Thanks for your gracious response, John. Just to clarify: I am seeking to distance myself from a vicious, violent, and as you say, monstrous image of God. Nobody thinks they hold such a view, and I imagine that nobody consciously does.
But … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for Jews during the pogroms in Europe to have Christians call them “Christ-killers,” to burn, kill, and exile them … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for the Native Americans in our own history to be called savages and Canaanites (thus placing them in a category for “biblical genocide”), and then to watch our ancestors systematically steal their lands, relocate them to reservations, eradicate their culture, and so on. We could similarly try to imagine what it was like to hear the gospel from the same people who were colonizing … Then I wonder if we can imagine what it feels like today to be Muslim, or Hindu, or gay, etc., and become the focal point of fear, rage, distrust, fury, disgust, and so on … again, in the name of God and “Jesus.” I wonder if we can imagine what women feel like when the Bible is used to tell them to be quiet and do what they’re told … again, knowing that you probably don’t do this, but a lot of men still do, and even more used to do so even a few decades ago …
On top of my intellectual and spiritual responsibility to interpret the texts wisely and responsibly, I feel an ethical responsibility to interpret the texts with “the other” in mind. Perhaps that will help you understand where I’m coming from.
I don’t think the 6 line narrative (as I described it) is biblical – you may. You may not think that narrative – as I described it – is common; I do. You may not think the Christian faith has portrayed a monstrous image of God to the world very often; I wish that were true but don’t believe it is. I imagine you think that eternal conscious torment can be held without producing the ugly social consequences it has for “the other” in the past; that’s not a risk I can take. But If you share my concern that in the present and future we don’t portray – in word and deed – a monstrous image of a violent God to the world, then we can work together on behalf of “the other,” and I’m glad for that.
a comment(#78) by Brian McLaren on a post by Scot McKnight (emphasis mine)
I only wish I could be so succinct. This is the third post by Scot in a very heated dialogue on Brian’s portrayal of Christianity’s God and gospel in his new book, ANKOC.
For those not familiar with Brian’s 6 line narrative, it is:
- The offering of salvation,
- Heaven/return to perfection or
- Hell/eternal punishment
Another commenter states: “a real atonement also requires things like real[punitive] judgment”
I ask, “Why?”
“to address the systemic and individual evil rampant in human reality”
How about the systemic and divine love and forgiveness rampant in God’s reality as revealed in Christ.
Why cannot God JUST forgive? Why must the Almighty “come in Wrath to destroy the Devil and evil men”? This same God who will smite his enemies requires me to love mine. This same God who will allow some to be consciously tormented eternally – either through His ‘good will’ or by sitting back and letting it happen seems to require more from me. Besides, forgiveness that is the result of Christ’s work on the cross is no forgiveness at all, it is appeasement. We have Christ dieing on the cross to appease an wrathful God.
I struggle to believe that our theological beliefs and doctrines have no effect on our attitudes or actions. This “conventional soul-sort” theology can’t but help lead us to an us/them mentality. I am not putting a morality value judgment on this us/them, however, taken to the extreme we see the actions against Jews, native Americans, gays and Islamic people as Brian pointed out in his above comment.
Scot’s posts and the resultant comments have been relatively civil in the often divisive McLaren War resulting from his new book.