08 April 2008

Christians and Violence

Our circuit supports a mission project in Western Kenya which was heavily affected by the violence that rocked the country after the Kenyan elections. Among other things, the mission project cares for orphans - both children and young people - by providing them with education in basic literacy skills (children) and education in a trade (young people). It's probably worth saying that a number of children and young people went missing during the violence but, thanks be to God, were all found safe and well.

We have recently received an annual report from the project co-ordinator: a Kenyan woman. In the report, she reflects on the violence engendered by the aftermath of the Kenyan elections and writes:
For Kenyans who marvel at the fact that professed Christians killed their neighbors and destroyed their livelihoods, now is the appropriate time for us to meditate on the place of violence in Christianity and the tendency of many believers to project an understanding of salvation separated from ethics. As Christians we have failed to make a definite stand on violence mainly because classic formulations of central doctrines accommodate and support it by claiming that God saved the world through the violence of the cross. Hence since it can do good, it is not to be tabooed as intrinsically evil.

One of Jesus’ main messages was that we must love our enemies, forgive people who injure us and overcome evil with good. We should forgive one another and foster peaceful coexistence with our neighbors. We need to start a new life all together and we cannot leave out our displaced brothers and sisters in the camps.


David said...

I was converted in 1966. In all the years since I have heard Christians condone violence, haven't we all? But I have never, ever, heard anyone, from any branch of Christianity, point to the violence of the cross as a justification for violence.

It is an interesting and telling attack on the centrality of the cross.

PamBG said...

I'm a pacifist because I believe that this is what Jesus taught.

There is a very long and respectable tradition of non-violent atonement, most prominently in the Anabaptist tradition.

I do not think that believing in non-violence is an attack on the centrality of the cross.

And I do actually think that some of the participants in the current 'atonement debates' are advocating a non-pacific message of atonement. John Piper and 'The Oak Hill mob'[1] say that God hates sinners as well as sin. Not sure about John Piper[2] but both of the 'Oak Hill' books say that God creates and sustains the eternal torture to which he sends each person he damns.

[1]Various authors of articles collected in 'Pierced for our Transgressions' and 'Where Wrath and Mercy Meet.
[2] I didn't read his book with a fine tooth comb and these sorts of statements are said in so many words but not normally given prominence as chapter or section headings.

David said...

"I do not think that believing in non-violence is an attack on the centrality of the cross."

I absolutely agree with this point.

Beyond Words said...

I'm pretty sure most people don't see the connection between their wrathful, violent atonement theory and the fruit it produces in their lives. They've been taught to espouse certain doctrines for assurance of salvation from hell.

If we believe God hates sinners, it makes it much easier for us to hate them too, in the OT sense of "despise" or "reject." What difference does this make? I was pondering that yesterday listening to the news. I kept thinking--who do we trust for our security? God or our military? Whose life is more important to God? My own or an American soldier's or the Iraqi terrorist's or innocent civilian's? If I value my own life more than someone else's in the name of national or personal security, I am despising and rejecting that brother or sister.

If nothing can separate us from the love of God, why do we fear death so much that we're willing to kill others before they can kill us?

PamBG said...

Methodist Preacher, glad we can agree! I don't really think the author meant to attack the centrality of the cross.

Beyond Words, your first paragraph is well put and well written!

In the US we (if I can invoke my US citizenship) have a President who believes that the Christian faith endorses 'pre-emptive strike'. Even when Christian theology has permitted the use of violence, it has been permitted only in self-defence.

I'm reminded of a very insightful phrase that a friend uttered on another blog that clarifies many situations, both personal and political: 'Enlightened self-interest is not a Christian value.'

Anonymous said...

Pam, I have read John Pipers books and he has NEVER said God hates sinners as well as sin. While he does believe in a literal hell. He believes like I do that people send themselves there not that God condemns them to hell where it is eternal death.

Piper has never said that God hates the sinner as well as the sin. Salvation from hell doesn't mean God hates sinners when people go there. Also beyond words there is something that seperates us from God and that is sin. "The wages of sin is death..." "If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven." Also the fact that there is a lambs book of life and it mentions that those who are not written there will be cast into the lack of fire, then it seems strange that everyone will be in heaven in light of these passages. It makes no sense. dh

Peter Kirk said...

Anonymous (why?), John Piper may not have said this explicitly. But his friend Mark Driscoll has. As reported by Alastair Roberts, he said "Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. You’ve been told that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. No he doesn’t: Ghandi says that, just so you know, he’s on a totally different team than us." What would Piper say to that, I wonder? Would he still "not have .001 seconds hesitation in having Mark Driscoll come back tomorrow to our church or our conference"?

PamBG said...

To be transparent, Piper said that the work of the cross is to change God's attitude from 'completely against us' to 'completely for us'. On p. 184, Piper writes that the purpose of the atonement is that God, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever.

Piper is the lead recommender of the book 'Pierced for our Transgressions' which states that God's wrath is poured out on sinners as well as on sin.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kirk, I have many friends I disagree with. I suspect very strongly that Piper would disagree with the word usage of what Mark Driscoll said. The fact remains "The wages of sin is death.." Without Christ we are condemned already but it isn't God who does the condemning. However, there are times where God will judge people on earth for their sin but that is in relation to how hard their heart is toward God and sometimes in those time God will try to "wake up the person" to have a softer heart toward Him. The Apostle Paul was stricken with blindness, Naaman was stricken with leprosy, Ananias and Sephira were struck dead for their sin, etc. However, it is always for God's Glory. At the same time, I don't believe God hates those that these things happen to. When the souls at the last day are cast into the lake of fire I believe God will be sad but He knows it is necessary because they are condemned already by their sin and hearts hard toward God.

God's wrath on sinners as well as sin doesn't mean God is angry toward the sinner. It is that God desires better of people. It is only for God's desire for mercy and Grace to be received. His anger is toward the concept of not being able to deliver to people the Grace and mercy He desires to do because the people He desires to rescue reject it. God gives us freewill and He knows those whose hearts like Pharoah who no matter what is presented to them from God, miracles, etc. are so hard they will never accept God and those "...be dead in their trespass of sins".

When Piper says this which I agree with "God, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever." That doesn't mean that He is angry at the sinner. dh