Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth
Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
Part 117: Narrative Christus Victor
We have seen that satisfaction atonement theories and the moral influence theory are problematic. They arose in part because many Christian theologians rejected the earlier Christus Victor framework because it posits that Satan played a necessary part in God’s divine plan. However, satanic forces are very real, and they militate against the realization of God’s realm in which, the Bible relates, all Creation will live in peace and harmony. Consequently, Weaver has articulated a framework that depicts Jesus’ life and death as designed to nonviolently overcome satanic forces. She has suggested the term “narrative Christus Victor,” because it relies heavily on the Gospel and Revelation narratives.
In the Gospel narratives, Jesus taught about the reconciling and redemptive power of love and forgiveness, while Revelation describes a cosmic battle between God’s forces and those of Satan. The cosmic imagery depicts the cosmic importance of the conflict and should not, in my opinion and that of many scholars, be taken literally. As I will discuss, Revelation anticipates God’s reign on earth as a historical event, realized not with a sword but though the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Weaver’s framework neither portrays Jesus as a passive victim nor as resisting his victimization by complaining about the injustice or fighting the powers and principalities that persecuted him. If Jesus had been passive, the mob would have concluded that he agreed with their verdict that he was satanic; if he had resisted his fate, the mob (unable to see its own violence) would have seen his actions as proof of guilt. Either way, he would have been just another in the endless series of scapegoats. Instead, he actively challenged the satanic structures by demonstrating, in word and deed, God’s loving plans for the world. He was well aware that, by challenging the authorities, he would prompt them to torture and murder and him. In life, Jesus made the realm of God visible, bringing light, life, and love to the world. In death, the resurrection established Jesus as ultimate victor in the conflict between good and evil.
As discussed previously, I see “Satan” as describing the human desires that lead to conflict, rivalry, hostility, and violence. Throughout human history, satanic desires for power have undermined the reign of God, and it is possible that Christian authorities have been gripped by the same satanic desires that have always captivated people. While the Revelation equates the violent and rapacious Roman Empire with Satan1, the world has seen countless powers and principalities that have assumed this role.
Provocatively, Weaver suggests that the Christus Victor framework lost favor “. . . when the church came to support the world’s social order, to accept the intervention of political authorities in churchly affairs, and to look to political authorities for support and protection.”2 In other words, when the church joined the satanic powers and principalities, it sought atonement theologies that removed Satan from the picture.
It is tempting to condemn other people for yielding to Satan’s enticements, but none of us is immune. Whenever we harm any of God’s creation and call our actions righteous, our activities are satanic, because we are resisting and undermining God’s reign. It is indeed “Amazing Grace” that God forgives our participation with the same kind of powers that killed Jesus and lovingly invites all of us to join in the realm of God.
1. The symbolism in Revelation shows that the writer equated the Roman Empire with the forces of evil. For example, the seven-headed dragon (Revelation 12:3) relates to the seven hills of Rome as well as a sequence of seven emperors.
2. Weaver, J. Denny. “Violence in Christian Theology” Cross Currents July 2001.
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Part 118: Jesus Made to Be Sin
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All Creatures Guide to Kingdom Living includes such subjects as: life, heaven, earth, peace, justice, Bible study, discussion, commentary, God, Christ, Christian, Jewish, Jesus, Holy Spirit, vegetarian, vegetarianism, vegan, veganism, cruelty free, love, compassion, lifestyle, Bible, recipes, sermons, stories, animals, animal rights, Judeo Christian, health, ethical, environment, living, meditation, perfection, prolife, pro life, pro-life, abortion, capital punishment, war, hunting, fishing, trapping, farm, farming, factory, fur, meat, milk, dairy, slaughter, cattle, beef, pork, chicken, poultry, hens, battery, debeaking