What Barton and Copeland get wrong about war and faith

What Barton and Copeland get wrong about war and faith January 11, 2014

In this video Kenneth Copeland and David Barton argue that soldiers returning from war should not suffer PTSD or self-condemnation because of their experiences. I know they mean well, but their treatment of the scripture is baffling.

“Look how many people in Hebrews 11 faith hall of fame are warriors,” says Barton.

“Almost the whole list, man,” says Copeland.

“The whole thing,” affirms Barton.

But, no, not actually. Here are the individuals listed in Hebrews 11:

Abel, not a warrior. Enoch, not a warrior. Noah, not a warrior. Abraham, only went to battle when pushed by his nephew’s capture. Sarah, not a warrior. Isaac, not a warrior. Jacob, not a warrior. Joseph, not a warrior. Moses, a leader in war but not a warrior. Rahab, not a warrior. Gideon, warrior. Barak, warrior. Samson, warrior. Jephthah, warrior. David, warrior. Samuel, not a warrior, though he did hack a man to pieces.

By my count, that’s 11 non warriors (69%) and 5 warriors (31%). Even if we count Abraham, Moses, and Samuel as warriors, Copeland and Barton are still way off. Last I checked, half is nowhere near “the whole thing.”

And whatever the tally, we should be clear about this: War is not the point of Hebrews 11. Not only are few actual warriors listed, but none are primarily lauded for their war making. The author says that he doesn’t have time to get into their exploits. In fact, war is only explicitly mentioned twice, once in reference to the battle of Jericho, which is mainly notable because the city’s walls were brought down by non-military action.

Regardless, in Barton’s reading Hebrews 11 somehow validates soldiers’ behavior in war. “Not only are you guiltless, you are esteemed and venerated,” he says. “And you need to get that vision of yourself.”

There’s every possibility that a solider could be guiltless, esteemed, and venerated. There are plenty of Orthodox saints who were soldiers. And we venerate them on a level that would surely unnerve Barton and Copeland. But like Hebrews 11, we venerate them for their faith — not bloodshed.

The point of Hebrews 11 is to show the centrality of faith in the church, among the people of God. It’s not about justifying military action, however right it might be in some circumstances.

The video above offers a good (if extreme) picture of what I talked about yesterday; we assume that since we agree with the Bible, the Bible must agree with us. We then see evidence for that agreement even when it’s not there.

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  • kevin kirkpatrick

    Great article Joel. Alongside with the bizarre application of scripture being done here, it also shows us another common error many Christians make, namely, that Christians should not suffer from psychological problems. This is of course fanciful non-sense but it leads to a great deal of damage. The thinking here is that faith in Christ insulates us from any psychic damage and the damage done is that if you are depressed, or bi-polar, or suffer from PTSD than it is due to your lack of faith. Such claims anger me as they are reductive, and completely unsupported. I suppose this thinking also applies to physical maladies which in some circle are blamed on “lack of faith” Thus placing the guilt on the sufferer. I suppose it makes your greater point that all these things are attempts to make reality, and scripture conform to what we need them to be, rather then what they are. I am left wondering what the results of 4 tours in Afghanistan would do for Barton and Copeland, and if if their faith woudl protect them from needing help after watching friends die horrible deaths and having to kill people themselves. The armchair quarterbacking going on here is beyond arrogant.

  • Robin Warchol

    more name it, claim it nonsense. Glad to see someone take this on.