For many people, the question of God living within humans is problematic because whatever debate follows is all too easily sidetracked by examples of people who declared they heard from God only to go on to commit violent acts and crimes. A classic example of this being serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – nicknamed the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ – who claimed that God had instructed him to kill prostitutes.
Now, while a small number of murderers may claim their violent spree was inspired by God, it seems most people reject this kind of explanation for their actions. Indeed, it seems that many people are theologically informed enough to reason that if God is good and loving, then there is no way the Divine can be culpable for such heinous crimes – a point evidenced in the majority of courtroom trials in which defendants, claiming the murder was somehow God-inspired, receive an almost instant sentence or statement of being medically unfit to stand trial and/or convicted as a religious fanatic or deluded zealot.
But if it’s true that God is good, how do we make sense of Old Testament passages in which we are told that the Divine speaks to His representatives, ordering them to kill and destroy the neighbouring communities for fear that His People may be influenced and become like them?
How do we reconcile this?
God’s words to the people? Or people justifying their own agenda and wanton actions?