Monday, January 24, 2005

Yahweh - God of Genocide

I was teaching through the book of Judges a number of years ago when one of my students rightly observed that the Jewish conquest of Canaan was, in fact, nothing short of a God-ordained genocide. So appalling was this thought to my student that he left the group and never returned. But what was perhaps the most troubling thing to me was that none of my other students really seemed to grasp the significance of the discussion.

Our God is a God of genocide.

He ordained and commanded the killing of pregnant women. Infants and children. The elderly. None were to be spared. And few were.

This strikes at the heart of almost everything that we deem right and just by human standards and raises hard questions. Are we willing to follow this God - this God who commanded the killing of pregnant woman and infant children? This God who commanded the total genocide of an entire race?

Our willingness to bow before this God upends our natural reference points and forces us to reevaluate our concept of justice. What is true morality? What is true goodness? The fact that the true God is a God of genocide forces us to define true morality, goodness and beauty in light of him - or reject him altogether. The purest and highest justice is that which brings about justice for the greatest good. Do we really believe him to be the greatest good? How many souls would we be willing to trade to secure his justice? Is any price too high? Is he worth it? He asks us to make no excuses for him. He stands with blood stained hands and no apology. Will we bow?

Too often we define God’s moral attributes in relation to humanity strictly, as though God’s movement towards man defines his character. But we are not the same. We are a different and lesser race. We are the creature to the creator. The love of God is not defined by its relation to man, but by its relation to the inter-relations of the Trinity. Only there does true justice exist. Only to himself is God bound to honor divine rights. Were God to damn the whole race of man, though we be without sin, he could not be deemed unloving as long as it served some purpose of love towards himself within the Trinity. We have the same rights before God that the animal world has before man. Or do we suppose that even God is bound by our “inalienable rights?”

Yet the wonder of it all is that God has purposed to make himself one with the creation. In Christ there dawns a day where we even now stand before God, not as creatures, but as true sons and daughters. The life of Christ in us is the divine life, the life that merits true justice and love. No longer is God’s love towards us the mere grace of the Creator to the creature. In Christ it is the grace of a father to his child. But we must never forget that we merit God’s love towards us not because we are sons of Adam, but because we are brothers of Christ – and this by grace through faith, apart from works.

9 comments:

David Nebraska said...

Total submission and humility before him is all we have to answer him.

CrnbrdEater said...

aaaah. Finally, all is right with the world.

I am so happy you considered my request for paragraph divisions. Until now, the meanings of your posts were lost to me as I stumbled helplessly from one thought to the next.

Now your intent becomes clear, the nuance of your deliberation revealed. No longer do I wonder what wisdom lies hidden in this unformatted text.

the forester said...

You're struck a deep chord here, Gerald. Two verses that have always haunted me:

Isaiah 45 -- "God is a God who hides himself."
Psalm 137 -- "Oh, daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he repays you for what you have done to us -- he who seizes your infants and dashes their brains against the rocks."

How can we approach such a God without legitimate fear? The exiles from Egypt trembled before God's presence in the fiery mountain -- so should we. We cannot comprehend Him. We cannot. He is so much larger and greater than us; our very existence is held together in Him (Colossians 1).

The very least we can do, when we legitimately feel that God is in the wrong, is to give Him the benefit of the doubt, and allow our sense of right and wrong to be stretched into something more along the lines of His.

Yet our society is all the more willing to judge God on our terms, not His. Go figure -- caught in the throes of relativism and multiculturalism, we refuse to accept God on His own terms. Ha!

I appreciate your profound insights, Gerald. It's not easy to call a spade a spade, to put such harsh truths into blunt language. You did it, and then followed them to the amazing redemptive conclusion.

How staggering, that the Creator is accepting us as His bride! What human being would condescend to take an ant as a spouse? Yet how much more appropriate such a union would be, than for God to wed us. But He has done so, willingly, without any compulsion, in the face of our most hostile rebellion against Him. His love knows no bounds.

Thank you for this insightful and inspiring post.

Gerald said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It was fun to hook up with you on Jake's sight and I look forward to interacting with you more. I'm going to be dialoging with Jake's posts on "the heresy of innerancy" in a bit, so come join the fun. And I may need the help.

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Anonymous said...

I reject this genocidal act as being an act ordained by god. This was an act carried out by men falsely claiming to be following the word of god. In presenting this act of enormous violence and murder as an act of god, the bible shows itself to contain self-serving and self-justifying propaganda. In this case, a murderous tribe descends on another and kills them all - they write the history as "god told us to do it" thus creating a justification for genocide that has been passed on for thousands of years.
William Burroughs writes "when dealing with a religious SOB, get it in writing... you've got no chance with god telling them how to f*ck you over".
Men wrote the bible, not god. Look to the bible for wisdom, by all means, but if you are looking for the word of god, you need to look inside yourself and the world around you, not at the history of a bunch of murderous wandering tribes.

Anonymous said...

I would rather burn in hell than to love such a god.

Anonymous said...

NO...I will not bow to such a god or make any justifications for his atrocities. If he exists then he does indeed stand with hands bloodied but as for me I will abandon him in his misery and live in peace. I am a native-blooded person and know what true morals are all about, unlike this war god.