Friday, 6 October 2006

Ten propositions on peace and war

by Kim Fabricius

1. God is the God of peace. The Father, as the “source of good” (fons bonorum), is the source of peace; the Son, of course, is the Prince of Peace; and the Spirit, as the “bond of love” (vinculum caritatis) between the Father and the Son, is the Spirit of peace. To re-phrase 1 John 1:5: God is non-violent, and in him there is no violence at all.

2. Is this a tendentious use of scripture? Not at all. Christian theology is Trinitarian precisely because it is Christocentric – and it is incontestable that “God is Christ-like, and in him there is no un-Christ-likeness at all” (John V. Taylor). Jesus preached and practiced non-violence – no ifs, ands, or buts. And Jesus is the imago Dei.

3. And the “awkward” New Testament texts? The “sword” in Matthew 10:34 is clearly a metaphor for the conflict that the mission of Jesus provoked; while the “sword” in Luke 22:36 is “grimly ironical” (I. H. Marshall). As for the Cleansing of the Temple, it is hardly a political manifesto but rather an enacted parable (“street theatre,” it’s been called) in the venerable tradition of prophetic symbolism. And Romans 13:1-5? How ironic that just these verses “were taken up by the Christian martyrs of the second century as an integral part of their declarations of loyalty at the moment of execution” (Neil Elliott). Presumably it had not escaped their attention that Romans 13:1-5 happens to be preceded by Romans 12:14-21. There is no support whatsoever in Paul’s letters for Christians engaging in violence. And in the rest of the New Testament, including Revelation, military imagery is deconstructed and deployed in the service of peace: the Lion of Judah goes “Baa!” (Revelation 5:5-6).

4. And the Lord of Hosts of the Old Testament? An ironic counter-question: the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites? More to the point, “the New Testament vision trumps the Old Testament. Just as the New Testament texts render judgments superseding the Old Testament requirements of circumcision and dietary laws, … so also Jesus’ explicit teaching and example of non-violence reshapes our understanding of God and of the covenant community in such a way that killing enemies is no longer a justifiable option” (Richard B. Hays). If angelic armies once bore weapons and cried, “Over the top!”, now they play (mouth) organs and sing, “We shall overcome!”

5. Of course the church has honoured the Sermon on the Mount more in the breach than the observance. They are “counsels” rather than commands (consilia evangelica – the medieval church), or they are inapplicable in the secular realm (Luther), or they are an “interim ethic” (Albert Schweitzer), or they are an impossible ideal (Reinhold Niebuhr, who, by the way, conceded that “the ethic of Jesus is uncompromisingly pacifist”). But although, say, Matthew 5:38-48 is illustrative rather than exhaustive, it is clearly meant to be followed by the entire Christian community – and followed to the letter. But, more, it is spoken to the world – Christian morality is never sectarian – as Matthew 28:20 makes absolutely clear. Observe too the placement of the sixth and final antithesis regarding the love of enemies – it is the radicalisation of the first and the climax of the lot. Declared from a height, it is the Everest of ethics.

6. And so-called Just War theory? It is the Trojan horse in the city of God. If ever there was a knockdown incrimination against natural theology this is it. Its origins lie in Stoicism, the pinnacle of philosophy in the Pax Romana – which, of course, is spin for “imperial terror.” Augustine (who, in fact, was less than satisfied with the implications of his own teaching) acted in haste – and ever since the church has been repenting at leisure. Just War theory is the elephant in the confessional, the bad faith of the church. Its intentions are no doubt good – but then we all know what hell is paved with.

7. And even if there were once a time when a case could be made for the plausibility of Just War theory, that day is long gone. WMD, and the impossibility of meeting the “justice in war” (jus in bello) criteria of proportionality and discrimination, have ensured that only casuistry can save it. And Bush’s so-called “war on terror” has all but discredited casuistry – by the contempt for international treaties and conventions, by the displacement of the more precise principle of pre-emptive strike in response to an immediate threat with the vaguer principle of preventative warfare, and by the repugnant justification of the torture of prisoners. Just War theory is now a busted flush. Even Eberhard Jüngel – and pre-Iraq – says that “the question forces itself inexorably on the church, whether the time has not come in which Christians can only be credible witnesses to Jesus Christ as conscientious objectors.”

8. Time to return to our roots. For its first two hundred-plus years the church was pacifist. “Christ,” wrote Tertullian (c.160-c.225), “in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier” – and Tertullian’s words are echoed by Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, Lactantius, Maximillian, Marcellus, et al. Some scholars suggest that early Christian pacifism had more to do with the prohibition of taking oaths to the emperor than with the non-violence of Jesus, but given the weight of patristic evidence, not to mention the centrality of Christ’s command to love our enemies, that hardly seems likely. In any case, pacifist – radically pacifist – the church was until (you guessed it!) the “nationalisation” and domestication of the church under Constantine. Ever since, mainline churches – Just War theory notwithstanding – have consistently given their blessing to wars fought by the empire or nation in which they resided.

9. Time to return to our roots – and to heed the faithful witness of the historic peace churches (like the Waldensians, the Anabaptists, and the Quakers). Karl Barth was right when he said that pacifism “has almost infinite arguments in its favour and is almost overpoweringly strong.” And it should be remembered that while Barth allowed for war – non-nuclear war – in exceptional, borderline, limiting cases (the German is Grenzfall), Barth’s critique of war is devastating and unique in the history of Protestant political thought. With Barth, the possibility of engaging in war hangs by a thread – and if you want to see even that thread cut, check out John H. Yoder, Karl Barth and the Problem of War (1970). I am a mere monkey: Yoder is the organ-grinder. Even Stanley Hauerwas – as he would fully agree – is not fit to untie Yoder’s Hushpuppies.

10. “But pacifism is so impractical!” – as if Christian ethics were utilitarian! “Get real! We live in a sinful world!” – as if the “damage limitation” of Just War theory, precisely given our sinful world, were realistic! “For the Christian, a realistic apprehension of the world does not consist in factual survey and surmise, but in an evaluative reading of its signs as clues to ultimate meanings and causes” (John Milbank), a reading framed by the Christian narrative, by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In any case, it is not as if the whole church has tried pacifism and found it wanting; the fact is that the whole church has not tried pacifism at all. But let Hauerwas have the last word (if he were my co-writer, he’d take it anyway!). “Nonviolence,” he states, “is not one among other behavioral implications that can be drawn from the gospel but is integral to the shape of Christian convictions…. Indeed, nonviolence is not just one implication among others that can be drawn from our Christian beliefs; it is at the very heart of our understanding of God.” And, pulling no punches: “If we do not think it possible to love our enemies then we should plainly say Jesus is not the Messiah.” But he is! Therefore because we may love our enemies, we must love our enemies.

32 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Spot on.

The only thing I would add is an 11th point - that nonviolence is not a path to righteousness. A pacifist isn't inherently less sinful than a violent person, because the root of our violence is deep within us and doesn't always express itself physically. That even should we succeed in being nonviolent on the political front we would still be sinners gravely in need of a saviour. Is this an excuse to carry on being violent, as Paul would say, "by no means!" It is Christ who gives us the ability to overcome our own sinful natures, so our nonviolence is always HIS nonviolence, not our own.

Though, my blog is much more lowly than yours I invite you to come and check it out. In particular to read the series of posts title "The End..." about eschatology.

http://aricclark.blogspot.com/

Jamie Hollis said...

A Yoder fan myself, I am currently attending AMBS where he was once president. We happen to have a table where you can drop off any books that are no longer needed or wanted and they are free for the taking. A few days ago a huge box of books that were from Yoder's library were placed on the table for distribution! This made for a bright point in my afternoon as I picked out one for myself and one for a friend. Both had a label in the front that verified they were from the library of John Howard Yoder. There is a definite possibility that some might still be available -- would you like me to ship you one if any are left?

David said...

Great post, Kim. Too often, the assumed rhetorical question, "So you'd just let someone come into your house and kill your wife," gets tossed in as if that answers everything. If you say no to that, then you must say yes to killing thousands in "just" war.
How would Jesus have answered that? "You're just going to walk into Jerusalem and let them kill you?" "Yes. I give my life willingly."
However, I would say that although we should be purposeful-pacifists, following the lamb, our Lord, there is a day of reckoning coming, when the lamb will dip his robe in the blood of his enemies. There's wine to be made, and He shall tread it out.
Our job now is to die. But one day we may cry, "How long, oh Lord?!" with the faithful martyrs. And justice will be served. In fact, isn't eschatological judgment the foundation for our readiness to die now? According to 1 Peter 3, pacifism is entrusting our lives to Him who Judges righteously.

andrewE said...

But surely God will one day do violence to the Devil himself? It is hard to get around the idea that there are some things that God will destroy, violently it seems. God does not only suffer; he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

In the discussion of "just war" it seems there is a confusion of church and ruler, and a failure to distinguish who the various commandments are given to. The ruler does not bear the sword in vain, and for the ruler, even the Christian ruler, to be pacifist is to fail to fulfil their responsibility as God's servant. To the church is given the command to "judge not," but the ruler must reward and punish. No doubt it was right for the Christian martyrs to be non-violent to the end; but what if they had been the judges?

Just War has been brutally misused as a way of justifying war. This was, however, never its intention. As Oliver O'Donovan comments, just war was always a proposal of practical reason about "how we may enact just judgment even in the theatre of war."

If the possibility for doing justice through war seems even more unbelievable now than it has in the past, that still should not lead us to commit to a pacifist position on principle. While pacifism may be right for individual Christians confronted with the opposition of the enemy, it cannot be right for a governing authority, because this would throw all responsibility for judgment onto God and ignore the fact that here and now he has graciously given us servants to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

byron said...

I wonder...
The image in Revelation of the rider with blood-stained robes is Christ as he rides out to his enemies. Might the blood be not that of his enemies, but his own blood?

Anonymous said...

"While pacifism may be right for individual Christians confronted with the opposition of the enemy, it cannot be right for a governing authority, because this would throw all responsibility for judgment onto God and ignore the fact that here and now he has graciously given us servants to execute wrath on the wrongdoer."

What you point out is the reason that Christianity is not amenable to use by governing authorities. Power Over others is antithetical to Christ's servant leadership model. As Byron says, when Christ comes the blood he will be covered in is his own and he will not be executing wrath on the wrongdoers but redeeming them. The scandal of the cross is precisely the rejection of violence as a legitimate basis for authority which is what ALL governments rely on.

To say, as the Old Testament often does, that God works behind the military powers of empire is not to say that God intends for violence, but that God is capable of working even in situations of violence and warfare, which are absolutely opposed to God's shalom, for the good of his people. God may yet turn the sinful ways of violent nations to good ends, but the violence itself is always wrong and God would prefer by far that it did not happen in the first place.

RodeoClown said...

To say, as the Old Testament often does, that God works behind the military powers of empire is not to say that God intends for violence, but that God is capable of working even in situations of violence and warfare, which are absolutely opposed to God's shalom, for the good of his people.

What about when God tells the Israelites to completely wipe out whole peoples? Including the women and children, and then getting angry when this wasn't done?

I'd also like to know how you reconcile the idea of a God to whom violence is abhorrent with God's laws (in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) demanding death penalties and sacrifices.

andrewE said...

I disagree with the miner. Christ is the servant leader of the Church, but he is also its leader. He commands and he judges. "Behold I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work." Yes, the blood on Christ's robe in Revelation 20 may be his own blood, but still "from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations" (please don't think I am reading this literally). I agree that what it will look like for the crucified Messiah to judge the nations is still to be disclosed, but I think it's hard to see how it will not involve the powerful execution of just judgment.

Christianity is not "amenable to use" by governing authorities, yes. But the idea of governing with authority and backing up this authority with might is not outside the realm of Christian faith. I agree that violence is not a legitimate basis for authority; but that is not the authority of the ruler who wields the sword in Romans 13 etc. The basis for his authority is that he has been raised up by God, as a servant to provisionally and imperfectly do justice until the final judgment is disclosed in Christ.

andrew

kim fabricius said...

Thanks, all, for your comments so far.

Rodeoclown,
it is true that the "holy war" texts of the OT have been taken by some as eliding Yahweh with Mars and for warranting violent Christian crusades; and even Barth took them as an indication that we cannot rule out a divine mandate for mass murder - which, however, I would put down to his obsessive (and otherwise laudable) concern to safeguard the freedom of God - and to some nominalist eggshells in his understanding of the divine power. But, really, are you suggesting that these texts are now normative, even prescriptive, for Christians? Surely you are just being mischievous! Otherwise your biblical hermeneutics are in need of serious overhaul. As a basic principle, I can only refer you back to my citation from the NT scholar Richard B. Hays in Proposition 4, which itself is based on the sound Reformation principle that the Bible must always be read through the lens of the gospel.

Andrewe,
similarly your reading of Revelation is both too literalist and too isolated, both within the rest of the NT and indeed within the Apocalypse itself. Jesus as the Lamb that was slaughtered - that is John's central Christological image (twenty-eight instances) and by it the rest of his tract must be judged. As Oliver O'Donovan - no pacifist - observes about Revelation's deconstruction of violence: "There is, of course, as has often been observed, something highly paradoxical about the picture of the Prince of Martyrs constituting himself the head of an army of conquest. It is an image which negates itself, canceling, rather than confirming, the significance of the political categories on which it draws." And the same goes for judgement: restorative justice relativises retribution every time.

And, Miner,
thanks for your suggested Proposition 11. I couldn't agree more. Indeed I would argue (and speaking from what self-knowledge I have) that pacifists recognise that they are more, not less, violent than other folk. It is, among other things, their take on the self-deceit of self-righteousness that makes their witness so cogent. I believe that Gandhi was of this opinion too.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

These are great, Kim. As a longtime peace theologian, I have very little with which to quarrel. Yoder was the first work I read after leaving the army in '83 as a conscientious objector. I have now worn out 4 copies of the Politics of Jesus and read everything else he wrote. I am much less enamored of Hauerwas.

But the early church was nonviolent for 3 1/2 centuries--and been heretically disobedient ever since.

RodeoClown said...

Hi Kim,

you said: But, really, are you suggesting that these texts are now normative, even prescriptive, for Christians?

Not at all. But I think that these texts show us that our God is not above calling for or perpetrating violence.

I don't think we as Christians are called to fight - that is no longer necessary for us (as a religion anyway - I'm not discussing whether Christians should join the armed forces).

The god of Israel in the Old Testament is the same God we worship, and he called for violence back then, so to say he is always opposed to it doesn't make sense to me.

Again, not that we are called to be violent, but God is able (and has demonstrated) that he can and will use violence for his ends (and not just use the violence of others).

dan said...

Hello Kim,

Sorry for taking this on a tangent, but not that long ago you wrote "Ten propositions on hell". Inspired by your post, I thought I would do the same. I finally got around to posting my ten propositions and I would really be curious to hear your thoughts (and your thoughts too, Ben!).

The post is here:

http://poserorprophet.livejournal.com/90376.html

Grace and peace.

Greg the explorer said...

Excellent - although you don;t require me blowing wind up your kilt...so to speak!

I have enjoyed reading your 10 propositions on series, especially the one on prayer.

I accept the position that as a Christian pacifism is the only answer, Jesus was all about peace. But how do you harmonise that with the OT warrior God?

How is it that the OT God of war can have changed so much?

Mark said...

Hello Kim,

I found your blog via a trackback from Boar's Head. I appreciate you blogging on this subject. Its funny, but this may seem like a peripheral, non-essential issue, but it directly affects us all. I was in the military and spent a few years in the middle east right after the first Kuwait invasion. Many times I wondered what I would do if I were called to fire upon an 'enemy'. I never quite came to a decision about it either way. A few weeks ago I saw a movie entitled 'End of the Spear' (I recommend it). THe central character is a missionary who ends up being killed by the people he is tryign to reach. Knowing that the natives are violent, his son asks him, 'Won't you shoot if you are attacked....to defend yourself?' He responds ,"Son, how can I shoot? Their souls aren't ready to die, but mine is.'

The older I get, and the more I try to understand what God was trying to do through sending Jesus, the less I am comfortable with violence of any kind...especially war. Wasn't that cited as the reason why God destryoed the earth with a flood...not becuase there were gays, women priests, porn, or corporate greed; but becuase all their thoughts were turned towards violence.

Thanks for the food for thought, and God bless.

Mark N

Patrik said...

We had a good discussion on this subject a few weeks ago on my blog. Chek it out.

Weekend Fisher said...

Actually, the question about letting someone kill your wife/children is still an applicable question -- not for a pre-emptive war (which is going to be on shaky grounds no matter what) but on the question of use of force in general. I think what we've got in current events is one question, but force in general is another. I think there is a positive obligation to defend the helpless, and that those who refuse to defend the helpless are likely culpable in what happens to them, sharing the guilt right along with the person they refused to stop. Meanwhile, that's not exactly the situation in the current wars, is it?

Take care & God bless
WF

David Wilkerson said...

Luke 2:14

And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he [John] said to them "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."


I don't know. I'm a former soldier then I was a pacifist. I'm was a student of Hauerwas now I'm an ex-pacifist. Sitting in a classroom discussing pacifism while the Serbs were daily 'cleansing' the Kosovars was quite the eye-opener. Especially on the heels of Rwanda. Just war theory started looking pretty good.

The whole argument was always only half-convincing to me. It provided a new 'fundamentalism' when I needed it. It seems to work best the more "theological" (abstract, not applied) it is. And it helps to shout it as mere assertion (propositions?) and answer no objections.

Pacifism seems to be derived from deductions from Jesus interpersonal ethics and/or the atonement theory extrapolated to statecraft. Jesus was not concerned with articulating a politics of state or teaching about the nature of violence. He must have had some practical peasant agenda which called for a contextual non-violent response or an apocalytic vision of divine deliverance/violence performed on his and his followers behalf. In the narratives of the gospels themselves the non-violence is not theoretical but plays into Jesus' willing submission to death and forgiveness of his enemies.

Whatever its public implications, he wasn't advising the Romans what to do versus the Persians. It was ethics for his sectarian movement with no view to how the Romans or Herod should police Jerusalem (clubs, swords, citations, etc). I know the gymnastics Hauerwas does to avoid the 'sectarian ethic' charge but I think it sticks.

Jesus message was surely not 'privatized'. It was communal. But he was not articulating an ethics of statecraft or law enforcement whatever we mean by 'public'. The idea that this 'community' would ever have to 'join in' was not being contemplated.

When it became evident that it was indeed necessary to continue in this world a bit longer, the ethics were 'created' not 'compromised'. On how to do this, we have only concrete verses like the above from Luke or Romans 13 or the example of Israel in the OT. Or the broader wisdom of the world which isn't always that bad.

And if the OT needs to be read through the gospel lens, I would say the historical ministry of Jesus needs to be read through the discontinuity of his resurrection. Like Paul who preached rather mundane hellenistic ethics, we must sense the mystical/spiritual/apocalyptic significance of Christ the God-man. He was not just a vindicated social prophet reforming Israel whose teachings live on. Paul didn't insist on non-violence being the key to Christ's lordship or any biographical detail for that matter. If Romans 12 indicates some knowledge of "enemy love" it is certainly remains in the context of interpersonal relations for Paul's sect and thus sits quite comfortably with the idea of the king, the soldiers, and the state doing "what is necessary" versus enemies in Romans 13.

So I disagree with Hauerwas, "Jesus is Lord" apart from the applicability of any ethic he preached (selling of possesions, burial of the dead, etc.) Where in the tradition did anyone locate his lordship there. In a word:
It's the resurrection, stupid.

Of course as Yoder's "Nevertheless" shows just war proponents and pacifists can stand shoulder to shoulder so often the debate seems unnecessary. Christians should provide a critique of or not participate in many military operations. But I would think 'police actions'(Afghanistan?), peacekeeping missions (enforced with guns), actual policing (with guns), etc. should all be permissible to Christians.

But I'm always open to another conversion (unfortunately).

kim fabricius said...

Hi David.

You make some good points. With respect to soldiers, there is not only the Baptist's preaching (Luke 3:14-15) but also - and even more germane - the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10), where nothing is said about this centurion's resignation from the Roman army - though of course nothing is said about his continuing service either. The gospel passages featuring centurions (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10; also Mark 15:39), it seeems to me, however, are irrelevant for our purposes. Still, Luke 3 and especially Acts 10 are a chink in the pacifist's armour (as it were!). Nevertheless, the position of the early church is clear: if there were soldiers in Christian communities, their position would certainly have been "anomalous" (Richard B. Hays).

As for police, it seems to me that their role differs fundamentally from that of soldiers. Some ethicists distinguish the former from the latter by distinguishing "force" from "violence", actions which are intended as restraint from actions which are intended to kill. This argument does make a valid distinction - but I suspect not valid enough to get the pacifist off the hook - unless we are talking anarchist pacifism!

However, among the examples you give at the end of your post, I think you beg the question about Afghanistan being a "police action", and indeed about whether any military operation can be a police action in extrapolation from, say, the work of the NYPD.

And here I raise the whole issue of (American) "gun culture" - which is particularly, and tragically, relevant this week, is it not? If the pacifist position is not entirely flawless, its witness certainly has the ethical upper hand in demanding that we work at making our cultures less violent. In the US, that might begin with gutless Congressmen who call themselves Christian, but who are not only theologically illiterate but also historically ignorant when it comes to the contextual origins of the Second Amendment.

Anonymous said...

The Bible is not univocal about anything - neither is the tradition, but there is a strong and legitimate strand throughout the prophets and in the New Testament that _is_ essentially anarchist. The understanding of prophets like Isaiah, Micha, Hosea and others seems to be that the ideal situation is for government (and the attendant military and police) to be dissolved and for God to reign as Israel's sovereign over all the nations. Jesus, following the messianic expectation (though he often reverses them), seems to point toward this theme by both his individual actions - which many have pointed out do not speak directly to the situation of a governing power and could fall prey to being called a sectarian ethic - but Christ also chooses not to appoint a successor. Prophetic succession is an important issue in the OT (read Elijah, Elisha) and Jesus seems to suggest that he is instead going to fulfill the eschatological hopes of many by causing his spirit to descend on ALL his disciples (read Joel, and Jeremiah 31). Essentially, what I'm saying is that the Christian community is fundamentally anarchist - everyone is given authority to be prophets (God's voice) which ONLY works if everyone is also committed to nonviolence. Now we can argue all day whether this is practical - but practicality does not seem to be the relevant criteria in my opinion.

The question is this - the Church is meant to be the antithesis of empire, the present enactment of our hope for God's coming kingdom... how can we possibly fulfill that if we accomodate ourselves to the demands of empire by making exceptions for violence?

Anonymous said...

Oh! (sorry for taking up so much space)... another thing. The example about the burglar and the wife and children really annoys me, because it assumes that nonviolence and total pacifism are one and the same thing. There is a very big difference between nonviolent, but vehement resistance and passively letting others do harm. Often in fact we only escalate a situation by being violent ourselves when we should have been simply taking a beating, talking them down, or stepping in front and getting the bullet first if necessary. Ultimately, if you resist with your very life, but don't strike back in violence - then you have upheld your responsibility to protect the weak. We must accept that God is in control, and believing that our descending to violence is justified because of the extremity of the situation is to admit that we have more faith in our own ability to handle a situation than in God's providence.

Ben Myers said...

Kim points out that "pacifists recognise that they are more, not less, violent than other folk". I was just reading an interview with U2 in today's Weekend Australian Magazine, where Bono makes a similar point:

"The band are very bemused by my attraction to non-violence, beacuse they know you couldn't get further from the songs than the singer. They understand the reason I have been so attracted to these characters [like Gandhi], the subjects of my songs -- because in life and temperament I am so far from them. There is a rage in me.... I have developed good manners to disguise it."

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Until they ran out of money for my post, I worked for 2 years for a U.S. based group (but with hopes for international chapters everywhere) called "Every Church a Peace Church." The dream is precisely what Kim has called returning to our roots: because the church is to be nonviolent NORMATIVELY. See http://www.ecapc.org/

Joshua said...

Not to return to the Old Testament problem, but I wonder what you do about the fact that one of Israel's core claims about God is that God is warrior. This isn't just an incident of violence here or there, but a fundamental claim regarding the name of God for Israel. Moreover, the major narrative is one of God's victory for little Israel over Egypt, the Caananite's, the Philistine's, etc. It is one thing to claim that the New Testament takes the final word over the Old, but in this case I fear we are glossing the OT witness and coming dangerously close to the Marcion heresy.

With that said, I still find myself quite drawn to all that has been said in this regard for both the Church and Jesus, but I wonder if the texts can really support it. I need something more from the OT than a wave of the hand (which is what Hays seems to do. Interestingly enough his son is currently a member of both my church and school and his doing his work in the OT. I may ask him to offer a guest reflection on all this)

On another note, doesn't force and policing depend on the threat of violence? Hasn't JEsus taught us that the motive and threat are equally as damning as the acted reality?

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Joshua, see _Yahweh is a Warrior_ by Millard Lind. He argues that God as warrior actually functioned in many strands of Scripture (both testaments) to undermine militarism because GOD defends Israel. Israel's wars were, in many ways, a failure to understand the meaning for their security of YHWH as Lord of Hosts.

Jon Rumble said...

Concerning Jesus and violence, what do you make of the idea that Jesus is the commander of the Lord's army in Joshua 5:13-15 (given that he receives Joshua's worship etc?)

For a really quite sad example of how far some people get this wrong, see this "Christian's Guide to Small Arms".

Steve said...

If I love my neighbor, and if he is being attacked, I would step between the two and attempt to stop the attack with whatever force was necessary.

If I knew my neighbor was about to be attacked, and if I loved him, I would attempt to stop the attack.

Christians believe in police officers because they protect against violence, sometimes proactivly if necessary.

The same is true about war, as it is with police and with our neighbors. If you love your neighbor, you step in to protect them.

I am saying this in a simplistic manner, but to me it gives a justification for war.

Aaron said...

I agree with Steve in that although God is not violent in essence, there are many occasions where he has complete justification for the use of violence, like the flood, for example, or the destruction of satan and his followers in Revelation.

God's righteous anger expresses itself in violent ways, and there is no sin in that, there is justice, becuase God's violence is always a response to sin, and is always tempered by mercy.

God is God, and He has no restrictions, we can't de-claw the Lion of Judah, and it's dangerous to try.

roodee said...

Kim,

I'd like to focus for a minute on point two. You mentioned that Jesus preached and practiced non-violence, but I'm wondering how you can come to such a certain conclusion when the body of knowledge that we possess is so sparse. Sure we may be able to determine what he preached (based on the accounts we do have), but to cast such a wide net and state we *know* what he practiced is quite a stretch, even if well-intentioned.

Additionally, and on a related note, you make the claim that Jesus is the "imago Dei". This is excellent, but again we fall victim to what that image looks like. We don't have "The Life and Times of Jesus" or anything close so how can we presume that we have a complete and accurate enough picture to make these kinds of claims? In my view, we can't. Well, we *can*, but I don't think there is sufficient justification for this belief.

kim fabricius said...

Hi Roodee.

Well, if we can't say that Jesus preached and practiced non-violence, I'm not sure what we can say about him. James Dunn puts it bluntly in his A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (2005): "If we are unsatisfied with the Jesus of the Synoptic tradition, then we will simply have to lump it: there is no other truly historical or historic Jesus." And Dunn continues:

"Only the Jesus whom we can see and hear through the influence he had, through the impact he made on his first disciples, as evidenced by the traditions that they formulated and recalled, only that Jesus is available to the quester. But, and this is my point, this Jesus is available to the quester."

And, of course, your critique goes far beyond my Ten Propositions: it trashes the entire theological enterprise. Perhaps that is your point?

Jason Hesiak said...

No one in these comments seems to be addressing THIS:

"'Nonviolence,'... “is not one among other behavioral implications that can be drawn from the gospel but is integral to the shape of Christian convictions…. Indeed, nonviolence is not just one implication among others that can be drawn from our Christian beliefs; it is at the very heart of our understanding of God.' And, pulling no punches: 'If we do not think it possible to love our enemies then we should plainly say Jesus is not the Messiah.' But he is!"

I mean, those who have said they are not fans of Heurwas I suppose are saying they just don't jive with this statement. But if this is true, then what's the point in wondering about all that OT hermeneutical stuff? Either we're Christian or we're not. And this "Christ" with whom we identify ourselves will tell us what we think of these O.T. wars or he will not. Are we Christians, or are we not?

If I go beat up my neighbor because he's beting up my other neighnor, how is my action any different from the neighbor who's beating up the neighbor I'm protecting. The beater-upper, if I give him the benefit of the doubt, has reason to go after the attackee, just as I would have reason to go after him. What gives ME the RIGHT? Am I RIGHT just 'cause "I'm Christian"? Am I still Christian while I'm beating this guy up?

And to take it further then, in what spirit does this attacking occur? And what spirit can it possibly encourage/manifest/bring about. As someone mentioned...it's not gonna make the situatin any better if I use force to prevent force. It will only make the situation worse. As an obvious example, right now the Muslims are GAINING recruits...more pissed at us than ever. Can you blame them? I don't say this as a an example to be lent to some totalizing principle-formation (Rwanda and the Holocause throw big kinks in my chain). But you do reap what you sow.

I'm not the center of the world (despite the illusions granted to me when I ate from the tree that was in the center of the garden), but in this place belongs the One who created the attacker, the attackee and the me.

And just as an as-yet-unmentioned PRACTICAL example...why did the Christians take to the hills when the Romans attacked Jeruselem? If ever there was justification to fight, that would have been it long before any other examples of which I can think (not in terms of just war theory, but in terms of something worth fighting for). And it was this decision by the Christians at the time that lead to as important a split as the church and the synagogue...what was at stake was THIS important...the Christians were willing to face such consequences. Jesus was up to something wholly different...no? "I will rebuild the Temple..." Really? Where is it? Still standing? Are we Christians or are we not?

Was this comment violent? I liked Bono's quote...

roodee said...

"Only the Jesus whom we can see and hear through the influence he had, through the impact he made on his first disciples, as evidenced by the traditions that they formulated and recalled, only that Jesus is available to the quester. But, and this is my point, this Jesus is available to the quester."

I agree with this assessment, but it is your assertion that Jesus *practiced* that gives me some difficulty. From what accounts do you draw upon that provides this sort of conclusion. I may be missing something (which won't be the first or last), but I don't see *that* sort of evidence within the text.

"And, of course, your critique goes far beyond my Ten Propositions: it trashes the entire theological enterprise. Perhaps that is your point?"

No. Not my point at all. I'm not intending to posit some positivist measurement for this sort of endeavor, but it *is* the case that we seem to be using the meager evidence (at the exclusion of the OT) to "prove" our point. There are a variety of themes, ideas and purposes that present far more evidence in the text that this pacificist ideal. It seems to me that we are approaching this pacifist ideology a priori and proving our way out of it.

Thomisticguy said...

Roodee wrote: “I'm not intending to posit some positivist measurement for this sort of endeavor, but it *is* the case that we seem to be using the meager evidence (at the exclusion of the OT) to "prove" our point. There are a variety of themes, ideas and purposes that present far more evidence in the text that this pacificist ideal. It seems to me that we are approaching this pacifist ideology a priori and proving our way out of it.”

● Agreed, the approach here is very much a priori and “proving our way out of it.” I would add that the proofs are very thin and actually are more like clouds floating on air—unsupported.

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