Theology experts Scott Hahn, John Bergsma, and Michael Waldstein explained the meaning behind God’s “killings” in the Old Testament in an academic lecture in the Gentile Gallery on Sept. 21. Each speaker presented a short talk on the question “Does God kill people?” before ending with a Q&A session.
Bergsma, who holds a doctorate in theology, began by pointing out the instances in the Old Testament when God commanded his followers to kill, such as his orders to Moses to “completely destroy” the Canaanites. Bergsma then reminded his listeners that one must look to the crucifixion for interpretation. From Christ’s great sacrifice, one can draw four truths: God loves man, God understands death, God understands the loss of a loved one and God can restore life.
From these four truths, Bergsma drew the conclusion that God, who ultimately controls everyone’s deaths, only “kills” individuals for their own good. He pointed out that God can take the lives of the innocent and the wicked alike to save both from corruption by the evil in the world.
According to Bergsma, atheists have a hopeless outlook on suffering and death because they have no concept of a just God or an afterlife. Most non-Catholic Christians do not have the assurance of God’s endless love and his experience of human life and death. Thus, Catholicism has the best explanation for the presence of death and suffering in the world, concluded Bergsma.
Hahn, who holds a doctorate in biblical theology, continued the lecture, first pointing out multiple examples of God’s “killings” in the Old Testament. He then made the distinction between bodily death and spiritual death, the latter of which is deeper, darker and easier to ignore. God knew his plan from the beginning, said Hahn, culminating in his ultimate sacrifice of love on the cross.
To emphasize the importance of faith, Hahn brought up the example of Abraham and Isaac and God’s command for Abraham to kill his son. He showed how this Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ, as were all things in the old covenant.
Waldstein, who holds doctorate degrees in philosophy and in New Testament and Christian origins, rounded out the academic lecture by asking the question, “Where do I step? What truths do I hold onto?” He emphasized that God acts according to reason and cannot do anything morally incorrect since he defines and determines the laws of reason.
Waldstein also touched upon the differences between an intrinsically evil act and an act made evil by the person performing it. He drew a distinction between God’s commands and man’s own choices and concluded his lecture with Christ’s words in Matthew 19 about human law versus God’s law.
The next talk in the Friday Academic Lecture Series is “From Sexual Revolution to the Theology of the Body: Rethinking Humanae Vitae in 2018.” It will be held on Friday, Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery.