Torture and Paul

My friend Henry, a former Ph.D student in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, published an article on St. Paul and Torture (click to read) at Religion Dispatches.

What are your thoughts? My initial thought was Paul’s comment at the end of Galatians where he talks about the real brand marks of the Christian being stigmata, the brand marks of Christ (namely, Paul’s beatings). Torture belonged, it seems, to the realm of worldly and fleshly opposition to the way of Jesus.

This issue is increasingly becoming a major topic of concern among Christians, particularly after hearing how the conservative side tends to be fine with a little torture now and again. How as Christians should we engage, both theologically and socially, with this issue?

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3 thoughts on “Torture and Paul

  1. Kyle,

    I like your friend!

    Here is the actual link (rather than the facebook link):

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/religionandtheology/1452/st._paul_the_pacifist%3A_a_christian_response_to_torture/

    And I also gave a few comments on my blog here:

    http://vhtnguyen.com/2009/05/st-paul-the-pacifist-a-christian-response-to-torture.html

    Gal 6.17 and other texts do suggest that the marks of oppression and violence (torture) that Christ experienced are from the world that opposes the way of Jesus and those endured by Paul himself. We often see that these acts of violence and torture are ENDURED, and not EMPLOYED, by Paul and Jesus.

    I have been contemplating with, as you asked, how this affects Christian living and a posture towards this pressing issue today.

  2. Kyle, thanks for posting this. I have been wrestling with my beliefs on this issue for a while. I am a student at Asbury Theological Seminary where I find a high percentage of pacifists. I grew up in a “just war”, self-defense, death penalty condoning home, but the more I study the NT less I am convinced. I feel that much of the Pro-war, Pro-torture ideology stems from Dispensational eschatology in which the blood soaked pages of Revelation are held up as a gold standard for dealing with evil. God’s wrath is highlighted as vindictive and retributive, so we follow suit. I do not believe that Christ had violence in mind for His church. However, I still struggle with self-defense in instances where religious persecution is not a factor. The NT doesn’t give many examples of this, but the Sermon on the Mount may present a fairly strong case. I am still searching with an open mind. Ultimately, I think that Evangelicalism’s Pro-war, Pro-death penalty, Pro-torture stance is problematic in evangelism where many people find it inconsistent with a message of love and sacrifice.

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