I have struggled with how to understand the violence of God for most of my life in one way or another, but I have been seriously struggling with it for about the last five years or so. I am even 200,000 words into a book on the subject that, at this point, will probably never see the light of day.
But as I work toward a solution to the problem of divine violence in Scripture, I always appreciate reading books and hearing messages from other pastors, scholars, and theologians who are struggling with the issue as well.
One of these other pastors and theologians is Brian Zahnd. His message, “Death of the Monster God” provides great insight and clarity into how to understand the violence of God in Scripture and what God did about it in the death of Jesus on the cross.
Death of the Monster God
As I have often stated on my blog and through my own podcasts, one of the most important questions we can answer in life is this: What is God like?
This is the implicit question at the very beginning of the Bible, and this is the implicit question which travels with the reader throughout Scripture.
Most people throughout history, including most Christians for the past 1700 years or so, have thought of God as being sort of like the Greek god Zeus. He is the all-powerful deity up in the heavens who is sort of pissed off at humanity. He sits there on his throne with a scowl on his face at all of our screw-ups. And when he stands up, it is with an accusatory finger and a lightning bolt in hand.
This is the angry God, the violent God, the accusatory God, the vengeful, vindictive God of popular religion which most of us have grown up with in one form or another.
And to be honest, there is a lot in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, which seems to pretty clearly indicate that this is indeed what God is like.
But then Jesus comes along and shows us an altogether different picture of God. He never accuses. He never retaliates. He never hurts or harms. Instead, He always forgives, always blesses, always loves.
And then on the cross, He dies. Yes, He dies for us and for our sins, but not because His death was demanded by an angry God, a child-abusing God, but because He sought to reveal to us what God is like and what God has always been like. It is we who wanted someone to pay for everything that has gone wrong in this world. It is we who wanted someone to blame. And so God, in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped into our world and said, “Here am I. Blame me. Kill me.”
Why? Because this is what God is like. This is what God does. This is what God has always been doing. And this is what Jesus reveals on the cross.
On the cross, the religious portrayal of a monster God was put to death, and was replaced with a beautiful picture of a merciful God, who always loves and always forgives.
If this concept is new to you, the following message by Brian Zahnd will explain this in more detail and provide you with further evidence that God is not angry at you, nor is He out to get you.
The monster God does not exist, and never has. The only God that does exist is the God that looks like Jesus.
What are your thoughts about a violent God?
If this podcast by Brian Zahnd helped you understand that God is not violent, that Jesus revealed to us what God is truly like, that one of the things Jesus revealed is that God has always been dying for the sins of humanity, or that God has always been taking the blame for our sin, would you let me know in the comment section below?
If this is a new idea to you, what do you think? If you have questions or concerns or objections about this idea, share them in the comment section for this podcast episode so that all of us can learn from each other.
If you believe that God truly is violent, I have a question for you as well which you could answer in the comment section. The question is this: How is it that Jesus can fully reveal God to His disciples (and to us), but never exhibit any murderous or retaliatory violence toward others?
Weigh in below!