The axe murderer I am referring to is God. Not God for who God is, but God as I was taught to understand Him and teach about Him (male pronouns intentional).
The deal is, the God that far too many of us were taught to understand and teach about was only a part-time axe murderer. 98% of the time this God was heralded as being the source of endless love and mercy, the friend of sinners who suffers along side us. This latter description is so dang enticing that a lot of us invited God to move into our house and we did our best to keep reminding ourselves how good and loving He is.
The arrangement worked well for a while, until we started reading other parts of the bible that told us that this God who moved in with us had periodically been known to command the destruction of whole nations; as in 1 Samuel 2-3, when God commanded Saul and the Israelites to punish the Amalekites by destroying everything about them. “Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” I mean, geez!
Naturally, reading something like that raises a lot of questions about the new tenant we invited into our house. You would think we’d all have issued an immediate eviction notice! But usually what happens is we ask someone about it who has known this God/axe murderer longer and it turns out that this God/A.M. has a really good PR agent who’s had to do this before.
The stock answer, which I’ve taken right off a website that answers questions about the Bible, is: “We do not fully understand why God would command such a thing, but we trust God that He is just – and we recognize that we are incapable of fully understanding a sovereign, infinite, and eternal God. As we look at difficult issues such as this one, we must remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Romans 11:33-36).”
I wanted to believe in the 98% God so much that, for far too long, I made an uneasy alliance with the standard press release issued whenever my doubts of God’s goodness arose.
The reason many of us had been willing to justify what is absolutely unjustifiable is because we’d already been told that God was the author of the Bible and that everything in it was true. That immediately bound us in a straight jacket when our doubts arose.
If everything in the bible is exactly what God wants us to know, then we are left either doubting the value of the scriptures, or doubting the character of God, and we risk losing the 98% we love, or we have to convince ourselves that when God does something abhorrent it is different than if a human does it. And we call the latter faith.
More than a century ago George MacDonald said that God is not glorified when we assign attributes to him that better describe Satan. In 11:6, Isaiah’s future vision of harmony says, “The wolf (not the lion) shall lie down with the lamb.” To which Woody Allen quipped, “But the lamb won’t be getting much sleep.”
I no longer live with an axe murder–and because of that, the true God now has the full run of my house.