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Torture and the Gospel

Over at my personal/pastoral blog I have written some thoughts on the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

Now, there are many potential political and legal considerations and responses. I lack the expertise to propose them or comment on various alternative policies which could have been implemented or should be implemented going forward. But I can speak to Christians who have failed to notice the severity of this issue in the past or have even defended it on such spurious grounds as I have listed. Take this matter to heart. Ask yourselves if you really can and should be defending “rectal hydration.” Why are you not morally shaken by such a practice, or, if you are, why are you still able to overcome that moral compunction?

This issue also highlights a more basic one. If you have ever defended an evil action because it satisfied personal revenge or gave you a limited opportunity to indulge violent and bloodthirsty passions, then you must repent. This is not a trifling matter. The torture revelations are but a macro-level version of what goes on in every human heart. Only, in this case, the hateful desires were not suppressed or denied but rather fed. Murder begins with unchecked anger in the heart. Torture comes from elevating hatred, or a false sense of moral entitlement, over the inherent dignity of the image of God. We close our eyes to an obvious evil because we are serving something we deem greater. But in this instance it is not God we are serving but our own image, an idol leading to destruction.

The good news, though, is that Jesus died for torturers. And he died for torture apologists. There is forgiveness, even for the most heinous sins, and therefore there is also forgiveness for failing to see or admit those sins. Nothing is greater than the love of God. But once those sins are brought to light, they must be let go. Repentance is not defeat. It is the only way for sinners to avoid defeat.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.