In this video, W. Robert Godfrey considers how to speak about sinful, violent events in Christian history.
Well, it’s certainly true that one of the issues we as Christians have to face is the way in which the world reminds us of our sins and particularly the violence in our past to try to show that we’re not a voice for truth, or a voice for love, or a voice for reason, and to dismiss us. The first thing we as Christians always need to say is that where we have sinned; we acknowledge that and repent of it. There are moments in the history of Christianity, in the history of the church, where there has been violence that is indefensible. And I think part of what we need to respond is to say we as Christians have always acknowledged that we’re sinners in need of grace and in need of forgiveness.
And we also want to say that that violence is not inherent to our faith—that it is an aberration, that it comes from the outside, that it’s a confusion of Christ and culture in inappropriate ways. And when you go back to the New Testament, you find no call from Christ or the Apostles to violence. And so, we can contrast Christianity that has done wrong things in its history but is not inherently defined by that wrongness with other sorts of movements that are defined by violence, and defend ourselves to some extent in that way. We have to be aware of sounding too defensive. But I do think we have a way in which we can defend ourselves and remind people that there’s a lot of goodness in the history of Christianity as well. And that we need to always be looking at Christ and not at Christians to really understand Christianity.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 4, 2019.