Is God a God of Peace or a God of War? Isa, Rom, Ex, Joel

Are Isaiah 2:4, Romans 15:33, Exodus 15:3, Joel 3:9-10 contradictory concerning whether God is a God of peace or a God of war?
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick answer

God's ultimate plan is peace, but there is a spiritual war that must be fought before full peace arrives. Thus, God is both a God of peace and a God of war. There is simply no contradiction between these passages.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether God is a God of peace or a God of war. Here are the relevant passages:

God is a God of peace

Isaiah 2:4 - He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; neither shall they learn war anymore.
Romans 15:33 - May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

God is a God of war

Exodus 15:3 - The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
Joel 3:9-10 - Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."

The answer

There is simply no contradiction between these passages because God can be both a God of peace and a God of war at the same time.

God, in His very nature, is a God of peace, and His ultimate plan for creation is that there will be peace. He sent His son Jesus to die for sin so that there could be reconcilation between God and man, as well as peace between humans.

At the same time, God has decreed that there would be war and battles to be fought in order to achieve this peace. History is filled with both physical and spiritual war, through which God demonstrates Himself to be victorious over sin and death. At the end of this spiritual war, there will be both physical and spiritual peace.

If we simply define what the terms "peace" and "war" mean within the context of the Bible and of these passages, it is clear that there is absolutely no contradiction between passages that portray God as a God of peace and passages that portray God as a God of war.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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