Miloslav Volf – Jehovah on Trial: Should we kill monotheism?

Cain and Abel. Byzantine mosaic i =n Monreale
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While reading this book (which I will be posting on later), the first author mentioned that this essay he had written sometime ago. As a send up, I thought I might share.

Essentially, he is reviewing/responding to ]]’s claim that monotheism has engendered too much violence to remain. Without reading the book, I can only point to the ancient polytheistic tribal systems and the causes of war. But, Volf is much better in his response:

Why does belief in one God forge identities antithetically? one could ask, wondering whether the chain with which Schwartz connects violence to monotheism might lack a crucial link. And why is the claim to distinctive identity sufficiently important to spawn violence? The answer, argues Schwartz, lies in the principle of scarcity—the belief that everything is in short supply and must be competed for. This principle, too, is rooted in biblical monotheism, we are told. “Scarcity is encoded in the Bible as a principle of Oneness (one land, one people, one nation) and in monotheistic thinking (one Deity), it becomes a demand of exclusive allegiance that threatens with the violence of exclusion.”

The story of Cain and Abel provides Schwartz with the key to the evils of monotheism. She calls it a story of “original violence.” Unlike the story of original sin, though, the story of original violence does not suggest that we kill becauseCain did, but that we kill for similar reasons. Without stating so explicitly, however, Schwartz implies that, at another level, the story of Cain and Abel is a story of original sin, with this twist: the sinner is not Cain but his divine Maker. We kill because God did something wrong, argues Schwartz. Cain was enraged by God’s arbitrary decision to accept Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s; we all kill because of the same arbitrariness of the one God of the Bible. “What kind of God is this who chooses one sacrifice over the other? This God who excludes some and prefers others, who casts some out, is a monotheistic God—monotheistic not only because he demands allegiance to himself alone but because he confers his favor on one alone.”

Jehovah on Trial | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I would encourage you to read it, of course.

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3 Replies to “Miloslav Volf – Jehovah on Trial: Should we kill monotheism?”

    1. Actually, all of Christianity was supersessionist. And, obviously, you missed the point of the argument. The author of the book is arguing for the end of all monotheism. For Christians and Jews alike, YHWH represents monotheism.

  1. All the violence is engendered by a rejection of the ethical side of ethical monotheism. The ten commandments state a clear ethical monotheism: There is one God and he wants you to live morally. When the Israelites responded to God’s statement of the ten commandments with “We don’t want to hear God’s voice; Moses you speak to us” they rejected the ethical part of it in favor of ceremonialism; the rejected divine ethics in favor of manmade ceremonial law. There is the problem.

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