You Do Not Know God Without Suffering

This extended quote picks up a few points into Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, enjoy the suffering…

In case one is wondering, I highly recommend this book as well as Reeves other book, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation. It is the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation… for God’s sake learn about it.


21. The theologian of glory says bad is good and good is bad. The theologian of the cross calls them by their proper name.

This is really quite clear, for as long as a man does not know Christ he does not know God as hidden in sufferings. Such a man, therefore, prefers works to sufferings, and glory to a cross: he prefers powers to weakness, wisdom to foolishness…. These are they the Apostle calls enemies of the cross of Christ. Quite clearly, because they hate the cross and sufferings and certainly love works and the glory that goes with them. And thus they say that the good of the cross is evil, and call the evil of works good. But God is not to be found except in sufferings and in the cross as has been stated already…. It is impossible for a man not to be inflated by his own good works unless the experience of suffering and evil, having previously taken all the spirit out of him and broken him, has taught him that he is nothing and his works are not his own but God’s.

22. The sort of wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in known good works simply inflates a man, and ren­ders him both blind and hard.

This has been said already. For since it is clear that they know nothing about the cross and even hate it, then of ne­cessity they love the opposite, that is wisdom, glory, power and the like….

He who wishes to become wise should not go forward and seek wisdom but should become a fool, go back and seek foolishness. Thus, he who wants to become powerful and famous, to have a good time and enjoy all the good things of life, let him flee from power, fame, enjoyment and a sufficiency of everything and not seek after them. This is the wisdom we are talking about, the wisdom which is foolishness to the world.

The question Luther is addressing is this: How can we know God? There are some visible things humanity could look at: cre­ation, spiritual experiences, miracles. But Luther says that they do not reveal God. Or, rather, they reveal something of God, but it is the kind of knowledge that puffs people up. As a result, people never get beyond their pride to know the real God. This knowledge could “never be enough for a man, nor could it benefit him” (20). People like this think they have knowledge, but they do not—they are fools.

Is God then unknowable? If we cannot know him through what is visible, then can we know him at all? Are we left trying to know God through what is invisible? That is not very prom­ising, because we cannot see it! Luther’s answer is this: God is known through what is contrary. He is known in a hidden way. God’s invisible attributes are revealed in suffering and the cross: glory in shame, wisdom in folly, power in weakness, victory in defeat. God is known through the message of the cross.

So what Luther calls theologia crucis, “the theology of the cross,” is not so much an understanding of how the cross saves us (though, of course, that mattered to Luther). Even more, it is an approach to knowing God. It claims that knowing him starts with the cross. And this starting point turns all our notions of God and how he can be known upside down.

The theology of the cross stems from Luther’s understanding of righteousness and justification. Luther’s great realization was that God justified sinners. God declares to be just those who are unjust. Luther realized that if that is so, human notions of justice can never lead us to understand God’s justice. God’s justice is revealed in the opposite of justice: in the justification of the unjust. Alister McGrath says:

Luther’s discovery of the “wonderful new definition of righteousness” is essentially programmatic, and capable of being applied to other divine attributes… leading ultimately to the theologia crucis, the “theology of the cross”….

…For Luther, the “righteousness of God” is revealed exclusively in the cross, contradicting human preconcep­tions and expectations of the form that revelation should take.

If knowledge of God could be obtained from what is vis­ible (creation, spiritual experiences, miracles), it would lead to pride. Imagine if we knew God through creation. The people who knew him best would be those with the brains to under­stand the science of the universe. Or imagine we knew God through spiritual experience. The people who knew God would be those wealthy enough to spend time in contemplation. Peo­ple would be able to say, “I know God through my intelligence or my spirituality or my morality or my power.” It would lead to pride, and this pride would then obscure the glory and grace of God.

But God determined that he would be known through suf­fering so that he would be hidden from all those who exalt themselves. Here Luther is echoing the words of Jesus in Mat­thew 11:25-26: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

The opposite of the theology of the cross are theologies of glory. The theologians of glory pursue wisdom, experience, and miracles and say that suffering is bad. But the theologian of the cross values suffering as that through which God is re­vealed. Knowledge of God is not found through human wis­dom, human powers, or human achievements. It is found in the foolishness of the cross.

The religious leaders at the cross are like theologians of glory. They think God will reveal himself in a powerful act in which Jesus comes down from the cross (Mark 15:29-32). But by faith the centurion sees God revealed in the suffering and abandonment of Jesus (Mark 15:39).

Luther talks about God’s “alien work,” opus alienum, his actions which are alien to his nature, but by which he achieves his “proper work,” opus proprium. Sometimes God assaults us in order to break us. In this light, suffering can be seen as a gracious divine gift.

Only someone who has had “all the spirit [taken] out of him and [been] broken” can know God. Often Luther is translated as saying that “humility” is the precondition for knowing God. But the word is really “humiliation.” Only someone who is humiliated before God can truly know him. In other words, Luther is not commending a certain type of piety that paves the way to a better understanding of God. He is saying that we have to come to the end of ourselves before we accept God’s gracious revelation. In another context Luther gave this advice to those who aspired to study theology:

I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself. . . . The method of which I am speaking is the one which the holy king David teaches in Psalm 119. . . . Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout the psalm and run thus: oratio, meditatio, tentatio [prayer, meditation, trials].

Trials are a key way in which we learn the truth about God. Luther had in mind verses like these:

Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word. (Ps. 119:67)

It is good for me that I was afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes. (Ps. 119:71)

I know, 0 LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Ps. 119:75)

It is often trials that move knowledge from our heads and embed it in our hearts.

Luther was skeptical about the value of philosophy in the­ology. “Theology is heaven, yes even the kingdom of heaven; man however is earth and his speculations are smoke.” Luther, never knowingly understated, described “reason” as the Devil’s whore, a beast and the enemy of God. In fact Luther valued reason in matters of human society. He also valued reason as a tool to order biblical material. But we cannot discover the truth about God through human reason. Quite the opposite—reason leads us astray because the God revealed in the cross is contrary to human expectations.

Instead, to recognize God in the absence of God, to recog­nize victory in defeat, to recognize glory in shame requires faith. God is known only by faith. And because knowing him requires faith, this is an act of grace.

So God can be known only by those to whom he gives faith. Salvation is by grace alone. We are used to that idea. But it is the same for our knowledge of God. It is not just our salvation that is by faith alone and grace alone. We do not contribute to our knowledge of God. It is all God’s doing. Our knowledge of God is by grace alone. You do not know God because you were cleverer than other people or have greater spiritual insight or spend more time in contemplation. You know God because he has graciously revealed himself to you in the message of the cross. It is an act of grace. God reveals himself in a hidden way in order to safeguard the graciousness of revelation.

So the cross subverts all human notions of glory. The mes­sage we proclaim—the message of Christ crucified—is foolish­ness and weakness in the sight of the world. This is Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians. Indeed, in many ways Luther’s theology of the cross often feels like an extended meditation of 1 Corinthians 1. In 1:23-25 we read:

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

And with this foolish, weak message of the cross goes a foolish, weak community of the cross.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the pres­ence of God. (1:27-29)

So the cross leaves no scope for human boasting. Instead our one boast is in Christ Jesus, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Therefore, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:30-31).

Let us summarize the key features of Luther’s theology of the cross [McGrath again]:

[…..]

5. God is particularly known through suffering. It is not just that God can be known through suffering, but that he uses suffering to make himself known. And for Luther this encompasses both the sufferings of Christ and the suffer­ings of the individual. God humiliates us so that we may know him.

Theistic Evolution ~ Wayne Grudem

What follows is the section of the book Professor Wayne Grudem was touching on in his class:


2. Some Theories About Creation Seem Clearly Inconsistent With the Teachings of Scripture. In this section we will examine three types of explanation of the origin of the universe that seem clearly inconsistent with Scripture.

a. Secular Theories: For the sake of completeness we mention here only briefly that any purely secular theories of the origin of the universe would be unacceptable for those who believe in Scripture. A “secular” theory is any theory of the origin of the universe that does not see an infinite-personal God as responsible for creating the universe by intelligent design. Thus, the “big bang” theory (in a secular form in which God is excluded), or any theories that hold that matter has always existed, would be inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture that God created the universe out of nothing, and that he did so for his own glory. (When Darwinian evolution is thought of in a totally materialistic sense, as it most often is, it would belong in this category also.)19

b. Theistic Evolution: Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin’s book Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), some Christians have proposed that living organisms came about by the process of evolution that Darwin proposed, but that God guided that process so that the result was just what he wanted it to be. This view is called theistic evolution because it advocates belief in God (it is “theistic”) and in evolution too. Many who hold to theistic evolution would propose that God intervened in the process at some crucial points, usually (1) the creation of matter at the beginning, (2) the creation of the simplest life form, and (3) the creation of man. But, with the possible exception of those points of intervention, theistic evolutionists hold that evolution proceeded in the ways now discovered by natural scientists, and that it was the process that God decided to use in allowing all of the other forms of life on earth to develop. They believe that the random mutation of living things led to the evolution of higher life forms through the fact that those that had an “adaptive advantage” (a mutation that allowed them to be better fitted to survive in their environment) lived when others did not.

Theistic evolutionists are quite prepared to change their views of the way evolution came about, because, according to their standpoint, the Bible does not specify how it happened. It is therefore up to us to discover this through ordinary scientific investigation. They would argue that as we learn more and more about the way in which evolution came about, we are simply learning more and more about the process that God used to bring about the development of life forms.

The objections to theistic evolution are as follows:


1. The clear teaching of Scripture that there is purposefulness in God’s work of creation seems incompatible with the randomness demanded by evolutionary theory. When Scripture reports that God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24), it pictures God as doing things intentionally and with a purpose for each thing he does. But this is the opposite of allowing mutations to proceed entirely randomly, with no purpose for the millions of mutations that would have to come about, under evolutionary theory, before a new species could emerge.

The fundamental difference between a biblical view of creation and theistic evolution lies here: the driving force that brings about change and the development of new species in all evolutionary schemes is randomness. Without the random mutation of organisms you do not have evolution in the modem scientific sense at all. Random mutation is the underlying force that brings about eventual development from the simplest to the most complex life forms. But the driving force in the development of new organisms according to Scripture is God’s intelligent design. God created “the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind” (Gen. 1:21 Niv). “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and – all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25 my). These statements seem inconsistent with the idea of God creating or directing or observing millions of random mutations, none of which were “very good” in the way he intended, none of which really were the kinds of plants or animals he wanted to have on the earth. Instead of the straightforward biblical account of God’s creation, the theistic evolution view has to understand events to have occurred something like this:

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.” And after three hundred eighty-seven million four hundred ninety-two thousand eight hundred seventy-one attempts, God finally made a mouse that worked.

That may seem a strange explanation, but it is precisely what the theistic evolutionist must postulate for each of the hundreds of thousands of different kinds of plants and animals on the earth: they all developed through a process of random mutation over millions of years, gradually increasing in complexity as occasional mutations turned out to be advantageous to the creature.

A theistic evolutionist may object that God intervened in the process and guided it at many points in the direction he wanted it to go. But once this is allowed then there is purpose and intelligent design in the process—we no longer have evolution at all, because there is no longer random mutation (at the points of divine interaction). No secular evolutionist would accept such intervention by an intelligent, purposeful Creator. But once a Christian agrees to some active, purposeful design by God, then there is no longer any need for randomness or any development emerging from random mutation. Thus we may as well have God immediately creating each distinct creature without thousands of attempts that fail.

2. Scripture pictures God’s creative word as bringing immediate response. When the Bible talks about God’s creative word it emphasizes the power of his word and its ability to accomplish his purpose.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood forth. (Ps. 33:6, 9)

This kind of statement seems incompatible with the idea that God spoke and after millions of years and millions of random mutations in living things his power brought about the result that he had called for. Rather, as soon as God says, “Let the earth put forth vegetation,” the very next sentence tells us, “And it was so” (Gen. 1:11).

3. When Scripture tells us that God made plants and animals to reproduce “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:11, 24), it suggests that God created many different types of plants and animals and that, though there would be some differentiation among them (note many different sizes, races, and personal characteristics among human beings!), nonetheless there would be some narrow limits to the kind of change that could come about through genetic mutations.20

4. God’s present active role in creating or forming every living thing that now comes into being is hard to reconcile with the distant “hands off” kind of oversight of evolution that is proposed by theistic evolution. David is able to confess, “You formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). And God said to Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Ex. 4:11). God makes the grass grow (Ps. 104:14; Matt. 6:30) and feeds the birds (Mau. 6:26) and the other creatures of the forest (Ps. 104:21, 27-30). If God is so involved in causing the growth and development of every step of every living thing even now, does it seem consistent with Scripture to say that these life forms were originally brought about by an evolutionary process directed by random mutation rather than by God’s direct, purposeful creation, and that only after they had been created did he begin his active involvement in directing them each moment?

5. The special creation of Adam, and Eve from him, is a strong reason to break with theistic evolution. Those theistic evolutionists who argue for a special creation of Adam and Eve because of the statements in Genesis 1-2 have really broken with evolutionary theory at the point that is of most concern to human beings anyway. But if, on the basis of Scripture, we insist upon God’s special intervention at the point of the creation of Adam and Eve, then what is to prevent our allowing that God intervened, in a similar way, in the creation of living organisms?

We must realize that the special creation of Adam and Eve as recorded in Scripture shows them to be far different from the nearly animal, just barely human creatures that evolutionists would say were the first humans, creatures who descended from ancestors that were highly developed nonhuman apelike creatures. Scripture pictures the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, as possessing highly developed linguistic, moral, and spiritual abilities from the moment they were created. They can talk with each other. They can even talk with God. They are very different from the nearly animal first humans, descended from nonhuman apelike creatures, of evolutionary theory.

Some may object that Genesis 1-2 does not intend to portray Adam and Eve as literal individuals, but (a) the historical narrative in Genesis continues without a break into the obviously historical material about Abraham (Gen. 12), showing that the author intended the entire section to be historical,21 and (b) in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49, Paul affirms the existence of the “one man” Adam through whom sin came into the world, and bases his discussion of Christ’s representative work of earning salvation on the previous historical pattern of Adam being a representative for mankind as well. Moreover, the New Testament elsewhere clearly understands Adam and Eve to be historical figures (cf. Luke 3:38; Acts 17:26; 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13-14). The New Testament also assumes the historicity of the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain (Heb. 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11) and Abel (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51; Heb. 11:4; 12:24).

6. There are many scientific problems with evolutionary theory (see the following section). The increasing number of questions about the validity of the theory of evolution being raised even by non-Christians in various scientific disciplines indicates that anyone who claims to be forced to believe in evolution because the “scientific facts” leave no other option has simply not considered all the evidence on the other side. The scientific data do not force one to accept evolution, and if the scriptural record argues convincingly against it as well, it does not seem to be a valid theory for a Christian to adopt.

It seems most appropriate to conclude in the words of geologist Davis A. Young, “The position of theistic evolutionism as expressed by some of its proponents is not a consistently Christian position. It is not a truly biblical position, for it is based in part on principles that are imported into Christianity.”22 According to Louis Berkhof “theistic evolution is really a child of embarrassment, which calls God in at periodic intervals to help nature over the chasms that yawn at her feet. It is neither the biblical doctrine of creation, nor a consistent theory of evolution.”23


Footnotes


[19] See pp. 279-87 below, for a discussion of Darwinian evolution.

[20] “We do not need to insist that the Hebrew word min (“kind”) corresponds exactly with the biological category “species,” for that is simply a modern means of classifying different living things. But the Hebrew word does seem to indicate a narrow specification of various types of living things. It is used, for example, to speak of several very specific types of animals that bear young and are distinguished according to their “kind.” Scripture speaks of “the falcon according to its kind,” “every raven according to its kind,” “the hawk according to its kind,” “the heron according to its kind,” and “the locust according to its kind” (Lev. 11:14, 15, 16, 19, 22). Other animals that exist according to an individual “kind” are the cricket, grasshopper, great lizard, buzzard, kite, sea gull, and stork (Lev. 11:22, 29; Deut. 14:13, 14, 15, 18). These are very specific kinds of animals, and God created them so that they would reproduce only according to their own “kinds.” It seems that this would allow only for diversification within each of these types of animals (larger or smaller hawks, hawks of different color and with different shapes of beaks, etc.), but certainly not any “macroevolutionary” change into entirely different kinds of birds. (Frair and Davis, A Case for Creation, p. 129, think that “kind” may correspond to family or order today, or else to no precise twentieth-century equivalent.)

[21] Note the phrase “These are the generations of” introducing successive sections in the Genesis narrative at Gen. 2:4 (heavens and the earth); 5:1 (Adam); 6:9 (Noah); 10:1 (the sons of Noah); 11:10 (Shem); 11:27 (Terah, the father of Abraham); 25:12 (Ishmael); 25:19 (Isaac); 36:1 (Esau); and 37:2 (Jacob). The translation of the phrase may differ in various English versions, but the Hebrew expression is the same and literally says, “These are the generations of….” By this literary device the author has introduced various sections of his historical narrative, tying it all together in a unified whole, and indicating that it is to be understood as history-writing of the same sort throughout. If the author intends us to understand Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as historical figures, then he also intends us to understand Adam and Eve as historical figures.

[22] Davis A. Young, Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), p. 38. Young includes a discussion of the views of Richard H. Bube, one of the leading proponents of theistic evolution today (pp. 33-35).

[23] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 139-40.

 

3-Hindu Philosophies Concisely Explained

  • James E. Taylor, Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 257-259.

JESUS AND HINDUISM

Hinduism may be the most metaphysically diverse of all religious traditions, since its practitioners have been polytheists, monotheists, pantheists, panentheists, atheists, and agnostics. This metaphysical diversity is grounded in the widespread Hindu conviction that the truth about ultimate reality is inexpressible and unknowable.

The Hindu name for ultimate reality is Brahman. In spite of the general skepticism just mentioned, many Hindu scholars have studied the Vedic texts (especially the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma-sutra) to articulate an understanding of Brahman and Brahman’s relationship to the universe. The philosophical/theological systems formulated are called Vedanta. The three most in­fluential vedantic thinkers are Sankara (788-820), Ramanuja (1017-1137), and Madhya (thirteenth century AD).

Sankara’s view is called Advaita (non-duality) Vedanta. According to this worldview, reality is one, and the one is Brahman. It follows that the only absolute reality is Brahman, and therefore every­thing that exists is Brahman. Thus, each individual atman (soul) is identical with Atman (the world soul), and Atman is the same thing as Brahman. Though Brahman may seem to be a personal lord with a variety of divine attributes who is worthy of worship, Brahman is really impersonal (and so not appropriately worshiped) and completely without different and distinct qualities (except for being, consciousness, and bliss). This is clearly a version of pan­theism, which accounts for polytheism at the popular level: The allegedly many gods are just manifestations of Brahman. Sankara says that the assumption that there are many real things (human be­ings, animals, plants, inorganic things, different qualities of things, etc.) is due to ignorance and that this ignorance is caused by maya (illusion). According to his view, salvation comes through eliminating maya and the ignorance based on it by becoming enlightened. Enlightenment in­volves grasping that everything (including oneself, of course) is really (distinctionless and impersonal) Brahman.

Sankara’s interpretation of the Vedas is philosophically problematic, and because of this, it does not provide a plausible chal­lenge to Christian exclusivism. The main problem with his view is that it says, on the one hand, that there is only one thing and thus no distinctions between different kinds of things, and, on the other hand, that there is a distinction between maya and ultimate reality, ignorance and enlightenment, bondage to samsara and liberation from it, and so on. In short, Sankara’s Hindu theology is self-contradictory. Moreover, it does not help to distinguish, as Sankara does, between absolute reality (Brahman) and conventional reality (maya). This too is a distinction between two different things, and if Brahman is all, then there cannot be two different things. An additional problem is that Sankara’s view is inconsistent with the wisdom of collective human sensory experience, which reveals a world of many real things. An appeal to mystical experience does not save his position. There is no good reason to trust such an experience, since insofar as it supports Sankara’s view, it contradicts both reason and sense perception.

Ramanuja is a later Hindu thinker who tried to improve on Sankara’s theology by attempting to be faithful to the theme of unity between Atman and Brahman in the Vedas while avoiding contradiction. His theology is a qualified nondualism. According to his view, the universe is Brahman’s body, which emerges or emanates eternally out of Brahman and through which Brahman expresses itself. As such, the universe is coeternal with and dependent on Brahman, but it is not the same thing as Brahman. Therefore, the universe can consist in many different things, including souls, which are not identical with Brahman. If we take this to mean that the universe is part of Brahman, then Ramanuja’s theology is a version of panentheism. If instead Brahman’s body is not a part of Brahman, then Ramanuja’s view is a version of contingency monotheism. Either way, Ramanuja avoids Sankara’s pantheism. Moreover, whereas Sankara conceives of Brahman as impersonal, Ramanuja believes Brahman is a personal God who has become incarnate in many forms (such as Rama and Krishna)2 and who gives grace to save human beings who love him and are devoted to him (but this salvation does not involve atonement).i

Though Ramanuja’s picture of reality avoids the contradictory antirealism of Sankara’s approach, and though it includes some Christian themes, it faces a problem of evil that is more serious than the one afflicting the Abrahamic faiths. In the first place, if his view is panentheistic, so that the universe is part of God and the universe contains evil, then a part of God is evil. But Ramanuja says that God is perfect. Therefore, the universe does not contain evil, or God is not perfect, or the universe is not a part of God. Since it seems best to affirm the last of these alternatives, it seems best to reject the panentheistic interpretation of Ramanuja’s theology. Second, since Ramanuja affirms the eternality of souls (a consequence of his denial of creation ex nihilo), then those souls that have not yet been liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth have already suffered eternally. But this is an experience equivalent to eternal suffering in hell—at least with respect to length of time. Therefore, all of us still caught in the cycle of death and rebirth have no freedom of choice in this life to avoid eternal suffer­ing. We have already endured it! According to the Christian view, all human beings suffer only a finite amount during the one earthly existence they are granted, and they are given an opportunity to choose freely whether to suffer eternally apart from God. Moreover, there is consequently a much greater amount of pain and suffering for which Ramanuja needs to account than there is in the Christian view.

The third Hindu theologian is Madhya. According to his view, the universe is eternal and completely independent of God. His theology is a member of the cosmological dualism family. Thus, he avoids the problems facing Sankara’s panthe­ism and the panentheist interpretation of Ramanuja. Moreover, he says God is the designer of the universe but not the creator. Therefore, his theology does not have to explain why God either created or eternally generates a universe that contains evil, pain, and suffering. Like Ramanuja, he also affirms that God is personal, has become incarnate in different forms, and offers salvation by grace.

But Madhva’s account of God and the world has two serious problems. First, from the standpoint of Hinduism, it does not affirm the close relationship between God and the universe that is taught by the Vedas. Second, it can provide no satisfying philosophical explanation of the existence of the universe. Since Madhva’s position is that the universe is both eternal and independent, the universe’s existence is a brute fact. But the Abrahamic faiths and the other versions of Hinduism can all explain the existence of the universe as identical with God (Sankara), a part of or dependent on God (Ramanuja), or created by God out of nothing (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Therefore, these other theologies are supe­rior to Madhva’s theology in this respect.

2. In Hinduism, an incarnation of God is called an avatar.

i. RPT’s note. Ramanuja seems close to some theistic beliefs, but one should be aware that he lived around 1017–1137 AD, and so borrowed from Christianity to try and “fix” the glaring problems in Hinduism. 

Jesus “Descension” Into Hell

There are three notable perspectives:

  1. Christ spent his three days suffering the wrath of God.
  2. Christ spent his three days proclaiming his victory over the Satanic kingdom.
  3. Christ spent his three days preaching the Gospel to the Old Testament believers who dwelt in a separated portion of the netherworld.

(Blue Letter Bible)

Here is a look at the non-Biblical version of this view that Jesus descended into hell:

  • I pray he went to the bottom of Hell, because if he didn’t, you’d have to go. You better hope he took on every sickness and disease. You better hope he suffered every pain that could ever be felt because whatever he didn’t take on you and I would have to take on. But I thank God that he took it all upon his self. (Joyce Meyers also said Jesus went to hell showing her affiliation with this heresy). – Creflo Dollar

(Let Us Reason).

  • Satan conquered Jesus on the Cross…. It wasn’t a physical death on the cross that paid the price for sin…anybody can do that…. He [Jesus] allowed the devil to drag Him into the depths of hell….He allowed Himself to come under Satan’s control…every demon in hell came down on Him to annihilate Him….They tortured Him beyond anything anybody had ever conceived. For three days He suffered everything there is to suffer. – Kenneth Copeland

(Word on the Word Faith)

(Word on the Word Faith h-t for the above videos)

The main issue with this false doctrine is that it renders the work on the cross null… here is a good clip of Mark Driscoll explaining the issue well. (This was a clip from Mark’s sermon, “Suffering to Learn – 1 Peter 3:17-22“):

Here as well is a quick confrontation by WATCHMAN explaining the core of the deviation,

…Another is the distortion of what Jesus meant on the cross when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The teachers of this movement emphasize the “spiritual” death of Christ almost to the exclusion of His “physical” death. The problem with this is simply that it is unbiblical. The Bible’s emphasis is on the physical death of Christ, not the spiritual. The teaching of scripture is: “Without shedding of blood (physical) is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22, parenthesis mine).

As regarding Christ’s words, “It is finished”, the word in the Greek is tetelistai and is rendered “to bring to an end” or “paid for in full” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). What Christ was saying was that the work of redemption (paying for sin and securing salvation) was complete. If Christ did anything else beyond “It is finished,” in order to pay for sin, something is added to His completed work. This is what the Word-Faith teachers have done when they teach that salvation was completed in hell, after Christ died on the cross!…

For a dealing with Joel Osteen’s view, see a post entitled, “Joel Osteen’s False Teaching That Jesus went to Hell, by Lori Eldridge.” The implications of this false view of “It Is Finished” is noted by Matt Slick of CARM:

IMPLICATIONS OF TETELESTAI

The implications of Jesus’ words on the cross are eternally positive for those who repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior–by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. However, the implications of Jesus’ words on the cross are eternally negative for any organization or individual who seeks to add to, detract from, or replace not only Jesus’ words on the cross, but also the work He accomplished to the glory of God the Father.

Every man-made religion and each of their faithful adherents stand, right now, in the cross-hairs of God’s wrath. “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:34-36).

  1. Roman Catholicism denies the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross through the practice and observance of the mass. During the mass, through the unbiblically magical art of transubstantiation (Jesus literally becoming the bread and the wine), Jesus must sacrifice Himself again and again for sin.
  2. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by denying Christ died on the cross and by insisting one must be a member of the Watchtower Society and obey the Law of God to receive their demonic brand of salvation.
  3. Mormonism denies the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by adding their perceived righteousness and works to their ungodly salvation process. According to 2 Nephi 25:23, in the Book of Mormon, salvation is by grace, plus works. “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
  4. Islam denies the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by seeing Jesus as nothing more than a prophet, second to their false prophet Muhammad. They also believe it was Judas (a treacherous false convert), not Jesus, who died on the cross.

But the implications of Jesus’ words on the cross extend beyond false religions and into American Evangelicalism.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by spending time and resources wooing the unsaved to the “Christian Club” instead of calling them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, how many times I have heard the testimonies of professing Christians–testimonies that culminate with happy membership at a church and not with the bending of the knee, in repentance and by faith, at the foot of the cross.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, diminishing the gospel as the power of God for salvation, by insisting Jesus and the gospel need the help of man’s innovation and perceived ability to make the gospel more palatable. This is demonstrated through gimmicks, sales pitches, bait and switch tactics, and playing to the primal desires of health, wealth, prosperity, ease, comfort, and happiness without accountability.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by teaching unbiblical mantras such as:

  • “Christians have to earn the right to share the gospel with someone.”
  • “Unbelievers need to see Jesus in you before they will hear what you have to say.”
  • “People need to hear more than ‘Jesus can forgive your sins and give you eternal life.’ They need help with the real problems they’re facing today.”

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus’ finished work on the cross by failing to distinguish service, helps, and hospitality from evangelism, which is the actual and literal presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and bound for Hell.

And the list goes on…

And It Does


POST-SCRIPT


A person on my YouTube pointed something out…. and it is this: that there are orthodox views about this “visit” to hell. Period. Here is his comment:

  • The bible says in 1 peter 3:19 that he went to hell to proclaim his victory, not to suffer. the false doctrine isn’t that he went to hell, it is that it had anything to do with atonement.

HANK HANEGRAAFF reigns is the idea to allow for Biblical views rather than just one narrow view:

An Updated Dallas Willard Tribute (Critique Expanded)

A fellow bibliophile passes (updated tribute).

….Because Dallas wrote on spiritual formation and taught philosophy at the University of Southern California, one might think he came from a background associated with richness of education and culture and resources. In fact, he grew up in very poor circumstances in rural Missouri. His mother died when he was two; her last words to her husband were: “Keep eternity before the children.”

Because of impoverished conditions, Dallas grew up in a circle of different families; electricity did not come until he was mostly grown up.

He read a book by Jack London once that contained a passage describing the world from an atheistic point of view. Dallas said that he’d never known books could contain such thoughts and ideas, and his mind was never quite the same after that awakening. He was nine years old at the time.

He became an insatiable reader. He attended Tennessee Temple and did graduate work at Baylor before receiving his Ph D in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then teaching for nearly 50 years at USC, where for a time he was director of the philosophy department. His particular area of study was the philosophy of mind and logic, and he is regarded as a leading translator and authority on the work of the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. He was, along with scholars like William Alston and Alvin Plantinga, a significant influence in a renaissance of evangelical thinkers in contemporary academic philosophy.

His home, like his mind, was furnished mostly with books. He had a secondary library that occupied a second house; a tertiary library that filled his office at USC. After his diagnosis, a group of us packed up well over 100 boxes of books that only made it to his quaternary library in a nearby garage, books in multiple languages stretching from Homer to the present….

(Christianity Today)

Take note that while a solid believing Christian can glean some practical wisdom and life organizing skills from Dallas Willard… this same Christian should be wary of Dallas’ theological bent. Dallas was off in his theology…he was a UNIVERSALIST in the mold of other Emergent theologians:

The short video (above) gives a critical eye into some thoughts of Dr. Willard, as well as this article by Bob DeWaay. SOLA SISTERS has some good commentary to “garnish the above:

Dallas Willard and popular author John Ortberg have teamed together to create a new product being launched right now called Monvee.  What is Monvee? Monvee, which bills itself as “the future of spiritual formation,” is an online assessment tool that is used to “handcraft” a personalized plan for spiritual development for its participants.  That sounds great, except that there’s a problem.  And that problem, one of them anyway, is Dallas Willard.

Dallas Willard, for those who don’t know him, has been a darling of the evangelical world for years.  He has been a prolific writer in Christendom, churning out very popular books such as The Divine Conspiracy (Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year in 1998), The Spirit of the Disciplines, Hearing God, Renovation of the Heart, and, most recently, The Great Omission.  But Dallas Willard, though he is identified as an evangelical, is anything but orthodox in his views.  In a recent interview, Willard made these shocking statements:

“Now, I believe that everyone who deserves to be saved will be saved no matter where they are or what they do.” 

“(God) is open and in touch with everyone in the world, and for all who seek them with all of their heart—and that is defined in terms of coming to love Him, and not just have the right beliefs about Him—but coming to love Him, and loving their neighbor as themselves.”

And then on Dallas Willard’s own website, he makes this universalist statement:

“I am not going to stand in the way of anyone whom God wants to save. I am not going to say ‘he can’t save them.’ I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can.  It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved.”

In these statements, Dallas Willard – a professing Christian, might I remind you – is making the classic argument put forward by all skeptics who don’t want to believe Jesus when Jesus said these words: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me.”  And that argument is this: what about the “good Buddhist” or the “good atheist?” I know that it feels good and more loving to think that God will save people, who to our eyes anyway, appear to be good, decent, moral people.  Our error comes when we view this problem with human eyes, and not with God’s eyes.  More importantly, we use our own standards for “good” to gauge a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” rather than God’s holy standard.

[….]

So my final question is, if Dallas Willard is a Universalist, as it appears to me, where does that leave John Ortberg, his partner and co-creator of Monvee?  And what does that make Monvee…..a good thing or a bad thing?  We’ll look at that in more detail in an upcoming post.

The following [long] audios comes by way of Chris Rosbrough from PIRATE CHRISTIAN RADIO. They are — again — long, and allow the astute listener some insights into where the late Dr. Willard may have been missing the Gospel target.

But Dallas Willard is not the only person promoting some bad theology via New Age authors and books (like the below) and authors:

Dr. J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy for Biola, tells us in his 2007 book Kingdom Triangle that “spiritual formation should be studied…and insights gained should be implemented.” Then among the four books he would “invest” himself in “absorbing” is “Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline [which] has earned the title of a contemporary classic” (157).

Reformed theologian J.I. Packer says in the foreword of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney, said: “Ever since Richard Foster rang the bell with his Celebration of Discipline (1978), discussing the various disciplines has become a staple element of conservative Christian in-talk in North America. This is a happy thing” (9, emphasis mine).

(source)

I will explain why anyone recommending this work is either ignorant of it’s contents, or theologically soft on cults and the occult. Celebration of Discipline is a New Age book, here are some scans of a couple worrisome parts (click to enlarge). Here are pages 27 through 28 from Richard Foster’s book:

And page 170 from the 1st printing (this was changed in later printings):

Moral Objections To Voting For Trump |Wayne Grudem|

PRO: Wayne Grudem

CON: John Mark Reynolds

(See my POST on the issue)

Theologian Wayne Grudem deals with the moral objections to not voting for Trump (the entire article is actually MORE than just this):

It isn’t even close. I overwhelmingly support Trump’s policies and believe that Clinton’s policies will seriously damage the nation, perhaps forever. On the Supreme Court, abortion, religious liberty, sexual orientation regulations, taxes, economic growth, the minimum wage, school choice, Obamacare, protection from terrorists, immigration, the military, energy, and safety in our cities, I think Trump is far better than Clinton (see below for details). Again and again, Trump supports the policies I advocated in my 2010 book Politics According to the Bible.

[….]

Moral Objections To Voting For Trump

Several Christian friends tell me they still have some moral objections to voting for Trump. They say evangelicals should vote for a third-party candidate. Here is why I am not persuaded by their objections:

(1) “My conscience won’t let me vote for Trump.”

Answer: I fail to see how your conscience lets you help Hillary Clinton get elected, for that is the result of withholding your vote from Trump. Does it not trouble your conscience to help advance the terrible harm that she will bring to the nation? (See details below.)

(2) “Voting for Trump means you approve of his immoral treatment of women.”

Answer: No, it absolutely does not. In my Oct. 9 opinion piece, I proclaimed to all the world that his treatment of women was morally wrong. And so did every other evangelical leader who is supporting him.

(3) “When faced with the lesser of two evils, choose neither one.”

Answer: I agree with this principle when facing a choice between doing two evil actions. For example, when faced with a choice between stealing and telling a lie, I should choose neither one. But this is not that kind of situation. We are not talking about doing something evil. We are talking about voting.

Yes, it is morally evil to commit adultery. It is also morally wrong toapprove of committing adultery. But that does not mean it is morally evil to vote for someone who has committed adultery. In a world affected by sin, voting for morally flawed people is unavoidable. Voting for the candidate you think will be best for the country (or do the least harm to the country) is not a morally evil action, so this objection does not apply.

(4) “If you vote for Trump you’ll never have credibility in the future when you say that character matters.”

Answer: I disagree. The current chaos over Trump’s candidacy (and Clinton’s) is mostly because of character issues, and character will continue to matter in future elections, perhaps even more so because of this election.

On the other hand, if you refuse to vote for Trump, how can you ever have credibility in the future when you say that the policy differences between candidates and between political parties matter?

I have read the Republican platform and the Democratic platform for this year. In my opinion, the Republican platform is more consistent with biblical moral principles than any platform I have ever read. And the Democratic platform is more antithetical to Christian principles than any platform I have read. This is important, because most elected officials vote consistently with their party’s platform most of the time. Policy differences do ultimately determine the future of the nation.

(5) “We have to send the Republican party a message that a candidate like Trump is unacceptable.”

Answer: You don’t have to. You want to, perhaps thinking that it will demonstrate moral courage and heroism. But the leadership of the Republican party already knew that Trump was the most unacceptable of all the choices we had. They fought tooth and nail against Trump in the primaries, and he won anyway.

Is it worth turning the country over to a corrupt Clinton political machine that is hostile to Christian values, just to “send a message” that the party leaders already agree with? That’s a steep price to pay.

And why not vote to help defeat Clinton and send the entire nation the message that a candidate like Clinton is even more unacceptable?

(6) “It is wrong for Christians to place their trust in a morally compromised man.”

Answer: Our ultimate trust of course should be in God alone. But the question in this election is not whether we trust Trump or God. The question is whether we trust Trump or Clinton.

When the apostle Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Festus, he saw that things were going badly, so he said, “I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11). But “Caesar” was the emperor Nero, an immoral and corrupt person. This doesn’t mean that Paul was trusting in Nero instead of in God, but it means he wisely decided that he would have a better chance for a fair trial under Nero than under Festus.

Similarly, I think we have a much better chance for good government under Trump than under Clinton.

(7) “I could never tell my friends that I voted for Trump.”

Answer: Why not? Are you acting out of a misplaced fear of what your friends will think? The future of the country is at stake. Is it worth it for you to pay the price of disapproval from your friends?

(8) “We should vote for neither one and trust a sovereign God to bring about his good purposes for the nation.”

Answer: Every time I hear this objection, I think of the story of a man who climbed up to the roof of his house in a flood and prayed for God to save him. A man with a boat came along and urged him to get in, but he refused, saying, “God will save me.” Another boat came and he gave the same response. Finally, as the waters were lapping at his feet, a helicopter came and dropped a rescue harness to him. He waved it away, yelling out, “God will save me!”

Then he drowned in the flood, and when he got to heaven, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me when I prayed to you?” God replied, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”

The moral of the story is that God often works through human means to answer our prayers. And I think that the ballot box in this election is still the human means that God has given in answer to our prayers that he would deliver us from the increasing opposition to Christian values brought on by the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. Why not vote for the candidate whose policies are best, and also trust God for the future of the nation? Please don’t wave away the helicopter – even a faulty helicopter – and later say to God, “Why didn’t you save us?”

(9) “Are there no limits to what you will tolerate in a candidate?”

Answer: This is the question that set me back on my heels and threw me into a few days of uncertainty after the release of the Trump video.

In the end, I decided it is useless at this point to speculate about all possible future elections. The question facing us is how we should vote in this election, given what we know now. The question is whether Clinton or Trump would be a better president. My conclusion is that, because I agree with his policies, Trump is the far better choice.

(10) “My vote doesn’t really matter. I don’t even live in a battleground state.”

Answer: This election is unlike any other in our lifetimes, and it is possible that the polls are more wrong than they have ever been. Individual votes matter. George W. Bush became president because of only 537 votes in Florida in 2000.

In addition, your vote sends a signal. Every vote in every state affects the margin of victory for the winning candidate. A large nationwide victory gives a strong political mandate and a lot of political clout going forward. A small victory gives a weak mandate and less political clout going forward.

In future years, people will ask, “In 2016, did you do what you could to stop Hillary Clinton or did you vote in a way that helped and encouraged her?” If we fail to vote to stop Clinton and her support for abortion rights, government imposition of gender confusion on our children, hate speech laws used to silence Christians, and government-sanctioned exclusion of thousands of Christians from their lifelong occupations because they won’t bow to the homosexual agenda — will our failure to oppose these evils destroy our Christian witness for the future? Will our grandchildren ask us why we failed to at least vote to try to stop the imminent triumph of anti-Christian liberal tyranny when we had the ability to do so?

(11) “I can’t trust Trump to do what he promises.”

Answer: This objection carries no weight with me. It asks me to believe that Clinton will be a better president than Trump even though Clinton promises to do what I considerbad things for the country while Trump promises to do good things. This objection says I should vote third-party and help the person who promises to do bad things rather than vote for the person who promises to do good things. This is nonsense.

Of course we cannot know Trump or Clinton’s future conduct with 100% certainty, but we should decide based on the most likely results. And the most likely result is that both Trump and Clinton will do most or all of what they have promised. That’s what elected officials always do, or they lose the support of their own party and become totally ineffective. Their policy differences matter a lot.

Yes, Trump has changed his mind, but notice how he has changed his mind. His policy statements continue to move in a more conservative direction, and he has chosen a very conservative vice president and list of judicial appointments. His transition team includes many solid conservatives, and they will determine many of his appointments and much of what his administration will do. Just as he succeeded in business by listening to the best experts to solve each problem, I suspect that he has been learning from the best experts in conservative political thought and has increasingly found that conservative solutions really work. We should applaud these changes.

His choice of Indiana governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate is an especially significant indication that he will govern as a conservative. Pence was outstanding when he debated Tim Kaine in the vice presidential debate. Trump could have picked a moderate but instead picked a lifelong solid conservative who is a thoughtful, gracious policy wizard. Pence is a lawyer and former talk radio host who served 12 years in Congress and had significant congressional leadership positions, so he will be immensely helpful in working with Congress. He is a committed evangelical Christian. He is a former board member of the Indiana Family Institute, a conservative Christian lobbying group in Indiana.

(12) Conclusion on moral objections

Trump has a morally tainted past. I will be voting for him, not with joy but reluctantly because of his deplorable past mistreatment of women. I wish the Republican candidate were someone with a spotless moral reputation (such as Mike Pence). But because anything I do will help elect either Trump or Clinton, these moral objections raised against voting for Trump are not finally persuasive to me. Most of them become even stronger arguments for voting to stop Clinton.

 

Kierkegaard’s Maturing Faith

The main reason for this upload is similar to my post on Augustine… that is, people’s views mature and change over a lifetime. Similarly, at the beginning of Kierkegaard’s works he was very existential. But as he and his faith matured he mentioned and placed his trust in Jesus fully. A great example of how he and all of us mature in our faith. For more clear thinking like this, visit Premier Christianity’s show, “Unbelievable?

Here is an interesting interview with Clifford Williams, teacher of philosophy at Trinity College in Deerfield, IL. He is an author of Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires & Emotions for Faith. He talks about his background and how he got into philosophy, the role of philosophy in theology and apologetics, the meaning of “existential” and the existential argument for belief in God, needs and desires and their role in the existential argument, various objections to the argument, the role of the argument in a cumulative case for God, practical application for apologetics.

Keep in mind in our very “rational” | “scientific” Western mind, often the softer side of life, faith, and what it means to be an emotional being is often times neglected.

Theologian Wayne Grudem on Pacifism (+Ravi Zacharias)

This is the first of a couple posts/Excerpts that will highlight “Just War Theory,” Pacifism, and the like. By far this is one of the best resources that I will start this series of excerpts [and later some thoughts] with. It should sit on every serious Christians shelf. Enjoy:


Pacifism


  • Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-44, 388-394.

[p.36>]

C. ALL GOVERNMENT IS EVIL AND DEMONIC

According to this third view, all use of government power is deeply infected by evil, demonic forces. The realm of government power is the realm of Satan and his forces, and therefore all governmental use of “power over” someone is “worldly” and is not the way of life that Jesus taught.

Those who hold this view also usually favor military pacifism. They argue that since Jesus told us to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), the best way to resolve disputes—even among nations—is never to use military force, but always to negotiate and build friend­ships and act in a Christlike way, showing love to other nations.

 1. Support from Luke 4:6

This viewpoint has been strongly promoted by Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd in his influ­ential book The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Boyd’s views in this book have had a large impact in the United States, especially on younger evangelical voters.

Boyd says that all civil government is “demonic” (p. 21). Boyd’s primary evidence is Satan’s statement to Jesus in Luke 4:

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5-7).

Boyd emphasizes Satan’s claim that all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world “has been delivered to me” and then says that Jesus “doesn’t dispute the Devil’s claim [p.37>] to own them. Apparently, the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan.”29

Boyd goes on to say, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments.”30 This is indeed a thoroughgoing claim!

2. The mistake of depending on Luke 4:6

Greg Boyd is clearly wrong at this point. Jesus tells us how to evaluate Satan’s claims, for he says that Satan “has nothing to do with the truth” because

“there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist the temptation itself, and this he did with the decisive words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve ‘” (Luke 4:8).

In evaluating Boyd’s claim that “the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan,” we have a choice: Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies? The answer is easy: Satan wanted Jesus to believe a lie, and he wants us to believe that same lie, that he is the ruler of earthly governments.31

By contrast, there are some very specific verses in the Bible that tell us how we should think of civil governments. These verses do not agree with Satan’s claim in Luke 4:6 or with Boyd’s claim about Satan’s authority over all earthly governments. Rather, these verses where God (not Satan) is speaking portray civil government as a gift from God, something that is subject to God’s rule (not Satan) and used by God for his purposes. Here are some of those passages:

“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no author­ity except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are the ministers of God, attending to this very thing (Rom. 13:1-6).

[p.38>] Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:13-14).

At this point it is interesting that both Paul (in Romans) and Peter see civil govern­ment as doing the opposite of what Satan does: civil governments are established by God “to punish those who do evil,” but Satan encourages those who do evil! Civil governments are established by God “to praise those who do good,” but Satan discourages and attacks those who do good. In addition, it would not make sense for Peter to say, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every institution in which Satan is the CEO.” Peter would not want Christian citizens to be subject to Satan’s control and direction.

The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his con­trol, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. (Of course, Satan can influence some individuals in government, but he is not in control.) The only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “all government is demonic.”

3. But where did Jesus ever teach us to use force?

In supporting his position, Boyd often appeals to the teachings of Jesus rather than the teachings of the whole Bible. For example, “Jesus didn’t come to give us the Christian answer to the world’s many socio-political quandaries”32 Boyd also says that the “just war” theory is “something that Christ never taught or hinted at”33 (quoting George Zabelka with approval).

But this form of argument fails to recognize that the whole Bible was given to us by God. We have no right to restrict our views to the teachings of Jesus in the four Gospels. If the main teaching on civil government in the Bible is found in Genesis 9:5-6, and in the historical narratives and laws in Exodus to Deuteronomy and Judges to 2 Chron­icles, and in Romans 13, and in 1 Peter 2:13-14, then getting Christians to neglect those passages gets them to misunderstand what the Bible says about civil government. That is exactly what-Boyd is doing when he asks, “Where did Jesus ever act or talk like this?”34 The answer is that the whole Bible comes with the authority of God and the authority of Jesus Christ, and our position on government should be based on the teaching of the whole Bible. (Also, Jesus did seem to authorize the use of a sword for self-defense and protection against robbers in Luke 22:36-38; see discussion below on pp. 201-3.)

4. Support from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

One other argument used by Boyd depends on the Greek writer Homer in his epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Boyd says that

[p.39>] in Homer “the gods” are always involved in the affairs of humans…. For Homer, the inevitability of war is not just the result of conflicting passions—it has a supernatural dimension. And all the while, Zeus sits on Mount Olympus, amused by the sport of it all.35

Boyd says that if we understand these Greek “gods” to be demonic forces, then

Homer was also right about the gods…. Our tribal, territorial, and ideological passions have a demonic dimension to them…. From a scriptural perspective, these fallen gods are behind and involved in the conflict that occurs between nations. And all the while, Satan, the ultimate single “power over” god of this age, watches the bloodshed with a demonic sense of amusement.36

5. This view leads to a “moral equivalence” between good and evil governments

There are two problems with Boyd’s analysis here: (1) Homer is not the Bible, nor did he write (in the eighth century BC) from a biblical worldview, and we should be suspicious of any worldview that is derived from ancient Greek mythology rather than from the Bible. (2) In Homer (as interpreted by Boyd) the motivating factors of the governments on the two different sides in a war are both demonic.

This leads Boyd to adopt a “moral equivalence” view of various conflicts between nations: both sides are following Satan. (Although Boyd does not explicitly say it, this view would imply that Adolf Hitler was following Satan, for example, and England and the United States were also following Satan in sending armies to defeat Hitler!) Boyd does apply his “moral equivalence” view to the modern conflict between American forces and terrorists in Iraq, and specifically the terrorists’ beheading of an American civilian, Nicholas Berg. Boyd says this to his American readers:

Your yearning for justice is, of course, natural. But this rage is exactly what led the terrorists to cut off Mr. Berg’s head in the first place. You probably passionately believe that our cause is just, and theirs is evil, but the terrorists passionately believe that their cause is just and ours is evil. Your passion for American justice is mirrored by their passion for Islamic justice.37

How could Boyd come to the point where he sees Islamic beheading of innocent civilians as morally equivalent to America defending itself against terrorist attacks? How could he believe that a nation that never intentionally targets innocent civilians is mor­ally the same as a terrorist movement that makes it a conscious policy to target, torture, and kill innocent civilians?

Boyd reaches this conclusion because he follows this wrongful “all government is demonic” view. Boyd sees committing horrible terrorist acts and defending against [p.40>] terrorists as morally equivalent because he believes Satan’s lie in Luke 4:6 that all the authority in the earth’s kingdoms has been given to him, and he believes Homer’s false Greek mythology that the “gods” (which Boyd sees as demons) motivate both sides in human conflicts. Boyd believes these errors from Satan and Homer rather than fully believing the Bible when it says that the civil government “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).

Thus Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view makes him unable to see the truth, namely, that terrorists who attack innocent civilians (as at 9/11) are evil, and the Ameri­can military, when it pursues and kills terrorists who are attacking innocent civilians, is working as “God’s servant for your good” and “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). Boyd simply fails to realize that carrying out terrorist murders of innocent civilians is evil and defending a nation against such terrorists is good. But his position is the logical consequence of the “all government is demonic” view.

6. Boyd’s rejection of all governmental “power over” as “worldly”

There is yet a deeper reason behind Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view. The deeper reason is that Boyd rejects what he calls governmental “power over” others as worldly and not part of the kingdom of God. Boyd says,

Wherever a person or group exercises power over others … there is a version of the kingdom of the world. While it comes in many forms, the kingdom of the world is in essence a “power over” kingdom…. There have been democratic, socialist, communist, fascist, and totalitarian versions of the kingdom of the world, but they all share this distinctive characteristic: they exercise “power over” people.38

Boyd explains that this power over people is sometimes called “the power of the sword.” He says, “The power of the sword is the ability to coerce behavior by threats and to make good on those threats when necessary: if a law is broken, you will be pun­ished.”39 While Boyd admits that this exercise of “power over” others is “not altogether bad,”40 because Romans 13 explains that God uses this power of government “to keep law and order in the world,”41 he immediately returns to his main emphasis on Satan’s authority over all the kingdoms of the world42 and concludes that “even the best politi­cal ideology lies under the influence of a ‘power over’ cosmic ruler who is working at cross-purposes to God.”43

By contrast, Boyd thinks people should recognize the contrast “between the ‘power over’ kingdom of the world and the ‘power under’ kingdom of God,” which is the same as “Lion power” versus “Lamb power.44 He says, “The kingdom God advances by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.”45

[p.41>] Boyd says that “coming under others has a power to do what laws and bullets and bombs can never do—namely, bring about transformation in an enemy’s heart.”46 He then says,

Obviously, when hearts and motives are transformed, behavior is eventually transformed as well—but without “power over” threats. Similarly, where the rule of God is established, law and order are established—but without “power over” force…. Do you trust “power over” or “power under”? Do you trust the power of the sword, the power of external force, or do you trust the influential but non-coercive power of Calvary-like love?47

7. Boyd says Christians should not even fight to defend their wives and children or their country

This rejection of governmental “power over” other people leads Boyd to say that a person totally conformed to the image of Jesus Christ should not even use physical violence to defend against an attacker who “threatened to kill you, your wife, or your children?”48 Plus, the rejection of the “power over” kingdom also leads him to say that Christians should never serve in combat situations in the military:

I find it impossible to reconcile Jesus’ teaching (and the teaching of the whole New Testament) concerning our call to love our enemies and never return evil with evil with the choice to serve (or not resist being drafted) in the armed forces in a capacity that might require killing someone.49

He also says, “I honestly see no way to condone a Christian’s decision to kill on behalf of any country—or for any other reason.”50

So at the heart of Boyd’s teaching is a fundamental opposition to the use of superior force to restrain evil, even an evil criminal who attacks one’s wife and children. Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view leads him to advocate an absolute, total pacifism for those who wish to follow Christ.

8. God has established both evangelism and the power of government to restrain evil

The problem with Boyd’s view here is that he fails to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of civil government. Of course God has not told us to spread the Gospel of Christ by using the “power of the sword” or the power of government. We spread the Gospel by the proclamation of the Word of God (see Rom. 10:17). But God has told us that we should restrain evil by the power of the sword and by the power of civil govern­ment (as in the teaching of Romans 13:1-6, quoted above, p. 37).

[p.42>] If the power of government (such as a policeman) is not present in an emergency, when great harm is being done to another person, then my love for the victim should lead me to use physical force to prevent any further harm from occurring. If I found a criminal attacking my wife or children, I would use all my physical strength and all the physical force at my disposal against him, not to persuade him to trust in Christ as his Savior, but to immediately stop him from harming my wife and children! I would follow the command of Nehemiah, who told the men of Israel, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14; see also Genesis 14:14-16, where Abraham rescued his kinsman Lot who had been taken captive by a raiding army).

Boyd has wrongly taken one of the ways that God restrains evil in this world (chang­ing hearts through the Gospel of Christ) and decided that it is the only way that God restrains evil (thus neglecting the valuable role of civil government). Both means are from God, both are good, and both should be used by Christians.

This is why Boyd misunderstands Jesus’ statement, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). When this verse is rightly understood (see below, p. 82), we see that Jesus is telling individuals not to take revenge fora personal insult or a humiliating slap on the cheek.51 But this command for individual kindness is not the same as the instructions that the Bible gives to governments, who are to “bear the sword” and be a “terror” to bad conduct and are to carry out “God’s wrath on the wrong­doer” (Rom. 13:3-4). The verses must be understood rightly in their own contexts. One is talking about individual conduct and personal revenge. The other is talking about the responsibilities of government. We should not confuse the two passages.

9. Could more pacifism have stopped slavery or stopped Hitler?

Near the end of his book Boyd responds to the objection that war was necessary to end slavery in the United States (in the Civil War) and to stop Hitler’s campaign to take over the entire world (in World War II). Didn’t the use of military force bring about good in those cases?

Boyd’s response is to say that if Christians had been better pacifists, history would have been different: “Had professing Christians been remotely like Jesus in the first place, there would have been no slavery or war for us to wonder about what would have happened had Christians loved their enemies and turned the other cheek.”52 With regard to the US Civil War, Boyd says, “A kingdom person should rather wonder what might have happened had more kingdom people been willing to live out the call of the radical kingdom.”53

But this is just an elegant way of saying, “If history was different, it would prove my case.” And that is another way of saying, “If the facts were different, they would prove my case.” That is not a valid argument. It is appealing to wishful thinking rather than facts.

[p.43>] Boyd is simply saying that if the world were different, the world would be different. But that proves nothing. History is what it is, and history shows that both the evil of American slavery and the evil of Adolf Hitler were only stopped by the power of superior military force. That is the task that God has assigned to governments when they “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4).

10. The more ominous implications of the “all government is demonic” view

I am concerned about the influence of Boyd’s position because his mistake is not simply a harmless failure to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of government. There is a much more serious problem with his position, namely, that it tends to persuade Christians to oppose all governmental power over evil. Although we cannot discuss the biblical passages in detail until later chapters, at many places in the Bible God approves the use of governmental power over evildoers: see, for example, Genesis 9:5-6; the narratives concerning Moses and other righteous judges and kings in the Old Testament; Romans 13:1-6; and 1 Peter 2:13-14. God establishes civil government and authorizes it to use its power to restrain evil, “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14).

But what would happen if more and more Christians agreed with Greg Boyd that the use of “power over” evildoers by government is serving Satan as “CEO” and Christians should have no part in it?

On the world scene, it would mean less and less support for a strong military and more and more insistence on endless conversations with aggressive nations who would attack us and our allies. It would mean more and more of the kind of appeasement that led Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of England to sign the Munich Agreement of 1938, giving Hitler a large section of Czechoslovakia with no objection from Britain, only in exchange for Hitler’s (empty) promise of peace. This view would today result in increasing objection to the use of military power to oppose evil aggressors anywhere in the world. And that, in turn, would result in increased aggression by Islamic terrorists as well as by countries such as Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and any others who realize that no act of aggression would be answered by American military force anywhere in the world.

At the local level, this rejection of all governmental “power over” evil would mean more and more opposition to the use of superior force by local police, for Boyd’s ideal way of opposing all evildoers is “by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.”54 Because Boyd’s approach neglects God’s appointed way of using governmental power to restrain evil, the result would be the unrestrained growth of violent crime in every community.

At this point, discerning Christians should be able to see a more ominous spiritual component at the heart of Boyd’s position. Who would ultimately profit from persuading Christians that all government power over evil is wrong and demonic? Who would [p.44>] ultimately want to eliminate all use of power over evil by those who are followers of Jesus Christ? It would ultimately be Satan himself, who wants no force for good to restrain his evil deeds in the world.

Therefore, at the heart of Greg Boyd’s position is an exact reversal of the role of God and Satan with regard to civil government. Boyd says that when government exercises power over evil, this itself is demonic and evil. But the Bible tells us that the ruler who exercises power to restrain and punish evil is doing “good” and is “God’s servant” (Rom. 13:4).

The “all government is demonic and evil” view is a third wrong view.

[….]

[p.388>]

A. BIBLICAL TEACHING

1. Governments are responsible to defend their nations from attacks by other nations

As we saw in chapter 3 above (see pp. 77-82), one of the most basic responsibilities of government is to punish those who do evil. When a government does this, it defends the weak and defenseless and deters further wrongdoing. The apostle Peter says the civil government is intended “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). Paul says that the government is authorized by God to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4) against evildoers so that it can be “a terror” to bad conduct (v. 3), and it also “carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v. 4). According to Paul, when the ruler uses superior force—even deadly force—against evil, he is “God’s servant for your good” (v. 4).

Now, if a government is commanded by God to protect its citizens from the robber or thief who comes from within a country, then certainly it also has an obligation to protect its citizens against thousands of murderers or thieves who come as an army from somewhere outside of the nation. Therefore a nation has a moral obligation to defend itself against foreign attackers who would come to kill and conquer and subjugate the people in a nation.

Further evidence for this is seen in Old Testament narratives where the nation of Israel repeatedly had to defend itself against attacks by nations such as the Philistines, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. When God blessed Israel, they defeated their enemies who were attacking them (see Judg. 2:16-18; 1 Sam. 17; 2 Sam. 5:17-25; and numerous other examples in the Old Testament narratives). But when the people disobeyed God and turned from him, he allowed other nations to defeat them as a manifestation of his judgment against them:

They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judg. 2:13-15).

This was a fulfillment of what God had promised through Moses in Deuteronomy 28. If the people were obedient to God, he promised, “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways” (v. 7). But if they disobeyed, “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them” (v. 25).

These promises were fulfilled multiple times in the history of Israel. They demon­strate that it is a good thing in God’s sight—a special blessing—when a government has enough military power to defeat the enemies who would bring armies to attack it (that [p.389>] is, it is a good thing as long as a government has not become so corrupt and evil that God would be pleased to see it conquered).

Sometimes people wonder how it can be consistent for the Ten Commandments to say, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13), and then also command that soldiers and armies go forth to kill the soldiers in an attacking army. Doesn’t this mean that sol­diers who kill in combat are violating one of the Ten Commandments? No, it does not, because that is not what that verse means.

The Hebrew word translated “murder” in Exodus 20:13 is rātsakh, a word used forty-nine times in the Old Testament. It is never used to refer to killing in war (other Hebrew words are used for this). Rather, the word refers to what we would call “murder” in English today (the unlawful killing of another human being) and also “causing human death through carelessness or negligence” (as the ESV marginal note says at this verse). The command is not speaking about killing in war, and the original Hebrew readers would not have understood it to apply to soldiers who kill in combat.

In fact, at various times in the Old Testament, God himself commanded the people of Israel to go to war (see Deut. 20:1), and it would be contradictory for him to com­mand something and forbid it at the same time. In the New Testament, soldiers are not condemned for being soldiers in the Roman army, but John the Baptist tells them, “Be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14), and Cornelius, a Roman centurion in charge of one hundred soldiers, came to faith and was baptized as a believer in Jesus with no indi­cation that there was anything morally wrong about the occupation of being a soldier (see Acts 10:1, 44-48; see also Luke 14:31). (See also the discussion on taking a life in capital punishment on pp. 186-97 above.)

B. HOW CAN WE KNOW IF A WAR IS A “JUST WAR”?

Of course, there are wrong wars such as wars merely for conquest and plunder. How can we tell if a war is right or wrong? During centuries of ethical discussions regarding the question of war, one common viewpoint that developed, with much input from Chris­tian scholars, is the “just war” tradition. That viewpoint argues that a war is morally right (or “just”) when it meets certain criteria. It also argues that there are certain moral restrictions on the way that war can be conducted.

It seems to me that this “just war” tradition, in general, is consistent with biblical teachings about the need for nations to defend themselves against their enemies. Here is a useful recent summary of the criteria for a just war, together with biblical references that support these criteria. I think that these criteria, in general, are consistent with these biblical teachings:

Over time, the just war ethic has developed a common set of criteria that can be used to decide if going to war in a specific situation is right. These include the following: (1) just cause (is the reason for going to war a morally right cause, such as defense of a nation? cf. Rev. 19:11); (2) competent authority (has the war been declared not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a [p.390>] recognized, competent authority within the nation? cf. Rom. 13:1); (3) com­parative justice (it should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of one’s own nation in going to war are, in comparison, morally right; cf. Rom. 13:3); (4) right intention (is the pur­pose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness rather than simply to rob and pillage and destroy another nation? cf. Prov. 21:2); (5) last resort (have all other reasonable means of resolving the conflict been exhausted? cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18); (6) probability of success (is there a reasonable expec­tation that the war can be won? cf. Luke 14:31); (7) proportionality of projected results (will the good results that come from a victory in a war be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing the war? cf. Rom. 12:21 with 13:4); and (8) right spirit (is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a “delight in war,” as in Ps. 68:30?).

In addition to these criteria for deciding whether a specific war is “just,” advocates of just war theory have also developed some moral restrictions on how a just war should be fought. These include the following: (1) proportional­ity in the use of force (no greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war; cf. Deut. 20:10-12); (2) discrimination between combatants and noncombatants (insofar as it is feasible in the successful pursuit of a war, is ade­quate care being taken to prevent harm to noncombatants? cf. Deut. 20:13-14, 19-20); (3) avoidance of evil means (will captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion, and are one’s own soldiers being treated justly in captivity? cf. Ps. 34:14); and (4) good faith (is there a genuine desire for resto­ration of peace and eventually living in harmony with the attacking nation? cf. Matt. 5:43-44; Rom. 12:18).1

C. PACIFISM

Although the just war view has been the one most commonly held throughout the his­tory of the church, a minority view has been that of military pacifism. The pacifist view holds that it is always wrong for Christians to use military force against others and thus it is wrong for Christians to participate in military combat, even to defend their own nation. A similar pacifist view holds that it is wrong for anyone to participate in military combat and that such “violence” is always morally wrong.

I have responded in some detail (in chap. 1 above, pp. 36-44) to several of the argu­ments for pacifism, because they are often related to the “all government is demonic” view advocated by Greg Boyd. Another recent advocate of pacifism is Jim Wallis, in his book God’s Politics.2 Similar arguments are also found in Shane Claiborne and Chris [p.391>] Haw’s Jesus for President, which advocates a pacifist perspective.3 What follows here is a shorter analysis of the key pacifist arguments as they apply to war.

The arguments commonly used to support pacifism are that (1) Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek (in Matt. 5:39), (2) Jesus commanded us to love our neigh­bors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), (3) engaging in military combat involves failure to trust God, and (4) the use of violence always begets further violence, and pacifism should be adopted to stop that vicious cycle.

In response, I would argue that (1) the pacifist viewpoint wrongly uses Jesus’ teach­ing about individual conduct in turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) to apply to civil government (see discussion above, pp. 42, 82 ,201-2), but the explicit teaching on civil governments in Romans is that it should “bear the sword” to oppose evildoers and execute God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). In addition, in Luke 22:36 Jesus actually commanded his followers to carry a sword (which was used for self-defense and protection from robbers; see discussion above, pp. 201-3).

(2) If we truly love our neighbors (as Jesus commanded in Matt. 22:39), then we will be willing even to go to war to protect them from evil aggressors who are attack­ing the nation. While the pacifist might ask, “How can you love your neighbor or even love your enemy and then kill him in war,” the answer has to be that God commanded both love for one’s neighbor and going to war, for the command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is found in Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament, and Jesus quotes it from there. Therefore it must be consistent for God to command both things and the one command should not be used to nullify the other. One example of this is found in the tragic story of David sending out his army to defeat Absalom, his son, in 2 Samuel 18:1-33. David had great love for his son Absalom and yet he was responsible to protect the office of king that God had entrusted to him. Therefore, with sorrow, and while still loving Absalom, David sent the army out against him.

(3) Christians have no right to tell others to “trust in God” for things that are dif­ferent from what the Bible teaches, and Romans 13:1-4 teaches that God authorizes governments to use deadly force if necessary to oppose evil. Therefore, at this point the pacifist argument is telling people to disobey what Romans 13 says about government and then to trust God to protect them anyway. This would be like telling people they should not work to earn a living, but should “trust God” to provide their food anyway! A better approach is to obey what God says in Romans 13:1-4 about the use of govern­ment power to restrain evil and then trust God to work through that government power to restrain evil, which is how he intends governments to function.

This is the problem I have with Jim Wallis when he criticizes the American reliance on military power to protect the nation from terrorists as “a foreign policy based primarily [p.392>] on fear.4 And then he also attributes another wrong motive to Americans when he puts military responses to terrorist attacks in the category of “anger and vengeance” that leads a nation to “indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life.”5 Wallis sees military action against terrorism as based on “fear” and “vengeance.”

By contrast, Romans 13 teaches that military action used to defend a nation is not a wrongful or sinful activity, nor is a desire to depend on military action (under God’s guid­ance) a wrongful attitude to have, because God has authorized nations to use such mili­tary power. What pacifists like Wallis fail to realize is that it is completely possible—as millions of Christians who have served in military forces have demonstrated—to trust in God that he will enable them to use the military power he has put in their hands to successfully defend their country. The solution is not pacifism, but trust in God to give success while obeying him by using the military defense that he has appointed.

This is also why pacifists such as Wallis are actually unbiblical when they say that nations like the United States should not act alone and use “unilateral action” to defend themselves, but should rather depend on a “world court to weigh facts and make judg­ments, with effective multi-national law enforcement.”6 Elsewhere Wallis wants us to depend on a much more powerful “international law” and “global police forces.”7 Wal­lis says that only such a world court with effective power “will be able to protect us.”8

There are several objections to Wallis’s argument:

(a) It is mere wishful thinking. Such an effective worldwide government over the entire earth has never occurred in the entire history of the human race. (Even the Roman Empire at its largest extent did not reach to China or India or sub-Saharan Africa or North and South America.) It is foolishness to depend on something that has never existed to save us from a terrorist threat that we are facing at this very minute.

(b) If such a powerful world government ever did exist, it would likely be dominated by the votes of numerous small nations who are largely anti-American because their governments are communist or totalitarian or devoted to expanding the Muslim reli­gion and therefore opposed to the United States. In this way it would be like the present make-up of the United Nations with its frequent anti-American votes.

(c) Depending on such a world government to keep peace in the world would require nations to give up their individual sovereignty and would require the United States to give up a significant measure of its individual sovereignty. This would open the door to reducing the United States to a condition of servitude and domination by nations or leaders that seek its demise.

Far better than the pacifist position of trusting in a world court and world police force is trusting in the Lord to use the means he has designated, which is the use of each nation’s own military power, as I have argued above from Romans 13 and other passages.

(4) It is simply untrue to say, as pacifists do, that “violence always begets more violence.” The deadly force used by local police in restraining or killing a murderer brings [p.393>] that murderer’s violence to an end. It is the same situation when armies are used to defend nations against aggressors. In fact, the use of military power stopped Adolf Hitler from taking over all of Europe and ultimately all the world in World War II. It stopped the North Koreans from taking over South Korea in the Korean War. In the American Civil War, it stopped the Confederate armies from establishing a separate nation in which slavery would be preserved and protected.

The pacifist slogan “violence always begets more violence” is misleading, because it uses the same word, “violence,” to refer to two very different things—the morally good use of deadly force to stop evildoers and the morally wrong use of force to carry out attacks on innocent people. A better slogan is, “Just governments should use superior force to stop criminal violence against innocent people.” Or even shorter, “Superior force stops criminal violence.”

This is the shortcoming of the pacifist position of Wallis, who says that the solution to international terrorism is “the mobilization of the most extensive international and diplomatic pressure the world has ever seen against the Bin Ladens of the world and their networks of terror.”9 Consistent with that position, Wallis argues that rather than going to war against Iraq,

The international community could have united in an effective strategy to isolate, contain, disarm and ultimately undermine and remove the brutal and dangerous regime of Saddam Hussein.

Wallis adds, “The Iraqi people themselves could have been supported internationally to create civil resistance within their own country to achieve [regime change].”10

But Wallis’s pacifist solution here is very much like the wishful thinking of Greg Boyd that I discussed in chapter 1 (see pp. 42-43). He is simply saying that we “could have” overthrown Saddam and protected ourselves from international terrorists without military action against them by the United States. The phrase “could have” in pacifist arguments can justify almost any wishful thinking. We “could have” waited for some future day when a supposed international police force would come on the scene. And we “could have” waited for the day when the Iraqi people would rise up and overthrow a brutal dictator who controlled one of the most powerful armies in the world. But in fact, these things did not happen, although alternative solutions had been tried for many years. In actual fact, it was only the superior force of the United States military that over­threw Saddam. It was only the superior power of the United States military that defeated terrorists in Afghanistan. It was only the superior power of the United States military that protected us for many years following 9/11.

This kind of “history could have been different” argument is common in pacifist literature. Instead of acknowledging that military power is necessary to achieve a triumph over evil forces, it claims, “If the events of history had turned out differently, they would support my case.” But that is simply saying, “If the facts were different, they would support my case.” That is not a persuasive argument. It is merely wishful thinking.

[p.394>] The logic of pacifism leads ultimately to a total surrender to the most evil of governments, who will stop at nothing to use their power to oppress others. (See further discussion above, in chap. 1, pp. 41-44.) For all of these reasons, the pacifism of Jim Wallis and others is not a persuasive position for Christians to adopt.


Footnotes


29. Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 21.
30. Ibid., 22.
31. Boyd also quotes some other verses in Myth of a Christian Nation, 21-22, but none of them refer specifically to civil governments, so they do not prove his point.
32. Ibid., 59.
33. Ibid., 168.
34. Ibid., 91.
35. Ibid., 23.
36. Ibid., 24.
37. Ibid., 25.
38. Ibid., 18, italics added.
39. Ibid.
40. Ibid., 19.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid., 21.
43. Ibid., 22.
44. Ibid., 31.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid., 32-33.
48. Ibid., 162,166.
49. Ibid., 166-67.
50. Ibid., 173.
51. See explanation of this verse in ESV Study Bible, p.1830; see also pp. 2554-55. [I added this recommendation]

5:39 Do not resist the one who is evil. Jesus is not prohibiting the use of force by governments, police, or soldiers when combating evil (see notes on Luke 3:12-14; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14 Rather, Jesus’ focus here is on individual conduct, as indicated by the contrast with Matt 5:38, which shows that he is prohibiting the universal human tendency to seek personal revenge (see note on Rom. 12:19) If anyone slaps you on the right cheek pictures a backhanded slap given as an insult (a right-handed per­son would use the back of the hand to slap someone on the right cheek; cf. Mishnah, Baba Kamma 8.6). The word “slaps” translates Gk. rhapizō, “to slap, to strike with the open hand.” turn to him the other also One should not return an insulting slap, which would lead to escalating violence In the case of a more serious assault, Jesus’ words should not be taken to prohibit self-defense (see Luke 12:11; 22:36-38; Acts 22:1; 24:10) or fleeing from evil (see 1 Sam 19:10; Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59; 10:39; 2 Cor. 11:32-33), for often a failure to resist a violent attack leads to even more serious abuse Acting in love toward an attacker (Matt. 5:44; 22:39) will often include taking steps to prevent him from attempting further attacks. Jesus’ teaching must be applied with wisdom in the light of related Scriptures that address similar situations (cf. note on 5:42).

[….]

Just War

The just war ethic argues that warfare is sometimes nec­essary in order to resist or reverse specific unjust actions taken by one government or nation against another, but it also insists that war is always regrettable, is always something to avoid if possible, and is never to be used to establish some new vision of a social order.

The just war ethical tradition arises from both bibli­cal and classical sources. In the Bible, just war principles can be found in rules revealed for engaging enemies out­side the territory of the Promised Land (Deut. 20:1-20), in God’s judgment of war actions taken by the Gentile nations around Israel (Amos 1), and in the regard Jesus had for moral wisdom relating to the way kings go to war (Luke 14:31).

The NT church included many soldiers serving on active duty and saw nothing morally inconsistent with Christians serving as military professionals. The conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was confirmed by the Holy Spirit with no question of his profession com­promising his faith (Acts 10). John the Baptist responded to soldiers in a way that implied they were serving in a morally legitimate profession (Luke 3:14). And when Paul was imprisoned in Rome, many in the Praetorian guard became Christians (cf. Phil. 1:13). As a result, Chris­tians soon came to fill the Roman “fortresses,” military “camps,” and army “companies” (see evidence provided by Tertullian in Apology 37; c. A.D. 200), and the first persecu­tions of the church arose because of the high number of Christians serving in the Roman army. While some early Christians opposed military service (cf. Tertullian and Origen), the majority tradition of the church has never considered military service to be inconsistent with biblical standards.

Over time, the just war ethic has developed a common set of criteria that can be used to decide if going to war in a specific situation is right. These include the following: (1) just cause (is the reason for going to war a morally right cause, such as defense of a nation? cf. Rev. 19:11); (2) com­petent authority (has the war been declared not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a recognized, competent authority within the nation? cf. Rom. 13:1); (3) comparative justice (it should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of one’s own nation in going to war are, in comparison, morally right; cf. Rom. 13:3); (4) right intention (is the pur­pose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness rather than simply to rob and pillage and destroy another nation? cf. Prov. 21:2); (5) last resort (have all other reason­able means of resolving the conflict been exhausted? cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18); (6) probability of success (is there a reasonable expectation that the war can be won? cf. Luke 14:31); (7) proportionality of projected results (will the good results that come from a victory in a war be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing the war? cf. Rom. 12:21 with 13:4); and (8) right spirit (is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a “delight in war,” as in Ps. 68:30?).

In addition to these criteria for deciding whether a specific war is “just,” advocates of just war theory have also developed some moral restrictions on how a just war should be fought. These include the following: (1) propor­tionality in the use of force (no greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war; cf. Deut. 20:10-12); (2) discrimination between combatants and noncombatants (insofar as it is feasible in the successful pursuit of a war, is adequate care being taken to prevent harm to noncom­batants? cf. Deut. 20:13-14, 19-20); (3) avoidance of evil means (will captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion, and are one’s own soldiers being treated justly in captivity? Cf. Ps. 34:14); and (4) good faith (is there a genuine desire for restoration of peace and event­ally living in harmony with the attacking nation? cf. Matt. 5:43-44; Rom. 12:18).

If a war is just, it should not be viewed as morally wrong but still necessary, nor as morally neutral, but as something that is morally right, carried out (with sorrow and regret) in obedience to responsibilities given by God (Rom. 13:4). Those who serve in a just war should understand that such service is not sinful in God’s sight but that they do this as “God’s servant for your good Rom. 13:4; cf. Luke 3:14; John 15:13; also Num. 32:6. 20-23: Ps. 144:1).

Most nations throughout history, and most Christians in every age, have held that fighting in combat is a responsibility that should fall only to men, and that it is contrary to the very idea of womanhood, and shameful fora radon. to have women risk their lives as combatants in a war The assumption that only men and not women will fight in battle is also a frequent pattern in the historical narratives and is affirmed by leaders and prophets in the OT (see Num. 1:2-3; Deut. 3:18-19; 20:7-8; 24:5; Josh 1.14: 23:10; Judg. 4:8-10; 9:54; 1 Sam. 4:9; Neh. 4:13-14: Jer. 50:37; Nah. 3:13).

Pacifism

Since the time of Tertullian and Origen (2nd-3rd cen­turies A.D.), some Christians have advocated pacifism, the idea that participating in war is always wrong, or is always wrong at least for Christians. Arguments used to support pacifism are: (1) Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39); (2) Jesus taught us that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39); (3) Jesus refused to use the power of the sword to advance his kingdom (Matt. 26:52-53); (4) the use of military force shows lack of trust in God; and (5) violence always begets more violence and does not really solve the underlying problems.

Those who differ with pacifism respond to each of those arguments as follows: (1) Jesus’ teaching on turn­ing the other cheek was intended as a guide for individual conduct, not for the conduct of governments or soldiers or police in the service of governments (see note on Matt. 5:39). (2) The command to love one’s neighbor is consistent with going to war to protect one’s neighbor from an aggressor, as is evident from the fact that the OT commanded love for one’s neighbor (Lev. 19:18) as well as directions for the conduct of war (Deuteronomy 20). It is also evident from the example of David, who loved his son Absalom but sent the army against him when Absalom sought to usurp the throne (2 Sam. 18:1-33). (3) It is never right to use military force to advance the gospel message, or compel adherence to Christianity, but that is differ­ent from the responsibility of government to protect its citizens. (4) The believer’s trust in God must be defined by what Scripture says, including its teachings on God’s appointment of civil government to use force to protect its citizens. Therefore, one should trust God to work through the power of the sword exercised by government. (5) It is simply not true that wars never solve problems: war was necessary to defeat slavery in the nineteenth century in the United States and to defeat Hitler in World War II. as well as to defeat other tyrants throughout history. In addi­tion, non-pacifist Christians also note (6) that although Jesus stopped Peter from using a sword to resist arrest on his way to the cross (Matt. 26:52), he did not consider it inconsistent with directions given hours earlier that same evening when he instructed his disciples to carry weap­ons for self-defense (Luke 22:35-36. see note); and if using deadly force is justified as required under individual circumstances, there can be no objection to using deadly force as required under civil community circumstances.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001), 1830, 2554-2555.

52. Boyd, Myth of a Christian Nation, 174.
53. Ibid., 177.
54. Ibid., 31.

[….]

1. “War,” in ESV Study Bible, p. 2555. [See footnote #55, above]
2.
Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), especially 87-205.

3. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), especially 199-224 and 338-47 but also at various other places in the book, most of which is structured as a loosely connected set of narratives rather than an organized, sequential, logical argument. Claiborne and Haw also list at least two widely used pacifist books in their recommended bibliography: Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), and John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).
4. Wallis, God’s Politic, 88, emphasis added.
5. Ibid., 92; see also 94.
6. Ibid., 106.
7. Ibid., 164.
8. Ibid., 106.
9. Ibid., 163.
10. Ibid.