Category Archives: Nonviolence

God’s War on War

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Though the OT portrays God as not only tolerating violence but also in many cases various narratives quote God as getting his hands dirty and actually promoting and commanding acts of violence, this is not the true character of the God of the OT. Throughout the OT we find passages that reveal God’s war on war. We may begin by recalling the famous passage in Micah in which the Lord expresses his dream that someday people,

…will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Mic. 4:3).

Though God had for a long while been condescending to the violence of this fallen world, in this passage we see the true character of the heavenly missionary breaking through. God’s dream is to eventually grow all people to the point that weapons designed to kill people will be transformed into tools designed to feed them. His dream is that not only will there be no more war, there will be no need to anticipate its possibility.

Along similar lines, despite how gruesome depictions of God and of his people are in certain Psalms, in others we see the Spirit of Christ breaking through with remarkable clarity and beauty. For example, we find the Psalmist at one point turning the warrior image on its head as he declares that God,

            …makes wars cease

to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46: 9-10).

Here we find that the divine warrior has declared war on war (cf. Hos 2:18Mic. 5:10). He is already at work to “[s]catter the nations who delight in war” (Ps. 68:30). Though he is presently willing to in some sense participate in it, God does so, this passage suggests, for the purpose of ultimately bringing an end to it all over the earth. And insofar as he succeeds in doing so, he is revealed to be a God who is exalted above all the conflicts of the nations of the world.

In Isaiah this vision of peace is broadened to include nature as well. When God’s future ruler finishes judging the earth (Isa 11:1-4), the Lord says,

            The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

Infants will play near the hole of the cobra;

young children will put their hands into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:6-9).

However literal or figurative we take this passage, it is clear that it envisions a future in which the violence that now exists between humans and animals as well as that which exists between different kinds of animals—e.g. the “wolf” and “lamb”—will be no more. It’s a vision of the restoration of God’s original creation in which animals and humans alike feed on vegetation, not one another (Gen. 1:29). When the one who is appropriately called “the Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6) assumes his rule over the earth, the curse that causes the entire creation to presently groan will be eradicated and the entire creation will be reconciled to God and will therefore participate in his perfect peace.

While all canonical writings are divinely inspired, I submit that, in the light of what we know about Christ, we must regard peace-loving divine portraits such as these to be more reflective of God’s true character and will than the depictions of God resorting to, and even delighting in, violence. While these later depictions indirectly reveal God’s character by bearing witness to his incarnational and sin-bearing nature, the depictions of God loving enemies and hating violence do so directly, for these cohere with the character of God as revealed in Christ.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

Upfront, I need to state that I am not for abortion, I believe in life and life abundantly. I believe that the Bible teaches the infinite worth and value of human beings which includes unborn children. And I believe unborn children are human beings.

I also recognize the gray areas of abortion and I acknowledge the wide disagreement about when life begins. I don’t claim to know all of the science around this debate but wish to speak to some of the Patriarchy surrounding it. I also acknowledge that at times women are faced with difficult decisions around birth, illness, and other medical situations that threaten the lives of mothers–I offer no judgement. And finally, I acknowledge how political abortion is and how it is used to bolster power and how it is co-opted by politicos to target our fears and moral anxieties in order to gain our votes.

I feel a little nervous about entering this sphere of discussion because it is heated and can at time be filled with lots of angry words. But I am speaking up because I believe that Patriarchal thinking is embedded in much of the pro-life dialogue. And that bothers me. Continue reading Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

Was the Early Church Pacifistic?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

In Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG) I argue that Jesus and Paul instruct Christians to love and bless their enemies and to unconditionally refrain from violence (e.g. Matt 5:39-45Rom 12:14-21). Moreover, I argue that this was the prevailing attitude of Christians prior to the fourth century when the Church aligned itself with the Roman Empire. In his critique of CWG that he delivered at the ETS in November, Copan argues against this, contending that I give “the false impression that Christians were uniformly pacifistic until Constantine.”

He cites the work of David Hunter and several other scholars who note that we find a number of references to Christians serving in the Roman military in the writings of Tertullian, Lactantius, Clement of Alexandra and Eusebius.[1] Not only this, but we have found a number of tomb inscriptions to Christian soldiers in the second and third centuries. On this basis, these scholars argue that the earlier scholarly consensus that the early church was uniformly pacifistic must be nuanced. At least some Christians were apparently not opposed to Christians serving in the military.

The first thing I’ll say is that it is a bit odd that Copan would raise this objection against me, for while I defend “the predominant nonviolence of the early church” prior to “the Augustinian revolution,” I also explicitly note that the earlier unqualified depictions of the early church as uniformly against military service “were not sufficiently nuanced” ((CWG, 24, n.45). Indeed, I refer readers to some of the same works that Copan cites against me (and add a number that he omits). Continue reading Was the Early Church Pacifistic?

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort.

First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’ part, as some allege. Most NT scholars concur that this was a calculated, strategic act on Jesus’ part, and it contained deep symbolic significance. More specifically, this episode appears to be a classic example of a prophetic symbolic action.

There is, however, some disagreement over what exactly Jesus was symbolizing. For example, many argue that Jesus was revealing himself to be the long-awaited messiah who was widely expected to cleanse and/or restore the Temple. Others argue that Jesus was symbolically revealing Yahweh’s displeasure with the corrupt religious establishment and issuing a prophetic warning that the Temple would soon be destroyed, a point that John makes explicit (Jn 2: 19-22). While interpretations differ, however, they all presuppose that the Temple cleansing was anything but a spontaneous tantrum on the part of Jesus.

Second, there is simply no indication in any of the Gospels that Jesus resorted to violence when he cleansed the Temple. Yes, the texts suggest that Jesus was angry, and yes, John tells us that Jesus made a whip (Jn 2:15). But there is no suggestion that he used it to strike any animal or person. To the contrary, throughout history cracking a whip has been a commonly used means of controlling the movement of animals, and John explicitly reports that this is what Jesus used it for.

He used the whip to create an animal stampede of “both sheep and cattle” out of the “temple courts” (Jn 2:15). Not only this, but had Jesus actually whipped any of the court officials, it is hard to imagine how he could have avoided being arrested on the spot. It is also hard to imagine how he could have avoided the charge of hypocrisy, for such behavior would have flown in the face of his previously mentioned public teachings about refraining from violence.

There is therefore nothing about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that runs counter to my claim that the non-violent, enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial love that was supremely revealed on the cross is the thematic center of Jesus’ identity and mission. To the contrary, Jesus engaged in a kind of “street theater” out of love for his “Father’s house” as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who ran the Temple’s “buying and selling” system.

And, as the Gospels make clear, he confronted these leaders in this aggressive manner as a way of forcing their hand, and thus as a steppingstone to his crucifixion. Far from illustrating Jesus acting in an unloving, let alone violent way, I submit that this entire episode reflects Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.

Moreover, John explicitly makes the cross the thematic center of this episode, for he records that Jesus brings this episode to a close by drawing a connection between the newly cleansed temple, which Jesus prophesied would soon be permanently destroyed, and his own body, which would rise again three days after being destroyed (Jn 2:19-22).

Read in context, NT scholar Richard Hays notes, John is declaring “that Jesus’ body is now the place where God dwells, the place where atonement for sin occurs, the place where the division between God and humanity is overcome.” Hence, far from counting against the thematic centrality of the cross, the Temple cleansing illustrates this centrality.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Challenge of Followership

Leadership! It’s a fraught word, describing an even more fraught set of ideals. Leadership, in the final analysis, is neither good or bad. It is amoral. Like the notes on the musical scale and the letters of the alphabet, the essence of leadership, according to John Maxwell, is influence. When people are gifted as leaders, or in some way attain a leadership title, they walk in positions of influence. 

And therein lies the rub, because a culture is set according to the heart of the leader and those they surround themselves with, for good or evil, for strength or weakness. Someone whose influence leads people where they otherwise may not have gone, be it morally just or morally reprehensible, is setting or changing a culture for the duration of their leadership and beyond. That is, technically, good leadership, be it ever so terrible in its outcome. Nations, churches, organisations rise and fall on the way in which they’ve been led.  In 2019 the various modes of leadership across the planet denote that we, as citizens of the world, are in serious trouble.

In the face of drastic climate change in which the earth is vomiting the symptoms of its travail in torrents of floods, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, mud slides, volcanic eruptions and other ‘un’natural catastrophes across the planet, one group stands as the voice of reason, crying out for the influencers of the world to pay attention and change course before it’s too late. The other group, like the people in Noah’s day, keep working, consuming, using, spending and playing as though there’s no tomorrow – which one day may be true. Continue reading The Challenge of Followership

Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

A common objection to the claim that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were opposed to all forms of violence is that neither Jesus nor anyone else speaks out against it. When soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do in response to his message, for example, he told them not to “extort money,” not to “accuse people falsely,” and to be “content with [their] pay” (Lk 3: 14). He didn’t tell them to leave the military. In a similar fashion, when Jesus encountered a distraught Centurion, he healed his servant and praised his faith without saying a word about his leadership role in the violent and unjustly oppressive Roman-governed army (Mt 8:5-13Lk 7:1-10).

Along the same lines, without commenting on his military service, Mark reports that a Centurion confessed faith in Jesus when he witnessed how he died (Mk 15:39). And this same attitude gets carried over into the early church. Indeed, the first Gentile who came to Christ in the book of Acts was yet another Centurion. As Peter preached the Gospel to this man and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were all baptized without a word being uttered about this man’s military service (Acts 10:44-8).

From Augustine to Aquinas to Luther up to the present time, these episodes have been frequently cited to justify Christians serving in the military. Continue reading Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

Sweden’s Bizarre Questions to Christian Asylum Seekers

mölk
Pastor Christian Mölk

by Christian Mölk, originally posted on his blog.

In 2015, 41,000 asylum-seeking Afghans came to Sweden. Many Christians opened their homes and churches and welcomed asylum seekers with open arms.

Many asylum seekers saw the love of the Christians, and they became part of the Christian community. In their desperate situation and dream of a new and better life far from war and poverty, they sought Jesus and found peace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Since a person who has left Islam cannot be deported to Afghanistan, the world’s second most dangerous country for Christians, the Swedish Migration Board needs to decide whether the converts are genuine Christians or not.

That pastors certify that the converts are genuine Christians, baptized, and active members of a congregation, is not enough to be regarded as genuine Christians.

Continue reading Sweden’s Bizarre Questions to Christian Asylum Seekers