Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hans Boersma on Violence

In a previous post "Judgment, Force and Violence: Some Crucial Distinctions" I advocated defining Divine Judgment as righteous and good, force in terms of disciplinary, police and just war categories and violence as irrational, out of control and without limits.

In the collection of articles, Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ, (Fresh Wind, 2007) the recent book by Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Baker2004) is repeatedly attacked for defending the traditional satisfaction theory of the atonement as part of the doctrine of the atonement necessary for seeing the importance and meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

1. Violence versus Judgment: For example, Wayne Northey attacks Boersma for stating: "Put provocatively, God's hospitality in Christ needs an edge of violence to ensure the welcome of all humanity and all creation." (Northey on p. 367 of Stricken, quoting Boersma, Violence, p. 93). The problem here is that Boersma uses the term "violence" to describe God's righteous judgment for which saints in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are said to yearn with all their hearts. If Boersma had used "judgment" instead of "violence" he could have made it harder for the critics to imply that God is mean-tempered, irrational and out of control - i.e. violent.

2. Violence versus Force: Similarly, in the Introduction, Boersma writes: "I draw on what I have come to regard as positive elements in the historic Christian faith and in particular in the Reformed tradition. This comes to the fore in my reevaluation of violence as something that is not inherently negative; in my insistence that boundaries can function in wholesome ways and need at times to be defended." Northey pounces on this and says that Boersma never specifies exactly what kind of state violence is "not inherently negative." Again, if Boersma had distinguished between violence and force, this question would lose much of its force. To defend boundaries in a violent way is surely a different matter than defending them according to limits and rules. Northey and the rest of the authors in Stricken by God? would doubtless remain unsatisfied, but Boersma's position would be immensely strengthened by his not having to defend violence.

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