Sunday, July 09, 2006

Vengeance is mine

I’ve been asked to expand on this post.

One the one hand we have taunt-songs in Scripture. On the other hand, we have passages like Prov 24:17-18 or the Beatitudes.

So what should be the Christian attitude towards one’s enemies? A few distinctions are in order:

1.Enemies are not all of a kind. There’s the personal enemy who’s a royal pain in the neck. He tries to make your life a living hell. These are people in power, people with power over you, who abuse their power in petty and vindictive ways. Paradigm cases are the tyrannical drill sergeant and the obnoxious boss.

In this case, we’re supposed to return good for evil.

2.Then there’s the personal enemy who’s out to harm you in a more tangible and irreparable fashion. To do you violence. He is a threat to life, limb, and livelihood.

Here the principle of self-defense kicks in. You don’t fight back because you hate him. You fight back to protect yourself or your family from bodily harm or financial ruin.

3.Then there are powerful enemies of the faith like Jezebel, Athalia, and Julian the Apostate.

They are attempting to extirpate both the faith and the faithful. Once again, the principle of self-defense kicks in. The institution of the church is worth defending. Both the family and the church are essential in the economy of God.

4.There’s also an obvious difference between the living and the dead. Although a person’s eternal fate is sealed from eternity, only God knows for a fact who is elect or reprobate. So, from our perspective, where there’s life there’s hope.

But once an enemy is dead, he’s beyond the reach of prayer or evangelization. He’s squandered all his opportunities. All hope of repentance is gone.

5.For some odd reason, certain Christians infer that if private vengeance is forbidden in Scripture, then we should not rejoice over the demise of a notorious adversary.

But it’s precisely because vengeance is the Lord’s that we are entitled to rejoice in the Lord’s vengeance.

This is not directed at our enemies, but at our Lord. We praise God for his justice.

6.Equally illogical is when certain Christians infer that since we’re all sinners, none of us has the right to be judgmental.

But that’s fallacious. The truth is not that my enemy didn’t get his just deserts, but that I deserve the same fate.

We should not be self-righteous as we take satisfaction in the judgment of the ungodly. But that ought not hinder us from celebrating the fact that an evil man got his comeuppance.

We should rejoice in the wisdom of God’s mercy and God’s justice alike.


  1. Hi Steve,

    I agree with everything you've posted here. I assume you think the Debunkees are the enemies depicted in point # 3? I agree. Rejoicing in God's justice is Biblical. I have no problem, for example, rejoicing over the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. In fact, I did and do rejoice over it. Also, I wouldn't infer that as sinners we are not allowed to make judgments regarding individuals. We are to judge with righteous judgment. As you know, Christ condemns hypocrital judgment ("do as I say, but not as I do"), but as Christians it is necessary to make judgments regarding individuals, so I'm with you there. However, unbelievers hold us to a higher standard (rightly so in view of what we profess to believe), and it is quite obvious to all when we respond to them as if they're toe jam. As you've stated in another post, I know the people at DC are not your primary target. That's fine, apologetics is usually aimed at the anonymous third party weighing both sides of the argument. I also recognize that the guys over there are hardened apostates and atheists, I understand they're not likely to come to Christ. I consider their state in this world as apostates to be a partial judgment from God in this life. And I have no problem utilizing all lines of Biblical argumentation, we can proclaim and defend the truth with passion and tenacity, bringing thunder when necessary, being sarcastic when the refutation of their arguments call for it, etc. But we should not treat them in kind, or fling retorts back and forth, and let the discussion degenerate into childishness. If unbelievers note our disposition and demeanor toward them when we respond, and they feel as though we're treating them like mud, it is unlikely that we're going to make any headway with them, even if our argumentation has won the day. We ought not represent Christ to them in this way, brother. The best argument we can make for Christianity is to be as Christ-like as possible. In my view, none of their self-deceiving arguments can even touch that. When we see an example of harsh judgment pronounced in the Bible toward someone (e.g. Hymenaeus and Philetus), there is a context for it. Sarcasm and harshness, though they have their place, ought not be the defining characteristic of our dealings with apostates/atheists. They should have some sense that we are concerned for their well-being, even though we are on opposite sides of the argument. I highly respect what you and the Tbloggers do, I admire your intellectual abilities (they are a great gift from God), and I esteem you as brethren. I don't have any legalistic list of do's and don'ts when refuting those who oppose the faith, but I am suggesting that you tone it down. Unbelievers are listening to you at DC, and at times (notice I said at times, not all the time) they pick up this disposition I've been talking about and they call you on it. When the Debunkees come off as the gracious ones, something is wrong! Please consider what I say, even though I am a nobody....thanks for your labors in the Lord.

    with Christian affection,

  2. Thanks for the clarification. I found it helpful and informative.

    I've linked you here