The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fighting For God's Nonviolence. (Richard Murray's approach.)



I am sympathetic to reading through the Spirit since I have a Charismatic background. The problem, as you note, is that this begs the question of how to determine what the difference is between a “Spirit inspired reading,” and a reading inspired from, as Charismatics like to say, “too much pizza.” I’d be interested to hear if you have any practical criteria for determining this.

As to your question to me, I recognize the problem of what Christian Smith has called “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” I’d propose that the basis for our interpretation should be based on science. That is, we should evaluate what leads to human flourishing and what does not, based on observing how humans work.

Of course the aim for me here is not to interpret Scripture, per say, but instead to arrive at Christian praxis–both on a personal and societal level. I would contend that that is the aim of Scripture as Jesus understood it: To lead us to love God, others, and ourselves.


Hi Richard-

It was late last night and I forgot to say that I too love The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love by William Law :smiley: that so influenced GMac (I’m an old fashioned old git and I know William Law far better than Gmac – but GMac is a big influence on a lot of people here). I think these two works should be more widely read/know by Evangelical Universalists.

I guess the problem with a sprit lead interpretation of scripture based on insights of a single charismatic individual is that any leadings need to be tested and reflected upon kin community through a careful process of discussion and consensus building .

Hi Derek –

So you are sort of suggesting that a proper place needs to be given to the Wisdom tradition within scripture here which leads us to judge for ourselves what is right through observation of the natural order of things – ‘Consider the lilies etc …’ I’d agree that the Wisdom tradition, which is right there in the Biblical text, has been largely ignored by evangelicals and this ignorance has lead them up many blind alleys.


Sure Derek. I have a few proposed safeguards.

First, prayer. We must be intentional to ask the Lord to illuminate the passage which we are reading or meditating upon. This is done by a directed heart and an intentional mind. The Hebrews called this meditation technique “kavanah,” a spiritual focus which reads “as if the Lord’s presence is opposite,” face to face and heart to heart in other words. The Lord’s nearness is our good. We seek His input and seal on our readings.

Second, we need to incorporate and promote the sacred qualities of “intuition” and “imagination.” These two should join their third brother, “reason,” at our inner council table. These three brothers were meant to co-rule together. Welcome intuition and imagination. Be gentle with with them. They have been in exile and atrophy for awhile. So, they need exercise. As we let them salivate and synergize our thinking into a higher expectation, imagination and intuition provide not just additive resources to our reasoning abilities, but they add multiplicative mental abilities. The metaphorical mind can effectively use reason, imagination and intuition to translate Old Testament imagery into New Testament meaning. Again, be patient with them. Even if they make mistakes, its not the end of the world. The three will learn to work together in harmony.

Third, watch closely how both Jesus and the apostles use allegory. The dynamic is better observationally caught than methodically taught. Jesus frequently allegorized the Old Testament. Using key imagery from Old Testament passages which were ONLY seen as literal, He would then usurp their literal meaning into an allegorical application toward Himself. He referred to Himself as the Temple of God (John 2:19-22), the true manna from heaven (John 6:50), Jacob’s supernatural ladder (John 1:51), the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-40), the great shepherd of Psalm 23 (John 10:11), etc. When Paul cited Old Testament Scriptures, he always expanded them to either mean something MORE or something OTHER than what they literally said. Paul both approved and modeled the allegorical reading of the Old Testament for us. In 1 Cor. 14:21, Paul took an Old Testament passage which on its face had nothing to do with New Testament tongues (Is. 28:11-12), and transformed, enhanced and enriched it to make it a prophetic passage for the spiritual gift of tongues. Paul did the same thing by excavating the concept of circumcision from an empty and meaningless ritual to a spiritual transformation of the heart. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” 1 Cor. 7:19. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Gal. 5:6. “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:29. The author of Hebrews, also elevated animal sacrifices from being useless rituals under the bare letter of the law to a wonderful prophetic image of Christ’s perfect ransom paid for all under the spiritual reading of the passage. Heb. 10:1-10. Paul also transformed the Sabbath from a letter of the law weekly ritual to an ongoing lifestyle state of being under the spiritual reading. Heb. 4:1-11. Peter and Paul both renovated Old Testament dietary laws by integrating faith and thanksgiving into the true spiritual diet. (Acts. 11:5-10; Rom. 14:1-23; 1 Tim. 4:3-4). Peter did the same thing in taking Joel 2:28-29 and excavating, renovating and elevating it to prophesy the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is beyond dispute that the Old Testament scholars of their day would have accused Paul and Peter (and the other New Testament writers) of butchering and misusing scriptures. All of the above original OT authors had NO idea that what they were writing back then would be allegorized hundreds of years later by NT writers. They didn’t see that the Old Testament scriptures needed to be transformed, enhanced and enriched as prophetic allegory.

Fourth, we should always grasp the allegory loosely. Don’t idolize it. Don’t set it in the cement of doctrine. Allegory is there to inspire us, to catalyze our faith, and to reflect narrative nuances in the Christus Victor story. Allegory is NOT there to form meticulous theological systematic doctrines which fit into a seminary outline. Rather, they are orbiting spiritual satellites which help us triangulate the Lord’s love while we travel the vast meta-narrative of Scripture.

Fifth, the reading must be consistent with the divine nature of Jesus. We must allow the character of God to define Scripture rather than allowing the dead letter of Scripture to define God’s character. Allegory above all must honor God’s character. This was Augustine’s point. If the literal reading dishonors the Lord’s love nature, then its being read wrongly. It must be re-read figuratively. And if, as both C.S. Lewis and John Wesley believed, a figurative reading can’t be found by the current reader, then simply “shelve it” until a better reading does present itself. But until that happens, never concede that a literal reading which dishonors God’s character is correct. Just wait for it unless and until a better reading appears.

Sixth, I love Dick’s idea of submission to a “kin community through a careful process of discussion and consensus.” Sounds like a plan to me.

After your last comment Derek, I wonder if we are not using different terminology for a very similar dynamic. I am intrigued to learn more about your science idea. Do you have a link?


Hi Richard, :smiley:

I like this very much which is quite similar to what George MacDonald wrote regarding imagination:

Pondering what we’ve been discussing I thought it worthwhile going back to something in Richard’s essay Hermano linked to:

I totally agree with this and I think this is the crux of the issue. Understanding the non-violent character of Jesus (despite certain texts that might suggest otherwise to some) is the key. If we have a “true” view of Jesus’ nature (and thus that of God) then we can rightly interpret the rest of the Bible–OT and NT. The question is how to get people (including many on this site) to see and believe in this non-violent character of Jesus? I think great strides are being made in this area but it’s a slow process and the weight of certain theological baggage and the fear that goes along with that is difficult to overcome. Thoughts on how to promote this view?


Steve, I am totally open to new ideas as to how to better promote it. All I can think of is that we just need to keep challenging people’s starting points. A. W. Tozer believed that we tend “by a secret law of the soul” to gravitate toward and grow to resemble our mental image of God. Thus, Tozer was convinced that what comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. High thoughts of God bring us into pure worship and a sanctified walk, while low thoughts of God defile our hearts and corrupt our walk. If people START off with a dead letter approach to Scripture, they will have a bipolar view of God. However, if instead, people START from an intuitive apprehension of Jesus’ virtue, which can only come from a heart encounter WITH Him, then His divine nature will light our way in rightly interpreting Scripture and experience. So, re-establishing or re-aligning starting points would be my best thought. Once we touch the hem of His virtue, our image of God will be made whole.


Hi Richard –

Sometimes people, from the dead letter, do live out of grace. But with these terrible pictures of God being generated by the neo-Reformed I know the damage that is being done to vulnerable hearts and sometimes I fear that the abomination of the anti-pity tradition is being generated before my very eyes because scripture is read merely as information that can be shifted around according to theological whim. I’m thinking of the Neo Calvinist take on God being merciful and sending his rains on the just and the unjust. The neo Calvinist will say this refers to common grace. The non –elect have this in that God provides for their sustenance – but part of the pain of their eternal torment will be having this taken away from them having known it. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the Sermon on the Mount or the Spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. This is completely false. It is pure manipulation of texts seen as units of data.

The Quaker in me believes in the seed Christ in all and that scripture should nurture the seed. I do remember John Everard’s word – a early preacher of free grace and the law of Love, that ‘if you are ever licking, ever fondling the letter of the Word – no marvel it is that you are such starvelings!’.

One thing I really like about Girard’s approach to the parable’s is that he stresses we have to apprehend these from outside the system, of violence and wrath or else we ‘will look and look but not understand’. What are the seemingly violent parables, The Wedding Feast, THE Fragment, The Unjust Steward, the Talents etc about? Are they confirming the old news of God being violent? Or are they encouraging us to question our picture of a violent God and to re-imagine God accordingly. This seems to chime well with your view that scripture actually uncovers the wrath or the love within the person who is reading.


Well said. Great Everard quote too. Thanks. :slight_smile:


Part of the problem I’m coming to feel in all this is a trouble with Scripture (which I guess is a bit of a repeat of last thread, but more specific to one issue) is how many take the starting point with it, and just what people are seeking with it. Scripture cannot have authority or revelation in itself, but it must be founded in God, yet so many Christians see authority deriving from the text itself, and it becomes their starting point. High or low views, competing voices or not, ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’, the text itself is taken to be the source of authority in it’s literal meaning alone, with things taken to reference to itself, and then moving on from there, which is then taken as the means the means and starting point to approach all else and develop all else, with other aspects added in after, with Jesus Himself often understood and judged in light of Scripture, not the other way around. Allot of the arguments derive from this older sense, that Scripture can speak alone and inform us and is shared by all whether they think the text is inerrant and inspired, inspired, enlightened or don’t think it is any of these things, the same basis first point lies hidden behind all this, the Scripture speaks for itself, and the individuals can read it and understand it from itself, which as I see it far from eliminating the danger some see from allegory method as part of an older approach to Scripture, has as created all sorts of different views and theologies from it.

However this is quite different to the view in the early centuries towards Scripture, to once again reference Paul’s reference to the tradition he says he received and passed to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ died, was buried and rose ‘according to the Scriptures’ and repeats this twice, this was central to this tradition or creed from Jerusalem. Yet Paul was an expert in the Torah, and before he encountered the Resurrected Messiah he persecuted the church, and considered himself blameless according to the law, marked out as he thought it of God’s people, serving Him. What changed then as the plain text itself remained the same, it didn’t change, what changed is the encounter with Jesus Himself, and the perspective of the Resurrection and the instruction and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ became his starting point and source of authority and understanding, with which to approach and understand the Scriptures, as he expressed it it removed the veil that had been upon it and revealed it’s true meaning, the OT is about Christ, and is founded on Him and can only be understood through Him. The same thing happened here we see in the Emmaus road with Cleopas as Luke narrates it, the Lord says 'was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures;, yet it’s not as if the scrolls hadn’t been physically opened before, or by these men or Paul. But they read it without understanding what it was really saying or meaning, until Christ opens them and reveals what always there and what it was talking about, until after it was revealed through His life, death and Resurrection, in encountering Christ who opens Scripture and reveals what it is saying and means, He the Word of God is the starting point and the One with which authority and understanding is invested.

And this understanding right in the NT is central to four major points in early Christian views of Scripture, first it was cryptic, without the perspective and starting point of Christ and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to explain and open it and reveal it’s meaning (see Emmaus experience or Paul again), secondly it’s uniform, it’s all about Him, everything is about Jesus and the gospel, it is a commentary on Christ, thirdly the OT is contemporary, it isn’t about events of the past as we so often read it, or did it really happen like it describes it, it’s cryptic, it’s open and it’s uniform in being about the One who opens it and makes it understandable so it’s contemporary and is about the age to come that has began and dawned with Him, and so is about and to us for whom it was written. And the final point is they are inspired and unlike most definitions now that puts the idea of inspiration as something that happened back in antiquity with say Isaiah (or both Isaiah’s :wink: ) and we have understand that, no rather inspiration as they viewed it is that inspiration cannot be separated from the opening of the meaning of the Scriptures by Christ and the reading of the Scriptures. This point derives from the previous as no one, not even Isaiah(s) knew what he(they) were talking about until the meaning had been opened through Christ (no one had been expected a crucified Messiah), so only after the Passion and Resurrection, encountering Christ we can understand what the scroll is talking about. So the act of inspiration cannot be separated from the opening of the meaning of Isaiah and the inspired reading of Isaiah, it all the ancient understanding of saying the OT texts were inspired. It is the understanding of the text from the authority and revelation of Jesus Christ, and crucified and Risen One, it is all about and through Him, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit to see and encounter Jesus, the Word of God in and through it, to understand it. Scripture is about Him and a window to Him, and is founded on Him as the starting point and the understanding of all things and comes from Him and the gospel.

And allegory was how this was understood (founded in Jesus in reference to Jonah and throughout the NT understanding of the OT itself), as for concerns about it being used any way and people getting different meanings, I would suggest much of the church is in this situation with non-allegorical readings of Scripture, without using the ancient understanding. Secondly perhaps we should also seek the unity and communion of the Church as understood in the past, to act together in a conciliar communion basing on symphony of engagement founded in the central starting point and Truth of Jesus and His living Presence and the action and living voice of the Holy Spirit heard through the Church founded on the tradition centred in Christ being heard through the Church acting in conciliar unity, allowing us to stay founded to the starting point, the hypothesis in ancient meaning, that opens, and illuminates all else.



I appreciate more of your approach, and of your continuing correspondence here in the thread, than may be apparent yet. But I haven’t seen you address yet how you avoid reading the NT and Jesus by the same bracketing method as the OT; and without such an avoidance your appeal to read the OT by light of Jesus (and the NT authors) can only end up being recursively undermined. Or perhaps your imaginary additions to the the fig tree to make it synch up perfectly, in your mind, with what happened at the cleansing, are an example.

Or take 1 Corinthians 10, which you cite later, saying:

But surely this is a bizarre example of a warning not to assume an OT passage is a positive model to emulate, and a bizarre example of NT passages meant to warn us how NOT to approach God by means of a NT allegory which says other and more than what the text literally says. For the text literally says that these people were engaged in obvious sins that no authority in either the NT or the OT ever promoted as being proper ways to approach God!

The only reason to cite this passage at all as an example of your allegoricizing method, is because Paul seems to be warning (much as Jude in his epistle, and rather more explicitly there) about not provoking the Lord == Christ to jealousy (e.g. 10:22) and so being destroyed by God in various ways. True, Paul references “the destroyer” destroying them, but Paul hands over impenitent sinners like the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy earlier in 1 Cor (and a couple of named people in 1 Tim) to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, apparently to death, so that their spirits may be saved by God in the day of the Lord to come. God was not well-pleased with most of those who drank from Christ (and were baptized through the sea and ate the same spiritual food and drink, etc.), and part of Paul’s evidence that God was not well-pleased with them is that they were slain in the wilderness in various ways. From start to end in that chapter, Paul presents God (== Christ) as the authority involved with their deaths, just as the OT writers presented God.

You want Christians to appeal to 1 Cor 10 to reveal qualities of God (where God also == Christ, as I agree is intended here) that should be confirmed in the OT account in question; but Paul does here (like elsewhere on occasion) confirm that God was either the doer of the violence or directly authorized it. Paul’s lesson here is to remember that just as the Lord killed those people for their persistent misbehaviors, Christians aren’t inherently immune from similar punishment. We can only escape that contextual conclusion by recursing your principles back into the NT itself.

This and similar methodological problems were my main complaints. And those complaints remain. C. S. Lewis, for all his flexibility about what may be found in the OT and how to interpret it (and I do generally agree with him on that), knew better than to go this route.

It is at least indicative of your chosen hermeneutic, and you emphasize it strongly in that article; ditto in the material you copy-pasted from your book in (not-)reply to earlier remarks about the cleansing of the Temple.

Attributions which continue in the NT, despite being more distinct about Satan’s rebellion against God. So apparently mistaking Satan’s role (occasionally, not always) in the OT wasn’t the problem.

Over to Derek for a while,

Aside from those pressures, which are certainly considerable, there is also the simple fact that we can know nothing at all about the content of scripture without proportionately solid exegesis. Richard is proposing a hermeneutic based on appeal to the accuracy of various scriptural details, so the accuracy of the data and a valid arrangement of the data into correct implicative meanings is hardly incidental to his approach.

I could imagine all kinds of things about the data, to illustrate a theological principle that God is love; but at some point I would be writing theological fantasy instead, and not about what Jesus and His followers actually said and did. It ought to be sufficiently obvious that I’m not against writing theological fantasies in principle (since my only published book so far is a theological fantasy!); but neither am I going to appeal to my theological fantasy as a hermeneutic for interpreting the meaning of a set of scriptures.

Jesus has that prerogative. I’m not the living action of the self-existent independent fact of all reality who inspired the people I am interpreting. Nor am I commenting on scripture as an inspired prophetic authority.

This does bring up the proper topic of reading the scriptures by means of the Holy Spirit, but it must be admitted out of the gate (as of course you do when asking Richard how he suggests avoiding such problems) that the proliferation of Protestantisms (and Catholicisms to a lesser extent) cannot be laid only at the feet of mere unspiritual legalists. Every denomination I know of appeals to “reading by the Holy Spirit” to justify their differences from other Christians.

Whereas, getting in the data, and inferring the data validly, ought to be of some connection to working with the Spirit of Truth; so any procedure which requires flouting this in order to stand, I have trouble recognizing as being particularly inspired.

Let us come to concrete examples. When I interpret the scriptures I routinely pray with a directed heart and an intentional mind, asking the Lord to illuminate the passage and to head me off from conveniently overlooking problems – among other things, like praying not to let my intuition and imagination (of which I have been blessed with some abundance) run off the strings of my reason. Someone with atrophied intuition and imagination would have to pray for those to be wakened, I agree, but even then all three are supposed to work together and one of reason’s functions is to keep the imagination of solipsistic intuition from seeing what isn’t there and from ignoring what is there.

This helps prevent me from saying things like, for example, the 23rd Psalm was ONLY (Richard’s emphasis) seen as literal.

Really? The OT saints and everyone up to Jesus and the apostles regarded YHWH as a literal shepherd and people as literal sheep who needed to be crooked and rodded and occasionally hounded down in mercy and goodness? David (as one of the “ALL OT authors”) “had NO idea that what [he was] writing back then would be allegorized hundreds of years later by NT writers?” Whoever at any time took that Psalm of all Psalms as only literal??

Jesus isn’t, by some contrast to its “literal” meaning, “allegorically” “usurping” its application toward himself; He’s claiming to be YHWH the Shepherd – and not only allegorically YHWH! (For which the Pharisees try to stone Him.)

So does John present Jesus in the Revelation at chapter 19, by the way. The metaphor already built-in to the Psalm by David (via God’s inspiration) serves as an important thematic purpose for interpreting the meaning of whatever is happening when Jesus runs down those ten kings and their armies and scatters their dead bodies for the birds. Whether that ever happens literally or figuratively (or both), the meaning via Psalm 23 shows the intention to be salvific and remedial. In fact the vision fits the relevant Hebrew verb of mercy and goodness running “me” down like a king overrunning a rebel army to bring them back into loyal service again. Once the connection to Psalm 23 is made, the Psalm everyone both Jewish and Christian likes to sing in application to ourselves, we ought to have hope for those kings of the earth, too, even if their rundown is more inconvenient to them (to whatever extent). I can work up connections to John 10, too, and show how the intention of Christ that the sheep be one flock with one shepherd is fulfilled in RevJohn a few chapters later despite the figurative or even literal death of the kings of the earth.

Now surely I am not failing to apply imagination and intuition here! – but neither am I clunkily pitting a supposedly “literal” reading of one of the most famous metaphoric works in human history against an allegorical reading that Christ first begins to supply; nor am I pitting the New Testament as always being a superior work against the OT. On the contrary, my scriptural case for Christian universalism often involves going back to the context of the OT citations!

Paul rarely cites the OT to change their meaning around to something else from what they “literally” said, though sometimes he expands on them thematically. More often (like most rabbis) he cites the OT expecting readers to remember what else they say, somewhat truncating the reference though he may unpack implications afterward.

He doesn’t for example simply change Hosiah 13:14 at 1 Cor 15:55, from YHWH calling on death and sheol to swallow impenitent rebel Israel, into a question taunting death and sheol. Hosiah himself a chapter later talks about YHWH triumphantly resurrecting rebel Israel, and about how all this shall result in Israel repenting and returning to loyalty. Paul’s citation to the Corinthian congregation as testimony for why their evangelical labors shall not in God be vain, has in view the salvation of Gentiles (via an Isaiah quote) and salvation of rebel Israel (via the Hosea quote) in connection to the coming general resurrection. Thematically it all pulls together, though non-universalists tend to miss the contextual connections.

The only reason to pit Paul vs. Hosea would be to disavow Hosea’s expectation of God’s violence as inferior to Paul’s own occasional expectations of God’s violence – and then to ignore or discount the latter as inconvenient data!

Richard hasn’t brought up 1 Cor 15:55 and thereabouts, so I’m not replying to any appeals of his on that. I’m only using that as an example of what Paul does instead of Richard’s notion that Paul routinely expands or even outright changes the meaning of OT references from what was originally there. The relationship of Paul and other NT authorities, up to and including Jesus, are a lot more nuanced and complex than that.

At any rate, what is Richard’s fourth criteria for reading the scriptures by the Spirit (over against how everyone else supposedly reads it)?

Well, surely everyone here knows from experience that non-universalists have no problem grasping allegory loosely when the allegory might testify in favor of universalism! They aren’t doing anything different in that regard.

But Richard has only a minute earlier insisted that we take allegorical readings supposedly used by Jesus and His apostles over-against what were supposedly only intended as “literal” readings, to be a foundation of doctrine! – for example the doctrine of God’s non-violence and Satan’s inspiration of OT saints (or their mistaking Satan’s activities and words for God’s.) Richard strongly promotes this bracketing technique and connects it to a properly spiritual reading of scripture, and it isn’t as though Richard is granting that those who argue in favor of God’s violence might be correct and at least have plausible arguments. He’s pretty doctrinally emphatic about the results he thinks he is getting by this method.

So, Richard? – how does this not come out in effect to ‘Learn the correct doctrine from Jesus when He talks allegorically about those nasty OT things, because Jesus’ allegories are superior to their spiritually poor literal beliefs; but don’t learn the correct doctrine from OT or NT allegories even when provided by Jesus, if those happen to talk in positive ways about violence to persons’? Base our doctrine on allegory over literal meanings until allegory becomes a problem, then remember not to set allegories in the cement of doctrine.’

All of Richard’s opponents at least think they are doing that. Are you saying you have never yet run into such people, Richard?? You are fortunate if so!

If what you mean is that our idea of God and Christ (and the Spirit) should be theologically coherent, of course many people are going to say yes and we get that from scriptural testimony – and here you are wanting us to act with radical scepticism about a very large portion of scriptural testimony, on grounds which undermine accepting the other 1/4 of scriptural testimony if consistently applied. We cannot even begin, on your methods, except by selectively ignoring and redefining data in 1/4 of the set for purposes of interpreting what is of God and what is actually of Satan in the other 3/4 of the set.

I understand the difficulties involved in working out a coherent metaphysic from scriptural testimony – or even from philosophical principles, which is somewhat easier (for not having to sift through a bunch of obscure and often apparently conflicting testimony) though still super-difficult. Christians have been working on that project for nearly 2000 years. And I am not saying it’s impossible to work out a coherent and accurate theology, nor am I saying that non-universalists cannot be challenged on their soteriology in relation to coherent theology. A lot of work can be done just by insisting that they stay coherent with what they themselves agree to be true (instead of, for example, affirming God’s omnipresence when it’s time to talk about that, but then denying it when time to talk about an everlasting hell of separation from God.)

But Derek’s question was how to read the scripture safely in conjunction with guidance by the Holy Spirit, and your methods undermine that so far as to not even provide solid grounding anymore to get started safely figuring out the divine nature of Jesus and the character of God from the scriptures. So where are people supposed to be getting those things from? Spiritual inspiration? Christians of all sorts think they’re getting spiritual inspiration when coming up with divine violence and non-universalism! Must be Satanic inspiration continuing among Christians not only the OT saints!

(Not that I’m against that idea in principle, but your criteria for why we shouldn’t regard the NT testimony including about Jesus by report as being subject to the same bracketing techniques, seems thin at best.)

Okay, back to Derek:

If He inspired the sabbath and its purposes to begin with, I should hope He (he???) was trying to be true to the Authorial intent. And in fact Jesus occasionally provides relevant examples from the scriptures which undermine the Pharisaical application of hedging the Torah. (The priests do work on the sabbath and yet are not breaking the sabbath; is it lawful to evil things or the best of things on the sabbath; etc.) Moreover, in both GosJohn and the Synoptics Jesus will often quote a scripture with the rabbinic principle of expecting His disciples to recognize the citation and apply the contexts (thus not-incidentally treating His religious opponents like errant disciples!)

Even the principle that the scriptures must be interpreted through the priority of love, involves a claim about proper exegesis as well as about proper eisegesis.

Yet He doesn’t ignore the other majority OT narrative that looked for YHWH to come in violence to kill rebel Israel by the typical (and typically messy) method of sending pagan armies. And I’m not prepared to treat Jesus as being satanically inspired to reference that violence.

The NT authors themselves don’t ignore that majority OT narrative looking for YHWH to come in violence to kill the Gentiles (and rebel Israel) either; so ignoring their not-ignoring of that narrative doesn’t look to me like any solid ground for pitting them as “the New Testament” over-against “the Old Testament” saints as examples for how as Christians we should bracket similar OT references to YHWH as being references to Satan instead.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am definitely NOT trying to argue that we should conclude NT authors (much moreso Jesus) were inspired by Satan or mistook for God what Satan was actually doing. I am only saying Richard’s methodology ends up providing no protection from this.

No, the point with the cleansing of the Temple, as I said numerous times, was to demonstrate what I see as a minor weakness in Richard’s rhetorical presentation. (In fact he was the one to bring in the tree, not me. Though admittedly I’m willing to beat that tree like a dead horse once he brings it up. :wink: ) His Biblical exegesis has much worse problems, although I do think they’re connected to his rhetorical overreach along that line.

I suppose I could point out, though, that imagining what I thought I was demonstrating, instead of what I repeatedly said I was demonstrating, does not seem to me like a great example of the benefits of loosely exegeting something in a priority of love. :slight_smile:

But for what it is worth, had I gotten around to posting my mitigations to offset my criticisms of Richard’s approach (as exemplified for better or for worse in the article originally presented for comment), I would have agreed that it is better for Richard to be compassionate and also a terrible exegete than for Richard to not be compassionate and yet be a more accurate exegete. Jesus doesn’t judge us on our exegetical acumen after all, as we all I think agree. :slight_smile:

(A point that inaccurate exegetes have often missed, claiming accurate exegesis. Or so I would exegetically argue, at length and in detail. Insert levels of irony as appropriate. :mrgreen: :ugeek: )


Hi, RHM!

I wouldn’t have gotten onto him about copying and pasting if he had made it clear from the outset (or perhaps afterward) that he wasn’t actually replying to anything I wrote, and wasn’t actually addressing why I referenced the cleansing, therefore his criticisms in the pasted appendix weren’t at all aimed at me (or anyone else in the thread who referenced the cleansing if anyone did).

There would have been a lingering strange discontinuity about why he was using that example instead of addressing the more problematic critiques – I’m sympathetic to the need to save time and energy, but couldn’t he have copy-pasted something pertinent about Jesus positively referencing the coming violent destruction of Jerusalem; or the Hebraist positively reffing Deuteronomy’s punishments; or RevJohn; or the Petrines; or the Holy Spirit killing Christians; or any of many such things in the supposedly spiritually superior NT by which we’re supposed to be interpreting the OT in a similarly superior spirit?

But by taking a moment to disassociate the sample he did give, he wouldn’t have been (even inadvertently) treating people here as though I and/or they were like his hyperactive pastor. Instead he took a moment to write what looks like a new introduction reinforcing the false connection, that anyone referencing the cleansing must simply be using that as evidence for KILLER JESUS.

Of course it’s topically relevant, but it isn’t replying to anyone in the thread and he presented his material as though he was.

I agree it’s very pertinent to the discussion, but Richard ended up just imagining shared symbolism (and also somewhat ignoring what symbolism is actually on the page). Which is also pertinent as an example of his methods, which is why he included that part in his sample selection.

It also, incidentally, happens to be pertinent to the only reason I brought up the cleansing at all: it’s an example refuting his rhetorical overemphasis.

Except that the context of the grammar better indicates Jesus was whipping people, too. And the context of the fig tree is pretty clearly an enacted parable for what’s coming to Jerusalem eventually. Otherwise Richard wouldn’t have had to imagine a bunch of other things read into the fig tree to make it come out as a non-violent reference to people.

I don’t question his compassion in trying to do so; but I do criticize his claim that this is a simple and obvious hermeneutic approach that anyone (or at least any real Christian) ought to be able to see and the only reason people don’t see it is because they’re emotionally enthralled with having a killer Jesus.

Which is why I went out of my way to acknowledge that even whipping a few criminals (adults in moral comprehension of their actions), much less snicking some cattle, or even killing a tree (and a lot of fish), would be of no value as evidence for more violent punishments of humans, and would not on the other hand count as evidence against a sober and nuanced position of God’s non-militancy. But (as I shall continue to repeat until someone realizes this is true :wink: ), I wasn’t referring to the cleansing as evidence against a sober and nuanced position of God’s non-militancy, only against a rhetorical overemphasis on God’s non-violence: thus as only a minor criticism of the original article cited by Hermano.


Sobornost asks

I had not thought of it along those lines, but that could be an interesting alleyway to pursue. I actually meant using the methodologies of the natural and social sciences in the many particular fields that explore humans and how we tick (psychology, sociology, neurology, evolutionary biology etc) and looking to their insights to augment our perspectives of how we can work towards a world with more love and less violence. I think we’d really benefit from learning how their methodologies help towards making objective observations about our human condition, and find it unfortunate that the vast majority of theologians are woefully ignorant of the most basic understanding of psychology and its insights into what hurts us and what makes us flourish, and thus into moral development.



Of the criteria you mention the majority strike me as aids to foster creativity (imagination, intuition). As an artist I can certainly appreciate the value of that. I also appreciate the idea of praying, of listening to one another in community too. However as much as these are all good and valuable, they do not actually present and criteria for distinguishing what is Christ-like and what is not. As Jason points out, lots of groups pray, believe they are Spirit led, and concur with their community, and yet have promoted theologies that are deeply wrong (think: crusades, burning people at the stake, slavery, etc). So none of these, are in themselves a safeguard against this. that’s not to say we should discard them. We should not, but I think we need more.

Now let me add that a historical/critical approach does not help either. In fact it has often been marshaled to defend such violence being committed in God’s name. The problem here is that biblical scholarship has largely divorced itself from any sort of ethical engagement with the Bible. Many contemporary scholars are calling for a change here, and that’s good news. I think at the very least we need to know how to apply the methods of authorial intent in order to to say when the Old Testament witness gets God wrong.

One criteria you mention is being “consistent with the divine nature of Jesus.” This comes the closest to being a concrete criteria. However, the difficulty is that the question then becomes which Jesus? Here your Wesley quote “Your God is my Satan” is apt. Many people have a Jesus that is in line with the very image of God that you and I view as anti-Christ. So simply saying that are view should be “consistent with the divine nature of Jesus” is unfortunately not enough.

I’d say that we need to go behind that more, and get to what Jesus values, understanding why he valued it, and then making arguments for the validity of this not based on the fact that Jesus liked it, but based on the fact that what Jesus valued was actually good on its own merit.


I guess Richard Beck one of the featured authors here goes into this territory with his Experimental Theology’ blog Derek (although I don’t read it lots). Also I guess the tradition of Natural Theology is relevant - and Virtue Ethics too. And I do think there are biblical grounds for ‘natural theology’ in the Wisdom Tradition, and whenever I read about it this rings bells for me :slight_smile:


I think this is a very laudable goal. :slight_smile:



Having done a good deal of scholarly research into this myself, I have to say I very much disagree with your reading of how the NT authors and Jesus interpreted the OT.

However, before getting into that, I need to ask this: I am getting the impression that you are making an argument in favor of violence committed in God’s name, rather than activity working towards reducing and eliminating violence in our world. So I wanted to give you a chance to clarify if this is not in fact want you were intending.


Yes those all sound like promising avenues!


Jason I went back to make sure I wasn’t trippin’ and just imagined the cleansing being brought up. Dick did before Richard ever posted.

Phew. Thought I was losing it. :slight_smile:


I agree there is great potential in the Wisdom tradition - which is often neglected, partly thanks to the Reformers. I love this passage from the deutero-canonical book of Wisdom:
“In Wisdom there is a spirit intelligent and holy … so pure she pervades and permeates all things. Like a fine mist she rises from the power of God, a clear effluence from the glory of the Almighty; … She is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness. She … makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God … against
wisdom no evil can prevail. She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.”
(Wisdom 7.22-8.1 Revised English Bible)
Here are seeds of a non-violent, healing, restorative gospel - supporting the view of sin as sickness to be healed of rather than crime to be punished for, as in Derek’s book and some of the traditions Dick draws inspiration from. The feminine language is offputting for some, but that may be its strength and prophetic value.


Jason, there is an old saying that a quality reviewer will never treat an article like a book or a book like an article.

Unfortunately, you criticized my article like it was a book. This is one reason I think what you described as “jumping up and down on my article” is not in good form.

But, be that as it may, I gave you a link to a 400 plus page PDF book where I provide an answer to most every issue you have raised. I don’t necessarily expect you to agree with my answers, especially given the vehemence of your tone, but if you really want to fairly evaluate what I am proposing, then go to that appendix where I list most all the topics you mention. Then I would be happy to dialogue, especially if we can keep the dismissive "duh"s and sarcastic "uh"s which you used earlier to a minimum. That’s not irony, that’s sarcasm. That just doesn’t help dialogue.

Concerning your continuing criticism of me for daring to quote myself without explicitly notifying you first, I would note that you and I had no previous dialogue about anything. You sent me no invitation to join the thread or opportunity to respond to any clarifying questions, but just started blazing away. I was very late to the thread and chose to respond to that one point amongst your many criticisms, while citing the link to my book to explain your other objections. The reason I decided to include the article was your rather vivid reference included below:

“Also, ever been driven out of somewhere you don’t want to be by a whip of small cords? Any historian (or for topical reference any slave or slave-master!) ought to be able to tell you, it would hurt and maybe even leave scars – depending on how it was wielded and on how obstinate the person was on staying in the area. We don’t have details of how far Jesus went exactly in doing it, but if he braided the thing Himself He had to spend at least half an hour preparing and that shows commitment to using the thing in an non-incidental manner.”

You now claim you weren’t citing this passage as a prooftext that Jesus was physically violent toward men. I’m glad you now feel this way, but the above quote indicates you felt otherwise when you squandered your imagination to concoct this bloody imagery-- of Jesus taking thirty minutes to carefully weave a whip which would hurt and possibly scar men. You WERE clearly planting the visual seed. Just own it.

Regardless, I will continue to “quote myself” as often as I feel necessary. You are hereby put on notice. You are not the originator of many of the objections to a non-violent Jesus which are based on passages you mentioned. You have asked nothing new. If I have answered the core of your question before, I am not going to reinvent the wheel. If you manage to ask something new and original, I’ll make sure to give you a hot-off-the-press answer.

At this point, my book is my answer to your concerns about my article.

I see your hermeneutical approach relies heavily, perhaps exclusively, on verbal context, but relies little on subtext or super-text, terms I described in my previous posts. I would refer you to my comments on subtext, for it is there where allegory is birthed. I see no place for subtext in your style, which is your choice of course, but this is where we have differing reading styles.

But, keeping it at merely a contextual level, my article provided a plethora of proof by well established Jewish and Christian authors and theologians which established that the Old Testament THEOLOGICAL CONTEXT (as established by both Biblical and extraBiblical ancient Jewish literature) showed a very different view of Satan than is presented by the New Testament (although their view of Satan as a pneumatic nemesis rather than a servant angel did develop more during the inter-testimonial period preceding the coming of Jesus). Concerning their insightful findings, you were strangely and, to use your word, “clunkily” silent.

All I did was to take their findings half a step further to show how the OT saints’ undifferentiated view of Satan THEN subsequently affected their religious expression of ideas in OT Scripture. You, however, ignore these scholars and somehow still maintain that the Old Testament view of Satan is AS informed, if not more informed, than the New Testament. That is simply untenable. I believe your view of the Old Testament THEOLOGICAL CONTEXT with regard to Satan is grossly underdeveloped.

Reading your Temple and Fig Tree analyses, you engage almost exclusively in “eisegesis”, but little to no “exegesis.” Your comments about the Temple incident, the broad Pharisaical support of Jesus which you claim(!), as well as your quick dismissal of traditional exegetes on this passage, all confirm that you are reading what you want into the text. You are looking to justify an occasionally or potentially violent Jesus and that is determining your one dimensional understanding of this passage. I certainly am not saying “eisegesis” is always unprofitable, but just don’t mislabel it as “exegesis” and at the same time sarcastically dismiss others who are actually engaging in “exegesis.”

I am sure you will say I am the one engaging in eisegesis, but that is you making another hasty conclusion. As I said, I am factoring in the “theological context” of the Old Testament writers to better understand the meanings, definitions and applications of the words they left us. For them, the term “God” included the “wrath of Satan.” They believed Satan was God’s obedient and official “minister of wrath,” His “angry voice.” Recognizing this dynamic is PURE exegesis. Remaining ignorant of this fact retards our understanding of Scripture’s super-text, where the overall flow of the Bible is headed in other words.

You, by contrast, are instead investing in speculation on a Jesus who spends 30 minutes honing and weaving a scar-causing instrument of pain with which to afflict humans. That is PURE eisegesis.

Actually, to disregard “theological context” as you have clearly done is better described “reverse eisegesis,” that is, reading OUT of the text what you don’t want to be there. You are NOT engaging the texts on multiple levels of interpretation-- through context, subtext and super-text. You appear oblivious to the ancient world’s Prosopological reading style (see Pauline scholar Matthew Bates’ book discussed in my bellow link to The Jesus Hermeneutic). Rather, you are largely reading the passages in question by the dead and brittle letter. You are not vigorously engaging, stretching, or exploring the VARIOUS dynamics, the fuller meanings behind the words, or factoring in the theological perspectives of those who actually wrote the words. There is nothing wrong with not being aware of ancient reading styles, but when you brashly bash others who are aware of them for not meeting your 21st century sensibilities, you honestly need to take a step back and reconsider that this may take a little more investment to grasp.

Literalism is lazy, hasty and a wide open door to bring our own suppositions to the text. This is not subtext, but subverted text. The fact that Old Testament writers viewed Yahweh as God’s loving right hand and Satan as His wrathful left is FULL of theological implications. You should at least admit that. For instance, Old Testament saints would frequently pray a beggar’s plea directly to God to stay His wrath because they saw Satan and God joined at the conceptual hip, one in purpose and intent.

This is NOT the New Testament way. New Testament prayers, by contrast, were always prayed in the Greek imperative mood, boldly coming to the throne of grace in time of need, rebuking and resisting Satan directly. There was no begging of a wrathful God to stay his hand in the New. This is a huge difference of our abiding posture toward God. You really should be rejoicing at this truth instead if scoffing at it.

Regarding the developmental limitations in the Old Testament regarding Satan, here are some amazing statistics. A typical Old Testament is 1,109 pages compared to the New Testament’s 334 pages. The Old Testament is over three times larger than the New. Yet, the New Testament references to Satan dwarf the Old Testament references. Satan basically just appears in three Old Testament passages - - Job 1-2; Zech. 3:1-2 and 1 Chr. 21:1. Yet, in the New Testament every writer mentions Satan. “Devil” is mentioned 60 times, “Devils” 51 times, “Satan” 31 times, as well as a plethora of other verses mentioning Satan by other names, such as the wicked one (1 Jn. 5:18), the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), your adversary (1 Pet. 5:8), the tempter (Matt. 4:3), a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44), prince of this world (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), accuser of our brethren (Rev. 12:10), thief (Jn. 10:10), a liar and the father of it (Jn. 8:44), angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the great dragon (Rev. 12:9).

And yet you steadfastly claim (or appear to) there is no significant difference between the Satan portrayed in the Old and New Testaments.

Here are some more facts to ponder:

Abraham never mentioned the name of Satan.
Isaac never mentioned the name of Satan.
Jacob never mentioned the name of Satan.
Moses never mentioned the name of Satan.
David never mentioned the name of Satan.

These Old Testament saints never rebuked the demonic, never cast out devils and never engaged in spiritual warfare against dark powers and principalities. When they prayed to God, their approach was to ask God to do or not to do something. “God, please don’t destroy us” or “God, please destroy our earthly enemy” or “God, please be merciful and stop afflicting us.” It was all in God’s hands, in other words. They frequently prayed for the Lord to relent and change His mind about things. They actually asked the Lord to “repent” of His destructions toward them.

The bottom line is that Satan is rarely mentioned in the Old Testament, and is never identified either as the source of evil or as an enemy of God. When Satan is mentioned, he is seen as a servant of God, merely obeying the directives of God. In fact, according to modern day Jewish encyclopedias, Satan is still considered by the Jews to be the angel of death described in the Old Testament who simply carries out the judgments and punishments of God.

Jesus, by contrast, continually exposed and rebuked both Satan and his devils. He made clear that Satan was a cosmic rebel opposed to God’s kingdom on every level. Satan was not working for God but against Him.

Jesus revealed that Satan is the author and sender of sin, death, sickness, lust, pride, destruction and oppression, NOT God. John 8:44; Acts 10:19; Hebrews 2:14. “ALL that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is NOT OF THE FATHER, BUT IS OF THE WORLD.” 1 John 2:16.

Since Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world,” a ruler in whose power the whole world lies, we know that ALL sinful lust and pride come NOT from the Father, but from Satan. John 12:31; 14:30, 16:11; 1 John 5:19. We, as mankind, certainly wrongfully cooperate with the evil concocted by Satan, BUT “he” is the author and sender of it, NOT Jesus, NOT the Holy Ghost, and NOT the Heavenly Father.

Jesus came to DIFFERENTIATE our image of God, to purify it, to purge Satan totally out of the equation so that we could finally behold the goodness of God without blemish or flaw. All we have to do is aggressively ALLOW the Holy Spirit to renew our minds to “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2.


Jesus modeled this specific combat declaration for us in the two following passages:

Luke 4:5-8
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

Matthew 16:21-23
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

If using this combat-cry was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for us. If it was necessary for Jesus to cast behind Him all Satanic ideas about His Heavenly Father’s will, nature and purposes, then it is necessary for us as well. The Old Testament saints didn’t know this. We NOW do, at least if we want to.

Moreover, with regard to prayer, Jesus never prayed to change God’s will but rather to release it. Jesus didn’t change God’s mind, He revealed it. Jesus prayed that God’s will be done on earth, NOT that God repent of His planned evil in order to line up with our prayer petitions. Exodus 32:12. We are the ones who need to repent and relent of evil, not God. His mercy and grace is light years ahead of us of every level.

Without the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth, Old Testament saints simply could not accurately process HOW the two invisible personalities of God and Satan operated on the earth. It wasn’t God working WITH Satan as they supposed. It was God working AGAINST Satan as Jesus revealed. Jesus revealed that between their two kingdoms, there was no treaty, no cooperation, no partnership, no under-the-table deals, no compromise, no joint operation going on. IT WAS WAR! Jesus stated the battle lines of this war in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” Satan = stealing, killing, destroying. Jesus = life abundant.

Let me close by responding to two of your criticisms/questions. First, you asked how I apply the bracket to the New Testament. I don’t apply it because I don’t think it’s needed in the New. First, I think your analysis of the New Testament stance on Satan is largely incorrect. The progression of Satan from Old Testament servant angel to New Testament cosmic rebel was gradual. I agree with Derek that the New Testament is the floor, the Old Testament the basement underneath that floor, but our current calling is to continue to extend the ceiling as high as we can conceive it.

So, to answer your question, the Old Testament has several roadblocks to God’s non-violent goodness, whereas the New has a few speed-bumps. However, the trajectory of the New, the super-text in other words, points to the destination I am proposing-- that God is non-violent, while Satan, whether a devilish dynamic or a devilish entity, is the source of all violence and destruction.

The New Testament verses I cited above dwarf the few you cited in your post for your proposition that Satan is still God’s cozy thug in the NT who continues to do his dirty work. You are misinterpreting many NT texts: Ananias and Sapphira, Revelation, and several others you mention, all of which I discuss in my book. Those not withstanding, there are a few speed-bumps which I also discuss in my book.

But, the overwhelming super-text of the NT paints Satan as opponent of God’s will, not an agent of it. You have to look where the overall flow of Scripture is headed, not to a few isolated passages which are still tinged with Old Testament wrath. NT writers did a have an occasional flare up of Old Testament hyper-sovereignty every now and then which caused a speed bump here and there, especially when it came to referencing certain enemies of the Gospel. BUT, taking Paul’s teaching as a whole, he was light years ahead of the OT view of Satan, as was John, as was Peter, as was Jesus.

Why, oh why would we regress back into an OT undifferentiated view of God and Satan. Why not instead accept the developmental promotion Jesus brought us? God is not our enemy. Satan is. That there is a quantum leap in the theological development of Satan between Old and New Testaments is really beyond dispute. Why you continue to dispute it then, is most puzzling.

Do you really propose that the Jesus revealed in the Gospels is the same divinity who the Old Testament describes below?

  1. “The LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nothing.” Deuteronomy 28:63. WHAT???

  2. “The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee.” Deuteronomy 28:21. YIKES!!!

  3. “The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption , and with a fever , and with an inflammation , and with an extreme burning , and with the sword , and with blasting , and with mildew ; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.” Deuteronomy 28:22. OUCH!!!

  4. “The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust : from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:24. GULP!!!

  5. “The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies : thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air , and unto the beasts of the earth , and no man shall fray them away.” Deuteronomy 28:25-26. EEEWWW!!!

  6. “The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt , and with the emerods, and with the scab , and with the itch , whereof thou canst not be healed.” Deuteronomy 28:27. GROSS!!!

  7. “The LORD shall smite thee with madness , and blindness , and astonishment of heart : And thou shalt grope at noonday , as the blind gropeth in darkness , and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways : and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore.” Deuteronomy 28:28-29. OMIGOSH!!!

  8. “The LORD shall smite thee in the knees , and in the legs , with a sore botch that cannot be healed , from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.” Deuteronomy 28:35. SHEESH!!

  9. “The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known ; and there shalt thou serve other gods , wood and stone.” Deuteronomy 28:36. HE MAKES ME SERVE OTHER GODS??!!

  10. “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed ; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God , to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder , and upon thy seed for ever.” Deuteronomy 28:45-46. ON MY CHILDREN FOREVER AND EVER??!!

  11. “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness , and with gladness of heart , for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger , and in thirst , and in nakedness , and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck , until he have destroyed thee.” Deuteronomy 28:47-48. HE CONTROLS MY ENEMIES??!!

  12. “The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far , from the end of the earth , as swift as the eagle flieth ; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand ; A nation of fierce countenance , which shall not regard the person of the old , nor shew favour to the young : And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle , and the fruit of thy land , until thou be destroyed : which also shall not leave thee either corn , wine , or oil , or the increase of thy kine , or flocks of thy sheep , until he have destroyed thee… And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body , the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters , which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege , and in the straitness , wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee.” Deuteronomy 28:49-51, 53. HE WILL SEND AN ENEMY WHO CAUSES ME TO EAT MY OWN CHILDREN!!!

  13. “The LORD will make thy plagues wonderful , and the plagues of thy seed , even great plagues , and of long continuance , and sore sicknesses , and of long continuance . Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt , which thou wast afraid of ; and they shall cleave unto thee.” Deuteronomy 28:59. WONDERFUL PLAGUES???!!

  14. “Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt , which thou wast afraid of ; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness , and every plague , which is not written in the book of this law , them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:60-61. DESTROYED BY GOD???!!

  15. “The LORD shall give thee thee a trembling heart , and failing of eyes , and sorrow of mind : And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night , and shalt have none assurance of thy life : In the morning thou shalt say , Would God it were even ! and at even thou shalt say , Would God it were morning ! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear , and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.” Deuteronomy 28:65-67. THE LORD MAKES US FEARFUL AND MISERABLE FOR NOT LOVING AND OBEYING HIM??! !

  16. Jesus killed a nation full of Egyptian firstborn infants and children during the well-known Exodus story.

  17. Jesus killed a huge city full of children of all ages in Sodom and Gomorra (not to mention all the other children killed in the flood, or at God’s express command in the various Biblical bloodbaths, including even rebellious Israelite children under God’s “no exception” stoning law). God burns these two cities to death. In Genesis 19:24, God kills everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from the sky. Then God kills Lot’s wife for looking back at her burning home.

  18. God has 42 children mauled by bears. In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some youths tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them. (Newer cosmetic translations say the bears “maul” the children, but the original Hebrew, baqa, means “to tear apart.”)

  19. God drowns the whole earth in Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, and fetuses.

  20. God kills half a million people 2 Chronicles 13:15-18, God helps the men of Judah kill 500,000 of their fellow Israelites.

  21. God kills 14,000 people for complaining that God keeps killing them.
    In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.

  22. Genocide after genocide after genocide. In Joshua 6:20-21, God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho, killing “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In Deuteronomy 2:32-35, God has the Israelites kill everyone in Heshbon, including children. In Deuteronomy 3:3-7, God has the Israelites do the same to the people of Bashan. In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they take as spoils of war. In 1 Samuel 15:1-9, God tells the Israelites to kill all the Amalekites – men, women, children, infants, and their cattle – for something the Amalekites’ ancestors had done 400 years earlier.

  23. God kills 50,000 people for curiosity. In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant. (Newer cosmetic translations count only 70 deaths, but their text notes admit that the best and earliest manuscripts put the number at 50,070.)

  24. God orders 3,000 Israelites killed for inventing a false god. In Exodus 32, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments. The Israelites are bored, so they invent a golden calf god. Moses comes back and God commands him: “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” Around 3,000 people are then brutally killed.

  25. The Amorites are destroyed by sword and by God’s rocks. In Joshua 10:10-11, God helps the Israelites slaughter the Amorites by sword, then finishes them off with rocks from the sky.

Had enough yet? There are MANY, MANY, more examples. To whom does the New Testament attribute the above kind of activity? Satan, Satan, and again, Satan. Are you really willing to say that Jesus did or commanded all the above? If so, then you ARE letting the dead letter of Scripture define God’s character, rather than letting the character of God define Scripture.

Lastly, your multi-paragraphed attempt to discredit allegory entirely just because I included the sole allegory of the good shepherd is grossly unbalanced. I included it as an example of allegory Jesus used in self-referencing Old Testament passages.

You are correct that David was certainly aware he was allegorizing when he originally wrote it, and I should have distinguished that, but you blatantly ignore my many other examples, and your omission of them discredits the balance and fairness of your analysis. Surely you are not saying that the all the respective OT authors were intentionally allegorizing in their recounting of events concerning the literal Temple of God (John 2:19-22), the literal manna from heaven (John 6:50), Jacob’s literal supernatural ladder (John 1:51), and the literal sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-40). Contrary to your scoffing, Jesus did frequently usurp facets of Israel’s literal history to allegorically apply to Himself.

Further, add the fact that Jesus primarily taught in allegorical parables, always describing what the Kingdom of God was “like” rather than what it “literally” was, and the case IS made. Jesus’ use of allegory, both in referencing the Old Testament, as well as His parabolic teaching, confirm that He was primarily a metaphorical thinker and communicator.

Your argument against pneumatic exegesis appears to be that since everyone claims to be hearing the Holy Spirit, therefore nobody can or should endeavor to do so. That logic is both dizzying and defeatist.

One last point, you mentioned the man Paul turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Your brittle exegesis of that passage is quoted below.

“Paul hands over impenitent sinners like the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy earlier in 1 Cor (and a couple of named people in 1 Tim) to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, apparently to death, so that their spirits may be saved by God in the day of the Lord to come. God was not well-pleased with most of those who drank from Christ (and were baptized through the sea and ate the same spiritual food and drink, etc.), and part of Paul’s evidence that God was not well-pleased with them is that they were slain in the wilderness in various ways. From start to end in that chapter, PAUL PRESENTS GOD (== CHRIST) as the authority involved with their deaths, just as the OT writers presented God.”

Review your last sentence. I take it you agree with Paul here since you are quoting him to prove your point. Please tell me if you don’t agree with him. If you do, then you clearly do believe in killer Jesus, despite your earlier offense at that notion. You can’t have it both ways. If you believe it, own it. Don’t just say Paul believed it. Say you do. You do believe God/Jesus authoritatively and decisively kills in both Old and New just as you say they literally describe. And if you do, then bingo, you have just let the dead letter of Scripture define God’s character rather than allowing God’s character to define the Scripture.

Here is my response to that particular passage.

If God WAS by nature capable of:

–directly destroying a man’s flesh,

–of directly afflicting a man’s body,

–of directly killing a sinner in direct retribution for his sin

then WHERE would such a destructive demonstration occur in the New Testament?

Well, if God EVER wanted Himself to be notoriously noted as a vengeful destroyer of men’s flesh, it would surely be in a case of severe church transgression where a believer continually rejected corporate correction and thereafter continued steadfast in serious and sinister sin. After all, judgment begins in the house of God doesn’t it?

Well, this very thing happened in Corinth where a fallen member entered into an incestuous and adulterous relationship. He thereafter refused correction, eschewed repentance, and thumbed his nose at the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

Surely God would handle this case directly. He would punish such a man by His own church-correcting hand.

And yet this was Paul’s assessment:

“For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to DELIVER such a one UNTO SATAN for the DESTRUCTION OF THE FLESH, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:3-5.

The dynamic of allowing someone to be “turned over to Satan” is just another way of saying that EVENTUALLY people must be turned over to the consequences of what their free will chooses. We can pray continued protection for them, try to repeatedly help facilitate in leading them to quality repentance, and tenaciously battle for their souls, but there comes a point where people must be released to face the reaping their continual actions have sown. Thankfully though, here in this situation, as we learn in the second letter to the Corinthians, this sinning man soon repented and all, including Paul, rejoiced and received him back fully restored.

But here is the key point. Paul easily could have said, “God is now going to wrathfully destroy his flesh so that his Spirit may be saved,” but he did NOT. Satan was the ONLY entity here doing any destroying or afflicting, even of those being corrected within the church. Satan is always the ONLY destroyer of human flesh – ALWAYS.

This passage is proof positive that God just doesn’t afflict men. He saves Spirits. He heals bodies. But He never afflicts the flesh of men, NEVER! He is not a killer. It’s just not in his nature. Hebrews 2:14 is clear that Satan has had the power of death, not God. Our corporate and/or individual unbelief, neglect and self-hardened hearts EVENTUALLY give Satan widening access to attack and afflict us. This is why Ephesians warns us not to “give place to the devil.”

In his classic Christian book, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan portrays Satan as two lions chained on both sides of heaven’s highway. As long as we pilgrims stay centered in the Lord’s highway, neither lion can reach us because the chains snap taut. But, if we stray from the center of the road, the lions can maul us. Satan is bound, but still dangerous if we neglect our so great a salvation and stray too near to his clutches. And that IS something to be alarmed about. This state of the “eye-of-the-tiger” awareness produces a healthy intensity which allows us to remain diligently centered in the Lord’s highway! The man in this Corinthians passage was wandering off the Lord’s highway toward the lions’ claws, but thankfully, he pivoted back to the Lord’s protective presence.

Again, here are two links, the first to my book and the second to my hermeneutic. … 5755080145

I can’t promise any more responses for a variety of reasons, the main one being I am set to go into trial tomorrow. I may respond, but if I don’t, then I will stand on the writings in the above two links.


Derek, we both see Jesus as the key. The question you raise is how to best hedge a common view of His non-violent nature and character which can then allow us to better resonate with our interpretations of the Bible.

Many today are demanding that the Bible prove itself as divinely inspired and authentic. The motives of its writers are challenged. The legitimacy of the cannon is questioned, its truths tarnished. Opponents of this group then swing the opposite way by going lethally literal to create or affirm a host of mean theologies. The problem leaves with a thick Gordion knot, one which Jesus needs to come and sever.

However, I believe that the real issue of differing hermeneutics this raises is an epistemological one rather than an empirical one, that is to say, “HOW do we KNOW anything about anything when it comes to Scripture?” Many are requesting that natural reasoning empirically prove what many believe to be a supernaturally inspired document. And that can’t work.

If we carried that same guideline to it’s logical extreme, very little documentation of distant history would be credible beyond an educated guess, which by its nature always leaves room for a reasonable doubt. We can usually insert some level of reasonable doubt into anything we ourselves haven’t directly eye-witnessed. The fact that Jesus even actually walked the earth in supernatural power can’t be proven empirically beyond the writings a few witnesses who claim to have seen him or heard about Him in His day.

As a lawyer, given time to prepare, I could cross examine and shred most any ancient historical document as dubious and of limited reliability IF I used strictly natural reasoning and empirical standards of proof. Eyewitness testimony today has been empirically proven by psychologists to be notoriously unreliable. History is basically hearsay, providing a basis for educated guessing. Nothing ancient can be proved beyond all empirical doubt. It is certainly interesting hearsay, but it is ultimately opinion-based and largely un-provable. History is continually rewritten, challenged, disputed and adjusted, with absolute consensus being the rarest of things. Obviously, the more recent the history, the more it allows for video and and audio confirmation, but even these are capable of being forged or misinterpreted.

As far as the Bible though, we have no such confirmation other than the eyewitness documents and the hearsay of the day. This is why hearsay in a court of law is inadmissible. And even if you could meticulously establish the chain of custody of every Scripture from pen to scroll to now, it would still depend ultimately on the hearsay accounts of the writers and preservers of the texts, all of which are not provable. The ancients didn’t have evidence lockers, video tape cameras recording all the Scribes’ actions or meticulous peer review procedures. The empirical proof you ask for in your question is ultimately impossible to provide, not only for the Bible but for any ancient sacred document.

Authentication has to come from another source. All any Bible writer had was inspired faith. Or, as Kierkegaard famously termed it, it was a “leap of faith” into the arena of divine things, an arena where empiricism and logic are secondary spices in the stew, but are not the primary meat in the stew.

So, when it comes to epistemology (how we KNOW anything to be true), I subscribe to Henri Bergson’s Vitalism, which essentially says that there are two types of knowledge-- 1) relative knowledge obtained through our natural faculties which is always subject to change, and 2) intuitive apprehension of eternal truth which is not subject to change. The latter “intuitive truth” is the only way any eternal truth can be grasped, by a direct intuitive apprehension of it.

Bergson believed that we are far more than the sum of our parts. Logic and empirical reasoning are lesser parts of our thinking because we have transcendent thinking skills which greatly exceed these rational sub-parts. There is a growing movement today to establish the legitimacy of abductive (gut-led intuition) reasoning as greater than either deductive or inductive reasoning. This tension has always been present in most every discipline. Platonic intuition versus cold Aristotelian logic. Jungian epiphany versus Freudian reason. Quantum unpredictability versus Rules-based Newtonian Physics. This is why Einstein said imagination is more important than intelligence. He also described intuition as a sacred gift that reason was to serve, not lead.

So here is my bottom line. I have studied how the Scriptures were providentially formed, but thats not why I believe them. I have a ten volume set of the Ante-Nicene fathers which tracks the providential recognition and growing dependence on the books now contained in the New Testament as they developed in the first 300 years after Christ, but that is not why I believe them. I also have numerous books and articles on the formation of Scripture, hermeneutical principles and apologetics which trace the fingerprints of providential purpose on the formation of the New Testament, but that’s not why I believe them. Decades ago, I had a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit where I directly “apprehended” the foundational importance and supernatural vitality of Scriptures, and that is why I believe them.

So, here is my point. The authority and proper interpretation of Scripture can’t primarily come from JUST the demands of our natural reasoning, just like our faith in Jesus can’t be reduced to “prove it” theorems of logic. This is the leap of faith.

Of course, WITHOUT Scripture, we would know nothing, nada, zippo, that is to say precisely squat about Jesus and the kingdom of love. Oh, we might have a vague impression, like the Greeks did, of an “unknown god.” But, we would know little to nothing of Jesus.

So, just as we need a direct intuitive apprehension of Jesus as the son of the living God we also need a direct apprehension of whether Scriptures carry a unique supernatural element of authoritative inspiration. For me, I had a direct apprehension, epiphany and intuition from the Holy Spirit that Scriptures contain the exceeding great and precious promises of God which provide us all things for life and Godliness. Each believer needs to experience this direct apprehension for themselves where the Holy Spirit actually confirms within their hearts that the Scriptures are unique and foundational for their faith. Without that, you may be right that they don’t need to concern themselves with it. But, I do believe that apprehension is available for all.