Genesis and the Ushering in of Righteous & Unrighteous Violence

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Genesis and the Ushering in of Righteous & Unrighteous Violence:          

A Biblical Theology of Violence and How Christians Should Interact With It

 

It was in the glorious Garden of Eden that God placed humanity in its first days. The Garden was a place, not only of beauty, but also of peace. There was no violence or gore, even the lamb had no fear of its neighbor the lion. Adam saw his wife as his most treasured possession under God, and between husband and wife, there was no miscommunication, argument, or anger. They enjoyed one another perfectly. When we survey the human and even animal relationships at creation’s conception, we can say with confidence that it was a world without violence.

However, it was in this Garden where the first words of violence would be uttered. Though an evil, crafty serpent would be the first to speak deceit, it would be the Lord of glory who would utter the first words of violence:

“I will put hostility between you and the woman,

and between your seed and her seed.

He will strike your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15 (HCSB)

What we have in this passage is a God-spoken promise that violence would enter this world once filled only with peace. As humanity fell from grace, they now also made for themselves a world that would not be marked by peace but an ongoing violent battle between two seeds or offspring. The seed of the serpent would be an offspring who would constantly try to crush the offspring of the woman. In return, the offspring of the woman would fight back and ultimately succeed by striking the deathblow to the serpent’s seed. This pattern of violence is something that we see take place throughout the pages of Scripture. Though all people are born from women, there have always been persons whom Satan has used for his purposes, these people can be considered as seeds of the serpent. Until a person is born again, they are children or seeds of the devil. You can see an example of this reality in 1 John 3:10,

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Again, this text implies two different offspring. There is the offspring of the devil who is loveless and unrighteous and the offspring of God who is righteous and loving. Another example of this reality can be found in Jesus’s words in Matthew 12:34,

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

And early on, we have the account of John the Baptist calling the Pharisees a Brood or family/offspring of vipers (Luke 3:7). As should already have been made clear, there is another seed or offspring that God has used for his righteous purposes. We can see their lineage in the genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. They are also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as those who walked by faith. At some point earlier in their lives, as they lived apart from the righteousness of God, they too were children of the devil. They too, like me, were part of a brood of vipers. All people are children of the devil until they are converted and adopted into the family of God. The genealogies of Jesus found in Matthew 1 or Luke 3 both list men and women who have testimonies of adoption. They were all adopted from the family of Satan to the family of God.

We see examples of these opposing seeds from the accounts of Cain and Abel, Moses and Pharaoh, Israel and the Canaanites, David and Goliath, and Jesus and the Pharisees/Romans. In each situation, we see the godly offspring struggle under the violence of the enemy, but it is always the seed of the woman who ultimately prevails. This issue is not the primary one I would like to focus on as we consider a theology of violence in the Torah, but it is crucial. As we seek to understand violence and come to a more proper understanding of it, we must understand violence in biblical categories. Only after submitting our understanding of violence to scripture can we then have a clearer mind to decide, whether or not, we should be entertained by it.

Violence is never neutral; it is always making a statement. The issue is discerning what statement the violence we are viewing is making. I would like to affirm here that violence in and of itself is not evil. Violence is a product of the Fall and the inevitable result of two paramount opposing forces. However, within the realm of the Fall, we now have both righteous and unrighteous violence.

Righteous violence is that which is put forth against those who seek to afflict the innocent, destroy the created order of God, or mar the image of God found in humanity.

Unrighteous violence is the wicked or ungodly violence which seeks to rage war against all the things God has declared good in his Word.

This includes the innocent (in an earthly sense), the created order, and the image of man. An example of what I mean by created order can be found in dog fighting. God did not create and give animals to human beings to be tortured and beaten to a bloody death by other animals for simple human enjoyment. He created animals for his glory and to be our companions and helpers in the cultivation of the earth (II Samuel 12:1–6).

When it comes to the things we watch and are entertained by, the critical question that must be asked is as follows,

“Is this movie, game, or show I am engaging with portraying a righteous violence that is seeking to end a wicked violence or is it violence that is delighting in the marring of the imago Dei (image of God).”

This does take a lot of discernment because many times, worldly movies will portray “righteous violence” in a way that is not actually emphasizing the righteous violence, but is rather with subtlety, simply using what appears to be righteous violence as a cover up. The real motive behind movies, games, and TV shows that do this is actually to delight in the wicked and ungodly violence of the marring of the imago Dei.

For instance, Adolf Hitler was someone who exerted ungodly, wicked violence. Not simply in the horrific eradication of the Jews, but also in principle. Around 11 million people were killed in the Nazi Death Camps. Hitler did not simply hate the Jews, he hated the image of God found in all kinds of people groups, and he sought, violently, to eliminate it in various ways. There were many soldiers, who did not travel overseas simply to fight for “their” country, rather they went to fight against an ambassador of evil who sought to destroy the image of God found in man. Therefore, is there a difference between watching Saving Private Ryan or Valkyrie versus Inglorious ****s by Quentin Tarantino? Saving Private Ryan displays courageous soldiers fighting against an evil regime. Though graphic, killing and death is seen as a tragedy on both sides of the battle. The image of God is something weighed heavily. Inglorious ****s (though I honestly could not watch the majority of the movie) shows the main character carving Swastikas into the foreheads of his Nazi prisoners. As Hitler and other evil men are killed, their bodies are ripped to pieces by arrays of bullets with a sense of satisfaction and delight across the “good” guy’s face. This is only an example, but I believe it is an adequate one to demonstrate my point. Christians must consider how the biblical portrayal of violence compares to the portrayal of violence found in modern films and video games. In the next post, I will differentiate between violence and gore. I will also seek to demonstrate the biblical understanding of gore from the book of Leviticus. I believe the biggest issue among believers and discernment is in the area of gore. Many believe that there is no difference between gore and violence, and this is extremely problematic. Not adequately understanding the nature of gore can have serious affects on your understanding of sin and the gospel.

The concept of violence and gore is interspersed throughout the entire biblical narrative. In fact, I would go even further and state that it is a prominent theme found in Scripture. However, I believe it is also an easily misunderstood theme, as well. In the following posts, I will seek to lay out a biblical theology of violence and gore as it is presented in Scripture. Due to my broad readership, this whole series will not be too technical. If anyone has any further questions, write a comment or email me, and I would be happy to address your questions in greater detail. Grace and peace in the name of our beloved Savior!

Clarification: When I use the phrase “marring the Imago Dei” I am referring to a common practice found in violent entertainment. Marring is the act of disfiguring something. In the concept of marring the image of God or Imago Dei, the something being disfigured is the image of God found in the physical appearance of man, the crown and glory of God’s creation. I am aware that the term Imago Dei connotes a lot more theologically than simply man’s appearance; however, I believe that man’s physical appearance in some small way is still a reflection of God’s image and glory as he made us personally from the dust of the ground rather than simply speaking us into existence as he did other creatures of the earth. Also, Christ took on the form of human flesh in the incarnation. Movies that entertain through disfiguring the physical appearance of a human being fall into this category. This concept will become clearer in the next post as I speak about gore, however, what I am getting at in this phrase is that movies that seek to show disfigurement, not for the sake of realism (such as Hotel Rwanda) but rather for the sake of entertainment (Django Unchained, The Saw franchise, etc.) are dishonoring God and the glory he has given man being made in his image.

 

About Kyle James Howard

My name is Kyle, I am married to my “high-school sweetheart” and we have 3 children. I have a 7 year-old daughter (Hadassah), a 2 year-old son (Jonah), and 1 year old (Kesed). I am 32 years old and I am currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have an Associates degree in Biblical & Theological Studies, A B.S. in Biblical Counseling, and I am finishing up an Advanced M. Div in Historical Theology. Click on the "About Me" link at the top of my home page to read my full testimony.

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