The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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


I do have to say that, from my perspective, your posts to Richard are coming across as quite hostile.
I wish that it were possible for you both to engage each other in a more careful and kind way, even if you strongly disagree.


I don’t understand here Jason. I believe there is no reason to think that handing people over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh and salvation of their spirits means anything more than temporary dis-fellowship so that people can be left with their troubled conscience for a season and tested by it not for the destruction of their living body but the destruction of their ‘sarx ‘– which has a specific and nuanced meaning other than living body in Pauline theology (I’ve just been reading Robinson’s The Body in Pauline Theology). And – while there is no hard and fast way of proving it – there is a solid tradition of exegesis which says the man mentioned in two Corinthians who Paul is imploring the congregation to take back because ‘you are being too hard on him’ is the self same ‘Stepmom Sleeping Guy’. I’ve never heard this exegesis you give before. Obviously a literal interpretation of this passage via Augustine and his ‘benign asperity of persecutions’ lead to the Ideology of the Inquisition which was step towards the later ideology of killing heretics not to save them but to rid believers of the contagion of their views. The difference is in the interpretation you’ve given of Paul it is the Holy Spirit doing the killing while in the Augustinian tradition of benign aspersions it is the Church doing the killing. I’m very uneasy here.


Hi Derek,

Just thought I’d go back and comment on something you said earlier while awaiting Jason’s response to you and Richard.

I’m no philosopher, but essentially what you’re espousing (and I do as well) is “moral realism”. That there are objective moral truths-- i.e. “rape is always wrong.” Perhaps a philosophical approach to Jesus and his values (particularly non-violence) from a ‘moral realist’ viewpoint could be fruitful? I’m not sure how it would be done or approached but thought I’d throw this out there. I think (to echo Richard) intuitively I see that the values I take Jesus to hold are morally right, but can this be supported rigorously from a philosophical standpoint as well?

Edit: I realize you, of course, Derek, are familiar with moral realism. :wink:


There’s still loads to be said here (perhaps we should just note thoughts down Steve?)–

I meant when people talk about a non-violent Jesus – and I agree with this completely - are they advocating absolute pacifism, which I don’t. I think absolute pacifism works in small utopian communities but if we are to be involved in the world – and I think Bonhoeffer was right to say we must be involved in the world because we are involved in each other’s sins – absolute pacifism becomes ethically suspect at times to say the least. I know for example that Rene Girard says he’s a pacifist but a realist and that means he’s not a pacifist. But I do believe the apocalyptic of divine vengeance and the temptation to see ourselves as aligning with the forces of righteousness in this is not what the Gospel is about at all. This is not the Lambs’ war.

I think it is enough that Christians should at least carefully consider the arc of Jesus teaching as being against violence and about using force so as to minimise harm at least. And if they are thinking about war – be anxious to consider Just War theology and the caution with which this hedges slaughter. I think Killer Jesus theology is rampant certainly in American fundamentalism today and is being exported. We have Jesus who is the tattooed prize fighter, or according to Hieston on the McCylmond thread Jesus who is like the hero of Mel Gibson’s Patriot. I say this is contrary to the vision of Christ that I see.


Thanks, Dick. :smiley:

I think that’s very helpful. “Killer Jesus” is indeed rampant in American fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism). I just saw your post above mine upthread, and didn’t mean to side-track the main debate, just “note some thoughts”. I recognize that there are many “non-violent Christians” who do not believe in “Just War,” but I think as you pointed out, the most important point is that the idea of retribution or vengeance should have no part in our view of God.


There has been some good work done on dialogue between no-violence and just war traditions by an American evangelical named Glen H. Stassen Steve. :slight_smile:


Thanks, Dick :smiley:

I’ll check out his work.


There are of course many avenues we could explore that would be helpful here, several of which folks have mentioned here.

I don’t really get into philosophy myself, so I won’t be much help there I’m afraid. The source I am most familiar with, and thus draw from the most, is social science and specifically psychology and mental health (I’m married to a psychotherapist and so while I fill her ear with ethics and theology, she fills my ear with psychology).

From the perspective of psychology, it would not focus on something being “wrong” as philosophy would (not that they would disagree!), but more practically observe the damaging affects something like rape has on people, and then further ask practical questions revolving around recovery and prevention. I’m a big fan of that practical approach.


Thanks Derek, :smiley:

Perhaps Tom Talbott would consider exploring the philosophical side of this though I suspect he’s got his hands full with universalism. :wink:

The psychological/mental-health aspect certainly has plenty of room to explore. I was just chatting today with Dick about the latest young man in California and his rampage of “retribution”. His so-called ‘manifesto’ showed striking features of Girard’s mimetic desire and certainly mimesis seems to play a role in “copy-cat” shootings etc. Anyway, I certainly would be happy to hear some of your insights regarding violence of various sorts from a psychological perspective. I’ll keep an eye on your blog…


I not only think it helps, I think it’s indispensable; but I wouldn’t argue it’s enough by itself. It ought to be done, and be done as competently as possible, but shouldn’t be done apart from appeals to metaphysical coherency from example. In fact it cannot be done competently without at least some appeals to basic metaphysical coherency, even if those appeals don’t amount to theism yet. But even where people work at deriving a systematic theology from scriptural witness (which is as hard as hell, if I may put it that way :wink: ), they’re going to hugely fail if they don’t keep their own results in account instead of ignoring or denying those results when the results seem inconvenient – my standard example being non-universalists denying God’s omnipresence which they would otherwise properly insist upon, or as I mentioned in a comment upthread foisting an outright schism of mutually exclusive and even antagonistic intentions between the Father and the Son when as trinitarians they would otherwise properly insist upon cooperation with a single shared intention between the Persons. (Even unitarians ought to insist on that, on pain of having the Son being in rebellion against the Father! – and the Father necessarily being the one in the right, otherwise they aren’t even talking about supernaturalistic theism anymore, or not one with a moral ground anyway. But of all people trinitarians ought to specially insist on it.)

I’d argue that such systematic theologians are also going to hugely fail if they don’t take some time to work out the metaphysical possibilities and impossibilities and necessities aside from what scriptural revelation in itself may merely say; otherwise they aren’t going to be in a position to sift through apparently conflicting data with any theological standard of how to resolve the apparent conflicts.

Maybe other approaches are also helpful, or even also necessary, but those two are vitally necessary. And also not at all easy.

The results can pay unexpectedly large dividends, too. I mentioned recently in another thread (I don’t think it was this one…?) that while I don’t think my friend and fellow apologist JP Holding has applied the “agonistic” standards of an ancient shame/honor culture to soteriology very well, I do think he (and the scholars studying this issue whom he has in mind) are doing the right thing to work on this angle, and that I think this probably has some important contributions to make to problems of divine violence especially in the OT.

We know from surrounding cultures for example that their standards of royal chronicle, which the OT authors are often clearly (even explicitly) following ("…and are not the rest of these things written of in the Books of the Wars?" etc., referring to source texts we no longer possess), would occasionally talk about going into an area and genociding its inhabitants, when in fact no such thing took place as they themselves would even admit when talking about bringing back prisoners or having to fight the same people again later. Talking about genocide was a way of metaphorically describing how hard they fought and how successful they were, not necessarily a literal description of what happened. 90% of the opponents could have run away, and all the women and children (leaving behind a nominal screen to slow down the assault and to keep the honor of the tribe by sacrificing those soldiers who willingly gave their lives for that purpose), and the victors might still talk about their victory being a total slaughter – even if some of the screening troops escaped! It would be almost similar to talking about a football game being a total slaughter, except real life and death was on the line.

The shame/honor code could take this idea even farther however, through the notion of counting coup. If assault force A goes in with the flat of their blades and drives out group B, group B might as well be dead so far as the result goes. Releasing prisoners and sparing their lives without reconciliation would amount to the same thing. Someone could even have some actual mercy in doing so (though not an overtly conciliatory mercy), the result would be the same in a shame/honor accounting. In these cultures, there is a semi-finite amount of honor to take and to give, a little like the value of money representing the work of people – people naturally generate a supply of honor and can produce more over time to replace lost honor, but the honor can be shifted around in an almost tactile fashion (sometimes represented by tactile objects – and this is one chief theory about the invention of currency out of a mere barter system, by the way).

The end result is that (to pick an example of something that sounds crazy) the judge Samson can pick up a donkey’s jawbone, a highly dishonorable thing to do in itself, and kill or even just physically subdue a few people out of a group of 100 (though violence is still happening and some temporary damage might still occur), and then when the group submits by running away or otherwise acknowledging Samson is so awesome he’s able to do this honorable thing in what would normally be a dishonorable way, Samson gets the right to talk about having slaughtered all of them in a heap (even though 95 survived without injury, and maybe only one guy actually died of the remaining 5) – and to multiply that 100 by a factor of ten! We can see part of this happening explicitly in the various OT psalms where people will sing about someone killing thousands, yea even ten thousands of people. Actually, compared to the surrounding cultures the OT authors were remarkably restrained about this kind of multiplicationary boasting; and this is apparently due to having a more serious concern with the importance of critical history (so to speak, including very self-critical history which is also an important factor), but it’s still obviously happening.

Does this necessarily explain all accounts of divinely ordered violence? No, sometimes dead bodies on the field are dead bodies on the field; and one way or another force is being applied to inconvenience people with at least potentially fatal or harmful results, so one way or another it’s still violence. But it leaves open real possibilities of the violence being much less than stylistically reported, even if the victors and the losers felt much the same as if real deaths had occurred.

Combined with both an exegetical and theological systematic theology arriving at particular characteristics and expected behaviors from YHWH (though those are projects of their own, and have to be debated on their own merits), this can help harmonize explicitly conflicting statements even in the OT about God being apparently bloodthirsty in some regards and yet very much not at other times. Saul goes out with his troops under divine orders to genocide a region leaving not even the women and children alive; this might in fact be code for taking no prisoners for themselves and otherwise pushing them out of the area, and being careful to balance two notions of God’s honor in the process: be as merciful as possible, but get it done in such a way that by the standards of the time God can legitimately claim the right to talk about it as a total genocide. But then Saul brings home one prisoner after all, the king of the region whom he wants to ally with. This not only invalidates the opportunity to use genocide language for emphatic purposes (even if what really happened was such a military dominance, perhaps through miraculous empowerment, that Saul’s soldiers took all opponents alive and then released them as defeated and thus effectively ‘dead’ in relative dishonor), this pagan king happens to be the ONE GUY who should have been killed if anyone was. Why? – because he has a notorious habit of being unmerciful to prisoners. God might have reasonably expected and, in coded language of the day, even ordered the troops to let everyone go free after defeating them, without even taking them prisoners and so benefiting personally from the raid; but Saul benefits personally from the raid by taking prisoner the one person who ought to have been punitively killed if anyone was. God thus orders Samuel the prophet to reclaim God’s honor (by the cultural standards) by killing the king who was unmerciful to prisoners, being thus himself unmerciful to prisoners – and thus being himself dishonored as a hypocrite! Samuel sacrifices his own honor to make the point.

Is that certainly what happened? No, but as a theory it accounts for the weirdities, including a survivor of this supposed total genocide later showing up to lambaste King David (who refuses to have him killed in response, treating him as a prophet instead); while not simply denying God’s existence or inspiration in what happened. Much less attributing it to Satan. :unamused:

It also fits the pattern for how God treats His own threats of total genocide set at the very beginning of Genesis: Adam and Eve are going to eventually die, sure, and that’s a real problem presented as a real punishment, but they aren’t killed outright. Instead what happens? – THEY’RE DRIVEN (without actually being harmed) OUT OF WHERE THEY LIVED AND PREVENTED (by a flaming sword of supernatural power wielded by an angel no less) FROM COMING BACK! And yet they are still provided opportunities to reconcile and return someday as loyal subjects. Regardless to what extent that literally happened, that sets a very interesting and suggestive precedent for what someone should think God means if He ever orders what sounds like a genocide. Satan, meanwhile, is the one who tries to impugn God’s honor by suggesting that if God doesn’t really kill them that means He’s weak and afraid of them and His word can’t be trusted; and also on the other hand, tries to suggest God’s warnings of strong punishment for rebellion have no force.

Anyway, like I said that may not solve all problems anyone may have with the data, but it’s an example of how a serious historical-critical method, including narrative harmonization of strangely divergent details, doesn’t have to result in a God so bizarrely bloodthirsty He might as well be Satan instead.


Well, call it a reaction to the tone of spiritual triumphalism in his article and book. Perhaps I shouldn’t be irked by someone claiming a total moral high ground in how to properly and simply do spiritual interpretation, over-against those-other-people-over-there, when by the evidence he’s having to cheat in several ways to get his results – one result being to ‘shock’ people by seriously proposing we attribute words of God to Satan instead. At best that kind of shock, even if it’s correct, ought to be carefully established with meticulous grounding and a self-critical refusal to avoid data problems.

Whether or not I ought to be irked by that, it does irk me. He overtly and intentionally wants people to be shocked by his work, and shocking someone involves provoking them to a heated engagement, for better or for worse. Making someone jump may be a Christian action (to paraphrase Chesterton), but it renders it by no means improbable that critics who find problems with his work may jump on him as a result.

Be that as it may, I really am trying to bend over to allow him credit on various things; the conversation keeps moving along so fast I never quite seem to get around to posting my intended mitigations in his favor, too, and that lapse is nothing less or other than my own fault.

So let me try to redress that fault by finally getting around to posting them here!

1.) I am 100% in favor of Richard’s concern and sympathy for the many people who have, in several various ways, been emotionally and psychologically terrorized by ideas of God’s violence; and I 100% appreciate that he’s trying to do something about that.

2.) I am also 100% in favor of Richard’s concern and sympathy for the many people who have, in several ways, been physically, emotionally and psychologically terrorized by applied ideas of God’s violence, such as using reference to such texts to justify atrocities of war; and I 100% appreciate that he’s trying to do something about that.

Or as I put it earlier, I fully agree that it is better for Richard to be merciful to his enemies and be a terrible exegete than to be an unmerciful but technically competent exegete. Then again, mercy to his enemies would also mean recognizing that not everyone arguing in favor of divine violence (in various senses and to various degrees) is trying to delightfully caress their own throbbing hatreds (so to speak, ahem.)

3.) I am 100% in favor of Richard’s general intention of applying a Christological approach to interpreting what’s happening in the OT (even if I have strong critiques of his methodologies in doing so).

4.) I am certainly in favor of praying for Spirit guidance, too, for purposes of interpretation, even though I run into so many problematic interpretations which (in effect) justify their other methods and their results by this appeal that I have become very testy about people making such appeals. Still, the abuse doesn’t abolish the use, and I agree Richard is right to call for an inclusion of this in Christian interpretative efforts.

5.) While I may be more Antiochian than Alexandrian in my approach (and I geekily appreciated seeing that comparison go by earlier :ugeek: ), I do appreciate the attempt at reminding readers how the ancient Christians (following rabbinic examples no less) made efforts to read the texts.

While I could add particular examples, they’d be covered in those general five I think. And I’ll add more if/as they occur to me.

Oh, I remembered three more already!

6.) Regardless of my annoyances at his intentions of shocking his readers and playing for rhetorical drama in his book and article, I do very much appreciate him taking the time and effort to write up somewhat more sober discussions of various issues since his first post, and actually interacting with concerns of people in the thread.

Somewhat relatedly, 7.) While he may have been clumsy (shockingly clumsy on purpose for shock value??) at how he replied to the issue of the cleansing of the Temple, in his defense that was the only specifically detailed criticism of his paper up to then. So it does make some sense that he would reply to that at first (rather than to other mentioned problems), even if he didn’t notice I (who was the main person mentioning it) regarded it as only a minor problem. And (as I repeatedly said at the time), he was certainly right to critique his hyperactive pastor about it, as well as others using the cleansing and the fig tree in themselves as sufficient evidence to argue for a militantly violent Jesus.

8.) I appreciate the evident amount of effort he has made to research some portions of his arguments. For only one of many examples, I don’t blame him at all for following a number of respected experts on the grammatic question of the use of the whip in GosJohn’s cleansing account.

Updated already to add: 9.) Richard is clearly a type of universalist who is very much concerned with people being saved from their sins, and I appreciate the fact that he routinely and strongly focuses on that.

10.) I’m a little fuzzy so far about whether Richard acknowledges violence being done to evil spirits – I’ve gotten the possibly mistaken and tentative impression that he acknowledges this happens and/or will happen but that somehow this is different in principle from other violence done to other spirits i.e. to humans – but since I agree evil spirits exist (including one way or another a most powerful one at any time, of course), I appreciate that he’s acknowledging they exist and that he’s making serious efforts to include them in his accounting.


Those are good and well argued posts Jason :smiley: And very fruitful for further discussion. Thanks old chum :smiley:


‘Work’ work is done; catching up further.

Reposting Dick’s comment in full for ease of reference:

I’m not intrinsically against the idea that Paul was only excomm’ing the SSG from the Christian group – and I’d certainly agree he’s doing at least that; but I have a hard time believing he’s only doing that for three reasons.

1.) He’s using the same term with which, in the same epistle (1 Cor 10 iirc), he references the deaths of rebel Israelites by “the destroyer” in the OT (which is why I brought up this example to begin with), where the most straightforward reading mirrors Jude’s more explicit warning in his own much shorter epistle: you (my fellow Christians) may think you can get away with flagrantly and impenitently sinning because you’re Christians, but God didn’t spare the Hebrews whom He brought out of Egypt so how much less is He going to spare you! – test Him on this at your peril, so to speak. (Jude goes farther and says Jesus/the Lord killed those people.) It’s also the same term as used in 2 Thess 1:9, where Paul is citing Isaiah 2 (and someplace in Jeremiah for that matter) where YHWH’s arrival causes, let us say, severe inconvenience for a number of people thanks to the glory of His presence. They don’t die immediately, but they’re compared soon afterward to the people who survived (because they were on God’s side when YHWH appeared) when those who have been punished come back to plead with the survivors to reconcile. Which happens, quite importantly, thanks to the spirit of purging with more fire imagery, after which (though not in exactly these words) they come to positively value the justice in God’s punishment of them. The implication is that they try to flee and hide from God’s holy omnipresence, fail to do so, and are slain. But that isn’t the end of their story, and their story doesn’t have a hopeless ending; ditto the Israelites who stumbled over the rock; ditto the SSG. The only salient difference on the face of it is that Satan is the one doing the whole-ruination in 1 Cor 5, not YHWH/Jesus/theLord, but that’s still a classical Old Testament role.

2.) While excommunicating the SSG would definitely fit Jesus’ instructions about eventual church discipline – the relative mildness of which I would strenuously agree is important in at least considering the goal of doing so – I completely fail to see how sending him out to go do like the pagans but worse, even by pagan standards, amounts to handing him over to Satan for any punitive purpose, much less for the purpose of destroying the SSG’s sin inclination (so that by contrast his spirit may be saved in the Day of YHWH to come). Wouldn’t it be more like kicking him out to go back to rutting with the other dogs?? And so treating him as someone who ought to be evangelized and (truly this time) led to Christ?

If he picked up a veneral disease by doing so, which rotted his flesh away quite ironically, even to the death, leading him to repentance, that would make some sense of the wording of Paul’s excom – but then Paul is still cursing him to an expected violent death. (I suspect something of this sort is implied by euphamism anyway.) But how is being sent out to do what he wants to do among people almost as scurvy morally as he is on a point he doesn’t think (or care about being) morally scurvy, supposed to trouble his conscience in any way? At worst the pagans are only criticizing him (still) like the Christians were criticizing him (still).

3.) Relatedly, it makes no sense to me why Satan per se would have any interest in acting as the agent of getting rid of the SSG’s sin inclination. Whereas it makes a lot of sense for Satan to be interested in rotting the man’s flesh as well as his soul (pretty standard Satanic operating procedure), and then for God to make use of that for God’s own purposes despite Satan’s intentions (also pretty standard God operating procedure). Satan is supposed to be his conscience? Is there any topical overlap with that idea anywhere else?? If Paul had talked about handing him over to the unquenchable fire of Gehenna, I’d be willing to buy that, since the eternal consuming fire == the Holy Spirit, not Satan. Maybe Paul should have done that instead, but handing the SSG over to Satan for a messy death does thematically mirror YHWH handing rebel Israel over to pagan invaders whom they had been insisting on consorting with for a messy death. You want to play with Satan? Fine, there you go, learn the hard way!

I certainly think it’s okay to be uncomfortable and suspicious of taking things like this into Augustine’s pernicious doctrines (later picked up and applied by the Inquisition vs heretics). Part of the problem (from a Protestant perspective anyway) is that Augustine and papal envoys thought they were working with apostolic authority to do similar things; but more of the problem stemmed from them making sure there really was a punishment by inflicting it naturally rather than letting God be the one to do that as God saw fit. This is not something Paul did; and while Peter (in Acts) correctly expects the Holy Spirit (not Satan!) to kill Ananius and Sapphira, he doesn’t do it himself. Unless I’ve missed something, one subtle but suggestive difference between Christian and non-Christian synagogues was that we have no evidence Christian synagogues applied {kolasis} themselves, whereas Jewish non-Christian synagogues still used physical remedial punishment directly. (Sometimes on Christians like Peter and Paul! – and inflicted by Paul back in his pre-Christian days.)

Come to think of it, the Hebraist may represent a tradition of Christian physical discipline of errant adults, especially in chapter 12, but he still doesn’t seem to be directly describing it. (Still, I wanted to be fair and acknowledge he-or-she may be the most obvious exception.)


Hi Jason :slight_smile:

No I don’t think that Satan is supposed to be the man’s conscience? Satan in my view is nuanced. It’s not Satan who is the man’s conscience. It is having to do battle with the Satan that focuses a conscience. A place in which Satan can be used to sift conscience is when a person is set apart. Jesus – in a completely different context – realises his vocation by doing battle with the Satan in the desert. The Satan either tempts to rigour (and entrapment) in application of the law or throws us down on the side of antinomianism – that’s how I see the scope of the NT witness about Satan.

So although Satan is the destroyer an encounter with the Satan does not have to destroy. So I see Satan in this nuanced way.
The man in Corinthians has been rutting like a rabbit yes – but there seems to have been real confusion about Pauls’ teaching about the Law of Grace in the congregation leading to antinomianism (just as Luther’s dictum ‘Sin boldly that grace may abound was to be misapplied by antinomians during the Reformation (and perhaps some of the flakier teaches of Free Grace today reacting against Calvinist rigours may be heading in the same direction) .He has to be hard and make an example of this man – but as I said there is a strong tradition that this is the same man that he is asking the congregation to take back in 2 Corinthians. This man has tasted the love of a Christian community which has gone astray and he is the worst offender – it makes perfect sense to me that he will have grieved for his sins when he was cut off – rather like in earlier societies being banished from a tribe often meant that people die broken and disoriented just because they were cut off would lead to actual death (when people’s whole sense of identity was bound up with belonging to his clan – it still happens amongst Australian aborigines an although I think the tribal sense in NT was not as intense certainly in an honour shame context, being cast out would have been mortifying in a way that is nto so today). But this man’s excommunication was not I think permanent.

I’m not a Greek scholar but I do know that if – and only if – the word that Paul uses for body in this passage is ‘sarx’ – ‘sarx’ tends to mean ‘inanimate flesh’ and is a metaphor for a person’s life that is out of alignment with God (so a person can ‘sarx’ with their body, mind or spirit – and the confusion of ‘sarx’ (dead flesh) and soma (living body) has lead to a fearful manicheanism in some traditions of Christian spirituality. Likewise I think that elsewhere when Paul in one of his vice lists says that not only sins of sexual impurity but also being disobedient to parents, and gossiping etc carry the death penalty that he is obviously being metaphorical. That’s just a hypothesis – but if Paul is using ‘sarx’ here I think the whole passage makes sense.

Well that’s how I see this passage anyway, and I hand myself over to comments now.

Blessings old China



Hi again Jason :slight_smile:

Just some thoughts on other posts you’ve made here above. Well the first thing I’d like to say is that wit Richard Beck one of our top lads promoting Non Violent Atonement stuff in his blogs for al, the time he’s been here – in a sort of non-committal/agent provocateur way – and with the site promoting Hellbound which has a number of the NVA big guns holding forth on it (and with that nice photo of Alex) I always thought it was time for a dialogue here. I remember suggesting to Richard when it obviously came up on one of his threads that he should have one here. But he didn’t reply to my suggestion (hmmmm– and I like being irreverent to top lads :laughing: – it’s the Quaker in me. ‘How dost thee?’ – the Quaker greeting is the seventeenth century levelling equivalent of ‘Alright mate?’

This dialogue has all happened a bit chaotically unfortunately – but I knew it would happen at some point because of the alliance that have been made perhaps unwittingly.

I know for example that Father Raymond Schwager and Robert Hamilton Kelly have done very careful exegetical work of the Bible from a Non Violent God point of view. I’m just a Humanities all rounder with a knack for history –at least here – so I can’t do exegesis justice. But I will say that Non Violent God theology in terms of eschatology doe s not suggest for a moment that it doesn’t matter what we do in this life in the world to come we will all be ‘saved’ like the Ultra Universalists do. What we do now does matter very much – but the wrath is in us and it is this that we need to turn away from. I know there are a number of people here who see things like this – including moderators. So I think it needs to be understood as a type of universalism here with it’s own particular emphases.

Regarding careful exegesis of the violent passages in the Old Testament – I am very sympathetic to the historicist mitigation approach 9and I note that Robin Parry was the commissioner and encourager of a recent book arcing for a mitigating approach to Joshua – ‘The Joshua Delusion’ by Douglas S. Earl – so it seems Robin has concerns in this area. Much good historical work is being done on the Bible and atrocity with a sense of biblical genre and mode of expressions informing it by quite Conservative Evangelicals. But I think one of the reasons why they are reopening the case on this is because of their moral intuitions – not just because of improved findings in archaeology. It’s a but like how the bible was used during the Reformation to justify charitable hatred and religious persecution – some of the exegesis seems compelling. But against it there was a tide of shift in sentiment. And the only Girardian book I’ve used in detail here – concerning Universalism and the Church of England (namely Saved for Sacrifice by Mark Heim one of Richard Beck’s colleagues) seemed to supply a very good answer (especially in its analysis of the role of Father von Spee in the ending of the witch trials), Namely that Christians true to the spirit of the Gospels whatever the biblical justification for witch hunts could not help but see the face of their tortured and crucified lord in the victims.

Likewise – although I’m still pondering Richard )Murray’s exegetical methods) I will say that I think ti significant that both Origen and Gregory of Nyssa consigned the violent passages in the OT to allegory. Whatever we may think of allegorical interpretation to me it says something about the spirit of these men who we take as our historical Fathers. Their moral intuitions based upon their love of the butchered and risen lamb made it impossible to think that the OT violent passages were literally true (today we might put things differently – but I think their moral intuitions are something we need to account for – and the way in which moral intuitions become more universal in scope although people aren’t necessarily getting any better). Likewise in Judaism the Rabbis didn’t see the Hebrew Bible as a dead text. It was an invitation to an augment about the different voices that can be discerned in the the text – and Rabbinic Judaism moved far away from the idea of a violent God in many of its schools
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.

You say above -

I think the idea of trajectories that Derek has mooted is important here. THE OT saints develop in their views – i think we can clearly chart this trajectory. And again think Derek’s idea of the minority voices of the forgiving victims in the OT being ‘the rejected cornerstone’ (as opposed to the vicmitsers and the vengeful victims )

Regarding Jesus’ use of the OT vengeance texts, Jesus is warning of the destruction of Jerusalem. And I guess one interpretation is that as God (the Father) sent Roman soldiers to torture and crucify Jesus of our sins (so that his wrath could be appeased), so God sent Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem as a messy punishment. Now the sacking of Jerusalem was a terrible thing. Thousands of innocents were killed/massacred, and I’m sure people that Jesus had ministered to and healed many that were indiscriminately slaughtered. There is a non-violent interpretation here. Part of the reason why Jesus gets angry in the Temple is that he is actually warning about the destruction of Jerusalem and enacting it – the Jerusalem over which he weeps as Christ our Hen. And in the Sermon on the Mount he is warning the Jews not to resist the Romans violently – he sees what is coming and is actually trying to warn against it. And it becomes clear in Jesus that the is uncovering the violence that is already there in human hearts and it is this that will lead out the destruction of Jerusalem – not God stirring up the armies of Caesar (who arguably are the forces of antichrist in the Book of Revelation. And what do we know about the destruction of Jerusalem – well if Josephus can be trusted at least on this (and I think he probably can) the main cause of destruction was different fanatical sects of Jews doing violence against each other.

The key to the Book of Revelation is that it is the Lamb’s war. It is the butchered lamb that wages war against violence through patience and martyrdom. I think there is a perfectly sound exegesis for this. I realise there are rival and violent exegesis – the benefit I get from this one is that it accords with the Spirit of Jesus and is not contrary to how he lived and taught.

I wish you had some one more competent than me to discuss Non Violent Universalism with from an exegetical point of view. The hermetic centres on the Forgiving Victim – I’ve grasped this much. And I hope a dialogue with a more competent exponent of Nonviolent God/Nonviolent atonement thinking happens on this site for reasons I’ve outlined.

In Christ our Hen old china (and thanks for being so gracious)


P.S. If anyone ever wants to read a book that looks at all of the different approaches currently used in exegesis of violent texts (that comes with a commendation by Walter Bruegemman ) see The Violence of Scripture by Eric A. Seibert.



Thanks for your post, it’s helpful to understand a bit more where you are coming from.

There’s something I’d like you to consider, that is illustrated well by what you say about the exaggerated war rhetoric:

The reason they are exaggerating is because, for them, it would be praiseworthy to kill every man woman and child. They believed (as did the other primitive people at the time) that this was what their deity desired. Yahweh would be proud of them if they committed genocide.

Today we do not think it is good to kill infants or the elderly in war nor to commit genocide. In fact, we would view such things today as monstrous and evil. That’s why you have the motivation to minimize the bloodshed. If the number is lower, it seems less bad.

What I want you to note however is that what we all view today as being evil, they viewed as good and what God wanted. So they did not try to minimize it, they tried to exaggerate it.

A radical shift has taken place in our values so that what these primitive people viewed as good, we today view as profoundly evil.The values that we see presented in these accounts, values attributed to Yahweh, are values that we would today regard as evil and monstrous.

That is the ethical dilemma of the OT genocide accounts. The values we see there, we now regard as evil.


That has to be true in even the most extreme result (since Paul still expects him to be saved), but I certainly acknowledge it doesn’t have to be a death sentence that will surely be carried out. If the guy seriously repents and changes his ways, then yo.

As to careful NVG exegesis, I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m also not saying NVG has to mean sin makes no difference; ultra-universalists don’t tend to mean that, so far as they’re Christian anyway. (Even the pluralistic UUs are often hot about social justice, which makes no sense unless they admit real sin by proportion. Whether they’re consistent on that or not is beside the point. :wink: )

I’m not sure how a NVG proponent could also be a purga-u rather than an ultra-u (Christian versions either way of course) – one way or another disciplinary purgation for impenitent sins involves inflicting or at least authoritatively permitting an unwanted inconvenience on the person being disciplined. But that distinction might depend on a degree or continuum of NVG: e.g. yes God can and does occasionally do violent things, but He doesn’t kill persons, or He kills persons but with discreet aim not with armies and catastrophes producing collateral damage. I would think the only coherently consistent full version of NVG however would have to involve ultra-universalism with no wrath of God at all (or not anymore thanks to Jesus though that introduces a ton of other major problems), even though there’s still post-mortem repentance of people who died impenitent as they’re healed and led and empowered finally to repent and to reconcile with their victims.

I have enough respect for ultra-u NVG attempts that I don’t usually try to oppose them on the board, nor some of their related positions like a fully preteristic eschatology. But Richard Murray’s approach (the main subject of Hermano’s thread after all) bothered me enough to crit it. (And not even all his approach, just some of it.)

I’m definitely willing to go pretty far in alternate interpretations of OT violence; I’ve said before somewhere that I think a good argument can be made that God would have preferred Israel to approach the proposition of violent overthrow of enemies the way Moses did for them when they were the ones being hyper-ungrateful sinners: if they have to die, kill me along with them. Even Moses wasn’t capable of that for more than fitful spurts, and Israel in general simply wasn’t capable of it at all yet. Israel thus agrees to act toward its opponents like Satan acts (especially in the OT), and like Israel’s own pagan enemies agree to act toward Israel when given an opportunity. That’s a richly thematic and (to coin a term) subversively anti-thematic story and history, easily fitting Paul’s observation later in Romans 11 that God has imprisoned all in regard to stubbornness so that He may have mercy on all. Jews and Gentiles alike treat each other terribly. The question is to what extent God makes positive use of that evil and how far He goes with it. There can be no question (within any notion of supernaturalistic theism) that He authoritatively permits it at the very least, and so God does ultimately have the authoritative responsibility for the evil that His creatures do.

What that ultimate authoritative responsibility means can be debated I think – though it at least connects directly to God repeatedly insisting upon authoritative responsibility for it in the OT, and in the NT with some differences in emphases. But this highlights a key reason why I can’t help but be theologically suspicious of attempts to completely divorce God from the responsibility for violence: ultimately, though in subtle ways which people can easily be forgiven for not noticing, it undermines any type of supernaturalistic theism, leaving us with a mere sub-theism of some sort (whether like Mormonism or more or less detailed). We aren’t talking religiously anymore about the ground of all existence, or not coherently so.

This isn’t something I was criticizing RM about because I know it’s a subtle point and I think he has far more serious problems. But it’s connected to why Calvs specially insist (with varying degrees of clumsiness, but I think still rightly so as far as they go) on God’s ultimate sovereignty in accounting for the problems of evil and tragic suffering. (Jews and especially Muslims have their traditions of interpretative insistence along this line, too.)

Briefly re: Origen and GregoryNyssa – they didn’t only consign the violent passages to allegory. They granted the events historically happened (as uncomfortable as they were about it), and even that God was authoritatively responsible for them, but tried to use them as specimen examples of something worthy for Christians to believe via allegory of various sorts (representing Christ’s struggles in one way, or our struggles with sin in another way, for example). Similarly they went far in trying to interpret God’s intentions in what happened by various methods, but that still acknowledges God had authoritative intentions in what happened. (To all this they also applied the historical criticism available to them at the time, allowing that various events though they happened didn’t necessarily happen as literally described on the page.)

I’ve said as much myself on occasion (including here in this thread iirc). David’s attitudes in his psalms are a key example of this.

There are of course various ways to interpret the violence warnings from Jesus and the NT authors; my point in the portion you quoted was only that Richard’s method accounts for those warnings in ways which only avoid dissolving his rationale for pitting NT vs. OT texts, by dismissal and semi-suppression of the NT data.

I remain signally unconvinced Jesus was only talking about punishment coming to Jerusalem (and Hebrew Palestine more generally) 40 years later; but I have always agreed He was at least talking about that. And either way, Jesus was attributing authoritative responsibility for what was going to happen, to the Father and to Himself; and appealing to OT texts of militantly judgmental YHWH along the way.

As I have noted frequently elsewhere, and also noted above, accounting for this often pays interesting dividends toward Christian universalism. Discovering what Jesus was referencing from the OT helps confirm the intended meaning of His judgment parable about the sheep and the baby-goats for example: He’s talking about a remedial goal for the punishment. But on a bracketing theory of anything supposedly non-violently-Jesus-like being truly from YHWH and anything supposedly non-Jesus-like-because-violent being from Satan instead, that portion of GosMatt reduces to theological gibberish. That’s my main complaint about RM’s methods. I’m fairly negotiable about other things.

Which is all fine, but Jesus still puts Himself and the Father as being the ones authoritatively enacting it. If They insist on having authoritative responsibility for what happened, I’m obligated (for various reasons) to agree! – I shouldn’t just ignore those portions, no more than I ought to ignore Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as our Hen (and even as our Phoenix Hen! :sunglasses: )

The hope of eventual reconciliation is also God’s authoritative responsibility; and the two topics of God’s authority tend to be connected (in the OT, too. But if RM shatters that authority into divine and diabolic sources in the OT, the same shattering sauce must in principle apply to the NT when the same things happen there. Which he only gets around by denying the same things happen there at all.)

Again, whatever else may be obvious or subtle or literal or allegorical in RevJohn, nothing seems more obvious to me than that God/Jesus insists on authoritative responsibility for what happens there, even when equally obvious evildoers (human and/or diabolic) are the ones doing the violence – and they aren’t always the ones portrayed as doing violence either.

Anyway. Please accept this Phoenix gif as an appreciation gift. :mrgreen:

{squinting} It could stand to be smaller for practical purposes…

[Edited to add: the site for the gif apparently died, or something… :frowning: ]


I’m not sure that’s entirely true; they did have other declarations from deity saying otherwise. I don’t deny that that was the natural expectation, of course; nor am I denying that God instituted moral developments in them over generations (often hampered by the inability of each generation to apply and develop the previous lessons – and I doubt any theme in the OT is more prevalent than that one! :wink: )

But I do see evidence that they were being taught genocide is not a good thing; civilians should be spared, women and children should be cared for afterward, ultimately only focused targets should be attacked, etc.


Curious how people interpret Jesus as non-violent when it comes to the following:

Matthew 24:51* “the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” *

Now the above is, no doubt, figurative, but still violent.

Luke 12:48 “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

The above is also, no doubt, figurative, but still violent.

It is possible one may argue ‘corrective punishment’ is not violence. I would disagree with that and rather make a distinction that violence for the sake of violence is wrong, but violence for the sake of correction and reproof is not. Now, I have not read every single post in this thread, as some of them are walls of text that critically hit my eyes for 2,000,000 points of damage. Anyhow, curious to know how the non-violent camp would interpret these two verses.


Christian Non-Resistance by Adin Ballou