Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Theology (MTh)




Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Robert A. Kelly

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This essay discusses the moral permissibility of the use of violence in struggles for national liberation using the history of the movement for independence in Namibia as a test case. The methodology is that of liberation theology. The thesis is that the Namibian situation shows that, while violence is always at some level evil, it is sometimes a "necessary evil" and that, given the proper circumstances, participation in a violent revolutionary activity can be a permissible moral option for Christians. The first chapter summarizes some of the history of colonialism and the ethics of missionaries to Namibia, first under the Germans and then under South Africa. While the Pietistic mission societies advocated an “apolitical” stance, they actually supported the colonial powers. Later, as some church leaders came to question South African policies, repression was directed against the churches as well. The second chapter takes issue with a theology that would overly divide religion from social life or the personal from the political. Using the biblical images of the city set on a hill and servanthood and Bonhoeffer's concept of deputyship, this chapter argues that responsibility for the social and political life of a people is essential to Christian ethics. Chapter three examines the ethics of revolutionary conspiracy. While conspiracy might seem an odd topic for Christian ethics, this chapter makes the point that the Christian has a duty to resist unjust laws and systems. At times such resistance could result in Christian participation in conspiracies against the government. The final chapter directly addresses the question of the permissibility of Christian participation in violent revolutionary actions. The preferred strategy for Christians to seek social change in unjust systems is nonviolent resistance, which is discussed as “Jesus’ third way.” While nonviolence is the method most consistent with the words of Jesus in the gospels, in some cases nonviolent methods might lead to increased repression rather than change. In such situations it is permissible for Christians to take up arms to prevent even worse violence. Because the government of South Africa refused to recognize the humanity of indigenous Namibians and only dealt with nonviolent resistance by killing even more innocent people, the Namibian struggle for independence was one such situation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Christianity Commons