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"No Compulsion"?—Violence in Religion

A Comparative Analysis of Violence in the Sacred Texts and Histories of Christianity and Islam

  • 19 February 2016
  • Author: Scott Cherry
  • Number of views: 7827
Reflections on the seminar on February 20, 2016

When is violence justified (if ever)? In this seminar we looked at the Bible's Old Testament as well as the Qur'an in terms of violent actions and violent commands. What are the justifications for violence? Do one or the other sacred texts condone violence?  If so, for what reasons? If not, why has violence been part of their history and/or their present?  First, Jim Walker examined Islam’s theological basis and scope of application for the use of force to spread Islam’s rule.  The statements and teachings found in the Qur'an, hadith, and sira, coupled with actions and events during Muhammad’s life form the basis for this topic.  Also, the statement “there is no compulsion in religion” (Qur'an 2:256) was reviewed for its context and scope. Next, Wissam Al-Aethawi covered the Biblical rules of engagement and proper hermeneutics of violent passages in the Old Testament of the Bible, and finally the Great Commission given by Jesus as the New Testament method of spreading the Christian faith. He also addressed implications for Christian self-defense. In the final segment Steve Schlichter with the two presenters facilitated a spirited discussion and analysis of both presentations.

Violence and Protection of Life

Including one's own

Violence is a tool. It is not a hammer or screwdriver that goes in your toolbox for everyday use. It is a tool of last resort. It is behind the glass broken only in extreme circumstances. What are the appropriate circumstances? We always want to avoid violence but there are circumstances when violence is necessary.

The Qur'an and hadiths of Islam teach that violence is an appropriate tool for the propagation of religion. In contrast, the Hebrew conquest of Canaan was a period in which God-ordained violence occurred but the purpose of the conquest was not to gain converts. Later, Jesus and the entire New Testament make it very clear that violence must never be a tool for the Church to spread Christianity or the gospel message.   This brings us to the question of self-defense.

Ethics and Old Testament Servitude

Dealing with slavery in the Old Testament

Have you ever been confronted with a passage from the Old Testament that is difficult to deal with? For example, passages that appear to condone violence or slavery. When discussing issues like morality and history, I find that atheists and Muslims are prepared to offer up certain Old Testament passages to demonstrate that the Bible is a flawed book and Christians are not always equipped to deal with them.

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