How Can This Be?

Some of the saddest lines I have ever read by a Christian, let alone one of Luther’s status, are these:[1]

[In speaking of “holy martyrs”…] When they were called to arms even by infidel emperors and lords, they went to war. In all good conscience they slashed and killed, in this respect there was no difference between Christians and heathen. Yet they did not sin against this text. For they were not doing this as Christians, for their own persons, but as obedient members and subjects, under obligation to a secular person and authority. But in areas where you are free and without any obligation to such a secular authority, you have a different rule, since you are a different person.


[1] Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 110.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.soulgardeners.com Tom Smith

    Eish … this is disturbing

  • http://www.erikleafblad.com Erik Leafblad

    I know I’m going to get blasted for this by someone, but Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms, evidenced in this quote, was just a logical extension of Augustine’s faulty City of God/City of Man thinking. I’ve majorly oversimplified, I know, but I think for all that Luther got right, this is his most devastatingly wrong move, and one that goes all the way back to St. Augustine, unfortunately. This is where the witness of the Anabaptists is so crucial in ecumenical dialogue.

  • Scott Eaton

    I’m probably going to get blasted too, but how is what Luther is advocating different from the command God gave the newly annointed King Jehu in 2 Kings 9-10. Yes, later God punished Jehu for so much bloodshed (Hosea 1:4-5), but he also commended Jehu for carrying out his duties in obedience to God (2 Kings 10:30), which included the killing of Jezebel in fulfillment of God’s prophecy and word.

    I’m NOT necessarily saying that I agree with Luther here, but I’m just raising the question. Perhaps texts like the above and his two kingdom theology led him to this view.

  • http://www.theologicalvacillation.wordpress.com Adam Metz

    I certainly don’t have the answers to the challenges of the Old Testament God of War . . . but this dichotomous perspective has created a great deal of evil in the history of our world . . . and given us as Christians a severe black eye in others’ perception of us.

  • Mike

    You raise the case of Jehu being told by God to kill the house of Ahab. The distinction though is that this was obedience to God and not some secular authority, so I’m sure how it can be used to support two kingdom theology. Luther seems to suggest that a person is absolved from God’s commands when instructed by the secular powers, as though civic life were a separate entity from private life, and not subject to the lordship of Christ.

  • Jorge L

    Luther’s two kingdom theology is NOT Augustine’s two cities. The two cities are two loves and they run down the heart of every man. They are caritas and cupiditas. They cannot be identified with the church and the world or the sacred and secular realms. Augustine did recognize a distinction between two powers, sacred and secular authority but they are NOT the same as Luther’s two kingdoms. Luther is much more dualistic with regard to the two. Their only integration is in the individual Christian who holds temporal authority or is subject to temporal authority. Whether the temporal authority is exercised by a Christian or a non-Christian is, as the quote shows, indifferent to Luther. It is NOT indifferent to Augustine, as a reading of De Civitate Dei shows.

    Augustine is far closer to Calvin on church/world issues. In Niebuhr’s categories, both are “Christ transforming culture” advocates, loosely speaking. But Augustine and Calvin are not identical. I’m just saying that Calvin is the closest to Augustine among the major Reformers. Luther is not.

  • Jorge L

    The best, concise explication of Augustine on politics and the temporal authority, in my view, is Jean Bethke Elshtain’s little book, _Augustine and the Limits of Politics_.

    Unlike Eusebius and Eastern Christendom, Augustine and the West were much more pessimistic and doubtful about the Christian magistrate and temporal ruler. Where Eusebius turned the Christian emperor into a sacerdotal divine ruler of Christians, Augustine remained highly skeptical. Much of the history of the struggle to Christianize Europe in the 6th-8th centuries involved sacerdotal overreach by Christian temporal rulers (who meant well but overreached) and the tempering of this by bishops and popes. It reached its apogee in the 11thc conflict between popes and emperors. The popes successfully set a limit to the emperors’ overreach (yet the reason the reforming papacy could do that was because an honest reforming emperor in the early 1000s put in place a reforming pope to free the Church of domination by thuggish Italian noble clans).

    It was, however, a pyrrhic victory because it freed nation-states under kings to rise from the ashes of the Empire and eventually these kings took over the Church in their realms–that’s what the Protestant Reformation, at heart, involved: the final triumph of temporal over spiritual power.

    Nonetheless, it is to the eternal credit of Western, Latin, Augustinian Christianity that it set limits to sacral kingship and sacralizing of temporal power. The modern distinction (should not be separation) between “church” and “state” was a Western, Latin, Christian, Augustinian invention.

    Luther capitulates in one major aspect of that limit-setting: convinced the visible episcopal Church is incable of self-reform, he grants authority for reform to the “emergency bishop” (the prince, city council, temporal ruoler). Calvin did NOT do that. Luther’s approach was a mistake, understandable given his disillusionment, but a costly mistake nonetheless.

  • Scott Eaton

    Mike (#5) – according to Romans 13 secular governments have been instituted by God and we are called to be subject to these authorities. It is possible Luther also has this in mind.

  • Mike

    And Romans 13 is immediately preceded by Romans 12, where it says to take care of your enemy and repay evil with good. There is no pause between talking of enemies and evil, and authorities. In this context then, (and the context of the whole New Testament) I think it is better to see this as an extension of 12:17-21 – those in government are to be loved and not rebelled against, in spite of the fact that their claims on authority competes with God’s. ‘Established by God’ suggests that God is still sovereign despite a human claiming the throne, similar to saying “don’t take revenge – God will still make things right” a few verses earlier.

    Even if we are to take Romans 13 as legitimizing temporal authority, that doesn’t change the fact that God’s command to love trumps those of our governments – “We must obey God rather than men,” Peter and the apostles remind us in Acts 5:29. I don’t think Scripture supports the notion that you can disconnect your conscience while in service to the State.

  • Robin

    I think this section is key:

    “But in areas where you are free and without any obligation to such a secular authority, you have a different rule, since you are a different person.”

    Americans are free, completely free, when they have to decide whether or not to enlist in the military. People in Jesus’ day, as well as Luther’s did not have the same liberty.

    Military service either occurred purely as a result of conscription or was conditioned on fealty to a feudal Lord that owned your land, all the surrounding land, and at whose pleasure you, your wife, and your children were able to eat.

    Failure to serve in the military in these scenarios (because you didn’t believe the war met all of the principles of just war theory) would likely mean immediate or imminent execution for yourself, as well as homelessness and hunger for your entire family.

    I don’t think you can hold those Christians, who were essentially slaves in matters concerning war and military service, to the same standard that we hold modern soldiers who almost always have choices regarding military service, and who never face as horrifying prospects as our forefathers for refusal of duty.

  • Watchman

    This idea of two kingdoms has its genesis prior to Augustine. We can trace this paradox in the times of Constantine in the 4th century AD. Constantine married the Christian faith with politics and military might, thus permissively allowing Christians to take up the sword for the cause of Christ and the Roman Empire. Sadly, this goes against every fiber of Jesus’ teaching on pacifism (not passivity). Since then, numerous Christians, save perhaps those of the Anabaptist tradition, has had free license to kill at the behest of secular authorities. In America, almost every Christian has bowed at the altar of patriotism and war, neglecting Christ’s teaching of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. Oh, how I pray American Christians will turn from their ways and follow after the religion of peace that Christ taught.

  • Mike

    Robin, I would certainly agree that those in earlier ages who were conscripted can be, to some extent, victims. And it’s even true today that the US has the ‘economic draft’ and people are forced to enlist to provide healthcare for their families. While we can have sympathy for those in that kind of position, do we not commend the rare few who have suffered for quietly resisting it? (I say this with some bias – one side of my family is Russian Mennonite, so fleeing from one place to another for the sake of peace kind of runs in my blood.) The witness of the early Church in the face of persecution seems to suggest that coercion by the State does not change who Christians are to consider Lord.

  • Susan N.

    I had read of Luther that based on his strong belief in justification by faith alone, he sought to eliminate the Book of James from the New Testament. He just couldn’t reconcile faith and works, both/and… That thinking creates an environment where just about anything can be justified under the umbrella of faith covering. I’m sure that Luther’s protest against the injustices of the Roman Catholic Church were a right impulse. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Just as we read the whole Bible, and seek to see the whole of it, I am coming to the conclusion that Christian history, and its major players, are best taken on the whole. No one person perfectly represented the truth. Some had significant flaws. I try to take the good and not get hung up on the disappointing aspects of their lives and doctrines. Saints mess up and get it wrong occasionally. And that is a humbling thought… We have not “arrived” at perfect knowledge or practice of our faith, but we’re compelled to press on and learn as much as we can of the victories and defeats of former saints. I think that’s the best to take from the above quote!

  • Calebite

    #11 – “In America, almost every Christian has bowed at the altar of patriotism and war, neglecting Christ’s teaching of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies.”

    As I, an assuredly non-pacifist follower of Christ in the military, respond to this comment, I shall also attempt to follow the Sermon on the Mount.

    Praise God, I am blessed. I have just been reviled and called a worshipper of false gods. #12 has uttered evil things against me, as I seek to follow God’s calling and gifting in my life.

    I do so, not because I worship patriotism, but because I believe that love for neighbor means that I stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves – no matter their citizenship. I do so, not because I worship war, but because I believe that God’s love includes justice. I do so not to establish a temporal kingdom for ‘the cause of Christ or the {American} empire’, but because I believe that participation in the government as God’s agent can be a good and moral thing.

    #12 Watchman (a name with a military connotation!) – I pray that you continue to enjoy a safe, secure and free life of peace.

  • Calebite

    The #12 in my comment above should be #11. Sorry Mike!

  • Brantley Gasaway

    Calebite,
    First, I commend you for trying to respond graciously to #11. But I ask this in earnest as an advocate of non-violence and one who thinks that Christians should not serve in the military: is there any way that an Anabaptist could articulate her case for this position that wouldn’t elicit a sense of victimhood from you? That is, is it even possible for you to hear this position presented without receiving it as a personal attack?

    Scot, how do you think Anabaptists should respond to the convictions of Christian brothers such as Calebite (#s 14 and 15)? I’m afraid that I tend to share the type of “prophetic” response of Watchman (#11) and forget to try to speak (what I regard as) the truth in love.

  • JohnnyAppleseed

    Calebite,

    I’m intrigued one can so easily ignore the life and teachings of Jesus to justify their position. You cannot kill others without committing murder, regardless of how “noble” the reasons are to human minds (this includes any type of self-defense). Further, such disobeys Christ’s commandments to love your neighbor, love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, turn the other cheek, to stop living by the sword, and to live a life in complete obedience to God and His Kingdom, not one of the Kingdoms of the world.

    If we have to kill others to make some sort of “peace” or other similar outcome possible, we have already lost, and the Gospel is powerless.

    Following Christ? Yeah, because Jesus comes off the cross and blazes His enemies with a machine gun… Sorry, not in my Bible.

  • Jeremy

    Brantley, it can be done. As a former soldier, I’ve had many conversations with pacifists that weren’t insulting. It’s not WHAT you say, but how you say it.

    First, don’t assume your audience is in utter agreement with you. If we all agreed, this would be a very boring place. Second, do not make aspersions to their character. Characterizing all soldiers as idolators (which Watchmen does by inference) is right out. Thirdly, don’t assume you have it all figured out. The pacifism debate is raging in more places than just the US and Anabaptists, while an important voice, are not even the majority voice.

    There are strong arguments on both sides, and my personal problem with the anabaptist route is that it has gigantic presuppositions regarding love and a barring of Christian service to the state. God is love and yet kills/commands killing (unless you dismiss those passages as untrue), and the Bible seems to state clearly those things that truly matter to God but “no military service” is strangely absent.

    All that to say that most would agree that the Christian should always seek nonviolent solutions first, but how far that extends is a far from settled matter.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Not as shocking as when I read this writing by Luther. Looks like Luther was in near total alignment with Hitler and Naziism — and as I started drilling through sources of Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll, it was eye opening trip into material that I never knew about Luther (and later, reading nasty details of Calvin). It seems most Americans with any inkling (though I imagine there may be a majority of Christians who do not know much of Luther at all) of Christian history equate Luther with 95 Theses and the Protestant Reformation.

    It’s as if all the sins of the church’s anti-semitism and sponsored pogroms are hoisted onto the madman Hitler who infected the brains of his countrymen, and once eliminated, all sin in that regard died with him.

  • Calebite

    #16 – Brantley: Yes, there is a way, you just did it! The fact that you heard my position as a ‘conviction of a Christian brother’.

    #17 – JohnnyAppleseed: I would agree that Jesus isn’t interested in advancing his kingdom or blazing his enemies with violence. I am not either! Certainly you must realize that there is much more nuance to any thoughtful position on the relationship of the OT with the NT, the role of the government in general, and the relationship of church/world (2 cities, 2 kingdoms, Christ/culture) than what you characterize? Your sarcasm and caricature of me thinking that Jesus would come off the cross with a machine gun really makes it tough for me to hear you as a person who is as interested in love and grace as you profess.

    #18 – Jeremy: I agree with your statement that there are some good arguments on both sides, and your questions/problems with the anabaptist route. Bottom line for me would be this: if it’s morally permissible for a government to provide security and justice for a society (such as police, courts, and military), then it is morally permissible for a Christian to be a part of those structures when they are acting as they should.

    I have no fuzzy ideals of bringing about world peace through military action, I have no hope that the government is the true or ultimate answer to social ills, I have no confidence that the U.S. or any country has a special mandate or place in God’s Kingdom. The gospel of Christ, and the gospel alone, can change lives and bring salvation.

    But, that does not necessarily mean that Christians should not participate in non-gospel means to make the world a better, safer, prosperous, caring, free, non-chaotic world. If being part of what God seems to intend governments to do (Rom 13, 1 Pet 2:13-14) is wrong, where does it end? The taxes of pacifists help pay my salary!

    And, believe me, when it comes to not paying taxes, I’ve been seriously tempted to adopt a hyper-anabaptist stance.

  • Watchman

    Calebite,

    The fact that you are a soldier does not change what Scripture clearly states concerning the peaceful mandates of Jesus Christ. If you state you are a Christian as you claim to be, then Jesus’ mandate for peace should take precedence over your profession. Never did Christ claim that we take up sword to help a neighbor or exact justice. In fact, Christ told us to put away the sword, and only God is Judge. Your gross misinterpretation of Scripture to support your position of serving in the military, although a noble attempt, is certainly not Biblical.

    For what it’s worth, I too am a military veteran, served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, some of which was during Desert Storm/Shield. Thanks for serving.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Hi Calebite,
    I am as appreciative of your service and convictions as I can be as one who believes Jesus himself, his teaching and that of the Apostles doesn’t in any explicit way support your beliefs in this matter. I have been a pacifist since the late ’60 and a Christian pacifist since the late ’70s, I’ve studied the theology and ethics of Christians and violence, and continue to see the command of Christ to take up one’s cross and denying oneself as incompatible with taking up the sword of government, which is never commanded by any NT text. What it seems to me you need to do, in order to justify your position and profession as being compatible with your following of Christ is to explain how following Jesus’ example and teaching by taking up your cross leads you to the conclusions you cling to. How is taking up the sword of a secular (pagan?) government the “good and moral thing” as defined by the New Testament, by Jesus and the Apostles’ teaching for a follower of Jesus?

    That being said, I do recognize and appreciate the power of your argument about love of neighbor, protection of those who aren’t able to protect themselves, and God’s love seeking justice as the strongest possible counterpoints to the pacifist Christian perspective. You’ve focused on something that pacifist Christian adherents rarely if ever address directly, or perhaps effectively.

    BOQ
    “I do so, not because I worship patriotism, but because I believe that love for neighbor means that I stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves – no matter their citizenship. I do so, not because I worship war, but because I believe that God’s love includes justice. I do so not to establish a temporal kingdom for ‘the cause of Christ or the {American} empire’, but because I believe that participation in the government as God’s agent can be a good and moral thing.”
    Comment by Calebite — February 7, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    BOQ
    But, that does not necessarily mean that Christians should not participate in non-gospel means to make the world a better, safer, prosperous, caring, free, non-chaotic world. If being part of what God seems to intend governments to do (Rom 13, 1 Pet 2:13-14) is wrong, where does it end?
    Comment by Calebite — February 7, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    This last question is a good one. Let me ask you some. If taking up your cross and following Jesus is one of the things Jesus requires of his disciples, where does taking up your cross begin when the main task of the deployed military man or woman is to kill and destroy when told to? Are you in fact free to follow the teaching of Jesus when you are under the command of those committed to non-gospel means of improving things in the world? Can you say to your commander, “I know this doesn’t violate the rules of war, Geneva Conventions, and all, but it would violate the teaching of Jesus”? Can you be both under the command of Jesus and those committed to non-gospel purposes? Where does discipleship to Jesus begin when you are being deployed on the battlefield? Can it really begin at all? Or is the Gospel inevitable a merely spiritual affair super-ceded by secular and temporal issues of dominance and control through the use of force and violence?

    If, as it seems, you are invoking the name Caleb, combined with your comments here, you may be suggesting giving counsel to spy out and invade the wrong promised land, despite your disclaimers, and not one Jesus embodies or describes, but rather that of an earlier and now transcended covenant.

    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard

  • http://blueprint4men.blogspot.com Onorio

    Whenever I hear the laments of war by Christians, I’m reminded of this passage from Orthodoxy by Chesterton:
    So it is also, of course, with the contradictory charges of the
    anti-Christians about submission and slaughter. It IS true that the
    Church told some men to fight and others not to fight; and it IS true
    that those who fought were like thunderbolts and those who did not
    fight were like statues. All this simply means that the Church
    preferred to use its Supermen and to use its Tolstoyans. There must be
    SOME good in the life of battle, for so many good men have enjoyed
    being soldiers. There must be SOME good in the idea of non-resistance,
    for so many good men seem to enjoy being Quakers. All that the Church
    did (so far as that goes) was to prevent either of these good things
    from ousting the other. They existed side by side. The Tolstoyans,
    having all the scruples of monks, simply became monks. The Quakers
    became a club instead of becoming a sect. Monks said all that Tolstoy
    says; they poured out lucid lamentations about the cruelty of battles
    and the vanity of revenge. But the Tolstoyans are not quite right
    enough to run the whole world; and in the ages of faith they were not
    allowed to run it. The world did not lose the last charge of Sir James
    Douglas or the banner of Joan the Maid. And sometimes this pure
    gentleness and this pure fierceness met and justified their juncture;
    the paradox of all the prophets was fulfilled, and, in the soul of St.
    Louis, the lion lay down with the lamb. But remember that this text is
    too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our
    Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the
    lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism
    on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion
    instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is–Can the lion
    lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the
    problem the Church attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved.

  • Percival

    I’m listening in on this one and want to ask if anyone would like to address Calebite’s point about law enforcement and courts? (#20).

  • Percival

    Oh, and I forgot to answer “How can this be?”
    It be because he wrong.
    Why should anyone suppose that just because Luther is a giant of the Reformation that he would be right about everything. He was right about one thing when that one issue was on the line. In my book that still makes him a (kind of) hero no matter how misguided he was about other issues.

  • Travis Greene

    Yeah, Luther has no problem asserting that you can indeed serve two masters.

  • http://www.kingdomseeking.wordpress.com K. Rex Butts

    And several centuries later, there are still many Christians who believe they can live two lives, one as a Christian and one as a Secular person, and be faithful to Jesus Christ.

  • Houghton Grandmal

    Naum (19)

    James Carroll’s _Constantine’s Sword_ is arrant nonsense. Almost nothing in it bears any resemblance to credible historical writing.

    The old Luther paved the way for Nazism canard is monstrous.

    I think Luther’s two kingdoms theory was mistaken and was partly the byproduct of the rise of the Erastian nationalism of the modern era

    but the Nazism canard is silly.

    Nazism, like Stalinism, is a modern movement that arose in the wake of Kant’s effort to have ethics without a knowable and active God. Nietzsche called Kant’s bluff and Stalin and Hitler and Mao just picked up the pieces.

    Hitler should never be mentioned except in the same breath as Stalin and Mao. One of the most successful snow jobs of the last 50 years is to concentrate all villainy in Nazism and (among academics) to embarrassingly make apologies for Stalin and Mao.

    A pox on all their houses.

  • Nathan C

    Luther’s two kingdoms aren’t church and state; they’re more like the eternal and the temporal. He’s hardly beyond criticism, but Luther’s dualism isn’t the same as the (quasi-Anabaptist) dualism common to this thread.

    In Luther’s understanding, the temporal includes “the World,” but it also includes the visible aspects of the church, most especially the part of the church that can tell you what to do and discipline you if you don’t. So, your Hauerwas reading group is (at least partly) an element of the temporal kingdom, because if I show up and start talking like Calebite, you’ll ask me to leave.

    Likewise, Luther thinks that the temporal (albeit fallen) is as much God’s as the eternal. Since the temporal kingdom isn’t wholly given over to Satan, it’s incorrect to pit the eternal against the temporal in the way that neo-Anabaptists want to pit the church against the state. As God’s creation, there are goods which should be sought in the temporal order that are distinct from those sought in the eternal order. e.g. civil peace and justice. Consequently, temporal institutions are neither inherently antichrist nor necessarily in conflict with the church.

    This is why, for all Luther’s pessimism about the world, he’s willing to ask princes to reform bishops. As he sees it, that’s asking one temporal institution, staffed by Christians, to correct another institution, also staffed by Christians. Well, that and practicality. Whether that was really a good idea is of course debatable.

  • Watchman

    Nathan,

    You are partially correct and partially incorrect. Luther’s two kingdoms are the Kingdom of God (eternal) and the kingdom of this world (temporal). However, many associate the kingdoms of this world with secular power and authorities (State). While many associate the Kingdom of God with the Body of Christ on earth (Church). There is a distinct difference between the two. Perhaps it’s mere semantics.

  • Tim

    What is the application of these quoted lines to our military in America? The men and women of our armed forces “slash and kill” when duty requires them to. Is this unchristian of them? Both Scot’s criticism (I infer) in calling the quote “sad” along with many of the comments seem to indicate a strong pacifist current in this thread, or am I mistaken?

  • Craig

    People “associating” is quite different from Luther “teaching”.
    Thank you Nathan.

  • Calebite

    #22 – Richard,

    I greatly appreciate your response. Wish we could sit down over a good cigar or pot of coffee and discuss all the points and questions we’ve both raised. You’ve asked some questions that would take too long for me to answer on a blog, and you haven’t answered my questions that you said were good either!

    I think the fact that we have trouble on this blog agreeing on what exactly Luther’s two kingdoms are (not my area of expertise) shows that most likely this debate goes back to a foundational understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m not nearly as dualistic as others here seem to be. Once again, for me, it seems that God has a purpose for government that is good and moral – rewarding those who do right and punishing those who do wrong. I fail to see how that purpose belongs to a different kingdom than God’s kingdom, so I think it is morally good for a Christian to be part of that. I think those who see it as completely separate are inconsistent in their application – the ones I know still pay taxes to that government, still drive on government roads, license theirselves and their vehicles, and benefit greatly from the security and peace that it survives.

    I knew a seminary professor who was a strict Sabbatarian, and wouldn’t eat out on Sunday or drive on a toll road, because that would force others to violate the Sabbath. While not that strict myself, I admired his consistency. I don’t see that in the pacifist tradition. Rather, they approach what they see as the kingdom of this world like a Sabbatarian eating out on Sunday afternoon – they enjoy the benefits of other people’s endeavors in what they consider wrong. I just can’t be that dualistic about my walk with Christ.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Hey Calebite,
    Thanks for the response time and attention. Luther would probably want the conversation to be accompanied by a beer, but we’ll have to settle for a virtual ‘whatever.’ 8>)
    Sometimes questions aren’t capable of being answered directly–either because of differing presuppositions, language, experience, or sometimes perhaps just messiness. Jesus’ life, the questions and challenges he faced, but especially the fact that he taught mostly in aphorisms and parables is suggestive of some of the complexity of directly answering difficult questions, especially moral ones.
    I have no doubt that God intends for governments to be good and moral. There is some historical evidence even to suggest that Christian influence has been important in bringing about a greater approximation of that goal. There is also, however, currently considerable debate about the pros and cons of the Constantinian compromise. Just as a reminder: democratic principles and the separation of church and state came about because of the scriptural insights and practices of the Anabaptist/Baptist traditions. So, which brought about the greater good?

    The main question for you, however, or so it seems to me, is how you can bring the teaching of Jesus directly to bear in your conversations and decision-making as his disciple even in, or especially in, the context of a fire-fight. This is the kind of context in which Anabaptists especially are not nearly as dualistic as those from most christian traditions. If you are not a dualist there it makes it very difficult to see you as other than a crusading and intending-to-conquer christian, desiring to rule over others for the sake of a perceived “good.” This is where I think God wants his rule, his Kingdom, to be most visible in the lives of Christians: the places where even Islamic Jihadists can see the difference, and they can be sure that as a follower of Jesus you are not engaged in another Crusade.

    I don’t think that there is anything in the New Testament that suggests that Christians should see themselves as those who properly wield the sword of wrath that God has put in the hands of ruling authorities, or that they should seek to be the ruling authorities, or accept the role of ruling or lording over others through wielding the sword. It just isn’t there. The non-violent conclusions one may reach from simply following the teaching of the New Testament (rather than the multitude of rationalizing theologians that argue otherwise) may look dualistic from the outside, but it is even more monistic in terms of the Kingdom of God having pre-eminence and priority over every other domain or ism than just about any other tradition.

    There are, in any case, certainly dualistic conceptual frameworks one may deduce from the Jewish apocalypticism of the New Testament (my Kingdom is not from this world; if it were my servants would be fighting…), so there may be good reasons to affirm a dualism of domains (Jesus certainly seemed to accept the rule of Satan over the kingdoms of this world (uh, yeah, that would include even the USA). If you haven’t come to terms with Jesus’ unwillingness to engage the world in its own ways, you may want to spend some more quality time with him and his word. I say this without any condescension intended; I barely know Jesus at all.

    If you have some more time I would love to hear your answers to some of those questions I asked, even as I have here tried to answer yours, however indirectly.

    Peace and blessings to all in Christ, Richard

  • Jeremy

    See, Richard’s response has something that Watchman’s and Johnny’s lack – Namely, grace,humility and no implication that Calebite is somehow less Christian for not agreeing with him.

  • Jeremy

    I meant to add more, but hit submit too soon. We should all take notes. I’m pretty miserable at avoiding condescension myself. That’s the at-coffee response I think Scot is after around here.


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