The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Violence, Theology, Just War & Pacifism? Cavanaugh Interview


#1

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr William Cavanaugh and attending his lecture “The Myth of Religious Violence”. I’ve broken the interview up into 6 short posts:






I’ve also posted it as a single, combined post


#2

According to Moses—clearly yes.

*When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. (Deut 7:1-2 ESV)

But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded… (Deut 20:16-17 ESV)*

But though Jesus quoted Moses several times, it is not recorded that He ever quoted the parts in which it was written that God commanded the Israelites to kill. Jesus, who is the exact imprint of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3) never commanded any of His disciples to kill or to fight, but quite the opposite. He instructed them to love their enemies, and they would be sons of the Most High because He is kind to ungrateful people and to evil people:

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35)

The apostle Paul said that the kindness of God is meant to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Could it be that sometimes Moses has “solutions” that came to his mind, and then thought that God had revealed them to him?


#3

While reading a discussion on one of Peter Enns’ books, I came across a critical set of questions that must be answered by anyone who challenges the “plain reading” of the genocide verses.

amazon.com/review/R1ANTAETL … DMFZFHONLM


#4

I think there is a difference between between making something up and believing something to be true that ultimately isn’t true. There are many people who sincerely believe some really weird things. Does that make their testimony true? True to what they believe in their conscience, but not necessarily true.

I am reminded again at how crazy the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac is… You just can’t convince me any longer that this was from God. The apologetics that I see defending this are really, really pathetic in my view.


#5

There is no reason to think that Moses “made up,” that is invented, his statements that God commanded these genocides. I think Moses sincerely believed that God had revealed to him that the Israelites were to destroy entirely the aforementioned nations, leaving no living thing alive. But Moses’ belief that God so commanded the Israelites, does not make it true.


#6

If we want to be knowledgeable about the true character of God, we must consult the only-begotten Son of God, who is the exact imprint of God’s essence. He revealed God to us. What did HE say about God’s character? One thing He said, was that God is KIND to both ungrateful people and to evil people (Luke 6:35).

The apostle Paul wrote that God’s kindness is meant to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4).


#7

They are good questions to ask… the question is certainly a “can of worms”!

That story about Abraham worries me too.

I think your reasoning makes a lot of sense :slight_smile:


#8

Part 2 is more controversial: Was God violent to Jesus on the cross? Are Christians just waiting for Jesus to come back to take revenge?


#9

I say, “Absolutely not!” God didn’t kill Jesus—the Romans crucified Him, under pressure from the Jewish leaders.
God GAVE His Son, so that whoever would entrust themselves to Him would be saved (John 3:16), but nowhere is it written that He killed His Son. He brought deliverance from sin out of Jesus’ death (I don’t understand the logistics of that, so don’t ask me).

(Hebrews 5:7) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him out of death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

Yes, God didn’t prevent His death, but He was able to save HIM out of death. And in what way were the loud cries and tears that the Father heard from Jesus, answered? By the Father raising Him again to life. The Father didn’t save Him from death (as some translations have it), but He saved Jesus out of death by raising Him to life.


#10

For a while I didn’t know there even were any alternative explanations for Jesus’ death than some variant of penal substitution. In AJP, SB made a very astute observation about how the language regarding Jesus’ death is juxtaposed with Jesus’ resurrection.

Some verses SB points out on p 115 of AJP (here I’ll be using the NRSV):

*Acts 2
36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Acts 3
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

Acts 4
let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.

Acts 5
30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 10
39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear*

On p 117 SB notes that Paul said the resurrection fulfilled God’s promise, not Jesus’ death.

Acts 13
28 Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead; 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,

The way SB puts it is


#11

Thank you for those quotes, Qaz.

They state clearly who put Christ to death, and Who raised Him out of death.


#12

You probably won’t be surprised that I agree with you :slight_smile:

Thanks qaz for the quotes, they’ll come in handy!


#13

Christians were severely persecuted under the Romans but when the Emperor, Constantine, became a Christian, they suddenly gained the power of the State… In part 3 I asked Cavanaugh how Constantine’s militarism influenced Christianity?


#14

#15

The final part of my interview of Cavanaugh:


#16

I believe that God did promise a land and commanded us to conquer it. This is what is said at the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1:27-28,"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
To say that God picked just one little plot of land out of the entire earth, and commanded the Israelites to go kill those already settled there in order to obtain it, seems a bit odd to me. There was still plenty of uninhabited land open for the taking at that point. They could have gone somewhere else. I believe the promise of the earth is made to all men. However, there is only one way to conquer it; that is to follow the example that Jesus set for us. Going back to the verse in Genesis, we see this stipulation mentioned, as it says “God created man in His own image”. I would say that this is the key to it all.


#17

I think that’s a good point. I assume you mean Jesus’ selfless approach, of winning people’s hearts by love, rather than using military force :slight_smile: