The recent upswing of Islamic terrorism has brought violence in the name of Allah to the front of many people’s minds. For some this is also a time to resurrect claims that Christianity is a religion of violence and hatred. Some do this out of a general hatred of all religions asserting that religion is the greatest cause of war and violence. Some do this in an attempt to defend Islam by pointing out that Christianity has some infamous events in its own history. Does Christianity promote hatred and violence? Is the Bible full of hate and genocide?
The Bible does not lack wars, violence, murder and many other despicable evils. However, a description of violence is not the same as a prescription for violence. If this were the case one could argue that history books promote violence and hatred. To argue Christianity causes violence one has to show that Christianity either commands hatred between men, that the commands are based in hatred for people, or that the teachings will inevitably result in hatred. One can not simply point to violent passages in the Bible and say that Christianity is hateful. One must show that the Bible promotes violence. This is no easy claim to make.
The Bible includes many examples of wretched behavior. Even more, throughout Christian history men have done evil things in the name of Christianity. Yet these historic examples do not prove Christianity is hateful. Such examples prove a very different claim. The examples of violence in the Bible and history support a central tenet of Biblical teaching: humanity is hatefilled because man has rebelled against His Creator.
The teaching of the Bible is that the heart of man is the source of all hatred and violence. Titus 3 says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient . . . living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” The Bible also teaches the worst wickedness of man is not only the result of his own natural bent toward sin, but it is also the result of rebellion against God. When man rejects the God of the Bible for a god of his own creation, the result is that God lets man go into all manner of great wickedness (Rom 1). The claim of the Bible is that man apart from God turns to great violence and all manner of acts of hatred. Religion is not the root of anger and violence among men. The rejection of the God of the Bible aggravates the violent heart of men.
The Bible teaches an ethic that is contrary to violence. Those who have committed violent acts in the name of God have done son despite clear Bible teaching to the contrary. The Bible commands over and over again to love one another. In the book of Genesis God repeatedly condemns the violence of men. In the law to Israel God commands they are to love one another. The importance of love for one another is a major theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. The moral principles of the Bible are built on the basic principle of love, love for God and love for others. The Bible does not promote war, violence, hatred or racism. All such evils are the result of man’s sinful nature, not the teaching of Scripture.