Christianity is Not a Source of Violence

The Evangelical Philosophical Society has issued a public statement in response to claims that Christianity caused Anders Breivik to commit the recent killings in Oslo, Norway:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]In no reasonable sense of the term can Breivik be called a Christian. As Jordan Sekulow said … in another Washington Post piece, “To label Breivik a ‘Christian’ requires a depraved understand[ing] of what it means to be a Christian.”

Those sympathetic with these accusations apparently reject the distinction between genuine Christians and those who merely claim to be Christians. We recognize this distinction in every other context, and so should we here. Being a Christian is not simply a matter of affirming certain propositions, as is clear from many biblical passages (e.g., Mt. 25:31-46; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; and Gal. 5:19-21). Even if Anders Breivik did affirm the deity and resurrection of Jesus (which, in fact, he denies), this would not by itself make him any more Christian than the devil himself (who presumably would affirm these truths).

Even more disturbing is the contention by Thislethwaite that there are “elements of Christianity” that actually inspire violence. Thislethwaite neglects to specify what those elements are, beyond pointing to certain problematic “interpretations” of Scripture.

Some might be tempted to justify this view by pointing to certain Old Testament passages where God commanded the killing of the Canaanites. But these are not uniquely Christian texts. Jews and Muslims also regard the Old Testament books as scripture. To properly assess a true Christian ethic of violence we must focus on Christianity’s distinguishing person, Jesus Christ, and Christianity’s distinguishing text, the New Testament. And when we do so, what do we find? A consistent ethic of non-violence. Consider the following:

The Example of Christ – Jesus’ entire life was characterized by peace and reconciliation, earning him the moniker “Prince of Peace.”Even in the face of extreme injustice and merciless torture, he did not resist his abusers. Jesus even rebuked a disciple for resorting to violence to defend him (Mt. 26:52).

The Ministry of Christ – Jesus consistently worked for peace and reconciliation. He declared, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9) and instructed people to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). Jesus explicitly taught an ethic of personal non-violence, saying, “Do not [violently] resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5:39).

Other New Testament Teachings – The Apostle Paul taught fellow Christians to live peacefully with others, saying, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).He makes the same admonition repeatedly (see I Cor. 7:15; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; and 1 Thess. 5:13). Paul and Peter also expressly reject rebellion against government authorities (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

The influence of these teachings in the history of the church is well-known, including:1) significant pacifist theological traditions (e.g., the Quakers and Mennonites), 2) Christian non-violent social movements (e.g. anti-war organizations, anti-death penalty groups, and Martin Luther King’s work in the civil rights movement), and 3) Christian martyrdom, as thousands of believers have been, and continue to be, tortured and killed rather than to violently defend themselves against oppressors.

These are the facts that have been overlooked or ignored by those such as Thislethwaite who suggest Christianity inspires violence. Perhaps what Thislethwaite really wants to highlight is the fact that some madmen, most recently Anders Breivik, have warped or twisted Christian ideas to their own use in attempting to justify their violence. Well, of course this is true—and it is so obvious it is hardly worth stating. But this is a far cry from the notion that Christianity itself, as defined above inspires violence or that there could be such a thing as a “Christian terrorist.” [/pk_box]

Read the full statement here.

3 replies
  1. simong
    simong says:

    Christianity has produced violence, mainly in the past, I hope. I guess the argument is that the ‘correct’ christianity doesn’t produce violence. But then some argue that ‘correct’ islam isn’t violent. One could also argue that ‘correct’ atheism isn’t violent either.

  2. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    You can argue that the correct Islam isn’t violent, but you’d have a lot of difficulty with all the Jihadist passages in the Koran!

  3. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    No the argument is not that “correct” Christianity doesnt produce violence. The argument is that a person is ignoring the teaching of Christ altogether if he sets out to initiate or promote violence/ indulge in violence to achieve his ends. The ends does not justify the means.
    Anders BB was not a Christian in any recognised sense of the word. He called himself a cultural Christian, by which he meant belonging to western culture. He was quite clear that he did not accept or adhere to any Christian teaching concering Jesus Christ and/or God.

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