In the previous program we stated looking at what the Bible says about violence against the innocent and the value of human life. Terrorism has become a mainstay in the media and news reporting and because so many people don’t understand the Bible or the ancient cultures of that time, they tend to believe that God is just a violent ogre, no better than a terrorist Himself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We read some Bible passages in the previous program where God expressly shows how opposed and appalled He is to violence and wrongful death, which show just how opposite He is to the terrorists of both the ancient and modern worlds.
I was primarily drawing on an article written by Stuart Dauermann from the website of Lois Tverberg, from whom I’ve learned so much with regard to the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith.
So in this program we’ll continue to go through Stuart Dauermann’s article.
They Do Not Know the Name of Humanity
When Islamic State was making headlines around the world on a daily basis, the then king of Saudi Arabia warned that Islamic State would soon threaten America and Europe if this dangerous movement was not stopped. (3)
Look at the wording of the king’s statement: “These terrorists do not know the name of humanity and you have witnessed them severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street.”
The terrorists “do not know the name of humanity.” The king used the word “name” metaphorically (in the same way Hebrew often does) to mean “renown, honour, dignity” and he was trying to say that the terrorists have no regard for the preciousness of life; they’re filled with the violence that grieves God to His very core.
Jews, Christians and moderate Muslims all know this fundamental principle that is the very heart of the Torah. God was speaking truth into a very harsh world, and the Torah’s laws were addressing the situation of the time and it still speaks to us today.
Our Tender Hearts
The sanctity of human life is such a part of the bedrock of our thinking that we can hardly imagine a world without it, our society and our laws have been utterly transformed by it. In the West, we live in a peaceful society that puts tremendous value on our lives and as a result, many of us have become so tenderhearted that we recoil at any mention of violence in the Scriptures.
Ironically, some even suspect that the God of the Torah evolved out of primitive, pagan beliefs in warlike gods, and that over time our concept of God “matured” into the loving God of the New Testament. (4)
But look at the news footage of Islamic State and imagine the brutal reality of the ancient world. Could the anger of the God that we see in the Scriptures actually be out of love for His precious children who bear his image?
It is my (Mandy) belief that people see the God of the Bible as a bloodthirsty, brutal tyrant simply because they have no understanding of the realities of life in ancient civilisations and cultures, as well as the fact that those of us who live in the West pride ourselves on being tolerant, peaceful, civilised and refined, rejecting violence and brutality as something only unintelligent prehistoric man wallowed in.
Since the year 1900, there has been more than 263 wars on earth, the highest estimate of battle deaths may be over 116 million people…that’s 116 MILLION PEOPLE dead from war in the last 118 years alone! (a)
That’s almost but not quite, 1 million deaths due to violence in war every year for the past 118 years!
Australia has been involved in 7 of those wars, China has been involved in 34 wars, France 27 wars, India 14 wars, UK 30 wars, USA 24 wars, Soviet Union/Russia 20 wars just to name a few. This doesn’t include the Middle East where war seems to be an everyday state of affairs, this region is rarely in a state of peace.
Why is it that ‘peace protesters’ very often use violence to make their point? We in the ‘civilised West’ are nothing like Islamic State, of that we are agreed, but violence is an inherent tendency in all human beings and it’s the Judeo/Christian values and foundations that govern us that have kept us civil. However, the more those Judeo-Christian values erode, our civil society erodes with it and life becomes more and more disposable and expendable and I make my point by mentioning abortion, euthanasia and even the far too often cases of mothers throwing their newborn babies away that we hear about.
Germany was a leading light in Europe of Western ‘Christian’ civilisation, they led the modern world in industry, arts and culture, technology, medicine, architecture and the sciences; Germany was a product of the enlightenment of the 18th century with booming growth and development in all the sciences, and when the Nazi’s came to power most Germans (but certainly not all) didn’t batter an eyelid when Hitler set his plan in motion to exterminate the Jewish people from Europe with the ultimate goal of wiping them from the four corners of the planet. Neither did they flinch when the Nazi’s began to systematically kill the mentally disabled, the physically disabled, the aged and infirmed. Some surely did protest and were sent to work camps and most of those lost their lives, but most Germans remained silent and many became complicit in those atrocities, and Germany was considered a leader in the enlightened, sophisticated, advanced Western civilised world!
It’s also my opinion that because we in the West dismiss the very notion and concept of sin, we don’t believe we have any kind of accountability before God for our actions, we would rather hold tenaciously to the theories of pop-psychology, that for the most part finds a way to pass blame onto someone else for our behaviours and actions.
God didn’t institute severe penalties for murder and the reckless killing of human beings because He Himself is a bloodthirsty tyrant who craves the blood of His devotees, like the myriad of pagan deities that demand blood sacrifices. Remember, God instituted a sacrificial system to teach His people that sin is grievous, expensive and must be atoned for in order to be clean and made righteous before Him. He demonstrated His overwhelming love for His human creation by putting Himself in the place of sacrifice, paying the penalty and making atonement for us…shedding His own blood rather than ours!
God instituted severe penalties for murder and reckless killing in order to teach His people just how sacred life really is and that we are not to be casual or flippant when it comes to protecting human beings, especially the unborn, the weak, the orphan, the widow, the poor and the oppressed. All life is sacred because God created it, and human life is especially sacred because humanity has been created in His image and likeness.
Any ideology that celebrates or sanctions slaughter, bloodshed, violence, intimidation, hatred, malice and barbarity, and which generally elevates death and destruction of life and decimates peace, is not representative of God at all, rather it’s representative of and aligned to satan who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)
Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give them.”
In the next program, we’re going to look ahead to the time of Messiah’s coming.
(1) For more, see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Or, see Iain Provan’s Convenient Myths: The Axial Age, Dark Green Religion, and the World that Never Was. For a quick summary, read Pinker’s online article “The History of Violence” or watch his TED Talk on the subject. He writes:
The idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals… But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.
I would argue that the thing that has made us nobler was the Gospel going out into the world, and with it a realization of the preciousness of life.
(2) Moshe Greenberg, “Some Postulates of Biblical Criminal Law” in Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East. This classic paper has been reprinted again and again. You can read much of it at this link at Google Books—see pages 340-344, especially.
(4) This is what is called the “history of religions” theory, which assumes that the God we find in the Bible emerged out of the human imagination, gradually evolving from Israel’s angry primitive tribal deity into the peaceful, loving God of the New Testament. (Or, perhaps the Holy Spirit was inspiring a gradual “reimagining” of God over time.) This is Rob Bell’s message in The God’s Aren’t Angry and his latest book, What is the Bible. Jewish scholars protest against the Marcionism inherent in this approach. But more importantly, they point out that this thinking fails to consider the depravity of human evil. It does not grasp how God’s passionate love for mankind is expressed in his grief at human violence and his outrage at oppression and suffering. See Abraham Heschel’s The Prophets, pages 354-390. Also see my article, “Mr. Spock’s God: The Mistake of Western Theology.“