Q & R: Help on Biblical Violence
Here's the Q:
I bet you get tons of emails, and I've never written one like this before to someone I don't know at all, but here goes... I'm a Christian and an intellectual/kind-of philosopher from Texas. About 7 years ago I had a really intense experience and was fully convinced I was losing my faith, that my brain simply was not capable of believing in the God of Christianity. I was at a fundamentalist five-point calvinist church, which has now become one of the most influential missional churches in the US. I have always been a thinker and at times a questioner and critic and after about a year or so of serving at that church and being revered as a "prophet", I guess for my biblical passion and knowledge, I started asking some tough questions. This did not go over well... Long story. I'm sure you've heard many similar ones.
Anyway I've recovered and maintained faith in Jesus and involvement in ministry though it has become quite messy! I spent about a year just reading the Gospels and nothing else. I just couldn't stomach the Old Testament violence or much of the New Testament epistles. I'm thankful for this shift in my faith and relationship with God, and I am thankful for the beauty of the mystery of God. Still, 7 years later, there is so much I just can't reconcile that I find in the Biblical Narrative. I appreciate your writing so much, but was wondering if you could direct me to some of the theologians and scholars that have been helpful to you on your journey. I am familiar of course with NT Wright, his book Surprised by Hope has been great. I am also familiar with Stanley Grenz and "Beyond Foundationalism." Currently I am really struggling with the Old Testament Violence more than anything else. Any books or thinkers you could recommend would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Here's the R:
That's a huge question and one that deserves a lot of thought on my part. I read constantly and it's hard to stop a list once I start it. But here are some thoughts.
First - my new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, etc., references Derek Flood. Derek is doing important work in this area. His first book is "Healing the Gospel" - and there will be more good ones to follow, I'm sure.
Second, I'd urge you to explore the work of Rene Girard. It's like going through Lewis' wardrobe - you'll enter a new world, a new way of seeing. You can start with this website:
Then explore the work of James Alison, Michael Hardin, Anthony Bartlett, and keep your eyes open for a new book by James Warren - Compassion or Apocalypse, that is a great introduction. More here: http://www.christian-alternative.com/books/compassion-apocalypse
Also, explore the work of Suzanne Ross, Adam Erickson, and the Raven Foundation.
And as for a general approach to reading the Scriptures, I'd recommend Walter Brueggemann. He opens up the text as a conversation, argument, and exploration ... which helps us "disarm the nuclear bombs" present there.