Q & R: God and War

Here’s the Q:

Thanks for your insight. I’m almost done reading Everything Must Change, but I have a question about war and God in the Old Testament.
What is your belief about why God in the Old Testament and used war as a means of His people entering the Promised Land?
Why would God use war and then Jesus come later and speak against it?
I agree with most, possibly all, of what you’ve written in Everything Must Change, but I was curious about your view of God in the Old Testament and why He did things the way He did. I have my own beliefs about why, but your book has simply caused me to wonder what your beliefs are in that arena. The sharp contrast between Jesus and God, in regard to war, seems ironic.
Thanks for your insight.

Here’s the R:

Thanks for this question. It’s especially important to ponder this weekend of the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11/01. Rather than respond directly to the question, though, I’d like to simply ask readers to ponder this question this weekend: whatever our beliefs about the Old Testament and war, and whatever our opinions about the effectiveness of the last decade of “war on terror,” what do we want the next ten years to be like? Even more important, how would the life and teachings of Jesus guide us in setting a course for our personal and public lives in the next ten years?
I like how you phrased your question, because it parallels some other questions we need to ask in our grappling with the relationship between the Bible and Jesus – both of which are referred to as “the Word of God.” Why would God demand circumcision, and then later Paul would say it isn’t essential? Why would God command Sabbath-keeping, and then Jesus would say it’s not the point? Why would God forbid eating pork, and then those dietary restrictions would be removed? Perhaps our answers to those questions would help us in grappling with the war question.
BTW, I’ll be once again addressing this critical issue of the Bible, hostility, and violence in my upcoming book, to be released in September 2012 (updated): Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World. More details coming soon – In the meantime, I also addressed this issue in A New Kind of Christianity, under the question, Is God Violent? You might find that a helpful read. It’s such an important question!