The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fighting For God's Nonviolence. (Richard Murray's approach.)


To clarify my previous comment further (I had to leave for an hour or so), while I agree there’s a natural tendency (corrupted by the corruptions of nature) to expect the deity to be most impressed with total genocidal victories, I also see various cultural factors in the OT texts (and the NT somewhat differently) with which God could mitigate the corrupted tendencies of a bunch of people He’s trying to train who (as representatives of all humanity) start off pretty near the bottom of the barrel morally and might even as well be devils. (I’m not trying to insult them; the Jewish scriptures themselves are frightfully self-critical along this line.)

And I can agree that even if God tries to mitigate violent damage by making use of pseudo-genocidal language in a shame/honor context of relatively non-violent military defeat, there are definite moral problems remaining in the idea that other cultures and people would be impressed by the notion of even a figurative genocide.

Even that wouldn’t be so much a dilemma (evil, duh) except that (as RM helpfully illustrates in his own way) we find YHWH flagrantly insisting on authoritative responsibility (and even direct action) for it.

Why we now regard what’s happening there as evil, duh, is an important question, too, and something to be approached (both for evangelical/apologetic purposes, and for self-criticism) within the bounds of our overarching theology. If we’re trinitarian theists (and obviously I think we should be), we must be careful to work from and not inadvertently invalidate ortho-trin Christian theology when dealing with how to interpret and learn from scriptural accounts of God’s relation to historical events.

That can result in strong criticisms of easy militant and combative interpretations of the violence texts (not only them, of course, but that’s our current topic) — and I’m well aware of those criticisms, because discovering and acknowledging and accepting such trinitarian Christian criticisms of such attitudes was a highly self-critical process through which I came to believe (some type of) Christian universalism to be true. I’m a zorchy militant guy by nature, after all! – and I know my nature has been corrupted, both physically and spiritually.

But by exactly the same token I can’t agree with universalist interpretations, however well-meant (and I know from experience that even militantly non-universalistic interpretations can be well-meant), that inadvertently deny or undermine orthodox trinitarian theism (whether directly or by extrapolation from undermining a more basic category like supernaturalistic theism per se).

Thus, as I said to Sobor earlier this morning, when I see attempts to divorce God from being authoritatively responsible for even morally dubious or wretched events, I see that I’ve got to put my foot down on that. I know it’s well-meant, but I can also see where that idea is going to go if followed out – away from supernaturalistic theism at all, and thus also (by extrapolation) away from any kind of Christian theism, much moreso away from trinitarian Christian theism.

Not that I’m setting up ortho-trin as an unchallengeable presumption, or even supernat-theism, but I see no valid reason to challenge it (inadvertently or otherwise) from this direction.


:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: at the RPG reference.


I just want to raise two points here, first is referring to ancient Israelites as ‘primitive’ people, this is a wrong way to refer to any people now or past, it immediately creates the impression that such people are lesser and ignorant then us wise people of the 21st century. And behind this is the legacy of the Enlightenment which had to justify it’s own narrative of history that the 18th century and the emergence of the world-view an 18th century Epicureanism and the civilization birthed (and of course it was a Western and European civilization at that to) was the real turn in human history by rendering all people that had gone before has hopelessly mired in superstition and ignorance. This view of now better known as modernism or secularism we have taken in for school, media from every source and it’s just as misguided as many other narratives. It immediately assumes that our values are better or more enlightened then previous times, and so we commit the mistake other people in different ages have made, judging and interpreting Scripture on the basis of the ideals and views of our age, and in so doing we do the same thing Jesus warned individuals of doing, seeing the splinter in others (and other peoples and ages eyes) clearly, and missing the log in our own. The last century was the most bloodiest, horrific and terrible of any age, more being killed during it that all the previous centuries combined, and at it’s heart was the ‘Enlightened’ West, directly or indirectly through Cold War power games, and we remark at this with superior horror at the violence in previous ages! Such arrogance is the nature of the West, and of course ours alone is the age that has decided that usury is not only to be permitted but is a good thing, and is the base of our economic systems, and have created empires that enslave whole people to debt, creating from our greed massive grinding poverty, death and violence and such systematic abuse and unthinking cruelty that would have totally shocked people of these more ‘primitive’ times. Living at that time, they could never have believed that whole nations would even think to engage in such systems, let alone sanctify them as the basis of their own way of life, let us not feel so superior or be tempted to ever do this about our values. The myth of progressive development is just that, a myth, and we of all people should see right through it.

The only source to base an approach to Scripture for Christians is Jesus Christ Himself, He is the starting to approach all Scripture and the light in which values should be judged and seen, anything else will lead to various misguided and even dangerous misunderstandings in my view.

The second is in relation to parables Jesus told, is the assumption that the master in them represents Christ, but it isn’t, the king or master is just an example of a wealthy man or a king, not a righteous one, and certainly not the Messiah or God. There is a rabbinical technique known as the kal va-chomer (light to the heavy). It argues: “If this light thing is true, then how much more must this heavy thing be true.” Christ uses it on a number of occasions. That is the thrust of the use of these figures in the parable, seeing it as a depiction of Christ Himself is misguided and leads to many wrong views of the Lord that are sad in how the tyrannise and scare needlessly.

Also, as I agree with the view that sees this as a prophetic warning to Israel couched in Jewish apocalyptic language of not heeding his words and continuing in their injustice and of the ways of violence means of resistance to Rome would only reap destruction they sowed, and believe we have badly misinterpreted such passages. It’s immediate message was to Israel itself, and the meaning that we then take from it as Christians is then by analogy and in light of the fact I believe.



I agree Gabe - dear Adin Ballou was the founder of a utopian community. In such communities these experiments seem possible. But only by retreat from the world that God loves. If someone was doing another violence I would have to intervene. There have been stories of extreme no violence by Christian pacifists where men looked on while their wives were raped. I cannot follow here.


Gabe Grinstead said:

I came across this pertinent scholarly paper, "Violent Endings in Matthew’s Parables and an End to Violence,"by Catholic theologian Barbara E. Reid,O.P. that I found very interesting, balanced, and well-thought out. She treats your concerns seriously along with the text and proposes several possible solutions between these violent endings (in parables in Matthew) and the apparent non-violence promoted by Jesus elsewhere without explicitly endorsing one particular solution. I think it’s well worth


That’s an excellent article IMHP Steve - she has surveyed the different approaches with admirable clarity and left our response open. ‘What cans’t thou say?’ she asks to us all. :slight_smile:


Can I just clarify - having mentioned Just War theory in a previous post. I do not believe in just war in a positive sense. I believe that violence can be necessary as the lesser of two evils - but never as a positive good.


Understood, Dick. :smiley:

“Just War” is an unfortunate somewhat technical term it appears we’re stuck with. :confused:


I’ really glad Grant pointed that out to me though. I’m a sloppy old Sobornost sometimes. But I am a sober realist about force in a fallen world. I’m not a utopian, and I believe in involvement in the ordinary world of boring politics too.


This is where an evidence-based approach becomes so important: Using “violence for the sake of correction and reproof” (also known as corporal punishment) is known to cause great harm to people. It’s just a fact that we can observe through scientific observation. We observe that it damages people, and actually results in worsening their behavior to boot.

Of course in the pre-scientific times the Bible was written in they did not know this, just like they did not know about germs or electronics. So we can read this sympathetically, taking into account what they did not know. However, just as we have gone beyond a flat-earth view today as Christians accepting what science knows about the earth and solar system, it is all the more important that we more beyond a pre-scientific view of corporal punishment since failure to do so means we would be promoting harm.

If there is one thing we should agree on with interpreting the Bible it is this: If our interpretation leads us to harm rather than love, we are not interpreting it right. That needs to be our bottom line.


Apples and oranges. The Bible never claimed the world is flat. Men did that. The Bible constantly talks of discipline and suffering. If God is never the author of pain and suffering, then he did not create us nor is he sovereign.

I was spanked as a child and am very grateful for it. I bare no scars from this. As for science proving this… That isn’t quite the same science as observing the universe. I am sure there could not possibly be an agenda for those who think punishment is wrong…

Now, I mean no disrespect. I just find it absurd to believe such a thing. But, to be fair, I have been humbled a time or two before and I am sure it will happen again. :slight_smile:


It would be important here to differentiate between
(1) spanking (defined as striking a child with an open hand on the buttocks), and
(2) striking a child or adult, often with a rod, stick, belt, whip or other weapon, so as to leave welts bruises, and in some cases scars.

The second of these is what the Old Testament promotes, what was practiced in Western societies for centuries, right up to the 1950’s, and what we today would constitute as criminal child abuse. In other words, if a person today were to literally practice what the Bible instructs–as parents in fact did practice for centuries–they would be put in jail. That may be hard to hear, but these are simply the facts.

Spanking in contrast is not considered abuse, however the APA does state that it can lead to behavioral problems in children. Put differently it creates more problems than it solves. They therefore issued a public policy statement over a decade ago recommending that parents find other means to discipline children.

Now, I also was spanked as a child and turned out fine. Then again I was also bullied in school and managed to overcome that too. People are resilient. That however does not mean we should continue to do something that may be harmful once we realize that we may be causing harm to those we love (again not criminal abuse, but harmful nevertheless). Our parents did not know better. We now have information that they did not have.


Not to toot my own horn, but you might be interested in a talk a gave recently at Trinity Wallstreet on practical nonviolence. I think it addresses the important concern you raise here: … believe-it


To be honest, I find it difficult to have an open discussion since you seem to believe strongly that science has the answer. From my perspective, science is good, but fallible, especially when it concerns human physiology and psychology due to the extreme amount of variables. You can observe what you want to observe and publish the results to your liking. The saying “correlation does not imply causation” is a true statement and would apply here.

Perhaps part of me is reacting to bad science. How many papers and articles report that ‘test scores are higher today than in 1960 or 1980, etc…’… But they leave out some important details which would show the bar has been lowered. If you keep moving the goal posts, of course you can manipulate the results both positive and negative.

Anecdotally, I can say that the world is more evil today than it was when I grew up. Kids have no respect for authority. In my opinion, we have become an ‘advanced scientific society’ that believes in no discipline, that ‘everyone is a winner’ and ‘correction is of the devil, because it makes kids feel bad’. For such an advanced society as we have, we have more addicts of any kind and all kinds of perversions. We have kids who give up at the first sign of difficulty. We are a weak people. Yet, we are so arrogant to believe that ‘we are more civilized than the rest of the world’? Really? We both mentally cheat and physically cheat on our spouses and it is GLORIFIED in media, which 90% of the populace worships. Is the science that enlightens us, the one that says pornography is the solution to adultery? It doesn’t hurt anyone, right? Yet, now we have all sort of porn induced ED and addicts of it (idolatry). Only now are psychologists ‘starting’ to see that maybe, maybe it wasn’t so ‘innocent’ after all. Maybe there is harm in it… If that doesn’t demonstrate that psychologists have no clue, I don’t know what does. Matthew 5:28 is as true today as it was back then. It is a timeless truth. The world is no better today than it was 2,000 years ago. Sin ‘morphs’ but the heart of the human condition remains the same ‘evil’. Take away discipline or things that might ‘hurt’ and you have given us a recipe for disaster.

I really like what George MacDonald said


Hi Derek

Toot Toot :laughing: That’s a very thought provoking lecture!! – yes I really liked it.( andI warmed to you with the technology delay for the first slide moment – och I always have glitches with technology too :smiley:)

I agree with you that the heart of the Gospel is restorative justice – it’s about restored relationships and not about violence needing to be done before relationship can be restored; and that therefore enemy love is actually at the heart of the Gospel - and there’s loads of other stuff you put really well in there.

I had a chuckle about the thought experiments that advocates of maximal violence use as an accusation against those speaking for ‘enemy love’. I’ve seen quite a lot of them in the past two years here and they can get very personal - and the discussions quickly degenerate into mayhem and aggro. :smiley:

I also resonate with what you say about absolutist pacifists (I’ve met some in the Quakers – but by no means all Quakers are). The absolutism based in unquestioning obedience can quickly become a private quest for personal purity that shies away from engagement in the world.
But to cut to the chase I think you’ve made a very interesting point here –

I think this is something we could fruitfully discuss here at some stage as a single issue– it really does open the way up for dialogue. Thanks for that! And it would be good

Hi Gabe :slight_smile:

Regarding striking children – I dunno, I get weary here :unamused: . I’ve had plenty of physical violence done to me as a child and as a young man – way beyond being spanked -and I too am still standing, This always becomes a sort of competition and I worry about discussion of the issue over the internet sometimes. I think sometimes in the past the issue may be raised by someone who was actually savagely beaten and constantly humiliated as a child - and then people, who are otherwise kind and good people and would be open to a discussion and may have legitimate concerns, waded in with the standard general l ‘biblical’ principles and ‘it didn’t do me any harm’ stuff. So I get uneasy.

Yes there is a loving discipline – but is smacking the best way to achieve it? We’ve had the discussion here a number of times – and I don’t think a loving parent who smacks a child on the back of the leg is a criminal – although I hope there are better ways. Also yes the Gospel has much to say about suffering – but this is not concerned with inflicting suffering but with bearing it so as to transform it.

There has been a long and wicked history of Christians meeting out savage and abusive beating to their children in the name of the Gospel. Often this was done ritually- not to change a child’s behaviour because ofr something they had actually done wrong, but to put fear into these little creatures of God’ wrath and break their sinful wills. OF course although doubt has recently been made about the claim that a ten year old was beheaded for striking her parents in Calvin’s Geneva – persistently disobedient children were certainly sentenced to death, taken to the scaffold with halters put round their necks, and then - after a good wait, -pardoned

Some Christians who have advocated corporal punishment were actually very damaged by it. C.S. Lewis once said about young offenders that ‘instead of binding them over (to keep the peace) we should be bending them over (to beat them). But when a child he was sent to a private school where he was savagely beaten and traumatised and struggled with sadomasochistic fantasies for the rest of his life- poor old Jack. John Wesley’s saintly mother Susanna used to teach her children to cry quietly when she beat them from a young age (mind you the poor women did have eighteen little Wesley’s to look after). And of course John Married a passionate woman who used to beat him up (and once had to escape over a back wall to get away from her – he was only little)

Well coercive discipline – in terms of whipping and striking – does still go on, especially amongst religious fundamentalists (Christian and otherwise). Indeed there were a couple from America who tried to come to the UK in the late 1990’s to lecture fellow fundamentalists about how violence should be begun very early – with babies being hit with plastic spoons – and then gradually increased. They were banned as undesirables – and probably felt persecuted :confused: .


Gabe could you please clarify for me whether you are (1) arguing in favor of spanking (2) arguing in favor of physical child abuse?


We should get weary over striking children. For a parent who uses discipline properly, it should never be a ‘joy’ to spank a child and should never be done in rage. An abused child is one who doesn’t know if their parent is going to ‘hug em or slug em’. I struggle with the concept that everyone is a victim. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel, we do wrong to others, others do wrong to us. We must forgive and work past for the better of all.

Maybe an illustration will help to bring about the larger point.

Your child was out in the cold, developed gangrene. The child doesn’t want to have his foot cut off, but you know as a parent, that he will die if you do not perform this against his ‘will’. The child is in no position to understand that the pain for a moment will save his life. You must do ‘violence’ to the child for the greater good. This is just a reality of the world we live in. Don’t like it? Blame God. He is the one who created the universe and the laws within. We cannot know pleasure without pain.


Shame on you for such a question.


Glad you liked it. :smiley: The bottom line for me is understanding enemy love not as a prohibition against violence, but rather as an alternative way of *resolving conflict and stopping people (all people, not just my peeps) from being hurt. * I wish we would all spend our energy thinking of ways we can solve our problems without resorting to violence (which I hope we can agree should be the last resort not the only resort), rather than spending that same energy arguing for or against violence. So from my side as an advocate for nonviolence, I take it upon myself to be looking for real alternatives that work in the real world: practical nonviolence as opposed to principled nonviolence.