Last month I was doing a Skype interview about Unclean with Tony Jones and the missional leadership graduate class from Rochester College he was teaching. At the start of the interview we had a conversation about the God-sanctioned violence in the Old Testament. How do you deal with that?
There are a variety of answers to that question. One of the more controversial and heterodox answers comes from process theology, the notion that God is developing/changing over time. Moving from the wrathful and violent deity of the OT to the loving and forgiving God of Jesus Christ in the NT.
Tony asked what I thought about process theology. Well, I said, I've certainly considered the idea. (I've considered just about every idea. And I keep considering them. Sort of like a theological moth. That's what I am, a theological moth.)
Anyhow, what I said was that when I think about process theology I keep coming back to this text in book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 4.14-16Think about what this passage is saying about how the Incarnation affected the empathy of God. Jesus, because he "was tempted in every way, just as we are", is a high priest who can "empathize with our weaknesses." And because of this empathic intercession we can "approach God's throne of grace with confidence."
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Here's what I'm wondering. What does this text imply about God's empathy toward humanity prior to the Incarnation? Prior to God being "tempted in every way, just as we are" was God less able to "empathize with our weaknesses"? The text implies as much, that there was an empathic chasm that Jesus helped bridge. God's empathic capacities were improved because of the life of Jesus on earth.
And if that is so, might this be a way of thinking about the change in God from the Old Testament to the New Testament?