Friday, August 18, 2006

War & Christianity - wrong question

I was reading a blog today about War and Christianity. This topic is of much interest in light of what is happing in my ancestral homeland of Lebanon. This is one of a number of posts by Chris Erdman on the topic lately.

What bothers me is something I see quite often in some of the newer theologies/theologians I converse with and/or read (could I get any more slashes in there!). I hear statements like, “Jesus did not start ‘Christianity,’ Paul did.” And “Lets just get back to Jesus.” The first I don’t like, the second comes from a different angle but impacts one’s point-of-view so profoundly...

The basic idea is that we look at Jesus alone for our understanding of God, living, morals, and philosophy. Actually, we look only to what we recorded about Jesus.

My problem here is that Jesus didn’t just show up like an Alien abduction scenario. He had no problem with the label/title “Christ” - Messiah - Anointed One. That’s a pretty narrow title! It limits Him to a Specific role (God’s tool) in a Specific religion (“Judaism”) in a Specific geography (THE land of Israel)!!

So isn’t it an offense to Jesus Himself to say “I’m only about Jesus”? That would be like someone only interested in me as a piano player. Dude, I am SO much more than a piano player!! (which is good because I’m not all that great at it!)

So back to War. My issue is not with the yes or no of War. My issue is with the over-narrow, decidedly blind new theology/angle that produces a philosophy on war that is claimed as “Christian,” “Biblical,” or “in line with Jesus.” It seems to ignore the conflict Jesus causes, the conflict He predicted He would cause, and the idea that Jesus/God/the King does have insight into how governments (not just individuals or intimate communities) can and should act.

I keep coming back to Romans 13 wherein Paul states that government(s) are a tool of God, created by Him. Including reward and discipline.

I FULLY agree with my friend/boss Brad Holaway: the “solution” in the Lebanon/Israel crisis is the subversive infiltration of the Kingdom of God, brought by followers of the King, so that forgiveness and justice can be wrought/brought from the inside-out. But I depart from some of this newer thinking at the full dismissal of discipline. I DO think the question at hand is: is it okay for one government to discipline another. But to claim that “turning the other cheek” is the flies in the face of much of Scripture that pertains to Justice. See, for example, the one verse that BOTH sides might claim, “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly before God Himself” (Micah 6:8). So is the call to Justice simply a pipe-dream because we have to be full pacifists? Does this approach work with my kids?


mattieg80 said...


what an awesome post. I just happend to pass through some of Brett's links and came across this post.

You have really challenged my thinking and you did it in such an encouraging way. So many times these days I am confronted with, well, just rude and unkind words and challenges from people who cannot just dialogue, but have to tear down what they don't understand in me or in another. Thank you.

I will really seek with God today about my understanding of my own pacifism and whether I am really getting at the heart of what He is really calling me too.

thanks Dave,
Matt Gibson

BAB said...


Pacifism isn't exactly a new theology. It seems as if it is because it is really popular these days. But it goes back at least to the Reformation and the Anabaptists, but (like everybody who is trying to make a point) I believe there are strands that go back to the beginning.

Good post. I am working on a response that I will post on my blog.


David M said...

Thank you for commenting so I clarify. The "new" theology is not pacifism; I agree with your assesment. The "new theology" I was refering to has to do with some revisiting of historic beliefs with a post-Cogito perspective (i.e. one of the non-realism branches of postmodernism). I like Erdmen (for example), I just don't subscribe to some of his philosphical assumptions & trajectories.

Hope that helps.

DaveDV said...

I've always viewed the "turn the other cheek" passage to apply to an individual's response to unjust treatment, rather than a government's resposne to war.