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My thoughtful collegiate daughter recently asked me a good question that threw me into a quandary. She pointed to several passages in the Pentateuch and asked, "Should a God who commands his people to wage war be worshiped?" I dared not treat the subject lightly. ("You mean the God who empowers a bunch of cruelly oppressed bricklayers being led by a stuttering geezer to fulfill their destiny against all odds? It could be a movie!") I realized she was sincerely troubled by the violence.

The truth is, so am I. Until she asked her question, I had successfully avoided it. But it is one thing to stuff your own nagging doubts in a dark corner. It is quite another to tell the searching heart of your child to be quiet and go away. Instead, I told her I would pray, study, and write to her with my thoughts.

Thus, for several months I have been seriously grappling with the terrifying aspects of God's nature. For many, the inscrutable temperament of God is a stumbling block to belief. They choose the "safer" scenario of a universe without God over one in which our lives hang on the mercy of an infinitely powerful force we can't fully understand, much less control. But I would rather be boldly inquisitive than safe. Better to probe threatening territory than to draw back in apprehension, hoping someone else will find a solution for my dilemma.

Consider the difference between the swineherds of Gerasa (Luke 8:26-39) and the storm-beaten disciples on the sea (Mark 4:35-41). Both groups witnessed compelling demonstrations that Jesus could kill or save by his word alone. Yet only the disciples had the courage to ask, hearts pounding, armpits sweaty, "What manner of man is this?" (Mark 4:41, KJV). The swineherds opted to cut their losses (two ...

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April 2011

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