Contend Earnestly: Is Our God Holy or Loving?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Is Our God Holy or Loving?

I have been reading through the book of Joshua, which would to even the devout western reader, cause a series of faith spasms. It is easy to judge the Quran and other religious literature for its violent content, but it would be a case work in cognitive dissonance to deny the violence of the Jewish/Christian text.

Christians seem to have a way to "Forget" the justice of God in the name of His love. Such an imbalance not only distorts the nature of God, but it distorts His story and mitigates its necessity. The other day we were at the ruins in Carthage with a group of young Christians ministering here in Tunisia, and we stopped at a place that had ancient grave-stones of children sacrificed to Baal-Humon, and those with us were commenting on how awful it was to believe in a god who could demand such a thing of his people and I was immediately reminded of Isaiah 53:10, where we are told that God was "Pleased to crush Him (His Son) a guilt offering." How easy is it to forget that at the heart of the gospel is an atoning sacrifice. God's love includes these "Dark Passages" that we all try to forget, but lie at the heart of the gospel! The bloodshed of the cross will always be an "Offense" and "Foolishness" to those that are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23), as it is to our contemporaries in the west, and many Muslims in the world who also believe that Allah could never do such a thing to one of His prophets! It appears as senseless as the killings in the Palestinian conquests in ancient Israel as they are in modern Israel.

We struggle to believe this is possible for a loving God, because we have neutered His justice, and denied Him His glory. Our man-centered opinions about God have created a western deity tame enough for us to handle, and now we are paying the penalty of having no answers to a savvy attack on the God of the bible, because our gospel has lost its connection with God's holiness and justice.

I was in a bookstore the other day in Tunis talking to an atheist who had spent 16 years in the church (Not the Mosque), and left because the church had no answers for these questions, and he became incredulous to think that a god had any right to be zealous for His own glory! Unfortunately too many people in the church feel the same way, so we have left the God of Joshua off our flannel graphs, created a god (An idol) that appeases the 21st century western mind, and then put our heads in the sand of ignorance and wonder why our kids are leaving the faith, and how come no one is coming to our churches?

It is not surprising that those churches that are growing are not backing down from the truth of the atonement, and preaching the "Whole Counsel" of God's word, so that people can be exposed to God's holiness and our sin, and turn to the only name under heaven by which man can be saved, by God's great grace and mercy; Jesus the Messiah. This message will always be both a scandalous stumbling block to some, and absolute foolishness to others, "but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). We can't back down from that message, but must be looking for ways that contextualizes that message so it can be heard, which includes knowing God's story, and how it fits into other stories like those we find in the Quran, or in the history of Baal-Humon. They may be appalling, but they provide a great avenue to talk about the one sacrifice that ends all sacrifices!

Below is an excerpt from a press release for an upcoming book called Dark Passages: How Religions Learn to Forget Their Bloody Origins by Phil Jenkins that may be pretty cool on the subject.

"Western observers often express concern about the violent nature of passages within the Quran, and ask whether fanaticism is somehow hard-wired into the faith of Islam. Absent though from such discussions is any sense of the still more violent and unforgiving passages that litter the Hebrew Bible, which is also the Christian Old Testament. To take just one example of many, when God orders the conquest of Canaan, he supposedly commands his followers to exterminate the native inhabitants: “you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7.1-2). The book of Joshua offers an abundance of such texts. The most striking fact here is not that such passages exist, but that they have been so utterly forgotten by the vast majority of Christians and Jews, including among devoted Bible-readers. This in itself is a significant comment on the relationship between the scriptures on which a religion is founded and the ways in which that faith develops through history. The fact that such a gap exists constitutes a real challenge to fundamentalist assumptions, and raises profound questions about many prognoses that are currently offered for the future of Islam. It would be easy, if pointless, to assemble these disturbing Biblical texts in order to show the bloody roots of Western religion, and the apparent contradictions within those faiths. Much more significant is understanding the role that these texts play within the holistic reality of the scripture, and how successive generations of believers have come to terms with these difficulties."


Seth McBee said...

Bro...great thoughts...

I always find it interesting when I turn a Western Christians logic on them when speaking about Islam. I've brought out this violence and also brought out Abraham's whoredom, when people try to call out Muhammad as some sort of pedophile.

I am amazed at the lack of understanding of culture or dual logical fallacies.

mgunn said...

True dat! We are blind to the things we want to believe about our culture, religion, etc. and we justify the things that don't support our beliefs.

Parakleto Smith said...

Yes, the Old Testament contains much violence. Sacrifices. Blood. Killing. Bloody altars. Slaughter of masses.

But there is a New Testament. A new covenant. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices: Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God. He paid our ransom. We are called to love our enemies - not slaughter them. There is no such "new covenant" in Islam, which remains a bloody religion of violence and oppression with no "new testament."

Christianity is "hardwired" to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Islam is "hardwired" to the teachings of Muhammad. It is supreme folly to try to use relativistic arguments to compare Christianity and Islam. To do so is to engage in "logical fallicies." Did Abraham engage in "whoredom"? That is a red herring.

We do not worship Abraham, nor do we revere his teachings. The most radical, fundamentalist Bible-believing Christians do not issue death warrants for those who "diss" Abraham. A cartoon depiction of Jesus will not result in the cartoonist being murdered by the most devoted followers of the Savior.

Do devoted Muslims have a hope? Yes. As Christians, we believe their hope is in Jesus Christ, same as our hope. But is that what Islam teaches? Sadly, no.

Islam teaches that in the last days, a man will be revealed who will bring peace to the troubled world and peace will come about because every person in the entire world will convert to Islam.

That "conversion" is supposed happen because many will voluntarily convert - awed by the power and glory manifested by the One who will be revealed, and others will convert out of fear because of his might and sword. And, those who do not convert will be slaughtered. Then, the world will finally experience peace. Islam.

mgunn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

mgunn said...

I'm not sure there is any "Logical fallacies" committed here. The facts of the Old Testament are just that; the facts. It appears you desire to create some sort of dualistic understanding of God between the old and new covenants. I believe that the God of the Old Testament, is the same God that sent Jesus to the cross, and who took pleasure in His death (Isaiah 53:10). I believe you are missing the point of the article; it wasn't written to say Islam and Christianity are the same, it is written to show that violence and death are part of both covenants, and that God's holiness righteously demands this violence, and any mitigation of it, softens the truth of the gospel.

Is it possible that we can help Muslim's see that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice that all the other bloodshed in both books demand from a holy God by showing them this truth, rather than calling them names for having this truth in their book?

And yes, fundamentalist Christians have killed in the name of Jesus, many times throughout it's entire history post Constantine (4th Century AD).

I'm not sure we are saying anything much different? You wanted to point out that we follow the teachings of Jesus (Which are centered around the gospel, and the ethic of love), and that Muslim's need to come to faith in Jesus. If that's true, I have no disagreement with you, and think that was clear in this article, which pointed to God's holiness and a reason for the violence in the OT and the NT.

Seth McBee said...

Well put Mr. Gunn

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