Monthly Archives: February 2015

Greg Boyd On Violence

This is was posted at ReKnew.org today.

“On Friday, Greg posted a response to Obama’s speech about religiously-inspired violence. Here are some further thoughts on why violence in the name of Jesus—no matter whether we call it just, redemptive, or defending ourselves—is just another form of kingdom-of-this-world living.”

Let’s think about what is going on here. First, anyone who doesn’t agree with Greg on violence is what? Worldly. It is THIS type of judgment that he says in “Repenting of Religion” that we SHOULDN’T commit. So, anyone who believes in “just war theory,” a tradition that has deep roots in the life of the Church, is, well, worldly. Second, Greg has been saying this for YEARS now and he seems to have absolutely no understanding of just war theory. He certainly has never interacted with the material by the looks of it. All he does is look through a keyhole of the story of the Christ on the Cross and simply concludes from that that all violence is worldly. Third and last, his idea of love seems to be lacking. Why? Well, it seems to rule out ANY idea that even in war or violence, love can be the overarching motive. Which is to say that there can be no “just warrior.” This seems to go against what he said years ago on the Open Theism Boards as well as in “Repenting of Religion” where he limits “stop actions” to personal interactions. “Stop actions” as he has describes them, I’ve always applied to more than personal interactions. I’ve applied them to war as well. That is, a “stop action” can be put forth say in cases like the terrorist group ISIS.

So I grabbed this from the very beginning of the second chapter of Nigel Biggar’s book, “In Defense of War” entitled, “Love in War.” (Yes, can you believe that we can love in war?)

“The New Testament does not generate an absolute prohibition of violence, but it does generate an absolute injunction of love. Accordingly, just war doctrine’s claim to belong to a Christian ethic rests on its conception of the right use of violence as an expression of love for the neighbour. This makes obvious sense when the neighbour in view is the innocent victim of unjust aggression, on whose behalf the just warrior takes up arms. However, the innocent victim is not the only neighbour on site. Since love is an absolute injunction, applying always and everywhere, the just warrior is also bound to love the unjust aggressor. His love— as Jesus made plain— must extend itself to the enemy. But in what plausible senses can it do that?”

That first line says it all. There is NO ABSOLUTE prohibition against violence. Interpreting it through the eyes of the Passion and Crucifixion is not at all helpful if you at first you DON’T HAVE A PROHIBITION. All you done is theologize or extrapolate ethics from a text. I’m all for doing that sort of thing. But with something like violence, you would think there would have been something that EXPLICITLY says no violence under any circumstances ever. Second, love IS an ABSOLUTE INJUNCTION. But this is where just war theorists have problems with love of the kind that Greg speaks of. Greg seems to limit love to “no violence.” First, it seems that violence, as he understands it, is “swift and intense force or rough, injurious force, action or treatment.” But if that is the case, then physical violence should not be limited to war. One could think of psychological force of some sort, ie., being in prison. YET, at the same time, this seems to contradict his “stop-action” idea. And if a “stop action” is violent, ie., intense action or treatment against someone doing something evil or wrong, then Greg hasn’t precluded violent actions in lesser forms after all.

See, here’s the thing. I’m all for the anabaptist tradition. I don’t think it will ever go away. I don’t think it SHOULD go away. I agree with Richard Mouw that it serves as a reminder to those of us in the just war tradition to not be so quick to jump to violence. What is problematic about what Greg is doing is this whole judgment thing. Those of us who adhere to the just war tradition, though we might point out flaws in the anabaptist tradition, don’t say that those in the anabaptist tradition are worldly for not stopping aggression when we think it should be stopped. We may become frustrated by what WE think is the “do nothing” crowd when something of a more violent nature should be done, but we don’t call them worldly. And as far as I can see, Greg doesn’t think of his views as falling that much under the heading of tradition when in fact it is.

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