UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Jesus and Nonviolence
Jesus and Nonviolence Jesus and Nonviolence
A Third Way

Walter Wink
ISBN 9780800636098 (0800636090)
Augsburg Fortress, 2003

Category: Ethics & Morality

This short book -- there are only around 15,000 words total -- provides an excellent introduction to the writings and ideas of Walter Wink. His argument is that Jesus never intended his words to be understood as support for passive non-resistance. To the contrary, Wink argues that Jesus advocated active non-violent resistance.

Wink draws on a rich mixture of materials to formulate his case. Throughout the book, examples are given of non-violent movements from both recent and older history. There is discussion of the correct translation of certain key Gospel passages. Comparisons are made with non-Christian non-violence teachings. He also alludes to his own involvement in such things as the Black civil rights struggle in the Southern states of the USA. (He slips in an 'our' on p. 64 in much the same way that Luke starts using 'we' halfway through Acts.) It makes for a persuasive case.

What is most thought-provoking is the admission that non-violence will sometimes lead to death. Not the death of those we oppose non-violently but of those who use non-violence to challenge the authorities. After all, we follow a saviour who took up a cross. 'Jesus' way, which is the way of the cross, means voluntarily taking on the violence of the Powers that Be, and that will mean casualties. But they will be nowhere near the scale that would result from violent revolution' (pp. 51-52). This makes Wink's discussion realistic. In addition, there is an emphasis on the importance of loving our enemies as the motivation for non-violent resistance. Wink sets high standards for those who wish to take up this cross.

Occasionally, as in the passage just quoted, Wink forgets that the reader might not have read his other books. His distinctive vocabulary is a vital part of his larger argument, and a lack of familiarity with it might momentarily throw the reader. This is a small point though, and not a reason on which to decide against this book. It is a reminder though that he is a fairly extensive writer, and some of the conclusions he comes to in other books might not be so congenial to traditional Evangelicals. For myself, I find the old adage that 'he is right in what he affirms, but wrong in what he denies' applies helpfully and enables me to benefit from his writings despite the particular points on which we would have to disagree.

Of particular value are the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. It would be very easy for this book to be used as study material for a house group. There is enough material here for about four study sessions. It is particularly valuable for this context that Wink makes some detailed study of significant biblical passages.

The fact that a book is short does not mean that it only deserves a short review. Wink's ideas merit a wider audience and a positive response from all Christians, academic or not. This book is a significant contribution to his output for it makes his case in a very accessible manner. This will repay both individual and group study and I strongly recommend it to all.

John Wilks, July 2003

Dr John G F Wilks is the Director of Open Learning at London School of Theology, Reviews Editor for Evangelical Quarterly and author of Scripture Union's Deeper Encounter Study Series.

Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.

Distributed in Europe and the UK by Alban Books

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