[contentblock id=2 img=html.png]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!
29 Comments (click here to leave a comment)
Leo BeltranNovember 5, 2015 at 8:45 am
Didn’t he tell a story with a metaphor of God (the Master) chopping up his enemies and throwing them in the fire gnashing thier teeth. yikes! Mathew 24 I think.
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:49 am
Weeping and gnashing of teeth are mentioned a few times in Matthew… 8:12, 22:13, 25:30. Yes, Matthew has some violent terminology which is difficult to understand (cf. 18:34).
AncoisNovember 5, 2015 at 9:36 am
I don’t believe in this angry God – and God doesn’t change ever – so I believe He was always like Jesus portrays Him, we just get it wrong. lol
I have had this conversation with few people in the past and they usually say – No they don’t believe in an angry God – I say – but that is the one you portray in his actions this vindictive kind. I do believe that while you are in the shackles of religion you don’t even see what God you show to the world.
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm
Very insightful. I agree that while we often reveal the God we worship by how we act, we do not often understand how we do this.
Redeeming GodNovember 5, 2015 at 11:40 am
Do you believe God is violent? If so, why was Jesus not violent? https://t.co/GSqmokfhgO … https://t.co/3m7FlNmGXF
Shawn LazarNovember 5, 2015 at 2:48 pm
Jesus slaying his enemies? Luke 19:27
Shawn LazarNovember 5, 2015 at 2:50 pm
I got curious and looked up if you had written about that verse, and you have! Reading now.
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:10 pm
Yes. That is another of these texts. Thanks. I don’t recall what I might have said on this verse though…
Ru GoOff GoffNovember 5, 2015 at 10:18 pm
Those enemies as I’ve always seen them weren’t actually people. If you remember in NT Jesus also comments to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan.” Naturally he wasn’t referring to Peter, but he was referring to a system of thought was not in agreement with Life as Jesus spoke of, exhibited and shared. I see “love” through the lens of scripture. Does that make me right or wrong? I claim neither. But when examining the life of Christ, in those occasions where Jesus appears to be speaking of enemies, I don’t see those enemies as men/humanity.
Stuart JohnsonNovember 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm
If one believes in a violent God, do we love them or exclude them?
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Love them. Love always embraces and includes.
Joe MurphyNovember 5, 2015 at 3:44 pm
I’ve been reading and thinking about the issue too. I intend to discuss the matter in a book I’m writing about Revelation. Thanks for sharing!
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm
Would love to hear more about it when you publish! Maybe even an interview?
David BartholomewNovember 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Seeing Jesus as the exact representation of God is key.
I’ve got the episode downloaded and hope to listen tomorrow.
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Let me know what you think.
Robert JimenezNovember 5, 2015 at 4:36 pm
Just added to my ever growing Podcast list
Jeremy MyersNovember 5, 2015 at 9:09 pm
Ha! Yeah. Mine too. What are some of the others?
Matthew RichardsonNovember 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm
3 words…”Den of thieves”. Then there is the destruction of the fig tree. Jesus did not use volence in his day to day affairs but He did not avoid it entirely. It’s wonderful to think of God as a god of love and peace. But He is also a God of Judgement and righteousness. What we have to understand is that God used violence not from desire but out of neccesity. It bothers me to hear people make arguements that destroy God’s role in the old testament. If we cannot believe that the OT as well as the NT were written under the inspiration of God, that they were written entirely for political or ‘religious’ purposes, then we may as well throw the Bible away and accept any philosophy that Man cares to create.
Robert JimenezNovember 5, 2015 at 4:44 pm
And that there is the problem, good job.
Matthew RichardsonNovember 5, 2015 at 4:46 pm
Had to be said. Too often I see people trying to alter what the Bible says in order to match our falible human beliefs.
Robert JimenezNovember 5, 2015 at 5:36 pm
I was actually being sarcastic LOL. Your Hermeneutics is the problem. Read Peter Enns book “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read” It https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H7LXHJQ/ref=cm_sw_r_other_awd_4papwbQK8P0JD
Matthew RichardsonNovember 5, 2015 at 7:49 pm
So… a man’s opinon is more important than God’s ? Nevermind. I realize you’re entrenched in your belief. I don’t want to be a source of contention or devisiveness.
Robert JimenezNovember 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm
It’s quite alright, but one can say the same about your position. Peace
Matthew RichardsonNovember 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm
We’re entrnchd in our beliefs. 😉
Kevin JohnsonDecember 11, 2015 at 8:06 pm
Excellent message. This is something that I’ve personally struggled with and I think it’s really important that we teach people why the God of the Old Testament seems to be evil and why the God we believe in is not at all evil but rather perfectly loving. Thanks for the message. God bless!
Jeremy MyersDecember 12, 2015 at 8:54 pm
Glad it challenged you. Thanks for listening!
Redeeming GodJanuary 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm
Do you believe God is violent? If so, why was Jesus not violent? https://t.co/GSqmokfhgO … https://t.co/udUViwe7GH
GrahamFebruary 7, 2016 at 10:49 pm
This is the first and only podcast from this series I’ve heard, and I’d have to say it’s incredibly weak. The basic tenet is, God is loving, like Jesus, Jesus said he was like God, so again, God is loving. And I just don’t know where or how so many Christians get the idea of a vengeful monster god, (thinks Zahnd), they must simply be projecting their fears and anger.
Seriously, Zahnd skipped over the myriad cases (mostly OT) which display God as entirely vengeful and angry, which is precisely where Christians get their very well founded belief of a vengeful god. A good starting point is his wiping out of the entire world population in the deluge. Then there are many cases where he kills thousands, orders genocide, and at least one case where he directs his followers in a terrible mind game where he orders him to kill his own child. He orders his “chosen people” into foreign bondage for hundreds of years at a time. He kills thousands of Egyptian children. He kills thousands of Israelites in the desert, and forces them to wander for 40 years. He sends angels to rescue a supposed “righteous person” in Sodom, and said “righteous person” offers his virgin daughters up to the howling mob to be gang raped and killed.
Please don’t turn a blind eye to these monstrous bible stories, and whitewash them away with a flippant claim that god is good and righteous and merciful. It’s insulting to our intelligence.
As to your question, I leave that for you to answer. I can only point to the clear evidence that God is violent.
Jeremy MyersFebruary 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm
The problem with theology is that one has to say everything all the time in order to keep people from accusing you of not paying attention to certain texts or passages. Zahnd has an explanation for the OT texts you mention, but obviously, he cannot deal with all of them in every single sermon he preaches. If you want to know how he explains these other texts, you could always try listening to some of his other sermons.