Does God Kill?
A few thoughts on whether God kills or does not kill and whether He authorizes humans to kill or not.
The relationship often portrayed between God and His law often infers that the Law is somehow more powerful and compelling than God and His own character of love. Because of the obvious dissonance in this view, the definition of love is then broadened expansively to include anything and everything ever attributed to God no matter how contradictory it may be or how demonic it paints God out to be.
The Law, it is insisted, demands punishment of death for all who disobey it in the slightest way. This presumption itself rests on tenuous grounds and flies in the face of human decency and even our demented opinions of justice. This extremely 'high' view of the law as even above God Himself creates the backdrop for all sorts of other illogical doctrines with deep roots in Christianity, but that necessarily deny a Jesus-looking God as being in charge of the universe or overseeing judgment. This Law greater than God then by inference, dictates to God what He can or cannot do. Another option is that God is completely sovereign, meaning He is above all law and is exempt from accountability to anyone while everyone else is held strictly accountable to the Law as arbitrated by Himself who is the stern judge with Jesus as the mediator attempting to placate the demands of the Law as well as to appease the offended deity outraged at all who dare to incur the slightest infractions labeled as disobedience.
In this version of justice, God and salvation, Jesus is forced into the middle between rebellious sinners deserving of the severest punishment imaginable (never mind how slight might be their infractions of disobedience – even a little 'white lie' qualifies as deserving of eternally burning in hell according to many) and an outraged deity enforcing a tyrannical but lifeless Law that looms so large in our imagination that even God cannot escape its dictates. God then contrives an illogical but religious solution: He sends His own innocent Son in His place (never mind it suspiciously looks like He is ducking the suffering Himself, pleading that in watching His Son suffer it feels worse than having it Himself) to this earth for the purpose of receiving the most vicious punishment the Law intended for all who refused to embrace this legal fiction arrangement. The saved must accept this with unquestioning, blind faith – no questions allowed; no reason tolerated; simply accept it or suffer in torturing flames.
In this perspective, God is painted as the most monstrous, unfair and legally incompetent power-monger in existence. He participates in inflicting the worst possible torment on His own innocent Son in league with all the demons of hell, Satan himself and many humans venting their own demonically-inspired hatred and jealousy on Jesus. Then, given that some threshold of pain has supposedly been reached satisfying the demands of this super-divine entity called 'The Law,' any who want to be rescued from something similar happening to them must blindly believe and embrace the legal fiction called salvation (that incidentally makes God look even more like a monster) while professing to believe that God is actually love. If they say just the right words of confession and belief, and trust that the cruel death of God's Son appeased God's disproportionate fury against them (no matter how little or much they have sinned), then they will be allowed entrance into paradise to live under the protection of Jesus' substitutionary blood to avoid the wrath of God for eternity, while everyone else is roasted alive with no hope of escape forever (never mind that death and life morph into the same thing in this scenario).
How different is this from those who deny that the lost suffer eternally? Not much. With a few minor adjustments here and there and and claiming that God did not actually punish His Son personally but somehow the Law did it. Yet when you listen to their explanations very long it all gets quite confusing, contradictory and with a lot of double-talk that relies on circular thinking to make it all stick together.
Coming from this perspective reliant on a super-divine Law (though people will adamantly deny they teach this even while their words betray them) and a deity easily offended but nearly impossible to placate (strikingly different than any Jesus-looking God), explaining whether or not God was involved in the killing of people throughout history also becomes confusing and misleading.
The Law of God commands not killing. Yet God is reported to not only kill people many times but also commanding His children to even carry out genocide at times, praising those who use violence to slaughter their enemies as heroes because of their use of force in the name of God.
What are some of the reasons used to discredit suggestions that God should be accountable to the same standard He uses to judge His children? Some say that the 'first death' is merely a sleep as Jesus preferred to call it. So when God 'kills' people in Bible times, He was merely putting them to sleep temporarily. And since He has power to resurrect them again and allow them to finish developing the character that reveals which destiny they will experience, it is alright for Him to inflict violent death on those who offend Him while it is wrong for us to do it. Of course there is the exception that if God instructs a person to kill others then it is the right thing to do. Lots of rules, exceptions to rules and complicated, convoluted reasonings required to explain all this to mollify our sense of fairness (which in fact is never actually satisfied by any of these explanations or excuses).
God is love. At least that is what the Bible teaches. Yet insisting that God also kills people He gets too unhappy with and authorizes their violent demise, one is left scratching their head trying to reconcile Biblical descriptions of love such as 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John with other passages quite the opposite of these. Violence, death and the infliction of pain on others is associated in the Bible with darkness. John insists that the message he received from Jesus is that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Another blatant contradiction people have to invent excuses and convoluted logic to circumvent.
The Law of God (you know, that one often presented as even more inflexible than God Himself that He is not allowed to break when it comes to punishment, only we insist on a lot of exceptions to this when it comes to God) is supposed to be both eternal, unchanging and universal. So how is it that the unchangeable Law clearly states that are not to kill, yet there are so many exceptions to this law that provide endless loopholes for those attempting to sort out what is actually killing, murder, death, sleep etc., etc. When the list of exceptions to a rule gets to the point of losing count of them, there would seem to be something awry I would think. Why don't we simply admit that we teach there is an Entity out there greater than God that dictates to Him and everyone else what can and cannot be done legally? And if we insist there has to be multiple exceptions for the legal demands of this Law, why are they not also clearly spelled out instead of left for confused and highly biased theologians to figure out and teach everyone else? And hey, I thought God sent Jesus to this earth to reveal the full truth about Himself instead of theologians like Job's friends. What happened to that option anyway?
Here's another possibility that might get God off the hook from our puny perspective anyway. Most people presume, that God's laws are reflective of how we do law here in our societies. I refer to the issuing of licenses, which is our way of providing cover and excuse for people to do things that would otherwise be illegal, unethical or immoral if they do it without a license. Is this how God gets around being held accountable for conforming to the Law He presumably put into place originally? Does heaven have a licensing bureau where one applies to get exemption from obeying the law and gain amnesty for all who are properly licensed including God? If God can get a license to kill with impunity, will that same license provide cover for all He uses to carry out His violent intents and no one is to ever question such behavior lest they come into His crosshairs themselves?
Furthermore, how long is such a license good for? A day? A year? Just enough time to get the dirty deed done before the Law resumes its enforcement mode? If so, does God have to go back and get another license for the next round? Or is He in control of licensing so there is no application necessary for Him since He is sovereign and accountable to no one else?
Do we really live under the rule of such a capricious deity? Do we believe we must love Him or else suffer terrible consequences? Such love does not at all look anything like the kind of love Jesus came to reveal. This is so full of fear and dread it looks more like terrorist love than like a love that earns admiration, respect and affections of beings free to accept or reject it without fear of recrimination. I find serious conundrums in all the arguments pushed to excuse violence in the name of God, whether coming directly from Him or through those claiming to represent Him. It impossible to love a God who cares nothing about earning respect but demands it anyway. That looks more like a tyrant than a loving Creator, and that is just how the great accuser Satan wants everyone to feel about Him.
Then there is the logic that the ends justifies the means. Since sin is so powerful and apparently unstoppable, God must resort to fighting fire with fire. It is presumed that unless God resorts periodically to suspending His internal law of love long enough to wipe out a few (or a lot of) sinners getting too much in the way of His plans, it will be impossible for Him to ever bring an end to the power of sin in the universe.
While at first this may seem obvious and true, careful reflection soon brings awareness of serious flaws in this line of logic as well. Fighting fire with fire may provide some relief while bringing closure to a raging forest fire about to annihilate homes or important properties belonging to humans. Yet the fire initiated by firefighters is not only a dangerous risk, as they well know, but that same fire also destroys and violates the law of life that governs all of God's actions. Destruction is connected to death and darkness which, according to John anyway, is no part of God or His dealings with others. That may make Him appear impotent at first glance, but if we are willing to have our eyes opened we will discover that it is our presumptions and extremely limited perspective that is the real problem, not any supposed weakness inherent in love or the loving methods of God.
If it is actually true that God is love, then consistent with that according to John, love and fear are incompatible with each other. To rely on fear, intimidation, threats of coercion and bodily harm for those refusing to cooperate with God is a denial that God is in fact love. And in fact many insist that there is more to God than love and that is vitally necessary for Him to ever hope to overcome the power of evil and darkness. This line of logic is offered by many who find no hope for love ever having a chance to stand up against hatred, violence and evil with all its intimidating force. This is where people's firm belief in the power of evil as being greater than the power of God's love becomes exposed and we are compelled to choose between one or the other, for they both cannot be true. Either love defines God comprehensively and exclusively, or God is as Satan asserts – a mixture of light and darkness, for anything outside of pure, agape love involves lies and the kingdom of darkness that was brought into existence by the greatest con artist this universe has ever witnessed.
Some will still object, insisting that though the picture of God that Jesus offers is nice and all, we cannot ignore the darker portrayals of how God related to sinners in Old Testament times particularly. They insist that to do so is at the peril of coming under the wrath and fury of that same offended deity ourselves. So from fear of offending that God portrayed by immature people in times of misapprehension, superstition and ignorance, many demand that we are to include ancient narrow and biased fears of God as being equal or even more reliable than the witness of the Son Himself whose mission was to dispel all the darkness and bring a great light to those sitting in gross darkness.
Preferring testimony of immature people over the testimony of the fully matured Son bringing a radically different view of the Almighty seems downright stupid and even willingly ignorant so far as I can see. Why would people want to prefer a fickle, vengeful, arbitrary God who is easily angered, offended and demanding rather than a God like Jesus reveals as not only kind, gracious, consistently and unconditionally loving and forgiving but also willing to make Himself more vulnerable than any being in the universe. God in Christ demonstrated a willingness to allow anyone to abuse Him easily without the slightest resistance or desire for retaliation on His part. What happened to that witness?
The answer becomes clear upon further reflection. Because our own warped version of justice demands punishment for every infraction of our laws, we cannot allow for a God who does not enforce His laws arbitrarily and forcefully just as we expect our authorities to enforce the rules we create. We have punishments designated to intimidate everyone into obeying our rules. We imagine that justice is about punishment and that mercy is merely exceptions to punishment. Yet we will go even further to insist that God cannot forgive unless payment of the debts (think offenses here) is made in full to 'satisfy justice'. That would be our version of justice, not God's by the way, but we have little interest in His definition of justice because we suspect it might be too wimpy like the Son He sent to earth to show us the Father. After we dispensed with Him according to our version of justice for letting sinners apparently get away with sinning, we turned around to accuse God of being behind that punishment. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4 NIV)
Thus we pledge allegiance to the dark views of God held by those sitting in gross darkness before they were exposed to the full light of God's glory in the face of the meek and humble Jesus. In doing so we reject the testimony of God's only Son sent to show us the real truth about His non-violent ways.
They made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)
God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power... (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Jesus said to him, "...He who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)
Do a little math here. If Jesus did no violence and He was the explicit image of God, then what does God look like? Violent, killing, exempting Himself from the Law, or non-violent just like Jesus?
This discussion may not offer enough reasonable explanations for why God is assigned so much blame throughout Scripture as participating in a great deal of killing. Yet I don't think anyone could provide enough proof to convince the skeptical as there will always be hooks to hang doubts on no matter how much evidence is provided. However, I am learning to accept the testimony of Jesus as more credible than any other human or angelic being, no matter how much supposed proof there might be to refute His' version of God. I find no solid ground if I step away from God's Son's testimony to give preference to any other version that mingles in darkness, ignorance or bias. The only safe standard by which to truly know God is through the revelation in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God sent to reveal the truth about the Father unlike anything ever witnessed before or since.
Isaiah prophesies under inspiration of God's Spirit that Jesus would die having done no violence. That would include the act of killing another human being. If Jesus is the full revelation of God, not an incomplete shadow of God needing further explanation or revelation as many assume, then by direct deduction God has not done any more killing throughout history than Jesus did while living with us here on earth.
How can I reconcile this emphatic position with all the contrary claims found throughout the Old Testament in particular? Is it impossible to reconcile them with the testimony of Jesus? Not at all. Is it difficult at times? Well, the difficulty often depends on how much I am swayed by who I believe to be most credible – fallible and limited human perspectives from people living in darkness and ignorance about many aspects of God they find incomprehensible, or the testimony of the Son of God who knew God intimately His entire life and consistently reflected His character fully and completely.
I have found that as long as I rely on Jesus exclusively as the sole template to which everything else must conform, I find answers to more and more supposedly difficult questions raised in various stories that actually make sense and fit quite well with the corrected picture of God Jesus provides. I am also finding that if I keep my own spirit in tune with the Spirit of Jesus, things that used to seem impossibly incongruent now produce ready answers as the light of increased truth as it is in Jesus is applied to many passages. I also discover insightful historical background information that also provides wonderful insights totally congruent with a Jesus-looking God of pure agape love.
How do I now see the potential of love alone winning over the immense powers of intimidation and raw evil arrayed against all who dare to serve such a wimpy-looking God as portrayed by Jesus His Son? Increasingly I realize that the power of God's version of unaffected love has infinitely more power than any threat of evil, for the power of darkness depends on hiding key truths that threaten to unmask its weakness and undermine the power of fear that locks people in unbelief. Exposing lies about a God willing to compromise His own character of pure love by resorting to methods of evil and fear is how light overcomes darkness and truth triumphs over lies.
Jesus came to denude the powers of darkness and strip them of their power which is fear itself. Then His love parades enemies and friends alike in a grand parade of truth totally annihilating the power of Satan's lies and refuting his slander by exposing everything to the full light of the glory of God who is nothing but light, love and truth, all while fiercely respecting the freedom of all, both friends and enemies alike, holding no prejudice against anyone. God is love, and love always wins.