The Problem of Violence

To review once more, in the modern world there is not a continuum between two points, belief and unbelief, but rather a continuum between at least three points: belief, secular humanist unbelief, and anti-humanist unbelief.


As nihilism and Nietzche become more influential in Western culture, they are going to present some serious challenges to both Christianity and secular humanism. One of them is the problem of violence.


The nihilistic challenge is going to catch Christians and secular humanists completely off guard.


I want to point out the dilemma this creates for the secular humanist position.


If you honestly believe all natural desires are good, you have to follow Nietzsche in celebrating and affirming violence. If the idea of celebrating and affirming violence bothers you, you have to abandon the belief that all natural desires are good.

This is why Christians adamantly refuse to abandon Transcendence as a source of morality and righteousness and the life-transforming power of the love of Christ. Even if it was discovered by scientists that humans have a gene pre-determining us to violence, Christians would say, that’s not the whole story. The love of Christ is powerful enough to enable us to transcend our biological natures. Christians have disagreed over whether repentance looks like pure pacificism or ensuring violence is carefully tempered with justice, but consider both options. A Christian convinced of the first option would find that the love of Christ drives her into being a pure pacifist. A Christian convinced of the second option would believe the love of Christ compels him to be a just police officer or soldier: he still commits violence, but he tries to temper it with self-control and justice, renouncing blood-lust, rape, and plundering. What both of them are not is stuck in their biological natures and pre-determined genes.

(My personal stance: Crusades, bad. OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I deeply respect pure pacifists and am friends with a few, but I lean toward the second option. In light of Romans 13, I believe it is legitimate for Christians to be just police officers and soldiers. I hope even pure pacifists see that society would collapse if there are not just police officers exerting force and violence against dangerous criminals. I believe a Christian soldier or police officer also has to obey the Sermon on the Mount. If he commits violence because he doesn’t want to turn the other cheek, he’s clearly in the wrong. Soldiers and police officers have to be very careful not to scapegoat like the Crusaders, where all the unrighteousness is out there and none in my own heart. People say, what about mercy? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has a civil magistrate who lives in the tension between justice and mercy. One of the characters is suspected for murder, so the civil magistrate pursues justice: he takes him to trial. But the civil magistrate also pursues mercy: he uses his own money to hire a doctor to care for the murder suspect. Is it hard to pursue both justice and mercy? Yes. I believe justice and mercy can only be perfectly reconciled in the Body of Christ on the cross.)


One thought on “The Problem of Violence

  1. Thanks for these posts. A great way to think of these is Christianity, modernism (secular humanism), and postmodernism (nihilism; or as I like to call it, more consistent atheism). Thanks be to God that he provides us with the firm foundation we need. Even those who deny that cannot consistently live without him as the bedrock.


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