Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Violence in the Old Testament: Theological and Pastoral Concerns

Allan R. Bevere
I keep coming back to this issue of violence in the Old Testament on this blog because I have two concerns--one as a theologian, and the other as a pastor (I'll get to that a little later). Of late there has been a resurgence of a kind of quasi, neo-Marcionite reading of some of the Old Testament texts that simply dismiss difficult themes, in this case, God's participation in violence, particularly in the conquest narratives in the Old Testament book of Joshua. These texts are viewed as incompatible with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, so they are simply to be dismissed as primitive projections of a primitive tribal people. I have suggested in a previous post that a Christological understanding that leads to such a view of these Old Testament texts is itself based on a deficient Christology.

In the video posted below, Walter Brueggemann says that such a dismissive approach to the violence of the Old Testament is too easy, and I agree. What we have in such passages cannot be viewed simplistically as primitive projections from a primitive people, but such texts are, says Brueggemann, indeed revelations of God. Brueggemann's claim, thus forces us to take these text seriously as Scripture precisely because they are Scripture and are indeed difficult to understand in light of the decisive revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Brueggemann's approach is to be preferred over the dismissive approach that has once again reared its quasi, neo-Marcionite head. And that leads to my two concerns.

My concern as a pastor is that once we start dismissing certain biblical passages because they offend our twenty-first century, modern, Enlightenment, individualistic, self-determined, and rationalistic sensibilities, we give Christians permission to dismiss any texts they don't like. I can tell you that in my thirty plus years as a pastor, I have heard it all in reference to Christians dismissing all sorts of Old Testament passages of Scripture because persons found them to be offensive. As a pastor, I want believers to take all the Scripture seriously, even the most difficult passages and, like Brueggemann, wrestle with how to understand them, instead of just cutting them out of the Bible like Thomas Jefferson and casting them aside.
Read more at http://www.allanbevere.com/2015/03/violence-in-old-testament-theological.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+allanbevere%2FROss+%28Allan+R.+Bevere%29&utm_content=FaceBook

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