A reader writes: You missed a better way to respond

A reader writes:

Brian, I saw your response to the reader asking about Jesus’ views of a violent God. There is a better way to respond to this. First, acknowledge the violent deity is there and is prominent all through the New Testament. Paul was very clear on the “wrath of God” and the punishing conclusion of that violent wrath. See his Thessalonian comments on that angry god “destroying” sinners. And much more. Revelation makes no effort to hide the angry God and the Lake of fire awaiting. The New Testament is full of such comment.
A proper response will first deal with the issue of Biblicism- the belief the Bible is somehow inspired by God and so people are obligated to accept all its contents as truth and honor such. We know better today that there are profound “dissimilarities” in, for instance, the accounts of Jesus (gospels). These are differences that no exercise of common sense can reconcile. Jesus could not have told people to love their enemies and then a few chapters later damn them to perdition for refusing his message. This is simply irreconcilable difference.
And then take Jesus seriously. Take his central theme (Matt.5:38-48) seriously, that we are not to retaliate, exclude, repay or punish others because God does not. This is a radical new view of God as non-retaliatory, non-punishing. It turns everything upside down. This is authentic unconditional love and this new theology was completely rejected by Paul, who returned to a retaliatory God (Rom.12, Vengeance is mine, I will repay). Jesus was consistently on the unconditional treatment of others because this is what God is really like. A new ethic based on a new theology.

Thanks for writing. There are several ways people like you and me are seeking to address the incompatibility of God and violence. Each approach is deemed better or worse than others depending on who is doing the deeming, I suppose. I understand your approach, even though I take a somewhat different one.
I agree that Biblicism is a problem, and in my books (especially A New Kind of Christianity and We Make the Road by Walking) I try to articulate and demonstrate an approach to the Bible that is a faithful and responsible alternative to biblicism. Once we move beyond what I call an “innocent literal” way of reading the Bible, I think a lot of problems are solved.
I honestly don’t see Paul as rejecting Jesus’ approach as you do. I see him as a strong and privileged man struggling – as we do today – to live into Jesus’ way of life. He was in process as are we all. But sadly, Biblicism allows Paul’s interpreters today to extract quotes from Paul apart from the overall message, mission, and trajectory of his life – and in so doing, they effectively do reject so much of Jesus’ life and teaching, often resembling Paul’s pre-conversion life of religious hostility and violence rather than his post-conversion pursuit of “justice, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
So, even though we may differ on details, we both seek a new ethic based on a new (and primal) theology, rooted in Jesus and his way. I remain open to improving my way of doing so, and I appreciate your input.