Mark Buchanan: Can We Trust the God of Genocide?

Buchanan’s article is part of a series from Christianity Today that addresses the question, “What is the relationship between the seemingly legalistic and wrathful God of the Old Testament, and the seemingly loving and gracious God of the New?”

“Thanks for coming,” he said, surprising me. I asked him if I’d helped him answer the question, Why do you trust the Bible?



“Well,” I said, “do you trust the Bible?”


“Why not?”

“Hosea 13:16,” he said.

“Remind me,” I said.

With icy precision he quoted: “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”

Now it was my turn to be dumbfounded.

[B]oth Testaments narrate a kind of historical determinism. The brutality that Hosea describes is sickening, but hardly confined to some remote, barbaric past ruled by bloodthirsty chieftains at the behest of their cruel tribal deities. No, such brutality is happening somewhere in the world right now, often at the hands of those who are well educated and, in certain contexts, charming and sophisticated. But as then, so now: they commit such acts because, at root, “they have rebelled against their God.” And as then, so now: it’s often the women and children, the innocents, who suffer the consequences. In some ways, Hosea 13:16 simply announces a terrible historical reality: evil happens when men reject God, and often the wrong people suffer for it.

The problem here, though, is that Hosea 13:16 implicitly, and other texts explicitly, impute the agency of such acts to God. He’s the author and perfecter of the atrocity. He is the one pulling the levers, pushing the buttons—or watching it all happen with approval, like Saul holding the cloaks of the assassins.

Is that you, Jesus? we ask. Which takes us to the heart of the matter.

Check it out and see what you think.