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What does the Bible say about the use of violence?
Is it pro or anti violence?
 Importance of war – Israel called by God to fight against its enemies.
 God engages in conflict with those who oppose him and his will for his covenant people.
 Rules laid down for warfare - e.g. married men exempt from military service (Deuteronomy
 Examples: King Saul had a standing army and there are references to King David’s armies.
 War was brutal and cruel in OT and the armies of Israel would slaughter their enemies to
the last man:
“Joshua spared no one, everyone was put to death. This was what the Lord God of Israel had
commanded” (Joshua 10:40).
 However, God warns his people about dangers of relying on military strength and going to
war unless directed and guided by God.
 Warfare is seen as a spiritual battle against evil – culminating in final battle
lead by the Messiah (Revelation).
 Pauls teaching – believers need to prepare to engage in direct conflict
against forces of Satan (evil). However, he taught:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
 Jesus refused to use military power:
“Put your sword back into its place; for all to take the sword will perish by the
sword” (Matthew 26).
 Jesus taught ideals of righteousness and peace, to love enemies and resist
“Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you” (Luke 6:27).
War & Biblical Narratives Sheet –
Read passages and answer questions
 Conclusion:
- Tension between the political rights and status
of Israel (OT) and the overall moral message of the NT.
 However, both Testaments provide examples of
support for the use of violence.
 Radical alteration in thinking following Jesus’
 For first 250 years after Christ, violence of any sort
was believed to be wrong and against basic
commandments of Jesus.
 Christianity was a minor and persecuted cult but this
was to change!
Constantine the Great
Roman Emperor 272-337 AD
 He decreed that Christianity should become the religion
of the Roman Empire in 312 AD.
 No longer small ‘cult’ but a state power!
 Constantine used the symbol of Chi-Rho – the two Greek
letters of Jesus’ name, Christ, when he fought against his
rival Maxentius.
Read the ‘Conversion of Constantine’ info sheet
What significance did the conversion of
Constantine have on the Christian religion?
What problems might there be in using a 2500 year
old book for Christians assessing the same issues
 “The quest for peace is much more costly
than appeasement. We admire the loyalty,
self sacrifice and courage of serving soldiers.
Yet we must not glamorise or glorify war in
itself…in some circumstances it may be
defended as the lesser of two evils, but it
could never be regarded by the Christian
mind as more than a painful necessity in a
fallen world”.
John Stott
(New Issues facing Christians Today)
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