“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons, or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”
– Job 38:31
Despite how one feels about God, or how one defines God, or if God even exists at all, the idea that He needs defense seems a bit weird.
In the quote at the beginning of this post, we see God asking Job if he could change the nature of constellations. Why is this important? The God of the Bible is saying that he was in control of everything. If God plainly says he is in control, then why does he need defending? Why is it that we see him giving a mandate to the Israelites for genocide in the Old Testament? Does it really makes sense that the God of love is asking people to commit acts of war and murder on his behalf?
The paradox runs through the bible in odd ways. For instance, King David was not allowed to build the temple in Jerusalem because he had too much blood on his hands, despite the fact that God was the one who led him to the slaughtering in question.
1 Chronicles 22:7-8 says:
David said to Solomon, “My son, I had planned to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood in my sight on the earth.
He claims to be in absolute control, so why can’t he just make bad people disappear? One answer to why God would have his followers slay other people is that he wanted them to be a part of his plan through cooperative action rather than through passively viewing his work. In the past I justified this nonsensical idea by saying that God was holy and pure and therefore had the last say in moral judgment.
Now it seems obvious that one of two things is going on: Either the Biblical God was incapable of performing these tasks himself, or people just used God as an excuse for genocide. To me, either reason is a faith-changer, especially when the inerrant nature of the word of God, the Bible.
In discussions I’ve had in the past, I found myself getting riled up and upset when someone came up with a point I could not argue myself around. It felt like a direct attack on God and subsequently on me. I immediately would feel self-conscious that I was going to become lost in confusion by a clever argument and would lose my faith. When people become upset like this, they can feel pressured to take up the banner of faith and defend God: a God that should require no defense at all.
We’ve seen the dark extremes that this mindset can bring, and it has been this way since the dawn of Christianity. You see, the side of Christianity that we see today is the side that won out by literally killing off the other side. That other side was the Gnostics, and it was in the loss of their teachings that this violent paradox took root.
Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock addressed the early relationship between the Gnostics and Christian fathers – and the former’s suppression – in their book The Master Game;
“In 1945 a great hoard of hitherto unknown Gnostic texts from the early centuries of the Christian era was found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. Since the translation and eventual publication of these texts in 1977 it has become apparent that Christianity’s relationship with Gnosticism goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian cult in the first century AD. Likewise, it is now obvious, and widely accepted, that, ‘Christian Gnosticism’ was not some offshoot from the mainstream of Christianity. On the contrary it was part of the mainstream-perhaps even the major part.”
What led to the great schism? What manner of doctrine could have provoked the move toward suppression and how could this have led to the paradox of violence and faith? As it turns out, the Gnostics had a highly controversial (to modern mainstream Christianity) perspective regarding the bloodthirsty God of the Bible.
They believed that he was an evil demigod – the demiurge – and not the true God of spirit. To the Gnostics, the physical world was a literal hell and that the flesh entrapped the spirit in perdition. Jesus, they believed, came to show us an example of how to live this life, and that his death and resurrection were an illustration of God’s victory over the fleshly world.
Such a belief system was threatening to the authority of the nascent church. It had to be eliminated. By 325 AD, the Council of Nicea had put together the Bible the way they wanted it to be and excluded Gnostic theology and teachings.
From the beginning of the fourth century AD, as it acquired state power, the Church undertook a radical change in direction. The freethinking and sometimes anarchical approach of Gnostics began to be frowned upon, their allegorical interpretations of the scriptures were dropped in favor of literal ones, and persecutions for heresy began almost immediately.
This was a great loss for Christianity and the world at large. As the religion gained a foothold among the powerful it became a weapon of ideological oppression and a cause for bloodshed. Gnosticism could have brought a balance between violence and faith.
When you see words like ‘Jealous’ repeated ad infinitum in Old Testament prophecy and scripture, one may come to the conclusion that these traits seem too human to be truly divine. Such is the consequence of the Gnostic suppression. Paradoxically, when violent and women men defend the God of the Old Testament, they’re making sacrifice to the same blood-soaked monster that the Gnostics tried to warn us about.
There is no reason for Christians to continue to serve the monster born in violence and oppression. Did God not give us the minds that we currently have? The past is beyond our reach, but we can change now and try to create a better tomorrow. We must teach that if God is really God, then he can take care of himself.
Gabriel D. Roberts is author of the forthcoming book, Born Again to Rebirth, available Feb 15 at GabrielDRoberts.com.