Volf on Divine Violence

A couple relevant excerpts (given recent posts) from “Violence and Peace,” the final chapter of Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace (my emphasis added in bold; paragraph breaks added where noted): 

“God will judge, not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evildoers experience God’s terror, it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah.

“If we accept the stubborn irredeemability of some people, do we not end up with an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of Christian faith? Here the “crucified Messiah” with arms outstretched embracing the “vilest sinner,” there the Rider on the white horse with a sharp sword coming from his mouth to strike down the hopelessly wicked? The patient love of God over against the fury of God’s wrath? Why this polarity? [Paragraph break added]

“Not because the God of the cross is different from the God of the second coming. After all, the cross is not forgiveness pure and simple, but God’s setting aright the world of injustice and deception. The polarity is there because some human beings refuse to be “set aright.” Those who take divine suffering (the cross) as a display of divine weakness that condones violence — instead of divine grace that restores the violator — draw upon themselves divine anger (the sword) that makes an end to their violence. [Paragraph break added]

“The violence of the Rider on the white horse, I suggest, is the symbolic portrayal of the final exclusion of everything that refuses to be redeemed by God’s suffering love. For the sake of the peace of God’s good creation, we can and must affirm this divine anger and this divine violence, while at the same time holding on to the hope that in the end, even the flag bearer will desert the army that desires to make war against the Lamb.” (pp. 298-299)

[…]

“The thesis about the correspondence between divine and human action rightly underlines that the fundamental theological question in relation to violence is the question about God: “What is God like?” — the God who “loves enemies and is the original peace maker” (Yoder 1985, 104) or the God of vengeance, out to punish the insubordinate? The thesis has, however, one small but fatal flaw: humans are not God. There is a duty prior to the duty of imitating God, and that is the duty of not wanting to be God, of letting God be God and humans be humans. Without such a duty guarding the divinity of God the duty to imitate God would be empty because our concept of God would be nothing more than the mirror image of ourselves.” (301)

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