Crucifixion of the Warrior God (ch. 5)

I love history.  I’ve always enjoyed learning history.  One truth of history, something you’d learn in any introduction to religion class, can be boiled down as follows:

*Jesus of Nazareth died a violent death on the cross at the hands of his enemies and never led armies into battle.

*Muhammad of Mecca led armies into battle against his enemies

This is not a knock at Islam, it is an accepted truth of history.  I first learned the history of Islam in an Intro to Islam class at Penn State University from a Muslim professor.  As a Christian, I believe I should do unto others as I want them to do unto me (Jesus said that, Matthew 7:12), so I want to be fair to the views of others.  So to be clear, I view this point as a historical fact.

Both Muhammad and Jesus, at the very least, were amazing, influential and interesting men.  This point is one thing that separates them and their life experience.  We might be able to compare Muhammad to a George Washington or other successful military leaders (though again, obviously he is more than just that) as he led men into battle and victory.  Likewise, we might compare Jesus to a Martin Luther King or Gandhi  who taught and acted nonviolence.  All this leads me to muse that, ironically, some Christians do all they can to reduce this difference by arguing that Jesus actually endorsed violence.

In Crucifixion of the Warrior God, Boyd notes, and I agree:

“With Richard Hayes, I would argue that ‘nowhere does the New Testament provide any positive model of Jesus or his followers employing violence in defense of justice.’  To the contrary, ‘from Matthew to Revelation we find a consistent witness against violence and a calling to community to follow the example of Jesus in accepting suffering rather than inflicting it” (223).

Boyd is referencing Richard Hayes’ book The Moral Vision of the New Testament.  What strikes me here is, if you want to attack your enemies, you have to justify this without having Jesus on your side.  It does not mean you cannot justify it; it does mean you can’t appeal to Jesus’ actions.  But if you are a Muslim, and if you desire to use violence, you can appeal to Muhammad.  Whether Muslims are or are not justified in using violence in this or that situation is way outside my realm of expertise.  I’ll leave that discussion to Muslims.  Yet, it seems clear to me, that it must be very difficult for a Christian to justify using violence if we consider ourselves disciples of Jesus.

I think the point becomes even more pointed when we recognize that Christians do not just believe Jesus was a human teacher or a prophet.  Christians see Jesus as God in the flesh, the second-person-of-the-trinity.  God’s clearest revelation to us is Jesus. For Christians, the word of God is not a book (as it is for Muslims, back to that Intro to Islam class) but a person.

How sad that Christians have such a long history of using violence…

What if we listened to and emulated Jesus?

Published by davehershey

My life is quite simple really. I love my wife Emily and my kids, Junia and Elijah. I serve in campus ministry at Penn State Berks. I enjoy life.

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts. A true disciple of Christ is to be nonviolent I would agree. There are many people who are called “Christian” who do not practice nonviolence. Some are protectors of the innocent (including nonviolent Christians). Some are officers of law. Some are soldiers. Its difficult to know where the line can be drawn between non-violence and failure to protect the innocent – ie cowardice. Is it God’s will that we should let school children die because we are afraid to root out and face evil in our world? Most likely not. Yet David could not build the temple because he was a “man-of-blood.” His violence was certainly permissible and actually commanded by YWHW, yet it tainted him in a way that could not be ignored. One of the most difficult things to sort out. God is good and knows each persons heart and in that there is peace for me.

    1. Good thoughts. This post wasn’t meant to be about whether Christians should ever use violence. I was going for a more minimal point – if you argue Christians are justified in use of violence, you cannot use the actions of Jesus to support that.

      On the bigger point, I think each person must make the choice in regards to violence on their own. I am not going to say a Christian cannot be in the military. Again, I will say Jesus himself wouldn’t join the military. But as for what we do in this fallen world, I think it safe to leave this up to conscience (though, I do think Christians could take the nonviolent teaching and example of Jesus more seriously).

      As for David, “his violence was certainly permissible and actually commanded by YHWH” – may I suggest you read Greg Boyd’s books on the crucifixion of the warrior God? He suggests a different way of reading some of these old testament stories.

      1. I would like to check it out but the price tag is a little steep for me at the moment. Reading some amazon reviews and your writings on it I think I am getting a general idea of it. I’m all for reading scripture with the knowledge that Christ is the full revelation of God in the flesh as a human. I don’t know what to make of the extensive violence in the OT writings exactly. The claim that the God of Israel intervened in human history in such direct ways (too many to list), is perhaps a significant contrast between YWHW and the all the other deities that human beings have ever worshiped. The central point that I get from the old testament is : “I Am that I Am.”

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