hitler’s are created.

Something that I’ve come up against of late is this idea that God condones violence. I’m sure every Christian has heard this:

If God is so loving, why does he condone slavery, rape and genocide in the Old Testament?

As the Christian, what have you said? There are websites dedicated to “exposing the truth” of the Evil Book. Anti-theists have used these texts as a trump card of sorts.

Once upon a time I used to get really angry at it.

Now I feel pity. They don’t actually know God. They know of Him, but they’ve never prayed and asked for an answer. They’ve read the Bible but they’ve never studied it. If I were in their shoes I’d probably be just as angry upon reading these texts, because Christians don’t talk about them.

It was an atheist that brought those passages to my attention. Why hadn’t these texts been explained in church? Why aren’t there any Bible studies on them? We may want to bury our heads in the sand about them but it won’t stop people from demanding of us what they mean. For a lot of people, the Christ they do or don’t see in a Christian can make or break their relationship with Him, so we need to be well versed in the Old Testament, in the passages that make us uncomfortable so we may educate and explain.

Or … I wonder if these passages aren’t explained because people don’t understand them? This baffles me to no end. Whilst I know that there will be some things we just won’t understand about God, He hasn’t hidden anything from us. It’s all in the Bible for us to know about. “Come let us reason together” remember? I’m someone who’s always inquiring about something; I love knowledge and I love finding new things so I find it odd that some people can be in church for 20+ years and never ask about certain things. It’s just … weird.

I know God doesn’t condone violence. I know he abhors rape. I know that the Bible that was used to defend the slave trade was the same Bible that was used by abolitionists to end it. I know that God wasn’t rubbing His hands in glee during Rwanda, Armenia, Darfur. So what do these passages mean?

If there was ever a time for Christians to study their Bible, it’s now.

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10 thoughts on ““God Condones Violence”. Does He Now?

  1. Or, you could realize that the Bible isn’t God, so it doesn’t have to be either perfect or consistent. Whether you believe it’s inspired or not, it still got written down (much of it after a long period of changes during an oral storytelling tradition) by flawed, limited humans.

    It’s pretty plain that parts of the Bible do condone a variety of kinds of violence, as well as accepting slavery and a number of other things that ought to be distasteful to modern readers. It was written in times when those things were normal. It reflects its time and those cultures. Those specifics need not necessarily be viewed as instructional to our behavior to the same degree the admonitions of Jesus (in the Gospels) do.

    “Those passages” you’ve referred to, and the fact that evil acts continue in the world indicate the need for us to act to change and improve things ourselves, and not rely on God to make it better for us. It’s useful to seek strength and comfort from God. But God didn’t stop Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot, and God didn’t come up with the polio vaccine. People did.

    I view the Bible as a record of an evolving relationship between God and people, OR of an evolving level of human understanding about whatever forces exist above and beyond our physical experience of life. Maybe both. But I never need defend it as consistent, nor literal, nor entirely historical. It’s useful. It promotes understanding and wisdom. That’s enough value for me. I don’t need to make a fetish out of reading it, and I certainly dislike it when people bash each other by quoting from it and pretend they aren’t responsible for acting unkindly.

    Thanks for writing a thought-provoking piece!

    • Thanks for the compliments : )

      See, I believe that the writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit (it says this in the NT, probably Timothy) so for there to be contradictions would be to mean that there are flaws with the Spirit itself. The Bible is very interesting as a “historical account”, especially the Moses Laws and Numbers and Deuteronomy, just to see how people lived back then.

      As it says to “study to shew thyself approved” I’ve always taken enjoyment out of studying the Word—this is the only account of God that we have and if we didn’t have it then people would make up their own idea of who He is (well… more than they do already!). I know loads of atheists and agnostics who refer to the Bible when they want to ask a “cutting” question about God, so if they feel the Bible is an important factor in their condemnation of God, how more so should Christians view it?

      I definitely agree: bashing people over the head with Bible texts isn’t the way to go, but as I’m hearing more atheists and humanists do this to show how “backwards” God is, it’s just inspired me to study more : )

      xXx

    • Nope. The story of Noah isn’t about God giving a command for anyone to kill anyone else, so even the mention of the flood is redundant. The reason for my confusion is that there seems to be direct commands from either Moses or God to a select group of people to do certain things, which is what I want to get to the bottom of. I want to get to the bottom of it because of texts like Genesis 18, where God says he will spare a city that’s been sacrificing their own children if he finds but one holy person there, which in a round-a-bout way links back to the flood and the reasons why it took place.

      Or further on, Nineveh is another example of this.

  2. Guys, please. The Noah story isn’t historical. It’s symbolic. You couldn’t have possibly fit two of the species of animals and insects we know existed, let alone the thousands we keep discovering from fossils, into a vessel of the size described in the text. The sanitation problems of having that mass of beings in close proximity for more than 40 days are unsolvable. They would all die from fecal-borne diseases and water contamination! It’s a teaching story. No adult Christian on Earth ever regarded it as literal until the past 150 years or so, when this current strain of Biblical innerrantism became a tradition for some Evangelicals.

    Deluge myths abound in cultures that predate and have no direct connection to the tribes of the Middle East. It could all be a story re-told and re-told over millenia about a long distant event such as a meteor crash causing a tsunami.

    What’s important about the version told in Noah is not the detail of what happened, but why. Meaning is the entire point of all the Pentateuch stories. It’s a story constructed to dramatically, indelibly argue that even if there’s only the tiniest proportion of good in a world consumed and polluted by evil, God (or whatever force greater than yourself you believe in) will provide a way for the good to be saved. Life will be washed clean, and the “world” can start again. The flood is a metaphor for rebirth of the spirit.

    • I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment. Unlike the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Revelation, the stories in Genesis aren’t described as symbolic or as parables, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement so you’ve given me something else to study and challenge the more learned members of my church on. Sadly I’m far from a Bible scholar due to my own slackness so thanks for picking me up on another topic I haven’t really studied in-depth before.

      It’s interesting when people try to apply logic to the workings of God. He’s anything but : )

      xXx

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