Is the God of the OT a psychopath?

A pertinent comment this week from my good friend Phil Smith on the subject of non-violence has been bringing up some old questions for me. How do I connect the amazing person of Jesus to the God of the old testament, who constantly orders the Jews to go to war, and even ordered them, when they entered Jericho, to destroy “with the sword every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys” (Joshua 6:21).

It’s an interesting conundrum, especially when we realise that the ‘Bible’ Jesus read was in fact simply the old testament, full of war and death and all sorts of nasty stuff going on.
The Bible does say that the wages of sin are death.. and God himself doesn’t seem to have any problems just striking people on the spot when their up to no good, like touching the ark etc. But this is also a God who says he takes no pleasure in death:

“If a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die…Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21, 23). And he goes on in verse 32, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

I think stance on non-violence is not based on the idea of ‘killing is always wrong’ – you can’t really hope to justify such an idea from a complete read of the Bible, which shows that the evil we commit is deserving of death. Rather, I think Jesus showed us a better way, a way that didn’t simply feed the cycle of hate and violence. He taught us that we can break this cycle through ‘enemy-love’ and forgiveness. After all, Jesus achieved the single greatest feat of any man, and He did it through peaceful means. Food for thought.

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~ by humblemonkey on May 5, 2008.

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