Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Must Christians be pacifists? II

A series by Andrew Errington
II: Violence and the judgment of God
The argument for Christian pacifism finds its basis in the nonviolence of God: “unless the opponents of pacifism can demonstrate a violent streak in Jesus himself… their case is like espresso without caffeine – it lacks the essential ingredient.” (Propositions on peace and war: a postscript)

But is there violence in Jesus? The suggestion seems repellent; yet we must remember that there are New Testament texts which seem to say exactly that. The Lord Jesus will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not obey the gospel…” (2 Thess 1:7-8). And the idea of the wrath of God is central to New Testament discussion of God’s future, providing the rationale for Christian non-resistance: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Rom 12:19).

But does this entail violence? The imagery in 2 Thessalonians is certainly powerful. Yet there are reasons to hesitate. As many have pointed out, when we look at the images of God’s judgment in the Apocalypse they are often ironic and self-defeating. The Lion of Judah goes Baa! The army of conquest is led by the Prince of martyrs! The rider on the white horse strikes with a sword, but it is a sword that comes (as a word) from his mouth! Will God’s vengeance be violent? Perhaps we are best to remain agnostic at this point. It is perilous to speak too concretely about realities that are more than a little beyond us.

Does this mean that a firm argument against pacifism is impossible? Not necessarily. Contrary to Kim’s assertion, those who argue against absolute pacifism do not need to demonstrate that there is violence in God, but only that the identity of God in the final judgment is not incompatible with some forms of human violence in the present. The not-quite-pacifist believes that the execution of judgments by force in this present age is a necessary reflection of God’s final judgment, albeit a reflection as in a glass darkly. The return of Christ may not involve violence per se; but it will involve the wrath of God; and this is the basis for the fearful task of provisionally and imperfectly executing judgments by force. This is the lot of the governing authority, who “does not bear the sword in vain,” but is “the minister of God to execute his [i.e. God’s] wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:4). The ruler who thinks she can execute God’s wrath in this age without some kind of forceful punishment has, perhaps, too lofty a view of her capabilities.
Series: I; II; III. Ten points for guessing who is depicted in this relief.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Three thoughts.

First, what do you make of Jesus' injunction against judging others? Or the constant OT theme of God as the only righteous Judge and mediator and all other judges being illegitimate?

Second, God often uses the leaders of the 'nations' or other empires as instruments of her will while still condemning their violence. Assyria and Babylon both get a similar treatment in the OT as Rome does in the NT and both Assyria and Babylon are condemned by God for the very actions you are claiming the Bible makes legitimate. I think rather that God uses bad circumstances for her purposes, but frankly use of force is condemned (Even for the empires). It's just that, given a situation with violence already involved, God can work in those circumstances for good.

Third, it seems to me that the NT especially functions under a very strong eschatological framework. A sense of immanent apocalyptic resolution. Given that the governments were all outside Salvation from Paul's perspective it makes perfect sense to say that, in this temporary setting, which is about to end, we can accept that God uses the ones outside Israel to persecute the wrongdoers, because they are wrongdoers themselves and the whole system is bound to collapse momentarily.

In other words, there is no sense in any of these passages that it is thinkable for a Christian to use violence, especially not in the execution of judgement (which is reserved for God).

Michael Canaris said...

Going on speculation here:

Concerning the injunction against judging others, I note that said injunction (part. with ref. to the adulterer) was issued to a mob which was in the passionate heat of being about to stone a woman. Could different rules apply to a sober magistrate than apply to a passionate lynch-mob?

Anonymous said...

When Jesus said "Judge not that you be not judged", he was not prohibiting the use of moral judgement altogether. The context suggests that he was warning against censoriousness and hypocricy. A little later in Mat 7, Jesus tells his disciples that must are to judge people by their "fruits".

In your first point, you seem to be saying that even the civil law courts are illegitimate. How do you square that with Romans 13? Paul was happy to use the Roman legal system (however flawed that system was) in an endevour to obtain justice.

What do you make of Jesus' voilent behaviour when he drove the money changers and their wares from the temple in John 2? Was this incident not a small harbinger of the eschatological wrath of the Lamb?

I agree that Christians should not use violence to futher the cause of the gospel. But it is legitimate for a Christians to serve in the armed forces. A believer may use force in the context of a just war or to enforce the law in the Police Service. Further, if I were to witness an elderly lady being voilently abused by a young man, it might be neccessary for me to use force to protect her. (Although I'd have to be feeling paticularly brave!).

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Looks Roman.

Constatine?

byron said...

Moffitt - you're right about it looking Roman, but sorry, it's not Constantine.

matheson said...

miner - thanks for your contribution.

But haven't you have actually conceded the heart of AE's argument in your third point? The only difference being that you seem to take the NT authors to be under an illusion (about the timing of the eschaton) that distorts their stance on the nations. But that's a point that would require some further argument, surely! Wouldn't the more natural reading be that we are still in the 'temporary setting' envisaged by the NT authors? In my view, we don't need to, nor should we, abandon the 'very strong eschatological framework' of the NT to make sense of this or any other theological question.

andrewE said...

Thanks all for these comments.

Miner, I agree with Mattheson's comments about your points. You say, "Given that the governments were all outside Salvation from Paul's perspective." I'm afraid I just don't think this is true. Paul, I am sure, envisaged the gospel taking every though captive; there was no one outside the reach of its scope. Constantine's conversion was the only natural thing! In my next post, however, I hope to address some of your very sensible concerns about Christians using violence.

Exiled Preacher, I don't agree with everything you have to say. Although I may share some of your conclusions, I think we need to exercise great caution in reaching them.

Jonathan said...

Exiled preacher, I agree that Jesus was not prohibiting the use of moral judgement and don't think that the old or new testaments quite portray all judges other than God as illegitimate, but there is a big difference between saying civil law courts are illegitimate and suggesting that Christians should not use force, or even law courts for judging others.

While Paul did use his legal rights in a way that we don't see in Jesus' trial, etc., I don't think this can really be seen as judgment, violence or force.

Michael Canaris said...

---Ten points for guessing who is depicted in this relief.---
Sol Invictus?

Anonymous said...

With the legal codes there it must be.....Justinian?

Dionysius

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The Miner's second point is key. I would add that there is a major difference between the way God uses sinful tools (e.g., Cyrus of Persia or any pagan govt--and all are pagan, there are no "Christian nations" since the church is called from among all nations) and the way God expects willful followers to act. We are constantly told to emulate God's compassion and mercy. We are expressly forbidden to emulate God's wrath, judgment, vengeance--all to be left to God.

I'd like to know on what basis Exiled Preacher believes that a Christian may join the armed forces. I ask as one who, when converted, LEFT the U.S. army as a conscientious objector some 22 years ago. There is no NT authorization for such and the early church before Constantine frowned greatly on Christians in the Roman army. Most of the pre-Constantine Fathers asked converted soldiers to leave the army (although this was difficult and resulted in many martyrdoms). Some allowed those already in to stay as long as they committed no violence. But, well into the 5th C. a catechumen who wanted to join the army would be refused baptism and a baptized Christian who joined would be excommunicated. The Fathers cited all the nonviolent texts of Jesus and the NT in their arguments. (After Constantine, the Sermon on the Mount ceases to be the most quoted part of the NT and THEN Rom. 13 BEGINS being used to justify military service as it never was prior to this.)

In the Eastern church as late as the 9th C. some texts demand that a soldier who kills--even in a defensive war (the category of Just War is Western, not Eastern)--must be refused the Eucharist for up to three years of penance.

Now, I do not hold church tradition as equally authoritative with Scripture. But the earliest church was closer to the Jesus and the apostolic writers and so more likely to interpret them correctly. When I see near-universal pacifism before Constantine, I am bound to think the early church interpreted the NT better than later Just War Theorists--on THIS matter.

Brian Hamilton said...

Andrew, thanks for this thoughtful series. I am a pacifist by Mennonite tradition and Christian conviction, but I deeply appreciate a not-quite-pacifist who recognizes a certain struggle in the biblical text itself, rather than reacting with 'pragmatic' arguments that sidestep Jesus entirely.

I would love to see a closer treatment, however, of the role of the nations vis-à-vis the church. O'Donovan, no pacifist, also recognizes that the conversion of the nations is not conversion in the same sense, since the nations will always belong to the old aeon until they pass away in the new. The question, then, is how Christians relate to that old aeon. St Paul does, you're right, allow room for the authorities to use force for judgment--but does that mean Christians can? That's a move we cannot make too quickly.

Thuloid said...

Looks like Napoleon again to me. The inscriptions sort of give that away.

Anonymous said...

yeah, I'm gonna have to go with Napoleon since it lists a bunch of places and buildings in France that he had built.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Jesus did not demand that the Centurion whose servant he healed leave the army. He commended his faith. Peter did not make leaving the army a condition of Cornelius being baptised in Acts 10. You may be right about the post-NT attitude to believers in the army. It seems that neither Jesus or the apostles had such misgivings.

Anonymous said...

There is much here and I can't respond to it all so I will leave some points for others to ponder/argue.

But I will elaborate a bit on my understanding of the NT's eschatological framework.

Matheson - you are right the framework does not need abandoned it needs recovered! I don't think the writers were laboring under the illusion of being in the end times, but we must acknowledge that their timeframe did get adjusted. Paul originally thought he would not die before the parousia, but later in life seems to have accepted that was an unlikely scenario. What we need to do is undo the damage of the triumphalist church which considered the advent of "Christian government" to be essentially synonymous with God's kingdom and therefore abandoned the hope for immanent change on Earth for a disembodied "heavenly afterlife". It is this theological mistake which sees there being divine legitimation of civil authority, something the Bible is actually VERY opposed to.

Israel has one king - YHWH. Every other state of affairs is a less desirable, even sinful, arrangement that results in violence which is directly opposed to the will of God.

As the Church we are to live into God's future which is reaching into the present to claim us now and live with Christ as our only king. So, YES civil authority is all illegitimate. This doesn't mean God doesn't use it for her own purposes, but God uses all things even in sinful contexts. So Paul can say in Romans 13 that God 'institutes' the governing authorities the same way the prophets talk about Cyrus as God's anointed. Both still receive condemnation for using violence and will pass away completely in the coming kingdom.

In other words, the eschatological framework is absolutely key to a pacifist reading of scripture and I do not advocate abandoning it at all!

Andrewe - Though Paul does talk in universalist terms from time to time and in that sense it is natural that Constantine would be converted as well I just don't think he conceived of governors converting and remaining governors precisely because he thought the end was so close. It was unthinkable the whole empire would convert within a lifetime. Individual converts (even from the ruling classes) would always be a minority in the society and would therefore not be in a position to make governing decisions in Paul's mindset. The universalist talk is therefore more appropriate to put "post-eschaton". The 'nations' can be converted when they no longer exist as such.

jeltzz said...

If I wasn't studying for a doctrine exam, I'd have more to say...

but I would argue that the reality of eschatological justice on God's part is actually what makes pacifism a live option for the christian now. At the risk of misrepresenting him, I think it was Yoder who takes very seriously that the alternative in Gethsemane is for Jesus to initiate the eschaton then. This impresses upon me that Christian pacifism is entirely a walking-after-Jesus in his earthly life, and a surrender (as in Rom 12) of vengeance into the Father's hands.

So, in fact, it is not that violence is alien to Jesus' character, rather it is Jesus' volitional act to refrain from violence that 'inspires' his disciples. And yet, the just judgment of the eschaton is what makes this viable - knowing that justice will be done.

To go with a vibe - I feel like to 'write violence out of the character of God' is to slip down a road towards universalism, which I don't think is a tenable biblical position.

andrewE said...

Thanks again folks. Michael W, in particular, has given me a lot to think about, as has Brian H and the Miner.

I think for me the question of whether Christians can adopt roles that are really a part of "the old aeon" is a key one.

I don't see, however, why the answer must be no. Although I am struck by Michael W's comments about the extent of early pacifism, and recognise that God's servants in the OT are sometimes evil, I am not convinced that Paul would describe governing authorities as God's deacons, but not think Christians could accept those roles.

We are all, in some part, still stuck in this age, the form of which is passing away, but which is not yet gone. My argument so far has simply been that this age requires the practice of judgment by authorities, and that it is a mistake to pretend otherwise.

This, however, is not to answer the practical question in advance. To say that it is conceivable for Christians to responsibly serve in the armed forces or police is not to say that if I am called up by this military at this time for this war I will be right to accept.

matheson said...

miner - thanks for that clarification. i'm totally with you on the eschatology and i'm sympathetic to your argument.

There is one key point, however, on which i'm not yet convinced. It is true there is no king but Jesus and this is a direct challenge to the claim of Caesar to be God and King. But the force of this contestation stems from the hubris of Caesar's own claim - namely to hold the place rightfully held by God alone. By this the Caesar sets himself up as God's opponent.

But what about authorities (even governments) that refuse to set themselves up in competition with Christ? Are they also rendered 'illegitimate'?

It seems to me that it is not 'other authorities' per se who are rendered obsolete by Christ's coming. It is primarily those gods and monarchs who would usurp God's place - the nations who 'furiously rage' against God and his annointed - who are chastised by the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Now, I'm not saying that this leaves more modest forms of government etc. unchallenged to do whatever they like. But I'm just trying to establish the basic point that when Jesus becomes king this does not necessarily mean that all existing authorities are rendered void.

(Of course we see examples of secular authorities being tolerated and even approved under Christ in the NT Haustafeln - i.e. the authority structures of marriage, parenthood, etc.)

Authority is not a zero-sum game. To pick some up over here does not necessarily mean giving some away over there.

In short, the argument that the lordship of Christ implies the illegitimacy of all secular goverments doesn't fly. It is built on a logical fallacy. As such, we can't get away with the lazy view that all earthly kingdoms are ipso facto opposed by God. What we can say is that under Christ all other authorities are derivative, relative, and restricted both in scope and duration; and, perhaps most importantly, that all in positions of authority will be held to account.

Christopher said...

This will be the third comment this morning that has between the 20th comment on a post. Do I get a prize for this?

But is there violence in Jesus? The suggestion seems repellent

I don’t think this needs to be viewed as repellent. Violences is not synonymous with hate.

This may not be a hoity-toity reference, it is the best I can do from work, but the majority of online definitions of violence, here would describe Jesus’ actions in the temple as violent.

Here are some definitions:

1) Violence is often associated with aggression
2) Physical violence against other human beings that inflicts injury or death, or threatens to inflict such violence, or any act dependent on such infliction or threat
3) ferocity: the property of being wild or turbulent; "the storm's violence"

How do you define violence Andrew, and others?

byron said...

Thuloid - I was wondering when someone would read the inscriptions. Well done. Napoleon Bonaparte is correct: ten points. This is one of a series of reliefs around his tomb (as pictured earlier).

Michael - It may well be intended to be depicting him as Sol Invictus, I'm not sure. The divinisation theme was strong in all the reliefs. I agreed that it looked Roman because the iconography of the reliefs was clearly trying to establish him as a Roman emperor/deity.

Miner - I'll give you five points for also getting it before this confirmation.

byron said...

We are expressly forbidden to emulate God's wrath, judgment, vengeance--all to be left to God.
It seems we are confronted with two kinds of pacifism here. One, advocated by Jeltzz and others, which leaves room for God to judge (Rom 12.19: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but give place to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."). A second, advocated by Kim in the original posts that got this series started, which refuses to acknowledge any violence in God at all. Just an observation.

byron said...

This will be the third comment this morning that has between the 20th comment on a post. Do I get a prize for this?
Christopher - wow, I can't decide whether to give you 20 points or 3 points! (I assume "between" = "been")
How about 23 points? :-)

In other news - when I loaded my own page this morning, I was the 20,000th visitor! At least according to the black counter down the bottom of the page - I have two others. One says 15K-odd and the other 24.5K-odd. Go figure.

Michael Canaris said...

---It is true there is no king but Jesus and this is a direct challenge to the claim of Caesar to be God and King.---
While Caesar was deified, he refused to be crowned King.

byron said...

Michael - that's an interesting story, though I wonder whether later rulers showed the same reticence once the empire had thoroughly replaced the republic? Whatever the answer, in the popular mind at least, the emperor was called 'king' in the 1st century (cf. John 19.12-15; Acts 17.7).

Christopher said...

Thanks for the points. I can't wait to cash them in for the rumoured merchandise and future publications.

Anonymous said...

The argument for Christian pacifism finds its basis in the nonviolence of God:

My pacifism is also based on my theology of how Original Sin manifests itself in the human person and in human society. And, interwoven with this, a fairly specific idea of what “violence” entails.

The ultimate and most violent act is the murder of another person or people for the simple reason that that person or people is “not me” or “not us”. The ultimate sin is the sacrifice of one who is not a member of our group in order that our group may unite together in our hatred of the person or group who has been scapegoatted or murdered.

It seems pretty clear to me that this is why Jesus opposes the religious establishment in his day. It also seems clear to me that “the religious establishment R US”. To fall on your knees in penitence before God after being confronted with the story of Jesus’ opposition to the Pharisees, Sadducees and Priests is to begin to see things God’s way. To say “Thank God I am not like that Pharisee” is to remain mired in sin.

So to answer the question of Jesus in the temple as to whether or not he was being "violent".... I see this story as a story about Jesus' opposition to the "the Temple". We are to understand Jesus as claiming to be the replacement for the Temple. He was opposing the system of Israel defining herself as "not everyone else", when her real mission was to be the light to lighten the Gentiles - a mission that Jesus himself took on.

Clearing the temple of money-changers is not "violence" of the kind that is induced by the attitude of "I hate you and will murder you for no other reason than that you are not me."

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Miner, remember what I said about how difficult it was for people to leave the Roman army. Those Christians who tried in the sub-apostolic age were usually martyred. But Jesus does not commend the Roman centurion for his job, much less for being part of an occupying force. He commends him for his FAITH.

Likewise, Peter in Acts is showing how the gospel comes even to Gentiles--even hated occupying soldiers.

There is no indication of approval for a Christian who would join the army post-conversion. These texts are hardly enough to justify setting aside the clear pacifism of Jesus' teachings.

Jesus' healing of the centurion's servant is itself an act of peacemaking, of loving one's enemies. It is a rebuke of the proto-Zealot attitude of Jewish resistance fighters. It is hardly an endorsement of Roman imperial militarism.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I'm sorry. My last remarks should not have been addressed to the Miner, but the Exiled Preacher. My bad.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Byron, you are right that some
Christian pacifists allow for violence in God and others do not. I have never been able to decide the answer. I lean toward Kim's nonviolent God, aided by Girard's approach to scripture. But I find both ideas in scripture. It seems clear, for instance, that one way that early Christians could be nonviolent was simply to leave vengeance and judgment in God's hands.

So, on this matter I have yet to come to a conclusion. Both patterns seem to me to lead to Christian nonviolence and, as a theological ethicist rather than a systematic theologian, I have concentrated on the conclusions for Christian behavior.

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christopher said...

Goodmorning pambg and others,

So to answer the question of Jesus in the temple as to whether or not he was being "violent".... I see this story as a story about Jesus' opposition to the "the Temple". We are to understand Jesus as claiming to be the replacement for the Temple. He was opposing the system of Israel defining herself as "not everyone else", when her real mission was to be the light to lighten the Gentiles - a mission that Jesus himself took on.

That may be so, I am not opposed to this interpretation, but it doesn't really make Jesus' actions any less violent. It just provides some good reasons for his actions.

Clearing the temple of money-changers is not "violence" of the kind that is induced by the attitude of "I hate you and will murder you for no other reason than that you are not me."

Certainly, there are degrees of violence, but because Jesus didn't hit or murder anyone does not discount that his actions were violent.

I wonder if some Feuerbachian trickery is at play in the desire for a non-violent God. "I am non-violent, so God should be too."

I am agnostic about whether we mere mortals are allowed to be violent. I am probably more inclined to think that we should be pacifists. But to start redefining violence so that God is a pacifist smacks of newspeak to me.

By the way I hear that there are no longer hungry or starving people in the US they merely have low food security

Anonymous said...

I am agnostic about whether we mere mortals are allowed to be violent. I am probably more inclined to think that we should be pacifists.

I think that's a fair view-point.

But to start redefining violence so that God is a pacifist smacks of newspeak to me.

To start redefining "good" and "loving" so that God crushes people simply for belonging to the wrong nation also smacks of newspeak to me. And I don't mean that in any sort of a sarcastic way. It's something that needs to be wrestled with.

What I hear you saying - and correct me if I'm wrong - is that Jesus' clearing of the Temple justifies violence. Can you write me a narrative of Jesus' mission on earth as being irrevocably connected to the use of violence?

Why didn't Jesus become the sort of Messiah that everyone expected?

By the way I hear that there are no longer hungry or starving people in the US they merely have low food security

Say what????

Christopher said...

To start redefining "good" and "loving" so that God crushes people simply for belonging to the wrong nation also smacks of newspeak to me. And I don't mean that in any sort of a sarcastic way. It's something that needs to be wrestled with.

I believe that is the point of contention. God is called good and love, and there are examples where he either directly or indirectly has a hand in real human suffering and misery. We can't simply escape this bind by redefining what is good, nor can we redefine what is suffering.

What I hear you saying - and correct me if I'm wrong - is that Jesus' clearing of the Temple justifies violence. Can you write me a narrative of Jesus' mission on earth as being irrevocably connected to the use of violence?

Yes you are wrong. This is not what I am saying at all. I think Jesus clearing the temple was an act of violence, but not a justification for violence. Because Jesus or God acts violently does not provide grounds for us to act violently. I don't think all forms of violence are wrong, the temple incident for instance was not wrong, or smacking your own children (contentious I know), or a just war. I believe that there is such a thing as just violence, but I wouldn't use the temple incident as justification for it, but an example of it.

By the way I hear that there are no longer hungry or starving people in the US they merely have low food security

Say what????


That was a joke and an example of redefining things to make them sound nice.

Anonymous said...

I believe that is the point of contention. God is called good and love, and there are examples where he either directly or indirectly has a hand in real human suffering and misery. We can't simply escape this bind by redefining what is good, nor can we redefine what is suffering.

Good, we agree about wrestling with the texts.

We just come to different conclusions about what ultimately wins. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that ultimately God must and does employ violence to stop evil. I’m saying he doesn’t.

Concluding that God is not the originator of violence and that he does not use it as a tool doesn’t mean I’ve not wrestled with the texts. But as I have said repeatedly, I have to suspect that our method of dealing with the texts is vastly different.

I believe that there is such a thing as just violence, but I wouldn't use the temple incident as justification for it, but an example of it.

OK. I don’t know where the conversation goes from here because it seems to me that if I don’t interpret the story of the clearing of the Temple in the way that you do, then I am simply wrong and I am avoiding the correct way of interpreting the story. So I don’t really know how conversation continues. But please show me a way to continue the conversation if you see one.

That was a joke and an example of redefining things to make them sound nice.

Oh right. I’m genuinely trying to have a two-way conversation; in order to do that, it would help me if you consider me as a person who has got to middle-age and into ministry by having actually thought about her theology. If we’re going to assume that people twist their perspectives to see what they want to see, how about assuming that we both do that, not just me? Does that seem fair to you?

Christopher said...

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that ultimately God must and does employ violence to stop evil. I’m saying he doesn’t.

No I am not saying that God must do anything. God can use violent measures or non-violent if he chooses, and in my mind he would be still be just, love, and good, if used either path.

I think the issue is that I see violence as morally neutral, whereas you see it differently.

Concluding that God is not the originator of violence and that he does not use it as a tool doesn’t mean I’ve not wrestled with the texts.

Of course it doesn’t, and I don’t believe that I indicated that. I am sorry if you got that impression from me.


OK. I don’t know where the conversation goes from here because it seems to me that if I don’t interpret the story of the clearing of the Temple in the way that you do, then I am simply wrong and I am avoiding the correct way of interpreting the story.

I think you have misunderstood me somewhere, or perhaps confused me with someone else. When I said Yes you are wrong, I wasn’t meaning that your position or interpretation was wrong, but that your understanding of my position was wrong.

I don’t believe I have put forward an interpretation of the Temple incident for you to agree or disagree with, expect in saying that I consider turning over tables, scattering money, and clearing the temple of livestock to be an aggressive, physical, and ultimately a violent act. I am not saying that it was wrong of Jesus, nor am I saying that it justifies violence.

If we’re going to assume that people twist their perspectives to see what they want to see, how about assuming that we both do that, not just me? Does that seem fair to you?

Yes, I agree. I think that my idea of just violence is as novel as the idea that physical aggression is not violent.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is that I see violence as morally neutral, whereas you see it differently.

Excellent. Now I feel like we’re getting somewhere in having a conversation.

Can you give me your definition of “violence”?

Can you explain to me how you see violence as being morally neutral?

I’m thinking that there has to be a definitional difference here because, to me, the word “violence” incorporates a morally negative value-judgement about intention. For me, “violence” is not a simple physical act.

When I said Yes you are wrong, I wasn’t meaning that your position or interpretation was wrong, but that your understanding of my position was wrong.

I did understand that. But I also thought (and I expect you'll say I'm wrong in this) that you were just basically telling me that my view was inconsidered and obviously wrong without giving a reason why.

Now, we seem to have some scope for conversation, if we can actually try to exchange points of view.