Tuesday 10 October 2006

Propositions on peace and war: a postscript

by Kim Fabricius (a postscript to this discussion)

What a good discussion: resolute statements, discerning replies, penetrating questions – and all spoken with grace and heard with humility. A tribute to the ethos of Faith & Theology. Thank you, all; and thanks to Ben, who has asked me if I’d like to make any final comments. Yes, please!

First – to repeat – the Christian pacifist argument turns on the nature of the triune God; and the normative criterion of the nature of the triune God is the Christ event: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the hinge of history, and his life and teaching, the paradigm for all human action. If there is violence in this God – in this Jesus – the case for pacifism falls. Of course there are plenty of OT references to a violent deity, and a few in the NT too, but unless the opponents of pacifism can demonstrate a violent streak in Jesus himself (the hermeneutical criterion of all scripture), their case is like espresso without caffeine – it lacks the essential ingredient. In my view, the case has not – and cannot – be made.

Second, opponents of pacifism are also surprisingly – or perhaps I should say unsurprisingly – quiet about the pacifist church of the first three centuries. Did the church get it wrong? Or is it that the changing circumstances of the church under empire, and then under nations, changed everything? But if so, why? What does Constantinople – or Washington – have to do with Jerusalem? If Christians were pacifist under pagan rule, why should they abandon pacifism under Christian rule? Indeed, what constitutes “Christian rule”? Is not the very idea that a Christian ruler/government may wield the sword an oxymoron? This is certainly a question that needs to be answered rather than begged. As does the Lutheran idea that secular vocations absolve Christians from obedience to the Prince of Peace.

Third, that hard chestnut, which seems to be the soft-underbelly of Christian pacifism: what about the innocent and defenceless under violent attack, be it family or neighbours at a personal level, or racial/ethnic groups or states at a national/international level? Surely, it is argued, the love commandment itself not only warrants but indeed demands a violent, if surgical, response to violence. But if – and I take this as read – there are no theological grounds whatsoever for violent self-defence (forceful restraint is something altogether different), where is the logic in the leap to justifying the violent defence of others? Furthermore, does not this argument rely on blatantly sub-Christian ethical reasoning – namely, that the end justifies the means? More fundamentally still, does it not assume an understanding of “love” (and “peace”) derived apart from revelation, i.e., apart from the crucified and risen one? In other words, does not the argument rely on natural theology, specifically on natural law theory – i.e., on pagan sources? How interesting that, on peace and war, both Barth, and eventually Bonhoeffer himself, take this detour – or rather cul-de-sac – from their otherwise consistently biblically based and dogmatically mediated ethics.

Fourth, and following, I suggest that the anti-pacifist case is based on a skewered understanding of “realism/pragmatism” (severed from the Jesus-narrative), which in turn is based on the unexamined notion of “common sense.” For what is common sense but a prejudiced way of finding our way around the world which was, if not imbibed with mother’s milk, at least fixed in childhood and adolescence? And what is the gospel if not radically counter-intuitive? Even deeper, the anti-pacifist case seems to accept the assumption that there is nothing worse than oppression, defeat and death. But Christians should know better than that!

Finally, it hardly needs (I hope) to be said that authentic Christian pacifists are not do-nothings, let alone cowards – though (as one wag has put it) being a pacifist between wars is like being a vegetarian between meals. But as Hauerwas rightly insists, pacifism has its roots in Christian character inculcated and matured in everyday discipleship, so that pacifism is not a decision that is made but an identity that is given. Gandhi said that to do nothing in the face of evil is to deny one’s humanity, and to oppose evil with the weapons of the evil-doer is to affirm one’s humanity – but to oppose evil with the weapons of God is to affirm one’s divinity.


Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Kim, this is great. I will link to these too. Great quote by Hauerwas, too; I am sometimes not appreciative enough of Stanley because I think he misreads Yoder in a few (key) places.

BTW, do NOT feel like I could have written these better. You have a gift for focus and brevity that I do not share and can only envy.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps enough has been said about Bonhoeffer in this discussion, but I cannot help but add this note from the documentary on his life, Memories and Perspective. Emma Bonhoeffer, widow of Dietrich’s brother, Klaus, in an interview after the war said that she remarked to Dietrich one day: “How is with you Christians? You are quite happy to have someone else do the dirty work for you while you keep yourself free from this association? Dietrich responded, ‘Well, one should never be happy about such things, but I see what you mean.’” It was not long after that, Emma said, that he entered the conspiracy. Eberhard Bethge reports that when Dietrich was confronted with the possibility that he himself, as a member of the conspiracy might have to carry through the act of killing Hitler, said that, “if it fell to him to carry out the deed, he was prepared to do so, but that he must first resign, formally and officially, from his church. The church should not shield him, and he had no wish to claim its protection.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by E. Bethge, Fortress, 2000, pp. 751-2). Throughout this discussion I kept hearing Emma’s voice, “How is it with you Christians?” Perhaps Dietrich should have said, “That’s how it is with Christians, we can only enter part way into the real, dirty, ambiguous world.” What he actually said in a sermon preached in 1932 was: “[T]he blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness. (cited by Bethge, "Turning Points in Bonhoeffer's Life and Thought," in Bonhoeffer in a World Come of Age, Peter Vorkink, editor, 1968)

David W. Congdon said...


I have had nothing substantial to say, since I agree with virtually every word you have written in both posts. I am currently taking a course at Princeton Seminary on "Toward a Theology of Nonviolence" with George Hunsinger. I can only concur with your lucid and cogently argued propositions.

If I may, let me highly recommend the works by and about André Trocmé. He is a rather unknown figure who helped to coordinate the rescue of nearly 5000 Jews during World War II in his small Protestant town of Le Chambon. Years later he wrote the proto-Politics of Jesus work, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution. Trocmé, like Bonhoeffer, is one of those rare theological minds who is deeply connected to the concrete human situation. Furthermore, he is especially helpful because he proclaims a pacifist ethic as a Reformed pastor. The Anabaptist voice is widely recognized; the Reformed one not so much. I recommend also reading the book about Trocmé by Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.

Anonymous said...

Kim, this wrap up was wonderful. Thank you. I am often faced with the same kind of pragmatic thinking and struggle to come up with an answer other than "I suppose God would have us suffer, then." I don't agree with everything you say, but thank you for saying it, and for saying it so powerfully and succintly.

Anonymous said...

Hi David.

Thanks for your praise. You are one of those guys I now actually keep in mind as I write, admiring your own work as I do - and knowing you have an unerring crapola detector!

I know the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. In fact I once preached a Remembrance Sunday sermon on it - a sermon as parable: "The kingdom of God is like this . . ." - which basically just told its story - "Those who have ears to hear, let them hear . . .". I picked it up from Samuel Wells, Transforming Fate into Destiny: The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas (1998). Thanks for reminding me of the original source and the Hallie. Looks like another trip to Amazon!

I hope your own preaching is going well, at once scaring the do-do out of you and giving you great joy.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob.

Thanks for your kind words too. As a matter of fact, I've just been to your blog. It is comments like your lead there that my wife keeps warning me are going to destroy what little humility I have!

And Hi Ray.

Thanks for the Bonhoeffer. I am not ashamed to say that he is one of my heroes. But I wonder what conclusions you draw from the reminiscences you quote. That Christians, qua Christians, must indeed be pacifists, that they, like Bonhoeffer intended to do, must leave the church before engaging in violence? Or is your citation a reductio ad absurdum of Christian pacifism, that Christians must abandon pacifism as a kind of Pharisaic purity-righteousness?

Of course Jesus himself was not unaware that we live in a "real, dirty, ambiguous world", and the Zealot option was open to him, but he did not take it. And although it is almost in theological bad taste to suggest that Bonhoeffer actually got it wrong when he became involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, I believe that is exactly what his mentor Barth thought.

Perhaps my last word to the whole discussion would be, "Thank God that we live by the forgiveness of sins!" To which I am sure Bonhoeffer himself would add his "Amen!"

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I'll echo the endorsement of Andre Trocme. Actually, pacifists are higher among the French Reformed than among the rest of the Reformed family: Jean Lassere, Jean-Michel Hornus, Andre & Magda Trocme, Jacques Ellul, Paul Ricoeur, etc. I have often wondered whether the experience of the Huguenots being slaughtered at the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre led to a rethinking of the Reformed view on war and peace. Because, while some Reformed and Presbyterians from elsewhere are pacifists, the French Reformed seem to relate their pacifism to their Reformed identity more than most. I wish they'd find a way to export this throughout the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

I'll also endorse Hunsinger VERY highly.

I don't know whether Barth thought Bonhoeffer's participation in the conspiracy was wrong or not. Both Barth and Bonhoeffer's ethics suffer from a kind of "situationism" derived from their fear of rules and general principles. (Yes, these should be subordinate to the narrative--but to ignore their presence in scripture is just bizarre.)

I do know that much of our interpretation of Bonhoeffer's actions comes from Eberhard Bethge and, as grateful to Bethge as every Bonhoeffer student must be, I do not think Bethge the Bonhoeffer protege really understood Dietrich's attraction to nonviolence--any more than he understood his attraction to Roman Catholicism. I think we find deeper insight into Bonhoeffer's pacifism (or near-pacifism) from his FIRST really close friend, Franz Hildebrandt, a Jewish-Christian ordinand who had to flee Nazi Germany for the UK (where he became an ordained Methodist minister) and who taught for some time at Drew University's divinity school before retiring back to the U.K. Hildebrandt clearly thought that Bonhoeffer's joining of the conspiracy was a betrayal of his earlier commitments.

Anonymous said...

I just want to let you all know that, in the forthcoming Fall 2006 issue of the Princeton Theological Review, an interview with Professor George Hunsinger will appear addressing many of the questions raised in this discussion. I encourage you all to read it when it comes out. It will be avaiable at some point in December or January at the journal's website (www.princetontheologicalreview.org). Also, pester your libraries to subscribe!

byron smith said...

Josh has posted a very relevant quote from Miroslav Volf about the necessity of divine violence to uphold pacifist behaviour. (I suspect that AndrewE will like this quote. Hi, Andrew!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Byron - always a man of few words - and always words that are to the point!

Having buttered you up, I will only add that I know Exclusion and Embrace (as well as Free of Charge). Yes, Volf also says (in the former)that "The certainty of God's just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it." I must admit that I find this ending to an otherwise brilliant book disappointing, indeed a non sequitur.

In any case, however, AndrewE will find no succour in Volf for a "just" war. In the penultimate paragraph of Exclusion and Embrace Volf writes: "If one decides to put on soldier's gear instead of carrying one's cross, one should not seek legitimation in the religion that worships the crucified Messiah. For there, blessing is given not to the violent but to the meek (Matthew 5:5)." "Show me," he goes on to conclude in the final paragraph, "one warring party that does not think its war is just!"

Sorry to rain on anyone's (military) parade.

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Volf is not the only one to take that line. That's one of the implications of Millard Lind's _Yahweh is a Warrior_. I'm a bit squeamish about this concept, but there is a logic to it that is deeply biblical: God created human beings and God is Holy and completely Just. If God takes human life in judgment it is God's right.
By contrast, humans are both fallible and fallen/sinful. For us to arrogate to ourselves the "right" to take human life in judgment is to usurp GOD'S role--to destroy the image of God in a human when we have no power to create such. Pro-war types will point to God's use of human intermediaries in judgment, such as using Cyrus of Persia's imperialism to free the Jews from Babylon (going so far as to call Cyrus, "my anointed/messiah"). But there is a huge difference between being the (sinful and also subject to judgment) tool of God and being God's willing and holy servant. The latter have to follow a different way.

It is very interesting that: 1) While the Scriptures clearly affirm that God HAS wrath and meets it out in judgment, God IS love. 2)We are told many places to imitate God's mercy and compassion, but never to imitate God's wrath--instead to leave that to God.

David Shedden said...

Okay, Kim, so the case for pacifism has been made quite soundly in Christ-centred terms. The problem I now see is found in this and other questions you ask (perhaps rhetorically?): 'Is not the very idea that a Christian ruler/government may wield the sword an oxymoron?'

Is not the very idea of a Christian government itself oxymoron? God in Christ reigns, right? Human states and kingdoms are defined by their wielding (or, perhaps, their welding) of the sword. Are we bound as Christians to forsake worldly and human political spheres? I can't imagine a Christian pacifist being a politician in a Western government, or any government for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Byron: i leave it others, better Bonhoeffer scholars than I, to assess the rightness or wrongness of his involvement in the conspiracy. I doubt that he cared murch about any such assessment, not just because the 'situation' was one of almost total dispair, but because of the nature of his radicial, almost paradoxical, view of discipleship. The idea that any kind of violence could be justified was rejected by Bonhoeffer-there are no just wars. But he also rejected refusal to act, even with violence, when it became a matter of acting responsibiy even though it meant acceptance of guilt. I think that Bethge put it well and probably spoke also for Dietrich when he said (rightly or wrongly!), in a paper delivered at a Seattle Conference on Bonhoeffer in 1984, (subsequently published in The Barmen Declaration: Papers from the Seattle Assembly, Herbert G. Locke, editor. New York: The Edwin Mullen Press, 1986). "The necessary interrelationship of our confession and political activism became the burning issue. With the ever-increasing and open persecution of the Jews the unbearable question also rose up at least for Christians who shared Bonhoeffer's view of the matter: with all of your brave acts of confession you still sink deeper and deeper every day into the swamps of complicity with murdering criminals, even if you steadfastly refuse to permit the church to be conformed to heretical Nazi teachings. Hitler never forbade all of these Christ-centered sermons which were courageously proclaimed every Sunday by Confessing Church pastors! Nor did he have to do so. Confession seeks a pulpit from which to proclaim its message, even when this means being brought into court, willing to endure the consequences without too much fussing. Everything depends on publicly speaking with clear and unequivocal words. Resistance must be content to live with unresolved ambivalences, double meanings of acts and actors. No prefabricated justification of actions of political resistance can ever be laid out with confidence. And just this is what many Christians and churches urgently demand for themselves before they can act. Some today who would like to remain unmoved from their pure confession, never passing over this threshold, often ask me how could a man like Pastor Bonhoeffer theologically justify his involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. But such a question is obsolete, even macabre. In the concrete situation of confessing Christ in those years this apparently serious question could only be rephrased as a counter question: how could you confessing purists theologically justify your inaction and non-resistance, when you have already become accomplices of criminals?"
Sorry for the length, that's the end of my pleading for Bonhoeffer, promise!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post so late. My thanks for this discussion. Kim, I think you have helpfully highlighted the real issues at stake.

Interestingly, I think the "hard chestnut" is not the issue of self-defence but what you mentioned earlier:

"Is not the very idea that a Christian ruler/government may wield the sword an oxymoron? This is certainly a question that needs to be answered rather than begged. As does the Lutheran idea that secular vocations absolve Christians from obedience to the Prince of Peace."

No, I do not believe it is an oxymoron. Interestingly, both O'Donovan and Hauerwas accuse the other of having "too little resurrection" in their accounts of ethics. This, I think, is the crucial question. What does the resurrection of Jesus entail for the Christian obedience of the authority? I believe the resurrection of Jesus means that the task of the Christian ruler is to execute judgment on wrongdoing. In obedience to the Prince of Peace they judge, pointing to the final realisation of God's kingdom, where justice and peace will embrace.

Thankyou for the opportunity this discussion has afforded to think through this issue.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and Byron, I do think this is a helpful quote and am glad you alerted me to it. And Kim, I think your response, too, is helpful. My arguments have not been about the existence of "just wars" at all, simply about the way the possibility of judgment needs to be conceived. Although God's final judgment may not involve "violence" per se it will involve punishment of some sort. The ruler who thinks she can mirror this judgment without even the possibility of some kind of violent punishment has too high a view of her capabilities. Although we may not be able to find many "just wars" out there, the conceivability of right judgment through armed conflict remains important.

Jason Hesiak said...

Someone (sorry I don't remember who) said: "What does the resurrection of Jesus entail for the Christian obedience of the authority? I believe the resurrection of Jesus means that the task of the Christian ruler is to execute judgment on wrongdoing. In obedience to the Prince of Peace they judge, pointing to the final realisation of God's kingdom, where justice and peace will embrace." There is probably some theological grounds to what you are saying that I don't know about, but you could easily take your exact framework and say the exact opposite - that the resurrection means that God's got it covered and in obedience to the Prince of Peace we should be peaceful and merciful.

And "Thomisticguy" - you are clearly a bit purterbed, it seems. Your comment got a bit violent there (as did mine earlier in the original post, I'm afraid :) But I got a thing or two to say to you, which will hopefully be taken peacefully.

You said: "If Jesus was (is) not just, then one can make no sense of at least two things: 1) the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem and....Why was Jesus using violent means to cleanse the Temple? I think you can answer this for yourself." It seems to me that you might be misinterpreting Christ's action in the temple. Where are you getting that it was violent (although I figured at the beginning of this discussion that that would come up)? He was angry, but to say that he was violently enacting God's justice, particularly in response to some injustice in the world, I think, is a bit off the point of what he was up to in that symbolic action.

You also said: "If Jesus was (is) not just, then one can make no sense of at least two things...2) the cross itself...Again, if the violence of execution for unjust actions was wrong per se, then the cross itself has no meaning." Your basic point about atonement, I think I can handle...but using that as justification of justification through violence seems to extend the whole thing beyond its original limits of meaning.

You also said: "Frankly, I wonder if you even know what the definition of common sense is." Thomisticguy, not to be reactionary, but I hope you are not referring to a Webster's definition of "common sense". If we want to know the meaning of something, Webster is usually relatively valueless, or at least only valuable up to a certain point. I think in this discussion we are beyond that point.

Then, you said: "Additionally, the non-pacifist (Just War Tradition) is not 'fixed in childhood and adolescence.' I don’t mean to be unkind, but your notions sound rather sophomoric." I think our gracious writer Kim here was referring analogically to the simply fact that children and adolescents, she probably had in mind about a sophmore in H.S. who is good at making use of their reasoning faculty, still lives in the comfort and security of their parent's homes - a situation closer to the womb than the freedom found in the kind of complete adulthood in Christ allowing for martyrdom.

And, Thomisticguy...I don't know quite why you're so enamored with logic and natural law as to take them to be grounds for attacking Kim's arguement. You, dearest nameless one, seem a bit taken by the Enlightenment. I smack it like an abused widow standing her ground (just kidding :)! My Real husband freed me from the bonds of slavery to the "laws of the land" (particularly the "natural" ones)...laws that can possibly lead only to my FATE! But what ELSE is the Ressurection!

And, Thomistic guy, the various scriptures about submission to the authorities, I think, are either in reference to the Jewish ones, or in refrence to a kind of humility and mercy that was precisely to prevent retaliation to those authrities' violent attacks on the early Christians, who themselves were peaceful! To read into that a command to be violent with the hordes is, to me, off point.

And has anyone around here read any Rene Girand!? He seems to turn Thomisticguy's theology a bit on its head (or rather maybe, upon Christ the Scapegoat)! Although that's not why I mention Girand...more just cause I like the guy. A good link if interested:


God bless (or judge, or love, or redeem, or whatever) all you folk,


Jason Hesiak said...

First of all, Thomisticguy, I get the general sense that you took my commentary more personally than I intended. Sorry. Porbably my fault for using the language that I did. I want to be clear, however, that I was not angry, nor was I looking down on you. Clearly, you know what you're talking about. I think sometimes my being playful with my words in a certain way, because such a play has to assume engagement from a certain position, is taken to mean that I am forcing that position onto my audience. That is not the case, but please allow me my play. I see, though, that I was wrong here and there in the things presented onto the gameboard (such as the Websters thing, even though I was going off of your own move from earlier). Again, sorry if you felt demeaned (if my language sounded pejorative) there in any way. Some of my language may have been in reaction to things like, "I don’t mean to be unkind, but your notions sound rather sophomoric." I should not have reacted in that way...sorry.

So, having gotten the history of our conversation out of the way, lets go to the history of Western man. Thanks for the lesson, but I already knew about Aristotle's logic, his Politics and some other stuff too (and that he lived long before the Enlightenment), about Thomas Aquinas and his "realism", among other things such as his Neoplatonic influence (and that he lived a good while before the Enlightenment), and Locke and his empiricism, along with a bit of his ideas on legitimization, more relevant to our conversation, maybe (and that he happened to be an Enlightenment thinker).

More history. You said that the gospel’s being nice and intuitive supports the unity of faith and reason. More precisely you said that the gospel’s being radically counter-intuitive “would mean that there is no relationship between faith and reason.” The history of the matter is that faith and reason were not a fraction as separate as they are in our time. At some actual point in the hi-story of us, it got all separated out, like everything else. On top of that, this separation was actually very recent in history, in modern times, as part of the scientific revolution. On top of THAT, it was for certain ESCHATOLOGICAL ENDS proclaimed and hoped for by that “secular” movement, which relied so heavily on “logic, reason and ‘natural law’” for both its authority and its hopes for a utopian future. Eschatological ends that were different from and ran counter, even in its proclaimed intententions, to the eschatology of Christianity.

Further, the history of the matter is that Jesus, "naturally", sweat blood the night before his crucifixion precisely because of the things about such an event in the story that would make it so radically counterintuitive. Further, the history of the matter is that we have always been called to be disciples of this Jesus character, to be his “Talmid”, to “follow in the dust of the Rabbi”. We are called to be as much like him as possible. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus could have at least TRIED to use force to counter the violence done against him, but he CHOSE against it. And we are called to follow so closely after him that the dust from his sandals gets into our face. We are called to make the choices that he made. Further, the recorded history of the matter is that Jesus was tempted with exactly the kind of magical or political powers that he would have needed to overcome the force of his Roman killers (although Peter's sword, commanded to be put aside, wasn't I suppose but so magical) – BY SATAN, and he overcame that offer, which was a TEMPTATION.

Also, the history of the matter is that no one had any police to call (much less a telephone) when Jesus came in and turned a bunch of tables over and drove out all the money changers. Here is where it actually DOES matter whether the references to surrendering to the authorities were Jewish or Roman. The Romans and Jews of that time might as well have lived in two entire different worlds, just as we live in an entire different world now than did Jesus. We have police we can call if some unwanted stranger comes and climbs a tree in our front yard. Or more relevantly, there are police around the corner waiting to pounce on you if you break the law of "the authorities". You must always be observed at this epistemological distance by the world police (uuhh..the U.S.!) to ensure your righteousness, 'cause how else is God gonna make us right!? His Grace is sufficient!

And there actually IS an instance in the scriptures of Paul himself surrendering to the authority of the high priest – who himself had just broken the law (which was precisely why Paul didn’t realize he was the high priest)! Most of those scriptures are in regards to the Roman authorities, but the commands to surrender to those authorities since they are the agents of God’s justice, in that context, does not necessarily mean that it is God’s will to with his great power overcome violence or injustice with greater violence (a strategy that constitutes much of the disaster of our history). Mostly it just means, “Hey, daah, if you’re a good citizen, which usually doesn’t contradict the law of God anyway, you won’t get bopped up side the head by the authorities (who, under their own law and authority, “yield the sword” for this purpose).”

Because the world we live in is so different from the one in which Jesus lived, we typically don’t realize that Jesus was not forcefully countering the injustices of his day by showing the money changers just how angry he was at them, but that he was, as you hinted, pointing to his identity as Messiah by enacting a judgment upon Isreal that would have only been possible by such a person. Your suggestion that I “actually read the account” was itself pejorative. My point is that Jesus’ message for us in that story is not that violence is justified to counter violence or injustice, as the money changers and authorities weren’t even being violent, or not even unjust really if you look at the actual symbolism of the act (at least that wasn’t the point, not his reason for doing it).

That it does matter that the Jews and Roman were very different people living very different lives in very different worlds is why it is relevant that the commands to surrender to the authorities was in reference to some outside authority besides the gospel of Christ himself who governs his community. This exteriority in regards to those authorities is crucial to the meaning of those texts. Justice or righteousness are not abstracted, alienated, universal principles capable of being, or even best carried out by the “state”, the government or the authorities. The history of the matter is that justice and righteousness are and have been worked out in the difficult relationships between members of the body of Christ, who breathes life into his body. The history of the matter is that when a new king was born, the king exterior to that communal body was for good reason threatened and reacted by having a bunch of children killed – typical for the M.O. of that worldly kingdom of the world. And the history of the matter is that THAT kingdom is NOT the one we are called to imitate. And that the king to whom we DO look for, well, everything, came in direct challenge to that other kingdom – but not in a mode of violence.

Back to the history of faith and reason, in the context of that comment of yours, the whole discourse and world born from it of which that comment is born is a modern one. The discussion of the relationship between those today is largely colored by science’s stealing everything as measurable and reasonable for itself to have its power over it – another typical outworking of that other kingdom. The kingdom to which Kim made reference in saying that the gospel is “radically counter-intuitive”. Another distinction of the kingdom of this world is its obsession with overcoming its fate, or its death, of confirming its existence. “…for the worries of today are enough…” In reality it was obsession with gettng out of this six foot underground hole of worries (ultimatlely that worry of our Fate...our daily necessities are reflections of our fate...necessity means that which is inevitable).

It was to this modern love affair with reason that I made reference in saying that you appeared to be enamored with reason and logic. I am not saying that you should jump up and down and stomp your feet. But Christ’s “goal” (language I generally avoid because of its pragmatist overtones) is not to make us reasonable and logical, but to make us WHOLE, AS ONE. Part of that is for us to re-member all of our self. To be together as one…reason and logic do not reign over everything else, but the Holy Spirit comes to reign in us making us more like Him. This means that we may employ reason and logic, but they are not the by-all end-all authorities, much like how God relates to governmental authorities. “There is no power but of God” reads much different from “The authorities that exist have been established by God”, and the difference implies a whole different set of relationships.

Similarly, in these questions of “natural law”, logic and reason, humans do not “by nature” know that it is unjust for a 32 year-old guy to kill 5 Amish girls. It is because of the image of the “supernatural” God (language I also tend to avoid simply because of the discourse that gives it its meaning) in which they are made. I find it revealing that you said that the Just War Tradition is based in the “nature of God and his eternal law expressed in nature”. I’m not denying the truth of Romans 1. I’m saying its meaning is now colored for us by that modern discourse.

And thanks for clarifying the meaning of justification through atonement for me, but, again, I already knew that (but that’s OK). And again, you “naturally” avoided my point in order to make yours through your explanation of the doctrine about atonement. My point was simply that the whole justification through atonement is not necessarily support for Just War Theory, and could in fact be the opposite. Your point about each person’s being deserving of the just penalty of death for their sin actually supports my apparently sophmoric point about natural law and how it can only lead to death. “You cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless you become like one of these.”

And, by the way, Girand’s theory centers on the difference between a sacrafice of God of himself to break and reveal man’s cycle of violence waged upon himself upon his rivals, and the sacrafice of a man by a mob horde in order to put their sin on him and his death (an sacrificial act where that man becomes the symbolic victim of “this kingdom’s” cycle of violence that is born out of “mimetic rivalry”). By God’s brining of the sin upon himself, it is revealed that the sin is no longer pointed outward toward the symbolic victim, but each man made by that God becomes responsible for his own forgiven sins. The pointer moves inward. Our discussion might be practically meaningless, but that "in here" our country is fighting a meaningless war in vain out of another mimetic rivalry is a fact of the matter that will go down in history...again.

God bless,


Jason Hesiak said...


I could argue with using reason and logic upon the grounds of my own pre-established argument till I'm blue in the face, but I refuse. A woman who marries the wrong guy might as well chop off half her heart. I refuse emphatically. I'm glad you have everything grasped by the logic and reason afforded you by your mind as if you can see everything from the top of King Nimrod's Tower. The power play inherent in the "graspings after wind" of our human reason is apparent in many of your sentences to me. I'm glad you have everything figured out so masterfully, but the rest of us do not hold such a privileged position. That said, however, you should not assume as you so often seem to do that the problem in the conversation is that evevery one else doesn't get it or hasn’t put in their time.

You're putting yourself on the same island that our Western history has encamped the mind, or the cogito or whatever. I can identify this isolation that comes as a result of this power play only because I am so often so guilty of it myself. I refuse, however, to engage with you further because this power play creates an environment in which it is impossible for two dignified humans in Christ to relate to each other under his kingship. This is precisely the blindness of the gun scope. I foresee that someone will threaten your life, you will look them straight in the eyes, and shoot between them. Let me know how you feel afterwards...and let me know if those “feelings” in your estimation at that point have anything at all to do with your being made in God's image, just like the dude whose brains you just blew out with your Westernized and rationalized projectiles, or even if you “think” at that time that “feelings” of a sort might even have a measure of authority at some point.

Along similar lines of thought, however, I would in fact like to emphatically "dispute" your point about our "ability to reasonably understand God’s nature", and this disputation it is close to central to much of my thinking. I even think of such conceptions of man as idolatry at this point in history, but I will not attempt to impose such a view upon you. Hence, for example though, your apparent lack of understanding of my reference to "epistemological distance" and it's relation to the mode of observation in which our modern "policing" occurs. A distancing that was foreign to the ancient folk who wrote our scriptures for us, another example of how the meaning of the text changes in the entirely different world inhabited by the Apostles and ourselves. Call it sophistry for me to try to come to terms with that and how it might affect my life.

You were quick to point out all the ways in which you thought I misunderstood your points, but you never addressed my central point that guided much of what I said and served as the ending encapsulation: that the laws of the land, especially “natural law” can lead nowhere but death. Paul, the same guy who wrote Romans 1, makes emphatic and impassioned references to this central truth of the Gospel in the book of Galatians, even going so far as to unload a curse or two on those who are perverting the gospel and leading the sheep astray. I am not suggesting necessarily that you are doing that, as I am not assuming my own point to be so perfectly right…but either way either of us could make the right points all day, but that we are blue in the face at the end of it would be evidence that we are not in the Spirit and love of Christ, in which case we might as well go bang on some cymbals.

I am OK with disagreement, but I am not OK with being dimeaned by your great powers of logic, reason and scholastic study (which constitute the grounds of your arguement in the first place, which is another reason it is useless for me to continue arguing with you point by point). I almost therfore simply did not respond at all, but felt like I should not leave you in the dark and wondering like that as if you possibly weren't even worthy of a response (as you are clearly worthy).


Ben Myers said...

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this lively and interesting discussion. Although it's probably time to wrap up the current thread, I hope we can continue to discuss related topics in the future.

Thanks again -- and thanks especially to Kim for these excellent posts!

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I think the O'Donovan/Hauerwas dispute over resurrection and its implications for ethics (and specifically nonviolence) is like an earlier dispute I had long noticed between JWT folk and pacifists on "between the times" inaugurated eschatology. It's not that either rejects this, but that different conclusions are drawn.

I realized this in the middle of a seminary debate years ago. My "opponent," (actually a dear brother in Christ who remains a close friend) said frustratedly, "But we have an inaugurated eschatology." I said, "Exactly." We stared at each other.

Finally, I asked him to elaborate. He said, "The Kingdom isn't fully here, yet. We cannot be complete pacifists because there is still sin in the world."

My response was, "In the fullness of the Kingdom to come, we won't need to love enemies because we won't have any. We won't need to pray for those who despitefully use us because no one will.

"The kingdom has come in part, therefore we can now live nonviolently more than previously. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on the whole church as a downpayment of the Rule of God, so we have new spiritual power for living. We base our ethic not on the Age that is Perishing, but on the Inbreaking Age to which our lives as Christians bear witness."

Likewise for the resurrection, which Pannenberg rightly called the prolepsis of the future Kingdom. Among other things, the resurrection is God's seal of approval on the nonviolent Way of Jesus. To use the resurrection as some kind of excuse for NOT following the way of the cross is to miss (at least part) of what God is saying. The Risen Christ is still the Crucified One, the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world.

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

Who says that Christians are ALLOWED to become instruments of God's wrath? There seem to be enough pagans to do that until the eschaton.
Really, shouldn't we make a vocational difference between those whose sin God nevertheless uses as an instrument and those who are called to BE the pattern of the future here and now--i.e., disciples?
Paul calls for the Roman Christians to obey the governing authorities, not to try to become any authority that needs to bear the sword.

(Kim's point about the meaning of sword is also possible, but the exegetical work to show that is more than what is allowable in a comments section.)

Jason Hesiak said...


I am not a Gnostic. Actually I wrote a 32-page paper on its dangers, although this would not have been possilbe without my previous interest in it. And “emmanations” are a Neoplatonic thing. And I am also not an “antinomian”. As I said, Romans 1 and Galations were written by the same guy. In fact your taking to the extreme the possible meanings of my statements by asking me if I am an antinomian is another example of your power trip in the name of “rationality”, as was your putting of your own purposes in Michael’s mouth (to which he made reference).

And concerning my immaturity, particular my comment about your shooting somone, I hope that you have received my email of apology, to which you have not resonded.

And I would appreciate if you would stop urging me to argue with you on your own grounds, or to operate or exist on your grounds in any way: “Actually, I write my own theological blog and defend my positions using coherent arguments and references to the clear meaning of the Scripture. You should give it a try.” I have been to your blog. It does not interest me to engage in that discourse, thank you.

As I hinted before, I believe that, as unfortunate as it is despite my lack of doubt that we both live in the world of the resurrected Christ, we stand on grounds so different as to dissallow any conversation about almost anything, much less pacivism and just war. In other words, I am saying that we are living out the truth of the story of Babylon and the separation of languages. We live in different worlds, and therefore speak differnet languages.

As I said, I am not a Gnostic. I am also not interested in any formulation of where I am. I am willing to tentatively claim being a “Christian mystic”. It is this that turns me away from your whole metaphysical framework, and makes it impossible for us to communicate. It is this position that I believe to be similar to that of Marshall McLuhan, another “Christian mystic”; and that also, as I mentioned in my email, allows me to identify with J.H. Yodern’s idea of “the church as an embodied presence in the world.”

You say you “disagree”, but I believe that you have no “foundational reason” for your disagreement…although I’m sure you would vehemently disagree. “We must begin where we are…Wherever we are: in a text where we believe ourselves to be” (quoted from Marc C. Taylor’s, Erring: A Postmodern A/theology). “...'we must still speak of God (theology, as traditionally understood) while also recognizing that this speech fails to define God (a/theology)’ (p 21). Ultimately, this leads to a separation between what some (many?) now call onto-theology and this ‘new’ discourse (cf Merold Westphal, John Caputo, & James Marsh in Modernity and its Discontents, Westphal's Overcoming Onto-theology, and Stan Grenz's The Named God and the Question of Being, to name a few). I use ‘new’ rather loosely because the proponents of a/theology suggest that they are returning to the pre-Enlightenment, pre-Medieval theology that had been distorted through those two ages. Through this rejection of a ‘view from nowhere,’ Rollins and others (re)paints theology/revelation as concealment in which God reveals God through a mystical/experiential way.” – from (http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/conversation/2006/10/here_is_the_sec.html).

From my comments on that same sight: “…does anyone else find it ironic that we find ourselves SOMEWHERE again when we "reject a 'view from nowhere'"...in attempting an "a/theology" and REJECTING an onto-theology through which we managed to construct this "view from nowhere" that was coupled with a funny "empricism"? How is it that that that sentence actually makes sense and accurately describes our histroy (because to me it does both of those things)?

Anwyay...particularly relevant I think to my working in and through actual MEDIUMS as an architect, and, I think, to Marc Taylor's talk of appearance (surface) and depth (what's underneath) in his book Hiding. "At this point...in this poitn, the body is deprived of its substance and is on the verge of disappearing. The missing body sets in motion a detective story - in all of its (dis)guises." I haven't quite figured out HOW this funny situation comes about, but that's the way it seems to be. Does anyone have The Mystery To A Solution (John T. Irwin) (not too tight and rigorous, I don't think, but relevant)? :)”

Thomisticguy, my guess is that you have problems with the referenced empiricism in my quote, but its all still rooted in the same Greekyness (the different husband to which I previously made reference). My guess too, however, is that you find none of what I referred to as ironic as such, as you seem to avoid “somewhere” like it’s the Plague. Before you visit that site and draw any conclusions, however Thomisticguy, I would like to mention that what you will find there describes me neither fully nor accurately.

Most of this is off topic from this post, but it is on why we are unable to communicate about the topic of this post. So, again, I would greatly appreciate if you stopped urging me to engage with you upon your own grounds. I am not asking that of you, and I would appreciate the same in return.

God bless,


Jason Hesiak said...


I don't appreciate your ignoring my email of apology, even after my bringing it up in a place where I know you have read about it. That's not cool at all. I reached out to you for reconciliation as a result of my own percieved wrongdoing, and you seem to have put up your shield.

And you are acting like a jerk toward Michael. You are acting like he has never read the Bible, is incapable of remembering anything he HAS read, and especially incapable of interpretation of anything he's read. I could be wrong in that he may not feel that same way, but I doubt he appreciates any of that.

It is actions like these that lead to wars (I'm not saying I plan to enter one).

Beyond that you just used the example of the use of a sword in a Saint's martyrdom to support your "Just War Theory". Enough said. Was that too "God's wrath"...how about in response to Paul's "thorn in the flesh"? I neither expect or hope for an answer to that question...


Jason Hesiak said...

Dear All,

I mentioned it publicly, so I wanted to say that Thomisticguy has responded to my email and aceepted my apology (although we had miscommunicated in that he didn't feel that one was needed)...and it seems to have opened the doors for conversation that might be a bit more fruitful.


Anonymous said...

I think you folks should see this blog where Thomisticguy has boasted about one-upping the folks in this blog;


My own comments are down near the bottom with the signature: Starrider

Jason Hesiak said...

Dear all,

After much discussion with Thomisticguy, I left the following comment on his blog:

"A newer and better 'argument'...and what I really wanted to say anyway, but was unable at the time...Thank you T.G., for the help:



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