Warning. Upfront I want to say: If you attempt this, it may be be very difficult, to say the least. If you are still interested, what would it be like for you if, “if” the OT turned out to be descriptive with pin point accuracy and historically real time detailed, authentic recordings of the violence it includes in its pages? If you could imagine it, how would that impact your life, your faith, your relationship with God.
So we are living in a dream world then? What other conclusion can we make if an accurate account of history and reality contains contradictions? The next conclusion is that logic and rationality are meaningless and it is thus pointless to use logic to draw any conclusions. We might as well invent a dream world of our own where logic and rationality actually works and treat the Bible as just a collection of writings by human beings for a variety of literary purposes since that would make so much more sense of all the information we have including what is in the Bible.
In other words, your hypothetical is really very little different from the hypothetical that the world was created this morning with all our memories and evidence as they are telling us about a non-existent past. If it were true then we might as well just pretend that this past existed and that the world wasn’t created this morning because that would give us a far more meaningful way to live our lives.
Good question. Are you talking about the violence? We have discussed some aspects in these threads. I struggle with it, for sure.
The violence. If God behaved the way He is depicted in passages from the OT that portray him as violent, do we dismiss Him automatically? IOW, do we believe that God cannot be God if the OT is correct?
If so, then I wonder how much violence eliminates Him from our consideration? Any, some, most? Do we rely upon our conscience to decide who and what God is? How do we know we are right? Is there anything more reliable than that? IOW, if the OT is true, and God is exactly as described in the OT say, do we give up? “I will have nothing to do with God if He’s like that!” Or, are there other options? I’m curious.
I think the context is important as well as timing, when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Regarding 2 Kings 2 account, the context is the transition of prophetic authority from Elijah to Elisha. The ensuing miracle accounts served the purpose of proving Elisha’s authority as God’s prophet.
When we read such an account as the boys and the bears, we tend to assume that it occurred as one continuous event. A hint that it is not one event is that the two bears mauled 42 boys. It is not likely that two bears could accomplish such a feat in one event. So here is the likely scenario:
As Elisha was passing through, a bunch of boys came out and mocked him, so he cursed them. Later, over the course of a few weeks a couple of bears began to stalk the community, attacking the boys as they went out to play, do chores, etc. In all 42 boys were mauled before the attacks ended.
The community connected the dots between Elisha’s curse and the ensuing bear attacks, thus affirming Elisha’s prophetic authority.
The violence alone has turned off many already, but I’m not sure how the OT could turn out to be 100% accurate since it contradicts itself. Only Alice in Wonderland tried to believe in six impossible things before breakfast. (Fortunately, I try an informed reading of the OT.)
Hey hey hey Woodcutter. Good to see you. Glad you joined in the festivities. How are you?
Welcome! That is good insight; thank you.
In the context of violence, I realize, as a theistic evolutionist, that one ascribes God allowing violence to occur throughout history (at least, if one believes in meticulous providence, which I think Oord addresses well as not necessarily consistent with having a good God). So, ascribing deliberately unjust and, to me, unnecessary, violence to God in the OT doesn’t make a huge difference, perhaps. However, I have difficulty with much of the OT (and some of the NT) in this way. I do think that we ascribe violence to God more when we’ve grown up in that context. If life is “nasty, brutish, and short,” we tend to ascribe the context to Him, even though there can be other good reasons for that occurring (including no reason at all).
Randal Rauser, a Canadian Baptist seminary professor, has dealt with the problem of Biblical violence extensively. I’m reading his book, “Jesus Loves Canaanites,” currently; and here’s his blog. Thanks.
Blog - Randal Rauser
I do think we have to rely on our conscience. If somebody became convinced that God told him to attack the town of New Canaan, CT (a lovely town), kill the men, women, children, and take their land, what would our reaction be?
It’s not just the violence that is the problem with this literal reading We’d have to deal with the fact that God made up false and misleading evidence.
It’s not that hard for me to imagine because my beginnings in Christianity was just that. I was not as aware of hyperbolic reshaping at that age. Same as how are that time I also believed the consequences of being lost meant being kept alive and tortured for all of eternity.
What happened when I believed all those things is that I was more afraid of God than loving him. I submitted to his will because I thought if I did not ultimately I would go hell. So it was not hard for me to visualize massacres. At that time my mind ended up justifying it in weird ways. I was convinced that because god knows all things he was having the Jews kill people to prevent a greater evil. I use to be told that these Canaanites were rapists, they had sex with animals and caught weird diseases that was passed to their kids. So I envisioned essentially God having these diseased people killed before it could spread and it made no real difference because when they died they were going to hell anyways.
Luckily as time went by, my constant nagging that it just made no sense resulted in my studying it out, listening to podcasts and slowly getting rid of my fear and replacing it with love. I now love God. Before i feared God and believed love was shown through obedience alone.
Our ideas about hell actually were developed during the middle ages. Fear was a great way to control people, but eventually failed (for the most part).
Did you understand the violence to be something God dished out with great ease or even a little delight, venting his pent up anger on the nearest bunch who happened to be in the vicinity?
Was his wrath his last option, breaking his heart? Somewhere in between? Never a righteous kind of wrath, I assume? God cannot destroy his own creation, is that the idea; not a good God, anyway?
I have no reason to think God cant, or won’t destroy his creation. I think he did kill people and I believe the wars happened, just were embellished and I believe ultimately the lost will be destroyed.
I’d like to point out that many of the most famous Christians doubted that God actually did the violence portrayed in the OT-- C S Lewis, Greg Boyd, and some of the Church Fathers, to name a few. George MacDonald, whose godly influence led C S Lewis to Christ again, wrote the following:
If it be said by any that God does a thing which seems to me unjust, then either I do not know what the thing is, or God does not do it…Least of all must we accept some low notion of justice in a man, and argue that God is just in doing after that notion.
To doubt the inerrancy of things that don’t seem consistent with goodness questions just that–inerrancy. It does not question God, I think.
I’m new to BioLogos. A little of my background…I’m recently retired from a software development career. I grew up on a family farm in Michigan, got my first degree in biology from a conservative Christian college. Between my farm childhood, career profession, life experiences, hobbies (church history, woodworking, sailing, boatbuilding, metalworking, lately timbering) and curiosity in general over just about everything - I’ve come to very different conclusions of the Bible passages than is portrayed by most pastors and theologians. Across the theological spectrum, I find their interpretations to be sterile, unrealistic, and literarily over-technical on the passages in question in this site. They simply miss the point. About the only author I’ve read that seemed to have decent insight is Philip Yancey. So I stopped reading Christian books or commentaries years ago. I very much believe in the triune God, Jesus as my savior, and classify myself as a Nicene Christian. I do not believe in the literal creation account, nor that the Jonah was real. I believe that the flood account was real, just not a global flood.
I also consider myself a Christian biblical realist. If I am to believe that God exists and the canonized scriptures are true as inspired, then all scriptures regarding actual occurrences cannot contradict physical reality. Miracles which necessarily involve our physical world may enhance or superimpose reality, but may not negate reality. For example a literal sterile interpretation of Genesis 1 requires a geocentric universe, with the earth comprising the majority of its composition, the sun, moon, and stars embedded in a solid dome with water above them. If this is what we are to believe, then the entire universe after creation had to be completely recreated, including man. Obviously this is pure nonsense. However I have learned some important life truths to be gleaned from the creation account (as well as interesting historically significant geological correlations).
Having stated all this, tonight I reviewed all the claimed instances of justified genocide in the OT - and sorry, I just don’t see them. I can see where some may come to such conclusions using a sterile, unrealistic, and literarily over-technical interpretations (unfortunately presented by pastors and theologians across the issue spectrum). But there are much more realistic interpretations, which if you would like I can share.
Welcome to the forum, Tom! Many others here have gradually come to different conclusions about creation (and sometimes other areas in the OT) than the ones they grew up hearing in their churches, so you’re welcome to share your perspective here.
I would like to hear them.
Welcome to the forum. I honestly find your statement here a bit jarring and would also like to hear your more realistic interpretations. Because until then I am not sure exactly what you mean so I do t want to project my thoughts onto you. Let me paint a bad picture of OT accommodation which I am myself sympathetic to as I subscribe to it:
Hypothetical Scriptural Account:
1:1 God said to Billy Bob, “Thou must attend the party. You must also wear a shirt and it shall be red.” 1:2. For I am the Lord of Hosts, you must do this and at the party thou must drink wine in My honor to celebrate Me.”
Interpretation: God didn’t really tell Billy Bob to go to a party. Billy Bob did exist and probably did go to a party, however. Even though he may have gone to the party, we know God detests wine (he prefers a good stout—the darker the better!) and would never command his servant Billy to drink it. Also we know Billy Bob was most likely naked if he attended the party. Obviously the account just accommodates sinful-wine peddling, pro-shirt propagandists form 3,000 years ago. God wants us to find a deeper meaning.
I’m all for accommodation and don’t think any
of this is insurmountable but I feel your comments vastly underestimate the difficulty here. I eagerly await your explanation, however.
We seem to have ended very close to the same place from very different directions. I was not raised Christian but highly critical and yet now I am Trinitarian, Nicene Christian, I believe in an historical but not literal Genesis (A&E as real persons 6-10,000 ya God spoke to in a world filled with people), local flood, real Abraham, real Moses, Job just a literary device but 50-50 on Jonah. Is that a Biblical realist? I usually just say that I take the Bible at its word with only the minimal adjustments required by science – part of the filter through which I understand all things including the Bible. There are no doubt differences between us that will become more clear as we interact more. Investigating Philip Yancey.
I have very little patience with creationism because evolution (with all the harsh realities of life this implies are completely necessary) is the only reason I can take the Bible seriously at all. For that reason the instances of genocide do not bother me so much.