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If Torture, then Not Christian

Nice surprise from the Scriptorium Daily, a blog based out of the supremely conservative Biola University. The only other time I had ever heard of the author was in a book he edited that was a debate over young versus old earth creationism. Well, regardless of where he comes down on that particular issue, the author is right on the money here:

Torture of any human being is incompatible with the Christian faith.

This should have been obvious, but like many hard and inconvenient moral lessons it was not. Christianity grew in cultures that used torture frequently and so had cultural assumptions inconsistent with their faith. Like most evil things, torture is justified by the good that can come of it. Most bad things are tempting because of alleged goods, but Christian experience shows that any gains from torture are not worth the cost to the souls of men and cultures.

Because there are times when torture seems like a good idea, Christians followed the practice of most ancient cultures and sometimes used it when they gained power. However, it was always a difficult decision for Christian civilizations to make and always had critics amongst Christian theologians and philosophers. The practice was modified and prisoners were given greater rights. The longer Christians thought about the practice and experienced the results, the broader the disdain and condemnation for it.

Eventually, a consensus developed in the traditional Churches that torture was a temptation to do evil, a snare of devils to corrupt souls, and a delusion that promised good, but only certainly did evil.

The condemnation of torture is part of the culture of life so central to the Faith. It is sad to see some Christians use arguments and lines of reasoning to justify torture that are similar to those used to justify abortion.

Traditional Christians disdain those who mutilate the corpses of enemies, because it dishonors the Image of God. How much worse is it to mutilate the living body or the immortal soul of a man?


  1. Bobby Grow wrote:

    This is a good piece.

    John Mark Reynolds is a good Greek Orthodox philosopher who teaches at Biola, no less.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    He’s Orthodox?? Wow, I’m learning new things about Biola today…

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Thomism and Molinism creates ‘in-roads’ where one would think there would’nt be . . .

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  4. D C Cramer wrote:

    This is a nice surprise. Reynolds previously interacted with me on my blog in which he sounded extremely politically conservative (even admitting that he still believes the war in Iraq was the right decision). Glad to see he is reasonable here.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  5. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Wait, the war in Iraq was not the right decision?!

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    It wasn’t a decision. It was inevitable. Freedom isn’t free.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  7. Hill wrote:

    And I’m proud 2 be an Americun… ware at least I know I’m free.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  8. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Now we’re talking.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  9. Christina Tuituku wrote:

    “Torture” needs to be defined. If it means what the Nazis did to the Jews; or Mao to his people; or the Viet Cong to Southern Vietnames; or what the some of the Iraqis did to American soldies, like disembowling and hanging their bodies from the tops of bridges, then I think all of us would agree that those are examples of torture. But sleep deprivation, 24 hour’s of bright lights and/or loud, raucous music, or isolation are fair treatments of prisoners of war. And that is what we arre talking about, is it not—POW’S. LAPD has been tortuous to our own American citizens; the police action should be condemned and punished. When the day comes when American Christians are “persecuted,” will it need to be defined or will we realize we are now part of the worldwide suffering church.

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  10. Paul wrote:

    If anyone, Christian or otherwise, still has no problems with the “enhanced interrogation” procedures our government has been up to these last few years, I recommend they read Andrew Sullivan’s blog post (see “website” link) comparing, with devastating accuracy, the similar treatment and justification for treatment the Gestapo did and what our government has done.

    Sixty years ago, those in the Gestapo responsible for sanctioning the “enhanced interrogation procedures” were tried for war crimes and sentenced to death.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  11. Paul wrote:

    Hitting people with metal baseball bats (to the point that you break their arms or legs), “stress positions” that cause labored breathing and extreme joint pain, covering detainees with ice packs so they experience hypothermia…I don’t know how any Christian can find this acceptable. Need I mention that 100 detainees have died from these “enhanced” procedures?

    Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  12. Dan wrote:

    It would behoove you to know then that some of the tactics used by the American military and intelligence community were the same tactics used by the Khmer Rouge, the Viet Cong, the Soviets, and yes, even the Gestapo.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  13. roger flyer wrote:

    I love country music, too! American country that is.

    Taylor Swift, Toby Keith.

    (Roger runs away crying when he realizes he’s added his comment to the wrong blog..)

    Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

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