Growing up Fundagelical, I’ve heard a lot of sermons about blood. I’ve sung hymns where we are washed in the blood, covered by the blood, and received power by the blood. What’s up with all this blood?
Fundagelicals take the Bible literally, and if God says He wants blood or that it takes blood to wash away sins, then someone is going to die. As a Progressive Christian, I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally. The ancient Jews who produced the Old Testament didn’t take it literally so why should we? The first century converted Jews who started Christianity and wrote the New Testament didn’t take it literally so why should we?
Fundagelicals see the Bible as dictated to humans by God. Humans merely transcribed what God said to them. (Including all the grammar mistakes) Everything in the Bible is absolute truth and literally true. They see the Jewish religion as something that was given to the ancient Israelites as fully formed. It didn’t progress or change over time; it was a monolithic fully formed religion handed to Moses who gave it to Israel. Today’s Bible truths are what have always been, and always will be, forever unchanging.
Progressives see the Bible as a work of human beings inspired by God. Humans were inspired by God like poets and artist are inspired to communicate a message. The Bible is a record of humankind’s progressive understanding of God. For Progressives, the incarnation of Jesus is the ultimate communication of who God is and how we should understand Him. Jesus corrected many of the false ideas we had about who God is. The Jewish religion and Christianity have evolved over time. This means that some of the writings in the Bible are influenced by cruder and more primitive understandings bound to their time and culture.
All this is to say that the Fundagelical God is a bloodthirsty God. Apparently, as part of His nature and character, He has established a set of rules that demand blood for disobeying His will. Fundagelicals point to numerous verses in both the Old Testament and New Testament where animals are sacrificed as part of the ritual sacrifices for sin. Paul uses the image of blood sacrifice to demonstrate the atoning work of Jesus. Is it any wonder they see the book of Revelation as a prediction of a future bloodbath perpetrated by Christ?
Progressives would look to the ancient Canaanite culture and religion that Israel emerged from and see gods like the Baals and Moloch who demanded human blood sacrifice. Progressives understand that the ancient Israelites projected their previous pagan understanding of God. The Israelites would have assumed YHWH/Elohim wanted blood as Moloch did. (For an interesting take on the humans need for sacrifices and violence check out Rene Girard’s scapegoat mechanism) However, as time progressed human sacrifices were replaced by animal sacrifices (Genesis 22) and even animal sacrifices were deemed lesser to heartfelt obedience. (Hosea 6:6) In the book of Revelation, redeemed creation needs no temple for sacrifices because the Lamb and God Almighty are the temple. (Revelation 21:22) Superstition and ritual are replaced with a direct relationship.
Fundagelicals believe in a God who demands blood and kills His own son to get it. Progressives believe that the ancients progressed out of a bloodthirsty religion to a loving relationship with God through Jesus the revealed Word of God.
When we come to an understanding that Judaism evolved over time and humankind’s understanding of God did too, it helps us move away from a bloodthirsty God to a God who loves us and is on our side. Believing and teaching a bloodthirsty God says more about us and the kind of people we are than it says about the God Jesus revealed.