God said what?! – Part Two

light_tunnelWe will be looking at some of the ways Jesus followers have handled the genocidal Canaan conquest passages we looked at last time. But before we do go on, you may be wondering what a blog about the Father’s love has to do with going into these dark places.

I do so for the same reason that I’ve been critical of our popular Western view of the atonement. I believe it misrepresents God’s true nature and actually drives people away from God who would otherwise come to Him.

Like with Penal Substitutionary Atonement, a theory that paints the picture of an angry Zeus-like deity who must kill His own son in order to be able to forgive us, these genocidal directives in the Canaan conquest, to me, are untenable and very much unlike the Father I’ve personally encountered in my own life, or Jesus’ own description of Him. It was this very thing that started me on a journey of faithful questioning in both of these areas of theology.

The second reason I’m covering such a difficult subject is precisely because it’s either ignored and glossed over by most evangelical teachers, or these passages are defended in such a way that actually makes it worse! (I will explain that when we get to the various explanations.) And because we haven’t thought these troubling passages through, bringing them into the interpretative light of Jesus Christ, our faith can be shaken by those who don’t ignore them, like the skeptics who have an agenda to dislodge us from our faith in a “good, good Father.”

So, up front, let me say that we can believe that God IS great, and always good, in spite of what people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins might’ve concluded!

Love_keyThe key to all truth about God is that He IS love, and to actually know God is to know love (1 John 4:7-21).

I also want to reiterate that I firmly believe Bible Scripture to be inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16), but I don’t believe the text was dictated verbatim from God to the writers. That’s a claim of the Qur’an, not the Bible.

Actually, we find that Scripture has within itself an internal dispute going on over its own testimony. Some historic events were re-interpreted and changed by later narratives. Then, we have the cross-examination of this testimony by the prophets, as eminent Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggermann points out. I’ve already alluded to this with Amos in my post, “Was Ezra xenophobic?” If we don’t understand these things, we can end up with a very conflicted view of God.

Rather, we can understand the “inspiration” of Scripture as men and women being moved by God where they were at, in their understanding, time, and place. And certain stories were told and re-told to serve a particular purpose in Israel’s history. We’ll have to talk more about that in another post. Let me say now that when we get this, the Old Testament Scripture takes on a much more textured meaning for us, becoming deeply relational. God, in His divine wisdom and inspiration, invites us into the internal debate over how we are to see Him, and each other, as we grapple with the texts!

The New Testament writers reveal that it’s only Jesus Christ who gives us the exact representation of God (Matt.11:27; John 1:18; Heb.1:3). Jesus interprets the Bible for us, from Genesis to Revelation. Which, for me, means that to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible text would be to hold untenable contradictions in my understanding of the true nature of God.

bible_tells_me_so_ennsAs Bible scholar, Peter Enns puts it in his book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

“Many Christians have been taught that the Bible is Truth downloaded from heaven, God’s rulebook, a heavenly instructional manual—follow the directions and out pops a true believer; deviate from the script and God will come crashing down on you with full force.” (loc. 104 Kindle version)

“The Bible is not a Christian owner’s manual but a story—a diverse story of God and how his people have connected with him over the centuries, in changing circumstances and situations.” (loc. 2261 Kindle version)

With that said, we’re ready to explore various explanations for the Canaan “holy ban” (Deut. 7:1-2; 20:16-17) that I introduced in part one. We’ll look at how the earliest church fathers dealt with this tomorrow.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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10 Responses to God said what?! – Part Two

  1. AfroScot says:

    Thanks for this article, Mel. I’m really intrigued by your courage to dig through the canaan conquest rabbit hole and looking forward to your explanations.

  2. Megan Urlaub says:

    I tell people the problem is they take scripture out of context. It’s like if you were reading a novel and took one page and thought you could understand the whole book from that one page . It has to be studied as a whole. That helps me anyway.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s a healthy way to look at it, Megan. And you are right, many passages are taken out of context. Actually, you are probably more in line with the truth than you realize! 🙂 The Bible narrative is probably more in line with the genre of a novel than a history or science book. I think we will see that as we go here.
      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Blessings.

    • “Chesterton once said that Christianity was the “fulfillment of paganism,” an expression which strikes the Christian ear wrong. Christianity has faced to Nemeses: the idolization of the intellect, which we see in modern secular rationalism, and the idolization of the imagination, which we see in ancient paganism.

      The answer, however, is to see that Christianity is the fulfillment both of man’s intellectual and imaginative quests. The apostle John says in his Gospel that Jesus was the logos, a reference to the underlying principle of the cosmos which philosophers had been seeking since before Socrates. Lewis would realize this as well. But it was Tolkien who made him realize that, in addition to Christ’s fulfilling man’s search for the True, He was also the fulfillment of man’s search for the Beautiful—and that, in fact, they culminate in the same thing.

      Christianity was a true myth—a story with all the meaning and beauty of a myth, but, unlike the other myths, it was one that had actually happened in history. The myths themselves, a testimony not to history but to human desire, were pointers to the culmination of history in the Gospel story.

      Carpenter relates that Tolkien left his rooms, and that he and Dyson continued to talk until 4:00 a.m. In his autobiography, Lewis related his acceptance of God two years earlier. But this was a conversion “only to theism, pure and simple,” he said, “not to Christianity.” But twelve days after saying goodbye to Tolkien and Dyson at Magdalen College, says Carpenter, “Lewis wrote to another friend Arthur Greeves: ‘I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ—in Christianity’.”

      Lewis came not only to accept, but embrace Tolkien’s view of Christianity as a true myth. And it was through this that, in his own mind, the True and the Beautiful “met and fused.””

  3. The main problem that is see is too many are trying to make doctrine by mixing and matching New Covenant (New Testament) grace with Old Covenant (Old Testament) law. It’s like trying to stick a square plug in a round hole…it does not work.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, that’s true. We need to see the whole Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ. But we also need to rightly understand the God who doesn’t change from Old Testament to New Testament whenever we read these troubling passages. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Otherwise, we ultimately end up like the heretic Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament as Christian Scripture and basically said He was a different god,
      Thanks again for you input here. Much appreciated. Blessings to you.

  4. dcummuta says:

    Mel, I have been leaving my email notifications for this series unread for a while to save them for later reading. I finally have gotten around to reading through them. I really like this! This could seriously be brought all together into one little quick read guide to hand to any atheist who wants to tackle this topic.

    I love your bravery to face these deep questions. I know I have definitely glossed over these and justified them in my head as… “Well God is God and His ways are higher than our ways…”

    Personally this helps me because, to be honest, I have always struggled with the feeling that the “heros” in The Word are on an unattainable pedestal of symbols of perfection. Seeing the OT in this way sort of puts a barrier between them and us as impossible standards. Digging deeper makes them feel more relatable and human while simultaneously making the Father feel more like a Father… including us in the discovery of who He is in a humbly honest approach. This approach makes “getting to know Him” so much more personal. So, as we are on this journey I feel like my view of Him is not only shared, but…. also deeply “mine”… given to me directly by Him as a teacher walking along side me showing me Himself… patient with me in all that I “don’t get yet”.

    Alright back to reading through the other 3 parts! 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      What awesome insights here! I think you’re hitting the heart of going deeper with God on these difficult passages. What’s so inspired about them is not the heroics but the humanness of these narratives. They engage our heart and mind and soul in such a way as to draw us into a very personal relationship with the Father. They reflect what’s going on in us.
      Thanks for your comments, David. Much appreciated. Enjoy the rest of the journey. 😊 Blessings.

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