I never really understood the question of those texts where God seems to go on this mass-murder spree. Jessica has written about this issue today. I know many Christians are satisfied with the answer that we read the scriptures through Christ but even that doesn’t help. Especially when we run across stories such as the fig tree.
Matthew 21:19: And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (NRSV-CE)
That’s kind of harsh. The figs weren’t even in season. Of course, the New Testament doesn’t really help when we come across the seemingly violent God of the Old Testament either. We go forward to Acts chapter 5 now and have a look at Ananias and Saphira.
Acts 5:1: But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2 with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” 5 Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. 6 The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died.
As can be seen, the dismissal of some Christians often over-looks some of the difficult passages in the New Testament as well. I’m not saying I disagree with Jessica at all. She makes a rather fair and critical point. We must read the scriptures via the revelation of Christ. I’m just saying that this does not make the Old Testament violence any more bearable.
We next flash-forward to the book of Revelation. There is much violence from the Father there as well as from the Son as well. The Trinity is one in essence.
Revelation 19:19: Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
I intend not to scissor out these texts. Neither does any Christian I know of. Neither does Jessica. But I haven’t found a way to make these texts any more attractive. There are much smarter people than I who have been able to wrestle with them and straighten them out. My knowledge of Biblical theology is terrible. If one knows any of these people though, I am interested in reading what they have to say. For now, I simply just don’t read these parts of the scriptures until an understanding has been given to me about these texts. That understanding has not been given to me quite yet. If it does not come in my life-time, I won’t panic.
Any one can always make convincing arguments that Jesus is Lord in whatever fashion. Faith always proceeds understanding. There may be for some Christians such as Jessica a need to be able to pull out the explanation right then and there for atheist and anti-Christianity critics but I am always fully aware that even if they do receive an answer, they’re going to be raving mad as well. Most people simply reject Christianity because they do not want to believe Jesus is Lord even if they do understand how Christians read these difficult texts. It is only an experience that Jesus is Lord that can ultimately convince them.