If God Cannot Not Love…

My theology is a rather simple one: God is love. To me that means that God cannot not love because love is who God is. Love is God’s essence. Every other attribute or quality of God emanates from, is motivated by, and is saturated with love.

Therefore, God cannot ever consider, commit, command and/or condone violence. It’s not that God does not, or would not, consider, commit, command and/or condone violence. It is that God cannot! Why? Because God is love!

But what about all those passages in the Bible where it seems very clear that God indeed does consider, commit, command and/or condone violence? Don’t these blow my simple theology of the water? They absolutely would if I believed that the Bible was the inspired and inerrant word of God. But since the biblical books collectively (and sometimes even individually) paint portraits of God that are not just inconsistent, but are contradictory, I neither believe that the Bible is the inspired–at least according to the majority conservative view–and inerrant word of God, that paints one consistent and harmonious portrait of God throughout.

Rather, I believe it is a human book, written by mostly well-meaning, sincere men (sorry ladies, the ancient world was decisively patriarchal) who sought to know God and make God known, as they strove to understand God. However, they, like all humans, were creatures of their times, and as much as they portrayed their God in ways that were quite different than the gods of the nations around them, they also portrayed their God in ways that were exactly like the gods of the nations around them. Thus, not only was their God a warrior God, he was the supreme warrior God; more powerful, more ominous, and more frightening to their enemies, than Ba’al, El, Shamesh, Markduk, Zeus, and/or Jupiter (etc.) could ever be! Also, like others in the ancient world, the Israelite authors believed that everything that happened in their world, whether for good or evil, was controlled by their God.

The bottom line is that I believe, as did the late theologian and Hebrew Bible scholar Terence E. Fretheim, that the biblical authors often got God wrong! For me, wherever the biblical authors portray God as considering, committing, commanding, and/or condoning violence, they got God wrong. The God who commands genocide and promises the annihilation of nations cannot be harmonized with the God who loves the world and wants all people to be saved; at least not according to my theology! I cannot be devoted to a God who regrets that he created all creatures and thus sends a flood that destroyed all but seven humans. I cannot be devoted to a God who sends fire and brimstone down on untold numbers of humans or who sends a destroying messenger to kill every firstborn of an entire nation–and I could go on, but won’t!

However, the biblical authors often got God right. A reasoned wrestling with the biblical texts, Jewish and Christian tradition and reflection on my life’s experiences, has resulted in my simple theology. Therefore, I trust and strive to follow the God who cannot not love. Why? Because God is love and thus God sent his Son into the world that I might have life through him.

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