In this series I will be producing an exegetical study of scriptural material dealing with the issues of violence and pacifism. My hope is to provide a thorough-going exegetical basis for pacifism as the dominant theological paradigm of Christian ethics. Each section will consider a passage of scripture, and explore the exegetical issues that relate directly to our question. I will begin with the Gospels and work through the New Testament corpus, before engaging specific Old Testament issues.
In doing so, I will lay out some theological prolegomena. I take it that, with a Chalcedonian Christology, Jesus the incarnate Son of God is paradigmatic for all Christian ethics. He is the image of God, par excellence, and insomuch as we were originally created in imagine Dei we are likewise called imitationi Christi. At few, and decisive, points our human life differs from the life of Jesus. I will highlight the importance of these in advance, and explore them in depth during our textual forays. Firstly, although we are explicitly called to follow Christ even if that means death, our deaths are divergent specifically in regards to the Atonement. This does not change the ethics of such sacrificial deaths, only the theological significance of Christ’s unique death, which is related both to his perfectly righteous human life, and his divine nature. Secondly, I will argue that there is a dimension of Christ’s eschatological judgment that relates specifically to his divine nature in a way that is not permitted to his human followers.
We will commence with the Gospels, in which I will treat parallel passages under one occurrence. I expect to exclude explicitly treating the Book of Revelation, which I consider the most powerful and persuasive text for a pacifist ethic, instead addressing such issues as the occur in my extended exegetical treatment of that book in its own series.
In this approach, I consider the New Testament to be determinative for a Christian ethic. In relating the New to the Old we can never be Marcionites, but nor can we adopt a merely harmonistic approach, especially if we seek to temper clear New Testament teachings by ‘balancing’ them with Old Testament theology. Rather, I will seek to outline the Old Testament’s theology of violence in a way both faithful to the Old Testament, and which allows us to see what the New Testament does with that theological tradition.