[Admin note: Richard Murray has made his 2014 book, which the article ref’d by Hermano below presages, available for free download later in this thread. It can be downloaded here]
Certain Bible passages inarguably present God as violent. And people everywhere are troubled by the idea of a God who must resort to violence to accomplish his will, and to be appeased. As you know, some people altogether reject the Bible and/or the God of the Bible, because therein God appears bloodthirsty; e.g., in the Old Testament, the Genesis Flood; in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira, the Book of Revelation.
I grew up thinking (at least subconsciously) that God was bipolar, or maybe even schizophrenic. He was loving and gracious, but could become angry and violent. However, I finally noticed that it is actually Satan who has the power of death, not God (Hebrews 2:14, John 10:10).
Satan = stealing, killing, destroying. Jesus = life abundant.
With the Bible as our standard, how can we successfully contend that God is nonviolent? Among members of The Evangelical Universalist forum, I note support for the writings of René Girard, the esteemed French-born philosopher. I am a newbie in this forum, but I question whether his explanation of God’s nonviolence is the correct alternative.
In brief, if I am getting it right, (I’m not well-read on him), Girard teaches that the cause of violence is attributable neither to God nor to Satan, but only to human sinfulness:
“…The scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry, and [the] Bible reveals these ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism.” (From Wikipedia. And here is a short discussion on Girard’s “Theory of Violence, Religion and the Scapegoat” at jeramyt.org/papers/girard.html)
Furthermore, I understand from Michael Hardin and Kevin Miller that “Girardians” do not recognize Lucifer/Satan as a literal person, possessing a mind, will, and emotions. Angels like Gabriel and Michael as real people? Yes. Fallen angels as real people? No. I also understand they believe all evil in the world originates in the human heart. (Am I right on that?)
I think we depersonalize “The Satan” at our peril, and that we should seek alternative explanations in order to contend for God’s nonviolence.
So if the Girardians—whom I respect for upholding God’s goodness—are wrong about Satan, how else might we interpret Bible passages that present God as violent? I believe there is another approach to this problem that will make the great news of UR even greater!
Accepting that Satan (‘the prince of the power of the air,’ ‘the god of this world,’ ‘the evil one in whose power the whole world lies,’ etc.) is indeed a real spirit being and a genuine person, what if, through ignorance, the writers of Scripture sometimes confused Satan’s voice and actions with God’s voice and actions?
I am requesting you to please first read, and then focus your comments on, the following mind-blowing defense of God’s nonviolent goodness:
“SATAN: Old Testament Servant Angel or New Testament Cosmic Rebel?” published by the Clarion Journal, and found at http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2013/11/satan-old-testament-servant-angel-or-new-testament-cosmic-rebel-by-richard-murray.html
Author Richard Murray is a criminal defense attorney outside Atlanta, and holds a Masters of Practical Theology from Regent University.
I am sure we can agree that blaming God for satanic oppression, e.g., disaster, poverty, sickness, is an error of misattribution. Effective spiritual warfare must begin with purging from our understanding of God all that is angry, violent, unloving, or legalistic; in short, we must purge Satan out of our view of God.
We can do this by means of what Murray calls “The Jesus Hermeneutic." Simply put, this hermeneutic holds that all Scripture must be interpreted according TO and BY the revealed nature of Jesus. The revelation of Jesus IS the revelation of the nature of God.
A note to Girardians:
Richard Murray has publicly debated his friend Michael Hardin on the ontology of Satan.
A note on the views of Greg Boyd:
Last summer, I sent the original version of the Murray article to renowned theologian Greg Boyd (an annihilationist), and he kindly but succinctly responded:
“…My own approach (in the forthcoming Crucifixion of the Warrior God) to this problem isn’t all that different from Murray’s….”
I am not well-read on Boyd either , so I hope his new book will indeed be in line with, or at least acknowledge, Murray’s approach/revelation regarding God’s nonviolence.
¡Dios los bendiga!