Why Are We So Mired in Violence?
In his marvelous little book entitled The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis envisioned hell as a realm in which people are forever moving farther away from one another. Hell is the ultimate, cosmic, suburban sprawl! It seems to me that Western civilization is diving headlong into Lewis’ hell, and we’re being pulled there by the powers of darkness.
When you combine our relationship-eroding consumerism with our stress on individual freedoms and rights, you can understand why most Westerners have many acquaintances but few (if any) deeply committed relationships that echo the love of the triune God, which I highlighted in the previous two posts here and here.
So why doesn’t the human community mirror the love of the triune God? Why are we so prone to violence, judgment, and division? It’s really not that complicated. It’s because we have individually and as a race severed our life-giving relationship with our Creator. It’s impossible for us to be rightly-related to one another on a consistent basis if we’re wrongly-related to our Creator (1 John 4:20).
This is evident in the biblical account of how the rebellion against God began. The moment Adam and Eve rebelled, they concealed themselves from each other and hid from God (Gen 3:7-10). When confronted by God about his sin, Adam first accused Eve and then God for giving Eve to him (Gen 3:12). God then woefully proclaimed that because of their rebellion, the beautiful “one flesh” relationship he wanted couples to enjoy would be reduced to a manipulative power struggle. The wife would seek to manipulate and dominate her husband, and the man would end up lording over the woman, presumably because he tends to be physically stronger (vs. 16).
The story goes downhill from there. Adam and Eve’s first child, Cain, murdered their second child, Abel, out of jealousy (4:8). As violence always does, this set in motion other violent impulses, to the point that God had to threaten vengeance upon anyone who killed Cain just to keep others from murdering him (vs. 14-15). Fast forward eight verses and you find Lamech, a descendent of Cain, boasting that his thirst for vengeance is ten times greater than Cain’s.
Within a few millennia (so far as we can guess) the world became so “full of violence” the Lord had to destroy humankind and start over with Noah’s family (Gen. 6:11). Yet, this drastic step fell short of putting an end to violence. Indeed, the rest of the biblical narrative and the whole of human history is a prolonged testimony to how our broken relationship with God invariably results in broken, violent-tending relationships with others.
All of this testifies to the truth that we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends. We can only replicate the love of the Trinity in our relationships with one another when we are participating in the love of the Trinity. It also testifies to the truth that since the rebellion, we have been living under the relationships-fracturing tyranny of the powers of darkness, who first seduced us to join in their rebellion.
Our relationship with God depends on the way we imagine God. When we get the image of God right, the doors open for us to trust and relate to God in the ways we were created to do. But there are so many images of God that are entirely messed up. Just think about the…
Question: The Jesus Legend persuaded me that the Gospels are generally reliable. But I remain very skeptical of the reliability of the Gospel of John. It was written long after the Synoptics, and its view of Jesus barely resembles that of the Synoptics. The main reason this skepticism of John’s Gospel is significant is that…
Greg deals with the question of what it means that some of Jesus’ parables seem to depict God in violent terms. In addition to getting an answer to this question you’ll be treated to a window into Greg’s graceful way of moving through the world. Really classy. Enjoy!
God has always been willing to stoop to accommodate the fallen state of his covenant people in order to remain in a transforming relationship with them and in order to continue to further his sovereign purposes through them. Out of love for humankind, Scripture tells us, Jesus emptied himself of his divine prerogatives, set aside…
Recently in his blog, The Dish, Andrew Sullivan pointed to an interesting article from The Other Journal called “Evil, the New Atheism, and the God of the Trinity,” written by Jacob H. Friesenhahn. One of the reasons I love Sullivan’s blog is that he dares to include meaty theological pieces like this right alongside of…
Greg discusses what it means for each member of the Trinity to have different roles. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0159.mp3