The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Can UR trump the Myth of Redemptive Violence?

The God of the bible is a god of violence. Scripture seems full of an implicit recognition and acceptance of God’s violence. Old Testament readings are saturated in violence: both God’s (e.g… Genesis 7:23 Flood, Genesis 12:29 death of Egyptian first born, 2 Kings 19:35 death of 185,000 Assyrians), and that of men, but condoned by God (e.g. 1 Samuel 15:33 murder of Agag before the Lord, Joshua 7:25 stoning of Achan). Sin’s demise, according to common readings of Revelation, comes when God casts sinners (surely an act of violence) into the Lake of Fire. (Rev 20:10) (1)

In the center of this story of God’s history with His creatures stands the greatest story of violence in the Christian saga; the cross. Christ, the very Son of God, dying a violent, but salvific, death. Violence seems an integral part of God’s universe. (2)

So pervasive and ingrained is the assumption of the rightness and necessity of divine violence that it is explicitly demanded of God. But is violence really in the natural order of God’s universe? Does God really have no better answer to violence than a greater violence of His own?

The assumption that violence is part of the natural order of things is ancient indeed. Walter Wink (Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination) calls these assumptions the myth of redemptive violence. He traces this myth back in time and sees it on prominent display in the Babylonian creation story (the Enuma Elish) from around 1250 B.C.E. Here, the violence between the gods results in creation of cosmos and humans. (3)

We moderns imagine ourselves beyond such primitive storytelling; much too sophisticated to accept such fantastic images of reality. And yet it is startling to discover ways in which we have accepted and lived by the realities of our ancient brothers; how deeply ingrained are it’s premises. That life emerged from violence is assumed in our times dominant creation myth; evolution. Evil (chaos, disorder, death) precedes and creates life. Respected theology comfortably operates from within the premises of redemptive violence. (4)

With violence in our very genes – an extension of the gods themselves – cosmic order is achieved through the justified violence of our systems of domination and oppression. These domination systems are ubiquitous; men over women; master over slaves; rich over poor; strong over weak; racism. Hierarchy and status confer our value. So thoroughly is the assumption of redemptive violence interwoven into our perceptions of reality, that few find the need, or ability, to question it. Most, in fact, don’t even recognize it. Just War theory relies on some form of redemptive violence. Implicit in our willingness to live under such a system of violence is acceptance of a “might-makes-right” dynamic; the one capable of the greatest power, and hence, the greatest violence, is the one who deserves our respect; our allegiance; our worship.

Two ideas usually form the first line of defense in justifying God’s apparent violence; first, God can do anything He wants – He’s God. Second, we deserve death, so anything less than that constitutes grace on God’s part. But these are inadequate responses and largely unsatisfactory it seems to me. Rather, it should be asked what kind of God would use violence at all, and why; it should be asked if violence actually accomplishes what God seeks: does it, in fact, run counter to His principles of government? Is God the kind of being who establishes order with the use of violence in the first place? To simply say God can be violent if He choses, merely means the question becomes; does God chose violence, and why? As for we humans deserving death, this assumes a certain valuelessness in humans which causes one to wonder why God bothers with us at all. Further, the assumption that sin deserves punishment itself rests on the premise of redemptive/retributive violence – the very thing under scrutiny. This all presents an awkward clash with the Father image God has chosen for Himself, as well as profound dissonance with the notion of God portrayed by Christ in Mt 7:9. (5)

Intuition might suggest, as might observations of history, that violence may bring apparent peace, but it does not bring love. Rather, the lesson of history is that men who live under threat of violence rebel. To be sure, history also provides abundant evidence that order can indeed be produced with violence – or it’s implied threat. Thus the temptations to associate our personal security with violence and force are nearly overwhelming. Tacit acceptance of violence, as a means of keeping peace and order, appears the only viable option. Practically speaking, the prudent man will align himself with the most powerful; thus ensuring his own security. Power – specifically the power to extend greater violence – thus becomes seen as necessary in the pursuit of good; in this case the good being security. Violence becomes strangely comforting. Infliction of pain is seen to serve good. Fear can then be seen to play an important – even positive – role as fear of violence serves security. The logic of such a system appears impeccable; it seems almost unthinkable that reality might not actually work like this.

A nagging quandary persists however: is the apparent indispensability of violence, in the service of good, really the way of God’s rule? or does mans inability to imagine any other system forever doom God to approach us in terms of our own reality and perceptions? One is also left to wonder at the role and meaning of love. Violence in the service of love is intuitively and experientially problematic. Surely God has not allowed the drama of history to unfold merely to select out those willing to live under implicit threat of violence – and call it love. (6)

An ethic which is unable to imagine a God who has neither need nor use for violence will instead conceive all manner of excuses for God’s violence. But could it be that we are so suffused in the myth of redemptive violence – have grown to feel so safe in her arms --that we assume even God must operate this way? Is it possible that the record of scripture should, in fact, be seen as a record of God’s attempts to convince a skeptical world of the ultimate folly and futility of this myth? Was the mission of Christ to come and shatter the myth of redemptive violence? To reveal that life and true security emerge from non violence?

More sobering – and challenging – is the possibility that the doctrine of Universal Restoration is uniquely positioned to formulate a coherent and compelling rebuttal to this dominant myth which is embedded so deeply in our society and traditional Christianity.


PS – Jason: I have no idea which part of this huge topic you want to tackle, but I’m all ears!!!

(1) Raymond Schwager in “Must There Be Scapegoats? p. 67, 75 notes that there are six hundred passages of explicit violence in the Hebrew Bible, one thousand verses where God’s own violent actions of punishment are described, a hundred passages where God kills or tries to kill for no apparent reason (eg Ex 4: 24-26). Violence, he concludes, is easily the most often mentioned activity and central theme of the Hebrew Bible.

(2) That suffering – divine suffering – is required to bring reconciliation with God, is the premise of much Christian thought; recently dramatized in the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Violence and suffering, being salvific, is therefore glorified. The greater the violence and suffering, the more sure the salvation.)

(3) Wink continues: “As Marduk’s representative on earth, the king’s task is to subdue all those enemies who threaten the tranquillity that he has established on behalf of the god. The whole cosmos is a state, and the god rules through the king. Politics arises within the divine sphere itself. Salvation is politics: the masses identify with the god of order against the god of chaos, and offer themselves up for the Holy War that imposes order and rule on the peoples round about. And because chaos threatens repeatedly, in the form of barbarian attacks and domestic unrest, an ever-expanding imperial policy is the automatic consequence of Marduk’s ascendancy over the gods.

In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence. It is the ideology of conquest, the original religion of the status quo. The gods favor those who conquer. Conversely, whoever conquers must have the favor of the gods. The common people exist to perpetuate the advantage that the gods have conferred upon the king, the aristocracy, and the priesthood. Religion exists to legitimate power and privilege. Life is combat. Any form of order is preferable to chaos, according to this myth. Ours is neither a perfect nor a perfectible world; it is a theater of perpetual conflict in which the prize goes to the strong. Peace through war; security through strength: these are the core convictions that arise from this ancient historical religion, and they form the solid bedrock on which the Domination System is founded in every society.”)

(4) Just two recent examples: Christianity Today’s 2005 book award for theology/ethics (June; 2005) went to “Violence, Hospitality, And the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition” Hans Boersma (Baker Academic) Of the book, Christianity Today enthuses: “One of those rare evangelical tomes that engages critically and creatively with a major doctrine under attack - the Atonement. Boersma has written a spirited defense of divine violence as a means toward an eschatological state of pure hospitality.” Of the widely praised 1996 book by Miroslav Volf, “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation” J Denny Weaver notes (The Non Violent Atonement p 206) “Volf embraces divine violence as the basis of justice.”)

(5) “What man among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” The idea that man is capable of better moral behavior than God is challenged here. If, however, one is unable to recognize that “moral violence” is an oxymoron, then of course a more moral God would indeed be more capable of greater violence.

(6) From my own tradition, A Graham Maxwell has perhaps stated the problem in it’s bluntest form when he asks “does God really say love me or I’ll have to kill you?” (he is an annihilationist) Servants or Friends: Another look at God. p. 19


This is a very interesting topic as it often lies at the heart of some of the most strenuous objections to the Christian/Judean God. Haven’t got time at the moment to comment but the following passage is often seen at the heart of the arguments of people like Hitchens

As you say either one has to accept that this is a legitimate aspect of God himself or it is a misunderstanding of God by the Bible authors or (as I have seen on occasion) it is a legitimate command from God but only because the humans themselves have decided on violence rather than Love and so God lets their choice play out (when he would have rathered they conquered by love).

Great essay, btw!

Oh, whole books’ worth. :wink: It’s a super-complex topic which can be (and deserves to be) approached from numerous angles.

I’ll have to think about where best (and how) to try to start. Also, I’ll manfully try to resist the temptation to quote from my fictional work on this topic. :mrgreen: :sunglasses:

As a (perhaps) trivial observation, though: the opening verses of Genesis feature a lot more butt-kicking going on in the background than translations typically care to acknowledge. (Boyd is an excellent source of data on this.) If redemptive violence is a myth, that myth starts at verse 2 of the whole Bible and keeps going pretty pervasively; sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes not translated so obviously.

Minor bump, now that I’ve caught up on backposts elsewhere, to move this topward in the active topic list so I can find it again more easily. :wink:


By the same kind of logic that we posit it absurd to imagine complete happiness in heaven (the state of Blessedness) even while knowing our loved ones are eternally suffering at God’s hand or eternally lost at God hand, so too it seems absurd to me to imagine Him insisting He be freely loved if He knows He is also violent towards us. Violence breeds fear (not love) – though some may be better than others at stifling it. Worship of a God who is known to act violently towards those who don’t render it is deeply suspect I suggest. I really do believe it should be possible to construct a powerful apologetic for UR based on this fact alone.


TotalVictory, I believe God disciplines people with a goal of universal redemption while God chose to use the crucifixion Jesus as a means of vicarious punishment for redemption. Some Old Testament scenarios make me squeamish, but I have no general problem with God justly punishing people.

May I ask where your coming from with this?

Are you a pacifist who believes that nobody should ever get punished?

Do you think there is any value to the four Gospels if redemption from the crucifixion is a myth?

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Jim asked:

Hi Jim:

To be honest, I’m not quite sure where I’m coming from; lots of places I guess. And this dynamic has been nagging at me for several years now so I’m trying to flesh it out. But since we humans are relational creatures it seems logical that we use, when relating to God, the same sorts of thinking processes we use with each other. So here are a few factors and questions that illustrate where I’m coming from.

No, I’m not a pacifist at all – though I’d really like to be one. And I think that is God’s eventual goal for us. I can think of no long term solution ever afforded humanity through violence. If violence really did make us safe, shouldn’t we have already seen enough in earth’s history to be totally secure? Violence simply begets more violence; that’s the lesson of history it seems to me. So if God solves His “problems” with violence, how does He escape this dynamic? Is He subject to this law just as He is the law of love?

Further, I can imagine that this may well have been the lesson of the flood; very obvious violence (drowning seems pretty violent to me) on God’s part did not achieve anything close to what He wants from us; free love and worship. And yes the bible is full of violent imagery and likens earths (cosmos) history to war and we see lots of images of soldiers and battles on our journey to the kingdom. But I’m very suspicious that all this might simply be God talking to us in language we understand and is not where He wants us to be eventually.

Next, the mixing of love and violence is inherently problematic for me. For example, as a physician, we must take classes on recognizing domestic violence and child abuse. And it is beyond chilling to see the violence inflicted in the name of “love”. I hit you because I love you. The result is always a dysfunctional and terribly skewed view of “love” and invariably results in fear – not love. And it seems that’s a relational reality that plays out even when one of the relational partners is God. So there’s a sobering disconnect between a God who says love Me – or I might have to hurt you until you do. I see no logical way for fear not to ensue.

Nonetheless, I must consider the analogy of a loving parent screaming at his disobedient two year old to get off the street because, unknown to the child, a car is bearing down on him and the parent has little choice. Love WOULD yell in that circumstance, and risk being seen as abusive and cruel. (In my own tradition AG Maxwell has called this apparently unavoidable violence of God “emergency measures.”)

Further, there really do seem to be circumstances where any choice results in violence and suffering. For example, the Atom bomb(s) dropped on Japan which lead to an earlier end to the war might have thus spared 1-2 million deaths which would likely have resulted had the war continued as it was. Does that make the A-bomb violence good? That should be a troubling question for a Christian.

But it seems to me there is good precedent for God’s friends questioning His use of violence. Abraham argued with God when told He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. And Moses, when God offered to wipe out the rebellious peoples he was leading and start anew with Moses, said God, You can’t DO that! Think what the Egyptians would say!

There is another dynamic which troubles me also; it was well expressed, for example, last night on network TV which studied the phenomena of so called “shopping while black”. 60 % of blacks, when polled, say they have been profiled while shopping and suspected to be up to criminal activity. In the show, they had actors playing the roles of store clerk and security guard (both white) with a black woman customer being harangued and humiliated. The reaction of the other shoppers was stunning; “as long as they are not harassing ME, none of my business” and they simply ignored the blatant discrimination. My point is that I very often sense that we are just fine with God’s violence – so long as it’s not directed at US!

As to the redemptive value of the violence of the crucifixion as related in the Gospels; the Cross is and must be the central point of anyones Christianity. But I’m quite curious about the phrase you use “redemption from the crucifixion”. For me I see the Cross as God’s repudiation of violence and final demonstration of it’s impotence. The darkness which Christ came to dispel as the Light must be, at some level, human (and maybe cosmic) misperceptions about God and the nature of His kingdom. The triune God knew this would be the result of making a “non-God” choice so the plan was made for God Himself to come as perfect witness (Light) to set the record straight. But when this divine witness came He Himself was misunderstood and rejected and was killed for it. HIs faithfulness to God got Him killed. It was NOT the violence that was redemptive but God’s response to it. (heavily influenced here by J Denny Weaver, Baker and Green, Stephan Finlan, and so on…)

In addition to these ideas, I am drawn to the conversation of Christ in John 15 where He tells the disciples that what He really wants is not blind servitude but understanding friendship that grasps what the Father is about. For me that validates my questions on God’s apparent need for, and use of, violence. I’m quite confident that before sin, non-violence was the existing ethic and that, come the day sin is “no more” we will return to that ethic. In the meantime I’m wondering how and why God utilizes the very thing (IF He in fact does) that has no place in His Kingdom of Love. And I’m wondering how UR might fit into all of this…

Kind of a long answer but that’s the gist of it…


PS just read your essay on creation/evolution on your blog and find it very interesting.


Some of the issues you raise can only be adequately addressed by a metaphysical examination of reality. What is the fundamental nature of reality; what is the relationship of this reality to the evident system of Nature (not excluding beforehand the possibility that the foundation is itself the evident system); if there are differences, why are there differences? Answers to these questions will all have corollaries, themselves answering further questions, and so on.

In lieu of that kind of examination, though–which would take me a very long series of articles to progress through (which very long series will have to be done elsewhere. And is on the way. :mrgreen: )–I want to take a minute to consider the question of redemptive violence from the standpoint of the cross.

1.) Was the crucifixion violent? – The answer to this is, duh. So were some things leading up to it. (The Roman scourging, for example.)

2.) Did the crucifixion historically occur? – A few hypersceptics would say no, but even most sceptics would agree that the man Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. They may not agree with much else other than that, but they’re almost always willing to agree with that.

3.) Does the crucifixion have anything to do with the redemption of God’s enemies? – The scriptures (including Jesus by report) say yes. Exactly how is debatable. But at a minimum the redemption of God’s enemies has something to do with saving God’s enemies from sin.

Unless we’re prepared to accept a monstrously huge untruth in the middle of the story (the historicity of the crucifixion), or at least a pretty serious misunderstanding by key NT authors (and/or a very serious inaccuracy in their reports of Jesus in the Gospels), then there must be such a thing as redemption brought about through (or by?) violence.

4.) Violence to whom (at the very least)? – To Jesus of Nazareth, whoever he was.

5.) Who was Jesus of Nazareth? – Here I must point out, with all due respect to those who believe Jesus was not Himself the final Independent Fact of reality: it makes (pardon the pun) the most crucial difference possible, whether Jesus was God Most High Himself, or not. If Jesus was not himself God, then Christianity centers on the redemption of God’s enemies through a violence required by God upon someone not God. If Jesus was Himself God, then Christianity centers on the redemption of God’s enemies through a violence required by God upon Himself.

Since I believe that Jesus was the 2nd Person of God Himself, Incarnate, then one way or another I have to go with the latter option. Other commentors are certainly welcome to proceed with the former option instead, for discussion.

Now, hypothetically assuming that the Biblical language of God’s active wrath on sinners is taken seriously (although this doesn’t exclude the possibility of various scriptural characters misunderstanding and/or misapplying the wrath of God–which according to various OT prophetic books and the Gospels, at least, did certainly happen!): what difference does it make for God Himself to be sacrificing Himself for (and even to!) rebel sinners on the cross, for the redemption of rebels against Himself?

I’ll leave that up for discussion, for a while. :slight_smile: (Edited to add: there are various ways to synch this with Bob’s most recent post, but I haven’t tried to do so yet.)


A few things…

Of course a discussion like this rests on some assumptions about reality; but we talk about all sorts of incredibly deep and important realties between ourselves without the need to firmly establish exactly what we mean by “reality”. And the caveat for Christians is always that we see through a glass darkly. The nature of reality is necessarily subjective to some degree – objective as we might believe ourselves to be. (Sort of the point of my post “We see things not as they are, but as we are”.)

Be that as it may, the relational reality I see is that violence very logically and predictably leads to fear; yet God comes to us and says things like “fear not”. Further, He says things like Love casts out fear – which implies to me that fear and love don’t mix well – if at all. We also agree that Love is the only acceptable motive for the kind of worship of God that He wants. This presents what seems to me an obvious tension which begs resolution. So right now my dream book would be one co-authored by J Denny Weaver (The Non-Violent Atonement) and Thomas Talbott; (with maybe you editing and with contributions from Green and GM also!) I see the twin truths of God’s ultimate reconciliation with His creation as well as our return to the non-violent ethic of His reign (as revealed in Christ) to compliment each other very well. I’ve just never read anyone flesh these convictions out so thought it’d be fun to try here.

To be sure, many are quite comfortable with a loving God who incorporates violence into His methods. I’m just not one of them. This dynamic is similar to the fact that many are quite comfortable with a God who can incorporate the knowledge of loved ones eternally suffering in hell, or eternally missing due to annihilation, into the state of blessedness that He has promised. That doesn’t compute for me either. Though of course for both of these states (accepting violence as part of God and accepting true blessedness knowing of loved ones eternal lostness) are theoretically possible – given a new paradigm which I do not now have – but that possibility seems to me vanishingly unlikely.

As for the use of the term “myth” I hope that does not offend or distract. Myth is here used in the sense of collective cultural expressions of the way things are. Myth is the shared, personal, experiential representation of what is. Myth is the story which best encapsulates the perceived realities of a people.

That you listed the 5 items which you did suggests you wonder if these themselves are under some attack or revision. Not at all; I can affirm with you the necessity that the Crucifixion of Christ was a historical reality, it was not only very violent but also was intended to demean and degrade, and the victim was in fact the second member of the Triune God. I think we’re in full agreement that the identity of the victim is the prism through which all aspects of Christianity must be seen and that this event is the central revelation of God that enables and facilitates redemption and reconciliation with the fallen creation.

Where I would part ways with you is this notion that the violence was “required” by God upon Himself;

To me, this treads far too close to pagan ideas of a god who needs to be appeased; a god who can be “altered” or effected into being more favorably disposed toward us. God neither orchestrated the violence against Christ, nor needed it. If God’s hand was involved in this act against Christ it would follow that if the events of the cross were willed by God then the perpetrators of this horror should be honored as heroes who fulfilled the will of God and praised for helping facilitate our redemption!

Such an observation is not only perverse, but abhorrent. That God did not will His son to die is confirmed by the words of Christ himself who said, “he that delivers me unto you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11) The killing of Christ was not only a sin, it was a great sin. Yet from this sin, from this horrible evil, profound and extraordinary and redemptive good was drawn.

Christ came as witness to God’s character of goodness. When Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, He committed himself to being faithful, even unto death. When evil threw everything it had at Him, He revealed a God who does not retaliate nor seek vengeance, but who loves even to the end. And though evil killed Him, that very evil was rendered impotent in the reality of the resurrection. That’s a truer picture of the realities of God’s reign it seems to me.

Here’s just a clip of J Denny Weaver in The NonViolent Atonement:

So here, I am operating from the conviction that God’s method and goal is nonviolence. From that premise, I see great coherence with the additional conviction that God will eventually redeem, reconcile, and restore His entire creation. For me, the combination of the two, which I see as complimentary, are more powerful than either alone. Of course, if one sees coherence in God’s violence, I guess this cannot work for them. For me however, it was my discovery of God’s Universal ethic of nonviolence that lead, in part, to my embrace of UR. I had imagined, perhaps, that others also had arrived at UR via this route. (There are actually many routes to UR I’m discovering) UR and non-violence are very natural allies it seems to me.

Last thought: it seems that frequently that which God allows He is said to cause. That is, He takes “credit” for everything. Maybe that also then applies to His “punishing” acts??


So, when Wink uses the term “myth”, is he using it in only this sense, or does he also mean the concept is false?

I agree of course (as a good Lewisian mythopoecist) with what you stated. But if the term is introduced under particular constraints, then I reserve the right to use the term under those constraints as well. :wink: Some kind of myth of redemptive violence, true or false (to whatever degree), starts early in the Bible (i.e. Gen 1:2) and runs the length of it (i.e. Rev 22).

Not so much; but in lieu of being able to start with a metaphysical analysis of God’s relationship to creation, I had to start somewhere else, and the crucifixion seemed the most obvious place. I just wanted the data on the table for discussion. (Edited to add: also, I didn’t want to exclude non-trinitarians from discussion on the topic; so, in a roundabout fashion this allowed me to invite commentary from them in distinction from whatever we would be talking about. :slight_smile: )

I somewhat wondered if this was at least one of the places; but I thought it would be best to let you bring that out first (if so) rather than making a pre-emptive guess on my part. :slight_smile:

Obviously there are points of, let us say, flavor contact. (Which in themselves would undoubtedly have helped connect, rightly or wrongly, with Jews and pagans both during evangelism.)

But I know that I never said that this in any way would involve a god (much moreso a God) who can be effected into being more favorably disposed toward us. In fact, I would be more than a little interested in hearing why you would think that God, enacting violence upon Himself (and even requiring it), would in any way necessarily involve God having to appease Himself or effect a change in His attitude toward us, etc.

As to whether He needed it, I don’t suppose He did; as to whether we needed it, the scriptures seem pretty unanimous that we did. :wink: Something worth considering; but be that as it may.

I have to call narrative and thematic fault on the first clause, though: it is blatantly obvious that God orchestrated the violence against Christ. He plans it and brings it about from on high, from beyond the foundation of the world itself; it sure as hell doesn’t take Him by surprise. On the contrary He’s anticipating it the whole time. As Christ, God spends the whole story acting in ways to bring this event about at the proper time, not before and not later. Christ lays down His life, and takes it up again, with the authority given to the Son by the Father. No one takes His life from Him.

I could go into this in vast detail; although, from a universalistic perspective, I will point out as a handy summary that one of the key thrusts of St. Paul’s plea to his Jewish/Gentile congregation in Rome (Romans 9-11) is predicated on Christ’s death being a deed of God for the sake of all, Jew and Gentile alike.

There is an ontological necessity in this being primarily a deed of God as well: otherwise some other entity (Satan? Caiaphas the mere human!!?) was primarily responsible for something happening to God. And now we’re talking about a very different theology than that which we both agree is true.

Is this done without human cooperation? Certainly not. But note (and this is mentioned by St. Paul in those chapters from Romans, too, in his own way), God is cooperating with sinners, with His own worst enemies (and with some who are not specially His enemies, like the Roman soldiers crucifying Him), in order to get this done–and for their own sakes (or for at least some of their sakes, per Arm or Calv soteriology :wink: ). Which, in turn, has major thematic connections to the idea of Christ, though sinless Himself, being reckoned in solidarity with sinners.

As it happens, this is not far from one of St. Paul’s key points in Rom 9-11! No, they are sinners; but “all have been shut up into stubbornness, that God may have mercy on all”. We are not to intrinsically despise the vessals of wrath, even if it happens that we must fight against them. They are not heroes who have fulfilled the will of God, but villains who have (by God’s grace) cooperated with God in fulfilling the will of God and helping facilitate our redemption: even in this key event, the sacrifice of God Himself for our (and for their) sakes.

I am fully convinced that we should, in fact, honor them: not as heroes (for they weren’t), and not as villains (for they were); but as people, with whom God in His grace has cooperated for our sakes. Judas is more to blame than Pilate, yes; but due to Judas’ intentions, not because Judas was more causally responsible for what was happening there. (Pilate and the Sanhedrin both had far more causal power than Judas, in the final situation.)

And, am I not myself a sinner?–should I not rightfully pray that God will, in saving other people from my sin, make use of my sin for His own purposes? That does not mean that we should sin so that grace will increase–may it never be! (as St. Paul emphatically says.) Our crime is the abuse of the grace of God. God’s grace includes cooperation with us, so that even our abuses will someday help fulfill love and justice. (Indeed, God fulfills love to us by stooping to cooperate with us, the sinners.) The pervasive power and love of God is such that He actively cooperates with even the worst of us, for His purposes: a theme occasionally mentioned in the Old Testament, too.

(To give one of several OT examples: Cyrus the tyrant himself is no less than a messiah of God!–and is spoken of in language prefiguring the King Messiah to come, YHWH Himself! But when speaking of what Cyrus will accomplish, a man who does not even know the Lord, Cyrus soon drops out of sight, and YHWH ADNY ELHM insists upon the recognition that He, He Himself, is doing this thing. Through Cyrus, yes; even with Cyrus, yes. But primary responsibility remains with God.

One of the most beautiful scenes in all the OT, meanwhile, is that of the reconciliation between Joseph and his murderous brothers: Joseph consoles them not to be afraid of him, for he loves them and understands that it was God’s doing for them to throw him down into the pit, to be sold as a slave of no identity into pagan Egypt. Are they to blame? Yes–but where their sin exceeds, the grace of God superexceeds. God not only works within their choices of evil; He Himself accepts and reveals His own responsibility in what they do.)

Let us say (which is true) that I reject the idea of God having to change His core attitude toward us (by enacting violence upon Himself or otherwise–secondary situational attitudes toward us notwithstanding); while still recognizing and acknowledging (hypothetically, if you wish) that God is, in various critical ways, enacting the crucifixion upon Himself: an event we both already agree to be a violence.

How else (beyond what I’ve written so far) might these two concepts combine together? I can see a dozen ways easily, especially in conjunction with wider data. (But I don’t want to flop down a book-length set of macroposts on the topic; so, your turn. :smiley: )

Incidentally, whatever agreements or disagreements I may have with him in the other parts of that quote, I quite agree with those two statements. :slight_smile:

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Graham Kendrick: When the World Said No!
from the album Paid on the Nail (1974)

Hi Jason:

I’ll do both of us (and those who might be listening ) a favor and not pretend I understood everything you said :blush: ; much of it went right over my head. :frowning: If that was your intent, or if that disqualifies me from further discussing this topic here, best let me know now. :confused: To clarify, me – Anesthesiologist; you - Theologian. And you’ll have to trust me on this but I do anesthesia much better than I “do” theology!! :laughing: (Which begs the question: was the bible written for theologians? or for regular folks? – just curious)

Specifically, for example, must I know what a “Lewisian mythopoecist” is?
or what “narrative and thematic fault on the first clause” means? to properly continue? :question:

You call “narrative and thematic fault on the first clause” – then assert it is “blatantly obvious that God orchestrated the violence against Christ.” – Really? If it’s so blatantly obvious, and it’s not obvious to ME at all, that certainly does exclude me from where you go next. God orchestrating violence against His own Son?? This chills me to the core; you find it wondrous and inspiring. :confused: Shall we just chalk this up to another difference in interpretations? If this is how you see it, how do you avoid the charges (of certain feminist theologians) of divine child abuse? (Just wondering :question: )

Jeff A brings up a very central point in that we humans, all of us, can be seen as participating in the killing of God. But I can no more think of honoring the ones who actually killed Christ than I could honor one who killed a member of my own family. That seems to me wildly discordant.

Jason: If you accept the God of the bible in all His glorious and salvific violence, just tell me so and we shall disagree straightaway. I’m afraid of such a God; you seem not. That’s certainly fine with me; I’ve been interacting with believers who embrace a violent God all my life. It’s just surprising to me :astonished: to find that conviction here on such a prominent UR site. The fault is all mine of course; I have not let you be who you are and have assumed incorrect things about your theology. My bad; I’ll cope. :blush:

I find your assertion of “Christ’s death being a deed of God” appalling beyond belief; so let me ask you, (for clarification) in your theology, did GOD kill His own Son? If so, this plays enormously into the question I have asked of TT.
(On a very related note; it seems to me that in your scheme of things sin, rebellion, the fall, was necessary for God to complete and perfect His creation. You’re not saying that – are you??)

Again, Really?? You lay the death of Christ at the feet of God – instead of at the feet of wicked men? Wow – we are way disconnected here. The way you speak of Gods activity in men’s affairs it sounds as if men have little choice of their own; it is all God’s will. I’m hearing in you far more Calvinism and determinism than I had previously detected. Though hey; I’ve been wrong before. :blush:

And I confess I am really quite taken aback by your suggestion that God acted in those evil men’s lives to effect the death of His own Son. (Are we simply disagreeing on the difference between God allowing to flourish the evil which was already there? or God actively influencing to DO this evil?) God shutting up in stubbornness the ideas and impulses of evil men is far far different from what I hear you positing; God willing and causing and determining their evil choices. You actually do find their acts somehow noble and admirable?? Because they are us and have been effectual in our salvation?

Another window into our differences here is your take on the Joseph story – which I agree is a beautiful example of Gods activity in a sinful setting. But to say

seems to me monstrous and not grace at all. The Genesis 50:20 principle (for some reason, the Charismatics I’ve known love this text :slight_smile: ) is that YOU meant it for evil but God meant it for good. God taking that evil and bringing good from it need not mean He ordained (orchestrated) the evil in the first place.
Oh well…

Let me sum up where it seems we are in relation to the title of this thread:

:bulb: :arrow_right: From what I’m hearing, it sounds to me that the question itself is incoherent for you since for you violence by God is not only His but it is necessary! So of course the MRV cannot trump UR because UR NEEDS God’s violence to become a reality! For you UR and the MRV are not in tension at all – with Violence being Necessary for UR.

Apologies if I am bewildered in the extreme by your response. Your answers present a density which I freely confess seem to me impenetrable. Please do not take my befuddlement at your conviction on violence as hostile in any way. What seems to “work” for you simply doesn’t for me. That’s all.

I wrote an essay a year or two ago which I’ll post over on the essay section which lends a bit more insight into my bias on this topic.

As always, fun discussion Jason! I realize I use strong words but use them on ideas – not people. We understand that – right?? :sunglasses:

(Raining here in FL so can’t take my morning Harley ride. :angry: :arrow_right: But that just means more time for EU :smiley: )


No, and no. But in the first phrase I mean that any advocate of C. S. Lewis’ understanding of myth, which I am and which I thought you might be from the way you put the quote I was agreeing with, would (of course) quickly agree with your quote. Mythopoeics is the study and application of mythical forms in conveying ideas, including in relation to historical events.

The content of the second phrase I discussed at some length afterward, so it isn’t important that it be understood there. I only meant that I disagreed strongly, due to narrative and theme details in the scriptures, with the statement: God did not orchestrate the violence against Christ. Some fencing language accidentally crept in, however, in my use of “fault” there. :wink:

Also, I must heartily apologize (and to some extent recant) for the “blatantly obvious” comment, since after all it is blatantly obvious (including to me) that such an idea in the scriptures isn’t blatantly obvious to you. :blush: I am admittedly surprised that such a thing isn’t blatantly obvious to someone else who has studied the material, but I should have put my surprise another way. My fault completely.

Because I keep firmly in mind that the Son is Himself God Himself. The Persons of Father and Son are distinct, but the Deity is One. There are not two entities, the Father an entity and the Son an entity, whether both are ultimate Gods (bi-theism) or both are derivative gods (polytheism) or one is God and one is a created super-angel (Arianism) or something of that sort.

This is precisely why I made sure to stress in my opening statement that it makes the most crucial difference possible whether Jesus was (and is) God Most High or not; and I made as clear as I concisely could make it, that I would be answering along this line: what difference does it make for God Himself to be sacrificing Himself?–an action which must be an action of God upon Himself in regard to Himself.

I avoid the charge (from certain feminist theologians, among others), by not having a theology where someone other than God Himself is on the cross. Although, I would suppose that even non-trinitarian Christians would avoid the charge insofar as they agree (and I think most of them would) that the Father and the Son were both in agreement that this should be done and that the Son was acting in full knowledge, comportment and responsibility with the will of the Father in this regard. “Child abuse” involves a parent schisming against the child. Orthodox trinitarian theology is almost as different from this as could possibly be. (Modalism might be a little farther away from this, by denying any real distinction between the Persons of God.)

If God Himself is not the one primarily sacrificing Himself for our sake on the cross, then Who (or who, or what) is the one (or ones?) primarily sacrificing God Himself for our sake?! Any answer at all throws us instantly into, again, a very different theology from Christian trinitarian monotheism.

Aside from whether this is something to be chilled to the core about, or to find wondrous and inspiring: would it be better perhaps to go back for a minute and make sure we are agreeing (or perhaps not) about who or Who is on that cross? I thought it would be at least a little (if not blatantly) obvious, that if God Himself is on the cross, then it is not someone other than God Himself on the cross. If I am talking consistently about God willingly sacrificing Himself for our sake (and I think I was), then why are you asking how I would defend against charges of divine child abuse??

A point I very much agree with. :slight_smile:

And yet, you honor your father and mother per the commandment, and love your neighbors as yourself (which requires honoring him and her), do you not? Yet, by that same central point that you and I agree on, those whom you honor also, in effect, participate in the killing of God–even in the murder of God.

I do not find it to be wildly discordant, although I do believe it is challenging. By honoring, I do not mean praising someone for participating in the murder of God–of which all we sinners everywhere are participants. But honoring and loving someone doesn’t require that we agree and approve of a sin they are doing.

Moreover, in the Lord’s Supper (in its various forms, especially those which involve a belief in transsubstantiation or something similar), we are in fact exhorted and even required to participate in the death (and resurrection) of God Himself–the killing, though not the murder, of God. All Christian authorities everywhere would agree, however (or so I suppose and have found from experience), that this death is not done primarily by us; but primarily by God Himself, in which (by His grace) we are allowed and encouraged to share: so that our own deaths, and so our lives, may be (in our derivative degree) like His.

This week, in Catholic churches, the elect and the catechumin are specially praised as they leave the service for the final time before the celebration of the eucharistic mystery (in which they may not yet participate). Next week, they will be baptized into the death and life of Christ, and will for the first time take communion, never more to leave the congregation (except in case of profession of non-communion). They are praised and encouraged and celebrated for their choice to share faithfully in the killing and raising of God Himself–slain by whom or by Whom? Raised by whom or by Whom?

By sin we participate in the murder of God. By faith we participate in the killing of God. But by grace, even those who participate in the murder of God, participate in the sacrifice of God by God for the sake of all.

I accept the God of the Bible in having done this violence anyway. Should I be afraid of such a God? Maybe. But I think it does make the greatest difference in the world, to consider Whom God is doing this to. I would be far more afraid if God was doing it to someone not God; and I would be far more afraid (even moreso perhaps?!) if someone other than God was primarily responsible for doing this to God. (And either way, I reiterate, we would then be talking about a very different theology than orthodox trinitarian monotheism.)

I also think it makes a huge difference when turning from this to consider other claims of violence (of God, and by God) in the Bible–not all of which I feel particularly obligated to believe that they are what, on the face of it, they seem to be. But I have my reasons for starting with a consideration of the central violence of all scripture.

And I do want to focus on clarifying the theology of what we are talking about. Since I believe orthodox trinitarian theism to be true, I am going to be very careful not to deny it (without sufficient reason anyway); not because I think accidentally (or even in many cases intentionally) denying it is a sin, but simply for sake of theological consistency. It is a rich but very complicated set of doctrines, and it is easy to accidentally go off in another theological direction, even when one doesn’t mean to. (For which I hold myself far more responsible than any non-specialist. I have special need to be careful about being consistent, so that I don’t mislead anyone who may be looking to me for help and guidance. May God and other people, even those who don’t believe what I do, help me on that. {taking a moment to pray} :slight_smile: )

I don’t know for sure what Tom will answer. But I would say it is more accurate to say that God killed Himself. And that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, cooperated together in the death (and the resurrection) of the Son.

I would also say that other, not-God persons acted as well in the death of God. In sin, this action was (and still is) murder; of which we all are complicit. But in fidelity to God we are still called and expected to participate in the death and raising of God.

I do not believe that God was murdering Himself; God was not sinning to sacrifice Himself in love for us, even for the people who sin in murdering God. The difference is in intention. God does this for love of us. Ironically, when we sin we do this in love of us, too!–not in love of God.

We wish to take the life of God, as sinners. As sinners, we do not want to receive the life of God. But even as sinners we cannot in fact take the life of God. He lays it down for us (even as sinners), and takes it up again for us (even as sinners). We cannot take the life of God. We can only receive it, or not. God gives His life for us, in His dying and in His living. We murder Him in our hearts; we try to murder Him with our external actions of rebellion and non-fair-togetherness. But His grace is superior to our sin, in His dying and in His living.

Even in trying to sin, against cooperation with God, God finds a way for us to cooperate with Him. My sin is heinous; God’s love includes me anyway.

Maybe Tom will say this better than I can do. (I hope so. :slight_smile: ) Maybe he will say something substantially different. (I hope not! :laughing: ) I don’ t know. But it is one of the most important questions a Christian theologian can be given to answer.

And that is why I didn’t want to try to do it myself, in a thread addressed to him.

I don’t mean to push this on you, either. If you don’t understand, it would be better to reject it. But I have tears on my glasses now for contemplating it, in gratitude to God. So, even if you don’t understand, I still thank you for the opportunity to consider it (again) for a few minutes. :slight_smile:

No. (Insert any level of emphasis imaginable. :wink: )

But, I am saying (and other theologians before have also believed) that the sacrifice of God for our sake is fundamentally necessary for us, whether fallen or unfallen, not only to complete and perfect His creation but even for us to exist at all. Of this eternal sacrifice, one sequence in history specially illuminates the whole. (Although some Christian mystics, and I tend to agree, would say that if we had the eyes, we would see how every sequence in history illuminates the whole. But none as centrally as the Life and Death and Resurrection of Christ.)

I could easily expect an Incarnation and a Passion and a Resurrection even for an unfallen Nature, simply as part of God’s loving communion with us. Some details would necessarily be very different. We wouldn’t be trying to murder God, for one thing! :unamused: But I think I could expect a tomb, and a rising from the tomb; for much the same reason that I would expect a Virgin Birth. (The thematic meaning is much the same. :slight_smile: ) The marriage feast would likely be quite literal, in honor of one woman chosen to represent us all (as in the Birth one woman is chosen to represent us all).

But I don’t want to speculate too far. We live in a fallen world, and look for its redemption. If other realities are unfallen, we may learn someday how God specifically enacts His relation to them. It still must be self-sacrificially.

I thought I had written extensively, in the comment to which you are replying, about the cooperation of us derivative persons–for better and for worse. All my talk about the importance of God’s cooperation with sinners wouldn’t mean much if the sinners weren’t acting, too.

But I do agree with Calvinists (and Arminians, usually, for that matter) that even sin happens within the will of God, in a very real way. Otherwise, we’re talking about cosmological dualism or polytheism or any of several worldviews which are not an ultimate theism. “Within” is the key word there. If God did not allow me to sin, I wouldn’t even be able to sin. It is by God’s grace that I am able to sin; it is even by God’s grace that I do sin. The sin is no less heinous; I consider it to be even moreso, as an abuse of the grace of God.

I am free to sin, or not. But I am not free, in a fallen world, not to be influenced toward sinning. I am very much not free to be free from God’s grace in allowing me to sin. I am very much not free from God at all; and I am not free to ever be free from God. My freedom is derivative, and depends upon God. There is no changing this. It is a real freedom; but it is not the freedom of self-existence. That freedom is the freedom of God and God alone.

Um… (reading back what I had written, among other things.) No?


Honoring my neighbor, even though he is my enemy, does not mean I must find all his actions somehow noble and admirable. And I don’t.

I do find it noble and admirable of God that He should stoop to act in cooperation even with sinners so that something good will eventually come of (I hardly dare say it) their sin. If God waited until we were not sinners before cooperating with us, then no one would be saved (to say the very least). Neither would Christ have come. It was the Pharisees who stressed among the people that if Israel would just keep Torah perfectly for one single day, then God would send the Messiah to save them. If only they could be perfectly faithful to God for one day, God would be faithful to them!

But God was faithful to them first. God is faithful to us first, Jew and Gentile both. The only reason our repentance is of any good at all, is because God is already reaching toward us first, cooperating with us first, bringing us toward Him first, sending the Spirit of the inheritance into our hearts crying “Abba, Father!” making supplication in groans too deep for words, gardening in us the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control: against which things there is no law.

If we insist on volunteering for the post of Pharaoh or Esau or Judas or Satan (or the prophet Jonah for that matter!), God will work with that choice as well, to His own ends, against our rebellion. This is why He can complain about us squinting our eyes and stopping our ears and hardening our hearts so that we will not repent and be saved by Him, while also acting for a time to confirm us in those choices: for which He proclaims His responsibility. (A horribly striking example of this is the violation of the wives and concubines of David by his rebel son Absalom, prophesied ahead of time by God as something He Himself would be responsible for accomplishing. The link goes to an Easter sermon I wrote for the Cadre a few years ago, following a train of discussion between myself, an Arminian and a Calvinist on the topic.)

When Joseph says that God meant it for good, however, even though the brothers meant it for evil (and that’s important, too), he does so in the context of God orchestrating the event. (Gen 50 happens after the death of Jacob, when Joseph’s brothers fear that Joseph wasn’t serious about what he had said around twenty years earlier in Gen 45.)

Gen 45: 4b-8a.

JPS Tanakh: “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt! Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you… God has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Werner: “I am Joseph your brother. You sold me to Egypt. Now do not grieve and do not flare in your eyes for selling me here: for God sent me in front of you for your life… God sent me in front of you to set a remnant for you in the land, for you to live as great refugees. Now, God sent me here, not you.”

Holman: “I am Joseph your brother, the one you sold into Egypt. And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life… God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance (or, to keep alive for you many survivors.) Therefore it was not you who sent me here but God.”

New American Standard: “I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be grieved or angry at yourselves (lit. in your eyes) because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life… And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance (lit. escaped company). Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here but God.”

New International: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you… But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

New International, super-literal: “I Joseph brother-of-you whom you-sold me into-Egypt. And-now not you-be-distressed and-not let-him-be-angry in-eyes-of-you because you-sold me here for to-save-life He-sent-me ahead-of-you… But-He-sent-me God ahead-of-you to-preserve for-you remnant on-the-earth and-to-save-life for-you by-deliverance great. So-then not you you-sent me here but the-God.”

Green’s literal: “I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be grieved, and let no anger be in your eyes because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to save life… And God sent me before you to put a remnant in the land for you, and to keep alive for you a great deliverance. And now you did not send me here, but God.”

Green’s super-literal: “I (am) Joseph your brother whom you sold me into into Egypt. And now not do be grieved and not do be angry in your eyes because you sold me here; for to save life sent me God before you… And sent me God before you to put for you a remnant in the land and to keep alive for you a deliverance great. And now not you did send me here, but God.”

Do you know of any translation where God is not said by Joseph to have been responsible for sending Joseph into Egypt?!

There are several key points to this claim (and I’ve skipped over the specific results in the middle of the paragraph for brevity; anyone can look them up who doesn’t already know the story of Joseph):

1.) the brothers did sell him into Egypt.

2.) this is something they were panicking about, now. (Especially since in the preceding story Joseph had set them up concerning a death threat, to test whether they would be willing to sacrifice Benjamin to save themselves.)

3.) moreover, it’s something Joseph expects someone there to be angry at them about. (Benjamin or Reuben is the logical guess. Reuben tried to save him; Benjamin wasn’t complicit in the plot but was the one being ostensibly threatened in Joseph’s ploy earlier and was the direct brother of Joseph.)

4.) but they shouldn’t be afraid, and whoever is flaring his eyes in anger shouldn’t do that either. Why?

5.) because it was God, not them, who sent him into Egypt; in order to save their lives.

So it was them, and also not them. But the really crucial point for our immediate discussion, is that due to God’s complicity in the action, which God meant for good, even though (as Joseph agrees later in chp 50) the brothers meant it for evil, peace should be made between them: which Joseph, as their victim, longs to do (and expects whoever is eye-flaring over there to join him in doing, too. :slight_smile: )

There are excellent reasons why Christians of old identified this story (and this scene especially) as being a typological foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Messiah. One difference being, of course, that Joseph wasn’t complicit in his sacrifice. But how much more does God do for us?

(Also, this has huge relevance thematically, even though it isn’t mentioned directly, with Rom 9-11 again.)

No, no, not at all!–have no worries about that. :smiley:

Have a good week; it’s late here, so I’ll have to read your new thread (extending this topic apparently) later! :slight_smile:

1 Like

As a followup note, Bob presents a related essay on the topic on our forum here.

Also, I strongly recommend reading back through the comments and original posts prior to my discussion of Absalom’s story (plus the two comments after my post there.) It’s a lot of material, and about half of it isn’t written by me but by the other two people in the discussion (a convinced Calvinist and someone on the fence between Arm and Calv, taking the Arm side for purposes of discussion–he also wrote the three prior original posts in the series.) But it covers a lot of importance topics, and my comments in the threads have major relevance to my comments here: and to orthodox trinitarian universalism.

Well Jason –

You do honor me by your lengthy and detailed response. Thank you for that. Further, thank you for not letting my bluntness and perhaps crudeness of expression get in the way of facing the important topic at hand which you have so delicately handled.

But I do confess that I had not thought it possible to describe God’s violence quite so… beautifully. If that is the correct word. For me that’s cognitive dissonance to say the least. Still working on it though. As I intend to for the rest of my life.

Straightaway let me suggest that I don’t see your formulations of God’s activities in the midst of our sins taking into account two texts/ideas;

First, in the story of the Tares among the Wheat Jesus says:
“An enemy has done this”
He does not say the enemy participating with God, nor that God will bring good from this evil act. The deed is simply wrong. End of story. No sense of God’s participation here. This recognizes a whole category of things that are “not God” at all. Regardless that He brings Good from it.

Second would be in James where he says (1:13)
“Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God…”
Again, the clear dissociation of God from that evil. It’s as if James says that we act apart from God – all on our own.

These ideas then play right in to the Joseph story the way I read it; the act was an evil one – not at all to be conflated with the good which God brought out of it. Now after the fact, when everything had all worked out, and Joseph SAW the change the brothers evil act had wrought in their lives, and Joseph considered the endless creativity of God in redeeming sin, Joseph could speak AS IF God had intended the entire series of acts. Joseph was adopting a manner of speaking in order to assuage his brothers shame and guilt. Which makes Joseph not only a gentleman and fine brother, it makes him “God-like”. For Joseph only wanted healing for his evil brothers – just as does God. This is Joseph the gentleman speaking; giving his brothers incredible forgiveness for their egregious act. (That’s God too of course.)

So, a major problem I have with what seems to me your conflation of God’s redeeming and saving responses to evil with the evil itself is that it doesn’t know which evils come from God so can only say ALL of them do. (I realize you do not intend to say the evils came from God, but the way you have described God’s enabling activity, I do not see how God can escape this charge.)

(Now I am sure you mean more than just that God, because he is creator and therefore responsible for all this in that sense, hasn’t abandoned us. For me it is necessary for God to “weep” with each evil we choose – even as He busies Himself redeeming our rebellion.)

Here’s how that plays out in my life;

Yesterday on call, I cared for a little blue eyed, blond haired, 2 year old boy who has an inoperable and terminal type of cancer. And his young mother is at once distraught and yet in denial. The cancer doctors have told her the chances of survival are remote – yet she consoles her baby murmuring in his ear that everything will be OK; mommy will help make him better.

My response here is, “AN ENEMY has done this ma’am!”
Understand Jason, I really DO want to scream this for mom and the rest who also wonder about this evil tumor. (ie the onlooking staff)
My response is NOT EVEN CLOSE to “God did this” (a la God did this to Joseph)

I hope you understand my stance here; of course I see that God really is angry with this state of affairs and UR has helped me see even MORE how involved He is in our affairs. But for me, He’s intervening in decisions not even remotely His will. (And yes I know I’m conflating willful evil and “natural” evil here. No matter; it’s ALL the enemy…)

I have this ongoing conversation with a friend who insists that IF an act we see as evil leads to eventual good, it can’t really be said to be evil. Evil for Good; violence and love. Boy can it get complicated. What I do not want to do is lay evil at the feet of God that does not belong there… Nor do you I am sure.

I think I sympathize with your vision of a God who is so closely aligned with our eventual redemption that it is hard to separate that God from the evil itself. I do realize you yourself do NOT see that God as causing evil at all; but wow – it’s hard to escape that conclusion for me…

Moving on, I am curious why you have not addressed my central observation about relationships; violence breeds fear – yet God insists we are NOT to fear. I recall here an incident as a child where I had to have a lot of dental work. And the dentist (this was in Africa, where I grew up) was an Italian with a type A personality) in his frustration with me would yell “RELAX DAMMIT!” He had little clue that his “encouragements” had the opposite effect on me; they terrified me. NO one ever talked that way in our missionary home.

But to say (not that you do) that it is only the “mature” understanding of God that allows the proper understanding of violence (just like my mature understanding now at age 52 tells me the man really did mean well; and he really did have my best dental interest at heart…) makes me cringe a bit. For, when we consider the violence in an abusive marriage, and that the temptation of the abused wife is to be “mature” and accept that her husband really does “love” her, any right thinking person recoils in horror and sees her ‘acceptance’ not as maturity, but as psychosis and pathology. For what she must do is get the hell out.
(Understanding the danger I’m in comparing God’s acts with those of the abusive husband… Hope this point is not too obscure.)

So, for me, there is great irony here. You, so deeply aware of God’s intense and keen involvement with us that He even risks being seen as willing to use violence to effect His purposes, and me, who sees violence as the very antithesis of God. By your statements, it seems you are ready to excuse God of ALL charges of violence; while I am equally convinced that the violence which happens (I use violence broadly here of course) is never in God’s will but, because of His grace, since that is the medium in which He must work, He brings good from that evil and violence. So you are able to lay ALL violence at God’s feet, while I am able to lay NONE at His feet. That’s about as different as two could possibly get!

And yet, I really do resonate with the loving God of which you so earnestly and lovingly speak; we worship the same God – you and I. And celebrate, via the Cross, and “ahead of time” (so to speak) His Total Victory. The redemption of all. As do you.

Jason, you are a blessing to me.

PS – more later on my troubles with your articulations of Trinitarian orthodoxy. Also on your moving description of the Last Supper.


This has been a very interesting series of posts for the impartial observer. I offer the following only as something you may or may not wish to read.

This is the address of the full online book … fm?PID=111

but I don’t think it will be wrong to post 1 short and relevant passage (with which you may BOTH find fault :smiley: )

Just a note that I have a reply ready; but I didn’t know if it was a good idea to continue the discussion yet before you have a chance to address our possible disagreements in regard to articulations of Trinitarian orthodoxy, Bob. Particularly since I think our disagreements elsewhere are likely to hinge on disagreements about articulations, or understandings of implications, here.

Should the 2 topics be merged?


It isn’t even a question of “merging” the two topics. The question of whether God ever enacts violence, ever, is instantly going to be relevant, for any Christian, to the violence of the cross. And one cannot consider the question of whether, or to what degree, God was responsible for the violence of the cross without one way or another engaging in Christology: the question of relationship between Christ and God.

As I noted in a previous comment, this is also then connected to things like the Lord’s Supper and prior typological shadows. Which foreshadowings themselves turn out to sometimes have strong relationship to the question of whether God ever claims active responsibility for violence.

For someone who isn’t a Christian but is only considering this or that kind of theism (or even trinitarian theism from a purely metaphysical direction, not a historical one), the two topics could easily be only indistinctly relevant at best, admittedly. (Although, on the other hand, a very close analysis from the direction of metaphysics might also turn up surprising relevancies between the two topics!–or so I discovered myself. But it takes a very long time to get there.)

Unless you meant something else by “the 2 topics”? Possibly I misunderstood.

I meant there seems to be a lot of crossover with Total Victory’s essay ‘On The Legitimacy of Ascribing Certain Evils to God’.