A friend of mine asked for my perspective on the following question: How do you reconcile the notion of a loving God with a God who also promises vengeance? Are the ideas incompatible? Or do you understand vengeance as a manifestation of that love? If so, how so?
Religious groups, especially in Western societies, depict God as an omnibenevolent deity, dissociating him from the concept of evil. There are Biblical and historical references which contradict this ideology and portray God as a being with a dichotomous nature, maintaining a balance between good and evil. The Bible itself explains to us how God embodies the characteristics of both liberator and oppressor, creator and destroyer, capable of expressing both love and hatred. However, modern Christians have separated the attributes, assigning them to two different deities to represent them—God and the Devil.
This creates the conundrum mentioned in the question above. Due to current definitions we are forced to ignore or justify the chaotic and destructive nature of God. We tend to view him as representing one side of a coin but he is, in reality, one with two heads. Consider the violence in both Testaments; some acted upon and some promised, none ever blamed on his evil counterpart. We cannot deny the evil acts God has committed nor the plans he’ll execute in the future if we interpret the Bible in a literal sense. For example: he created the earth, destroyed it (Noah), and plans to destroy it again (Revelations).
This is not to say God is all evil.
God is considered to be the creator of all things. Most would say God created good and then evil corrupted it, but if God is the creator of all things, then we must acknowledge that he created evil as well. To create evil, one must have the capacity to be evil. At the very least, he had to be capable of imagining evil.
Eastern religions understand the relationship, the balance, and the necessity of good and evil (Yin/Yang, for example). We cannot have one without the other. What we fail to teach in modern Western religion is that God is this balance. We see in nature and human design who God really is. Nature represents chaos and order, life and death rolled into one existential idea. Humans, created in God’s image, share the same traits and have the capacity to commit good and evil acts, just as God does.
God is the duality we see all around us.
Vengeance and justice are oftentimes conflated. There have been countless philosophical discussions on the difference and whether vengeance is a moral form of justice, but Jesus spoke against retaliation as a whole, contending that justice will be served in the afterlife (there’s some ambiguity and contradictions but I won’t discuss those today). The desire for vengeance is a manifestation of love, but the act, generally speaking, is considered immoral and evil.
I think the concept of a vengeful deity was used to strike fear into those who would not fall in line or behave appropriately in past civilizations. One could argue that God is both good and evil, but not vengeful or spiteful as the literature suggests. Perhaps it is merely a matter of interpretation and obviously, context plays a role in this part of the discussion.
However, a litany of questions arise when I contemplate the idea of a vengeful divine entity. Is it not hypocritical for God to command us to show restraint when seeking revenge, all while he plans to exact his own? Why would God need to take vengeance upon his own creations? Is it not enough to have to face our mortality and the suffering we endure while alive? Especially since his creations are simply doing what he designed them to do? Why give us free will, claim to love us, but kick us down to Hell (which he created—the creator of all things) for eternity for faults he allowed us to have? Why would he not be more understanding of the imperfections he created? An eternity in Hell is a harsh punishment for a “loving” God to inflict upon us, no matter how sinful one’s life was.
The reasons for revenge against creatures who are not equal in power and intellect are inconceivable. Acting out revenge against lesser beings who don’t have power or the ability to defend themselves is cruel. That is the definition of a dictatorship. Arguments attempting to justify vengeance in this form are reprehensible.
In conclusion, we cannot reconcile the idea of an all-loving God who is also capable of vengeance. Adopting a balanced perspective of God’s nature will allow for this dichotomy to exist, but it’s not possible as he is currently depicted because the contradictions are just too great. While evil exists, God cannot be considered all-good and all-powerful at the same time because, if he didn’t create evil, then he has no control over it. Remove the singularity in the nature of his existence and accept the duality of his character, then the good and vengeful God may co-exist.
Before You Go!
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