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Miroslav Volf

Officer training on Monday nights has been really good. Last night focused on the doctrine of justification, and the material was chock full of thought-provoking quotes. This batch is from theologian and former Croatian Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation:

…without a system of judgment we would have no way of struggling against oppression and deception because we could not distinguish between the Butcher of Lyon and Mother Teresa….The attempt to transcend judgment—whether it be judgment of reason or of religion—does not eliminate but enthrones violence….

A nonindignant God would be an accomplice in injustice, deception and violence….If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence, God would not be worthy of worship.

My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: A Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.


I think it is an error to over-theologize nonviolence. It is a tactic against evil. There are occasions where it is appropriate and other occasions where it is worse than useless. Gandhi and King are often held up as paragons of nonviolence, but their oppressors were relatively conscientious and principled people; they would not have been successful against the Nazis or the Bolsheviks. Jesus held back his legions of angels only because it was a necessary part of the plan to strike a lethal blow against sin, death and the Devil. Our Lord will certainly not be nonviolent when he returns in judgment. Evil demands justice and justice requires violence.
Indeed. I'm not sure I can completely agree with Volf (I often don't even completely agree with myself), but the fact that he makes nonviolence dependent on a belief in God's vengeance (rather than some bizarre suburban notion of God's refusal to judge) places us closer to the same page.

It cracks me up every time I hear Gandhi and King invoked to shore up someone's perspective on nonviolence. At least 90% of the invokers know jack about either man or his belief. Gandhi spoke and wrote more about enemas than he did about peace; I doubt those who throw his name around are practicing that diligently.

I can respect, if not agree, with true pacifists. However, most that claim to be aren;t really.

I'm always tempted to say "uh huh" and then punch them in the nose to see how they respond. Not un-violently, I often bet.

...good thing my Christian sensibilities stays my hand. :P
I'm not convinced it is possible for a Christian to be a complete pacifist. I guess you could argue that God will judge all men in the end and you have no right to repay, but on the other hand, God expects us to act as his agents in this world to some extent, and in fact he did explicitly authorize his people to use force in some situations.
I think any Christian who claims that an angry God is not possible, does not know Him at all - let alone being in relationship with Him.