On the Fatal Flaw of Christian Arguments for Non-violence

In his blog post on non-violence Preston Sprinkle ends with the following great statement. A statement which, while excellent, also reveals the fatal flaw of his argument for non-violence.

Faithfulness, folks. Jesus calls us to faithfulness, not perceived effectiveness. When I face my Savior, I want him to know that I tried my hardest to live a faithful life which sought to replicate his own life on earth.

I read that paragraph and wanted to cheer, because it confronts the pagan philosophy of pragmatism with a biblical call to the pursuit of principled action.

β€œA person who is a Christian is called of God to live by biblical principles.” – R.C. Sproul

The problem with Sprinkle’s quote is in the last phrase, β€œβ€¦which sought to replicate his own life on earth” (emphasis mine). You see, we need to imitate Christ, indeed we are commanded to do so in Ephesians 5:1, but we are not to imitate just his life on earth, which was an example of applying the character of God in a specific time, place and culture, but to imitate His character as understood by the demonstration of that character across the pages of Scripture: from Genesis to Revelation.

All Christian arguments for non-violence that I am familiar with rest upon seeing a dichotomy between the actions of God in the Old Testament and the words and actions of Jesus in the New Testament. The problem is that Jesus was God-incarnate, and there will be no disparity between His character as displayed in the Old Testament and His character as displayed in the New Testament. Any attempt to interpret Scripture in a manner that does not maintain the general continuity of the Old and New Testaments is fatally flawed because the character of God is immutable (as the entire Church throughout all of history has everywhere and always maintained).

This is another post, but I believe in the necessity of a general continuity with a specific discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, or between Judaism and Christianity. In other words, while proper interpretation requires a general continuity, there is a specific discontinuity which sent the 12 Apostles across the world and to their deaths in the grip of this newly revealed and life-altering truth of the Mystery of the Gospel and the Name of Messiah.

8 thoughts on “On the Fatal Flaw of Christian Arguments for Non-violence

  1. In Job, who is the one acting with violence? How does Exodus 23:28 fit in your paradigm ?

  2. I’m not sure I’m following the question regarding Job. As it pertains to Exodus 23:28, “And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you.” I guess I would say it simply demonstrates that God sometimes uses violence, whether from nature or through humans, to accomplish His purposes.

    Are you seeing these questions as demonstrating something different?

  3. In Job story, who is th one acting violence on Job?
    What is your understanding of Hebrew 13:8 along with Hebrew 1:3 and John 14:9-10 ?

    I apologize in advance but this will be a series of short questions so hopefully I can understand your perspective more fully so that I am able to articulate a different reality with regard to God character of Love being non violent. One different from what you have heard thus far.

  4. “A day will come, as the hymn says, when we hang the trumpet in the hall and study war no more. But we are not there yet. We are still the Church Militant, and there is no Church Pacifist β€” only the Church Triumphant. There is no such thing as theological pacifism. There are only sides in the battle β€” two of them, in fact. At the beginning of human history, God established an unalterable antipathy between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. To dislike what He did there is to go over to the wrong side of what He did there.” – Douglas Wilson

  5. The Adversary is the one acting out the violence against Job (with God’s permission).

    Hebrews 13:8 – That God the Father and Jesus the Son are both immutable – unchanging in character for all eternity.
    Hebrews 1:3 – That Jesus is a fully divine member of the Trinitarian God-head.
    John 14:9-19 – That the character of the God the Father and God the Son are shared and identical.

    So far, these all seem to corroborate my perspective…

  6. Thanks for the answer, we are in full agreement with those texts. Before I continue, I would appreciate if you can clarify. I re-read your blog post a few times and still cannot be sure.

    Do you disagree with the thought that God is non-violent (pacifist) or do you disagree with the particular arguments you have heard that support the thought that God is non-violent because those arguments claim a different God in “the Old Testament” time period then the New Testament time period ?

  7. I believe God is a God of both peace and justice, that peace is achieved through union with Him, and that when the life He offers is rejected a lack of peace occurs. And, as imitators of God, when the image of God is threatened, we ought to respond in wrath or judgement. In other words, if murder or rape is attempted (and thus peace is disturbed by another) a response of righteous anger is not just warranted but necessary. In other words, as a father, if someone tried to harm my daughter it would be ungodly of me to turn the other cheek, and it would be godly of me to be unpeaceful toward them in response.

    And most assuredly, the character of God is the same in both the Old and New Testaments.

  8. So using your example, if someone tried or succeded in really harming your daughter, sorry to do this but I need to understand your mindset. Let’s say he had his way with her and suppose your daughter is not even a teenager, what response do you believe would be godly of you? What do you understand God’s justice would demand of you since she is your daughter?

    I look forward to your response to understand in practical terms how your understand God’s justice.

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