Violence in Christian Theology – J. Denny Weaver

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In an article that I’ve been holding on to for a while, ]] goes for a non-violent view of the atonement. As my own view is being developed, I like exploring these various views and seeing if there is anything worth gleaning,

He begins,

The death of Jesus is not needed to satisfy God’s honor.

And after debunking Anselm and others, continues,

It is not difficult to see why discussion of the relationship of violence and Christianity is controversial.(1) When asked whether Christianity supports violence and is a violent religion, does one answer “Of course — look at the crusades, the multiple blessings of wars, warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child,’ justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men, and more”? Or does one respond, “Of course not — look at Jesus, the beginning point of Christian faith, who is worshiped as ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isa. 9:6); whose Sermon on the Mount taught nonviolence and love of enemies; who faced his accusers nonviolently and then died a nonviolent death; whose nonviolent teaching inspired the first centuries of pacifist Christian history and was subsequently preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism”? But these answers are apparently contradictory. Does one of them trump the other? Or might there be yet another answer?

This essay addresses the relationship between violence and Christianity by examining aspects of Christian theology. Specifically, it examines violence and assumptions of violence in the classic formulations of the central Christian doctrines of atonement and Christology. While this analysis finds classic theology in large part guilty of accommodating and supporting violence, the essay also points to a specifically nonviolent Christian answer.

I am using broad definitions of the terms “violence” and “nonviolence.” “Violence” means harm or damage, which obviously includes the direct violence of killing — in war, capital punishment, murder — but also covers the range of forms of systemic violence such as poverty, racism, and sexism. “Nonviolence” also covers a spectrum of attitudes and actions, from the classic Mennonite idea of passive nonresistance through active nonviolence and nonviolent resistance that would include various kinds of social action, confrontations and posing of alternatives that do not do bodily harm or injury….

Violence in Christian Theology by J. Denny Weaver.

I’m not sure that a non-violent atonement is the image we actually receive from the Gospels and Paul, but please continue to read the article…

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