God and Empire

by John Dominic Crossan

From Marcion on, the church has wrestled with the concept of G-d that emerges from the Jewish-Christian scriptures:  the vengeful/violent G-d and the peace-committed vulnerable G-d.  Crossan focuses the issue well:  the story of Noah and the story of Abraham represent the two models given as G-d’s solution to a rebellious creation.  In the Noachic solution, G-d destroys the empire; G-d’s solution is to kill everyone except the family of Noah (p 64).  But the Noachic solution doesn’t work and so a new divine solution appears in Genesis 12;  the covenant of love that will invite all to the new family of faith.  Noah exterminates, Abraham converts.’  The solution of extermination by force and violence, and the Abrahamic solution of conversion to justice and peace, are never reconciled anywhere in the biblical tradition.  They are together from one end of it to the other.  Do we take them both and worship a G-d of both violence and nonviolence, or must we choose between them and recognize that the Bible proposes the radicality of a nonviolent G-d struggling with the normalcy of a violent civilization?’ (p 88)

The difference is underscored even more in the biblical hospitality eschatology:  the Noachic solution ends in a cannibalistic feast (Rev 19:17-21), the Abrahamic solution ends with a reconciling and peaceable society of food and grace.  Crossan chooses not the violence but the non-violent G-d revealed by Jesus.

 A crucial contribution to hermeneutical faithfulness.

—Vern Ratzlaff, pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada