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May 24, 2007

Who Would Jesus Kill? Let’s Find Out...

Marshmallowman I read Doug Bandow's piece (referenced here) and also clicked to the WWJK website he mentioned to read the explanatory essay by Timothy Price. "When America goes to war," Price writes, "complete with Christians in its forces...what is the non-christian foreigner to think?" Jesus "becomes inseperable from the soldiers (good and bad) who carry out this war. Jesus becomes something other than what He really is to non-believers in these countries..."

Well, sure, if "what Jesus really is" is "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," who spends most of his time carrying lambs and patting children on the head, as depicted in the kind of pictures that Christian parents hang in their kids' bedrooms.

Doug Bandow appears to define, and limit, true Christianity to worshiping God and (peacefully) serving one's fellow human beings. Serving them by going to war on their behalf--something that, as Chuck noted in this BreakPoint commentary, has always been considered a high calling for Christians--is ruled out of bounds. Bandow goes so far as to say that "Pacifism is the most consistent Christian response."

Rubbish (to both Price's and Bandow's assertions). We worship a Christ who used whips to drive moneychangers out of the Temple, complimented the faith of an (enemy) Roman Centurion, and who promises fearful punishment for evil-doers.

To answer the question, "Who Would Jesus Kill?"--a question apparently intended to embarrass Christians who support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--the Scriptures are filled with instances of God either killing people directly (as He did with the great flood, the plagues of Egypt, and, in the New Testament (as with Ananias and Sapphira) or instructing others to do so, such as when He ordered the Israelites to "totally destroy" the Canannites, along with six other nations, showing them no mercy. We even read that he ordered the Israelites to "attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." Talk about total war...

In giving commands like these, God did not seem overly concerned about how the enemies of his people would view Him. Instead, He is concerned with justice, righteousness, and protecting HIS people.

We also have the example of King David, a man after God's heart, who wrote many psalms that spoke of his desire that God would "take out" his enemies" (God frequently obliged).

Of course, one could argue that America's wars to free millions enslaved by tyrants and to defend us against terrorists--unlike biblical wars--are not righteous, and many people do make that argument. But that's a different question from the one of whether Jesus is a kind of supernatural Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, all soft and gooey and non-violent, and who expects His followers to be soft and gooey and pacifistic, as well.

Those who prattle on about how Christians damage the name of Christ when they fight the kind of wars described above should recall the words of Thomas Aquinas, who applauded Christians who wielded the sword in protection of the community; so did John Calvin, who called the soldier an "agent of God's love," because "restraining evil out of love for neighbor" is an imitation of God's restraining evil out of love for His creatures.

So the answer to the question of whether Christians damage the name of Christ when they take up arms is "no." And the answer to the question, "Who Would Jesus Kill?" is: Nobody. But His holy Father has killed many, and will again, if we believe the Bible...

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Comments

Christopher Clukey

Dead on! Of course Christians should choose nonviolence whenever we can, but pacifism has as much place in Christianity as idol worship or theft.

Brian

You are right, JESUS did make a whip to drive out the vendors from the Temple. JESUS did talk about righteous vengeance. I am not Jesus. I cannot carryout God's righteous judgment. Jesus said to others "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and he took care of the temple cleansing himself.

I'm continually perplexed by the anti-abortion/pro-war paradox. I am not God. I am not suited to say who lives and who dies.

I don't presume to know how to "solve" all of the world's problems. But I know that what I can do is model Jesus's approach. That he sat and he listened. That he talked and that he understood. And then the truth became self-evident. And that's what I'll keep doing...

Jeff Dykstra

I agree that we cannot personally wield the kind of judging force that Christ did when He cleared the temple; however, His most prolific apostle, Paul, did give the government the sword to wield against evil. This is why the parents of a murder victim can forgive his or her murderer (see Romans 12), while the state can use deadly force to capture and punish that person (see Romans 13). Are you suggesting that Christians should be neither soldiers nor police officers?

Since we believe in the Holy Trinity, we cannot say that the Father killed and Jesus did not. And, if I'm not mistaken, Rev. 19 is in the Bible.

Who will Jesus kill?
11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

17And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Don't forget the Cities of the Plain which were wiped out because of their tolerance of homosexuality.

Brian, I'm wondering if you are familiar with Romans 13, or much of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings?

Allen

Jeff,

Sometimes I wonder if we Evangelicals don't mistreat Rom 13 a bit. I wonder if we don't extrapolate grand theologies from it a bit more than we ought to. It's one section of scripture, and upon it, and it alone, we base entire belief systems about the rights of government versus the rights of individuals. I just wonder if that's what we're supposed to do.

And let me say, as a quick aside, that I was a Christian while I was a metro area police officer, and I cannot imagine that those aren't compatible notions (to answer your question).

But back to Romans 13. Among the reasons I wonder if we treat the section with enough care is that we somehow constantly ignore verse 3: "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong." And Paul elaborates a bit, just to really reinforce this idea: "Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you."

But here's the problem. As an absolute, this is patently and obviously false. Rulers throughout history, and certainly in the last 100 years ... probably this very minute! ... horribly punish people who do right, even *because* they are doing right.

So if reading this verse as being an absolute truth doesn't work, but reading it as a general truth *does* work, how are we to read the rest of this section? And if we read 13:1-7 as more generally true than absolutely true, then what are the implications?

Could Paul's point simply be "Hey, Christians, the higher eternal law doesn't exempt you from obedience to the temporal law. It's God's Will that you obey those laws. If you don't obey them, don't expect God to rescue you from your insolence; expect to be punished by the authorities." Could that be about the extent of what we should take away from this?

If you believe it to be more than this, you'll need to read verse 3 just as absolutely, and you'll need to be able to do so while thinking of Christians persecuted by authorities around the world. That's a tall order for me, but if you can figure it out, I'll be much obliged. Goodness knows, I always have plenty to learn about God's Word.

Brian

Sorry for the delay... busy with life.

Jeff, to be honest, I don't know. I recognize that we live in society where crime happens and wars are sometimes necessary to protect the innocent. I see a very real and present need for soldiers and police men. That being said, I also see the violence breeds violence. I will not judge an individual, or even a Christian, if they feel called to be a police officer, federal agent, or member of the armed forces.

However, while brave and dedicated women and men are keeping our streets safe at home and our nation safe abroad, I would like to work on reconciliation.

Regarding Romans, I'm quite familiar with Romans, it's actually one of my favorite books! Romans 13 makes me stop and pause. If we believe that Romans 13 is applicable to everyone, throughout time, irrespective of the original context or intentions and regardless of present circumstance, then the American War for Independence was opposed by God. Furthermore, Hitler's governance of Germany was ordained by God. As was Saddam's rule over Iraq.

What do we say when we look at situations such as the Revolutionary War, Hitler's control over Germany, or Saddam's rule over Iraq. How do we harmonize those realities with Romans 13:1 "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."?

Hopefully you have some thoughts.

Jeff

Allen (and Brian),
I see your point about Romans 13. I also agree that we cannot simply wield the same kind of authority as Jesus did (and does, and will). That is why WWJK and WWJD are not the proper questions to ask. Instead, ask WDJW - what does Jesus want? which is revealed in the writings of his apostles and the prophets who predicted His coming. What Romans 13 does reveal is that one ideal function of government is to punish evil. Psalm 82 reveals that protecting the weak is another function of government. The problem with "Who would Jesus kill?" is that it tries to force an absolute answer to what is a question of prudence: Does America's foreign policy (in for instance, Iraq) punish evil and protect the weak? Often it has done both.

jason taylor

What do we say when we look at situations such as the Revolutionary War, Hitler's control over Germany, or Saddam's rule over Iraq. How do we harmonize those realities with Romans 13:1 "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."?
---------------------------------
In the middle ages it was normal practice for a king to set up a noble as an authority over a given place. It was also normal for them to try to set up on their own. A ruler is like that-he is God's vassal. Hitler was a rebellious robber baron.
As for the Revolutionary War, it is a weakness of Americans to assume that was justified when in fact we in fact have no reason to do so other then tribalism. Tribal loyalty is fine, but it is not a sound basis for doctrine.
However once the war started, the Continental Congress was a government in it's own right and a Christian could serve it with clear conscience. And now that it has resulted in the US the US is the government because even if it was originally the result of a usurpation so were most governments.

James Willis

Romans 13 is not the only place we are told this, I Pet. 3:13-17 is a pretty strong statement from a man that had disobeyed authority in the past. There is at least one exception to this principle. When the government tells us to violate what God has commanded. Acts 4 and 5 explain this as well as Daniel, but beware, Peter was beaten and Daniel thrown into the Loin's Den for their disobedience. This doesn't explain everything, but the principle seems to apply regardless of the goodness of the government concerned.

Michael Snow

" But His holy Father has killed many, and will again, if we believe the Bible..."

And this is our justification for killing?

(Oh, this is the God who told David, ''You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.')


Where is Romans that everyone is talking about? (Maybe we should remember that the verses below are part of the context of Romans "13"...Paul wrote a letter, not chapters.)

'Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.'

But now that this is all cleared up, why don't we now go on to "Who would Jesus torture?"

jason taylor

Could Paul's point simply be "Hey, Christians, the higher eternal law doesn't exempt you from obedience to the temporal law. It's God's Will that you obey those laws. If you don't obey them, don't expect God to rescue you from your insolence; expect to be punished by the authorities." Could that be about the extent of what we should take away from this?
_________________________________________

Won't work. The State is primarily an organization for the application of coercive force. If force cannot be used justly then the State is a crimanal organization.
But if that is the case then the point of criticizing acts of the State is meaningless and any Pacifist who protests is being inherantly contradictory.
A pacifist can claim that no Christian can work for the State and be coherant at least. But he can't criticize any particular politician for if it is a sin to be a politician then criticizing it is superfluous. It is like criticizing Michael Coreleone for hireing hit-men.
Every time a pacifist makes a political statement he is legitimizeing the State therefore legitimizing force, therefore cutting out the ground under his own feet.

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