Sunday, June 22, 2008

Christians and Warfare- Pacifism or Peacemaking Through State Supported Mass Violence?


Here I am going to make the longest blog post I have ever made. I have been intending to do this for a couple of years now. This wilderness of words that I am about to post was an epic conversation that took place between myself and a fellow who goes by the name Thomisticguy. It took place at at the Theology for Dummies Blog. Iam going to do this for a couple of reasons. First, I think this is an important subject. Next, this was easily one of the most comprehensive treatments of this subject that I have ever been able to engage in. I have noted in my other writings that the usual way for two people that have passionate and yet opposing viewpoints to have a "discussion" is to start a conversation, get frustrated when the other party does not conced or convert to your position and then resort to exchanging barbs or insults until one or both of them becomes tired of it and moves on. Thus, any kind of consensus is seldom ever reached- nothing is changed and nothing is learned. Although this conversation I am about to post flirts dangerously a few times with degenerating like that- it actually, for me at least reaches a point where there is a quasi consensus and a point that I would consider closure. There were a few other participants in this- but I will only post their words where they overlap the exchange between myself under the moniker Starrider and Thomisticguy.

Here we go- the initial spark for this conversation came from Thomisticguy on his blog which I discovered while studying the topic of War and Christians:

I recently did an internet search and happened upon a theology blog called “Faith and Theology” (http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/) that was a hoot for me to spend some time on. “Faith and Theology” seems to be stocked with left-leaning divinity students and professors. It is a hermetically sealed world where its participants write verbose posts filled with made-up words like “hi-story” (instead of history) and support each other with grandiose but vapid theological reasoning that uniformly supports a leftist political agenda. Obviously, I was in “hog-heaven” as I presented them with some Aristotelian and Thomistic reasoning on different subjects. An apt metaphor might be that it was like shoving a stick into an undisturbed hornets nest.

While on the “Faith and Theology” blog I noticed that all roads seemed to lead to certain political topics. Chief among these was the issue of war and non-violence. It is probably needless to say that the participants at FAT consider themselves pacifists. While on FAT I even read an article making the case for vegetarianism based on Christian theology. Please understand, this article was not saying that one may wish to be a vegetarian, it was making the case that it is a moral imperative that all Christians must be vegetarians and oppose the “slaughter” of animals. I’ll set that aside for now and concentrate on the subject of war.

Christians and Non-violence: The History

Throughout Christian history there have been Christians who have believed that it was wrong to participate in armed conflict. However, this has been the minority position. We can see this today with such groups as the Amish, some Friends, and the Mennonites. Generally, these groups have taken the position that their Christian conscience does not allow them to be soldiers. They have not sought to push their view on other Christians nor on the countries in which they have resided.

The majority opinion has been the Just War Tradition which was first formalized by Augustine and fine-tuned by Aquinas.

Basis for the Just War Tradition

The basis for the Just War Tradition is that it separates the individual Christian’s personal ethic from that of the government’s responsibility to provide justice and peace. The JWT also takes into account the full counsel of Scripture giving full weight to the Old Testament teachings on war, punishment and God’s nature. Christian pacifism seems to be unable to grasp that there are two separate ethics taught in the Bible that spring from the same God. One ethic is for the Christian as a private citizen within a country and another ethic is for the government and the magistrates of the government.

The Private Christian Ethic

The New Testament clearly teaches that Christians are to love their enemies and to do good toward those that treat them evilly (Matt. 5:43-47 and Romans 12:14-21). The mandate for the individual Christian is to “…not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This makes complete sense and is reasonable when we understand God’s nature. God has overcome His own just right to punish us through His mercy made available through the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Likewise, Christians are, by the power of the cross, able to overlook an injustice and through love overcome evil.

On the other hand, the government and governing magistrate is in no position to overlook injustice. In fact, the Bible teaches that the magistrate is God’s “servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Roma 13: 4). Both Paul and Peter go into some detail on this issue (Rom 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2: 13-14). The governing magistrate does not act as an individual but as a representative of the government and, as such, must act in accordance with God’s requirements of the institution of government. God requires of governments that they act on His behalf to provide peace and tranquility (1 Tim 2:2) to the populace by “commending the good” and punishing wrongdoers. They are to provide justice for the oppressed and those who have been unjustly treated. When governments and magistrates fail to provide justice for their people or pervert justice, they are punished by God (check out the OT prophets).

The Just War Tradition

The JWT builds on the apostolic teaching in the New Testament in that it reasons that the government must protect its citizens from violent predators within its borders (i.e. criminals and murderers) and from outside its borders (i.e. pirates, brigands, mercenaries, terrorists and invading countries). The JWT notes that if a government fails to protect its citizens from those from outside its borders it is just as irresponsible as when failing to deal with criminals and murderers.

Here I will summarize the JWT; however, if you would like a fuller explanation you can check out Aquinas’ brilliant overview at: http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/SS/SS040.html#SSQ40A1THEP1

1. War may only be declared by the proper governing authorities. No private individual or group is justified making war (by the way, Al Qu'ida is not a legitimate government and has no right to make war against the U.S.).
2. There needs to be a just reason for waging war (i.e. Augustine lists: “…one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly”).
3. Thirdly, it is necessary that the “belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.”

Aquinas quotes Augustine, “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good." The participants at FAT would probably go into coronary arrest if they read Augustine’s quote. Imagine that, Augustine actually believed that wars can be waged as “peaceful,” meaning, for the purpose of providing peace. Such a concept does not seem to make much sense to those at FAT, however, to the rest of us who live on planet Earth, and enjoy the peace and tranquility provided by our government from fascist and communist dictators, it makes perfect sense.

Posted by Thomisticguy

Now my first Response:

1st John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.


The Church and the State (or nation-states) are in many ways incompatible. States are part of the world and its value systems and the Church's business is none other than to be the CHURCH...not to run the world....not to assist God in directing human history. The Church and "civilization" (the World) are (or are supposed to be) two mutually exclusive entities. Human(istic) civilization and the Kingdom of God are not synonymous.
Romans 13 which is popularly taken out of context with Romans 12 and the rest of the Bible is understood by Christians in different ways. As noted in the study helps of my life application study Bible:
"All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this:

(1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.

(2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres--the spiritual and the physical--and thus complement each other but do not work together.

(3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.

None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government's laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians."


For a clearer understanding of what Romans 13 actually means- read the book of Habbakuk and notice how God "orders" nation-states. It will give you a a clearer than ever view of how God "orders" nations and punishes them...yet the wickedness in the world is not authored by God or from his will...it is from our own freewill, pride and selfishness that brings about the consequences ...God just permits and sometimes punishes.
Habbakuk will help you understand how on the one hand we are to not love the world or anything in it...and at the same time be at peace with the way God is handling human history...and trust him that even if the wicked prosper now...they will not escape justice....all we have to do is TRUST and leave vengeance to him...and stand for Truth and right....fully prepared to pay the cost even unto death... A nation that rises to power does not necessarily have God's approval

It is popular right now to refer to the conflicts in the Middle East as clashes between "Christian Civilization" and "Islamic Civilization" which is simply in error. "Christian Civilization" is rightly labeled as a myth- especially since the death and ressurrection and redemptive work of Christ.
To paraphrase at length Dr. Lee Camp, author of "Mere Discipleship" which I simply insist you must read:
The Constantinian cataract, the viewing of the world through the lens of the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, distorts our vision so that we believe the power brokers, the emperors, and the mighty that use force to control human history. Believing that WE must make "things turn out right", we seek to get hold of such power for the purposes of the "good" and the "right" and even God. In "Christendom", the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, we try to employ the methods of the rebellious principalities and powers to defeat them at their own game.
However, one thing that all Scriptures make very clear is that: the principalities and powers of this world, the kings and princes and queens and presidents- they do not run the world, though they assume so. It is not nation-states that run the world or determine the real meaning and purpose of history, but God. It is not the power structures of the World or the nation-states that after all do not follow the edicts of Christ- but the faithful people of God who are most important on the stage of history. It is not those with wordly might, but the obedient, despised minority whom God chooses to be a light to the nations. We will not "make a difference in the real world" by trying to beat the powers at their own game; we will not "make a positive contribution to culture" or "exercise responsibility" by playing games on the principalities' terms. Instead we, as Christians, are called to be a people walking in faithful discipleship to the Way of Christ, and thereby to be the salt and light the rebellious world so desperately needs. It is not through the might of nations that you are to be a light- but through being the faithful people of God and living by example.
I believe that this speaks directly to this quote from an article I recently read elsewhere concerning the "clash of civilizations" thesis concerning the conflicts in the Middle East:

"For a religion to serve as the basis of a culture, it must seek to preserve peace but also be willing to use force. All major religions tend toward this mean."

When the Church insists upon adjusting itself to the ways of the World, the “church" itself may end up being the greatest threat to Christian faith- because it ends up offering a substitute for the Gospel. When the "church" presents to the world a second rate counterfeit, rather than the real thing, the original gets discredited. By playing at "religion", rather than walking in adherence to the Way of Christ, the Church becomes its own worst enemy.
In other words, a "cultural Christianity", in which many people ascribe to the "Christian Faith", but few walk in true discipleship, SHOWING the world what God created the world to be- this is APOSTASY. Apostasy then will not come about by everyone openly renouncing Christianity- but by many people assuming the name "Christian" without being doers, and followers of Christ’s teachings- by being admirers of Christ, but not true disciples.

The Church is often referred to as the BODY of Christ- which points us to what the identity of the Church is intended to be. The Church is called to be no less than a community that continues to incarnate (to embody) the will of God. The Church is then, much more than just doing religion or government right. Being the Church means embodying God's intentions for the world as revealed in Christ. Church is not about showing the world how to be "religious"- but SHOWING the World how it is supposed to be a world that reflects the intentions of its Creator. In juxtaposition to the Creator's design, the World schools us in self- preservation, self- maximization and self- realization; the World trains us to live and die, kill and wage war for the "free market economy", "our way of life", "freedom", "democracy" and/or lifestyle. But, imagine the radical implications of a community, a Church, that refuses to bow to such systematic indoctrination in self-preservation and instead internalizes the knowledge that these are things that are of the old order, the stoichea, the powers, works of the flesh that have been defeated with Christs crucifixion and are even now passing away.
The problem then of human conflict is not rooted in religious legalism or law but in the reality of slavery to sin, a lingering submission to the power of evil that is simultaneously personal and social, individual and communal....lust, greed, selfishness and fear of death...all things that true Disciples of Christ are LIBERATED from the bondage of.

The relationship between democracy and Christianity does provide a helpful case study for the moral implications of worship. Christians can on one hand, be grateful for democratic orders. In fact, many of the practices of a democracy are analogous to practices of the Church....for example the right to free speech. Free speech, in a way, respects the practice in which all are allowed to share their insight and perspective. Similarly, the right of the free exercise of religion relates to the freedom entailed in the practice of adult believer baptism. Christians can rightly celebrate the respect shown to individuals in liberal democratic orders, especially over and against the tyranny of despotic regimes.

On the other hand, the Church cannot assume that democracy in the United States or elsewhere is an ultimate value to be preserved at all costs- because there are certain commitments in democratic political orders that stand at great odds with the directives of the Christian faith. For example, in 1990 political commentator George Will gave his approval to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that "freedom of religion" did not permit Native Americans to violate state law against the use of peyote in their religious services. Whether one believes that Native Americans or anyone else ought to use peyote in worship is unimportant here. Will's central thesis- a forthrightly idolatrous claim- is of great concern...i.e. "A central purpose of Americas political arrangements is the subordination of religion to the political order, meaning the primacy of democracy."

Will supports this thesis, which speaks directly to the precepts of the "founding fathers'" like Jefferson, by reciting standard mantras of classical, political liberalism: The Founding Fathers wanted to "Tame and domesticate the religious passions of the sort that convulsed Europe. How might such a goal be accomplished? By refusing to establish religion, of course, an instead establishing a commercial republic- a capitalism. They aimed to submerge people's turbulent energies in self interested pursuit of material comforts." Religion then, according to this interpretation of John Locke, is to be perfectly free as long as it is perfectly private- mere belief- but it must bend to the political will (law) as it regards conduct." Thus the realm in which freedom of religion exists is restricted to thought, to belief, to the mind: "Jefferson held that "operations of the mind' are not subject to legal coercion, but that acts of the body are. Mere belief, Jefferson says, in one god or twenty neither picks one's pockets or breaks one's legs.
Whether Will's interpretation of the "founding fathers," intentions is accurate or not, such an understanding of democracy is idolatrous. Discipleship is not rooted in mere belief- but in the ultimate authority of God and Christ. To claim that Christ is Lord indeed flies in the face of a constitutional theory that makes “religion” both private and subordinate. What this interpretation does afford us is an opportunity to question whether the Church in America has more often interpreted Christianity through the lens of Western political traditions, rather than interpreting those political traditions through the lens of a biblical worldview. Are we indeed to allow our political traditions to privatize and domesticate our "religious passions"?
Has our own pursuit of economic self interest led us to keep our "religion" in its own socially irrelevant sphere?

The gospel is not merely a "belief system", giving mental assent to "sound doctrine" so that one might "go to Heaven". The Gospel calls us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, to embody the will of God on Earth, empowered by the Holy spirit to do so. We have been called to participate in the new reign and social order proclaimed and made real by Jesus. This is no "religious passion” that we can domesticate through consumerism.

Simply put, faithfulness to the teaching of the Master is of first importance, everything else is supposed to find its place within the sphere of obedience to the Lord. However, such faithfulness is thought to be naive within the empire. In the empire we are encouraged to give consent to "whatever is necessary" for 'the good guys" to win....whether it be clusterbombs, nuclear weapons, torture, or pre-emptive wars...to "uphold the good"...

Another fallacy in this "clash of civilizations" thesis we see now regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, is that those who have "professed" Christianity have been essentially innocent since the days of the crusades...and that most of the blame for the current "clash of civilizations" lies with Islam- see these quotes:
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"We have seen the roots of Islamic violence in the life and teachings of Mohammed. We have seen that world events have conspired to place Islam and Christianity in a conflict of civilizations that has stretched from the sixth to the twenty-first century.

What the future holds is unknown. What is known is that Islamic civilization has a strong tendency to violence that stretches back to the days of Mohammed and that has begun to flare up in resurgent terrorist and revolutionary movements.

The conflict with militant Islam may last a long time—centuries, potentially—since even if curing Muslim society of its violent tendencies is possible, it would involve ripping out or otherwise neutralizing a tendency that has dominated Muslim culture since the days of its founder.

This is not an easy task, for Muslims willing to make the change would be portrayed as traitors to their religion, amid renewed calls to practice Islam in its original, pure, and more violent form in order to regain the favor of God. The signs of the times suggest that we are, indeed, in for a "clash of civilizations" that will be neither brief nor bloodless.

But what also is known is that God has a plan for history and that his grace can work miracles. It is yet possible that—through one means or another—God will bring about a more peaceful world in which militant Islam either is not a threat or nowhere near the threat that it is today.

If this is to happen, our cooperation with God’s grace will require prayer, courage, resourcefulness, and a realistic understanding of the threat we are facing. Until then there can be no illusions about Islam and its endless jihad."
_____________________________________________________________________________

Do not be deceived. The Pope's recent words of truth concerning how violence is not pleasing to God apply also to so called "Christian civilization" as well as Islam. Both our scriptures and our history books depict the widespread prevalence of sin, injustice, abuse, and domination which are deeply woven into the social fabric of not only the world at large, but America throughout its entire narrative. Though the twentieth century began with waves of unbounded hope- the trust in "progress” soon gave way to disbelief and despair. Technology has allowed us to build bigger and better weapon systems to kill more people, industrialization allowed us to mass produce those weapons as well as the material trappings of the "market driven economy"; mass media allowed the propaganda- driven mobilization and indoctrination of entire populations to both use and defend that technology and industrialization in service of killing their enemies...in contravention of the biblical edict to love enemies and never return evil for evil because vengeance belongs to God.

Hitler's anti-Semitic Holocaust remains an indescribable horror of our age. But, Paul reminded his Roman readers that they ought not judge others when they thereby condemn themselves: in response to the injustice of others, and in the name of utilitarianism, United States forces likewise decimated Japanese men, women and children in our firebombing of Tokyo and our nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...We did likewise in Dresden and Hamburg Germany. In our Cold War wake and mindless rush toward mastery and domination we created a world where total destruction by nuclear conflagration is a constant and impending threat right up until this very moment. We napalmed children and innocent adults in Viet Nam to "make the world safe for democracy". We have created a world in which MAD- mutually assured destruction- is no sci-fi acronym but stated government policy in response to any threatened attack or affront to our idol, democracy. We have held policies toward the Middle East for decades that oscillate between neglect and reactionary bombing... we have exploited the poor and pumped wealth and weaponry into the hands of tyrants and the men we now call enemies throughout the Mediterranean basin...including poison gas, bombs of every sort and all other sorts implements of death and destruction...We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God's plan for mankind. In the last decade, according to U.N. estimates, we have contributed to the deaths of at least half a million children in Iraq through sanctions and shock and awe tactics...before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" commenced....and then wax innocent and pious when we recieve blowback in the form of "terrorism". "Terrorism" being noted as what one does with carbombs as opposed to laser guided bombs and televised "shock and awe" glory.

Someone will undoubtedly tag these assertions as "liberal-America- hating -blasphemy and pie- in -the-sky- touchy-feely- lovey-dovey- denial of realities.... an assertion that I will openly challenge. In the light of the sobering reality of ongoing rebellion to God's purposes, Christians cannot naively assume that "niceness" will necessarily entail "niceness" in others. The political "realists" are quite right on that score: pacifism is naive if it assumes that it will bring about easy victory over one's enemies. Christians must realize that walking in the Way of the Cross, may indeed lead to a cross. If you are "nice to people", the possibility exists that one may be killed. The Way of the Cross is indeed a costly way of dealing with injustice, conflict, and rebellion against the ways of God. It is certainly NOT for the weak of heart. To be a disciple that follows in the non- violent- way- of- Christ that harbors no fear of death in the midst of a culture that thrives on fear and worships domination is no easy work... in the Middle East or the West.
BUT, it is not the true Disciples who naively believe they can cure the world of war. Very often, it is the purveyors of warfare and "peace through superior firepower" who exhibit a utopian trust in the power of violence! Thus, World War 1 was called "the war to end all wars", wars are always characterized as good versus evil, and America's most recent campaign has been too often suffused with the rhetoric of "ridding the world of evil," of "getting rid of terror," and other such utopian dreams. This is of course nonsense. War IS terror after all.
SOOO, Disciples of Christ, actual followers, refuse to fight wars not because they naively believe they will thus rid the world of war, instead we do not fight because the Kingdom of God HAS come, in which war is banished, in which it is possible to order our lives according to the justice, peace and assurance of the primacy of God.

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Response:

I truly believe that Christ intended for us to "turn the other cheek." (If I understand that Bible verse correctly, the smiting on of the cheek by the left hand was a double smite because the left hand was used to wipe after going potty... big time offense to smite with the left hand across the cheek)

I also hold firm to:

Matthew 7:6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

Consistantly giving in to tyrants is not the way for our nation to stay safe and stong. It is one thing for another nation to publicly put us down (smiting with the left hand). We can handle a few terse words about our integrity and turn the other cheek. It is another to threaten us with violence. That is our "Pearl".

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Response:

Dear Starrider: wow, you wrote a lot. However, you overlooked the germane point of my post in regard the clear apostolic teaching from both Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3. The point that I was making is not how a Christian does or does not rightly submit to governing authorities but, rather, Paul’s clear teaching that the governing authority is God’s delegated “agent of wrath” to “punish” the “wrongdoer.” This is unavoidable but you seem to successfully have overlooked it. The Just War Theory—which, by the way is the predominant view on this issue through out church history even as early as the 1st and 2nd century (though not formalized)—is built on the fact that God demands that governments provide protection and justice for its citizens from evil-doers (your Habakkuk reference as well as many other OT prophets would make no sense without this fundamental concept in place). This is the actual purpose of the institution of government. Government, as Paul stated, like the family and the church, is an institution established by God for a specific purpose. You clearly are denying that governments can legitimately provide justice and protection to their citizens.
●I would suggest you study all of the soldiers who were martyred in the first three centuries of Christianity before the time of Constantine. You will literally find hundreds of them who are venerated and honored as great men of our faith. They served as model soldiers and model Christians. You will also find that a number of them have been sainted by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Churches. This, of course, denies the idea that early, persecuted Christians were pacifists per se.
●Though an individual Christian is free to live by their conscience and not serve in the armed forces; it is clearly wrong biblically and historically to assert that Christians must be pacifists.

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My Response:


Thom,
I believe I did confront the question Of Romans 13. But, let's go deeper. Romans 13 is quite often taken out of context. Examine these verses from Romans 12:

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, "says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

With this understanding and context, along with the entire rest of the New Testament for context as well, I find no justification for the Christian to Interpret anything in Romans 13 for a liscence to participate in mass violence. Nor do I find in Romans 13 or 1st Peter 3 anything that would lead me to the conclusion that is is the job or function of Christians or the Church AKA the Body of Christ to protect people from evildoers. The evidence instead suggests rather clearly that Christians are not to fear death and not to partcipate in the cycle of violence and revenge or the "Domination System" of the "World".
Here is 1st Peter Chapter 3 in its beginning at verse 8 for reference (the first seven verse dealing with marriage):

8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
"Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
11 He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear[b]; do not be frightened."15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

It appears to me that this set of verses supports the thesis of non-violence rather than the one that you have promoted here and on the other blog. I have read it all. You have made the point elsewhere that the concept of non-violence applies to one's "personal" life rather than applying to the corporate group of nation-states. Since the "personal" existence of a Christian also contains citizenship and anything within the arena of public life- everything is "personal" while simultaneously part of the community. So how is participating in mass violence not personal?
Habbukkuk and other OT books such as Isaiah do in fact show how God uses Worldy governments to exercise justice and wrath. In Habbakuk, God was using Babylon to punish the Israelites. The inplications here are sobering. This tale starkly demonstrates that a nation that is under duress of an enemy is often being chastised as by a loving Father- and also clearly demonstrates that because a nation is mighty that it is not necessarily favored by God. This is an illustration of how God orders and "ordains" governments- not quite the same picture that has been painted of a God that hand picks his leaders for greatness. I have seen you write elsewhere how George W. Bush is essentially "endorsed" by God because he has been "elected"- since God "orders" governments and world leaders and all. What then are we to make of men like Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Stalin, Hitler and Hussein? Were they not also elected and thus "ordained" by God? I believe that this thesis and philosophy that some hold- in the end transforms God into a rather inept judge of character and quite possibly a vicious psychopath. Is Jehovah God a God of mercy and justice and love- or an incompetent or possibly sadistic, cosmic chess player? The very fact that governments do become evil and often commit evil on a mass scale as did Rome, Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union and others- creates indelible problems for the thesis that governments and their leaders are all selected and approved of by God. I believe it is much more accurate to understand how God "orders" the world from his own words in Habbakuk. It is much more accurate to understand that God orders worldly matters and governments by limiting them and placing boundaries upon them while all the while letting the freewill of humankind play itself up to those limitations and boundaries. Thus, he is organizing the governments of the world just as a librarian organizes the books in her library. Because the librarian recieves a book and shelves it in its proper place does not mean that she approves of and/or endorses that book. Because a man is elected president- this does not mean he was hand picked by God. If God hand picked hussein- why are our forces over there now trying to undo God's ordiination? God will use the evil and the good to his own ends....that is how he orders an/or ordains government.
Next lets discuss the concept of "Just Warfare". I have this quote in my notes:
"The principles of a Just War originated with classical Greek and Roman philosophers like Plato and Cicero proposed by S. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and made available for everybody by Hugo Grotius... However, it is a "theory", and with it hundreds of bloody wars have occurred in the last 1600 years... and may be it is time to think of a New Way, considering the teachings of the Gospels and the the personal pacifist attitude of Pope John Paul II and many other modern Christian leaders."

Here is your quote:
The Just War Theory—which, by the way is the predominant view on this issue through out church history even as early as the 1st and 2nd century (though not formalized)—is built on the fact that God demands that governments provide protection and justice for its citizens from evil-doers..."

I would point out that the predominant view of "Christendom" has also in the past been that the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved arounfd the Earth. So, the "predominant" view debate is irrelevant and based on doctrine formulated by men and not necessarily on the proper interpretation of scripture. More importantly, there is in fact much debate on the meaning from Romans and 1st Peter 3. So, if one is using for instance 1st Peter 3:17 which says:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
- to make the argument that because the "Just War" tradition is the "predominant" extrapolation from scripture- it is "What is right in the eyes of everyone" it is quite a stretch. What should be "right in the eyes of everyone" is Jesus' words and examples as are found in the "Sermon on the Mount and in his martyrdom.
1st Peter 3:19 says:
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, "says the Lord.
Also 1st peter 3:19 does some damage to the assertion,
"God demands that governments provide protection and justice for its citizens from evil-doers..."
I think it can be established that God UTILIZES governments to establish justice...and they have been established and modeled after a plan that he authored. However just as with all human endeavor, that model and plan is often abandoned by humankind through freewill- and the source of all strife and warfare is sin. Thus, this assertion,

"You clearly are denying that governments can legitimately provide justice and protection to their citizens,"
is a misunderstanding and/or overdone generalization.
Sure, governments can legitimately protect their people. What is really being debated is HOW that is done. If you realistically examine the current war and conflict that our country is engaged in, as noted in my other post, the US is clearly not innocent and has clearly chosen courses of action and foreign policy in the past that have helped to produce the backlash of terrorism. So, I assert that the best way that our government could protect us and the rest of mankind is by more closely adhering to the teachings of Jesus and by crafting foreign policy and practice that are more Godly, fair and just. Asxyou can probably guess i have much more to say on that topic which for now can wait.
Now, moving on, if you want to use Jesus' rampage thru the temple where he threw out the moneychangers to justifty warfare- be it also noted that Jesus was God in most theologians understanding. So, he was certainly authorized to behave in such a way. Also, it is quite a stretch to extrapolate Jesus' bum rushing some charlatans out of the temple into dropping atomic bombs or napalm on people. People that view "pacifist" peacemakers as docile martyrs that avoid confronatation and are afraid to speak sternly or stand up to injustice do not understand what peacemaking or pacifism are- or Jesus himself for that matter. I will endeavor to explain what I mean further if indeed there can be a dialog and not the usual degeneration into generalizations and debate for the sake of debate.

First, I want to re-visit the point about the atomic bomb as follows here. Let it be noted that many scholars and folks that offered commentary back when the bombs were dropped assert that the Japanese WERE moving to surrender- just not unconditionally as was desired by American military leadership. The point that dropping atomic bombs on japan saved American lives assumes that Japanese life is less valuable than American life which is an unbiblical concept. Note further that most of the civilians that died in the atomic blasts cannot be considered evil-doers unless being a Japanese citizen going about the daily routine of living is considered evil. Also let it be noted that the American military leadership chose their course of action as much to serve notice to the rest of the world about their dominance as for any ideal. As for "saving American lives"- lets not forget that when we let the nuclear genie out of the bottle- we also created the nuclear arms race- the doctrine of mutually assured destruction- and the proliferation of nuclear arms to places like Iran and North Korea- which was all inevitable. So, the jury is still out on how many "American" lives were really saved by dropping atomic bombs on Japanese civilians sixty plus years ago.

Now, to supply some more information that applies to the comments already offered about the dropping of the atomic bombs and the concept of "Just Warfare Tradition" please examine thios cut and paste job that dares to challenge the conventional wisdom about it all:
BACKGROUNDS TO ETHICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKE IN TERMS OF THE "JUST WAR TRADITION"

John Howard Yoder, unpublished, 1997. Overview subject to further editing as of spring 1997.


CALENDAR OVERVIEW

2 August 1939 Albert Einstein letter to FD Roosevelt suggest that nuclear technology could produce a new kind of weapon.

7 January 1943 FD Roosevelt says Japan should be bombed "heavily and relentlessly"

24-29 July 1943 Bombing of Hamburg, fire storm, 50,000 dead, 1,000,000 refugees.

24 December 1944 intelligence reports indicate that in Japan a "peace party" is forming and that there will be a new cabinet headed by Admiral Baron Suzuki charged to prepare to surrender. (Baldwin 96, Fogelman 97)

13 February 1945 Bombing of Dresden, 2,750 British and USA aircraft, est. 35,000 dead

25 February "test" fire bombing destroys one square mile of Tokyo.

9-10 March fire bombing to "wipe [Tokyo] off the map" (Gen. LeMay) (Selden xivff) 100,000 dead, similar number wounded, 1,000,000 homeless

16 March obliteration of Würzburg, small city of no military significance

7 April: New Japanese cabinet appointed, prime minister Suzuki, with the mission from Emperor Hirohito to negotiate peace. Former foreign minister Shegenori Togo recalled from retirement to assist.

12 April Harry S. Truman becomes President on the death of FDR.

25 April War Secretary Stimson first informs Truman about the existence of the Bomb. No question was raised about whether to use it.

27 May: presidential aide Harry Hopkins cables President Truman from Moscow: Peace feelers are being put out by certain elements in Japan

20 June: Supreme War Direction Council: Emperor Hirohito, Premier Suzuki, Foreign Minister, Navy Minister argue for suing for peace; Army Minister and two chiefs of staffs for continuing war.

10 July: Emperor asks USSR to mediate surrender.

12-13 July formal notification of Moscow by Japan Moscow envoy.

17 July, Alamagordo NM successful test of the first atomic bomb. Several Manhattan Project scientists (led by Leo Szilard who had been the initial liaison with Einstein) petition President Truman not to use the bomb except subject to serious restraints and prior warning (Harwit 234). Truman apparently never saw this petition.

26 July: Potsdam ultimatum (Truman, Churchill, Chiang Kai-Shek) states terms for surrender. "We will not deviate from them." No reference to possible retention of the Emperor (although all major policy-makers in the US - Truman, Stimson, Grew - were on record as favoring that). The communiqué made no specific mention of a qualitatively new level of weaponry, although the ultimatum ended: "The alternative for Japan is utter destruction." Stalin was present in the Potsdam negotiations, and was informed about the existence of the new bomb, but did not sign this declaration because USSR was not yet at war with Japan.

27 July Togo leads a discussion in the "Supreme War Direction Council" Togo advocates acceptance of the ultimatum, and that is agreed upon, but then reversed. Togo wrote, "To my amazement, the newspapers of the following morning reported that the government had decided to ignore the Potsdam declaration." He learned that a rump meeting of chiefs of staff and war ministers had swayed Suzuki. (Fogelman 74) This news got mistranslated into English as "unworthy of public notice," which was taken by the pro-bomb parties in the US as an insult an a reason to go ahead with the bombing.

6 August 8:15 AM Hiroshima bombed. Truman announces by radio that it was a military target. Immediate deaths 85,000

8 August: USSR declares war against Japan and invades Manchuria. Stalin had been pressed by the allies to enter the Pacific war, and at Potsdam he agreed to do so within three months of the end of the war in Europe, which was May 8. Japan's ambassador at Moscow is informed of this but his telegram never reaches Tokyo, where the news is learned only later by monitoring Soviet news radio.

9 August Nagasaki bombed, immediate deaths 45,000

9 August President Truman: "... the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in the first instance to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians." (Fogelman 104)

9 August: Suzuki and Hirohito decide to accept the Potsdam ultimatum. A rump meeting of the Army Hawks opposes this.

10 August: Government accepts Potsdam terms subject to the condition that "said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler."

14 August The War council being deadlocked, with the hawks still wanting to continue the war [i.e., the two atomic bombs did not change their minds], Suzuki convenes the emergency Gozenkaigi [council of elder statesmen] which agrees with Hirohito's longstanding desire to surrender: formal acceptance of the ultimatum is announced.

2 September formal signing of surrender

1 November: Projected earliest possible date for the US invasion of Kyushu (southern island) if there had had to be one.

Spring 1946: Projected earliest date for US invasion of Honshu (main Island)


MAJOR EARLY CRITICAL EXPRESSIONS

Atomic Warfare and the Christian Faith; Report of Commission on the Relation of the Churches to the War in the Light of the Christian Faith, Federal Council of Churches; Chairman Robert L. Calhoun (Professor, Yale Divinity School); March 1946:

* The march toward total war, which this commission and other theologians have judged irreconcilable with Christian principles, has been advanced a giant step further. ....atomic weapons clearly belong with the tools for obliteration, not precision attack.

...As American Christians, we are deeply penitent for the irresponsible use already made of the atomic bomb. ... whatever be one's judgment of the ethics of war in principle, the surprise bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are morally indefensible. ...As the power that first used the atomic bomb under these circumstances, we have sinned grievously against the laws of God and against the people of Japan. Without seeking to apportion blame among individuals, we are compelled to judge our chosen course inexcusable.

... these two specific bombing sorties cannot properly be treated in isolation from the whole system of obliteration attacks... We are mindful of the horrors of incendiary raids on Tokyo, and of the saturation bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, and Berlin. ... the policy of obliteration bombing as actually practiced in World War II, culminating in the use of atomic bimbs against Japan, is not defensible on Christian premises.

Memorandum of seven nuclear scientists, led by Leo Szilard, who had originally carried to President Roosevelt Einstein's suggestion that atomic fission might be militarily used, 11 June 1945:

* ...the military advantages ... achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against Japan may be outweighed by the enduing loss of confidence and by a wave of horror and repulsion sweeping over the rest of the world and perhaps even dividing public opinion at home.... If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments and prejudice the possibility of an international agreement on the future control of such weapons. (Borchert 89, Jungk 175)

William Daniel Leahy, Admiral, Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt:

* ...the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"Bomb" is the wrong word to use for this new weapon. It is not a bomb. It is not an explosive. It is a poisonous thing that kills people by its deadly radioactive reaction, more than by the explosive force it develops.

These new concepts of "total war" are basically distasteful to the soldier and sailor of my generation.... These new and terrible instruments of uncivilized warfare represent a modern type of barbarism not worthy of Christian man. (I was There 1950 pp. 439ff. in Fogelman 30f)

Toshikazu Kase, diplomat:

* One of the first questions asked me by the American war correspondents who swarmed into Tokyo...was: "Was it the atomic bomb or Russian participation in the war that was responsible for the surrender"?..... to us who knew the inner development it seems that neither of the two basically changed the course of the war. It is certain that we would have surrendered in due time even without the terrific chastisement of the bomb or the terrible shock of the Russian attack. (Journey to the Missouri 1950 212ff in Fogelman 79ff.

U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey; established 1944 by USA Secretary of War Stimson:

* ...it is the survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. (pp9-13 in Wilds, 83-87 in Fogelman)

Harry Truman:

* ..."I wanted to make sure that it would be used as a weapon of war in the manner prescribed by the laws of war. That meant that I wanted it dropped on a military target. I had told Stimson... (Memoirs 1955 419f in Fogelman 10)

Hanson W. Baldwin (Former Naval officer, military analyst and journalist):

* ...We were ... twice guilty. We dropped the bomb at a time when Japan already was negotiating for an end of the war but before those negotiations could come to fruition. We demanded unconditional surrender, then dropped the bomb and accepted conditional surrender ... the Japanese would have surrendered, even if the Bomb had not been dropped, had the Potsdam Declaration included our promise to permit the Emperor to remain on his imperial throne." in Great Mistakes of the War Harper, 1950, 88-114 (Fogelman 95ff.)

Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral, 25 January 1946:

* "The atomic bomb merely hastened a process already reaching an inevitable conclusion..." (Baldwin 94, Fogelman 97)

Admiral Noel Gaylor (then) Pacific Commander in Chief:

* however much it may be justified in the aftermath as military necessity--incorrectly--[the attack] was nonetheless genocide." (Linenthal 16; testimony to the National Air and Space Museum Research Advisotry Committee October 1988).



Minimal summary: did the bombs hasten the end of the war?

Yes, in the sense that by strengthening the hand of Hirohito, Togo, and Suzuki, over against the hawks in the high command, the capitulation may have been facilitated, may have come a few weeks sooner than otherwise, and the capitulation made more abject, so that the occupation would go more smoothly.

Certainly No, in the sense of deciding that the war would end. The surrender process was already running, and would have run faster if Potsdam had promised that the surrender could be conditional, with Japan retaining the Emperor, which in fact the Allied authorities wanted and did ultimately accept.

Yes, in the sense that US contingency plans for invasion several months later were in the works, so that the US soldiers and sailors who knew that they were in those plans could feel that they were saved from that future jeopardy. Prisoners of war in Japanese camps credited the Bomb with the rapid collapse of Japan, without which some thought they might be killed by their jailers.

No, in the sense that in view of the total economic exhaustion of Japan that vision of a full-scale invasion would never have been needed. No in the sense that even if that invasion in November 1945 had been needed, the estimate of its cost in lives was 50,000, and not the worst-case estimate twenty times that large which came up in the later literature(Stimson in Fogelman 16). "The source of the large numbers used after the war by Truman, Stimson and Churchill to justify the use of the atomic bomb has yet to be discovered... The large estimates first appeared in their postwar memoirs"(Skates p. 77)


Selective bibliography

Robert C. Batchelder (Christian ethicist) The Irreversible Decision Houghton Mifflin Boston 1961.

Wilfred Burchett (Australian journalist), Shadows of Hiroshima London, Verso Editions, 1983. Documents policies of the US occupying authorities in Japan and of Washington administrations to suppress accurate reporting of the effects of the bombing. HML: D 767.25 .H6 B86 1983

Edwin Fogelman (ed) Hiroshima: The Decision to Use the A-Bomb Scribner Research Anthologies, Mew York 1964. Gathers eighteen documents from all sides of the debate. HML D 767.25 .H6 F6

Stephen A. GArrett Ethics and Airpower in World War II New York, St. Martin's Press, 1993 HML D 786 .G36 1993

Marin Harwit An Exhibit Denied; Lobbying the History of Enola Gay New York, Copernicus/Sprionger 1996

Edward T. Linenthal History Wars New York Holt 1996

Kyoko and Mark Selden (eds.) The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki M.E.Sharpe, Armonk NY, HML: D 767.25 .H6 A87 1989 The bulk of the book is Japanese testimonies, but Sleden's introduction (xi-xxxvi) is a good overview of the argument, including the record of censorship by the US occupation.

John Ray Skates The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb U.Socar Press 1994

Summary Report on the Pacific War Strategic Bombing Survey, Government Printing House, 1946

Walter Wilds, (ed) Japan's Struggle to End the War Washington 1964

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Another response from me:

Spyder Driver,

I came up with this "Pearl" from Walter Wink concerning the turn- the-other- cheek concept:

Turn the Other Cheek
"If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." Why the right cheek? A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent. An open-handed slap would also strike the left cheek. To hit the right cheek with a fist would require using the left hand, but in that society the
left hand was used only for unclean tasks. Even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days' penance. The only way one could naturally strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand. We are dealing here with insult, not a fistfight. The intention is clearly not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place. One normally did not strike a peer thus, and if one did the fine was exorbitant. The Mishnaic tractate Baba Qamma specifies the various fines for striking an equal: for slugging with a fist, 4 zuz (a zuz was a day's wage); for slapping, 200 zuz; but "if [he struck him] with the back
of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz." But damages for indignity were not paid to slaves who are struck
(8:1-7).
A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal. The only normal response would be cowering submission.
Part of the confusion surrounding these sayings arises from the failure to ask who Jesus' audience was. In all three of the examples in Matt. 5:39b-41, Jesus' listeners are not those who strike, initiate lawsuits, or impose forced labor, but their victims ("If anyone strikes you...wants to sue you...forces you to go one mile..."). There are among his hearers people who were subjected to these very indignities, forced to stifle outrage at their dehumanizing treatment by the hierarchical system of caste and class, race and gender, age and status, and as a result of imperial occupation.
Why then does he counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, "Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being
just like you. Your status does not alter that fact. You cannot demean me."
Such a response would create enormous difficulties for the striker. Purely logistically, how would he hit the
other cheek now turned to him? He cannot backhand it with his right hand (one only need try this to see the problem). If he hits with a fist, he makes the other his equal, acknowledging him as a peer. But the point of the back of the hand is to reinforce institutionalized inequality. Even if the superior orders the person flogged for such "cheeky" behavior (this is certainly no way to avoid conflict!), the point has been irrevocably made. He has been given notice that this underling is in fact a human being. In that world of honor and shaming, he has been rendered impotent to instill shame in a subordinate. He has been stripped of his power to dehumanize the other. The first principle of nonviolent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.

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And another response from me:

Now, Consider this:

Love not the Domination System-
From "Dissident Discipleship" by David Augsburger:

from Chapter 5 - "The Practice of Resolute Non-Violence":

sub heading: Love Walks

(There is a)...deeper understanding, a radical wisdom that violence begets violence, which begets violence again.

The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in "developed' as well as 'undeveloped" countries. Here are its basic assumptions.


1. The world is a dangerous place.

2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.

3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.

4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.

5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.

6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.

Those are the storm waves of violence , beating on counter-currents of equal violence. each side is willing for the other to die to insure its own safety.

Active non- violence steps out of the pitching boat and onto the pounding waves and does the supra-rational. It walks on the water and finds it firm. It summons its courage and reaches outto the enemy as a person. It thinks of the enemy's needs and fears (motivations); it acts in commitment alloyed with compassion. it chooses the surprising.

sub heading: Love Not The Domination System

The way of the cross is not an inner spiritual surrender as Luther taught, or a profound sentiment of spirituality as pretension holds, or any of the other conceptual, emotional, volitional , spiritual definitions of experience that identify the cross with physical, familial or vocational hardships. The way of the cross is the willingness to die.

The World, in the way Jesus used the word, refers not to geography or place, but to "the domination system" by which human societies control, compute, and conflict. This is biblical scholar Walter Wink's best translation of cosmos The domination system is a set of cultural values, basic survival assumptions, and political structures that actively control, impose upon, and exploit human kind through violence and domination(Wink 1992, 139-55)

Of his disciples Jesus said, "They are strangers in the world, as I am'; in other words "they are strangers to the domination system as I am a stranger to the domination system' (John 17;14,16 NEB)We too live in a domination system of organized fear, institutionalized greed, rationalized violence, and socially accepted hatred, but we are strangers to its creed of greed, fear, coercion, and we-they thinking. There is no true spirituality at the end of the pursuit of greed, none that carries out the practices of hate. These are acts of obedience to the domination system and not the reign of God.

Every violent action is an act of faith in the domination system.

Every commitment that answers violence with violence is an act of obedience to the domination system.

Every allegiance to the values embodied in the domination system is an affirmation that men are superior to women, whites to people of color, and the wealthy to the poor, that the northern hemisphere is better than the southern hemisphere, the West than the Third world, and human beings than nature.

Every surrender to the domination system legitimates the un -questioning validation and justification of the use of force and violence. Then even when violence fails to resolve conflicts, it is merely discredited.

Clarence Jordan, farmer, Bible scholar and translator, and founder of Koinonia farm in Georgia thought deeply about the kinds of retaliation he observed in the tit for tat interactions in Southern society:

Jesus pointed out the stages through which the law of retaliation had passed, and how it finally came to rest in the universal love of the Father's own heart. There were four of these steps, each clearly defined and each progressing towards God's final purpose. First, there was the way of unlimited retaliation; second, that of limited retaliation; third that of limited love; and fourth, that of unlimited love (Jordan 1952)

Obviously, the first is both eyes for an eye, all teeth for a tooth. The second is eye for an eye, a penny for a penny and no more. The third is "love your neighbor and hate your enemy' (matt 5:43 NKJV; see also Lev.19:18). The fourth is to love as God loves, drawing no lines between friend and enemy, between those who reciprocate and those who do not. One loves in this fourth way- not because it works or is guaranteed to change enemies, but so that they will be "children of their heavenly Father" (Matt 5:45)
END

This is what the modern Church has misunderstood- even among its most prolific "leaders". This is what has been so thouroughly subverted in our culture...this is where it has all gone wrong...where the breakdown of the family and culture began...and how the destruction of our world will commence...unless things change drastically and soon among those who call themselves God's people. This understanding of what the domination system is and refusal to participate in it is true conservatism...the idolatrous faith in the redemptive power of violence is the true secular humanism and liberalism. God gave us freewill- its always been there- from the oldest stories of the Bible. It was when we passed up all of our chances and consistently chose wrongly when we were smitten with collapse and disaster of our own creation. A better and more stable and saner world is possible- despite the idea that there will never be peace due to twisted interpretations of the book of Revelation and the end times...eschatology...which we will address perhaps later.

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Response:

Starrider: I’m sorry, but, all of your quotes from Clarence Jordan, Walter Wink, and David Augsburger cannot overcome the straightforward apostolic teaching in the New Testament. Again, both Paul and Peter state that all government is established by God. Terming government “the dominion system” does not make the New Testament disappear. Human government is instituted by God—not angels, not demons, not man, but God. Just as the human family is instituted by God and there are dysfunctional families and healthy families, so there are good governments and bad governments. Who would dare to call the family “the dominion system?” Well, when you call the institution of government the “the dominion system” you may just as well call the family the same thing—both are instituted by God. Whatever the individual case with a government, Christians are to submit to them and honor and pray for their leaders. Additionally, governments have a specific purpose established and instituted by God Himself--not by angels, not by demons, and not by man; but, God. That divinely appointed responsibility is to be God’s agent of wrath to punish the wrongdoer. Governments that fail to protect their citizens from wrongdoers, criminals and murderers are judged by God for their wickedness. Wicked, perverse and unjust governments and rulers fail to “commend the good” and “punish the wrongdoer.” If this is not true then:

1. The Apostles Paul and Peter were lying.
2. The New Testament cannot be trusted.
3. The Old Testament prophets cannot be understood when condemning human governments for their injustice.

What is amazing to me is how Christian pacifists can be so enamored with the Old Testament prophets, loving to quote from them to disparage the American government and its system and, yet, they cannot see that the whole superstructure for the prophetic condemnation of political/social injustice is based on God’s establishment of human government with the purpose of punishing the wrong and commending the good. How blind can Christians be?

Christian pacifists also blindly refuse to see that the New Testament teaches both a private and public ethic for Christians. Certainly one’s personal (private) ethic—as taught in Scripture—is to be one of love. There is no question about this. We are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. However, a governing official, magistrate, policeman, fireman, judge, military soldier, etc. are not acting on an individual basis—they are acting in a public capacity. They are acting as “instruments” of God’s wrath and justice. How hard is this to understand? There is Romans 12 (personal/private ethic) and Romans 13 (public/governing authorities). The minute a Christian policeman takes off his uniform he becomes an individual Christian who is to love his enemies. We are talking apples and oranges here. Again, I am amazed that seemingly educated people cannot see this obvious truth. I am reminded of Christ’s saying, “they strain a gnat and swallow a camel.”

I remind you that there were hundreds and hundreds of soldiers who were held up as model Christians, soldiers and martyrs in the ancient and early church—well before Constantine. Christian pacifists conveniently ignore all of these men as if they never existed. Several of them have been canonized. Christian pacifists consistently ignore the fact that not one soldier mentioned in the NT was told to end his involvement in military service—in the Roman army no less! Not even John the Baptist demanded that a Roman soldier leave his military service in order to prepare for the Messiah. In fact, Cornelius the centurion of the Italian Regiment (a famous unit) and the centurion at the cross are given special mention in Scripture. Jesus commended a centurion for having greater faith than anyone in Israel, yet, he did not instruct him to end his military service. The book of Acts specifically states that Cornelius’ prayers and alms came up to God as a beautiful offering and he was declared as a righteous man even before Peter evangelized him. He was a Roman officer for goodness sake! Yet, God sent him an angel to commend him—while he was a Gentile centurion. Sergius Paulus remained the leading magistrate on Cyprus after converting to Christianity. He must have been routinely required to execute wrongdoers for the Roman government. Just a reminder, the Romans weren’t the Dutch.

Christian pacifists create a legalistic teaching based on sophistry and not the teaching of God’s Word. My mind goes back to Jesus saying, “they strain a gnat and swallow a camel.” Any Christian is free to and should follow the dictates of his/her conscience in regard to military service. However, it is wrong and rank legalism to teach that all Christians must be pacifists per se.

Starrider, feel free to keep quoting people like Wink and Augburger, I prefer to stay with the New Testament, the apostles and with the actual history of the church.


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Aresponse from another person:

With all due respect to Thomisticguy, Starrider did not ONLY quote Jordan, Walter Wink, and David Augsburger. These were in ADDITION to the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul, and the Creator God (AKA Jesus). You cannot ignore God.
Well, maybe you can. But, it's unwise.
Not that, that stops people, myself included.
The fact of the matter is Starrider seems to have quoted far more of the text from 1 Peter as well as the Roman Epistle, than you did.

It is very easy to pick and choose texts from the bible, both old and New Testament passages, which will support our "carnal proclivities", whether they be war-mongering, utilizing the services of a prostitute, or performing prostitutional services. Look at Genesis 38. This is the story of Judah & Tamar. I would encourage everyone following this thread to read this story, because our Lord Jesus Christ was directly descended through the prostitutional union between Judah and Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law.
Therefore, if we apply the same logic to this episode, that Thomisticguy is applying to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, we must conclude that God ordained that Tamar prostitute herself and that Judah must become a whore-monger.
What did I miss?
Jesus is descended through the prostitution of Tamar.
Hey, look at Rahab too. She is also listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
We have two firm examples of God not only condoning, but also requiring it for the culmination of His Son and our salvation.
Therefore, prostitution is good!?

Somehow, this does not work. Maybe, we need to get the full context before we go off "half-cocked", no pun intended for either Judah or M-16s.

Context! Context! Context!
We must understands God's inspired scriptures in the full context of it's revelation.
Paul and Peter, throughout the New Testament, present Jesus as being our supreme example.
Yet, the most supreme act that Jesus did was not to throw of the shackles of the brutally repressive Roman "Domination System", but rather His most supreme example to us was 'DO NOT TAKE UP ARMS', lay down arms, lay down everything and never strike out at your fellow man, even if it means dying on a cross.

I will offer a challenge to anyone to offer up the passage where Jesus has admonished us to fight, kill, or attack any man, woman, or child.

I did see this attempt earlier in the thread, with respect to Jesus and the money changers.
Yet, my versions NLT, NIV, KJV, RSV, ASV, NASV, The Message, ect. ect. ect. ad infinitum ad nauseam, do not tell of Jesus either killing or thrashing a human soul.
Jn 2 comes the closest, "And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money and overthrew the tables;..."

But, for one important fact Jesus was not arrested for assaulting anyone. No one even brought such an accusation at His conviction, which occurred later the same week.
I grew up in the city, but my kinfolk are all from farming and ranching country in SE Oklahoma. So, I know the value of a whip in moving livestock. If you want to move a herd of sheep or cattle, a loud voice is good, but it's more likely you will get stampeded to death if you don't have a goad, prod or whip.

Therefore, this is by no means a proof that God wants His Church to take part in killing our fellow humans.
On the contrary, killing our fellow humans is insult to the Great Commission.

The point to the event is that the "Religious folk" were imposing a "Poll Tax" on the poor who were trying to enter the Lords Temple and address Him, which BTW was not legal under Jewish Law. The priests knew this, and that is why no charges were levied against Jesus, the priests would have been found guilty.

If we have forgotten; Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe should be SHOT DEAD, DEAD, DEAD."

No Jesus didn't say that. But, sometimes it becomes important to illustrate dangerous heretical doctrines by graphically revealing their absurdity. (The text concludes with "...will be condemned.")

Jesus gave us the commission to "Seek and save the lost". This was His purpose this is our purpose, when we deviate from our purpose, then we are following someone other that Jesus.

Forrest Gump: “Why don't you love me, Jenny? I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is.”

I’m not a smart man either, but I know what love is…, and it doesn’t involve guns or bombs.

Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that."

God bless All,
DSM

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Thomisticguy's response:


Okay, ccwman: you wrote: Therefore, if we apply the same logic to this episode, that Thomisticguy is applying to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, we must conclude that God ordained that Tamar prostitute herself and that Judah must become a whore-monger. What did I miss?

Well, let’s see if we can explain what you missed. Here are a few things.

●The story of Judah having sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar when she disguised herself as a prostitute (Gen. 38:12-30) is a story about two very fallible people neither of which, in the contextual setting, should be used as examples of Christian living. Their actions are not condoned in Scripture.
●Nothing in the Genesis story indicates that either Tamar or Judah were doing God’s will or that they should somehow be used as models for either Christians or government officials.
● The passages from Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 are clear apostolic teaching. The hermeneutic principle is that the clear and unequivocal teaching of Scripture is the basis for understanding and interpreting the unclear sections of Scripture.
●Your backhanded logic seems to go something like one of the following: A) Some of God’s people as recorded in the Bible narrative did bad things; therefore, we can ignore the direct and clear teaching of the apostles. Or B) Tamar (or Judah) is like the modern governing authority doing God’s will but in reality are unrighteous people; therefore, we are not to think that Christians can act as governing authorities. These are both examples of fallacious logic for the following reasons.
1. Nothing in the Genesis passage indicates that Tamar or Judah were doing God’s will.
2. Nowhere in the Scripture are Christians condemned for serving as governing officials; in fact, many Old and New Testament saints were governing officials and serve as godly examples to Christians. Conversely, the actions of the just Christian governing official while serving in office do not become the norm for his/her private Christian behavior. Just as the parent is responsible to God to discipline their children, they do not have the right to discipline and punish children from other families or to discipline or punish adults. Both the parent and governing authority are bounded by rules of application and justice. This is so obvious you would think it unnecessary to mention.
3. What God ordains cannot be sinful.

James 1:13 (NIV) When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
James 1:16-17 (NIV) Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. [17] Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

4. To call government or governing authorities, as an institution or office, “evil” or an evil “dominion system” is to say that God has ordained or instituted an evil. This is pure heresy. Manichaeism comes to mind.
5. What God has ordained as an institution (the family, government or church) cannot be wrong for Christians to participate in per se. If it is wrong per se for Christians to be governing authorities “bearing the sword” and “punishing” wrongdoers as instruments of “God’s wrath,” then it must also be wrong also for Christians to be part of a family or church—which is logically absurd. Furthermore, if it is true that it is an evil for Christians to participate in government as “agents of God’s wrath,” then all those saints in the Bible that were governing authorities were living in sin.

But let me go on:

●There is absolutely nothing in the Tamar story that abrogates the following contextual statements by Peter and Paul:

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV) Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, [14] or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
Romans 13:1-5 (NIV) Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. [2] Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [3] For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. [4] For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

●Paul unequivocally states that the reason Christians are to submit to the governing authority is because he/she is God’s servant, an agent of wrath.” Paul insists that those who refuse to acknowledge the authority and role of the governing official is actually “rebelling” against God.
●The germane point in regard to Just War Theory is not the issue of Christian submission to government. The issue is the government’s God-ordained responsibility to serve as God’s instrument of wrath and for Christians to legitimately participate in government and governing offices.

You wrote: “Therefore, this is by no means a proof that God wants His Church to take part in killing our fellow humans. On the contrary, killing our fellow humans is insult to the Great Commission.”

●This is a red herring argument. The church does not serve in the capacity of “killing our fellow humans.” Such a statement is just sophistry. The purpose of the institution of the church is to proclaim the gospel and to be God’s instrument of salvation in the world. Neither the government nor the family is delegated the responsibility that is the church’s. However, the government is the institution that is delegated the responsibility of being an “instrument of God’s wrath” to “punish” the “wrongdoer.” It, by the way, is not to kill our “fellow humans.” It is to act justly against the wrongdoer and use only the force necessary to restrain and control evil.

You wrote in regard to Jesus and the money changers: The point to the event is that the "Religious folk" were imposing a "Poll Tax" on the poor who were trying to enter the Lords Temple and address Him, which BTW was not legal under Jewish Law. The priests knew this, and that is why no charges were levied against Jesus, the priests would have been found guilty…If we have forgotten; Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe should be SHOT DEAD, DEAD, DEAD."

●I keep asking myself why Christian pacifists have to insult one’s intelligence with such juvenile thinking?
●Yes, the religious leaders were imposing a from of “poll tax” on the poor and keeping Gentiles from using the Court of the Gentiles for prayer (“my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations [goy]”). The germane point is that Jesus felt free to use coercion to cleanse the Temple because of the unrighteous and unjust actions of the religious leaders. He, obviously, as the Messiah had the right to be an “agent of God’s wrath” against the unjust religious rulers. This is the point.
●The point is not that any Christian can at any time use physical coercion to get his way. The point is that, as the Messiah and Lord of the Temple, Jesus had every right to be an “agent of God’s wrath” to cleanse the Temple using coercion.
●Your point regarding Mark 16:15-16 does not deserve a response.

You wrote: Jesus gave us the commission to "Seek and save the lost". This was His purpose this is our purpose, when we deviate from our purpose, then we are following someone other that Jesus.”

●Certainly, Jesus gave his commission to the church to seek and save the lost. God has also given parents the responsibility to train and discipline their own children—he did not give this responsibility to the church nor the government. God has also given the government the responsibility to be an “instrument of God’s wrath” to “punish” the “wrongdoer.” He did not give His church or the family the responsibility to punish criminals, lawbreakers, brigands, and attacking armies.
●A Christian parent cannot abrogate their responsibilities to their children so that they can evangelize the world--to do so brings discredit and dishonor on Christ. Likewise, a Christian magistrate or policeman or soldier cannot abrogate their responsibilities as an “agent of God’s wrath” to “punish” the “wrongdoer” because they want to evangelize people. Such a thing would be absurd, wrong and bring discredit upon Christ and His church. Christians must be both responsible members of their family and active participants in the work of the church. The Christian magistrate must be both a responsible instrument of God’s “wrath/commendation” as well as an active participant in the church—helping to fulfill the great commission.


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A long response from me:

It seems to me that the source of your amazement comes more from the dismay that not everyone agrees with your viewpoint. The first thing that caught my eye about this thread was the readily apparent glee you displayed in dueling with the folks on another blog (which I am not a participant from). Here is your opnening paragraph on this thread:

"I recently did an internet search and happened upon a theology blog called “Faith and Theology” (http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/) that was a hoot for me to spend some time on. “Faith and Theology” seems to be stocked with left-leaning divinity students and professors. It is a hermetically sealed world where its participants write verbose posts filled with made-up words like “hi-story” (instead of history) and support each other with grandiose but vapid theological reasoning that uniformly supports a leftist political agenda. Obviously, I was in “hog-heaven” as I presented them with some Aristotelian and Thomistic reasoning on different subjects. An apt metaphor might be that it was like shoving a stick into an undisturbed hornets nest."

It is apparent you were far mpore interested in rebel rousing and stirring up fellow Christians whom did not agree with you than having a dialog or having any sort of open mind on the subject. Also note your quotes about "Aristotelian and Thomistic reasoning" before you start tossing around admonishments such as,

"I prefer to stay with the New Testament, the apostles and with the actual history of the church."

The moniker you are using,"THOMISTICGUY", also betrays your own words as does this morsel from your profile: "I'm a Baptist pastor that has a "strange" interest in medieval theology and music."
Since the men I have quoted, others who have debated you and me myself are all Christians- are we not participants in New Testament and Church history? Or is that distinction only reserved for YOUR favorites and those who concur with your viewpoints? I also feel that you have perhaps forgotten, disregarded or are simply using the bait and switch technique with this bit from your own profile and mission statement so as to create an audience of straw men:

"This blog is dedicated to exploring Christianity and religion in a reasonable and courteous way. I like to exchange ideas and insights while avoiding the name-calling. I hope to set an atmosphere of gentleness and respect."

I want to make it plain now to everyone that may discover or read this thread that I did not come here and enter this discussion in order to match wits, have a tit for tat debate or to insinuate as you have done with me and others that youor anyone else disagreeingwith me are lacking in intelligence, education or spiritual insight. I am writing here so that others might know that there is in fact another way of understanding these topics and that the person that uses the brashest, most forceful quasi-intellectual style of "discussion" is not necessarily right just because they insist so. Also, I consider you my brother in Christ and I think it would be wise for you to re-consider your viewpoint- especially if you are teaching others the same.
I would like for you to offer examples of "straightforward apostolic teaching in the New Testament" concerning governments warfare instead of just insisting that you are speaking based upon it. I already addressed your translation of Romans 13 and 1st Peter as duly noted by CCWman. When I made reference to the Domination system I was not attempting to make the New Testament disappear...nor did I insinuate that government was not a God made model albeit a model that is now in use as part of a larger fallen World. Who would dare to call the family “the dominion system?”, you ask. Not me I answer. If you see that in what I have written I suggest you re-read it. Thus, this line: " Well, when you call the institution of government the “the dominion system” you may just as well call the family the same thing—both are instituted by God." makes very little sense.

I did not disagree with you about the purpose and intent of goverments...onl;y how they can best fulfill the intended role. Thus, these three points are also moot:

1. The Apostles Paul and Peter were lying.
2. The New Testament cannot be trusted.
3. The Old Testament prophets cannot be understood when condemning human governments for their injustice.

I did assert that many folks do not understand what pacifism, peacemaking or non-violence really means...probably even a lot of pacifists...So your assumption that I would not condone the work of police, firemen or even the military is in error. Hebrews 12:14 says:

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

This implies that in fact that at some point all reason and effort can be exhausted to the pointt where peace is not possible. However, my thesis is that rarely, if ever, in the case of mass violence and warfare between nation-states is "every effort" made to keep the peace and prevent "bitter roots" from sprouting into defilement of many. For instance, the present war in the Middle East is often concieved as something that sprang almost entirely from the sheer wickedness of our enemy...and that our own foreign policy and actions through the history of dealings in that region are entirely, or at least mostly blameless. This is of course ridiculous. I submit that this trouble has its roots in SIN that is common to all the players in the conflict at least as far back as the days of Constantine when "Christendom" was created and the social ethic of Jesus' actual teaching was departed from...mostly by those that have developed the ideology that you have adopted.


This assertion by you:
"I remind you that there were hundreds and hundreds of soldiers who were held up as model Christians, soldiers and martyrs in the ancient and early church—well before Constantine. Christian pacifists conveniently ignore all of these men as if they never existed" -does not mean much.

I acknowledge that these men existed, I have studied many of them while researching this topic that we are "discussing". My question for you is, "held up as model Christians by who? Canonized by who- but other men?". I thought you were sticking to the words of the Apostles and of Jesus. Are we assuming that because Jesus did not instruct certain soldiers to leave the military that this is a free pass for mass violence, dropping atomic bombs and so on? The Bible also did not offer clear instruction for slave owners to set their slaves loose. However, the edict to do unto others as you would have them do unto you illustrates a very simple ethical point....Do you want to be a slave? Slaves are instructed in the Bible to be respectful of their masters so that Christ may be glorified through them. It works much the same way for Christian citizens of nation-states. We are to obey the laws and be repectful citizens but never confuse the government and the reign of God as I covered in my first post. Consider the implications for a Christian citizen of Nazi Germany in 1942. Is it their duty to support the goverment and the protection of Germany by participating in the Nazi military? Philemon 1:8-22, in context should resolve the question of what slave owners should conclude about slavery if they are also Christians when the appeal to a slave owner is made:

Paul's Plea for Onesimus
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 et I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

The New Testament, teaching that LOVE, is the key should resolve the question once and for all. Does a man whose heart and mind are transformed really need to be told that owning and exploiting another human being is wrong? Does a soldier who has been transformed in spirit really need to be commanded to look twice at the state sponsored edict to kill an enemy he is supposed to love and pray for, that possibly he never met, that possibly is not an evil doer at all but somone who is simply in the way of state interests, that is possibly even a fellow Christian that has been percieved as a threat by the state because he "unpatriotically" refuses to kill for it? I submit that the centurion was held in high esteem and praised for his faith because becoming a Christian would naturally mean that he was jeopardizing his livelihood, forfeiting his standing and reputation and possibly even putting his life at risk...he stood to lose everythingbecause of his choice to follow Jesus.

I would note that even using the "Just Warfare Tradition" something like dropping an atomic bomb on a non military, civilian targets is clearly outside the boundaries of any defensible sense of morality...unless of course you are fully indoctrinated by the value systems of the "World"...AKA the Domination System..

"Christian" war apologists create a legalistic teaching based on sophistry and not the teaching of God’s Word.

When in 1st John 2:15-17, the Bible says:

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

What do you take that to mean...in light of the fact that most governments are worldly in theier value systems and are considered in the context of the entire Bible as in fact components of the "World"?

Thomisticguy, feel free to keep quoting people like Thomas Aquinas and referring to other "Christian" leaders like Sergius Paulus , I prefer to stay with the New Testament, the apostles and with the actual mission of the church.

On that note, I have realized lately that part of what drives me to write about some of these things is a certain guilt that I feel in my own heart. Not only am I priveleged to be an American, but a Christian and God fearing person as well. As both American and Christian I am a member of a group that not only has proclaimed that it is right about the meaning of life on this planet...but that we, the chosen, are the ONLY ones correct on matters of religion and geopolitics. That proclomation bears a heavy weight and responsibility. It begs the question that if such is true..why all the chaos and confusion and injustice and disharmony in our own society and in our own churches and in the world at large to which we assume to be the arbiters of freedom and reason? How can we look upon the horrors we have both enabled and in some cases caused in this world with such equanimity? I know that America often regarded as the best hope for a safe and humane world that has ever been seen...this is the scary part...that this is as good as it gets.

I remember when my public school teachers first began to indoctrinate me and my peers in the early 1970's (I started kindergarten in 1969). Our country was engaged in an unpopular military conflict then as now. The Viet Nam war and the war in Iraq are not the same exactly...but there are a good many paralells. One paralell for sure is that we have a huge miltary machine engaged in a theater of guerilla warfare. So, far it does not appear that the outcome is going to be much different this time around. My schoolteachers saw fit to try to explain to us concepts like "Utopian ideals" and why we should not ever expect to see them work because the world was so full of evil and selfish people. They explained that anarchy would surely ensue...if certain utopian ideals were played out in the real world of "civilization". They were of course talking to a bunch of 3rd and 4th graders that would have believed that the earth was pyramid shaped and the moon was an enormous glowing spitball coughed up by the Supreme Being if they had insisted so and provided some slick graphics to drive the point home. I am pretty sure in fact that most of my peers and I all still believed in Jolly Old Saint Nick back then too.

The teachers further explained to us how carpet bombing Viet Nam so that people would stop being communists or dropping atomic bombs on non- military targets in WW2 actually saved more lives than it snuffed. The same would be true of the fire bombings of dozens of Japanese cities full of men women and children- hundreds of thousands in fact- that were burnt to smithereens although the only thing they may have had to do with the miltary machine-states waging war across the globe was perhaps their desire to maintain a lifestyle...i.e. continue being Japanese. As I have gone on through life I have noticed that not too many people ponder or question the conventional wisdom of all of this geopolitical generalization and indoctrination and actually determine if these ideas and/or methods are philosophically sound and morally correct or even historically accurate or not. To do so invites instant derision.

As noted, I have actually dared to read up on the dropping of the atomic bomb, for instance, instead of just figuring that whatever my fourth grade teacher or Bible school teacher contended was golden gospel- and guess what....there actually are some folks that contend that Japan was on the verge of surrendering before the bombs...they were in fact strategically defeated already and within months the conflict in the Pacific theater would have concluded...without opening pandora's box of atomic/nuclear weapons. The debate is not over and done with because some teacher or some author or some commentator or you said so.

Practically no-one endeavors to answer the question of, "even if a world free of strife (Utopia) is not possible- shouldn't we be trying to get as close as possible?" It has been done- this getting very close. Tribal Native America was as peaceful, God -fearing and stable of a place as ever existed (still not sin or violence free I acknowledge)...and it existed for tens of thousands of years...as opposed to any other known empire you can name. So it got wiped out by a group that eventually became the United States. Fair enough... a liberally idealistic society gets wiped out by a more heartless and greedy group, the only thing that this proves is that a "Quasi-Utopian" system of direct democracy cannot co-exist with the existing paradigms of western thought..yea, though it pains me to say so...Western Judeo Christian thought- or more specifically still- what this brand of thought has become.

It often puzzles me how the masses in this country can fail to understand that when the rest of the world sees America engaging in acts of "sanitized" warfare, bombings (shock and awe), WMD's, mass violence, manipulation, fear, intimidation, coercion and so on they see TERROR tactics. They see us as living by a double standard. Listing the litany of good, humanitarian things the U.S. has done does nothing to erase this point in the minds of much of the rest of the world whether you and I "get it" or not. The bloodshed leaves more of an impression than the noble things we are trying to do. This concept is now being bitterly debated in the media. It is duly noted that the ongoing violence and the knowing, willfull slaughter of innocents in Iraq is being perpetrated mainly by insurgents (or terrorists if that makes you more comfortable) and not our people (even though our bombing campaigns and sanctions have killed untold numbers of innocents). The fact is that they are reacting to our presence there and our foreign policy...we are part of the equation.

So...is warfare the ONLY way to deal with this situation? To even suggest such a thing..to even enter into this discourse is all but squelched in the mainstream or at least it was until events in the Iraq theater began to make more and more people reconsider the conventional wisdom of the cycle of violence and revenge.
Until very recently, people who ask these types of questions and seriously grapple with the answers are often labled as liberal (read as socialist=communist) seditious (read as aiding and abetting the enemy=terrorist), politically motivated (read as democrats seeking power) or lost in fantasy. Now that the media is beginning to wake up (after being totally on the "Operation Iraqi Freedom and Shock and Awe bandwagon at the start) and ask hard questions and put all the carnage in perspective...they too are being attacked as anti-American and accused of sensationalizing the bad news. Does it make any sense at all for the media to attempt to undermine the system that enpowers and enriches them ...undermine the world by default...just to make some political hay and/or sell newspapers? If you believe that the media is actually doing just that...tell me again who the pessimist and unrealistic idealist is...I am getting confused. The definitions of conservative and liberal are all a blur.

Now, this brings us back around to a point we have been working on concerning how CHRISTIANS should feel and react to the situation at hand...a world at war. I think this is relevant because this whole Iraq-war enterprise has been sold to us as a primarily "conservative", hence, Western- Judeo- Christian- ideological- exercise in military humanitarianism. Let me paraphrase some thoughts of other Christian writers (credits to Lee Camp and his book Mere Discipleship) in this arena of warfare and utopian dreams:

"...Underneath the end justifies the means" logic lies the assumption that the way of Christ is simply not a relevant social ethic, lest injustice reign and the violent vanquish the righteous. Christians cannot take the way of Christ Seriously, or society will fall apart, will sink into a spiral of unmitigated violence. Civilization itself is at stake. Jesus cannot have meant that we take him seriously in the realm of social and political realities- after all, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF EVERYONE DID THAT?! Consequently, "Jesus", "Christianity", and even "discipleship" are reduced to mere "spirituality", a realm that has little if anything to do with the concrete realities of culture, civilization, and politics. To use different language- Christendom (the blending of religion and empire) has seperated doctrine and ethics into two seperable categories, rather than seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Numerous times the book of Acts describes the Christian faith as "The Way", a designation that strikes one as remarkably different than our word "religion". "Religion" often connotates a set of beliefs and practices seperable from everyday life; as such, "religion" is in a sphere distinct and seperate from things like politics and society and culture. But if the claim that Jesus is Lord is "a Way or The Way"- then we cannot so easily seperate his "Way" from every facet of life. Note that the Jews expected a MILITARISTIC style Messiah...that is not what they got.

One of the most ardent pagan critics of the early church posed the "what would happen if" question to the early Christians' refusal to either employ violence or venerate the empire as the primary means through which they might contribute to society. Castigating second century disciples, the pagan Celsus angrily maintained that "if all were to do the same as you, there would be nothing to prevent [the emperor] being left in utter solitude and desertion, and the affairs of the Earth would fall into the hands of the wildest and most lawless barbarians; and then there would no longer remain among men any of the glory of your religion or of the true wisdom'. I.E. Celsus asked, What if everybody did that? Answering himself he stated that the empire would fall apart, we would be overcome by our enemies and on top of that you would not get to practice your religion! But the response of the early Christian theologian, Origen, demonstrates that the "commonsensical" nature of Celsus' attack was not always seen as a trump card.

First off, Origen realized that the one who asks the "what would happen if everybody did that" question does not, of course, mean for us to take the question literally. If everyone loved their enemies then Jesus' teachings would not be problematic. If everyone shared their wealth, then Jesus' commands would not be seen as a stumbling block. If everyone forgave offenses "seventy times seven", then Jesus' insistence would fail to disturb us. So, Origen responded to Celsus, if in folowing Christ "they do as I do" then it is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the Word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane. But the reality, of course, is that not everyone "does that". And thus when face with the "reality" of a world in which people appear to always "look out for number one", when our world proclaims "take care of yourself or no-one else will", when our culture surrounds us with a message that we should "go for the gusto", "acquire as much material welath as possible", and to make sure that WE are happy and secure- then the call to discipleship sounds quite threatening. The "reality" of sin, the "reality" of injustice and oppression, the "reality of "market and economic drives, the "reality" of "how things work" are thought to trump the serious calling to follow Jesus: "Many people will not love you in return", "and some people'd just as soon kill you as look at you" and "you just can't reason with some people", and some people are just taking advantage of you and/or the system". "Jesus' Way works in an "ideal world" but not in the "real world" where you must "get your hands dirty" if you're going to "make a relevant contibution to society". But we must question as Origen did whether the logic of Celsus was very realistic after all. To the unbliever, Origen maintained that it is not the warring and self seeking peoples of the Earth who preserve society- instead, it is the people of God who are "assuredly" the salt of the earth: THEY preserve the order of the world; and society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted.

So, the question ought not be "what if everybody did that", but, "what will happen if Jesus' "disciples" refuse to act like Jesus?". For Origen, if "disciples" refuse to act like disciples, there will be no salt, there will be no light, and then indeed there will be no "order", "justice" or "civilization". and if the salt has lost its saltiness, so Jesus said, it is foolish, insipid, good for nothing, but to be thrown out in the mud and be walked upon. Nonetheless, the pagan logic of Celsus ultimately won over a large number of adherents among christian tradition ( a legacy which continues to this day in the "conservative" movement in geoploitics). The percieved need to run the world, or the empire, or the market economy, or the nation-state gives rise to the apparent "commonsensical" basis of the pagan's logic: if you take Jesus seriously, things will simply fall apart. And so in varied, nuanced and subtle ways, the "Way of Christ" has been set aside in favor of other authorities, which would show us what we should do and how we should do it...when we're out here kicking around in the "real world". "

If you wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD. You cannot serve two masters. You can respect civil authority and abide by the laws of the land so long as they do not contradict God's laws.

p.s. You posted another rant while I was writing this one. Which has left me convinced that the conversation will bear no fruit until you cool your jets and live up to your own stated standards. I would take it easy using the term heresy- for the Bible also teaches that judging others invites the same standard of judgement upon yourself.

God bless and good night.

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Response from TG:

Starrider: first, here are some of your assertions about me:

…the readily apparent glee you displayed in dueling with the folks on another blog…
…far more interested in rebel rousing and stirring up fellow Christians whom did not agree…
…you…are simply using the bait and switch technique with this bit from your own profile and mission statement so as to create an audience of straw men…
…have a tit for tat debate or to insinuate as you have done with me and others that you or anyone else disagreeing with me are lacking in intelligence, education or spiritual insight…
…that the person that uses the brashest, most forceful quasi-intellectual style of "discussion" is not necessarily right just because they insist so…
…you wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD… …You posted another rant while I was writing this one. Which has left me convinced that the conversation will bear no fruit until you cool your jets and live up to your own stated standards….

●You may want to read back over what you have written before you make your final decision as to who is ranting.

●What I have been attempting to do with you and ccwman is actually address your key points in regard to the subject of the post which is the Just War Theory vs. Christian Pacifism. Here I will make an attempt to deal with key things you have written.

You asked: “My question for you is, "held up as model Christians by who? Canonized by who- but other men?". I thought you were sticking to the words of the Apostles and of Jesus. Are we assuming that because Jesus did not instruct certain soldiers to leave the military that this is a free pass for mass violence, dropping atomic bombs and so on?”

● First, the reason I mentioned Constantine is because you brought up the subject by saying that the Middle East conflict has its “roots in SIN that is common to all the players in the conflict at least as far back as the Constantine when “Christendom” was created and the social ethic of Jesus’ actual teaching was departed from…” and earlier say,“The Constantinian…viewing of the world through the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire…” What I was showing you is that it was (and still is) common in both Eastern and Western Christianity to honor hundreds of soldiers who died as martyrs. It was also common to view them as godly role-models for Christian bravery under persecution. This single fact denies the assertion that Christian pacifism was the rule of the day in the ancient and early church. Certainly Christians serving in the Roman military did not begin with the “Constantinian” blending of church and state. It is an inaccurate view of history to claim that it was uncommon or wrong for Christians to serve in the military during the age of persecution.
● Yes, you are correct, because Jesus did not instruct soldiers to leave the military it does not give anyone a “free pass for mass violence.” However, no one is suggesting this. The Just War Theory does just the opposite. The point is that it cannot be wrong on-the-face of it for a Christian to serve in the military and to bear arms in warfare. If it was, Jesus and the Apostles would have either have stated so or have instructed soldiers to end their military service. They did not.

You wrote: “Thomisticguy, feel free to keep quoting people like Thomas Aquinas and referring to other "Christian" leaders like Sergius Paulus , I prefer to stay with the New Testament, the apostles and with the actual mission of the church.”

● I have not quoted Thomas Aquinas to you. Sergius Paulus was a Christian magistrate mentioned in the Bible that protected Paul and Barnabas.

You wrote: regarding the NT centurion commended by Christ, “…( faith because becoming a Christian would naturally mean that he was jeopardizing his livelihood, forfeiting his standing and reputation and possibly even putting his life at risk...he stood to lose everythingbecause of his choice to follow Jesus.”
● The only centurion commended by Christ in the NT was not commended for leaving his position as a military commander. He was commended for his faith that Jesus could heal his servant.

You wrote: “Also, I consider you my brother in Christ and I think it would be wise for you to re-consider your viewpoint- especially if you are teaching others the same.”
● Here you state that you consider me to by your brother in Christ but then you also state, (you) “wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD.” Hmm…interesting.
●I have reconsidered it my position. I used to be a Christian pacifist and I have attended a Mennonite seminary. I found the position untenable in light of the Word of God.

You wrote: “Sure, governments can legitimately protect their people. What is really being debated is HOW that is done. If you realistically examine the current war and conflict that our country is engaged in, as noted in my other post, the US is clearly not innocent and has clearly chosen courses of action and foreign policy in the past that have helped to produce the backlash of terrorism. So, I assert that the best way that our government could protect us and the rest of mankind is by more closely adhering to the teachings of Jesus and by crafting foreign policy and practice that are more Godly, fair and just.
● Your position seems to be that governments can legitimately protect their people but they must use the non-violent means taught by Jesus.
● Here are several Scripturally ascertained reasons why this cannot be right:
1. Governments are neither Christian nor non-Christian.
2. When Paul wrote Romans 13, the Roman government was pagan and brutal.
3. Romans 13 indicates the magistrate “bears the sword.” The Roman sword was the finest instrument of military violence ever developed until that era. Paul states that the magistrate bears the sword as “God’s” instrument of “wrath.”
4. There is clearly a private Christian non-violent ethic and a public governmental ethic taught in the New Testament. The governmental ethic is of “wrath” and “punishment” and not non-violence.

You wrote: (In regard to my assertion that the Just War Theory has been the predominant view throughout church history) “ I would point out that the predominant view of "Christendom" has also in the past been that the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved arounfd the Earth. So, the "predominant" view debate is irrelevant and based on doctrine formulated by men and not necessarily on the proper interpretation of scripture. More importantly, there is in fact much debate on the meaning from Romans and 1st Peter 3. So, if one is using for instance 1st Peter 3:17 which says: 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. - to make the argument that because the "Just War" tradition is the "predominant" extrapolation from scripture- it is "What is right in the eyes of everyone" it is quite a stretch. What should be "right in the eyes of everyone" is Jesus' words and examples as are found in the "Sermon on the Mount and in his martyrdom. 1st Peter 3:19 says: 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, "says the Lord. Also 1st peter 3:19 does some damage to the assertion, “

● That the Just War Theory has been the predominant view throughout church history going back to the 1st century is a raw fact. It also points to the probability that it is the most accurate view of biblical teaching. Ultimately, you are correct; the case rises or falls on the best interpretation of Scripture.
● The predominant view of the earth is that it was round. Despite this, errors in science do not necessitate errors in theology. It does not follow that because Christians may have believed the Sun revolved around earth that the Just War Theory, as the predominant view historically, is wrong. The same argument could be used against Christian pacifism as a “relic of the dark ages or of the superstitious past.”
● Your quotations from 1 Peter 3 are fully affirmed by all those who hold to the Just War Theory. The reason for this is that there is a private Christian ethic (as a private citizen) and a public Christian ethic (as a public official) taught in the New Testament. The Scriptures you are quoting address the private, non-violent behavior of all Christians. These verses do no damage to my assertion but underscore and validate it.

You wrote: (In regard to my assertion that God demands that governments provide protection and justice for its citizens from evil-doers) “I think it can be established that God UTILIZES governments to establish justice...and they have been established and modeled after a plan that he authored. However just as with all human endeavor, that model and plan is often abandoned by humankind through freewill- and the source of all strife and warfare is sin.”
● No, the Bible doesn’t say God “utilizes governments to establish justice.” The Bible says there is no“authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” There is a huge difference between God utilizing something and “establishing” or instituting something. God can use evil for good (Gen. 50); but, He does not establish or institute evil. Paul actually states the governing authority, “… is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” God actually establishes government as His institution to restrain and punish wrongdoers. You stated the case as God “UTILIZES governments to establish justice.” The Bible states it as God establishes government to express His wrath against wrongdoing and His rewards for doing good. Just as parents are set in their position in the family (established by God) to rule over their children; so, God establishes governments to rule over countries and provide protection from wrongdoers and bringing justice to the oppressed.
● The fact that humankind fails to act in all cases as God commands does not negate what He has established. For example, because many parents fail to be proper and godly leaders in their homes does not necessitate the dismantling of the God-ordained family. I am sure you would consider it an outrageous suggestion that the family be ignored, replaced or dismantled because many parents are failures. However, to deny that the God-established institution of government should not be operative because men fail to act rightly is certainly equivalent to dismantling or making inoperative the human family structure.
● The Just War Theory sets Scripturally ascertained principles down to guide and limit the government in the use of the “sword” to protect a country’s populace.
● Finally, you note rightly that the source of warfare is sin. However, it does not follow that there are not innocent victims of military attack. Just as there are innocent victims of criminal violence that need to be protected; there are innocent victims of military attack that need to be protected. For both of these reasons (i.e. criminal violence and military attack) God has ordained government for the protection of the populace and the “punishment” of wrongdoers.


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My response:

When you quoted this back to me:

● Here you state that you consider me to by your brother in Christ but then you also state, (you) “wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD.” Hmm…interesting.

You left out the word IF which changes the entire meaning of the sentence. It should have read:

"If you wish to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD. You cannot serve two masters. You can respect civil authority and abide by the laws of the land so long as they do not contradict God's laws."

Why would you do that? Overall you seem pretty selective about what parts you want to engage on. This makes me feel like I am talking to somebody on a talk radio show.
I am still waiting for the "Clear apostolic Teaching" example. I am very familiar with "Just Warfare" doctrine. If I wasn't- I would not engage you on it at all. It cannot be avoided that it is doctrine based upon someone's interpretation of scripture. The existence of the institution of a Pope is also a doctrine based upon somebody's interpretation of scripture. I do not wish to denigrate the Pope...but this is clearly a man- made doctrine somewhat like "Just Warfare". Are you prepared to say that a doctrine that is agreed upon by a majority makes it a fact? That was the point I was getting at with the reference to the Flat Earth doctrine and so on. In fact the Bible makes many references to how it is often the weak, the meek, the reviled, the last and the "least of these" that God operates through as much as anything else. I can agree that governments are instituted by God to carry out justice and wrath. That does not mean anything about salvation, forgiveness and the way of love and/or the way of the Saviour. In fact you seem to be more interested in wrath and justice than love and forgiveness and holiness. I would be careful with that. God has said pretty plainly throughout the Word that that is his business and not ours....even if he uses our nation states for his purposes. When God used the Babylonians to punish Israel for instance- how many Babylonians do you think killed their way into Heaven? I understand somewhat the distinction you are trying to make about private verses corporate behavior in society- I just think you are using a rather liberal interpretation and stark contrast between individual behavior and group behavior.

I will only challenge one more point until you have answered some of the other questions both asked directly and implied. Otherwise this is a waste of time.

I did not and would not insist that a government may not scripturally ever use violence in the role of protector. I read elsewhere that your father was a marine and fire rescue person. I would never disrespect or denigrate that service. I also have heritage and relatives as well that have served and even lost their lives for the protection of others. What I did say is that such circumstances where the carnage is within scriptural guidelines is pretty rare. Because of this rarity I believe Christians should be very careful about their participation in warfare on behalf of nation states and certainly not be bandwagon people without marked scrutiny and discernment...I will offer the present elective war in Iraq as a prime example of a situation where America has made all the wrong moves all the way back to the enabling of Saddam back in the Reagan administration days. I know you have not made any allusions to the war in Iraq necessarily- but I am curious to ask for anyone to explainif this is God's will that we are fighting in Iraq- why is it going so poorly for us?

I have rejected your usage of Romans 13 as a blanket endorsement of government based upon the context of Romans 12 and other scripture. I could be mistaken about my interpretation of your words- but you have not explained your position very fully and instead decided to engage in point and counterpoint- which I will no longer participate in- since I have stated my case quite elaborately (at least in my own view- I am prepared to be wrong if you can persuade me).
Is the assertion that Romans 13 is "clear apostolic teaching" and the definitive statement on this all you have...besides the "Just Warfare" doctrine which is fallible?

Now, before you dissect this post I am still interested to see you backtrack and clarify other points which you have skipped or else bypassed ion the heat of the moment. Finally, I apologize for any instances you may have construed as a rant...I thought I was just pointing out some inconsistencies in your advertised demeanor and mission statement...as well as standing up for my own perceived "blindness". Keep it above the belt.

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Response from TG:

Starrider: I did leave off the “If” but I was making no claim, I was just noting the qualification that you made that in order to be a Christian I must not “espouse” the values of the world—in context it seems pretty clear what the implied message was—my values are the values of the world.

You wrote: “In fact you seem to be more interested in wrath and justice than love and forgiveness and holiness. I would be careful with that. God has said pretty plainly throughout the Word that that is his business and not ours....even if he uses our nation states for his purposes. When God used the Babylonians to punish Israel for instance- how many Babylonians do you think killed their way into Heaven?
● Okay, so because I am having to go over and over the same territory in order to get you to recognize that there is a legitimate dual ethic in the New Testament (one private of non-violence and one public of serving as God’s instrument of wrath), I now need to be “careful” because being “interested in wrath and justice” could be a problem with God and, perhaps, put me in the category of being a Babylonian who was used by God to kill people? And you are concerned that I am “ranting?”
● God’s judgment and the wrath of God were topics that both Jesus and the Apostles often spoke of.
● This comes back again to the Apostolic teaching that you seem to think I am not describing to you. The apostolic teaching is that there is a legitimate dual ethic in the New Testament clearly described in Romans 12 (private and non-violent) and in Romans 13 (public for governing officials as instruments of God’s wrath against wrongdoers). It would be apostolic teaching if only the Apostle Paul wrote about it but (following the Biblical principle of “by two or three witnesses let all things be confirmed”), the Apostle Peter also wrote about the same dual ethic. This is all that is necessary to establish legitimacy for the just use of the “sword” by the governing magistrates against wrongdoers.

You wrote: “Because of this rarity I believe Christians should be very careful about their participation in warfare on behalf of nation states and certainly not be bandwagon people without marked scrutiny and discernment...I will offer the present elective war in Iraq as a prime example of a situation where America has made all the wrong moves all the way back to the enabling of Saddam back in the Reagan administration days. I know you have not made any allusions to the war in Iraq necessarily- but I am curious to ask for anyone to explainif this is God's will that we are fighting in Iraq- why is it going so poorly for us?”

● The Just War Theory is exactly what is necessary to help Christians discern their participation in warfare. It is clear, simple and scripturally based. It is my view that without it, all other attempts to ascertain the proper participation in war become a matter of opinion. Even with the Just War Theory there can be legitimate differences in regard to what is appropriate and that is why individual conscience must be respected.
● In my view, it would be unhelpful to write about the war in Iraq until there is agreement on the Just War Theory. A strict pacifistic view would automatically preclude any involvement in any war no matter how well justified.

You wrote: “Is the assertion that Romans 13 is "clear apostolic teaching" and the definitive statement on this all you have...besides the "Just Warfare" doctrine which is fallible?”

● Okay, so you are saying something to the effect that it is not enough to have a Just War Theory with apostolic teaching in order to have a Just War Theory with apostolic teaching. This would be like me saying, “Hey, I have a car, it’s a Ford Mustang.” And you replying, “All you have is a Ford Mustang—where’s your car?”
● The Just War Theory starts with Paul and Peter’s teaching in the New Testament that God establishes all governments with the express and specific purpose of being His “instrument of wrath” to “punish” “wrongdoers.” By the way, while most Christians believe that the family is an institution given to mankind and established by God; the scriptural basis for this is less clear than the scriptural statements in Rom 13 and 1 Peter 2 in regard to God’s establishment of government. Surely we all believe that the church is established by God for the salvation of mankind; however, can you find a statement about this in the NT that is as clear as Rom 13 and 1 Peter 2?
● All that is necessary to establish that there is a dual ethic in the NT in regard to violence is to do a simple exposition of Romans 12 and 13—Paul, fortunately, coupled the two together. The Romans 12 passage has the advantage of mirroring exactly the teaching of Jesus in regard to a Christian’s private deportment. As you know, he immediately follows this with Romans 13, providing unequivocal statements about the government and governing authorities. This, then, is followed by showing that there is no teaching in the NT requiring Christians to refrain from public service in any facet of government per se. In fact, there are scores of examples in the Bible of men and women who are presented as godly governmental leaders (i.e. Daniel, Nehemiah, David, Josiah, Hezekiah, Cornelius and Sergius Paulus to name a few). Therefore, if it is clear that God establishes government and governing officials as His instruments of “wrath” to “punish” wrongdoers and it is not wrong for Christians to serve in the role of a governing leader; then, it is wrong to teach that A) the government cannot use coercion and violence to restrain evil, and B) that Christians cannot serve in leadership and regular positions in government.
●It is a principle of the Protestant Reformation that what is not directly stated in Scripture cannot be used to bind the conscience of Christians. There is nothing written in the New Testament stating that Christians cannot serve in the government as “instruments” of “God’s wrath” to “punish” the “wrongdoer.”
● Again, and most importantly; what God establishes cannot be evil in-and-of-itself. If God establishes government with the express purpose of bearing the “sword” to apply God’s “wrath” in order to “punish” wrongdoers, then it cannot be evil for Christians to serve in such roles in government. God can “utilize” or use evil by transforming it into good by His power; but, God never establishes or institutes an evil thing. As I noted before, the idea that God establishes an evil thing is a heresy. The Manichaean heresy believed such things. I am not saying that this is what you believe; but, it is my considered opinion that the concept of government as “worldly dominion” is very close to the Manichaean heresy.

Since I have a busy schedule and since you wrote a lot; if there are any of your ideas that you would like me to respond to, please note them so that I can do so. Thanks.


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My response:

TG, OK, the line should have been written:

"If one wishes to call yourself a Christian you cannot do so realistically and also be someone who primarily espouses the values of the WORLD. You cannot serve two masters. You can respect civil authority and abide by the laws of the land so long as they do not contradict God's laws."


I certainly did not mean to personalize that to you. I was thinking in broader- general terms when I wrote that.

I will ask you some questions one at a time. You said you formerly studied in a Mennonite seminary- what were some of the scriptural arguments that they used to support their position on non-violence and on what basis did you reject those arguments. Was it only your interpretation of Romans 13? Were there anecdotal peices of the puzzle as well that formed your opinion? I am not a Mennonite- and have no seminary training- this is a legitimate question and not an attempt to one -up or corner you.

My thoughts are that when one assumes that a nation- state has God on its side without a very Christ like discernment, which is just about impossible in the world of propaganda and politics, it would seem that they are putting their faith in an expression of the World as much as anything. Can we always assume that because a government decides that
country X is "the enemy" and an is filled with "evildoers" that these judgments are inspired by God? Do you think its evil to be a communist in an of itself? Are we to assume that one nation has the God given right and authority to dub another nation evil? It seems like this is done in just about every war by both sides. Even the Nazis operated under the slogan "God with us". I have laid down some pretty strong indictments of the "United" States. Do you consider America to be a Christian nation? What are the criteria for being considered a Christian nation? Can you give examples of Christian nations? What if my country, the U.S. decides to take make war against American Indians based upon capatilist ideology (as was done in the past. Further, lets say that I am an American Indian and a Christian...whose side would I be on as a good Christian citizen of both communities? If one side achieves a military victory is that how we decide whose side God was on? What if God's side loses? Many that would consider America both a Christian nation and "the Arm of the Lord" begin to falter when discussing the outcome of the Viet Nam war for instance. I agree that we are not quite ready to discuss Iraq yet without some of these preliminary issues cleared up- but what if things never improve there and we lose there..what lesson can we take from that? Do we just declare victory and go home?

What do you make of these verses and how would you define world?:

1st John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.


What do you have to say about this segment?:

The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in "developed' as well as 'undeveloped" countries. Here are its basic assumptions.


1. The world is a dangerous place.

2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.

3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.

4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.

5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.

6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.

Take your time.


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TG's Response:

Starrider: here are my responses.
You wrote: I will ask you some questions one at a time. You said you formerly studied in a Mennonite seminary- what were some of the scriptural arguments that they used to support their position on non-violence and on what basis did you reject those arguments. Was it only your interpretation of Romans 13? Were there anecdotal pieces of the puzzle as well that formed your opinion? I am not a Mennonite- and have no seminary training- this is a legitimate question and not an attempt to one -up or corner you.

●The Anabaptist churches generally are those that have somewhat of a “restorationist” paradigm intending to return to the very NT primitive church. Included in this is the belief that the church at some point before or at Constantine fell into worldliness. There position on non-violence springs from a strong Christological view of the Bible in that one cannot understand God and the Christian life except in Jesus. Historically their teachings on non-resistance are grounded in the teachings and actions of Jesus (i.e. Luke 6:27-28; Matt. 7:12; and Matt. 26:52).
●In a nutshell, my problem with Anabaptist teaching (by the way, many Anabaptist struggle with these issues) is that the more I studied church history the more I realized that the “fallen church” concept was deeply and irreparably flawed. Then as I studied the full text of the Old and New Testaments I began to see that their strong Christological view was problematic in that it tended to make too radical of a disjunction between Jesus and the apostles. Actually, it is through the apostles that we have come to know Jesus; we have an apostolic faith (as in the Apostles Creed).

You wrote: “My thoughts are that when one assumes that a nation- state has God on its side without a very Christ like discernment, which is just about impossible in the world of propaganda and politics, it would seem that they are putting their faith in an expression of the World as much as anything.

●Since we no longer have the Urim and Thummim available to us to tell us when we should or shouldn’t go to war, we must rely upon a prayer process of investigation, contemplation and sound judgment. We do, after all, live in a flawed world in which there will always be wars and rumors of wars.

You wrote: “Can we always assume that because a government decides that country X is "the enemy" and an is filled with "evildoers" that these judgments are inspired by God?

●Well, when they bomb the living daylights out of our navel fleet in our own port, it is probably a pretty good indication that “they” are our enemies—especially when they follow it up by declaring war on us. Likewise, when they issue Fatwa after Fatwa stating that they are going to kill every American they can get their hands on and inspiring 1.2 billion people to join in the carnage and follow this with bombing after bombing of our installations, diplomatic offices, embassies, ships, and finally devastating three of our most important national buildings killing thousands of non-combatants, followed by several more declarations of war against us; it is probably a hint that they see themselves as our enemies.
●All countries are filled with “evil-doers” in the theological sense; however, from the perspective of unjust attack against country, usually the majority of an enemies people are not particularly engaged in acts of evil toward others. For instance, probably the majority of Germans were not people of ill-will toward the countries Hitler gobbled up. The exception might be the 15% of Muslims that are actively working to destroy all other non-Muslim governments in the world.

You wrote: “Do you think its evil to be a communist in an of itself?

●Communism is obviously an evil system of government. It is responsible for the systematic death of over 100,000,000 people (within their own countries) in the 20th century. Communist countries carried out the most horrendous persecutions of Christians in church history. (Just a side note, the scholarly total for deaths due to the Spanish Inquisition over a 200 year period now stands at 2,500). Communism not only carries out massive destruction of human life it also destroys economies and puts people into poverty. However, a communist is not an evil person per se. On the other hand Stalin and Pol Pot were two of the most vicious dictators in human history.

You wrote: “Are we to assume that one nation has the God given right and authority to dub another nation evil? It seems like this is done in just about every war by both sides. Even the Nazis operated under the slogan "God with us".

No, but each nation has the God given responsibility to protect its populace from unjust attack and can, therefore, appropriately deem actions against it as unjust. Because Nazi’s cloaked themselves in self-righteousness does not mean that all nations are therefore unable to declare actions against themselves as unjust. Bullies always act put-upon but someone has to protect innocent children from their bullying.

You wrote: “I have laid down some pretty strong indictments of the "United" States. Do you consider America to be a Christian nation? What are the criteria for being considered a Christian nation? Can you give examples of Christian nations?

●Western Civilization is by its very history and nature a product of Judeo-Christian culture. Just check the artwork until the 18th century. In this sense, all of the nations in the European-Anglo orbit are “Christian.” By the way, Muslims strongly believe this. However, no nation on earth is equivalent to the ancient theocracy of Israel. A better way to view the Western countries is that they are all at one level or another “Christianized” (i.e. their laws, art, literature, language and culture have all been formed and molded by Christianity).

You wrote: “What if my country, the U.S. decides to take make war against American Indians based upon capatilist ideology (as was done in the past.
●Capitalism as an ideology did not exist until nearly the end of the U.S.-Indian wars. Karl Marx is largely responsible for the popularization of the idea of “capitalism.” By the way, private property is protected by divine law. Communism violates the natural and divine law at a most basic level.
●There is not one example in the history of mankind where a stone-age culture has survived an encounter with a more technologically advanced culture. The U.S.-Indian wars would have happened no matter what the economic systems of the two cultures. This does not make it right, it is just a fact. The good news is that evangelical Christians were very often on the forefront of the demand for the humane treatment of Native Americans (including missionaries in my own family).

You wrote: “Further, lets say that I am an American Indian and a Christian...whose side would I be on as a good Christian citizen of both communities?”

●This is an odd question. Most Native American reservations are sovereign territory and have their own police, governing authorities and laws. The Native American’s in our area are fabulously wealthy do to the gaming casinos that they own. They have their own sovereign reservations and jet set all over the world. One tribe just purchased the major baseball stadium in our city.

You wrote: “If one side achieves a military victory is that how we decide whose side God was on? What if God's side loses? Many that would consider America both a Christian nation and "the Arm of the Lord" begin to falter when discussing the outcome of the Viet Nam war for instance.

●The United States did not lose one battle in the Viet Nam war. This is a highly controlled piece of information. In fact, the “Tet Offensive” was a disaster for the North Vietnamese. North Vietnamese veterans will tell you today (our church has a mission project there) that they were hanging by a thread expecting to collapse when the U.S. pulled out. They knew their only hope was to win the propaganda war in the U.S. They rightly believed if they could hold out long enough that the American left would demoralize the average citizen. They were correct. The cost is estimated to be 2,000,000 lives lost in the slaughter that followed our withdrawal and the Congress’s refusal to follow-through with its commitments to supply the South Vietnamese. This is something, I’m sure, all Americans can be proud of. I have a number of former refugees from Viet Nam and Laos in my congregation. There opinion on this matter is different than what one hears in most American universities.

You wrote: “I agree that we are not quite ready to discuss Iraq yet without some of these preliminary issues cleared up- but what if things never improve there and we lose there..what lesson can we take from that? Do we just declare victory and go home?
●There is absolutely no way that we could lose in Iraq—except the same way we turned and slithered away in Viet Nam. On average it takes 10 years to suppress an insurgency (in Iraq most of these are coming from Syria and Iran). The radical Muslims know that they cannot possibly win through military engagement. However, they do know that they have the will-power to outlast the American left. Any unbiased observer would have to conclude that the American left has less will-power than it did even in Viet Nam. Terrorism has one purpose—to terrorize. Terrorism causes people to fear and by the use of fear the terrorist gets his way. My prediction is that Europe will be largely Muslim-ized by 2050—no question about it. It will, by the way, not be the moderate version of Islam that takes possession of Europe. I am sure, idealist and non-violent resisters will not find Sharia and the Taliban-ization of Europe to be less accommodating than democracy and the old Christendom.

You wrote: “What do you make of these verses and how would you define world?:

1st John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

●John was obviously not talking about the creation. He was writing about the three great temptations that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden and Jesus faced in the desert—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. This is known in Thomistic theology as the concupiscent and irascible passions that are not under the Lordship of Christ.

You wrote: “What do you have to say about this segment?:…The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in "developed' as well as 'undeveloped" countries. Here are its basic assumptions.


1. The world is a dangerous place.

2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.

3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.

4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.

5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.

6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.

●I don’t think this is the “common wisdom on the streets of L.A.” I work with a small number of convicted felons. They don’t even come close to thinking in these terms. Be that as it may, your assumptions #2, #3, #4 and #5 are problematic. I do not believe all humans are innately violent. I do think all humans are innately designed to protect their persons from danger. If this was not true, people would be accidentally killing themselves at an unusual level and the species would not survive. Premise number three is just wrong. Premise number four is too limiting. There are many alternatives to the use of violence. For instance, 2.5 million times per year people brandish a firearm in the U.S. for self-protection and never suffer any violence because the assailant immediately flees. Neither the victim nor the assailant are injured. This single thing saves more lives than all the police action in all of the United States combined. A sizeable percentage of the 2.5 million are women who might otherwise be raped or assaulted. Premise five is strange. Evil is the privation of the good. Unjust violent action is only one of countless ways that actions are evil. Additionally, violent action is not evil per se--such an idea is a logical fallacy.


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A response from another person:

“Western Civilization is by its very history and nature a product of Judeo-Christian culture. Just check the artwork until the 18th century. In this sense, all of the nations in the European-Anglo orbit are “Christian.” By the way, Muslims strongly believe this. However, no nation on earth is equivalent to the ancient theocracy of Israel. A better way to view the Western countries is that they are all at one level or another “Christianized” (i.e. their laws, art, literature, language and culture have all been formed and molded by Christianity).”

Western civilization was at one time very “Christianized”. The culture still reflects such Christianization. But NOW it is much more influenced by, specifically, the secularization and neutralization of the Enlightenment, and further back, the Greko-Roman culture. Our culture is no longer a Christian one. Even you said “…check out the artwork UNTIL THE 18TH CENTURY”). This is clear. Numbers are dropping in the churches, and badly – if we want to talk statistics for a second (not my preference, as they tell us nothing, literally).

“This is an odd question. Most Native American reservations are sovereign territory and have their own police, governing authorities and laws. The Native American’s in our area are fabulously wealthy do to the gaming casinos that they own. They have their own sovereign reservations and jet set all over the world. One tribe just purchased the major baseball stadium in our city.”

This is only half the truth. They are also marginalized. They obviously play both roles in our culture.

And Thomisticguy, you avoided the question about 1st John 2: 15-17.

As for you thinking about premises 1-6 not being the “common wisdom of the streets of L.A.”, you are flat wrong. One of my best friends, bestest bestest friends, grew up in “the streets of L.A.”. That’s the way it is. It’s that simple…at least in the streets of L.A. Elsewhere, however, people consider themselves to be more under the “rule of law”, which is, even still, very different from being in the body of Christ or in the kingdom of God (obviously, I don’t think you are disputing this).

And you know what I would say about violence being inherently evil being a logical fallacy…but I will leave that alone.

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From TG:

Starrider: here is conclusion # 6, 6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.
● As you may have gathered, I do not care for simplistic thinking. Therefore, here is a nuanced response.
1. Certainly violence can solve some problems. If a woman is being raped by two thugs and a couple of servicemen on leave come across the situation and overpower the thugs using force, the woman will be rescued. This would be a decisive solution to a terrible problem that the woman would be eternally grateful for. However, violence cannot be the solution for every problem—such an assumption is absurd.
2. The thought that “power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment…allow us to dominate benevolently” is a highly charged statement full of lots of false assumptions. First, it assumes that violence is a “spiral.” There was no “spiral” of violence in the former Soviet Union when they executed and liquidated millions of dissidents; however, this was completely unjust. Secondly, violence does not feed on itself. Violence, for humans, is a voluntary action and is directed toward specific goals. If it was not, then there would be no such thing as non-violent resistance. Thirdly, violence can completely intimidate those who would want revenge. Examples of this in world history abound. Current examples of this can be found in North Korea and Viet Nam. However, the examples of people taking revenge also abound. Whenever the dominating power begins to falter one can expect revenge (i.e. Roman Empire serving as a classic example). Fourthly, if people are completely decimated, retaliation becomes nearly impossible. Again, I could supply examples from history but I am sure you can think of your own (i.e. the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Muslim Turks). Fifthly, when you write “allow us to dominate benevolently” I am not sure who you mean. The Romans were not exactly benevolent but they did secure a general peace for the Mediterranean peoples for 500 years which allowed for a flowering of ancient civilization, a striking increase in longevity, an incredible rise in affluence and a general explosion in the arts and sciences. Western Civilization did not return to the civilized levels of the Roman era until nearly the 18th century. In short, I would say that #6 is carefully designed to “beg the question.” It is not a fair and intellectually honest approach toward the subject of violence.

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From GA:

“The thought that “power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment…allow us to dominate benevolently” is a highly charged statement full of lots of false assumptions. First, it assumes that violence is a “spiral.” There was no “spiral” of violence in the former Soviet Union when they executed and liquidated millions of dissidents; however, this was completely unjust. Secondly, violence does not feed on itself. Violence, for humans, is a voluntary action and is directed toward specific goals. If it was not, then there would be no such thing as non-violent resistance.”

You are misrepresenting human nature and that of the world. The vast majority of the violence in the world cannot be reduced to a rational decision made in a spirit of self-control. The violence in the streets of LA, just as an obvious example, can definitely be described as an unending spiral, one which is difficult to exit even if you DO WANT to. In those streets it truly is a fight to the death (unless either you move away or, as is the case with my friend, God intervenes through his Grace).

And the Pax Romana is dependent upon things such as the slaugher of a whole village of innocent babies from which Jesus had to flee into Egypt. Was this government’s carrying out of God’s will to punish evildoers? This is exactly the characterization of “the world” that you avoided concerning 1st John 2: 15-17.

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From TG:

G.A. I think we are in general agreement about Western Civilization.

It is your opinion that Native Americans are marginalized. I do not adhere to a group-think mentality. You’ll notice that all my comments about Native Americans were specific.

I did not avoid the responding to and explaining 1 John 2:15-17, you may not have understood my response. In short my response has to do with the fall from Original Justice and its consequences.

It is your experience that your friend believes that the six points from Starrider accurately describes the thinking of people on the streets of L.A. This is your opinion and I have mine based upon my experience. Neither opinions are scientific or statistical and I’m sure you are adamant about holding yours. Both of us may be wrong or you may be right. There is also a possibility that I might be right.

You wrote: “And you know what I would say about violence being inherently evil being a logical fallacy…but I will leave that alone.”

Here are reasons why violence cannot be inherently evil:

1. All of the violence directed by Yahweh in the Old Testament would be necessarily evil acts. This would mean that God initiated and instructed an evil which violates the Scriptural principle that God does not cause evil. Such a view would necessitate a radical change in the Christian view of God.
2. There would be no justifiable uses of violence provided for in God’s divine law, but there are.
3. God cannot use an evil to do good. He can cause humans that are created good to do good or just things even though they often choose to do evil.
4. There are actually no evil things per se, only the misuse of good things. Gnostics believe that there are evil things. Again, it is my judgment that the Christian pacifist position borders on Gnostic dualism.


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From GA:

Your “reasons why violence cannot be inherently evil” are fine, in a sense, and obviously have grounding; but also they obviously don’t necessarily have anything to do with logic. They are logical, but from their outset they are given validity and existence in the first place by something outside of logic. That is my point. Probably not lost on you, however, so I would be curious to hear your response.

And I understood your response about 1st John. You say you don’t adhere to group-think mentality, but the laws that established the reservations were not to “provide” a place to live for you and me. It’s not “original justice”, but “original sin”. Original justice is firmly in tact. As I mentioned, I know damn well when I’ve violated God’s Law written on my heart. I realize that wasn’t what you meant, but I said that only to point out that you are reading your interpretation into the scripture, and your interpretation is getting read back into your life.

Fact remains that the letters in revelations were written to the “angels of the churches”. This is “group-think”. Again, I don’t claim “individual-think” to be false, only - when taken as a closed whole given definition and completion in itself - a HALF-truth. There are “spiritual” “powers”, and they do seek dominance rather than humbling compassion. There is, FIGURATIVELY, a “world”. Paul’s language for “the world” was not just in reference to what is only phenomenal and measurable. Figurative language was a basic aspect of speech in the ancient world. Again, I don’t DISAGREE that Paul was referring to individual’s lusts, sins and pride, but that is only HALF of the STORY.

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From ME:

Ok, I have read thru these. I unfortunately have not the time to further the discussion at the moment. I will be gone for the weekend for a little fun.
TG,
I will ponder a few more questions til I return.

For now I will leave you with a few more questions.

Are you sure that the explanation you have offered for the 1st john passage the one you want to stick with? My understanding of "World" is much different. I understand that World and Earth are to different things. I have never heard the explanation of these passages that you have set forth. I comprehend what you said...but as I have understood the term "World" as is used throughout the Bible- it is describing something other than what you have said. I do understand how these temptations are motivating factors in the "World" but would stop far short of saying that they ARE the "World" as "World" described in the Bible. If Thomas Aquinas actually asserted otherwise- I would have to seriously question the veracity of his body of work as a whole.

This is a key point to say the least. Are you familiar with the Greek definitions of "World"?

Further what would be your definition of the principalities, thrones, powers, etc. as referenced in Ephesians?

Have a good weekend.

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Another response by me after TG and GA had it out over the span of my absence:

TG,
Hmmm, reading back through this I find myself as unsettled by your positions as you must be by mine. I have no trouble understanding the logic you are using- I simply disagree on several points...and agree on others that you think apparently I disagree on. Most likely we are at an impasse. Nevertheless, it is not outside the realm of possibility that someone's mind could be changed. I find it interesting that you have claimed that you were once pacifist. Ironically, I am now pacifist, (although I am not sure I would define that the same as you would), and used to be hardcore into martial-arts and military history. Since then, my heart and mind have been transformed and if I am to be wrong about anything- let me err on the side of love, forgiveness and holiness.

I grew up in a community that held what was once the largest Southern Baptist congregation there was. Even now, I work with a few good friends with whom I have discussed the topic that we are on here at length, who are also Baptists. Hence, I am quite familiar with your positions and their architecture. I am not saying this to deride your positions. I just want to clarify that I do understand what you are saying...I just happen to disagree...I believe with some very good reasons.

I still have some questions for you that I believe to be valid ones. I have also picked out a few things from our exchange that appear to be inconsistencies which I will get to eventually. I will not be tossing these back to you in order to engage in some kind of one- upsmanship... But to really try to find what is true in all of this....or at least the best spiritual understanding of things. I do not claim to be 100% correct on anything...

I do think the best policy is to just stick with scripture- as you have stated, instead of offering quotes by Thomas Aquinas or whoever.
I do understand that one cannot ever really escape from discussing the common interpretations of scripture being that we are all participants in a history and a culture. Still, it must be noted that things like "Just War Doctrine" were formed by other men just like you and me...and as I have noted...there are no valid reasons to assume that this doctrine is any more flawless or binding than any other thing that emanates from human reasoning. You may insist that the "Just Warfare Doctrine" is not based upon human reasoning- but scripture as in Romans 13. However, there is certainly a lot of other scripture that should cast some doubt upon the way you are interpreting Romans 13. I will get to those, but for now, I want to submit this letter that I have kept in my notes and bookmarks regarding Romans 13. I believe it gets to both the common ground and the disagreements on this passage being discussed:


I agree with you that there is a great deal of confusion about the Christian’s attitude toward the state. According to the limited insight God has given me, permit me to say a few things in response to your excellent questions.

I believe we may dismiss from the outset any thought of a servile, uncritical attitude toward the state. I stress this because so many Christians today believe they are to give unquestioning obedience to the state. Such an attitude is based on a faulty misinterpretation of Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (please read vv. 2-7 also). Statists are accustomed to appeal to this text as if it supported an unconditional and uncritical subjection to any and every demand of the state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The immediate context shows that Paul’s point is something quite different. He is at pains to show that the state performs properly what is forbidden to the individual Christian: it takes vengeance on the one who does evil (see verse 4). Christians, on the contrary, must never repay evil for evil (12:17), and therefore they are not to oppose this legitimate function of the state but are to submit to it. God alone may take vengeance, and it is the “sword” of the state that he uses for this purpose. Essentially, Paul is teaching the same thing that Jesus taught: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Jesus assumes that the existence of the state is willed of God – even the existence of the pagan Roman Empire. But the disciple of Jesus is not allowed to give to the state what is God’s. Whenever the state makes an illegitimate claim to what is God’s it has transgressed its limits; and the Christian will not render to the state what is unjustly required of him.

The state is often confused with the kingdom of God. Indeed, many Christians are guilty of this false association. The state is a temporary institution (see 13:11). It will pass away, whereas the kingdom is eternal. Therefore, as long as the present age exists, Christians need not oppose the institution of the state as such. Rather they are to give the state what it needs to exist (e.g., taxes) and submit to its right to bear the sword. This is the plain meaning of Romans 13.

Keep in mind that while the state is “ordained” of God, it is not by nature a divine institution nor are its principles equally valid to those pertaining to the kingdom. Elsewhere Paul uses the term “rulers of this world” (1 Cor. 2:8) to refer to earthly political leaders. The state in which they rule is willed by God and hence Christians have to affirm the state as an institution. But, as Paul says in another passage, Christians are not to allow their controversies to be judged by the state because Christians themselves will one day sit in judgment over the very powers that now stand invisible behind the state (see 1 Cor. 6:1 ff.). So there is no question of Christians obeying the state at any point where it demands what is God’s. For Paul at least, this meant that no Christian could say “Caesar is Lord” or “Let Jesus be accursed,” even though such confessions might be demanded by the Roman state. The state that deifies or absolutizes itself has freed itself from its proper constraints as the servant of God and has, in fact, become satanic.

Inasmuch as the state remains within its proper limits, the Christian will acknowledge it as the servant of God. But inasmuch as the state transgresses its limits, it is to be considered the instrument of Satan. But even when the state functions properly as God’s servant, the genuine state for the Christian – his politeuma (the Greek word Paul uses in Phil. 3:20) – is in heaven. (On the concept of our Christian citizenship, please see my essay, The Christian as Citizen.)

And so the Christian gladly acknowledges the place of the state in God’s earthly economy, but he also knows the state’s place within the divine order. For that reason he will see his task regarding the state as one of watching to see that at no point does the state fall away from the divine order.

Thus I am forced to conclude that, far from teaching that the state is to be accepted uncritically in all that it does, Paul’s discussion in Romans 13 serves as a warning against the state exceeding its limits. How this works itself out in daily life is, of course, another topic and one I hope to address in a book that I am currently writing entitled Unleashing the Church.

Thank you again for writing, and my very best wishes and warmest regards,

Dave


Dave Black
daveblack@daveblackonline.com


p.s. I am still interested to address the definition or "World" as offered in 1st John 2:15-17:

Do Not Love the World
15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.


To me this passage creates several problems for the theology of Romans 13 as you have stated it. I believe more closely (although not totally)to the interpretation of Romans 13 as laid out in the letter I supplied which tells how we can submit to the authorities and yet remain exclusive to them. Here are some other verses that are pointing to the principle I am getting at as well- distinction between God's people and and the "World".

1 Corinthians 6 (New International Version)

Lawsuits Among Believers
1 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

James 4:4
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

John 15:19
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17:14
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

John 17:16
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

John 17:25
"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.

John 18:36
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 1:20
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

1 Corinthians 2:12
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Galatians 6:14
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Colossians 2:20
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

1 John 2:17
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 4:5
They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

1 John 5:19
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

1 Peter 2:11
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

There are still a few other matters I wish to address as time allows.

Good night.


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From TG:

Starrider: thanks for your well written comment. In the main I am in agreement with your thoughts as they relate to Romans 13. I will quote a little bit of your comment here and tease out some nuanced differences.

Thus I am forced to conclude that, far from teaching that the state is to be accepted uncritically in all that it does, Paul’s discussion in Romans 13 serves as a warning against the state exceeding its limits. How this works itself out in daily life is, of course, another topic and one I hope to address in a book that I am currently writing entitled Unleashing the Church.
●First of all, I completely agree with you that the actions of the state are not to be uncritically accepted. Examples that you provided are germane (i.e. the Caesar is Lord and apostasy requirements of the Roman state). When the state exceeds it bounds and acts unjustly, it may be justly opposed by Christians.
●I am not quite so enamored with your statement that “Romans 13 serves as a warning against the state exceeding its limits.” I do not believe this is the primary thrust and purpose of Romans 13. However, there are other passages that do teach Christians that we are to “obey God rather than man.”
●The main point for me is that the Just War Theory is designed to do exactly what you are arguing for—working out the proper involvement of the Christian in relationship to the state’s use of the military.
●The reason this is important is that God cannot be the author of evil. If He has instituted government it cannot be an “evil” per se. Likewise, if Romans 13 tells us that the governing official is an agent of God’s wrath to punish evil doers, then this function cannot be evil per se nor can those who serve as magistrates, etc. be deemed evil per se. The “evil” arises from the misuse of the “good” institution that God has given to mankind. The evil use of government is when its actions are in contradiction of God’s divine or natural law. For instance, it is unjust for governments to force people to worship the state since God alone is to be worshiped. Christians are not obligated to obey such governments on this issue.
●The “world” as used in 1 John and other passages refers to the world system of material and immaterial things, which are created good by God, but are not under the Lordship of Christ. Consequently, a “good” such as the family can fall under the sway of the world when it is operating out of the will of God. Yet, this does not make the family an evil thing per se. Nor does the fact that there are countless families living by worldly values mean that Christians cannot participate in families. Christians begin to fall into Gnostic dualism when they start equating the family and government with the “world” per se.


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From GA:

Thom., regarding your conversation with starrider, "the world", in a big way, is a particularly Roman thing...which, I'm not sure, but you don't seem to be aknowledging. The word used is probably often cosmos, but in the context of Paul's "world"...they lived in a Roman "world" that was not only different from the previous Greek or Jewish world, but was a world in the first place. Scripture nor the Greeks made a world the way the Romans did...and for the Romans the one to whom to bow as the maker of the world, or the one who holds it together, was Ceasar. So by "world" there I mean with all the political, lawful, spacial, temporal and religious connotations it would have had for the Romans, connotations that would have been VERY different from the use of the word "cosmos" for the classical or Homeric Greeks. This notion of "world", by the way, we have largely inhereted from Rome, and is also greatly related to how a system now functions for us...except the Ceasar is more difficult to locate, but evidenced in the change of culture that you yourself aknowledged starting around the 17th century. It's also far more difficult, it seems, to find where and how we are bowing to him.
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From TG:

G.A.: you wrote: “Also, Thom., regarding your conversation with starrider, "the world", in a big way, is a particularly Roman thing...which, I'm not sure, but you don't seem to be aknowledging.
●I certainly would not deny that for the first Christians the word “world,” as a theological concept, was primarily defined by the values and milieu of the Greco-Roman world. However, this cannot be its final definition. If it was then when Christianity expanded into the Gaul’s, Britton, India, etc. it would then have become a meaningless term. Therefore, it must have a broader meaning. I come back again to the material and immaterial things within God’s creation that are created “good” but when outside the Lordship of Christ serve as a competing system to God’s authority and sovereignty.

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From GA:

But Thomisticguy,

At that point it is to miss the distinction between earth and world that started this thread of the conversation. The world is MADE OF those things, but the world IS NOT those things. And yes, I realize that where Paul refers to "immaterial things", he wasn't referring to "earth" (that belongs more with the "material things")...but still...it's like you take two threads (material and immaterial things), and then you weave a fabric with a pattern (for the Romans, and not so much the Greeks, what is woven is a "world"). A definition like yours of "world" abstracts it in such a way that it actually looses its meaning. Which, in itself, might be fine. But at that point the things offered to actually provide their definition loose THEIR meaning as well. This is why, when the definition of WORLD and EARTH are abstracted and extracted in such a way, OUR WORLD is no longer connected with the ORDER of (God's) NATURE...as it was even for the Romans! Beyond that, too, in such a definition and such a set of circumstances given by such a definition, we get disoriented in the lost possibility for TRANSLATION between the "world" of the Romans and OUR OWN "world". At which point it of course becomes very easy to miss where we ourselves might be "bowing to Ceasar", because we've lost sight of the very concept; and in our minds - in our ideas of the "world" - "bowing to Ceasar" has no place, has no foothold. I think such things might be discussed in the ensuing conversation with starrider.

And just to highlight my basic point about systems and morals...it is the Holy Spirit who confronts us, convicts us, and transforms us...IN GRACE...NOT possible with a system of morals. And not only is that not possible with a system, but if we think we NEED the system of morals for ANY of those things, then the system has REPLACED the God by whom all good and bad, right and wrong could ever be measured.

And beyond any of that, Thomisticguy, the places you named were Romanized - consumed by and subsumed into the Roman world - before Christianity spread to them, somewhat with the exception of India, which itself was exposed to Greek culture before Christ. What that means, though, is that, even for the Gauls, the Brittons and the Indians, the term "world", by the time Christ got there, would have had some Greco-Roman overtones, particularly in the land of the Gauls and what is now England, which had, quite simply, become part of the specifically Roman world (which I am here differentiating from the Greek "cosmos").

Jason

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From TG:

G.A.

The Holman Bible Dictionary gives this definition of “world” which is essentially the same as what I have been attempting to convey.

“The world” can also designate all that is hostile, rebellious, and opposed to God. Paul referred to the effects of the fall on the whole cosmic order: “The creation was subjected to frustration ... [but] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage” (Rom 8:19-25 NIV; compare 2 Pet. 1:4). The world, therefore, is under the power of “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 NIV).

This definition of the “world” gives it a trans-cultural meaning and application. You are free to give your own definition to the word “world.” Starrider asked me what I thought it meant.

You wrote:And just to highlight my basic point about systems and morals...it is the Holy Spirit who confronts us, convicts us, and transforms us...IN GRACE...NOT possible with a system of morals. And not only is that not possible with a system, but if we think we NEED the system of morals for ANY of those things, then the system has REPLACED the God by whom all good and bad, right and wrong could ever be measured.

●The “system” of morals I am referring to, of course, is the divine law given by God Himself.
●In the Bible, grace and law are not in opposition to one another. It is through grace that the believer is able to keep the just requirements of the law. The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner by means of the law.

James 2:9 (NIV) But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
John 16:8 (NIV) When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
Romans 2:13-16 (NIV) For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. [14] (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, [15] since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) [16] This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.


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From GA:

Thomisticguy,

“The ‘system’ of morals I am referring to, of course, is the divine law given by God Himself.” But Thomisticguy, the whole point I’ve been making is that this is simply not true. The system is MADE up of (“mostly”, “to be generous”), and intends to REFLECT, the divine law given by God, but they are not one and the same. It becomes very problematic when you begin to equate the two – EVEN THOUGH God’s hand doesn’t necessarily lie entirely outside of the hand of technology.

And when we start speaking in trans-cultural terms, it is exactly here where we run into the story of Babel, to which I have made repeated reference. A “trans-cultural” “definition” of one word applied across many cultures: a) forgets that some (many) cultures might not even HAVE such a concept, at least not the least bit comparable to the one to which we are accustomed, and b) assumes a view from the top of the Tower from which we think we can SEE “across cultures”, as if we “belong in heaven”! From down here on the ground we can only hope to immerse ourselves IN a culture.

Besides that, your definition neglects the context in which Paul offered such a “definition”, a very Christian context in regards to issues of sin and power and the “prince of this world”, which – FOR PAUL – were obviously issues that very tied anyway to the Roman “world” (not for Paul necessarily quite as presumedly transcultural as we might now consider). Where I am leading with the previous sentence is not necessarily contextualization. I am rather simply trying to point out that many other cultures at that time and in the past have had such a notion of “all material and immaterial things”, but this did not necessarily for them mean or constitute a “world”. In other words, “world” and “material and immaterial things” are distinct and were combined by Paul in a specifically Christian culture (and in a Roman context), under a specifically Christian interpretation of the word “world”.

Besides that, in questions of fixed meanings and definitions necessary for the construction of a complete and functioning system, you have already here in this very post offered two different “definitions” in scripture of “world” – each one having to do with the two distinct notions mentioned above: “John himself in 1 John 2 defines what he means by the ‘world’ as that which gives rise to the ‘lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.’” The other “definition” offered by Paul having to do with “all material and immaterial things”. It is in such situations that a system has to give a hierarchy to reconcile such conflicts, a hierarchy that emerges out of the very values and assertions of the system itself.

Now, this particular example of different meanings that have to be reconciled to each other in scripture is an easy one that doesn’t cause much problem or disagreement among parties within our particular Christain context. The one about government is more directly contradictory and less easily resolved; and you have yet to address it here. But that difficult issue IS, however, related to questions of our interpretation of the word “world” and to questions of where we might or might not be “bowing to Ceasar”. For example, it is under the AUTHORITY of Enlightenment (or at least modern) wisdom by which we assume we can operate under a “trans-cultural” interpretation of a key word (“world”) that itself was highly influential in the giving of that very authority!

God bless,

Jason

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From TG:

G.A.: I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying. I am not equating the “world” with God’s divine law (which is the system of morals that I hold to).

Again, when I refer to trans-cultural I am simply saying the definition of the word “world” must be able to be applied beyond its Greco-Roman historical setting in order to have meaning in every human time and place until Christ returns.

In regard to my two definitions of the word “world;” they are really the two sides of the same coin. One looks at the word from the perspective of the individual (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes and the pride of life”) and the other looks at the same word from the perspective of the larger (cosmos) setting.

No matter how good or bad my definition is of the biblical meaning of the word “world,” it does not change the fact that government is an institution given to mankind by God and, therefore, it cannot be an evil per se. Likewise the purpose of government comes from God and it is to serve as an “agent of God’s wrath” to “punish” “wrongdoers.” Hence, because this purpose is from God it cannot be evil per se nor can it be an evil per se for Christians to participate in government and government’s purposes.


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From GA:

Thomisticguy,

I feel like we are on some level actually communicating now. I like that. Thank you.

And I MIGHT be misunderstanding something you are saying. But I am not suggesting that you are equating the “world” with God’s divine law. In fact, it seems obvious to me that you are not doing that. Based on your own statement, however, I am suggesting that you are equating your system, which happens to include your morals (and mine, and Ted Haggard’s), with God’s divine law. I’m saying they are two different things. I’m saying your system was something that required a Roman context from the outset, seemed to have very early roots in Tertullian, sort of sprung forth with Augustine, and then, of course, flowered with Aquinus. All the while, of course, your system experiences influence from the Greeks, and, of course, Jesus, God and the “divine law” with which you are, in my estimation, wrongly EQUATING with your system.

Also, you said: “Again, when I refer to trans-cultural I am simply saying the definition of the word “world” must be able to be applied beyond its Greco-Roman historical setting in order to have meaning in every human time and place until Christ returns.”

I know that that’s exactly what you mean by trans-cultural. I’m pretty much saying that you just can’t do that. Not because it’s against the rules of Latin grammer (I’m sort of being viscisous there), but because the tribal folk “out in the bush” in Kenya to whom I handed food in early September live in a “world” (wrong term, for them) that is completely foreign to the Roman one, but which DOES include “all material and immaterial things”. Not only that, but the very notion of “application” is one that is relatively foreign even to that Roman “world”, and especially to those tribal folk in Kenya.

In other words, you are saying that for the gospel to have meaning somewhere besides Rome (I mean Rome there as a figurehead), we “MUST” take it across cultural borders. I am saying that when we “apply” the Roman notion of “world” to the tribal Kenyans, it (especially the concept of “world” in particular) is NOT a concept only or primarily with transcendent and abstract meaning free of cultural and circumstantial restraints with which we are so generously enlightening those tribal Kenyans, but I am saying that we are bringing Rome and its very particular attitudes and habits of “bowing to Ceasar” OVER (not under, and not sideways) TO the tribal Kenyans (which obviously has lots of good and lots of bad). “Application” and “bringing OVER to” are inherently interconnected.

Also, when I say that “world” does not have primarily or only transcendent and abstract meaning free of cultural and circumstantial restraints, I am not saying that there are no abstractions, there is no transcendence, and there is no “objective” reality outside of “circumstantial restraints.” I am saying, however, that when on the tribal Kenyans we “APPLY” our notion of “world”, whose meaning is largely GIVEN by and entirely DEPENDENT upon its Roman context, WE ARE placing Roman circumstantial restraints upon those tribal Kenyans…and that CANNOT be enjoyable, beneficial, edifying or orientation-giving to them (at least not a GOOD orientation).

Again, the average African man “still retains a primal imagination in which a higher being is interwoven into his life and existence” (not an exact quote from the one previous in my emails, but more of a paraphrase, I think); and a shift to Christianity is a transformation of an ALREADY existing consciousness and SACRA-mentality to one that is SPECIFICALLY Christian. There is no “NEED” (“must be able to be…”) to “APPLY” something from outside, from a whole other very screwy culture. Christ MADE those tribal Kenyans as well (of course). In other words, there is the need to TRANSLATE the language of the “world”/”culture” of Christianity to other cultures, but not to “apply” it. This TRANSLATION, and NOT a modern kind of “APPLICATION”, is EXACTLY what happened at Pentacost, which was the reconciliation of the divisions that occurred at Babel!!! AND, this translation occurred UNDER the POWER of the Holy Spirit…VERY different from the POWER of the HUMAN MIND by which we “apply” a “theoretical concept”!!!!!!!

And I see that the two definitions you’ve offered from scripture of “world” can easily be two sides of a coin. But can the same be said of the two ideas of government? You still haven’t addressed this, and I seriously would assume you have lots of thoughts on the matter already (but maybe not, I don’t know). Issues attached to that very tension are the same ones that, when seen in the light of present CIRCUMSTANCES and PRACTICES of our CULTURE, might just inform us that we are in ways often not aknowledged “bowing to Ceasar” (which was discussed above between yourself and starrider)…?

God bless,

Jason

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From TG:

G. A: I think I understand what you are saying but I still disagree. Here are some reasons why:

Your statement:

“…especially the concept of “world” in particular) is NOT a concept only or primarily with transcendent and abstract meaning free of cultural and circumstantial restraints with which we are so generously enlightening those tribal Kenyans, but I am saying that we are bringing Rome and its very particular attitudes and habits of “bowing to Ceasar” OVER (not under, and not sideways) TO the tribal.”

1. First, the concept of “world” has both a Hebraic and Greek meaning before it came into the New Testament. It is not strictly a “Roman” word. Additionally, it has a uniquely Christian meaning in light of the Lordship of Christ.
2. One of the first objectives of good Biblical hermeneutics is to work at understanding what a Bible passage under consideration meant to the original audience. After this work is done, one can begin to apply it to the life setting of a contemporary audience whether they live in Kenya, Brazil or Japan.
3. If we cannot proceed in this hermeneutical process with some degree of confidence that what we learn from Scripture is relevant and can be applied to the life setting of all humans on planet earth; then there is no reason to believe that it can be applied to anyone but the very first disciples to whom it was written. If your view is true than we are back to a new Papal Infallibility instead of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
4. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide His church in the truth: John 16:13 (NIV) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
5. Jesus stated, Matthew 28:20 (NIV) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
6. Christianity has gone into countless numbers of cultures throughout 2,000 years of history and led people out of paganism that were just as steeped into their own worldview and thought-forms as any tribal group alive today. It is likely that your ancestors were just as pagan and unchristian as any un-reached people-group presently on planet earth.
7. The apostles themselves took the Jewish-Christian worldview into lots of pagan and unusual cultures and did it successfully.
8. The whole idea of confronting the “world” is to bring all things under submission to Christ and his witness in Holy Scripture.
9. (Personal opinion) I find your view tinged with a “little brown brothers” elitism. Kenyan’s are just as capable of understanding NT thought-forms and how to translate them into their culture as well as any Anglo group in the world.

You wrote: “And I see that the two definitions you’ve offered from scripture of “world” can easily be two sides of a coin. But can the same be said of the two ideas of government? You still haven’t addressed this, and I seriously would assume you have lots of thoughts on the matter already (but maybe not, I don’t know). Issues attached to that very tension are the same ones that, when seen in the light of present CIRCUMSTANCES and PRACTICES of our CULTURE, might just inform us that we are in ways often not aknowledged “bowing to Ceasar” (which was discussed above between yourself and starrider.
●There is one definition of “world” with two applications—1. Trans-cultural; and 2. individual. 1John 2:15-16 puts them along side of each other.
●There is only one idea of how Christians are to act as individuals in relationship to their enemies—they are to love them. As well, in the Bible there is only one idea regarding the institution of government. Government is instituted by God for the express purpose of serving as God’s instrument of wrath to bring punishment upon the evil-doer. Mixing the two teachings causes all kinds of problems. On one side we could have people attempting to be “agents of God’s wrath” against their neighbors, etc. and on the other side we could have magistrates trying to love rather than punish the Ted Bundy’s.


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From ME:

TG, I have been poring over our conversation. I want to ask about a few points on which I am confused. Let’s look at these three statements that are quotes you’ve made in the exchange between you and I.
1. “There are actually no evil things per se, only the misuse of good things. Gnostics believe that there are evil things. Again, it is my judgment that the Christian pacifist position borders on Gnostic dualism.”
2. “Communism is obviously an evil system of government.” (I had asked, “Do you think its evil to be a communist in and of itself?” which I admit now was a loaded question)
3. As I noted before, the idea that God establishes an evil thing is a heresy. The Manichaean heresy believed such things. I am not saying that this is what you believe; but, it is my considered opinion that the concept of government as “worldly dominion” is very close to the Manichaean heresy.

Ok, I concur about how there nothing is created that is evil unto itself. No debate there. Now, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of Gnosticism and Gnostic dualism. I have studied it and been taught about it in Bible class. I wasn’t too sure about the connection you have made a few times about Gnostic dualism- so I looked it up. I have no books on Gnosticism in my library so I turned to a definition I found online:
“Gnostics espouse a radical, irreconcilable dualism composed of immateriality, seen as divine and wholly good, and of matter, considered wholly evil. For Gnostics, the predicament is that pieces or sparks of immateriality have fallen into matter: human souls are trapped in bodies. (In tripartite rather than dualistic varieties of Gnosticism, the immaterial spirit lies trapped in the soul as well as the body.) Because the spark is not merely trapped but hidden, liberation requires the revelation of one's divinity. Salvation for the individual means the extrication of the spark from the body and its return to its immaterial home. Salvation for the cosmos means the return of all sparks. The aim is to terminate any connection between immateriality and matter.”

This is very close to what I thought I knew about Gnostic dualism. Basically, they believed that all physical matter was inherently flawed and evil and that everything true and good was non-physical and thus on the elevated plane of spirit. Basic Christian doctrine teaches that this cannot be- so, of course I understand that perfectly. What I am not getting is how Gnostic dualism is being extrapolated from pacifism and/or a discussion of government or even the biblical definition of “World”.

I will come back to that later. On the second statement about “evil communism”-
I am not following you there either. If God institutes and ordains governments and no leader assumes power without the endorsement of God- then how can the communist form of government be evil unto itself? I am no communist in case you are wondering. However, it cannot be avoided that the teachings of Christ and the Apostles and the structure of the early Church all had a certain socialist or communist aspect based upon the surrender of materialist values and total sharing. You added that the suggestion that God can institute anything evil is heresy. Hence, I am a bit confused on how you are structuring your thoughts here. I also understand what Manichaeanism is- and I probably would have used the term on you if you had not beaten me to it (lol). Now, to clarify my own thoughts about government- I have already agreed that government was instituted by God. I also agree that ALL government is not evil by the simple virtue of being government. So, that brings us back to trying to the definition of “World”.
Here is what you said about the definition:
The “world” as used in 1 John and other passages refers to the world system of material and immaterial things, which are created good by God, but are not under the Lordship of Christ. Consequently, a “good” such as the family can fall under the sway of the world when it is operating out of the will of God. Yet, this does not make the family an evil thing per se. Nor does the fact that there are countless families living by worldly values mean that Christians cannot participate in families. Christians begin to fall into Gnostic dualism when they start equating the family and government with the “world” per se.
I on the other hand would define the “World” as the entire collection of human values, culture, priorities, institutions, traditions, beliefs and so on that are based predominately on humanism rather than being in righteous relationship to God. In an earlier post I noted that another scholar defined “World” as a set of cultural values, basic survival assumptions, and political structures that actively control, impose upon, and exploit human kind through violence and domination. I do not presume to speak for you- but my guess is that the only real problem that you have with that definition is the inclusion of the word violence. On that note, let me state for the record that I have not stated- nor do I believe that all violence is inherently evil. I believe that God is far more nuanced than any absolute or legalistic quotes or theories that either of us can offer. What I can and will state regarding violence is that I believe what the teachings of Christ ask us to do is make a commitment to non-violence and creative problem solving as an effort to emulate holiness. The aspect of God’s wrath in biblical theology cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that Christ will in at least some sense assume the role of avenger at the closing of this “World”. However, Jesus’ example set out for his disciples was decidedly non-violent. Given the interpretation of Romans 13 that I offered above- I do not see a disconnect between the way of Jesus and “Apostolic teaching” about the role of government in God’s meta-narrative. I want to say more here but I think I’d be letting my words get ahead of my thoughts. So, lets move on to the last points I want to address tonight.
Here is something else you have said:
“Communism is obviously an evil system of government. It is responsible for the systematic death of over 100,000,000 people (within their own countries) in the 20th century. Communist countries carried out the most horrendous persecutions of Christians in church history. (Just a side note, the scholarly total for deaths due to the Spanish Inquisition over a 200 year period now stands at 2,500). Communism not only carries out massive destruction of human life it also destroys economies and puts people into poverty. However, a communist is not an evil person per se. On the other hand Stalin and Pol Pot were two of the most vicious dictators in human history.”
Ok, I already addressed the first statement about communism. My take on this is that the problem with communism, other than evil tyrants like Stalin, is not that communism is simply an evil form of government. The problem with communism is that it chose to put its faith in the state rather than in God. I would contend that Western-Judeo-Christian expressions of government have often done the very same thing. For instance, America is also responsible for the systematic death of untold millions of Native Americans for instance. It is noted that the horrible persecutions in American history were not necessarily perpetrated upon Christians, at least not white ones, but upon African slaves and the First Nations peoples that inhabited this continent before them. Perhaps the Spanish are only responsible for 2,500 Christian deaths in the inquisitions- but the fellows known as the Conquistadors, under the auspices of Christian doctrine and at least some of the ideas held in the “Just Warfare Theory” are responsible for some of the most heinous carnage in human history. I simply refuse to believe that this emanated from God’s will rather than flawed human nature and the schemes and deceptions of the real enemy of all human life… Satan.
Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Further, I would contend as an American Indian that the U.S. has also been guilty of destroying human life and putting people into a legacy of poverty and disenfranchisement. You rightly state that a communist is not an evil person per se…and I add that neither is an American. However, I would stop far short of considering America a Christian nation…in fact this is a rather forceful indictment on Christianity if anything.
Here you said:
“Western Civilization is by its very history and nature a product of Judeo-Christian culture. Just check the artwork until the 18th century. In this sense, all of the nations in the European-Anglo orbit are “Christian.” By the way, Muslims strongly believe this. However, no nation on earth is equivalent to the ancient theocracy of Israel. A better way to view the Western countries is that they are all at one level or another “Christianized” (i.e. their laws, art, literature, language and culture have all been formed and molded by Christianity).”

Again, I will submit that these facts do not say a whole lot of good about “Judeo-Christian culture.
GA, has touched upon a few ideas about trans-cultural language and the practices of culture. I generally concur with the direction of such thoughts.
The “Western” world has developed itself with a coinciding mythology that has come to dominate the entire globe’s economics, politics, and academics, imposing itself as the natural, God given, unquestionable norm of human existence. This pseudo- mythical “world” of “Western” superiority has functioned implicitly and often brutally explicitly, to facilitate the conquest and enslavement of indigenous peoples, the exploitation of their labor and natural resources and the genocidal destruction of whole cultures and peoples…as put by fellow Christian and Native author, George E. Tinker. Taking all this into account, I can either conclude that all of this horror was God’s will, because he is the grand puppeteer and conductor of governments, or I can conclude that all of this horror was due to the inherent flaws in human nature, human freewill, human pride, and the misuse of human government and the mis-application of biblical truth in the arena of geo-politics. Being as the Bible tells me repeatedly that God is not just a God of wrath, but primarily one of mercy and justice and love…and that one day the first will be last and the last first… my understanding of the Romans 13, the role of government and the definition of “World” is entirely different from what I am getting from your theses. Now, to be fair, what I just said could indeed be resulting from a subjective filter on my own part. Again, it is not my mission to instill guilt or to condemn. My eagerness and passion for this topic stems from a genuine hunger to understand. I invite you to think and respond in a spirit of friendship.

Take care.

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From TG:

Starrider: you wrote, “What I am not getting is how Gnostic dualism is being extrapolated from pacifism and/or a discussion of government or even the biblical definition of “World”.”
●My problem is not with classic Christian pacifism in general. It is the equating of the “world” or “dominion” with government. The thinking would go that a Christian cannot participate in government because it is part of the “world” system or evil “dominion.” However, the Bible specifically states that God instituted government so it cannot be an evil per se. Nor can it be wrong for Christians to participate in governing activities per se. Nor can it be wrong for Christians to serve in governmental roles where they act as “agents of God’s wrath” to “punish” “wrongdoers” per se. To say that any of these things are inherently evil is to come precariously close to Gnostic dualism.

You wrote: “If God institutes and ordains governments and no leader assumes power without the endorsement of God- then how can the communist form of government be evil unto itself?... I am no communist in case you are wondering. However, it cannot be avoided that the teachings of Christ and the Apostles and the structure of the early Church all had a certain socialist or communist aspect based upon the surrender of materialist values and total sharing.
●The proper way to speak of this is to say that Communism is an unjust form of government for the following reasons:
1. It denies the right of private property which is inherent in the commandment “thou shalt not steal” and many other divine regulations regarding private ownership of property. This inevitably leads to poverty.
2. It is atheistic and does not recognize that men have inalienable rights that are endowed by one’s Creator. This has uniformly led to the persecution of religions and Christianity specifically.
3. It makes the state the supreme ruler of life and death as a governing system.
4. Finally, F.A. Hayak makes the point in The Road to Surfdom that utopian materialistic systems must always lead to ever more brutal oppression of their populations in order to make their system seem to work. I agree with this assessment. Communism has been the bloodiest most oppressive form of government in human history. This fact alone should be an indication that it is not the leaders that are the problem but the unjust form of the government that is the real problem.
●The early church and apostles were motivated out of charity and love for one another to voluntarily share with those in need. This is vastly different than a state imposed redistribution of private property by coercion. I might add that socialists and certainly communists uniformly denigrate the concept of voluntary charity.

You wrote: “…on the other hand would define the “World” as the entire collection of human values, culture, priorities, institutions, traditions, beliefs and so on that are based predominately on humanism rather than being in righteous relationship to God. In an earlier post I noted that another scholar defined “World” as a set of cultural values, basic survival assumptions, and political structures that actively control, impose upon, and exploit human kind through violence and domination. I do not presume to speak for you- but my guess is that the only real problem that you have with that definition is the inclusion of the word violence.”
●I would draw your attention to your following phrase to illustrate the differences between our positions: “than being in righteous relationship to God.” You here were referring to how the “world” is the entire collection of human values, etc. based on humanism rather than a “righteous relationship to God.” My view would be that governments do not have a “relationship to God.” Only humans have relationships to God. Governments can be just or unjust or a mixture of the two. Most governments are a mixture of just and unjust principles, procedures, policies and operations. Governing magistrates, also, can be just or unjust whether they are Christians or not. What determines the “justness” of a government is God’s law. If, for instance, a government perverts its God-given purpose and punishes the good people and commends evil-doers (this is not unknown in human history); then, it is an unjust government.
●Again, I believe the simplest way to understand the “world” is to see it as the all those things that are created good by God but are not under the Lordship of Christ. This has the benefit of including Satan in the understanding of the “world.”

You wrote: “The aspect of God’s wrath in biblical theology cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that Christ will in at least some sense assume the role of avenger at the closing of this “World”. However, Jesus’ example set out for his disciples was decidedly non-violent. Given the interpretation of Romans 13 that I offered above- I do not see a disconnect between the way of Jesus and “Apostolic teaching” about the role of government in God’s meta-narrative. I want to say more here but I think I’d be letting my words get ahead of my thoughts. So, lets move on to the last points I want to address tonight.”
●First, I have no idea what a “meta-narrative” is in relationship to theology.
●There is no disconnect in my thinking between the private Christian ethic of non-violence and the public God-given role of government and governing magistrates serving as agents of God’s wrath to punish wrongdoers.

You wrote: “The “Western” world has developed itself with a coinciding mythology that has come to dominate the entire globe’s economics, politics, and academics, imposing itself as the natural, God given, unquestionable norm of human existence. This pseudo- mythical “world” of “Western” superiority has functioned implicitly and often brutally explicitly, to facilitate the conquest and enslavement of indigenous peoples, the exploitation of their labor and natural resources and the genocidal destruction of whole cultures and peoples…as put by fellow Christian and Native author, George E. Tinker.”
●Without having to go into a lengthy apology for Western Civilization which is beyond the scope of this post, please allow me to note a few things in its defense.
1. The true test of the benefit of an economic system is one simple number—the life expectancy of the population. Free market economics for all of its failings easily outstrips all other economic systems at increasing life-span.
2. It is interesting how critics of the West often enjoy the blessings of its affluence and political freedom and yet decry its inherent unfairness in not “distributing” goods and services to everyone with the equal misery that socialist systems provide.
3. The West was the first to provide: public hospitals, free education, abolish slavery, enfranchisement, women’s rights, child labor laws, and nearly universal college education. Additionally, no other civilization in the last 1,000 years can match the West in its support for the arts, culture, science, medicine and human rights.
4. No civilization in human history has been free of causing all kinds of injustice—including Western Civilization. On the other hand, no civilization can match the West in the last 1,000 years for the above.

You wrote: “…my understanding of the Romans 13, the role of government and the definition of “World” is entirely different from what I am getting from your theses. Now, to be fair, what I just said could indeed be resulting from a subjective filter on my own part. Again, it is not my mission to instill guilt or to condemn. My eagerness and passion for this topic stems from a genuine hunger to understand. I invite you to think and respond in a spirit of friendship.”
●Simple, in my understanding, the “world” and government cannot be equivalent. Government is a “good” instituted by God that can be manifested as “just” or “unjust” through the agency of human free choice. If this is not true then no human government could ever be just and God would be wrong for sending all of His OT prophets to condemn unjust Israelite kings. Also, if government is an inherently unjust thing then God would be evil in instituting it and deeming governmental magistrates as His agents of “wrath.”

Thanks for your friendly exchange, it is much appreciated.


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From GA:

Thomisticguy,

I am here myself going to respond to some of your comments directed toward starrider. I am not attempting to speak for him, but much of your conversation with him converges with ours.

You said: “My problem is not with classic Christian pacifism in general. It is the equating of the “world” or “dominion” with government. The thinking would go that a Christian cannot participate in government because it is part of the “world” system or evil “dominion.” However, the Bible specifically states that God instituted government so it cannot be an evil per se. Nor can it be wrong for Christians to participate in governing activities per se. Nor can it be wrong for Christians to serve in governmental roles where they act as “agents of God’s wrath” to “punish” “wrongdoers” per se. To say that any of these things are inherently evil is to come precariously close to Gnostic dualism.”

What you are saying still doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Gnosticism. It seems that this confusion is actually a similar confusion as the one between system and Christianity. You still seem to be confusing world and earth. But I’m not here saying that system is the same as world – only that systems belong to the word in a way, and are related to it – in that both are in a sense human artifices (in a way that earth, or “material and immaterial things” could never be). In other words, artifices, systems and the world are MADE of “material and immaterial things”, but they ARE NOT those things. The globe – MAYBE – but not the world.

The Eucharist, and its extension in Christianity, is in this sense not the same kind of “artifice”, as it is, in a sense “directly” from God (Revealed), minus necessarily the Latin flavor. But the Eucharist or Incarnation as “objectification” is good grounds to highlight the fact that a system depends upon an observer. God is really the only “observer”. We “are known”; LATER “we will know as we are known.” NOW, however, the “world” is seen “as an enigma by means of a mirror.” ONLY God can see from OUTside “all” “material and immaterial things” in a way that they have any real “de-FIN-ition”, or, can be considered “objects”.

Along these lines, funnily enough, the Tirnity is a community. Only God is “objectified” to Himself – with “Himself” as the “observer” upon which the very existence of a “system” depends and hinges (this dependence upon an observer is part of the original Greek word for “system”). God, however, is not “objectified”; humans are not in the position of observing subjects giving definition to God the object/system. We ACTively participate in GOD’s “system”, which means properly that for us there is no such thing as a system. And yet we build them.

You said: “It is atheistic and does not recognize that men have inalienable rights that are endowed by one’s Creator.” Your “inalienable rights” language does not come from Jesus, the Bible or Christianity. In fact it was born out of a whole movement that explicitly and intentionally ran counter to Christianity. It can be said that it is a good value to hold, or even that Christian values would parallel such values, but “inalienable” rights is not a Christian term or idea. Another example of your seeming to confuse clearly distinct things for the telos of your system. By that I do not mean a political agenda. I mean that the system, its values and assertions (rationality, logic, desensitization, abstraction, “transcendent, free-standing subject”, mediumlessness, and their prioritization) leads to a place in which it is not only possible but supposedly fruitful to, on the map of “the world”, place the same dot DOWN on “inalienable rights” and God’s high esteem for private property or the worth of human life.

First of all, such a view places a high value on “cartography” (see Borges story that I emailed to you), and secondly they should properly be two different dots PLACED in two different locations involving two very different traditions (although with strong parallels) and two different cultures (substances, mediums, actualities). If it is actually two different dots, then why would we suddenly on our map make them one? It’s not the values or cultural life of those who lived IN Caanan (where we would place one dot, an actual place). Its really more that of Europe and France (around the Enlightenment or modernity, with origins from earlier, of course), borrowing historically from a whole other dot on the map – Greece (from much earlier).

And if you are a Christian, then why are you concerned with “apologetics” for Western Civilization (see above)!? As an example of what I mean, our current “free education” is actually very much enslaved to “the world” and its workings. Even Harvard, for example, which ISN’T “free”, is becoming commercialized. And, in view of what I was saying about culture, medium and actuality…again, statistics tell us nothing. Earlier I said that statistics “literally” tell us nothing, but more properly, they ACTUALLY tell us nothing.

As for your response TO ME earlier,

Much of what I have already written applies (in both this comment and the one I just posted as a comment on your “faith, hope and love” blog post). The Greek and Hebrew words for “world” didn’t imply its artificial nature the way it does for the Romans. But these Greek and Hebrew roots of the word “world”, to which you refer, are historically grounded in a cultural and actual life that preceeded the systematization for which we take for granted (systems being “artifical”, in the sense to which I am referring here to “artificial”).

As for applying the biblical message to other countries, I’ve already addressed this repeatedly.

As for my “little brown brother elitism”: why do you assume that they need to understand us rather than us them!? You will say, “because ‘my system is Orthodox Christianity’, and Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’” Again, much of what I’ve already said about world, system, earth and artifice applies. It all gets con-fused in an abstracted mediumlessness. You might tell me here that Aristotle’s “concepts” were “material and immaterial composits”, but your general way of speaking outside of that explanation defies Aristotle’s role of materiality.

Also, again, I’m not here making any implications on your character. Only on your system.

Also, you wrote: “There is only one idea of how Christians are to act as individuals in relationship to their enemies—they are to love them. As well, in the Bible there is only one idea regarding the institution of government. Government is instituted by God for the express purpose of serving as God’s instrument of wrath to bring punishment upon the evil-doer. Mixing the two teachings causes all kinds of problems. On one side we could have people attempting to be “agents of God’s wrath” against their neighbors, etc. and on the other side we could have magistrates trying to love rather than punish the Ted Bundy’s .”

That there is only one idea regarding the institution of government in scripture is simply not true, as you seem to aknowledge with the sentence “Mixing the two teachings causes all kinds of problems.” That the Bible is “foolishness to the Greeks” and “causes all kinds of problems” is no reason to ignore the parts that make it sound foolish. So, even still, you haven’t addressed my question about the story of God’s resistance to the Isreali pleas for a king.

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From TG:

G.A.: You wrote, “You still seem to be confusing world and earth.”
●Pardon me for being blunt, but this is completely wrong. Try reading my definitions and the Holman definition again.

You wrote: “But I’m not here saying that system is the same as world – only that systems belong to the word in a way, and are related to it – in that both are in a sense human artifices (in a way that earth, or “material and immaterial things” could never be). In other words, artifices, systems and the world are MADE of “material and immaterial things”, but they ARE NOT those things. The globe – MAYBE – but not the world…We ACTively participate in GOD’s “system”, which means properly that for us there is no such thing as a system. And yet we build them.”
●Okay, so “systems” are “in a sense human artifices” which humans build (organizational systems, theological systems, economic systems, etc.); but, properly speaking there “is no such thing as a system." Do you actually read your own stuff? The word incoherent comes to mind.

You wrote: “But the Eucharist or Incarnation as “objectification” is good grounds to highlight the fact that a system depends upon an observer. God is really the only “observer”. We “are known”; LATER “we will know as we are known.” NOW, however, the “world” is seen “as an enigma by means of a mirror.” ONLY God can see from OUTside “all” “material and immaterial things” in a way that they have any real “de-FIN-ition”, or, can be considered “objects”.
●Okay, I agree, you are a semi-Gnostic, semi-nominalist.

You wrote: “You said: “It is atheistic and does not recognize that men have inalienable rights that are endowed by one’s Creator.” Your “inalienable rights” language does not come from Jesus, the Bible or Christianity. In fact it was born out of a whole movement that explicitly and intentionally ran counter to Christianity. It can be said that it is a good value to hold, or even that Christian values would parallel such values, but “inalienable” rights is not a Christian term or idea.”
●You may not have noticed this but I was not writing about Christianity. Starrider asked me why I thought Communism is an evil political system. I think I know that “inalienable” rights is not a term found in the Bible. It is fine with me if you think humans to not have rights given to them by God—I do.

You wrote: “And if you are a Christian, then why are you concerned with “apologetics” for Western Civilization (see above)!? As an example of what I mean, our current “free education” is actually very much enslaved to “the world” and its workings. Even Harvard, for example, which ISN’T “free”, is becoming commercialized. And, in view of what I was saying about culture, medium and actuality…again, statistics tell us nothing. Earlier I said that statistics “literally” tell us nothing, but more properly, they ACTUALLY tell us nothing.
●If you believed what you are saying and were intellectually honest, you would renounce your citizenship immediately and move to North Korea.

You wrote: “As for my “little brown brother elitism”: why do you assume that they need to understand us rather than us them!?”
●As usual, this is not what I said. I said they are as capable of understanding biblical thought forms as any Anglo.

You wrote: “Also, again, I’m not here making any implications on your character. Only on your system.”
●Yes you are making implications on my Character. Read your own comment again.

You wrote: “That there is only one idea regarding the institution of government in scripture is simply not true,”
●Okay, fine, prove it. Who else instituted government for mankind other than God? Show me.

Regarding Israel, a king and God. The pre-kingdom from of government is called a Formal Theocracy.

My argument still stands, there are two ethics in regard to violence in the NT—one private of non-violence and one public by which God has instituted government as His agent of wrath to punish wrongdoers.


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Comment from me after another long exchange between TG and GA:

TG,GA,

Well, I have spent the last day and a half pondering the high level dialog here (which now seems to be a three way geo-theological marathon) and also the coverage of the sea change in our national government. As a big picture thinker I can see where all these current events and our concurrent topics of discussion are not only relevant but digging at the basic question of "what is the right way to live?". This thread is relevant enough to me personally that i have pretty much suspended writing on my own blog to engage here. This thread is, as I have noted, I can see points where what each of us actually believes overlap. I can also see some very different perspectives and hence different interpretations of the questions at hand. I have been reading it all. So far, I have found nothing to disagree with GA about- although I am not sure I comprehend everything. I surmise that both of you fellows have been priveleged with more education than myself. I have had to look up a few words. BTW- I am going to make another attempt at finishing the degree I started in 1983- and had to give up on due to lack of funds in 1987- and start another degree in theology. TG, I noted in my last post the points where we do not differ and am attempting to clarify in my own mind where exactly it might be that we do differ.

For now, let me offer some thoughts on these remarks.

"Without having to go into a lengthy apology for Western Civilization which is beyond the scope of this post, please allow me to note a few things in its defense."

To narrow down what I was getting at- I was not really addressing the "Euro-West" per se. I was very much addressing the aspect of the "Euro-West" that is bound up with Judeo-Christian philosophy and ideology. The point is not what "The West" has done- but what "Christians" and "Christian Nations" have both done and enabled the doing of. As you have noted- the Judeo-Christian connection in the development of Euro-Western thought, culture, politics, etc.- is inextricable. In a sense- what Western civilization has done is what Christianity has done. The question then is implied, "where is the alleged power of Judeo-Christian, particularly Christian thought to transform hearts and minds, positively aid in the formation of culture and ethics and spiritually liberate and elevate mankind?

examine this quote:

1. The true test of the benefit of an economic system is one simple number—the life expectancy of the population. Free market economics for all of its failings easily outstrips all other economic systems at increasing life-span.

Granted- an economic system is not the same thing as religion or theology- although I think we can agree an economic system is produced by a culture. Any culture is affected from the roots up by the theology (or lack thereof) as it grows cultural values. Thus, theology is inextricably bound to economics, politics, ideology etc. Now, theology, especially Christian theology, makes the strong case that the quantity of life is not nearly as important as the spiritual quality of life. I do not mean to play any kind of race card here, but I am quite familiar with Native American theology and philosophy. In these sets of thoughts one can find the distinctions between indigenous cultures and Euro-Western/Judeo-Christian culture. Of course what I am about to say is an idealization of indegenous culture much the same way as the constitution or a Pepsi commercial is an idealization of American culture. But...in indigenous culture the spiritual freedom, quality and attained wisdom of a life is of far more importance than the quantity of life as expressed in things like life expectancy. I would submit that Christian values are supposed to be of that same priority. Indigenous culture is generally more interested in harmony, balance and the aquisition of maturity than Euro-Western culture. Euro-Western culture, at least these days, is conversely more interested in youth and the preservation of it as well as material ownership and domination. This is demonstrated in everything from fashion, art, advertising and consumerism, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery to the mechanisms of personal gain, self preservation and the spiritual affliction and slavery that comes with the need to perpetuate all of these things. In this "slavery" I see the "World" and I also see how it has through time eroded the message and the power of Christ.

I am tired- However, I want to go over points 2-4 from Tg's set tomorrow.

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From GA:

Starrider,

I generally find your comments thoughtful, refreshing, uplifting, gentle and well articulated. Thank you for taking the time to beautifully articulate some things for which I loose the necessary amount of paientce when communicating with TG. And I wouldn't necessarily come to the conclusion that I am more educated than you. You probably know more about Native American culture than I do about Gnosticism, Deism and Nationalism combined...just to throw out an example. I think we all have something to offer here.

Jason

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Ok, to continue where I left off. I had a very spirited conversation with another fellow at work today along the same lines as this one. In that conversation was unleashed a set of thoughts that I will eventually work up to here. The nutshell version is that we were discussing, in the light of recent political shifts, the definitions of conservative and liberal. After he established what he believed was the definiton of each- I asserted that what he was defining as conservatism was more akin to a kind of quasi-religious/militaristic nationalism and his version of liberalism was essentially anything that called into question that value system. I explained that when I insisted on returning to traditional spiritual values that, depending on my audience, I became either or a conservative or liberal. If I was asserting either Native American values and insisting upon Native sovereignty and spirituality- or spiritual discipleship based upon the New Testament I would be considered a liberal in his authoritarian worldview. If I was talking the same "spiritual values" and insisting a return to traditional ways to an Indian- I would be considered an ultra-conservative traditionalist. If I insist, at Bible class, that I am to operate in a nonviolent mode as Jesus did- I become a confusing mix of conservative and liberal and get lectured about how God somehow did not intend for me to be "legalistic" when the Bible plainly states in John 12 for instance (Amplified version):

"25 Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.]

26 If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.'

Now, I have brought up this- here in this context because I also believe that this verse cuts right to the heart of what we are discussing here. When I said above:
"The question then is implied, "where is the alleged power of Judeo-Christian, particularly Christian thought to transform hearts and minds, positively aid in the formation of culture and ethics and spiritually liberate and elevate mankind?"
- I believe the answer is in this passage from John 12 among others. The power to transform and walk as Jesus walked- is in DISCIPLESHIP and in the non-violent, non materialistic approach of Jesus' worldview and teachings (this does not necessarily mean the total denial of the concept of private property or the concept of basic protection and justice- but it does suggest a value system that is very much alien to the "world"). This "alien worldview" is what is supposed to be different about us as Christians. Otherwise what we have is merely a system of moral ethics that is rooted in humanism and grounded to human value systems like the market economy and the interests of the "world"- self preservation and materialism and the endless summer of youth. Needless to say- "Judeo-Christian culture" seems to have comfortably and conveniently and studiously dodged the implications too much of this. I would not presume to accuse TG of dodging- but I do believe that the real meaning of Romans 13 has been subverted among many and for a long time beneath the mis-interpretation and mis-application of Romans 13 as to "Christian culture". I do not believe that it is wrong for Christians to participate in government or the protection of citizenry...but, the priorities of a Christian should be clearly at odds in many ways with a culture of materialism and the military humanitarianism that is necessary to preserve it. A favorite author of mine, Lee C. Camp, who wrote "Mere Discipleship- Radical Christianity In A Rebellious World" noted in the book: Disciples of Christ do not necessarily make good Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Americans (or Cherokees for that matter).

I also noted for my friend in conversation today that the very fact that the terms conservative and liberal are imposed on us in today's "religious" and "geo-political" dialog- and that everything is generally thought of in an "either- or" fashion with regards to this- is indicative of a certain paternalism, authoritarianism and narrow mindedness that has become part and parcel of "Westernism". We are nearly demanded to use the contemporary American definitions of conservative and liberal- and trying to get outside the box of these very "Western" ideas on such is quite confusing to those who cannot perceive this ethno-centricity. Needless to say- I think a real distinction needs to be made between socio-political conservatism and spiritual conservatism (note that I did not use the term fundamentalist which has yet another connotation). What could be more "conservative" in a Christian/spiritual sense than the very words of Jesus as in John 12: 25-26?

More later.

Blessings to all.

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From TG:

Starrider wrote: “In a sense- what Western civilization has done is what Christianity has done. The question then is implied, "where is the alleged power of Judeo-Christian, particularly Christian thought to transform hearts and minds, positively aid in the formation of culture and ethics and spiritually liberate and elevate mankind?”

●I affirm what you are getting at, yet, I also see that there is a logical fallacy in your thinking here. It looks something like this:

If it's raining then the streets are wet.
The streets are wet.
Therefore, it's raining.

Your first premise seems to be that Western Civilization is Christian (Christianized) and because Western Civilization has done evil things; therefore, Western Christianity is evil. I disagree with this formation of the situation.

●To specifically answer your question, the power to transform hearts and minds is the gospel which it “the power of God unto salvation first to the Jew and then the Gentile.”

You wrote: “But...in indigenous culture the spiritual freedom, quality and attained wisdom of a life is of far more importance than the quantity of life as expressed in things like life expectancy. I would submit that Christian values are supposed to be of that same priority. Indigenous culture is generally more interested in harmony, balance and the aquisition of maturity than Euro-Western culture.”

●I think you are mixing apples and oranges here. I was strictly speaking of the free-market economy as the engine of higher life-expectancy.
●Speaking strictly from a Christian perspective, it is my view that each incarnation of Christianity has something to offer all of the others.

You wrote: “I do not believe that it is wrong for Christians to participate in government or the protection of citizenry...but, the priorities of a Christian should be clearly at odds in many ways with a culture of materialism and the military humanitarianism that is necessary to preserve it. A favorite author of mine, Lee C. Camp, who wrote "Mere Discipleship- Radical Christianity In A Rebellious World" noted in the book: Disciples of Christ do not necessarily make good Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Americans (or Cherokees for that matter).
●The phrase “not necessarily make good…” could cover the gamut from bomb-throwing anarchists killing innocent women and children to Christians submitting willingly to public persecution in the arena in Rome. It is a very big qualifier.
●I think a biblical approach to this has been wonderfully described by St. Peter:

1 Peter 2:12-17 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (Peter immediately goes on to specify how to live this “good” life)
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

●Interesting, isn’t it, how Peter gives proper content to what it means to live the good life in a pagan culture by saying one should submit to governing authorities, do good deeds, show respect for others, love Christians and honor the “king?”


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From GA:

TG,

You speak often of things not being evil "per se". But then, when starrider of myself begin to get to some of the meat and potatoes, which for us implies no "evil per se", you start telling us how what we are claiming to be unhealthy or demonstrated by history as quite problematic in the very ways that we are trying to point out, is not "evil per se". I think you are generally here taking the easy route, and thereby managing to avoid the meat and potatoes on which we chew while managing to chew on your own meatloaf and macaroni and cheese.

I also think that, although you go to great pains to show the logical fallacies in things' being evil "per se", your very language of a thing itself being evil reveals your thinking in "operative" terms in which Being and being, Truth and truth are "mapped over" each other, and thereby look either the same or as if they are "one" (sided). Now, Aquinas probably went through those very logical sequences witch which you grace us, but I would not be mentioning this "mapping" over if we had not already been through this notion of the mapping over of Being and truth through our conversation on Badiou.

Regarding my flawed thinking on Isreal...no. What you are saying is part of and interwoven with my thinking, although I hadn't thought of it as a "formal theocracy". The transition from the earlier tribal situation to the unified monarchy was a huge transition, that DID involve "more government", or a stronger government...to such a degree that it could be said that it was as if a whole new government was being instituted (just as much or if not moreso than any other instance through history, besides the founding of modern Isreal or such unusual cases as that, of a whole new government actually being formed)...and this step was resisted by God in the story. Here I am thinking of "government" in terms of the question of how things HOLD TOGETHER - in the politial realm, a basic and essential question no different for the two very different contexts of Isreal's "theocracy" and a modern nation-state. The picture painted between the lines of Ecclesiastes again becomes relevant here to my question.

G.A.

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My Response:

Gents, Ok, lets look at two statements here.

Yours:
Western Civilization is by its very history and nature a product of Judeo-Christian culture. Just check the artwork until the 18th century. In this sense, all of the nations in the European-Anglo orbit are “Christian.” By the way, Muslims strongly believe this. However, no nation on earth is equivalent to the ancient theocracy of
Israel. A better way to view the Western countries is that they are all at one level or another “Christianized” (i.e. their laws, art, literature, language and culture have all been formed and molded by Christianity).”

Mine:
“In a sense- what Western civilization has done is what Christianity has done. The question then is implied,"where is the alleged power of Judeo-Christian, particularly Christian thought to transform hearts and minds, positively aid in the formation of culture and ethics and spiritually liberate and elevate mankind?”

Yours:
●I affirm what you are getting at, yet, I also see that there is a logical fallacy in your thinking here. It looks
something like this:

If it's raining then the streets are wet.
The streets are wet.
Therefore, it's raining.

Your first premise seems to be that Western Civilization is Christian (Christianized) and because Western Civilization has done evil things; therefore, Western Christianity is evil. I disagree with this formation of the situation.


My comments:

Your first response was part of a answer to a question put forth by me- asking you to define the criteria for determining what constitutes a "Christian Nation". I also asked whether the United Staes was a "Christian Nation."

Using your own logic and the commonly held consensus that "Western Civilization is by its very history and nature a product of Judeo-Christian culture...(i.e. their laws, art, literature, language and culture have all been formed and molded by Christianity).” - I asserted "In a sense- what Western civilization has done is what

Christianity has done" - I believe a fair assesment based upon your own statements.

From there- I am not sure how you are making the logical leap- using the analogy about rainy streets- that I am asserting that both Western Civilization and thus Christianity are inherantly evil. As you correctly imply - this would be tantamount to concluding that God created man- man does evil things, therefore, God is evil. Of course this would be false. I am sure there is a name for the device of debate you are attempting to use here- but I don't have it at instant recall....I'll just call it confusing. I believe that this is the very sort of thing G.A. is referring to with his bit about meat and potatoes. Of course the problem is sin and the misuse of freewill- not God's creation of man or establishment of government "per se". I thought we were all in consensus about that.

I am trying to decipher some of the rest of the wilderness of words in the exchange and will comment further in due time.

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From GA:

Starrider,

Thanks, that was in fact my point about the meat and potatoes.

Jason

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From TG:

Starrider: you wrote, “Christianity has done" - I believe a fair assesment based upon your own statements.
●I am maintaining that Christianity has been a formative influence on Western Civilization. So has Greek philosophy and Judaism as well as the ancient barbarian militarism and their high view of the family. However, it would be wrong to state that Judaism is responsible for the evils done by Western Civilization. This argument could be stated:

Western Civilization is Judeo (Judah-ized)
Western Civilization has done evil things;
Therefore, Judaism is evil.

I think you can see the inherent problems with this syllogism when it is framed with Judaism serving as the culprit. I think we all agree that Western Civilization is Judeo-Christian in the sense that it these two great monotheistic religions have had a profound effect on the development of Western culture, language, art, literature, etc. However, very few people would have the temerity to say that Judaism is the same as Western Civilization and is somehow responsible for all of the nasty things it has done. I would note, however, that people routinely make the claim that Christianity (particularly Catholic Christianity) is virtually the same thing as Western Civilization when it comes to all of the evils done by the West.

You wrote: From there- I am not sure how you are making the logical leap- using the analogy about rainy streets- that I am asserting that both Western Civilization and thus Christianity are inherantly evil. As you correctly imply - this would be tantamount to concluding that God created man- man does evil things, therefore, God is evil. Of course this would be false. I am sure there is a name for the device of debate you are attempting to use here- but I don't have it at instant recall....I'll just call it confusing. I believe that this is the very sort of thing G.A. is referring to with his bit about meat and potatoes. Of course the problem is sin and the misuse of freewill- not God's creation of man or establishment of government "per se". I thought we were all in consensus about that.
●I do think we are all in agreement that man’s free-will is the problem.
●I do not think you have directly stated nor intended to communicate that Christianity or Western Civilization are inherently evil. However, the attempt to bind Christianity to Western Civilization in regard to the hurt or pain it has caused other cultures or societies leads directly to the assumption that Christianity is somehow evil and to my syllogism. Since I believe Christianity is a proper “good” supplied supernaturally by God to humanity, it can only be responsible for blessings and goods that are caused by it. Any evils that can be associated with Christianity are actually a result from man’s sinfulness and the church’s failure to live up to the Christian imperative.


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From me:

GA, I think you'll really appreciate this link:

http://vanguardchurch.blogspot.com/2006/08/myth-of-christian-nation-ch-1.html


I have the book and it is excellent.

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From GA:

T.G.,

You wrote: “Intrinsic to your position is a devaluation of God’s divine monarchy that was even a greater denigration than that stated by the ancient Israelites to Samuel.” Why are you being like this? From your end, this is why I’m exiting the conversation. From my end, it’s the reaction I tend to have. FYI, your take of my words, as expressed here, is ridiculous to the degree that its obviousness would be striking to outside parties (“…how rich”). I don’t even feel the need to defend my position (already stated anyway)…besides; I’ve already exited.

And I think you are again unsuccessfully avoiding the meat and potatoes of mine and starrider’s argument(s). “Any evils that can be associated with Christianity are actually a result from man’s sinfulness and the church’s failure to live up to the Christian imperative.” Our, or at least MY point, is that, as modern people, our having GIVEN our selves to the values and rules of foreign cultures, eschatologies and anthropologies that didn’t originally, nor do they now, point to “our” GOD in the first place, doesn’t help the situation at all either. Hence, for example, my previous “meat and potatoes” comment on Obama and Wallis, which applies no less to the Right.

And thank you Starrider…I have added it to my amazon wishlist, which is quite long as it is. Please pray for me as well. I can be an “ass”. I would prefer that the “gold” not be painted on myself :)

Golden Ass

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From Me:

Yes, on these points we do agree.

●I do think we are all in agreement that man’s free-will is the problem.
●I do not think you have directly stated nor intended to communicate that Christianity or Western Civilization are inherently evil. However, the attempt to bind Christianity to Western Civilization in regard to the hurt or pain it has caused other cultures or societies leads directly to the assumption that Christianity is somehow evil and to my syllogism. Since I believe Christianity is a proper “good” supplied supernaturally by God to humanity, it can only be responsible for blessings and goods that are caused by it. Any evils that can be associated with Christianity are actually a result from man’s sinfulness and the church’s failure to live up to the Christian imperative.

This may be as close as we get to a real consensus. Please note that those who consider a commitment to non-violence as living up to a Christian imperative do not deserve disrespect or ridicule. I believe you have at least attempted to qualify your statements on Christian pacifism...so call it fair enough.

With that, I am not sure I need to address or re-address anything here. I will think about it.



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From TG:

Starrider, you wrote, “Please note that those who consider a commitment to non-violence as living up to a Christian imperative do not deserve disrespect or ridicule.”
●You are probably referring to some of my statements in this post and you are correct. These were not helpful and could be experienced as hurtful. If you or Jason felt disrespected or ridiculed by the statements or tone of the post, I do apologize for being the source of the problem.

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From GA:

TG,

Thank you for your apology, which I accept. I had in fact felt disrespected by your latest misreading of my position, which, it seemd, could only have come out of a lack of care and respect. In this case, actually, it was quite hurtful, because it involved the very heart of my position about God being the one who holds things together...which you not only (according to your arguement) misunderstood (despite my fairly explicit words), but attacked (while ignoring my words that would have otherwise rendered your attack not only meaningless but nonexistent in the first place). I wouldn't be calling it an attack if it wasn't so unfounded in consideration of my own words and position. I not only questioned whether you really thought that I would think that God was unjust and weaker than David, but I questioned both your motivation and your genuineness in such an attack. Honestly, I still question some of those things, but I do nonetheless both appreciate and accept your apology.

Jason

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I came back to the thread later and expressed appreciation later too.

TG and GA got closer to an agreement and kept up the thread for a long time after this. You can find the whole thing in its entirety here (if you have the interest or patience for protracted and confusing dialog):

http://simplegodstuff.blogstream.com/v1/pid/136638.html#TP

32 comments:

ZZMike said...

starrider wrote:
"We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God's plan for mankind."

The simple truth is that if the Arabs had no guns, there would be no war; if the Israelis had no guns there would be no Israel.

Right after that is a comment about "turning the other cheek". Your interpretation is correct. Not only that, but one would strike a slave with the left hand. The advice is to turn the other cheek, and make your adversary strike you as an equal.

But beyond all that, you can turn the other cheek only if you know the other guy isn't going to rip it off your face.

And again: that advice - given to a person - may work between people, but not between nations. The pages of history are littered with the corpses of nations which either would not, or could not, find the strength to fight back.

"Can't we just all get along?" is a good question. We probably could - and have for some 270 years. The problem is that there are those in the world who will not.

I'll take the weekend to read this "longest post".

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