Seibert’s solution to disturbing divine behaviour is a christocentric hermeneutic. He acknowledges that the New Testament itself has some trouble images of divine behaviour. But he insists that we can trust the depiction of Jesus in the New Testament and use him, as the fullest revelation of God, as a guide to interpreting disturbing divine behaviour. He defines the God revealed by Jesus:
• Jesus reveals a God who is kind to the wicked – such as when he calls on us to love our enemies. This aspect of God’s character is only sometimes revealed in the OT.
• Jesus reveals a God who is nonviolent – again the command to love our enemies; throughout the gospels, Jesus never endorses or promotes the idea of God as a divine warrior. He lived nonviolently himself and rejected violence as a way to achieve justice. Ultimately, Jesus’ nonviolence is revealed in his death on the cross.
• Jesus reveals a God who does not judge people by causing historical (or natural) disasters or serious physical infirmities – recall Luke 13:1-5, where people ask Jesus what sin the Galileans committed that God let them be killed by Pilate
• Jesus reveals a God of love
Seibert goes on to show his dual hermeneutic in practice – critiquing disturbing texts with a christocentric hermeneutic, but also affirming them by seeking to find what ‘salvageable’ from such passages.
His final chapter offers some practical suggestions for ‘talking about troubling texts’:
• Stop trying to justify God’s behaviour in the Old Testament – a suggestion that is immensely liberating for me, if indeed I can follow him to here.
• Acknowledge how these texts have fostered oppression and violence
• Help people use problematic images responsibly and constructively
• Keep disturbing divine behaviour in perspective – that is, remember how much of the Old Testament is not troubling.
Seibert has an appendix dealing with Jesus’ eschatological sayings and whether they can be said to reveal a nonviolent God. Strangely, his treatment of hell doesn’t even consider universalism as an option – that is, the idea that ultimately God will reconcile all people to himself. It is at least as supportable of many of the things
I need some time to discern whether I can follow Seibert to where he goes. But his book gripped me. For once I found myself unable to put down a theology book,when usually they are something of a chore to read.