• tim tracy

    The more difficult question is if a godless society is the reason why there’s so much violence in our world, then why must we believe, as Christianity seems to require, or better yet, how can we believe, that a violent God as disclosed by the cross is the most pivotal moment in all of human history because, without it, there would be no forgiveness, mercy or salvation? If the answer to that question is “because that’s what the Bible teaches,” then there’s nothing more really to say. Any authentic thinking about violence comes to an end at that point.

    • Becky Gray

      Tim, I am intrigued by your comments, but not sure I understand what you are asking. Can you rephrase it – what is the more difficult question? Thanks!

      • tim tracy

        Hello Becky. Yes. How’s this: does God require the violent suffering and death of his son in order to forgive? More broadly, is violence, regardless of its form, a permanent or indispensable part of God’s nature?

        • Becky Gray

          Thanks so much, Tim. If you are basing your beliefs on the Bible, I would have to say yes, God does require the violent suffering and death of his son in order to forgive. Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” The second question I would say no to – because God’s nature cannot contradict itself, it can’t just take on any form of violence such as evil violence. Man’s values and responses are mixed with error, but God is perfect and free from evil.

          I agree with Aaron in his above comments as well. God’s requiring the death of his son, violence putting an end to violence is shown in several scriptures, one being Hebrews 9:26-28 “…he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…” Also remember that Christ says he freely gave up his life, to save many – no one took it. That is amazing love to me.

          • tim tracy

            I appreciate your sentiment Becky about that “amazing love.” I feel the same way. But do you know what’s perplexing to me about that sentiment? Why do we think for love to have any real meaning or power, it must be accompanied by suffering? Why should the “he gave his only son” in Jn. 3:16 have significance for us only in the context of suffering and death? Why do we believe that if God gave without any pain at all that such giving would have no eternal purpose for us? We are intoxicated with suffering.

          • Becky Gray

            I guess it depends on your definition of love, both in human terms and perfect love that only comes from God. How would you define it?

          • tim tracy

            An eternal outpouring of God’s life for all of his creation, not from necessity or with suffering but solely from sheer delight and with pure joy, an excellent reflection of what God always already does with his son and spirit in a perfect reciprocity of deference and regard.

          • Becky Gray

            That is a beautiful definition of God and His Creation before the fall, as God designed life and love to be. Man rejected God and His design when Adam and Eve chose to break His covenant with them. That was the reason for Christ, to rescue us from ourselves and restore us back to His fellowship. All those who receive Christ’s gift of payment for their sins, will forever enjoy that perfect love with the Father that you described. No more suffering, no more brokenness. For eternity.

            “And in that day,” declares the Lord … “I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” ~ Hosea 2:16,18-20

          • Hey Tim, I think it really comes down to your ethical framework. There are *many* different ethical frameworks across the Christian spectrum, but I personally think that Christian Hedonism is the most Biblical and that’s the one I hold to myself.

            From the Christian Hedonist perspective, God never calls us to act against our own self interest.

            Heb. 12:2 shows how Jesus lived this out – “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

            See that? The entire reason Jesus went to the cross was for His own pleasure. I think that seeking our own pleasure is the highest end that we can pursue, and I believe that the Biblical framework provides the most reliable recipe for long-term pleasure – in this life and the next. If you’re interested in learning more about this line of thinking, John Piper covers it in his classic work, Desiring God.

          • tim tracy

            Hey Aaron. I love the hedonistic framework. Unfortunately, I am too old to pursue it anymore. Seriously though, I’ve never thought about that before and would love to read more about it. I am not much of a Piper fan or of Keller for that matter. When I saw a video of those two guys years ago characterize George MacDonald (my favorite Christian thinker) as a non-Christian, I decided that those guys were clueless. How could they honestly believe that MacDonald was not a Christian when C.S. Lewis said he had never read an author closer to the spirit of Christ than MacDonald?

          • Haha! X-D

            That is cool that Hedonism is interesting to you. Interpreting Christian ethics through the lens of Hedonism was a pivotal point in my journey of trying to understand these mysteries. Perhaps it will be for you too.

            I hear ya about the MacDonald thing. I think the honest truth is that the Christian spectrum is incredibly diverse in terms of ways of thinking and in ways of interpreting Scripture. People have very many viewpoints what we should do, and even more viewpoints on why we should do it.

            It seems there is a cross-disciplinal phenomenon where sometimes people loathe the ones who are slightly different in their way of thinking than those who are furthest away from their viewpoint. I’ve seen this in philosophy, politics, and many other disciplines. Jesus himself had a lot more fire for the Pharisees than the Romans. The Pharisees were seemingly closer to Him philosophically, and yet He spent a lot more time attacking their way of thinking. I think this is because we care most about our reasons for living the way we do, and when we see people who are close but not exactly the same, we feel they are trampling on our pearls and that we need to defend it. For those who are completely different and are “out in left field” – their differences of beliefs sometimes don’t seem to affect us as much or we don’t feel the compulsion to try to change them.

            Furthermore, the people that have the most impact often have some beliefs that really resonate with people, and some beliefs that many consider heretical or deeply flawed. This is just part of the human condition. None of us are God, and so we cannot expect to be right about everything. We all have blind spots. I think the truth is that God allows us as humans to see some things really clearly and to miss some things. So I consider that all of us – including Piper, Keller, and MacDonald – are flawed – because we are all human.

            At least that’s the way I see it. 😉

    • Good thoughts.

      My response would be in our world as it currently is, violence in and of itself is not wrong. Aggression is always wrong, but violence is not always wrong. If someone is an aggressor towards you, you are justified in meeting force with force to defend yourself and those who are weak. But that is in the world as it currently is.

      In the world as it should be and as it was originally created, there was no violence. Violence only began when we departed from the way that God had designed things to be. After that, our world became filled with violence, and paradoxically, violence was required to deal with our initial act of aggression against God. In this case, like the above example, violence put an end to violence.

      • tim tracy

        Aaron, thanks for your reply. I honestly do not see how violence could ever be a divine answer to human violence. To say it’s paradoxical seems to me to be a hidden reluctance to engage the question in its rawest form. That said, however, even if we assume that divine violence is the only answer that God could summon from the depths of his Trinitarian mystery, there’s one more small problem yet to be explained away. Divine violence was not directed towards the initial agressor of violence but to one perfectly innocent – a cataclysmic reversal of what any reasonable person would consider to be just.

        • Well, if you believe in the Trinity, then God was actually doing violence against Himself so that He could make right the wrong. Put another way, God hurt Himself to save us from Himself. He was willing to endure not only our initial violence towards Him, but to go to extraordinary lengths of self-inflicted pain to make right the wrong, so that He could reconcile the relationship to us. Quite a mystery and a paradox, but one that, I think, is a beautiful model for us to pattern our lives after. At least that’s the way I see it. 😉