God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? - Latest Book Review
Review from Robin Gill, Theology 2019, Vol 122(6)
Helen Paynter is a Baptist minister and director of the new Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence at Bristol. This accessible and refreshingly honest paperback, published by The Bible Reading Fellowship is very welcome indeed. It examines carefully some of the most troublesome texts in the Old Testament and it does so in stages, as she explains:
First, we will consider instances where violence is described, not prescribed. Next we will look at places – mainly the psalms – where violence is implored: where the psalmist prays for vengeance. Third, we will consider the issue of violence against animals, particularly the flood story and the system of animal sacrifice. Fourth, we will look at the use of violence as divine judgement. And fifth, we will look at the knottiest problem of all: the texts where God appears to command people to be violent to one another. At the end of most of the chapters in this section I offer some more practical suggestions. How should we handle these texts in our churches – in our pulpits, our home groups, our Sunday schools? And then, in the final chapter, we will ‘zoom back out’ and take a look at the big picture of the bible.
There is nothing particularly novel about any of this, but that is not the point. Her message needs to be heard in a context of widespread fear of religiously inspired violence. This small book and her new Centre make an excellent contribution to greater understanding.