Rethinking Christian salvation in the light of Gandhi's satyagraha

Terrence J Rynne, Marquette University


Through the centuries many models and metaphors have been used to communicate the nature of Christian salvation. No one model has ever been defined as normative. Some models portray God the Father as exacting recompense and Jesus passively submitting to God's will. In effect, they put violence into God, make retribution the operative principle for Christians and sanction passivity in the face of violence. Mohandas Gandhi developed an assertive, nonviolent way of resisting evil and violence, called "satyagraha," or "firmly holding to the truth." Gandhi believed that Jesus' life, his teachings of "love your enemies" and the Sermon on the Mount, and his death on the cross, clearly exemplified this method of nonviolently resisting and overcoming evil and violence. Gandhi has prompted Christian theologians to a fresh reading of the New Testament. As a result many have embraced nonviolence as central to Jesus' life and teaching and consequently central to Christian discipleship. The Introduction explains the practical significance of the topic; explores the "new" question that our time puts to the tradition; and outlines the method, critical correlation, to be used in the dissertation. Chapter One reviews the many models of Christian salvation in the New Testament and popular models in the history of Christianity and offers a critique of history's most influential model, Anselm's "satisfaction" theory. Chapter Two traces the development of Gandhi's beliefs; how he transformed traditional Hindu ideas; how the New Testament and Tolstoy influenced his development. Chapter Three explains the five main facets of Gandhi's satyagraha, how it works and how it has been refined over the past sixty years. Chapter Four reviews the thoughts of four representative Christian theologians who have embraced nonviolence: C.F. Andrews, the Christian who was Gandhi's colleague and intimate friend; John Howard Yoder, the Mennonite theologian whose book, The Politics of Jesus, countered all the ways Jesus' nonviolence has been dismissed through the centuries; Bernard Haring, recognized as the finest Catholic moral theologian of the twentieth century and Walter Wink, whose academic work has helped many understand the meaning of "turn the other cheek." Chapter Five puts forward a new model of Christian salvation, making nonviolent action or satyagraha, the root metaphor.

Recommended Citation

Rynne, Terrence J, "Rethinking Christian salvation in the light of Gandhi's satyagraha" (2006). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3244566.