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resizedimg558644.jpgI found it hard to get to sleep last night. The horror in Paris is to say the least unsettling and disorienting. What is happening in our world? How can it be stopped? Why do people do these things to each other? The last time I felt like this was in December 2012.

Because I am a Christian and thinking about the Bible is what I do, my mind turns to a biblically informed faith and what that even means at times like this.

So here’s what I think.

I love the Bible and I take it seriously.

For me, taking the Bible seriously means looking head on at its persistent themes of mass violence and retribution—whether by God’s hand (e.g., the Flood, Genesis 6), God’s command (e.g., extermination of the Canaanites, Deuteronomy 20), or God’s silent approval (e.g., taking women and children captive as spoils of war, Numbers 31).

For Christians, I believe that condemning mass, ideologically driven, and horrific violence today means taking on the responsibility of deconstructing the violence in the Bible.

—to be able to speak with integrity of our God who we believe condemns mass violence today but who is said to have commanded it long ago.

It is our Christian responsibility to take this on and not avoid it.

to interrogate our Bible and debate with it (as Jews have a long history of doing) rather than treating it as a go-to source book of immutable information and where all parts have equal ultimacy.

—to reflect on what it says, work with others and make sober Christian decisions about what it means live and speak faithfully today and to be in step with the Spirit of God, who, as we learn in Job and elsewhere, is never simply confined to the boundaries of traditional God-talk, including when that God-talk has Bible verses to back it up.

I’ve taken a few stabs at addressing violence in part of the Christian Bible (what Christians conventionally call the Old Testament) in some 30 blog posts and in a book, The Bible Tells Me So. In recent years it’s been sort of theme in evangelical Christian publishing, which I am glad to be a part of, including authors like Brian ZahndDerek Flood, Brad Jersak, Eric Seibert, and many, many others.

And it has to be done. Not in order to dismiss Scripture, but to demystify it so we can understand it.gettyimages-497085198_wide-8257ac99ec1dbb7f7689aea1bb1508a2acdf1743-s800-c85

To see that within the pages of the Old Testament itself, a conversation is developing over what God thinks of “outsiders” and what it means to be Israelites on the world stage rather than in tribal seclusion.

I think here of the old “children’s story” of Jonah being swallowed by a fish because he refused to preach repentance and God’s love to the heinous Ninevites, even though just pages further on we have the prophet Nahum glorying in the violent destruction of Ninevah at God’s hand.

Jonah is a more “globally aware” book, written many years after the Babylonian exile, where the Judahite captives came to reflect on their God and whether that God is out to kill the world or save it.

The New Testament, I would argue, is not on the same page as the Old when it comes to mass military violence toward other peoples. In fact it’s turned that page altogether. But neither does it get a free pass.

At the hands of the Gospel writers, in different ways and varying degrees, Jesus’s rhetoric also exhibits violence—though not as persistently and not against the world out there. The Gospel rhetoric of violence on Jesus’s lips is aimed at his fellow Jews for not understanding that he was God’s chosen messiah.

151113232645-map-paris-terror-attacks-inset-update-exlarge-169Christians today must also assume the responsibility of wrestling with the Gospel rhetoric, too, and determining when, if, or whether it should remain as part of our own rhetoric.

The book of Revelation is, of course, a book of violence and retribution throughout, at one point noting that the blood, the “wine of God’s wrath,” will run on the street for 200 miles as high as a horse’s bridle (Revelation 14:20). This is why I have not sung and never will sing again “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which adopts this exact biblical rhetoric for ideological purposes.

Christians need to look at the book square in the eye and determine whether that rhetoric should be ours and whether this is the most fitting and valid description of God. Christians must wrestle with the very genre of ancient apocalyptic thinking with it’s inherent rhetoric of violence to describe the overthrow of evil, in this case the oppressive Roman Empire.

I have to wrestle with it, because, frankly, I have no problem at the moment replacing the Roman Empire in Revelation with ISIS saying, “Have at it, Lamb of God, One like the Son of Man, Alpha and Omega, the One Who Is and Who Was and Who Is to Come. Get those guys. Wipe them off the face of the earth.”

For Christian who love the Bible and take the Bible seriously, we have some wrestling to do. Some feel there is no wrestling needed—either because they feel bound as a core matter of faith to accept every line of the Bible as having timelessly equal ultimacy, or, the opposite, to see the Bible as more of an ancient relic devoid of spiritual substance and critique.

I want to suggest, though, that the Christian way, beginning with the earliest theologians of the church, has avoided these two options. We’ve been wrestling with the Bible for a very long time, as have Jews.

And that wrestling continues today—especially this morning.

 

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

107 Comments

  • antiutopia says:

    No wrestling involved: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you….” You’re not allowed to wrestle with any other issue until you’ve acted in obedience to this one command.

    • Pete E. says:

      And once you’ve acted obediently to one verse in Matthew, what do you do with these other texts?

      • antiutopia says:

        What other texts, Pete? The principle of non-retaliation is fairly clear in the NT.

      • antiutopia says:

        Surely you’re not suggesting that we’re to carry out the letter of the Mosaic law as Christians and that commands in the OT are as normative and binding as commands in the NT? That would be both naive and, technically, heretical — that heresy was dealt with in Acts. The NT itself defines how Christians relate to and understand the OT.

        • Pete E. says:

          Of course, silly boy 🙂 But the OT still has to be addressed, because the same God who spoke there is the God that Jesus spoke of. At least that what’s Jesus thought. That’s what creates the hermeneutical and theological conundrum.

          • antiutopia says:

            There’s no conundrum, Pete. It’s all in your head. Do you know what the words “covenant” or “testament” even mean? This is theology 101. You really don’t know that much about either Scripture, theology, or the church’s teachings in a variety of traditions for centuries.

            The teachings of Christ reinforced by Paul and carried forward through the Book of Revelation make it pretty clear that judgment is to be reserved for Christ at the end of time and that in the meantime Christians are not to take revenge. Nothing you can find in the OT changes this.

            I am not saying that civil government has to follow the principle of non-retaliation, but that Christians acting as Christians do.

          • Pete E. says:

            Why no, oh anonymous one. I studied the Bible in rigorous classroom settings for 9 years straight and and have been working in this field for over 20, but dang it all I’ve never heard of the words “covenant” or “testament” and I certainly don’t know what they mean. And they didn’t even offer Theology 101!!!

            Sarcasm over.

            Think of another way of asking your question.

          • antiutopia says:

            I’m not asking a question, Pete. I’m observing ignorance where I see it. When you quit demonstrating it, I’ll post different kinds of responses.

          • Pete E. says:

            Thanks for playing.

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            Your overt Marcionism is not orthodox Christian theology.

    • Beau Quilter says:

      “Not allowed”? Who says? Certainly not the scripture you cite.

  • gingoro says:

    I’m not sure how much of Derek Flood’s work you have read. I have read two of his books and his blog posts over the last 12 months or so. As best I understand him he seems to disregard any parts of scripture that seem to conflict in any way with love of God or love of our fellow man as he understands it. Love seems to be the key for Flood as to which portions of scripture are authoritative and which are not. Probably I am not stating his position with sufficient nuance but I find it hard to make a brief summary of his thought. If you see Flood’s work differently I would appreciate another perspective. I find my understanding of what he says rather unsatisfactory and very subjective. DaveW

    • Pete E. says:

      I read his latest book. My point is that he is addressing it.

      • gingoro says:

        While I would strongly agree the Love is a very important principle to judge our interpretations of scripture I tend to reject it as the only principle to tell if something is an active and useful part of God’s word or not. That is why I often bug you to expand your thinking and writing so we have better criteria as to whether something is important or not. If it is all riffing with nothing inspired from outside, then what good is it?

        • Pete E. says:

          Honestly, I’m not sure those criteria exist. Otherwise after 2000 years we wouldn’t be still wondering what they are. That’s why I do say, repeatedly, that the Bible is not an owner’s manual, etc.

  • gingoro says:

    I’m not sure how much of Derek Flood’s work you have read. I have read two of his books and his blog posts over the last 12 months or so. As best I understand him he seems to disregard any parts of scripture that seem to conflict in any way with love of God or love of our fellow man as he understands it. Love seems to be the key for Flood as to which portions of scripture are authoritative and which are not. Probably I am not stating his position with sufficient nuance but I find it hard to make a brief summary of his thought. If you see Flood’s work differently I would appreciate another perspective. I find my understanding of what he says rather unsatisfactory and very subjective. DaveW

  • Craig Anderson says:

    Thanks for this very thoughtful reflection. Why don’t you just get over it and become a Mennonite! 🙂 You would be very welcome in my congregation in Ontario. And you’ve got the “Mennonite” name, not a Swedish one like mine. This sounds WAY too smug; my denomination and congregation are far from perfect and have a lot to learn from other Faiths and other streams of Christianity, and I think we are usually aware of that. But you would be very welcome.

  • Pete E. says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure those criteria exist. Otherwise after 2000 years we wouldn’t be still wondering what they are. That’s why I do say, repeatedly, that the Bible is not an owner’s manual, etc.

  • Marshall says:

    I would think the replacement role of Revelation’s Roman Empire would be the globalized European culture zone, a ubiquitous armed nation that thinks it has a monopoly on Law. ISIS would be more like the Maccabees (for the little I know about it), an enraged nihilistic cult about to be obliterated under the Roman heel. Do your best to stay safe, people, but also let’s think about why this stuff keeps coming back.

    • I think it keeps comming back bc it’s a distress pattern. IMO a systemic emotional mental spiritual warfare is limiting one’s freedom to choose peace & cooperation. how does one contradict this pattern? in AA I learned that nothing changes if nothing changes. also one gets more of what one pays attention to.

      • Marshall says:

        I agree totally. We must be born again.

        • Again I play the AA card (cuz that’s what worked, so far, for me!)
          what has to change? EVERYTHING! I only really got on board with the program when I was completely broken and bankrupt literally, emotionally, spiritually & mentally. for me Ground Zero was the gutter. if one still has things to defend like career, paycheck, family, church and nation, IMO, one tends to take up arms or violence to stay in denial that these things have become rubbish idolatry and one is identified and addicted to them.
          one is powerless over one’s addictions & the transformations of the Holy Spirit is suspended until one is willing to give up one’s control fantasies. for me, the process has been slow and painful. I can imagine a global turning from these things for the sake of the transformation and preservation of the human species is now becoming apparently necessary and possible. more will be revealed! */:D

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    While I do think the structure of the Quran and its ensuing place in Islam make Islam more sucetible to textual justifications for violence, all one has to do is go on a jaunt through primary literature of the Middle Ages through the 20th century to see plenty of warfare and violence being justified by passages from both Old and New Testament. Particularly in medieval times, such language was practically ubiquitous with such and such act of warfare against such and such people; Revelation was a favorite citation.

    And while radical Islam’s anti semitism and hatred of Israel get plenty of coverage, let’s not forget Christianity’s frankly horrible treatment of the Jewish people all the way up to WW II. The wide majority of Christians are particularly ignorant of this part of their heritage, and this anti-Jewish polemic goes back even farther, to the Patristics in pre-Constantine times.

    • Robert F says:

      Actually, the anti-Jewish polemic goes back even further, to the New Testament itself, as the post points out. The New Testament authors rarely miss a chance to paint the contemporary Jewish leaders in a negative light; by contrast, the Romans are depicted favorably in comparison with their Jewish subjects. It seems the Christian community in Palestine and elsewhere early took the tack of defending itself against Jewish hostility by flattering Roman power and prestige.

      • Pete E. says:

        Not sure this holds across the board, though–esp. when we look at Revelation and it’s anti-Roman polemic.

        • Robert F says:

          Well, yes, the tune changes in those places where the NT writers experience oppression from Rome itself, and Revelation is the best example of that. But Roman oppression of Christians, especially in the first and second centuries, was local, episodic and short-lived. Once the Neronian persecution (wasn’t the rule and persecution of Nero what Revelation has in its immediate background?) was out of the way, official, universal and systematic Roman governmental persecution of Christians did not occur again until the third century.

          But the continual antipathy and animosity between Jews and Christians was there almost from the beginning, and continued across the centuries. It was written into many New Testament texts, and “Let his blood be on us and our children” has been used, along with other NT texts, to justify Christian violence against Jews for as long as Christians have had power to inflict it.

          • Pete E. says:

            Good points, though I would say the Jewish/Christian hostility is more in John. AT least in Paul’s letters, which are among the oldest, the tensions and between Jewish and Gentile believers..

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    While I do think the structure of the Quran and its ensuing place in Islam make Islam more sucetible to textual justifications for violence, all one has to do is go on a jaunt through primary literature of the Middle Ages through the 20th century to see plenty of warfare and violence being justified by passages from both Old and New Testament. Particularly in medieval times, such language was practically ubiquitous with such and such act of warfare against such and such people; Revelation was a favorite citation.

    And while radical Islam’s anti semitism and hatred of Israel get plenty of coverage, let’s not forget Christianity’s frankly horrible treatment of the Jewish people all the way up to WW II. The wide majority of Christians are particularly ignorant of this part of their heritage, and this anti-Jewish polemic goes back even farther, to the Patristics in pre-Constantine times.

    • Robert F says:

      Actually, the anti-Jewish polemic goes back even further, to the New Testament itself, as the post points out. The New Testament authors rarely miss a chance to paint the contemporary Jewish leaders in a negative light; by contrast, the Romans are depicted favorably in comparison with their Jewish subjects. It seems the Christian community in Palestine and elsewhere early took the tack of defending itself against Jewish hostility by flattering Roman power and prestige.

      • Pete E. says:

        Not sure this holds across the board, though–esp. when we look at Revelation and it’s anti-Roman polemic.

        • Robert F says:

          Well, yes, the tune changes in those places where the NT writers experience oppression from Rome itself, and Revelation is the best example of that. But Roman oppression of Christians, especially in the first and second centuries, was local, episodic and short-lived. Once the Neronian persecution (wasn’t the rule and persecution of Nero what Revelation has in its immediate background?) was out of the way, official, universal and systematic Roman governmental persecution of Christians did not occur again until the third century.

          But the continual antipathy and animosity between Jews and Christians was there almost from the beginning, and continued across the centuries. It was written into many New Testament texts, and “Let his blood be on us and our children” has been used, along with other NT texts, to justify Christian violence against Jews for as long as Christians have had power to inflict it.

          • Pete E. says:

            Good points, though I would say the Jewish/Christian hostility is more in John. AT least in Paul’s letters, which are among the oldest, the tensions and between Jewish and Gentile believers..

  • Gary says:

    This is one of those posts where I just feel like an alien. While my heart and mind does indeed grapple with present-day terrorism, I honestly don’t resonate at all with the Bible wrestlings.

    • charlesburchfield says:

      I don’t either. god is still speaking IMO

      • Gary says:

        Perhaps, and maybe he’s speaking a lot. Sure seems like he’s saying a lot of different things to different people from what they each say.

        On the counter is the NEA magazine. I picked it up and read through a bit of Richard Mouw’s cover article. Mouw concludes:

        “All of that is so bad that it is much like the world into which the gospel first came. And it was in the world where the Lord announced at Pentecost he was pouring out his ‘Spirit on all people,’ so that ‘sons and daughters will prophesy… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:17, 21). The result was that the cause of the gospel flourished. And so it can also flourish, by God’s grace, in our own day.”

        The challenge with that is that the prophesying has been so all over the map and that two thousand years in and we don’t really have too much to show for it. A lot in Paris and elsewhere tee up the Christian way as in the same vein as the Muslim way–that religious in-group identities haven’t really markedly transformed the world for good or prepared our unique species for what we can see as the present and near-term future challenges for the flourishing of humanity.

        In the piece, Mouw begs for seeking the “shalom” as if that couldn’t have been propagated into the world meaningfully with either Pentecost or the Babylonian exile.

        Charles, perhaps God is still speaking.

        I have no idea if he speaks to me honestly, but I do have an imagination. So why not run with it.

        I think if He were speaking, he might be saying something like this:

        Blessed are the peacemakers. Not the people who say they follow me.

        • charlesburchfield says:

          word! (©>

        • Wayfaring Michael says:

          As a former Catholic who started reading the Bible quite late in life, I am constantly reminded that “to prophesy” does not mean to tell the future, but to critique the present.

          I don’t just think, I have faith deep inside me that God IS still speaking, as the sign proclaims on my local UCC church proclaims in bright letters down the street. So I think the question then becomes, who is it that is doing the prophesying these days, who is standing in that long line that goes back to Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Jeremiah through Simeon and Anna and on…

          I have to believe that in more recent times that long line of prophets includes John Woolman, Walter Rauschenbusch, Abraham Heschel, Martin Luther King, Jr., Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, and so many others.

          And yes, Jesus was really clear about the blessedness of peacemakers. At a time when so many are calling for more and more war, Amen to that.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Always remember this:
            * A Prophet was NOT a fortuneteller, but a mortal who spoke for a god.
            * And Prophecy was NOT “history written in advance”, but what the god wanted said.
            * “Apocalypse” originally meant “revealing what up to now has been hidden”, like declassifying formerly-classified information.

          • Gary says:

            Ah. I love dystopian literature and, similarly, take it not to portend an unfortunate future scenario. I read it as critique on the world-as-is (though we barely can see it as we live in it.)

  • Gary says:

    This is one of those posts where I just feel like an alien. While my heart and mind does indeed grapple with present-day terrorism, I honestly don’t resonate at all with the Bible wrestlings.

    • I don’t either. god is still speaking IMO

      • Gary says:

        Perhaps, and maybe he’s speaking a lot. Sure seems like he’s saying a lot of different things to different people from what they each say.

        On the counter is the NEA magazine. I picked it up and read through a bit of Richard Mouw’s cover article. Mouw concludes:

        “All of that is so bad that it is much like the world into which the gospel first came. And it was in the world where the Lord announced at Pentecost he was pouring out his ‘Spirit on all people,’ so that ‘sons and daughters will prophesy… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:17, 21). The result was that the cause of the gospel flourished. And so it can also flourish, by God’s grace, in our own day.”

        The challenge with that is that the prophesying has been so all over the map and that two thousand years in and we don’t really have too much to show for it. A lot in Paris and elsewhere tee up the Christian way as in the same vein as the Muslim way–that religious in-group identities haven’t really markedly transformed the world for good or prepared our unique species for what we can see as the present and near-term future challenges for the flourishing of humanity.

        In the piece, Mouw begs for seeking the “shalom” as if that couldn’t have been propagated into the world meaningfully with either Pentecost or the Babylonian exile.

        Charles, perhaps God is still speaking.

        I have no idea if he speaks to me honestly, but I do have an imagination. So why not run with it.

        I think if He were speaking, he might be saying something like this:

        Blessed are the peacemakers. Not the people who say they follow me.

        • Wayfaring Michael says:

          As a former Catholic who started reading the Bible quite late in life, I am constantly reminded that “to prophesy” does not mean to tell the future, but to critique the present.

          I don’t just think, I have faith deep inside me that God IS still speaking, as the sign proclaims on my local UCC church proclaims in bright letters down the street. So I think the question then becomes, who is it that is doing the prophesying these days, who is standing in that long line that goes back to Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Jeremiah through Simeon and Anna and on…

          I have to believe that in more recent times that long line of prophets includes John Woolman, Walter Rauschenbusch, Abraham Heschel, Martin Luther King, Jr., Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, and so many others.

          And yes, Jesus was really clear about the blessedness of peacemakers. At a time when so many are calling for more and more war, Amen to that.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Always remember this:
            * A Prophet was NOT a fortuneteller, but a mortal who spoke for a god.
            * And Prophecy was NOT “history written in advance”, but what the god wanted said.
            * “Apocalypse” originally meant “revealing what up to now has been hidden”, like declassifying formerly-classified information.

          • Gary says:

            Ah. I love dystopian literature and, similarly, take it not to portend an unfortunate future scenario. I read it as critique on the world-as-is (though we barely can see it as we live in it.)

  • Sam says:

    Just as religious people today have varying opinions of the role God did or did not play in natural and human-caused disasters, tragedies, baseball games and wars I cannot resist the urge to believe this has always been the case. Perhaps expressing an opinion contrary to the commonly accepted version of those stories would be unwise, but that doesn’t mean there were not those who held such opinions, even in ancient Israel. Did all God-fearing people really agree that God told them to slaughter entire people groups and to commit the other atrocities we find in the OT? Or are we reading the “official” and “correct” opinion of those who had the power to decide such things?

    While I am willing to agree that what we read may very well be what the person(s) who wrote it believed to be the truth, I also think it implausible to conclude that all good God-fearers who lived concurrently with the events of which we read in the OT saw eye-to-eye with the written reports we find there. Of course, Israel very much needed a “God was behind all we did” story to explain their history, especially the violent (and probably often exaggerated) parts of the story. I understand that some people today need those stories to be accurate in every detail, but I do not. That does not affect my faith. Accepting to stories at face value and often times using those stories as a basis for out nation’s policies, in my opinion, is extremely problematic. Killing more people is not the solution for either side of any conflict.

  • Sam says:

    Just as religious people today have varying opinions of the role God did or did not play in natural and human-caused disasters, tragedies, baseball games and wars I cannot resist the urge to believe this has always been the case. Perhaps expressing an opinion contrary to the commonly accepted version of those stories would be unwise, but that doesn’t mean there were not those who held such opinions, even in ancient Israel. Did all God-fearing people really agree that God told them to slaughter entire people groups and to commit the other atrocities we find in the OT? Or are we reading the “official” and “correct” opinion of those who had the power to decide such things?

    While I am willing to agree that what we read may very well be what the person(s) who wrote it believed to be the truth, I also think it implausible to conclude that all good God-fearers who lived concurrently with the events of which we read in the OT saw eye-to-eye with the written reports we find there. Of course, Israel very much needed a “God was behind all we did” story to explain their history, especially the violent (and probably often exaggerated) parts of the story. I understand that some people today need those stories to be accurate in every detail, but I do not. That does not affect my faith. Accepting to stories at face value and often times using those stories as a basis for out nation’s policies, in my opinion, is extremely problematic. Killing more people is not the solution for either side of any conflict.

  • Beau Quilter says:

    “Not allowed”? Who says? Certainly not the scripture you cite.

  • Derek says:

    This is such a complex issue with much written on it from both conservative and liberal scholars. I am still in a state of mourning so I won’t be able to contribute much other than some gospel writer’s rhetoric from the supposed antisemitic gospel of John:

    “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22)

  • Derek says:

    This is such a complex issue with much written on it from both conservative and liberal scholars. I am still in a state of mourning so I won’t be able to contribute much other than some gospel writer’s rhetoric from the supposed antisemitic gospel of John:

    “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22)

  • Bev Mitchell says:

    To take what I think would be the critical realist stance:

    1. What evidence do we have that a ‘once more into the breach with all guns blazing’ approach will yield any better results than the last several times this was tried, particularly in this region? Remember the one about trying the same failed action again and again and expecting a different result.

    2. Since trying to impose our agenda on the region, massively supporting our questionable business and political partners there, selling untold billions of armaments to all and sundry, training known killers to be better killers seem distinctly unchristian things to do, perhaps a better plan exists.

    3. The better plan, which governments seem currently unwilling to consider, but the church can certainly champion regardless, might be the following.

    A joint agreement by all countries including Russia, China, Iran, USA and EU to

    a. Immediately suspend all arms sales to and military training in the area.
    b. Announce a date certain by which all military personnel will be withdrawn (i.e. soon).
    c. Pass laws (nationally and internationally) that would make arms sales to the region illegal, at least until reasonableness prevails.
    d. Offer generous non-ideological, non-agenda driven aid to anyone from the region who is effectively promoting and working for peace and reconciliation.
    e. Agree that the people and nations of the region must reach their own decisions on how to live together more or less peaceably, no matter how long it takes.
    f. Provide an open door policy for those who feel they must temporarily flee.
    g. Agree that all of this includes Israel.

    Not practical, sure, but an acknowledgement of our real culpability in the current hell – a measure of repentance. Preposterous, yes, but so is loving our neighbour when measured by most of our current personal and collective goals.

    The Church and concerned individuals can do more than lament. They can offer a prophetic witness, and Christians are called to do so. If it goes unheeded, say it again. God’s creation is still a work in progress and is being carried out against stiff opposition (remember the void, darkness and purposelessness mentioned in genesis – it still has its effects.) We Christians are called to offer salt and point to the light, not to counsel adding violence upon violence.

  • Bev Mitchell says:

    To take what I think would be the critical realist stance:

    1. What evidence do we have that a ‘once more into the breach with all guns blazing’ approach will yield any better results than the last several times this was tried, particularly in this region? Remember the one about trying the same failed action again and again and expecting a different result.

    2. Since trying to impose our agenda on the region, massively supporting our questionable business and political partners there, selling untold billions of armaments to all and sundry, training known killers to be better killers seem distinctly unchristian things to do, perhaps a better plan exists.

    3. The better plan, which governments seem currently unwilling to consider, but the church can certainly champion regardless, might be the following.

    A joint agreement by all countries including Russia, China, Iran, USA and EU to

    a. Immediately suspend all arms sales to and military training in the area.
    b. Announce a date certain by which all military personnel will be withdrawn (i.e. soon).
    c. Pass laws (nationally and internationally) that would make arms sales to the region illegal, at least until reasonableness prevails.
    d. Offer generous non-ideological, non-agenda driven aid to anyone from the region who is effectively promoting and working for peace and reconciliation.
    e. Agree that the people and nations of the region must reach their own decisions on how to live together more or less peaceably, no matter how long it takes.
    f. Provide an open door policy for those who feel they must temporarily flee.
    g. Agree that all of this includes Israel.

    Not practical, sure, but an acknowledgement of our real culpability in the current hell – a measure of repentance. Preposterous, yes, but so is loving our neighbour when measured by most of our current personal and collective goals.

    The Church and concerned individuals can do more than lament. They can offer a prophetic witness, and Christians are called to do so. If it goes unheeded, say it again. God’s creation is still a work in progress and is being carried out against stiff opposition (remember the void, darkness and purposelessness mentioned in genesis – it still has its effects.) We Christians are called to offer salt and point to the light, not to counsel adding violence upon violence.

  • Muff Potter says:

    Klaatu barada nikto.

  • Muff Potter says:

    Klaatu barada nikto.

  • Hill Roberts says:

    As to why the OT is important, EVEN under a new covenant: it forms nearly all Christians’ seminal thinking about who and what God is — the God we take as the same God both in Old and New Covenants. Consequently, even though Jesus (Son of GOD, God Himself) says “love enemies”, the God he appeals to for his authority said “kill ’em all” fairly regularly throughout the OT (and rekindled in NT imagry in Rev). I dare say it’s a rare Christian who hasn’t struggled at least once in their life with how to reconcile these two pictures of God. Seems to me Pete is just saying we need to not push that “once upon a time” struggle under the carpet of being a good little Christian. We need to wrestle still, more, and often with what to do with these two very different pictures of God: God of War v SOTM Jesus. I for one find the struggle ongoing mightily within myself: at one moment wanting to kill ’em all, and the next trying to back down and seek enemy love in my blacking heart. “That which I do, I do not want; and that which I want, I do not do.” a la Rom 7. Or, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Unfortunately, those two laws seem mighty alive and well within me at the same time right now.

  • Hill Roberts says:

    As to why the OT is important, EVEN under a new covenant: it forms nearly all Christians’ seminal thinking about who and what God is — the God we take as the same God both in Old and New Covenants. Consequently, even though Jesus (Son of GOD, God Himself) says “love enemies”, the God he appeals to for his authority said “kill ’em all” fairly regularly throughout the OT (and rekindled in NT imagry in Rev). I dare say it’s a rare Christian who hasn’t struggled at least once in their life with how to reconcile these two pictures of God. Seems to me Pete is just saying we need to not push that “once upon a time” struggle under the carpet of being a good little Christian. We need to wrestle still, more, and often with what to do with these two very different pictures of God: God of War v SOTM Jesus. I for one find the struggle ongoing mightily within myself: at one moment wanting to kill ’em all, and the next trying to back down and seek enemy love in my blacking heart. “That which I do, I do not want; and that which I want, I do not do.” a la Rom 7. Or, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Unfortunately, those two laws seem mighty alive and well within me at the same time right now.

  • Ishmael Abraham says:

    Quran says that the goal of Islam is to replace strict commandments of Torah which God calls burdens and shackles of Jews and Christians either self-made or commanded by God with relatively lenient commandments of Quran and Sunnah. That’s why when Jesus peace be upon him returns soon as a Muslim, he will follow the lenient laws of war against Godless Jewish Antichrist as known as Dajjal. As far as violence in Paris is concerned, ISIS is a seduction of Islam like Zionism is a seduction of Jews and Christians, and honest Jews and Christians should fight these pseudo-religious seductions through scriptural knowledge like this Syrian Muslim scholar.http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/sheikh-muhammad-al-yaqoubi-responds-to-al-julanis-al-jazeera-interview/

  • Ishmael Abraham says:

    Quran says that the goal of Islam is to replace strict commandments of Torah which God calls burdens and shackles of Jews and Christians either self-made or commanded by God with relatively lenient commandments of Quran and Sunnah. That’s why when Jesus peace be upon him returns soon as a Muslim, he will follow the lenient laws of war against Godless Jewish Antichrist as known as Dajjal. As far as violence in Paris is concerned, ISIS is a seduction of Islam like Zionism is a seduction of Jews and Christians, and honest Jews and Christians should fight these pseudo-religious seductions through scriptural knowledge like this Syrian Muslim scholar.http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/sheikh-muhammad-al-yaqoubi-responds-to-al-julanis-al-jazeera-interview/

  • Paul says:

    I work in finance and my office in 2011 was right across the river from the WTC. I wasn’t there that day. That said, in the wake of 9/11 I developed a personal rule: Deities don’t tell humans to kill each other and if they do, they are malevolent and not worthy of worship.

    That realization wasn’t the only thing, but it was a piece that helped me to understand what the genocide stories in the Hebrew represent. First of all, based on the lack of archeological evidence, it is probable that they are just that, stories. But to the extent they did occur, it involved people committing horrific acts and using God as a justification. They acted how they did, and attributed the motive to God.

    Now I realize that you can interpret all religious writings that way. People developed customs and prejudices, and attribute their actions and beliefs to a deity.

  • Paul says:

    I work in finance and my office in 2011 was right across the river from the WTC. I wasn’t there that day. That said, in the wake of 9/11 I developed a personal rule: Deities don’t tell humans to kill each other and if they do, they are malevolent and not worthy of worship.

    That realization wasn’t the only thing, but it was a piece that helped me to understand what the genocide stories in the Hebrew represent. First of all, based on the lack of archeological evidence, it is probable that they are just that, stories. But to the extent they did occur, it involved people committing horrific acts and using God as a justification. They acted how they did, and attributed the motive to God.

    Now I realize that you can interpret all religious writings that way. People developed customs and prejudices, and attribute their actions and beliefs to a deity.

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    Pete, is there a post coming up addressing the reactionary hostility towards Syrian refugees? Please do it, you’ll hit the right pressure points.

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    Pete, is there a post coming up addressing the reactionary hostility towards Syrian refugees? Please do it, you’ll hit the right pressure points.

  • Dr ExCathedra says:

    The natural order, created by God, is founded upon and structured through violence. Every thing that lives also dies, and rarely easily. The animal world is a constant wheel of struggle for existence and reproduction and a search for food, very much of which consists of eating other living things, often while they still live. Why the violence of the Creator is surprising to you is surprising to me.

    • Veritas says:

      It is with this point in mind that I view all in the Old Testament and New Testament with my mind fixed on who the audience was, when the words were written and spoken. Is it not obvious that God slowly drew His people, first out of Pagan Ur, through Egypt and empires, on a painstaking journey of slowly understanding who He was and how He was different from theirs and the surrounding culture’s view of Him?

      What time did it take for them to be prepared for the coming Messiah? It was thousands of years from a warring fight for survival, to the King of Peace.

  • Dr ExCathedra says:

    The natural order, created by God, is founded upon and structured through violence. Every thing that lives also dies, and rarely easily. The animal world is a constant wheel of struggle for existence and reproduction and a search for food, very much of which consists of eating other living things, often while they still live. Why the violence of the Creator is surprising to you is surprising to me.

    Even people who profess to “take the Bible seriously” almost always give pride of place to their very spatio-temporally local and recent “values” as uncontestable givens and then try to make the Scriptures compatible with them, whether it be the liberal feminists trying to make the New Testament into an egalitarian manifesto manque or post-“Holocaust” conservative believers having a problem with NT “anti-Semitism.” Hardly anybody actually assumes that the worldview of the sacred text is primary and that they, tiny specks in space and time, are the ones with the distorted views.

    • Veritas says:

      It is with this point in mind that I view all in the Old Testament and New Testament with my mind fixed on who the audience was, when the words were written and spoken. Is it not obvious that God slowly drew His people, first out of Pagan Ur, through Egypt and empires, on a painstaking journey of slowly understanding who He was and how He was different from theirs and the surrounding culture’s view of Him?

      What time did it take for them to be prepared for the coming Messiah? It was thousands of years from a warring fight for survival, to the King of Peace.

  • Bill Wilkerson says:

    Do you think this is a discussion, or should be, of the concept of “just war”?

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