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How can we think about the violence in the Bible?

From the November 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

While vast numbers of people find comfort and healing in the Bible’s spiritual meaning, many pages of the Bible are filled with violence. To interpret the Scriptures in an authentic way—and to find inspiration even in those passages depicting violence and death—we need to deal with and confront that violent record truthfully and openly, and with deep prayer.

If we do that, we begin to trace a story of a people’s evolving understanding of God. Most of the acts of peace and violence in the Scriptures have everything to do with people’s beliefs about God. Some Bible passages illustrate the people’s belief that God is wrathful and terrifying, condoning and even commanding acts of violence, including outright genocide. Other passages reveal people discovering the eternal spiritual truth: that God is merciful and gentle, knowing only peace.

A number of Old Testament writers portray a belief in divine retribution—the belief that God punishes evil (including the people who express it) but rewards goodness. But Christian Science explains that evil is never God-sent; God, our infinitely good Father-Mother, is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). God is just and merciful, and never could or would harm His, Her, children. 

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