Thank you for your warm welcome and tender embrace to the Blog…hold me tight, physical touch is my love language. I have deemed this year as the “Year of Augustine”, which is off to a slower start than I had expected. Reading someone in the 5th century is a little harder than reading many of the modern writers like Rob Bell, Donald Miller, or even Piper. So, 5 months later, I just finished “City of God” which has many practical applications for the church, pastors, and Americans who have a very hard time separating the spiritual life frompatriotism. I was very excited to read his doctrine on “just war” because it has influenced and been adopted by both church and state since the 5th/6th century.
My interest was sparked by an earlier read this year, “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. This book almost sparked several things, I literally saw two Christian brothers almost throw down over the content of this book, thankfully and to the glory of God they submitted to the Spirit and resolved their conflict. But, Claiborne says this, “I not exactly sure what Jesus meant when he said, ‘love your enemy’, but i’mpretty sure that he didn’t mean drop a bomb on them”. So, I must admit that I’m reading book XIX of City of God with that thought sticking in the back of my mind.
If you never read “City of God” (there are much better Augustine reads) you need to understand 1 thing about Augustine, his theology is rooted in scripture. This book is 1091 pages, with hundreds of biblical referencesfootnoted at the bottom. So weather or not you agree with his theology, understand that you disagreement is a hermeneuticdifference. You’re both reading the same scripture. A summary of Just War: War is justifiable if there is injustice because peace is the ultimate end or outcome of war. What was so disturbing, is that all of the quoted scripture that justifies war came from the Old Testament. The New Testament was cited rarely to quote passages around peace.
My goal here is not to give a defense of what some may call Christian pacifism, because I’m not there, but to just to be honest about my growing discomfort as a follower of Jesus with any type of war. Know this: I was the first to say we should invade Iraq and one of my closest buddies is a green beret captain, but a few thoughts have been going through my mind since I read “just war”.
First, my view of war has been heavily influenced by the Old Testament. Second, we only see one disciple ever pull a weapon (Matt 26), and Jesus immediately tells him to put it away and heals the man’s ear. Jesus follows it with “All who draw the sword will die by the sword”. Just a reminder contextually that politically, that the Jewish disciples were invaded held politically captive by pagan Rome.
Third, there is never any testimony of any disciple (-90ad) or church father (90-150ad) who took up a sword, but all disciples were martyred (except John) and many church fathers choose the same fate.
Fourth, Vengeance for sin in New Testament is the Lord’s. Now, I get the whole idea that we are supposed to submit to our government (rom 13), but we are only supposed to submit to our government when we are not violating the commands of the New Testament. So for example, Christians in the first, second, and third, centurieswere called pagans because they choose to submit to Christ and not to the god’s of the Roman Empire. Many of them punished by death, or at least called horrible citizens because they would not submit or attend Roman pagan feasts. This is why the apologists write, to give a defense of what Christians believe and how they are actually better citizens because of what they believe.
I forgot the passage about “turning the other cheek” in the sermon on the mount, which I have heard N.T. Wright explain as a way for people to fight like men, which I reject because “turning the other cheek” is exactly how Jesus, disciples, and the early church responds. Oh, also that we were once enemies of God so we are to have mercy and forgive (luke 7).
What we see in the first 4 centuries is a Church is not taking up arms and and seeing martyrdom as a glorious event. It is not until Constantine in the 4thcentury where the church becomes entangled with the empire that we find a church that is willing to stand behind war. The church has always been wed to some empire ever since then. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself, how hard is it to separate your American duties from your Christian duties. It becomes very hard to separate.
So I’m not trying to “ruffle feathers” or be “that guy” only to let you guys in on my journey over the last 5-6 months in dealing with what Christ is asking of his followers, the church. Have we really been brainwashed in our understanding of war? Does Jesus command us to take up arms or support it? As brothers and sisters, I ask to help me process this in community.
Thanks for listening – rob