Miroslav Volf on violence done with the false backing of faith, and its cure

At least when it comes to Christianity, the cure against religiously induced or legitimized violence is not less religion, but, in a carefully qualified sense, more religion. What I mean is this: Strip religious commitments of all cognitive and moral content and reduce faith to a cultural resource endowed with a diffuse aura of the sacred, and you are likely to get religiously inspired or legitimized violence. Nurture people in the tradition and educate them about it, and if you get militants, they will be militants for peace.

Karl Barth offers good guidance on what to do in the face of the undeniable misuse of the Christian faith to foster violence. First, we need an unflinching critique of Christianity. It deserves critique and it can withstand critique. Attempts at damage control by theological spin doctors and ecclesiastical document shredders are not only counterproductive but also deeply offensive to the spirit of the very faith being defended. Second, we need authentic and imaginative retrieval of the faith. Barth’s critique of Christianity as religion was in the service of rediscovering Christianity as a living faith. Ultimately, it will take such living and embodied Christian faith to show that love and not terror is on the mind of its God.

Miroslav Volf, Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, 159-160.


Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer