IS CHRISTIANITY A VIOLENT RELIGION?
Since the nine-eleven incident in New York that took place more than a decade ago, the whole world has been constantly bombarded with shocking news of violence and terrorism. Recently, beheading has become in vogue again although this was a common method of execution practised by many nations in the past and in fact, decapitation is still the method of execution carried out in Saudi Arabia today. While many try to figure out the cause of such epic cruelty, some undoubtedly seek to lay blame on religion, especially hijacking of a religion for a political end. So when people in this world read the Holy Bible and discover to their horror, killings and complete extermination of certain groups of people, known as genocide today, are commandments found written in the Bible, they begin to wonder whether Christianity is also a violent religion.
For a start, we should consider some Scriptures below and put these verses under scrutiny to see whether it is true that Christianity is also a religion of terror and violence.
For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: (Exodus 23:23,24,27 & 34:13)
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: (Numbers 33:52)
And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: (Deuteronomy 2:31-34)
Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. And the LORD said unto me, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So the LORD our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining. And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. (Deuteronomy 3:1-6)
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)
Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. (Deuteronomy 12:2&3)
If the context of those verses are not taken into consideration, there are sufficient evidence to conclude at face value that the Bible is also a book of terror as well as an instruction manual on genocide. Moreover, the mass killing of people in such a grand scale is ordered by non other than the Creator of the Christian religion as the foundation of Christianity is the Holy Bible which is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice for Christians. So when Christians become a majority in any country, some might fear there is this possibility they will seek to impose such violence as taught in the Bible on those who disagree with them. This is even more true when people in the world observe that Christians are actively involved in the social sphere seeking to influence the government of the day to bow to their demands. The recent demonstration in Hong Kong for democracy is a case in point where many of those involved are thought to be Christians. Hence it is not inconceivable that Christianity could also be regarded as a religion of violence, whether passive or active. Is such a conclusion fair and true? More Scriptures below might lead one to such a conclusion.
Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. (Deuteronomy 12:30 & 13:15)
Simply reading the above two verses and disregarding the context, it is very easy to conclude that Christianity is also a violent religion, especially so when people in this world take notice that Christians are uncompromising and intolerant of other religions and their practices. Moreover, complete annihilation of other religions and their practices is also a direct command found in the Holy Bible.
Unfortunately even Christians themselves do not know where they stand with regards to living their lives in this world in their adopted countries and some even seek to meddle with politics and getting involved in civil societies trying to impose Christian beliefs in this world of unsaved people. The backlash against Christians sometimes comes fast and furious as the authorities become suspicious of the motives and intentions of Christians, especially those Christians in high places of society. The trend of mega churches flaunting their wealth and influence in society is not helpful to dispel any distrust of Christians in the world.
As such, there is an urgent need to look into how Christians ought to conduct themselves in this world and learn to rightly divide God’s word of truth in order to counter such misgivings and accusation leveled at Christians as another meddling political force to be reckoned with in the land of their domicile.
The veracity of those violent Scriptures mentioned previously are unquestionably true but are they meant for Christians to obey? For a moment let us presume they are also doctrinally applicable to Christians and when occasions require, Christians are to exterminate their religious enemies whether young or old including their livestock without mercy and ensure their religious aids to worship utterly destroyed and influence completely erased. If that be the case, let us also consider some other commandments also found in the books written by Moses whether Christians have to obey them.
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)
This is a tricky situation and one that is sensitive in nature. When a Christian woman becomes a widow who is childless, should she approach her dead husband’s brothers to marry her and produce a child for her dead husband? What if the brothers of her dead husband are not Christians? In that case should she approach the Church to get another man to do this job of raising a seed for her dead husband? Of course such a commandment is not only awkward for a Christian widow to keep but quite impossible to enforce. The purpose of raising a seed for her dead husband is to inherit a piece of real estate that belongs to that family in Israel. So whose real estate is this Christian widow trying to perpetuate by getting another man to replace her deceased husband?
Let us consider another commandment below.
And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat. Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase. These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you. (Deuteronomy 14:6-10)
So are pork, lobsters, crabs and other seafood without fins or scales forbidden food for Christians? Must Christians after conversion adhere strictly to a Jewish diet? Common sense would probably prevail over such restrictions that bring Christians under another form of bondage where Christ came to set men free. No doubt not many Christians would take heed to this commandment having to abstain from such natural food source which they have been enjoying before their conversion to Christ.
What about this unique personal requirement below?
Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee: For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee. (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)
Must a Christian carry a paddle whenever he or she leaves home? Of course sanitation facilities are readily available in our day and age so this commandment is no longer necessary. However, there are still Christians living in third world countries where people in some places simply relieve themselves anywhere and everywhere so should these Christians carry a paddle after conversion to Christianity? We may unanimously agree that this commandment is ridiculous and its relevance has long expired so Christians can conveniently ignore. If some commandments found in the books written by Moses are not applicable for Christians today, why then is Christianity sometimes regarded as a violent religion simply because there are Scriptures advocating violence and war? Christian fundamentalists are considered potential terrorists in some countries. Why is that the case? Perhaps Christians have themselves to blame by giving the world the impression that they are trying to build a kingdom on earth to rival the world at large.
Now let us study the context of those violent verses mentioned previously. The commandment to exterminate those people in Canaan was only given to the children of Israel. In fact, the destruction of the people in Canaan was already revealed to Abraham long before his descendants came unto the scene with a mandate to destroy the Canaanites who had been living in that land for a very long time.
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:12-21)
The reason why these people living during Abraham’s time were not destroyed much earlier was because their iniquities were not yet full. God is a merciful God and His long sufferings in dealing with sinners do not mean He will overlook sin. When sin reaches a certain point, judgment will surely be meted out.
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: (Deuteronomy 20:17)
So the children of Israel were given a mandate to exterminate only some people namely those tribes living in Canaan and not to conquer the whole world and kill everyone else in this world. Hence, the children of Israel happened to be the instrument appointed by God to carry out the required execution of some people and at the same time granting them a piece of land to function as a nation.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:5&6)
It is explicitly clear that the earth belongs to the Lord. God can choose to give the land to any people on earth or just destroy them when their sin is full. Even the children of Israel residing in the land they took over from the Canaanites were not spared judgment from God when they rebelled against God. Their continued occupation of that land was conditioned upon their obedience to keeping God’s law given to them.
And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee. (Deuteronomy 7:16)
And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: (Deuteronomy 28:13-15)
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
The express purpose of having the nation of Israel on earth was to be an example and a shinning light to the other nations so that they may also come to know the Creator God and to know how to govern themselves in righteousness enabling them to live long upon the earth and not be destroyed for their own iniquities like those Canaanites.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
The children of Israel were chosen not based on their strength in numbers but because the Lord loved them and would fulfill His promise to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Unfortunately, the nation of Israel failed to keep God’s commandments and very often were punished by the heathen nations around them. These heathen nations thus became God’s instrument of judgment when the children of Israel sinned against God. Hence the table was turned and they were eventually carried away by the Babylonians. Even eventually having been restored back to their own land after seventy years of exile, they again failed God when they rejected their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came and offered them the Kingdom promised to them and so they were once again scattered from their land for over two thousand years.
As such those violent Scriptures brought up much earlier were meant for the children of Israel to execute judgment upon the Canaanites but they failed to completely obey God. However, the day will come even though the nation of Israel failed to carry out their duties, the Canaanites will still be eventually destroyed.
Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 14:21)
Hence when this literal, earthly, political nation of Israel given religious rituals and ceremonial laws, penal code, health promotion practices, real estate code of practice, banking laws and economic directions and policies as well as national defence and war acts, failed God, another nation is instituted to replace Israel. This nation however, is not an earthly political setup up with boots on the ground to enforce God’s law to execute judgment on people in this world.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)
The citizens of this nation comprises people of all nationalities who believe in the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a spiritual holy nation instead of the earthly holy nation of Israel that God has temporarily set aside like He did in time past. This spiritual nation also includes the saints in the past who looked for a better country even though they were already residing in an earthly country on earth back then before the nation of Israel came into existence.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:8-10&16)
The citizens of this current spiritual nation while still living on earth have no business in meddling with earthly politics but instead be a light to this fallen world. Though Israel failed to be a shinning light to the nations in the Middle East in the past, this current spiritual holy nation is given opportunity to be a shinning light throughout all nations on earth wherever such citizens of the Kingdom may reside. As such, it is instructional to observe the exhortations given by the apostles.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Romans 13:1-7)
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)
No apostles and disciples in the New Testament ever rebelled against local authorities on civil matters. They were not involved in politics and had never sought to change the established laws of the land to their favour. Though they were often persecuted unjustly and treated badly, they never campaigned to bring in political change in order to obtain religious freedom to practise their faith in Christ in their own comfort zone.
Therefore, those Scriptures of mass genocide and religious destruction quoted earlier are not relevant to Christians on earth. They are records of the historical past for the nation of Israel. We are living in a window period of grace where sinners on earth may become citizens of a better heavenly country through the work of Christians living as ambassadors for Christ on earth.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
The earthly nation of Israel failed to be ambassadors for God in the past. Christians of this spiritual holy nation should not fail to be ambassadors for Christ on earth by getting involved in civil societies and earthly politics not befitting the status of the heavenly country they represent. Violence and killings must not be associated with the Christian faith. Christians need to rightly divide the word of truth and know the difference between the nation of Israel and the Christian Church of the Lord. They are both different entities and are given different mandates on earth.
God is in the business of getting rid of sinners on earth whether by natural death due to illness or tragic death due to wars and other calamities. Those commandments of violence and genocide on a mass scale mentioned in the beginning may come across as brutal and atrocious to the mind of fallen man, but they are simply one of God’s ways of removing people on earth. Long before such commandments were given to the children of Israel, God was so displeased with the generation during Noah’s time that the entire human civilization including animals were wiped out in a global flood when violence and corruptions ruled the earth. A quarter million of people perished in the 2004 tsunami when an earthquake hit near the Indian ocean is just a drop in the bucket considering what God will do in the future when the world continues in its path of wickedness and sin.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:10-12)
Annihilating another civilization is installed in the future for those people on earth. During this present climate of war on terror, Christians should conduct themselves circumspectly less they become target of suspicion with their unbiblical entanglement in this world of politics and bring upon themselves unnecessary trouble and misery. The people in this world live in fear and terror and unfortunately they do not know whom they indeed ought to fear.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. (Psalms 47:2)
Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men. (Psalms 66:5)
He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth. (Psalm 76:12)
It is more critical than ever for Christians to know their mission on earth and hopefully many sinners in this world through their witness and testimony may escape the wrath to come. Christianity is indeed a religion of peace. In addition members of the Christian Church has a mission to be ambassadors for the Lord with a message of salvation and peace. They are entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation in hopes of reconciling sinners to God to become members of this spiritual holy nation that is above all earthly politics in this world.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both? (Proverbs 24:21&22)