Is God Lying about His Involvement in Violence?

God does not lieOne common objection to the proposal I am making in my series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament (see the link list below) is that this view seems to make God out to be a liar.

The objection is this: If God inspired the biblical authors to record that He is doing and commanding things that He is actually not doing or commanding, doesn’t this mean that God is lying? But Scripture says that God does not lie (Num 23:19). So how can God inspire biblical authors to write that He commanded Israel to do things that He did not actually command them to do? As with the previous objection, there are a few things that can be said in response.

If God Did Commit Violence, Then Jesus is a Liar

First, we can turn the question around. It seems that if God truly is violent, then the real lie is in Jesus claiming to fully reveal God to us, but not showing or revealing any of the murderous and bloody violence that so characterized God in the Old Testament. Take for example, John 14:9-11. Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father,” and in response Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

But if God truly does have a violent and bloody side then Jesus was being deceptive, for nowhere in His life or ministry did He reveal God as someone who goes to war against His enemies or commands the genocide of people who do not love or obey Him.

If there is a dark side to God, it was certainly hidden in Jesus during His ministry, which means that when Jesus tells Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” what He really meant was “You haven’t fully seen the Father; only the loving side.” If God really is violent, but Jesus revealed none of this violence, then the real lie is Jesus hiding this side of God from us so that He appeared more loving and gracious than He truly is.

If someone believes that God truly is violent, the burden of proof lies on them to explain how Jesus fully reveals God to us but fails to reveal the violent and bloody side of God’s nature. If Jesus is the exact representation of God and is the image of the invisible God (John 1:14, 18; 14:9-11; 2 Cor 4:4; Php 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:2-3), but during His life and ministry never revealed the aspect of God as a warrior, then there are only two options: either God is not a warrior and Jesus did truly reveal the Father to us, or Jesus was being deceptive.

This is even more true in the instances where Jesus tells His disciples that rather than go to war with their enemies, they should love their enemies, pray for them, and bless them (cf. Matt 5:43-48). If there is a side of God that wanted to kill His enemies, harm them, and curse them, then Jesus was being deceptive in His revelation of God.

In Luke 9:54 when the disciples ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven to burn up a Samaritan village, but Jesus rebukes them for doing so (9:55), Jesus was being deceptive if there was truly a side of God which would have condoned and even commanded such behavior.

So the first way to respond to the objection that God was lying in the Old Testament is to say that if God truly does have a violent side, then Jesus was lying.

God Looks Guilty Because God Takes Responsibility

In the Old Testament, when God looks like He is behaving in ways that do not match the nature and character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, this is not because God is being deceptive, but because God is taking the sins of His people upon Himself just as Jesus did on the cross.

God does not lieAnd this is not deceptive.

It is not a lie for God to take the sins of His people upon Himself. Why not? Because although God is not guilty for these things, nor did He want them to happen, He nevertheless views Himself as ultimately responsible for what goes on in this world. How? Because He created a world where such sin and horror was possible.

In a way, God truly is guilty. How? Because He made a world where horrible sin and nightmarish tragedy was possible. So when the nightmare began, God took the blame, and through divine responsibility, took it upon Himself to make the nightmare stop.

Ultimately, God pled guilty for the sins of the world, and paid the penalty on the cross by dying a sinner’s death. One of my favorite theologians put it this way: Jesus “dies as a criminal, under the curse of the Law—as if to say, ‘Look, I’m as guilty as you are in this situation because I set it up in the first place; let’s just forget about blame and get on with the party” (Capon, The Mystery of Christ, 34).

God is not lying to take the sins of Israel upon Himself. Quite to the contrary, He is being true to what Jesus has taught us about God.

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

Also, when I am done with this series of posts, I will be publishing them as a book. If you want a free digital copy of this book when it comes out, make sure you have subscribed to my email newsletter.



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Comments

  1. HD Gomez says

    You are the liar! You play these word games with Scripture and pit God against Jesus. God is going to judge you for this and you will burn in hell forever unless you repent. Jesus said “I and the Father are One” but you are making God look like the devil. As a result He will spew you out of his mouth and say “Away from me you evildoor, for I never knew you!” I will pray for your soul.

    God bless,
    HD

  2. says

    Lisa,

    I cannot say everything in one post. I have a whole section in my forthcoming book about the origin of evil. I have not written about this on the blog yet, simply because…. well, it’s reserved for the book.

    Regarding God’s supposed violence toward Jesus, I don’t think it was God who put Jesus to death. Jesus went willingly to the cross and the the rulers of this world (both human and spiritual) crucified Him (1 Cor 2:8).

    • says

      Thanks, I will read this in a little while.
      I agree that our sin can lead to their own punishment but I don’t think that can be the end unto itself, otherwise, why would God have had to punish Jesus?

      You might have addressed that in the link you gave me so I will go check that out when we get home.

  3. says

    Altair and Juan,

    I will really only be able to present a framework and then give some examples from Scripture. As you point out, hundreds of posts could be written…. I appreciate the input as we go along!

  4. says

    Chuck,

    I am thinking of these passages, some of which are from Jesus, others from other places in the NT. John 1:16-18; 5:39-40; 10:30; 14:7; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:3

    The basic NT position seems to be that Jesus fully reveals God to us. If there is a “hidden” dark side to God, then Jesus didn’t fully reveal God to us during His earthly ministry, and therefore, all these texts are not telling the truth.

    • says

      Okay, let’s look at those one by one then, shall we?

      John 1:16–18, NET: “For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.”

      Jesus made God the Father known. This says nothing of demonstrating every single aspect of God the Father.

      John 5:39–40, NET: “You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.”

      Eternal life is only found through Jesus, and the Scriptures testify about Jesus. I fail to see how this has anything to do with the discussion at hand.

      John 10:30, NET: “The Father and I are one.”

      Jesus and God the Father are one. No one is disagreeing with that. This still does not mean that every aspect of an infinite God was demonstrated during a finite time on earth.

      John 14:7, NET: “If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

      We know God the Father through Jesus. Again, this does not mean that Jesus revealed every aspect of God while on earth.

      2 Corinthians 4:4, NET: “among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.”

      Jesus is the image of God. That does not mean that we see the full picture of God from just Jesus’ earthly ministry.

      Colossians 1:15–17, NET: ” He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ”

      Jesus is the image of God. We haven’t added anything new here.

      Hebrews 1:3, NET: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

      Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God. But again, you’re limiting Jesus to his earthly ministry.

      The earthly Jesus is not a complete Jesus. It’s only part of his full nature. The incarnation involved Jesus emptying himself (Philippians 2:7). Paul did not tell us exactly what was emptied, but he made it perfectly clear that Jesus was not his full self while on earth.

      At the very least, we know that Jesus was not immortal, omnipresent, or omniscient (Luke 2:52; Matthew 24:36) as a man, even though Jesus is all these things as God. There is no reason that Jesus would have to reveal God’s judgment and wrath while on earth. That’s not why he came. He will come again to do that.

      There’s no “hidden dark side to God.” God is all light, including his just judgments which entail violence.

      • says

        Chuck,

        Well, just as you think I am not reading certain OT texts at face value, I think you are ignoring much of what these NT texts are saying, and not just these passages, but the whole tenor and focus of the ministry of Jesus.

        The violence of God is a pretty major part to leave out. If indeed God is truly violent, how could Jesus or other NT authors say any of these things and be considered honest?

        Just as the first century Jews thought that the Messiah was going to be violent, but Jesus showed them in every way possible that they were mistaken, we Christians have continued to follow the same interpretive mistakes that they made and continue to look for a violent Messiah.

        Jesus tried to show us in every way possible what God was truly like, and we continue to try to get him to be violent and vengeful.

          • says

            Yeah. I guess it is not just these texts, but the whole ministry of Jesus. His statements about loving our enemies, praying for them, blessing them, and not doing or saying anything violent toward anyone, but rebuking those who sought to do so. If this is how Jesus lived and talked, but then He says He revealed the Father to us (however He says it) but never showed any violent tendencies, it seems deceptive to me.

          • says

            I totally agree with you here, as far as what humans should be doing. That’s what Jesus was showing us—how we should live. But we are not God. We are not the judge of all the earth. God is not held to the same standards that we are.

    • Juan Carlos Torres says

      Thanks, Jeremy.

      I’m much better at reading, and comprehending than writing.
      Subjects like this one in you’re tackling here are emotionally exhausting. I commend you for hanging in there. I can’t wait for you to be done:P

  5. Mark g says

    Jeremy,

    Part of What Jesus did to reveal the Father to us also included parables. Is Jesus in the parable of the ten minas speaking of the Father when He says “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” (Luke 19:27)? Maybe I’m not understanding the parable, but it’s passages like these that seem to conflict with the topics that we are considering.

    Thank you for all that you post. I am always blessed to read the topics that you consider.

    • says

      Great point, Mark.

      I guess I would say they are parables. Parables never tell exactly what IS, but tell a story to make a point. Sometimes the point is by contrast, sometimes by likeness, sometimes the various elements of a parable cannot be drawn straight across in a one-for-one manner. Parables are notoriously tricky this way.

      In the parable of the ten minas, for example. I have written about this parable a few years ago to show how it has been sorely misread, misinterpreted, and misapplied in Christianity today:
      http://www.tillhecomes.org/the-parable-of-the-talents-revisited/

  6. Vince Latorre says

    I still am at peace with the idea that God is simply doing His justice in the Old Testament, bringing the violence of the wicked back upon their own heads and dealing with them according to their ways, as is said repeatedly (Ezekiel 8:17-18). A police officer has to use violence to subdue a criminal. Do we say a police officer has a dark, wantonly violent side because he uses deadly force on a person who is wantonly gunning people down in a shopping mall? Does that make him a warrior or warmonger? Over and over in the Old Testament God says He does not take pleasure in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, Lamentations 3:32-33). But if they are un-repentant, what other response would be appropriate? (Jeremiah 5:29)

    Jesus revealed the same mindset when He said” unless you repent, you shall likewise perish” (Luke 13:5) The fact he was talking about eternal rather than physical death is secondary to the fact that Jesus was talking about justice. Apparently He will be involved with this justice and vengeance upon evil when he returns (2 Thess. 1:6-9). When He was here on earth the first time it was to draw people to repentance and reconciliation to God. But in the second coming he deals with the wicked who reject the gift of the violent punishment He took to procure their forgiveness. He warned of this coming judgment many times (Luke 12:43-48) (Also Luke 20:18,where Jesus says “on whomsoever [the cornerstone,meaning Himself] falls, it will grind him to powder”.) Since they have rejected his gift, they will have to take the punishment themselves for their own sins. In a sense then, the wicked bring God’s punishment on themselves, because He must respond in judgement to be just.

      • Vince Latorre says

        Thank you, Chuck. I think just because Jesus didn’t pick up a sword during his first incarnation (although He did use a whip of cords once!) doesn’t mean he didn’t approve of divine use of force in dispensing His justice.

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