Does the Bible Teach Love or Hate? Peace or Violence? Derek Flood
In discussing my new book on violence in the Bible, which focuses on reading the Bible from the perspective of peace and love, I often hear this objection,
“But doesn’t the Bible speak of God’s wrath?”
“But doesn’t Jesus use fear and threat to motivate people?”
“What about this verse here [fill in the blank] that seems to promote violence?”
All of these questions are asked by people who want to believe in compassion, who see the moral problems with fear and threat as moral motivators, who recognize the problem with the connection between religion and violence. They want to have a Bible that is just about grace and peace and love. They stumble over the way the Bible often seems to praise violence as a virtue or paints God in a way that does not seem good or loving to us at all.
The expectation then is that if we could just read the Bible right, we would see that it is really all about grace and peace, and all that other stuff is just a misreading. So when we hear someone talk about how “Paul didn’t mean that like that” and how he really was this loving guy and so on… well we are drawn to that like a moth to a flame.
Heck, there is a lot of truth in that, too. I do think a lot of people really do misunderstand Paul. I do think Paul is focused on grace and that people totally misread him and that there is this wonderful wealth of good stuff in Paul’s writing just dripping with grace and love, if we would learn how to hear him for what he was really saying.
But there is a much bigger issue that think we need to face first: The Bible does contain troubling parts. Parts that disturb us not because we misunderstand them, but because we do. Parts that are immoral. Parts we cannot embrace.
It is not all about a misunderstanding, as if all we need is better information, a better Bible study, better education, better exegesis, and all would be clear. There are parts of the Bible that really do say just what you are afraid they are saying.