A Pastoral Perspective on Divine Violence

This review of my book Divine Violence and the Character of God was written by Charles W. Moore. Dr. Moore is the former president of Northern Baptist Seminary. At the present Dr. Moore serves as the pastor of The Church of Emmanuel in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Below is Dr Moore’s review:

I often dream of writing a book entitled, “Bedtime Stories My Mom Never Read to Me.” When I was younger, my mother read a story from the Bible before listening to my prayers at night. Yet, as I grew older and started reading the Bible on my own, I realized that there are stories that she never read to me. They were stories of violence and death.

As described by Dr. Scot McKnight in the foreword of Mariottini’s book, these stories are brutal, bloody and barbaric. Yet, what made these stories even harder to read and more difficult to digest is because the primary actor in these text was God!

As I grew in my formative years, I asked the question that is central to Mariottini’s book, “How does one rectify the seemingly contradictory images of God portrayed in the Bible?” While years of theological study have helped me answer this question, I can only wish that Mariottini’s book had been available to me much sooner.

Mariottini’s book, while being filled with theological insights and superb exegetical analysis, is easy to read and understand, even to the person who may have little exposure to the world of academics.

This, however, does not mean that one can consume this book over a weekend. It is a book that needs to be read at a pace that allows the reader the opportunity to mentally absorb the information while interacting with the author’s insights. It’s a book in which the reader will want to lay it down for some moments while pondering, “Hmm . . . let me think about that.”

What did I specifically appreciate about Mariottini’s work? First, it is comprehensive. While it would have been impossible to cover every Old Testament text that contains images of violence, Mariottini does an excellent job of covering the significant periods of Israel’s history in which the “Warrior God” appears.

From the outset of creation to the period of the prophets, Mariottini deals with every movement of Jewish history while providing his reader with fresh insight.

Second, Mariottini’s work is responsive. Some authors, in defending their thesis, completely ignore what others have to say about the area in which they are writing. Readers are often left wondering, “Yes, but what about …?” Yet, far from ignoring the opinions of those who might disagree with him, Mariottini openly welcomes and addresses the thoughts of individuals, such as Greg Boyd, C. S. Cowles, and others in a way that is dialogical rather than defensive.

Given the lack of healthy dialogue that seems to be lacking in some evangelical circles, I find his approach and spirit to be refreshing.

Third, this work celebrates the redemptive. The entire text builds to the culmination of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is perhaps the third part of the text that will be of greatest help to the local church pastor who is looking for fresh insights when it comes to the atonement provided by our Savior.

As I was reading part three of the book, my mind went to a college professor who once protested, “If Jesus was God’s son, the crucifixion stands as an illustration of nothing less than child abuse.”

Far from abuse, the first two parts of Mariottini’s book set the stage for understanding the offering that Jesus willingly provided as a means to ending violence once and for all.

Who will benefit from reading this book? Pastors who are asked by inquisitive seekers, “If the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament, then how do you explain the difference?” Students of the Bible who, because of this issue, may quietly wonder whether they can really trust the Scriptures.

Perhaps if I ever get around to writing my book, I will advise the readers to first read Mariottini’s book. Or maybe we can put them together in a package deal!

Charles W. Moore

I would like to thank Dr. Moore for reviewing my book. Dr. Moore was president of Northern Baptist Seminary at the time I served as Professor of Old Testament.

NOTE: At my request, the publisher has extended the 40% discount to readers of my blog until May 31, 2022. If you want to buy the book at 40% discount, send an email to drmariottini@gmail.com. On the subject line write Divine Violence.

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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