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I wrote this short piece for the Christian Student Movement website.

Christian peace theology is founded upon the premise that if Jesus is who the church has traditionally proclaimed him to be: the Word made flesh, God incarnate, then the example of his life and teachings reveals the true nature of God and serves as a pattern for Christian life and ethics. The way of Jesus is made known to us both through the biblical witness and, by the Holy Spirit, through the presence of the living Word with us and within us. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), to resist evil non-violently (Matthew 5:38-42) and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). He teaches that the Kingdom of God does not operate by the violent ways of the world (John 18:36) and rejects the use of violence to defend himself (Matthew 26:51-52, Luke 22:51, John 18:11).

This message of peace is also present in the teachings of the apostles who note that, while violent conflict comes from human greed and the desire to own and control things (James 4:1-2), the way of Jesus offers a path to peace and reconciliation (Ephesians 2:14-18). They argue that Jesus’ followers should not seek to overcome evil by using evil means (Romans 12: 17 & 21, 1 Peter 3:11), but should instead live in harmony with each other and seek peace with all people (Romans 12: 18, Romans 14:19, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Hebrews 12:14). They point out that the fruits of the Holy Spirit include love and peace (Romans 13:10, Galatians 5:22, James 3:17-18) and that God’s kingdom will be realised by spiritual struggle and not by violence or coercion (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Peace theology draws on the peaceable witness of the early church and notes that this commitment was largely lost in the fourth century with the development of Christendom when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christendom tended to side-line the ethics of Jesus in favour of a different set of standards and it was left to marginalised and persecuted groups such as the Anabaptists and the Quakers to maintain a peace church witness to the way of Jesus, often at great cost.

However, with the decline of Christendom, peace church perspectives are becoming increasingly visible within modern Christian theology. For example, satisfaction and penal substitution theories of atonement, which have dominated Western Christianity for the past thousand years, are being subject to criticism because of the way they portray God as an angry and violent Father who required his Son to endure savage punishment and death in order to forgive humanity. Instead, drawing on the Christus Victor motif of the early church, new models of atonement are being developed, in which the Jesus’ death and resurrection are understood as a divine victory over the power of evil and violence, offering all people liberation from these forces of darkness and death. Jesus shows us how God overcomes evil: not by violent retribution, but by patient endurance, forgiveness and suffering love.

Peace theology proposes that, however violent and chaotic the world appears to be, this is both temporary and illusory: It will not be the final word. At a deeper level, the order that God has given the creation is good, fruitful, loving and harmonious. The fulfillment of this divine order is presented in the Bible by the vision of shalom, where humans live in right relationship with God, with each other and with the rest of creation. Jesus has been victorious over the forces of darkness and death and, with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he is working within creation to finally eradicate the evil of violence and injustice and establish his kingdom of shalom. Christians are therefore called to be partners in this process, modelling the way of peace as individuals and in community and acting as agents of peace-making and reconciliation within the world.

References for Further Study

Baker, Sharon L (2013) Executing God: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught about Salvation and the Cross (Westminster John Knox)

Hardin, Michael (2013) The Jesus-Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus (JDL Press)

Jersak, Brad and Hardin, Michael (2007) Stricken by God: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Moules, Noel (2012) Fingerprints of Fire…Footprints of Peace: A Spiritual Manifesto from a Jesus Perspective (Circle Books)
Nayler, James (1657) The Lamb’s War against the Man of Sin in ‘The Works of James Nayler’, vol. 4 (Quaker Heritage Press)

Ruether, Rosemary (1998) Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism (Sheffield Academic Press)

Swartley, W M (2006) Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (W B Eerdmans)

Warren, James (2012) Compassion or Apocalypse? A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard (Christian Alternative)

Weaver, J Denny (2001) The Nonviolent Atonement (Wm. B. Eeerdmans)

Weaver, J Denny (2013) The Nonviolent God (Wm. B. Eeerdmans)

Weddle, M. B. (2001) Walking the Way of Peace: Quaker Pacifism in the Seventeenth Century(Oxford University Press)

Wink, Walter (2000) The Powers That Be: Theology for the New Millennium (Bantam Doubleday Dell)

Yoder-Neufeld, Thomas (2011) Jesus and the Subversion of Violence: Wrestling with the New Testament Evidence (SPCK)

Yoder, John Howard (1973) The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans)

Yoder, Perry (1989) Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation & Justice (Evangel)

On this date in 1930 (Nov. 30th), Mary Harris “Mother” Jones died. Her date of birth is unknown, but it is thought to have been in 1837. #Agnostic. #Socialist. Labor activist. Community organizer. Advocate for children’s rights. Teacher. Dressmaker. Fiery orator. Co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.). Critic of organized religion, referring to priests and ministers as “sky pilots.” (Interestingly, she was not a supporter of the suffrage movement, considering it a bourgeois diversion from the real problem of worker exploitation.) Buried in Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive, Illinois.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series

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On this date in 1539 (Nov. 30th), an Aztec noble named Don Carlos Ometochtzin was burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico City. He had been considered a model convert to Christianity until it was discovered he still adhered to his native religious practices in secret, and was encouraging his colleagues to do the same. Of the Franciscan missionaries he said: “Who are these people who bother us and perturb us and live among us and try to rule us? This is our land and our way of life and our possession. The rule of it belongs to us and will remain with us. Who comes here to subjugate us? Who are these people who are not our relatives nor of our blood nor equal to us?”
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Martyrs Series.

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Happy birthday, Shirley Chisholm (Nov. 30, 1924 – Jan. 1, 2005)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Baptist‬. Educator. First African-American woman elected to Congress. Represented New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first major-party Black candidate for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. During her Presidential run, she survived three assassination attempts. She was an outspoken opponent of the draft and military spending. Her focus was on increasing support for health and social services. Buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Happy birthday, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka “Mark Twain”) (Nov. 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)! ‪#‎Agnostic‬. ‪#‎Abolitionist‬. ‪#‎Satirist‬. Advocate for women’s rights. Anti-imperialist. Critic of organized religion. Critic of missionaries and groups that proselytize. Riverboat pilot. Author of the pacifist essay “The War Prayer,” among many other works. Buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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On this date in 1538 (Nov. 29th), Peter Franke and his wife, along with Jan Mathijsz van Middelburg, were burned at the stake in the Smithfield section of ‪#‎London‬, England. They were ‪#‎Anabaptists‬.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Martyrs Series.

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On this date in 1561 (Nov. 29th), two ‪#‎Anabaptists‬ were executed by drowning in the Rhine at ‪#‎Cologne‬, Germany. Their names were Johann von Orvel (a cobbler) and Plonius from Emmerich (a tailor).
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Martyrs Series.

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Happy birthday, John Haynes Holmes (Nov. 29, 1879 – April 3, 1964)! #Unitarian minister. #Pacifist. #Socialist. Outspoken opponent of World War I and World War II. Founding member of the NAACP in 1909. Founding member of the ACLU in 1920. For 30 years he was senior minister of The Community Church of New York (40 E. 35th Street). Friend of Gandhi and advocate for Gandhian non-violence.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Happy birthday, Madeleine L’Engle (Nov. 29, 1918 – Sept. 6, 2007)! #Episcopalian. #Universalist. Writer. Author of “A Wrinkle in Time” (1962), among many other works. Quotable quote: “I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.” Her final resting place is in the Church of Saint John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Happy birthday, Louisa May Alcott (Nov. 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)! #Feminist. #Abolitionist. Novelist. Buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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