Love Wins. But Hate Won First.

“Exegesis is always a combination of taking and giving, of reading out and reading in. Thus exegesis, without which the norm cannot assert itself as the norm, entails the constant danger that the Bible will be taken prisoner by the Church, that its own life will be absorbed into the life of the Church, that its free power will be transformed into the authority of the Church, in short, that it will lose its character as the norm magisterially confronting the Church” (Barth, CD, I.1).

It is, for some, too late, carried away as they are in the river spewing forth into this world from the spring of better word than the seemingly rigid and unaccommodating word ‘Canon’, referring of course to that antiquated and seemingly shameful collection of books bound up into one bizarre corpus called “The Holy Bible.” Love is the new word; in fact, for so many (following, e.g., Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Peter Enns, etc.) love is the new Canon, the new criterion, that is, the new correcting norm of the book that is otherwise the Church’s only external and concrete authority, which then functions to strain out the of all the harsh words that are found in the Old (a la Enns) and in the End (a la Bell), while the Church enjoys this historically fleeting and privileged moment of idealism. The result is, at least, two-fold.

1.In the first case, love is no longer defined by the Word of God, quite the obverse. In fact, the Word of God, that evasive and uncapturable authority, becomes Clay, love its potter, and as such is able to take on whatever form its culture demands. Romans 5, then, the text that most explicitly and decisively states the form of God’s love and therefore the only legitimate quality of human love, the text which draws an infinite chasm between God and humankind as the necessary precondition for humankind to receive what is then called God’s love, becomes a text that is unintelligible, because for any man, woman or child to receive this particular love, every man woman and child must first be gathered up under the particular category ‘enemy.’ According to this text, God’s love is only understood when Jesus is understood behind enemy lines. The object of love is first the object of wrath, the reconciled first the rebel. Any lesser form of love cannot explain the bloody hands of a righteous God, nor can it command the clean hands of a self-righteous Church.

The new judgment, indeed the only judgment as such, is the judgment against un-love, which, whatever un-love actually is, it is usually identified when the Church calls sin what it is, because to use the word sin in the way the Bible uses the word sin would imply that the sinner is an enemy of God…and that-would be unloving. Thus, the confessional lines of the Church are dissolved and redrawn according to this new judgment, so that this new ‘church’ demands repentance only from those who have demanded repentance from all, and the Jesus of this church is necessary only for his example, albeit with great irony, not for his salvation. And a great division will continue to crystallize roughly along lines described as liberal and conservative, as the debate over what love actually is serves to self-preserve politicized, sectarian groups that call themselves “The” church and define themselves by what they are not, because what they are not is that damnable, unloving other group, which either cares nothing about the poor or nothing about the unborn, both of which would find salvation if they were willing to admit that both poor and unborn are included in that category of enemy.

2. What happens when we approach the Bible is now endearingly called a “conversation,” because it is something that happens between equals–coffee-talk with a friend, or self-talk with ‘my’ potential, not a confrontation first with a more powerful Enemy, which can only be heard as an address and responded to by surrender, and second with an Authority called Lord. Indeed, when the Bible is approached for conversation, it can no longer be heard at all, since there is None to stand opposite of me either to crush me or raise me up. There is only an inner-dialogue as I imagine the single line of footprints in the sand being His—the imaginary friend of Jesus whom I imagine carrying me, not giving me marching orders, who plans to give me harmless prosperity, not a self-denying cross. Besides, doesn’t the Lord invite us in this way: “Come let us reason together, says the Lord,” which is followed with such pleasant and accommodating images: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be white like wool” (Isa. 1:18). Indeed, but for Israel, and therefore for us all, the images are neither of a scenic winter nor a tranquil pasture. The red and white contrasted in this verse is the stark contrast that marked the ground with the truth of the human condition in the winter pastures surrounding Stalingrad on Christmas day, 1942. It is a blazing white and the darkest red. To “reason together” with one’s Creator does not mean to work together toward a synthesis that leaves both parties happy, both parties compromised, and therefore both parties changed. It means what the following verse says: “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isa. 1:19).

It is not surprising that the world such as it is, a world that has insisted to be godless since the day it determined itself to name what is good and what is evil (Gen. 3), would find itself being swallowed up by the sword of its Maker, that the Creator would choose to un-create what in his creation had become un-creative, that is, self-destructive. The only thing that is surprising is that since the sword proved not to be a decisive enough means of achieving purification, not a persuasive enough means of inciting repentance; since condemning sinners did not eliminate sin; since destruction did not produce restoration; what is surprising is that God swallowed his own sword; that he “sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering to condemn sin—not the sinner—in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). What is surprising is that the white and red became the divine flow of Holy Love. What is surprising is grace. And what grace means is that God allowed for the universal truth of human history—hate wins—to become a moment of truth from all eternity, so that the Lamb that was slain became the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), and that this truth could become for all time what the John the Seer saw when he ‘heard’ the Word of God as the Word of God from all eternity, which finds good news only in judgment, divine love only in human hatred, reconciliation only in rebellion, beloved child only in depraved enemy, risen Lord only on a cross, the universal truth whose corollary is the universal command: Repent.

Revelation 14:6-13

“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

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One thought on “Love Wins. But Hate Won First.

  1. Discussion that followed…

    Josh Ratliff I’ll only say that I don’t think Enns should be mentioned in the same sentence with Bell and McClaren. I think his take on the OT gets conflated with revisionists like this, but it’s a misunderstanding of where he’s coming from. My impression is that Enns is comfortable affirming whatever the record of Scripture affirms and what looks like denials from him are actually his sincere stance that has a foundation in exegesis of the text. He often has to spend a good deal of time explaining what the Scripture is NOT saying simply because of how woodenly literal it’s been read by many others. Sorry that this doesn’t exactly address the topic of your note, but I wanted to throw this in for what it’s worth.
    10 February at 17:54 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour I found this article troubling, Josh. [For the record, while I do tend to identify with the reformed camp in some ways, the flattened, reductionist form of Piper and co.’s Calvinism–in particular the doctrine of double predestination–is problematic on so many levels. But that is another topic altogether.]

    http://www.patheos.com/…/john-piper-on-why-its-right…/

    John Piper on Why “It’s Right for God to Slaughter Women and Children Anytime He Pleases” and…
    http://www.patheos.com
    Author and pastor John Piper, in a relatively recent interview on his website Desiring God: God-Centered Resources from the Ministry of John Piper, discusses the vexing problem of God ordering the mass killing of every Canaanite man, woman, and child.
    10 February at 20:59 · Edited · Like · Remove Preview

    Jeremy Spainhour I responded to it with this (you can see it on the blog page too, if you scroll down):

    Jeremy Spainhour
    • 2 years ago

    The problem with Enns’ approach is that it cannot be supported by a text-centered approach. We have the text, and the history which the text puts forth is ultimately irretrievable. There is no higher criterion for Scripture–whether ethical (contra Enns’ points 7 and 8), historical (contra points 3, 4, and even 5, since the point with 5 is simply to show that the narratival purpose of the story renders its historicity at least unnecessary), utilitarian (contra points 6 and (again) 8)–than Scripture itself.

    Enns’ argument seems to collapse on itself in at least two ways. First of all, with regard to point 2, Enns points us to the theological diversity of the text regarding God’s judgment on the nations. But neither Piper nor Scripture itself suggest that God always chooses to kill man, women and child in the case of judgment. What is presupposed is that God is free, fundamentally free, to kill or to spare life. As such, one would expect theological diversity. But Enns seems to want to look at the theological diversity and choose which act of God to use to absolutize his character, and so relegate God to an ethic, thereby depersonalizing him, stripping him of he self-determining personhood. But in the text we are presented with a God who acts both in terrible judgment and amazing grace. Both must be preserved. Theological diversity must stay theologically diverse. That God is free to kill and spare life, free to act in judgment and mercy, is what makes the final word of God in Christ Jesus so utterly awesome and humbling. Indeed, it is this theological diversity that makes his love so provocative.

    Secondly, with regard to point 5, Enns points out that the biblical stories were not written to depict “what God did” and that they were “symbolic narratives that point to a theological truth.” I see at least two problems with this argument. First of all, the “theological truth” Enns describes about “what it means to be an insider or an outsider to their community” is not a theological truth at all (what is theology without a ‘theos’?); it is, at best, a sociological ‘truth’. And besides, if this is about what it means to be an insider or outsider to their community, what does it teach us about outsiders with reference to God, with reference to theology? That they are expendable? That they deserve to die? How does this escape the original problem?

    Second of all, even if the narratives are entirely symbolic, it does not mean we are supposed to understand these so-called “theological truths” in a realm of abstraction. God’s self-revelation through these stories is meant to describe his relatedness to the world and the people of it. And in his relatedness to it—whether in story or in history—he killed man, woman, and child in the Canaanite conquest. Looking at the story literarily, how could one attempt to argue that such an atrocious act was a necessary means of getting to a much more banal point? Genocide will stick out to readers of every era. It cannot be simply overlooked. What we have in the story is a God before whom we are apparently guilty before proven innocent, before whom we stand as men, women, and children with a death sentence, before whom we have no entitlement to life.

    This ultimately brings me to Enn’s first point, which I think was almost right. Jesus’ teaching does not relativize the Canaanite conquest such that we can no longer learn anything about the character of God by reading and believing the story. What we learn about the character of God is that “Now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). There “was” condemnation before because then there was no one was “in Christ Jesus.” The wrath of God that was poured out on people throughout the Old Testament (btw, almost always with reference to his covenant, whether those at odds with the covenant people or the covenant people at odds with the covenant itself) was all funneled onto the Jewish peasant king on a Roman stake. The wrath of God has now been satisfied and has nowhere to go (until Christ returns), which is why Enns’ point 10 sorely misses the theological and pastoral treasure that is freedom and forgiveness and fearlessness in Christ. What we don’t have in the Bible is a sort of equation by which we can conclude one nice, neat statement about God’s character. We have instead the acts of God. It is through God’s acts that he speaks to us about our sinfulness and his righteousness, about his world and our corruption of it, which is crystal clear by the time Jesus arrives in the 1st century. This makes his final word to us in Christ all the more surprising. The reason we can still worship a God who would put man, woman, and child on the other end of an Israelite sword is that this same God places himself on the other end of a pagan sword, indeed, on the other end of every man’s sword.
    10 February at 21:03 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour Unfortunately, I didn’t see that he responded (just discovered that he did four days ago when I stumbled over the same article), but this is all he had to say:

    peteenns
    • 2 years ago
    So, bottom line, you have no problem with God wiping out children, along with women and men, so Israel can occupy their land?
    10 February at 21:03 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour This was my last response:

    drspainhour
    • 4 days ago

    Yes I do, but frankly it doesn’t matter if I have a problem with it or not. So I have to bend myself to rethink God and myself, or I have to find a new god for myself. Whether or not it is historical, the message is what functions to shape our theology and anthropology, both of which culminate in the incisive and decisive statement of the cross, which is both intelligible in light of that message and indeed relativized in light of that message. But dismissing its message because it is and should be offensive to all peoples–all of whom were reconciled while enemies when Christ died for them as sinners and only as such is God’s love defined (Rom. 5)–by standing over it as its authority undermines the historical plotline that theretofore was being suspended but has since been revealed in the person and work of Christ. Until the ‘infinite qualitative distinction’ between God and humankind has run its course in the Old Testament, the infinite expanse of the love of this God cannot be perceived for what it is.
    10 February at 21:04 · Like

    Josh Ratliff Thanks, Jeremy, I understand where you’re coming from about Enns’ approach. I am waiting to draw any strong conclusions until I’ve read “Inspiration and Incarnation” (which is on my list), but after spending a good deal of time listening to his lectures and reading significant portions of the “The Evolution of Adam,” I believe his approach is more text-centered than the others you mentioned. In other words, I don’t think he goes from, “This text is offensive. Let’s change it.” But more, “This text was accommodating to a confined culture and cannot be used in its entirety to construct a picture of the character of God.” I can’t imagine anyone not agreeing with that at least in some form even if they don’t take it as far as Enns. For instance, I could talk substantively about things we learn about God when it comes to the trial by ordeal for the woman suspected of adultery in Num 5:11-31. But I can tell you that I will find little in the trial or the ordeal or the bitter water or the poor woman that teaches me about God. God was accommodating not approving in this command, thus I think it’s complicated (but not impossible) to find his heart in the issue.
    10 February at 22:15 · Like

    Josh Ratliff Okay, so I’ve now read the article, and you’re rebuttal. I honestly have to say that I identify with certain parts of them both. I will actually be taking into consideration your second paragraph as I read “Inspiration and Incarnation,” so I honestly appreciate you taking the time to write it. But I would like to ask if you see any validity at all in Enns’ suggestion that narratives like the Canaanite conquest may have some language that reflects the surrounding culture’s language that would hyperbolize battle terminology to communicate something about their gods? Is beyond the realm of your approach to consider this?
    10 February at 22:43 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour First, let me say that I think the Bible itself demands that we not understand God’s self-revelation/revelation in the OT as ever intending to be terminal, not only because it was in some sense unreflective of God’s ultimately loving character (I hesitate to use ‘character’ for the reasons listed in paragraph 2 that you referenced about–I think any time we use ‘character’ we run the risk of thinking God must have done thus and so because of his who he is. While that may be true in some realm of transcendence, we cannot access that truth. All we can access is his ‘decision’/acts as they have been handed down to us through the Word. It is, however, precisely through his acts of love and his patience to not act in wrath that we learn that God so loved….). For example, Jesus himself makes it explicitly clear that the law concerning divorce was provisional and not ideal or permanent, written as such because of the people’s hardness of hearts (Mt. 19; Mk. 10). I think the same conclusion can be drawn without question from Jesus’ handling of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount–and the embodiment of that sermon on a hill outside Jerusalem.

    To your question, I’m sure it is possible that it could reflect hyperbolic war rhetoric, but since my view of inspiration–that the Bible is true in all it affirms (none of this ‘inerrant in its original manuscripts nonsense’, which seems to me a copout to excuse textual variances, as though the God who inspired the texts could not also have preserved them)–serves as my hermeneutical basis, I have to believe that the primary way to interpret Scripture is through Scripture, otherwise we have the Word of God for the people of Oxford, not for the people of God. I’m naive enough to believe that God wants those texts to remain in their to trouble us, as he always knew they would, because they stubbornly refuse to let us be God.

    It’s not that I think extrabiblical resources are necessarily unhelpful, but I think they can be helpful in the wrong way, if they are used to take the rough edges of the Bible and smooth it out, sanitizing it from being unreasonably offensive. [Full disclaimer, I’ve been reading through the prophets in my devotions for the past week or so… rough edges are just not avoidable.] But in the end I see the plain message of the Bible getting more and more complicated by liberals and conservatives alike, with one side calling everything “story” and only reading the second to last “chapter” of the story (God forbid they read the last chapter, it’s scarier than all the rest combined), the other side calling everything “history”, and nothing else “history” for that matter, and then taking a field trip to the Creation Museum. But I think even more balanced views, such as was found as normative at ATS, oftentimes pander to secular methods and therefore succeed in answering primarily secular questions.

    I think I’m starting to ramble, but the point is, we don’t have the history before us–we have the text, and it clear to me in the broad sweet to say that God is free and God does whatever God wants to do (Job 23:13; Ps. 115:3; 135:6). We read it, and tremble for fear. And deep in our trembling, fear is cast out in perfect love, and when that happens we know just how unworthy we are, how loving God is, and how much we need to be transformed, if we are going to be made like him.
    Yesterday at 06:16 · Edited · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour Josh, just edited the first sentence (above). It may help clarify a point, if you’ve already read it.
    Yesterday at 06:11 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour [And “nonsense” was too strong a term in that later point, even if my honest opinion.]
    Yesterday at 06:13 · Like

    Kevin Bobrow As always, I loved your thoughts, Jeremy. But you lost me on the “hate wins” thing. I am with you that this movement to define correct theology by that hazy idea of “love” is problematic, particularly because it does seem to lead to many of us discounting or at least ignoring portions of the Bible that do not seem “loving” to us. But what do you mean by “hate wins”?
    Yesterday at 09:43 · Like

    Josh Ratliff Thank you, Jeremy, this really helps me to understand where your coming from. With respect, I have to say that I feel that when I read your comments, I get this picture of the Bible as golden tablets under a glass case. The text has a whole world behind it, and I find it problematic to have a theology of the Bible that could not have possibly existed among those of its listening audience. We don’t find any of Paul’s readers looking at the text divorced from their context and we certainly don’t find an exiled Israelite reading Scripture through the lens of Scripture. This whole idea of Scripture interpreting Scripture is a later development that can only exist with a closed canon. It can’t exist in the context of the living, breathing humanity that wrote it down through blood, sorrow, and pain. I suppose that’s why I find myself agreeing with Enns’ paradigms of inspiration and incarnation. Scripture is divine, and it is God’s Word, but its humanness is essential. To say that we don’t have the history before us I think is to make completely irrelevant texts like Num 5:11-31, or the Levirate laws, or the conquests, etc. The history is precisely what gives me confidence that it is God’s Word piercing into a messy, sometimes bad socio-historical context. Otherwise, I would perfectly justified in saying there is no way to reconcile the God revealed in Christ with these things. And lastly, to say that God’s character can only be mediated through the decisions he handed down to us and recorded in his word is a bit confusing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it leaves the impression that perhaps God wants to leave us guessing about his character and thus we should not try to “absolutize” it, as you say, with one or the other aspect of him we read in Scripture. I just have one huge glaring problem with this: Jesus. Heb. 1 tells us that he is the “exact imprint of his nature,” so how can I but read God and his character in light of what Christ revealed about God. I suggest that EVERYTHING God wanted us to know about himself (not that he wanted us to know everything about himself), he revealed in Christ, and everything else must be read in light of that. Had to type fast because I’m heading to my staff meeting, but I hope this makes sense.
    Yesterday at 10:01 · Like

    Josh Ratliff Seth Ratliff, you might find this convo interesting.
    Yesterday at 10:01 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour Josh, judging by your response, I definitely was not clear in the last comment. Ultimately at the center of what I’m saying regarding inspiration is that inspiration is not about history being told exactly as it happened (which is a modern way of attempting to tell history and speak about the world in general), but that inspiration is about history being told exactly as God wanted it to be told (which is why [to my credit or to my discredit] I don’t think anything ultimately gained or lost with even the most liberal redaction theories, although I’m not convinced that the most liberal redaction theories are accurate anyway). It was either Von Rad or G. Wenham who spoke of Gen. 1-11 as “a tract for the times,” that is, God’s telling of history through his prophet(s) that had enough common ground with surrounding histories to be intelligible (not to mention global, as regards Gen. 1-11; the same could be said, I believe, in a qualified sense in view of the Book of the Law its parallels with Hittite treaty patters [which is the main reason I’m not convinced by the most liberal redaction theories]) and enough departure/critique to communicate what God intended to communicate about himself and the world as it had become. The texts and oral traditions (better: testimonies) functioned as God intended them to function when that is all they had–until God sent a new word to function in a new way for a new time.

    All that notwithstanding, I’m not sure how you could “find it problematic to have a theology of the Bible that could not have possibly existed among those of its listening audience…. This whole idea of Scripture interpreting Scripture is a later development that can only exist with a closed canon.” In the first place, you’re absolutely right that Scripture interpreting Scripture can only happen with with a closed canon, but now that the canon is closed, the reason we must interpret Scripture with Scripture is because Scripture interprets itself with Scripture–and preeminently in the book you cited, which does precisely what you suggested we should not do: develops a “biblical theology that could not have possibly existed among those of its listening audience” (contra Heb. 1-13). This is why I am guilty of a christocentric reading of all biblical texts, not removed from history but relativized by that history’s future.

    Let me put it this way: I don’t believe the Church is called to preach the Bible; I believe the Church is called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8), to declare that and how God has been faithful to his covenants in Christ–in the most startling of ways. I am not suggesting that the Old Testament is irrelevant and should be avoided in preaching. Rather, I am suggesting that the Old Testament is unintelligible for the Church without reference to the Gospel. We have a closed canon precisely because God has no NEW Word for his people (and therefore the age of writing prophets and apostles is decidedly over) other than the good NEWS: “of sin and righteousness and judgment” all with reference to Christ–that is how we know, I believe, that the Holy Spirit is the one people are responding to when they respond to Christ, that is, because they have been convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment in the with reference to Christ rather than some persuasive argument or sentimentalization, whatever, of human contrivance (Jn. 16, hence his descriptive title in that incredibly important passage–the Spirit of Truth).

    So I think historical sensitivity is important in a highly qualified sense. The Old Testament is the witness to God’s historical acts–they are not (necessarily) what God is enacting in the present (hence, why I don’t believe we are called to preach the Bible, but to preach the Gospel using the Bible). The Apostles would not have the Church understand, e.g., the Prophets without reference to Christ any more than the Prophets would have Israel understand the exile without reference to the Book of the Covenant (and this is where I explicitly disagree with your above statement). On the other hand, neither would the Apostles have the Church understand the Christ without reference to the Prophets any more than the Prophets would have Israel understand their promises of restoration without reference to the Covenants. The self-understanding of the people of God has always been formed with reference to God’s past promises to act, a past which defined their present and determined their future (hence, sin [with reference to the Law, now most concretely defined in Christ], righteousness [with reference to the Law, now most concretely defined in Christ], and judgment [with reference to the Law, now most concretely defined in Christ]). The word of God has always come to the people in God’s timeliness according to his plan for salvation history, so it is, I believe, misguided to speak of any Old Testament text in an absolute sense (abstracted and then reduced back into “principles”) without due regard to where God’s people are currently in salvation history. But it happens all the time, which is why most of our people know more about “godly principles” than they know about God.

    The Church, therefore, has no more of a direct line to the Mosaic Law than it does to the conquest of Canaan, because Christ has modified that Law and reconfigured Israel’s otherwise national agenda into something quite new…and good.
    Yesterday at 11:53 · Edited · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour And, Kevin, you are right. The title was just meant to be provocative (after a morning in Isaiah…I was wearing my mood on my sleeves ), but it was unhelpful and written in the wrong verb tense anyway. I should have said, “Hate won, but God forgave” or “Hate won, but love wins…”–something along those lines. In fact, I’ll change it right now in your honor. “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8).
    Yesterday at 11:29 · Like

    Josh Ratliff Good stuff, once again, and thanks for hanging in there to help me understand more of where you’re coming from. I do see that your understanding of Scripture is more sophisticated than the neo-reformed fundamentalist way that is was sort of sounding like there for a bit

    Actually, I completely agree with your Christocentric reading of Scripture, and to prove it, my Lenten sermon series is “Jesus: First and Last” which is going to be a Christological study from the beginning. And I even agree with you about Hebrews looking back to OT and reading it in light of Christ. So that’s where I need to clarify about having a problem with an interpretive paradigm of “Scripture interpreting Scripture.” It’s not a matter of me having a problem with progressive revelation and reading the clear in light of the unclear. It’s a matter of seeing Scripture as a closed system and that our theological understanding of God should only be comprehended within the system because, after all, God communicated exactly what he wanted to communicate. With that last clause, we have no disagreement. If God used hyperbolic war rhetoric, it’s because he wanted to communicate that. I don’t think either of us are in disagreement there. However, I think there’s still a rub between us.

    The question is one of whether history has to be “retrieved” in order to learn about God in any given text or not. For instance, we know with relative certainty, that the Israelites did not take Canaan in a sweeping conquest. Archaeologically, there is evidence rather that they moved into the land in a far less dramatic way with scatter battles and skirmishes along the way. We even know this from the record of the text itself in which we find that the pesky Canaanites are still around long after Joshua. Now I imagine you would, rightly so, state that God still communicated language reflective of women, infants, and children being slaughtered and thus we must interpret it in light of what God is doing in Christ. But while I agree with Christocentric reading of the OT, I still think that offers little consolation to the morally repugnant wording. (And please know that I understand that you are little concerned with making the text more palatable, and I respect that.) I think the correct way of looking at the text is to read it in light of the Gospel of Christ, and yet to also understand, based on an exegesis of the text that could have even been done at that time, with or without further revelation, that God was not expressing a wrathful desolation of a people. Rather, it was an accommodation to war rhetoric. In that case, God’s character still looks a lot more like Jesus even in the OT. You seem to have difficulty with reading past the war rhetoric because, after all, it was God who inspired it. I don’t think this difficulty needs to exist because God was communicating something that the Israelites would have understood in a non-literal way. So, yes, it’s still in the text, but by retrieving the history, we know what truth the text was telling, and it’s not what a lot of people think it is. Does my response grasp the essence of your position? I hope I’m not talking past you. In any event, I’ll take your correction if I have, and this is my last response in the conversation. Thanks for it!
    Yesterday at 12:53 · Edited · Unlike · 1

    Jeremy Spainhour Just this: I take zero pleasure in any of those passages of God’s commands–whether perfectly signified or pandering to war rhetoric. I have a wife and two sons. I find myself telling God I don’t think I could handle anything happening to them, much less him commanding their slaughter. So I have no agenda to emphasize these texts, and I would never speak of them in isolation, and neither does the Bible emphasize or celebrate them in any absolutizing sense. But the fact that the Son of God was crucified makes me ever suspicious of anything that threatens to soften sin and judgment, because whatever those texts are, it is clear that they are what they are with a severity only second to the crucifixion of the Son of God–but an infinitely distant second.

    Whatever is our final interpretation of these texts, we (and I think I can speak of “we” in this regard from what I gather about your theological convictions) have to be committed to letting sin be sin, God be God, and us to be sinners under God’s judgment, so that Christ Immanuel can be Savior King–so that repentance never becomes unnecessary because of God’s loving accommodation or because of God’s loving ‘election’. Only repentance because of the truth of judgment will bring us to love because of the truth of grace.
    Yesterday at 14:55 · Edited · Like · 2

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