Posts in Nonviolence

The New Testament teaches that God is exactly like Jesus.* Yet we can struggle to believe this whenever we open the Old Testament and read about a violent God who is quite unlike his Son.

This dichotomy leaves us with a choice: Do we accept the Old Testament at face-value and develop doctrine where God uses violence to save and punish, or do we conclude a violent God is not an accurate revelation of Jesus' Father and learn how to read Scripture nonviolently?

To choose the second approach is not to disrespect the Old Testament but to acknowledge that our traditional, literalistic reading of Scripture does not provide us with a good enough interpretative framework.

Jesus said in John 14:9 he can "only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also." To me, this means Jesus chose a path of nonviolence that led to his death because he never saw his Father resort to violence.

Jesus—the exact image of the invisible God—is nonviolent because his Father is nonviolent too.

God is like Jesus is therefore my second starting point to developing a nonviolent interpretation of Scripture.


*For example, John 5:19; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.

NonviolenceSteve Hall

God is love. Can we then legitimately swap God for love in that famous passage from Corinthians 13?

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not dishonour others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

When we reflect upon violence, however, we find no love.

Violence is impatient, violence is unkind. It glories in envy, it boasts in fear, it is full of pride. It shames others, it is self-seeking, it is easily angered, it keeps a record of wrongs. Violence delights in evil and rejoices in lies. It always harms, always coerces, always diminishes, always repeats. Violence always fails.

Why then do we still allow Christian doctrine to communicate that God uses violence to save us or to punish sin?

We allow it mainly because of how we read the Old Testament.

God is love is therefore my starting point for rejecting a literalistic reading of Scripture and moving towards a nonviolent interpretation.

NonviolenceSteve Hall

I am always curious to read articles telling us why Millennials are leaving the church. I want to see if the authors will go beyond looking at how the church operates and name violent theology as a reason why Millennials are abandoning institutional Christianity. It is rare to find someone so bold.

Millennials are being put off church by leaders teaching how God repeatedly acts violently to achieve his plans. A God who is love, yet who:

  • murders all of mankind in a flood, except for one family.

  • orders ethnic cleansing.

  • commands the killing of women and children.

  • destroys cities and people as his just response to sin.

  • cannot forgive until sin is punished.

  • kills his son Jesus to satisfy his own wrath.

  • sees LGBTQ+ people as an abomination.

  • treats women as subservient to men.

  • sends the majority of humankind to hell.

Such violent theology causes people to leave church even as they want to follow Jesus. This is because Jesus is nonviolent unto death, loves his enemies, forgives freely, embraces the outcast, is radically inclusive, and who came to heal not judge.

The main challenge raised by declining church attendance is our need to learn how to interpret the Bible nonviolently.

NonviolenceSteve Hall

Lion and the Lamb is currently one of the most sung praise songs on both sides of the Atlantic. For half the chorus, God is praised as "the Lion of Judah" and the other half as "the Lamb that was slain."

The song is based upon Revelation 5:5, where John is told, "See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah... has triumphed."

When a Lion and Judah are mentioned together, John would have automatically thought about how lions in Scripture—when linked with tribes or nations or empires or people or divinity (as we saw in Part 1)—are a destructive force.

John turns to look at this Lion and what does he see?

He sees a Lamb.

He doesn't see a god who tears others to pieces in order to triumph—like human empires would—he instead sees a God who allows himself to be torn to pieces to win.

There is no lion, for the Lion of Judah and the Lamb are opposites. Bowing down to one precludes you from bowing down to the other.

In Revelation, only the lamb who was slain is worthy of worship. Do you think our praise should be like that too?

NonviolenceSteve Hall

Lion and the Lamb is the 10th most sung praise song in the US and 11th in the UK according to CCLI. For half the chorus, God is praised as "the Lion of Judah" and the other half as "the Lamb that was slain."

But is this good theology?

Lions appear 118 times in the Bible. Ignoring actual lions, looks-like-a-lion comments, peaceful lion visions, and miscellaneous mentions, we are left with 55 references where someone acts like a lion: empires (14), kings, religious rulers, or other leaders (12), God (12), the wicked (9), and the tribes of Israel (7). And once, Peter even tells us "the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for prey."

In nearly all of these 55 references, the context contains devouring, hunting, or tearing apart. For example, in Hosea 5:14, God says he will be "like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away."

Bible authors predominantly use lions not to show strength like we might imagine but to portray sheer destructive presence.

Is praising God as the Lion of Judah, therefore, praising a militaristic god of destruction?

What do you think?

Read Part 2.

NonviolenceSteve Hall