Saturday, January 09, 2016

Buy a sword

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough” (Lk 22:35-38).

Some Christians appeal to this passage is opposition to pacifism. Most commentators think it's figurative. My own opposition to pacifism doesn't require this passage, so in that respect I have no stake in the interpretation, one way or the other. Although most commentators support the figurative interpretation, their reasons are surprisingly poor.
1. To command them to buy a sword would contradict what Jesus taught elsewhere.
i) That objection is circular. It would only be contradictory if Jesus taught pacifism. So that begs the question.
ii) Moreover, the objection is puzzling. I doubt all Synoptic scholars who construe this passage metaphorically think Jesus was a pacifist.
2. The sword is a metaphor to be spiritually forearmed for the coming opposition.
i) But if the sword is symbolic, don't the money, cloak, knapsack, and sandals need to be symbolic as well? If so, what do they stand for?
Perhaps we could salvage that interpretation by saying these are parts of a complete word-picture. 
ii) But another problem is that these items are literal in v35. It would be a jarring transition if the sword is figurative. 
iii) Moreover, as all scholars grant, v36 stands in sharp contrast to the status quo ante. Without Jesus to protect them and provide for them, the disciples are on their own. They face a much tougher situation ahead. 
Although accompanying Jesus for the past three years was not without its hardships, it had fringe benefits. Jesus was the world's best bodyguard. An omnipotence bodyguard. They were safe with him. 
Likewise, so long as they were in his company, they never went hungry. He could miraculously produce food. If they took ill, he could heal them. If it was too frigid to sleep outside, he could miraculously produce a toasty campfire. 
But after he leaves them, they will have to fend for themselves. So procuring a defensive weapon makes sense in that context. They must made dramatic adjustments to life without Jesus by their side.
3. This isn't a Zealot-style call to arms against the Jewish or Roman establishment.
i) That's true, but a straw man. The nonpacifist interpretation doesn't require it to be an armed insurrection.
ii) This objection fails to distinguish between the defensive and offensive potential of a sword. Even if Jesus never intended for Christians to use it offensively, that hardly precludes a defensive use. It was standard equipment for travelers in the Roman Empire. 
iii) Keep in mind that a sword had defensive value against dangerous animals as well as dangerous men (cf. 1 Cor 15:32).
4. Jesus reproves their misunderstanding in v38.
i) That interpretation is less than straightforward. To begin with, if they misunderstood him on such a significant issue, wouldn't we expect him to correct them? And not just for their benefit, but for the Christian reader. It is not misleading to leave that unresolved? 
ii) As a matter of Greek usage, it not clear that "it's enough" means "drop it!" From the lexicons I consulted, that's an idiosyncratic definition of hikanos
5. Two swords are hardly enough to protect them.
i) True, but irrelevant. At this juncture, two swords are more than enough because they don't need any swords at the moment. They will only need to protect themselves after Jesus ascends to the Father. There's no urgency in having swords at the ready in the hours ahead. 
ii) Moreover, what's "enough" is probably not the swords, but the fact that they got the point. Showing him their swords confirms their understanding. 
6. The literal interpretation would contradict Christ's reproof of Peter.
That's confused. Naturally it's inappropriate for Peter to interfere with the plan of redemption. Resisting arrest would frustrate the very reason Jesus came in the first place. But you can hardly extrapolate from that unique situation to a universal principle. 
7. According to Acts and the NT epistles, the church was nonviolent
i) That's an argument from silence.
ii) When you are vastly outnumbered by potential enemies, then violent self-defense is futile. That doesn't mean you wouldn't or shouldn't protect yourself or others where that's a viable option. 
I conclude that the literal interpretation is the most likely. So opponents of pacifism can rightly cite this passage. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Book of Jashar

The ancient Book of Jasher was a source text for both Joshua and David’s stories (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18). The extant version we have of the Book of Jasher, though dubitable, tells of two different stories that contain hybrid creatures that may be similar to the lion-men of Moab or the satyrs of Banias.

I don't follow Brian's logic on this point. He begins by referencing the ancient book of Jasher, then switches to "the extant version" which, by his own admission, is "dubitable." 

So why does he proceed to quote it? To my knowledge, the ancient book of Jashar (or Jasher) doesn't exist at all. We don't have any extant copies or versions. What we have, instead, are fabrications. 

According to one standard reference work:

An ancient writing, no longer extant, mentioned twice in the OT (Josh 10:13; 2 Sam 1:18)…The uncertain and mysterious character of the missing Book of Jashar has led to attempts to reproduce, imitate, or falsify it. An example is a late writing also entitled Book of Jashar, one of the last compositions of the haggadic literature of Judaism…Much of the material is invention, interpolated between Biblical texts, in the author’s desire to reconstruct the original book of Jashar. Many legends are added to the Biblical narrative. The account of Abraham is given in elaborate detail, including stories of his two journeys to see his son Ishmael, and of an apparition of a star. It contains a detailed explanation of the murder of Abel by Cain. 
It is believed by some scholars that this attempt to reconstruct the OT Book of Jashar originated in southern Italy. The author was familiar with Italian place names, and the Arabic names in the book are due to the strong influence of Islamic culture in that region. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (Zondervan, rev. ed., 2009), 3:469.

Brian references a self-published edition by some guy named Ken Johnson, whose credentials are elusive. This source has zero credibility.

Predictable, preventable crime

Reports like this raise issues about the compartmentalized morality of folks like James White. Immigration policy, like abortion and euthanasia, is an ethical issue, not just a political issue. It's incumbent on Christians to have an integrated position that takes all our social obligations seriously. 

“Pope Francis” Channels “Adolph von Harnack”

They say that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. In 1972, David Wells observed that Rome had a “divided mind”; that “present-day Catholicism, on its progressive side, is teaching many of the ideas which the liberal Protestants espoused in the last century.” This has now gone all the way to the top, as “Pope Francis” takes up the 19th century liberal battle cry, “the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man”:

Another round on the same God controversy

Lutheran Bible scholarship

I'd like to do a little overview of Lutheran Bible scholarship. To begin with, I use the word "Lutheran" advisedly. In Europe, I think "Lutheran" is sometimes used as a generic synonym for Protestant or non-Catholic. The Lutheranism of Rudolf Bultmann, Albrecht Ritschl, Ernst Käsemann, Helmut Koester, and Wolfhart Pannenberg (to name a few) is highly attenuated. 

German Bible scholarship is infamously liberal, but I'm going to focus on moderate to conservative Lutheran scholars. In the 19C, Carl Friedrich Keil was their great OT scholar. He published an introduction to the OT, as well as several commentaries on OT books (as well as some NT books). Due to their age, these are now in the public domain:

His NT counterpart was Theodor Zahn. Some NT scholars have a greater theological emphasis while others have a greater historical emphasis. Zahn was in the latter category. He was probably the most erudite NT scholar of his generation. His only rival in that regard was Bishop Lightfoot. Zahn conducted major research on the NT canon, edited the Apostolic fathers, published a monumental NT introduction, along with several massive commentaries on the NT. For those of you who can read period academic German, these are currently online:

In a sense, Adolf Schlatter, his younger contemporary, was his successor. Schlatter had a more theological emphasis. Some of his works have been translated into English: notably, his commentary on Romans, a devotional volume on Do We Know Jesus?, and his two-volume The History of the Christ and The Theology of the Apostles.

Martin Hengel is the next major figure. He's a throwback to Zahn. Very erudite. Defends the general historicity of the Gospels and Acts. Did important work on St. Paul. Hengel was a foil to Bultmann. 

Back in the 50s you had the abortive Concordia Commentaries series. That produced what was, for their time, fine commentaries on Luke, by NT lexicographer William Arndt, and Nahum, by Walter Maier. 

Walter Maier was, in turn, the father of Paul Maier, an ancient historian who's written a number of books defending NT history: 

Craig Koester has published major commentaries on Hebrews and Revelation–although I doubt he would qualify as a confessional Lutheran.

Andrew Steinmann is probably the most substantial conservative Lutheran scholar writing today. He's published a monograph on Biblical chronology, a monograph on the OT canon, two OT introductions,  commentaries on Proverbs, Daniel, and Ezra/Nehemiah, and two books on prayer. 

His commentaries are contributions to a revived Concordia Commentary series. I doubt contemporary confessional Lutheranism has a deep enough talent pool to produce outstanding commentaries on every book of the Bible, but it has the depth to produce some outstanding or exceptional commentaries. In addition to Steinmann's contributions, you have Horace Hummel's monumental commentary on Ezekiel, Andrew Das on Galatians, and Curtis Giese on 2 Peter and Jude. 

Finally, Mark Seifrid used to teach at SBTS, but reverted to Lutheranism. His recent, major commentary on 2 Corinthians has a Lutheran emphasis, and I wouldn't be surprised if he publishes one or more additional commentaries from a Lutheran viewpoint. 

Thursday, January 07, 2016

John, His Gospel, and Jesus

Disarming women

Here's a new report on the Cologne attacks:

Two related observations:

i) People who criticize the American gun culture like to say "Why not just call the police?" 

How well did that work out in Cologne? Apparently, the police were afraid to use force, so the assailants didn't take them seriously. Why should they? German police are paper tigers.

ii) From what I've read, Germany has very strict gun control laws. It's a model of what gun-control advocates in the US would like to see here. 

Imagine how different the situation in Cologne might have been that night had the law allowed women to be armed. If the muggers and molesters knew that German women might be packing heat, that could have a significant deterrent value.

And not just a deterrent value. It can back that up with lethal force if need be. 

It wouldn't be necessary for all or even most German women to be armed. The question a prospective assailant needs to ask himself is whether he wants to find out the hard way which women are armed. Even if it's random, do you want to take the risk?

But of course, German law disarmed their women, leaving them defenseless. That's the "ideal" situation that gun-control advocates in this country envision. 

The Cologne attacks represent the perfect storm of liberal policies. Bad immigration policy, bad gun laws, and timid police. 

At arm's length

How many mass shootings are there?

The locus of authority

A presidential election cycle is a good time to discuss the nature of our political system. The more so on the heels to the Supreme Court decision imposing homosexual marriage on the nation.

Gov't ranges a long a continuum, from autocracy to anarchy. One issue in political theory is which is worse: anarchy or tyranny? For Hobbes, anarchy is worse than tyranny. Depending on which end of the spectrum you think is worse, that will affect your view of what polity is preferable. Although you will avoid the extremes, you will gravitate towards one side of the spectrum or another, based on which you consider to be the worst-case scenario.

If you think the administration of public justice is a basic function of gov't, then the Hobbesian position is a reductio ad absurdum. To be legitimate, the state must be minimally just. It can't be one big criminal enterprise and still demand our allegiance. 

Why do we even need gov't in the first place? Because human beings are social creatures. Social life generates friction. Competing and conflicting actions. For social life to exist, some behavior must be out of bounds. Impose limits on what one person can do to another. That means someone or something needs to play referee. 

Gov't poses a conundrum: one purpose of gov't is to function as a check on criminality. But what prevents crooks from becoming politicians? What prevents gov't from becoming a criminal enterprise? The same corruption that fuels crime can fuel gov't corruption. So the very same the problem that necessitates gov't makes gov't problematic.

At one end of the spectrum is absolute monarchy. The ruler's word is law. 

By contrast, it's striking that the OT theocracy was a constitutional monarchy. The king was subject to the same law as private citizens. 

This goes to the locus of authority. In the OT theocracy, ultimate authority was vested, not in kings or judges but the law. God's law.

Our system of gov't is based on the consent of the governed. On the face of it, that might seem to be oxymoronic. Governance is authority. But how can citizens be under authority if gov't can only operate with their consent? Doesn't that make each citizen his own governor? 

The solution is delegated authority. Voters elect officials who are authorized to speak and act on their behalf. Some elected officials appoint bureaucrats, or nominate bureaucrats (subject to legislative confirmation).

You cede some liberty in exchange for security, but you reserve the right to take that back. You can vote your representatives out of office. 

On that system, the locus of authority is the electorate. Likewise, the locus of authority is law–laws enacted by their duly elected representatives. That's an extension of the public will. 

This means the judiciary has no independent authority. The locus of authority is the law, not the judiciary. Judges are themselves subject to the law. Ultimate authority is vested in the electorate and the Constitution, which was ratified by the electorate. The Constitution is the expression of the public will regarding the terms of governance. 

Some people counter that our judicial system is indebted to the British common law tradition. That's true, but that's subject to two essential caveats:

i) The foundation of our legal system is written law, not common law. That's why we have a written Constitution, including a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights limits both gov't and majority rule. 

ii) The English common law system developed under monarchy and aristocracy. Our system, by contrast, is a repudiation of monarchy and aristocracy. Our system is bottom-up rather than top-down. 

In our system, the flow of authority is electorate>legislature>executive/judiciary 

Lawmakers are subordinate to voters, while judges and executives are subordinate to the law. The job of judges and executives is to apply laws passed by legislators elected by voters. 

Some pundits, especially Catholic pundits, or those who lean on that paradigm, defend Kim Davis by appeal to the right of conscience. That, however, plays into the hands of her critics. They say that's precisely the problem: it's an abuse of power for a public official to use her authority to further a personal agenda. And that objection is generally valid in principle. In this case, however:

i) Davis's personal agenda happens to dovetail with state law. The voters banned homosexual marriage. Her own motivations align with the will of the electorate, enacted into law.

ii) Ironically, it's the five Supreme Court Justices who are guilty of the very thing critics falsely accuse Davis of doing: they abused their power to further a personal agenda. 

What makes Obergefall illegitimate is that it's the expression of naked judicial power. But under our system of gov't, judges aren't the locus of authority. They are not above the law. A judge is not an autocrat whose word is law. Authority doesn't reside in the judge, but the text. A judge is a subordinate authority. His authority is derivative and conditional. 

That said, there are situations in which civil disobedience is justifiable. Our system isn't based on Hobbesian absolutism. Our allegiance is not unconditional. 

Finally, we might compare this to Catholicism. The papacy is an absolute monarchy–although technically the pope can't change dogma. But since the pope defines dogma, he can redefine dogma. He's the final interpreter. 

Catholic apologists say a magisterium is necessary to settle religious disputes. Someone must have the final word–otherwise, anarchy ensues. It's a Hobbesian view, transposed to a theological key. 

Problem with that position is that theological issues are issues of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, rather than authority, per se. If you have the truth, you don't need authority, and authority without truth is worse than useless. 

A Catholic apologist might counter that you need a magisterium to identify what's true. But the problem with that appeal is twofold:

i) Whether the Roman magisterium has that ability is, itself, an issue of truth or falsehood. So that preliminary question must be answered independent of the magisterium. To confirm or disconfirm the claims of the magisterium requires a vantage-point or starting-point outside the magisterium. And it renders a magisterium superfluous to the extent that you can answer questions like that apart from a magisterium.

ii) Whatever the abstract virtues of a magisterium on paper, in reality the Roman magisterium is a poor match for the job description. It acts just like you'd expect a sinful, fallible, shortsighted organization to act. Its behavior is indistinguishable from an organization that has no divine guidance, that's driven by the shifting winds of the zeitgeist. 

Armed citizen

Cruz and Birtherism

Trump has raised the Birther issue with respect to Ted Cruz, his political rival. I doubt this will have any traction. I don't think Birthers objected to Obama in the first instance because they questioned his eligibility; rather, I think they questioned his eligibility because they opposed him on other grounds.

So even if the legal technicalities are similar, I doubt Birthers will raise the same issue with respect to Cruz unless they have ideological objections to Cruz. Birthism is the consequence of opposing certain candidates, and not the cause. It's a perceived way of derailing an unacceptable candidate. 

Tearful president

A few observations about Obama's tearful news conference on gun confiscation:

i) We swim in a shark-infested world. Some of the current sharks include Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, and ISIS. What message does Obama's tearful news conference send to them? Rather than projecting strength, it's a sign of weakness.

ii) To judge by his teary-eye performance, Obama's position on private ownership of guns isn't merely political cynicism and opportunism; no, he really is that fanatical and deluded. He sincerely believes the problem with attacks like Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, Denver, Chattanooga, and San Bernardino is  access to guns rather than ideology. He really thinks the solution is to disarm the general public. 

The gov't won't protect you, and it won't let you protect yourself. 

Pray for King Tut!

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:1-6).

Vv 2,6 constitute an Arminian or universalist prooftext. On this general interpretation, the scope of prayer is commensurate with the scope of redemption and/or salvation. We should pray for everyone because Jesus redeemed everyone and God wants everyone to be saved. 

Suppose we grant that linkage. If so, that's actually an argument for limited atonement. 

Take the purpose clause in v2, which either expresses the purpose or desired result of prayer for rulers. Why does Paul direct Christians to pray for rulers? Not for the ruler's sake (although that might be a fringe benefit), but for the sake of Christians. Pray for your rulers because their policies will, for better or worse, impact the lives of Christians who live under their rule. Pray for wise, benevolent rulers. 

But in that event, this is not a summons to pray for all rulers. Rather, it's only a summons to pray for rulers under whose jurisdiction you live, work, and worship. Contemporary rulers. 

Given that rationale, it would be pointless to pray for dead rulers. Pointless for 1C Christians to pray for King Tut, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander Great, &c. They do not, and never will, rule over you. 

By the same token, it would be pointless to pray for future rulers or distant rulers whose policies can have no affect on you at your own time and place. Paul doesn't intend 1C Christians to pray for Napoleon, Montezuma, Disraeli, Catherine the Great, Cardinal Mazarin, Sun Yat-sen, Chairman Mao, or Teddy Roosevelt. For the administration of future rulers or distant rulers has absolutely no bearing on the lives of 1C Christians. 

(To be sure, Christian readers need to mentally update this command, but the same restrictions apply.)

Not to mention the absurdity of a command (on the Arminian/universalist interpretation) to pray for rulers you never heard of. How could you? You have nothing to go on. You can't even get started. 

So Paul can't be directing Christians to pray for all rulers, but only some rulers. For the scope of the prayer is qualified by the purpose clause. If, however, the scope of the prayer falls well short of universality, then, by parity of argument, so does the scope of redemption and/or salvation.  

One can resist the conclusion by denying a parallel between the extent of prayer and the extent of atonement, but I'm just discussing the Arminian/universalist interpretation on its own grounds. 

And even if one were to deny the parallel, the purpose clause is still damaging to the Arminian/universalist interpretation. Although it employs the same universal quantifier ("all") that's a running motif in the overall passage (vv1-6), the force of the quantifier in v2 is clearly delimited by the purpose clause. So Paul can and does use that quantifier in a restricted sense in the very context of the overall passage. 

More generally, the Arminian/universalist interpretation carries the tacit implication that we should pray for people we never heard of, people we don't even know exist. Pray for generic persons, persons who, for all we know, may or may not exist–in the past, present, or future. A dragnet prayer for anonymous people, for nonentities, just to cover your bets. 

Typically, in Scripture, prayer is more personal and specific. You pray with someone in mind. You don't pray for someone who might possibly exist. You don't pray for blanks. 

Even in corporate prayer (e.g. Dan 9: Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9), it's prayer for members of the community to which the supplicant belongs. Like a small town where everyone knows everyone else. It envisions specific sins. It envisions a people with a common history. A known history. 

Likewise, you can pray for a specific situation, like a natural disaster. You may not know the victims, but you know the conditions. In that respect, you still know what to pray for. That, however, is very different than a prayer that's completely in the dark. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Angry apostates

I'll briefly comment on something I occasionally observe. You have professing believers who lose their faith due to personal tragedy. Something terrible that happened to them or someone they love.

But they don't just lose their faith. They respond by conducting a vendetta against Christianity. They may visit Christian blogs and unload on the blogger or other Christian commenters. They raise stock objections of the village atheist variety. 

When Christians respond, they complain about how heartless Christians are. Christians have no empathy for the ordeal which the apostate or his loved one went through. Indeed, this just confirms why they gave up on Christianity in the first place. 

At this point I'd make a couple of observations:

i) Apostates like this don't have a monopoly on personal tragedy. For all they know, the Christians whom the apostate is angrily denouncing for failing to understand what it's like has been through the same ordeal, or worse. 

ii) When apostates act this way, it creates an unnecessary dilemma for Christians. On the one hand, we'd like to be sympathetic to your situation. We'd like to be good listeners. 

On the other hand, you make that very difficult when you use your suffering (or the suffering of a loved one) as a bullet proof shield to hide behind while you fire away at Christianity. 

Frankly, that's inappropriate. You don't have a right to force us into silence by exploiting your tragedy to attack the Christian faith. That's very cynical and manipulative. 

It's up to you how you wish to be treated. We'd rather be compassionate. But if you take advantage of your tragedy to avenge the Christian faith, then you've left us with lesser options. 

Coordinated attacks

Could It Ever Be Rational To Believe In Miracles?

Mark your calendar:

Marital conflict in the Bible

Puppy love for Jesus

I'm struck by how some pacifists identify with Jesus. It's like those "Jesus is my boyfriend" worship songs that normal men find repellant. As if true Christian piety is about falling in love with Jesus. 

In that regard it's interesting to contemplate just what it would it be like to hang out with Jesus. Be one of the twelve disciples. Was he approachable? 

Imagine Jesus as an American teenager c. 1950-2015. Suppose he attended public school. Would he join the football team, or wresting team (or Lacrosse or ice hockey)? Would he have that natural inclination for male camaraderie? Would he go surfing with his homiez? 

Would he hang out with friends to humor them? Be a good sport? Play long with their interests? Or would he get something out of it? 

In the Gospels, Jesus can be passionate and compassionate. But he can also be distant. Emotionally detached. 

He's constantly aware of things the disciples are not. And he always stands apart from them. His primary relationship isn't with the disciples, or his mother and stepbrothers, but with the Father. That's the center of gravity. That's the primary emotional bond. That's what he defaults to when he's not engaging other people. 

There's a sense in which he is out of his element here. He will never fit in. He understanding is unique. His vocation is unique. 

It's like SF stories about alien saviors. The alien savior didn't come here to make friends or put down roots. Didn't come here to start a family. Although he may end up making some human friends, that's temporary. Those are not long-term relationships.

The alien savior was sent here from Alpha Centuri to save the human race. Our species is at a fork in the road. One turn leads to extinction. If we can get through this final crisis, we will survive and thrive. 

The alien savior is here on a mission. When complete, he will leave us behind and return to Alpha Centuri. That's home. 

Of course, that's a just an analogy. But there's a sense in which Jesus is psychologically isolated. The ultimate outsider. One of a kind. 

Yes, he's truly human. Yet humanity in combination with divinity makes him a class apart. In that respect he is not one of us. Especially in John's Gospel, there's the longing to go home. Return to the Father.

Follow the money

Piper, pacifism, and Christomonism

I have a theory, although it's only a theory, regarding Piper's embrace of pacifism. It seems to me that his pacifism might well be a logical evolution of his Christomonistic piety. Now, I don't have a detailed knowledge of Piper's theology, so this is just an exploratory hypothesis.

Let me say at the outset that I think Piper is arguably the most significant pastor of his generation. The successor to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who was the successor to Spurgeon. Piper has an unusual skill set. A Bible scholar. Fine exegete. Reformed theology. And literary eloquence. But like any fallible human, he still has feet of clay. 

Take his direct defense of pacifism. Among other things, he said:

Jesus set the stage for a life of sojourning in this world where we bear witness that this world is not our home…
Jesus strikes the note that the dominant (not the only) way Christians will show the supreme value of our treasure in heaven is by being so freed from the love of this world and so satisfied with the hope of glory…
Our primary aim in life is to show that Christ is more precious than life. So when presented with this threat to my wife or daughter or friend, my heart should incline toward doing good in a way that would accomplish this great aim.
Piper seems to be suggesting that every other good in life is just a bridge to Jesus. Jesus is the goal. 
Suppose you're on a journey, and you need to cross a bridge. But once you cross the bridge, you put it behind you. It served its purpose. You don't look back.
Some of Piper's statements suggest that he views merely human relationships as temporary bridges. The only relationship that ultimately matters is your relationship with Jesus. Everyone and everything else is, at best, just a stepping stone to Jesus, and, at worst, a distraction or diversion. You should use them to get to Jesus, after which they outlived their usefulness. 
If that's his position, then its easy to see how that pans into pacifism. Compare this to what seems to be a very different issue, yet as he talks about it, the two are related in his mind:
Why would we give them Santa Claus when they can have the incarnation of the Son of God? It is just mind boggling to me that any Christian would even contemplate such a trade — that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. I scarcely have words for it that people would contemplate this.
  • Santa Claus offers only earthly things, nothing lasting, nothing eternal. Jesus offers eternal joy with the world thrown in. Yeah, the fire engine is thrown in.
  • Santa Claus is make-believe. Jesus is more real than the roof on your house.
  • Santa Claus cannot solve our worst problem, and Jesus did solve our worst problem — our sin and our alienation from God. Santa Claus can put some icing on the cake of the good life, but he cannot take a shattered life and rebuild it with hope forever. And our kids need to know that about Christmas.
What's striking about this is how what he says about Santa Claus could be said about almost anything and everything else. Where does that contrast stop? To what does that not apply? If Jesus is the standard of excellence, and everything falling shot of that comparison is essentially worthless, what's left? 
Your mother and father can't solve your worst problem (sin and alienation from God) Your brothers and sisters can't solve your worst problem. Your sons and daughters can't solve your worst problem. Your best friend can't solve your worst problem. Does that mean it comes down to "trading" one for the other? 
What about a boy who enjoys superhero movies and comic books. Presumably, Piper would discourage that. 
What about a boy who looks up to his father? Doesn't Piper's logic discourage that? 
Piper seems to view other human relationships a detour at worst or a bridge at best. He doesn't appear to view earthly goods or human relationships as intrinsically valuable. At most, they only have instrumental value, as a temporary means to an end. Once you arrive at Jesus, you discard them. On the face of it, he fosters an inhuman piety. Consider two different propositions:
i) Without Jesus, nothing is worthwhile
ii) Only Jesus is worthwhile 

Axiomatic opinions

Gary Crampton:
"An important part of the Scripturalist worldview is the epistemological distinction between knowledge and opinion. Throughout the history of Western thought, philosophers such as Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle, have correctly differentiated between these two. Augustine and Gordon Clark are just two examples of Christian philosophers who have done the same.(36) There is a difference between that which we “know” and that about which we may have opinions…To “opine” something is not to “know” it. Justified truth is found only in the Word of God.

And is the epistemological distinction between knowledge and opinion knowledge or opinion? Is that distinction itself an object of knowledge or opinion? Does a Scripturalist know there's such a distinction, or does he merely opine that there's such a distinction? 

What's noncircular justification for this distinction? How does the Scripturalist come to know or justifiably believe such a distinction exists in the first place? 

The Scripturalist begins with the presupposition that the Bible is the Word of God; this is axiomatic. He then deduces everything else from Scripture.

Aren't axioms unprovable postulates? So if the presupposition that Scripture is the word of God is merely axiomatic, then that axiom would seem to be a matter of opinion rather than knowledge. And if that's just an opinion, so is everything deduced from that opinion. At best, a valid deduction from an axiomatic opinion. 

Given that presupposition, you can deduce other truths, but by what noncircular argument does a Scripturalist establish the given? 

Lots of big guns

Why are American evangelicals the only Christians in the world, and in Church history, who teach that God wants us to have lots of big guns?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Wet computers responding to stimuli

Pacifism and Anabaptism

Classic Anabaptism took a strong and pretty consistent position regarding the discontinuity between OT ethics and NT ethics. And that informed their pacifism. They regarded OT warfare, self-defense, and capital punishment, as an obsolete paradigm.

Contemporary Anabaptists are pacifists, but unlike old guard Anabaptists, many contemporary Anabaptists see more continuity between OT ethics and NT ethics when it comes to "social justice" issues like immigration and welfare for the poor.

That, however, means they can't erect a wall between the laws of OT warfare, self-defense, capital punishment, and NT ethics. They run the risk of making ad hoc exceptions. So their position is more precarious. 

No one knows the day or hour

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Mt 24:36).

There are various analogies for the two-natures of Christ. Recently I dug through a suitcase in the closet. Turns out it had a shirt I hadn't worn for about three years. And in the shirt pocket was a sales slip for a hamburger joint I used to frequent.

My mind instantly went back in time. I can vividly visualize where I was on that day. I recall, in a general sense, what it was like to be there on that day–almost if I stepped into the time machine. I'm conscious of what I was conscious of back then.

However, this being the computer age, the sales slip not only had the name of the business, but a time stamp with the exact date–down to the hour and the minute. And when I saw the date, I thought of something else. I mentally compared that with something which happened about a year later. Thirteen months later, I lost a close relative. 

At the time of the transaction, I was oblivious to that future eventuality. But when I see the receipt, I'm mentally comparing two different dates. I'm simultaneously looking forward and backward in time. I'm conscious of what I didn't know, and conscious of what I now know. My viewpoint is simultaneously retrospective and prospective. 

I can look at that sales slip and mentally go back in time to that particular day. To what I knew and didn't know at the time. I'm aware of what I was aware of. Cognizant of my ignorance regarding what would happen thirteen months later. I can project myself into that mental state. I know what it was like not to know it. 

Hindsight is belated foresight. And I can imagine how it would affect my outlook if I knew then what I know now. When I see that receipt, I have two different viewpoints: before the momentous event 13 months later, and after the momentous event. I have access to both first-person points of view. Both are mine. In looking back, I remember what it was like to look ahead. In this case, one viewpoint is embedded in the other. 

It's as if I was standing in that parking lot, out of sight, watching my younger self. Knowing what I didn't know. Tempted to walk up to my younger self, tap him on the shoulder, and tip him off. "I've come back to you (me) from the future. This is what to expect!"

Is reprobation unjust?

A stock objection to reprobation is that reprobation is unjust. Typically, no actual argument is given for the injustice of reprobation. Rather, a critic defines or describes his understanding of reprobation, then declares it to be unjust. So there's really nothing to respond to.

That said, let's consider a comparison. Suppose, on his daily walk, my dad sees a red Ferrari in a parking lot with the keys in the ignition. He always wanted a red Ferrari, so he seizes the moment and steals the car. He then takes it to a chop shop to change the license plates and vehicle registration. A little money under the table goes far. 

In the course of time he wills the car to me. When he dies I inherit a classic Ferrari. 

But one day the son of the original owner (who has since passed away) spots the car in my driveway. He pops the hood and confirms the serial number matches his late father's car. He then has the police repossess the car.

It is unjust that I lost the Ferrari? No. It was stolen property. I had no claim on it in the first place. Because it didn't belong to my dad, he had no right to give it to me.

There is, though, a sense in which it's arbitrary for the other son to claim the car. He didn't pay for the car. His father did. It was simply a gift. Something he inherited. He didn't buy it. He didn't earn it. 

The deprivation of something we were never entitled to is no injustice. To be deprived of election is not unjust. Conversely, the elect did nothing to merit election. 

Sunday, January 03, 2016

"A demonstration against Calvinism"

I'll comment on two posts, beginning with this:
It is part of the essence of Calvinism that there are two distinct groups of individuals in God’s overall economy: the elect and the non-elect. The elect are the grateful recipients of God’s irresistible, unmerited grace and are thereby saved. The non-elect, by sad contrast, receive no such grace; they are passed over. Consequently, they are damned for all eternity.1Now even Calvinists admit that this scenario makes it at least appear that God is being unjust or unfair. After all, why not just give irresistible grace to both groups? What we want to argue is that the appearance here is the reality. To flesh out the supporting argument, let’s begin by considering this penetrating (revealed) insight into the nature of justice—
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly (Leviticus 19:15).
Notice how Moses—not exactly a novice in legal matters—contrasts perverting justice with judging fairly. You pervert justice (i.e., act unjustly) when you fail to judge fairly. Fair enough. Why then is it unfair and a perversion of justice to show partiality to the poor and favoritism to the great? The answer, quite plainly, is that the properties of being poor and being great are entirely irrelevant so far as judging between individuals (say, in moral or legal contexts) is concerned. An individual’s socio-economic status isn’t in itself relevant to a moral or legal assessment of his person or situation.
That oversimplifies the comparison. The context of the Levitical verse concerns a plaintiff who's been wronged by another party. He is therefore entitled to a legal remedy. His poverty is irrelevant to the moral demand. 
Two parties are entitled to equal treatment if they have equal claims. For the comparison to work, Davis needs to demonstrate that the elect and reprobate have equal claims on God. He hasn't offered a preliminary argument for that key assumption. Indeed, he hasn't even shown that both parties have any claim on God. 
The elect and reprobate are, in the first instance, merely divine ideas. If God instantiates his idea, then they become real people, but by the same token, they become real sinners. They are instantiated as sinners. 
But there is a further, truly fatal difficulty. The Calvinist proponent of (3) faces the following dilemma. Either God has a basis for his differential treatment of the elect and non-elect or he doesn’t. If there is no basis, then God’s decision to award irresistible grace to the one but not the other of these groups is wholly arbitrary; in which case God is a reckless, unprincipled decision-maker–a conclusion which is at once both manifestly unfair (to the non-elect) and theologically appalling. If you don’t think it’s appalling, just ask yourself how you’d like it if your professor used a similar method to grade your term paper. Without a doubt, this horn of the dilemma is squarely on the broad road leading to destruction.Well, let’s suppose instead that God does have a basis for his differential treatment of these groups. Then according to the Leviticus Principle, it must be contextually relevant. Now the context for giving or withholding irresistible grace is spiritual or salvific. Therefore, according to LP2, it will be just or fair for God to favor the elect over the non-elect only if God’s basis for doing so is a spiritually relevant one. By hypothesis, however, there is absolutely no spiritually relevant difference between the elect and the non-elect: they are all dead in their sins; they are all incapable of recommending themselves to God. On this horn of the dilemma, then, God has favored the elect but on a purely context irrelevant basis.
Different people in different combinations result in different world histories. So God may elect some and reprobate others because he prefers one timeline over an alternate timeline. That's not an arbitrary distinction. Moving along:
In any event, the important thing to see in all this is that a person can be held accountable for her refrainings when they are sufficient for (forseen) bad states of affairs–states of affairs that could have been prevented by refraining from refraining (i.e., by doing something). One thinks here of the Levite’s response to the man beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road to Jericho (cf. Luke 10:30-37). The application to Calvin’s deity, who passes by the terrible plight of the non-elect, is patent.
i) It's true that omission can be culpable. That assumes the party in question has a particular claim on us.
ii) By analogy, the Arminian or Molinist God is culpable when he refrains from preventing  foreseeable evil. 

Swami Jesus

I wasn't planning to do another post on pacifism, but a friend drew my attention to this:

Furthermore, in addition to being both divine and human, he is also the most truly human person who has ever lived (Col. 1:15)

The most "truly human" person? What does that even mean? And how does Col 1:15 establish that claim?

and the definitive revelation of who God is and what God is like 

Does that mean the OT representation of God is unreliable? Keep in mind that OT theism stands in studied contrast to ANE paganism. Among other things, God's self-revelation in the OT is a corrective to false worship, to false concepts of God. So God really is like that–even if that's incomplete. 

Jesus, true God and true man, lived nonviolently (Matt. 26:51-53; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 23:34) and directed his followers to replicate his example, rebuking them when they failed to do so (Matt. 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36; 9:51-56; 22:47-51).

i) The reference to the Sermon on the Mount presumes that's about assault and battery rather than slighted honor. 

ii) The reference to the arrest of Jesus is ridiculous. Naturally it would be inappropriate to prevent Jesus from going to the Cross. That's why he came here in the first place. But that's hardly a universal paradigm.

There is no intervening material that might persuaded us to live otherwise than how Jesus directed his first disciples. 

Sure there is. Loving enemies is not the only NT command. Take the filial duty to provide financial support for indigent parents (Mt 15; Mk 7). If grown children have the lesser obligation to keep aging parents fed and sheltered, surely that entails the greater obligation to spare them from physical harm. In both cases it's a question of physical wellbeing. 

Or take Christ's analogy between Christians and children (Mt 18). That builds on the natural instinct to protect the young. Surely he doesn't mean we only have a duty to protect Christians rather than children. Rather, protecting believers from harm is an extension of our natural duty towards the young. And Jesus has taught us to use a fortiori reasoning (e.g. Lk 13:10-17; Jn 7:21-24). 

In fact, the early church (include the ante-Nicene fathers) was uniformly nonviolent in its convictions. (Acts of the Apostles; Rom 12:9-21; Eph. 6:10-20; Didache 1:2-4; see Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Marcellus, Cyprian, Martin, et al).

There's a difference between nonviolence in practice and nonviolence in conviction. You can be nonviolent because it would be imprudent to be violent in a particular situation, and not because you are opposed to violence in principle. 

The answer, like the argument, is also simple. A semi-automatic firearm is a not a way of conforming to the cross. 

Taking a shower is no way of conforming to the cross. 

You cannot love your enemies and kill them at the same time. 

i) I think that's often the case. But by the same token, you can't love your neighbor and refuse to defend them at the same time. So his appeal cuts both ways.

ii) It also depends on what he means by "love". Is he defining "love" in attitudinal or behavior terms? In principle, I can shoot someone for whom I have no personal animus. 

Like God himself, we do not wait until our enemies are nonlethal in order to love them (Rom. 5:8).

Well, that's very selective. Does God love all his enemies? Isn't Bible history and prophecy replete with examples of God raining down judgment on some of his enemies? 

On this account of things, both our neighbor and our neighbor’s enemy are each our neighbor if we love them as Christ commanded us to (which de facto excludes killing them). 

He doesn't begin to demonstrate that Scripture treats neighbors and enemies as interchangeable categories. 

Arguments to the effect that killing or war ‘may be a form of love’ are simply bizarre concessions to the NT’s teaching about enemy love. 

I tend to agree. So what? 

Christians defend the innocent, of course, but we do so peacefully—employing the example of sacrificial love provided for us in Christ. 

i) The assertion doesn't match reality. If you refuse to prevent harm to the innocent when it's within your power to do so, then you didn't save them from death or injury. 

ii) At this same time, this reveals a tension in his position. If he were honest, he'd admit that pacifism abdicates protection of the innocent. Our absolute duty to love the enemy prohibits us from safegaruding the innocent. 

But he refuses to bite the bullet. He senses the moral inadequacy of that position. Surely we have an obligation, where possible, to protect the innocent. But he has nothing to back it up.

We have no command, nor any New Testament basis, to treat Jesus’ commands concerning violence and peace the way that he, for example, treated the sabbath. 

i) That's a strange way to frame the issue. Jews had no command to treat the Sabbath the way Jesus did. 

The question is not whether one command commands us to break another command. The question, rather, is the rationale for a given command. Paradoxically, there are times when obeying a command subverts the ultimate intention of the command. If  you never take circumstances into account, you may end up defeating the purpose of the command. Many commands have an implied context.

To take a secular example, it's dangerous to drive on the wrong side of the road. That invites a head-on collision.

If, however, a hurricane is bearing down on a city, authorities may turn the road into an evacuation route. Traffic on all lanes is headed out of town. 

ii) Jesus didn't merely set aside the Sabbath command on some occasions because he had unique authority to do so. He also faulted Jews for their failure to do so. Unlike Jesus, they didn't have the personal authority to override a divine command. Yet he condemns them for failing to take the rationale into consideration. He condemns them for refusing to break a lesser command when it conflicts with a higher obligation.

iii) Moreover, the Sabbath controversies demonstrate both the possibility and reality of competing obligations. 

We are not entitled to edit his teaching according to our intuitions. 

I, for one, haven't used that argument.

What competing duty could dare compel the Christian to disobey Jesus? 

i) That's not a serious question. To begin with, Travis himself is selective about obeying Jesus. He absolutizes enemy love to the detriment of other commands.

ii) In case of conflicting duties, you don't have two simultaneous duties to obey. Rather, the higher duty temporarily supersedes the lower duty. 

Personal security is not the priority of the Christian. 

i) That's such a shallow, thoughtless statement. To begin with, the gift of life is something we should ordinarily cherish. It is disrespectful to God to disvalue life. That's why Christians oppose abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. 

ii) In addition, lives are often intertwined. Take Jeffrey Babbitt. He was the 62-year-old son and sole caregiver for his 92-year-old mother–before he was murdered. Her well being was dependent on his wellbeing. Travis doesn't make a good faith effort to consider the consequences of his slaphappy slogans.

And nothing is as gravely unjust as the arrest and execution of an innocent man. Yet, Jesus himself rebuked Peter for engaging in armed resistance over this very thing (Matt. 26:52).

That's the same willfully obtuse comparison. Obviously it would be inappropriate to interfere with the plan of salvation. 

Jesus’ death on the cross is the definitive interpretation of his teaching on enemy love. 

What makes that the "definitive" interpretation rather than this:

5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[b] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed (2 Thes 1:5-10).

Or this:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh (Rev 19:11-21).

If anything, isn't the second advent more "definitive" than the first advent? The second advent completes unfinished business.

I'm not saying that's a model for Christians. I'm just responding to Travis on his own terms. If you're going to cast the issue in terms of what constitutes the "definitive interpretation" of how God treats his enemies, then the final installment is more definitive than an earlier phase.

It is Jesus’ life that is itself the clearest interpretation we have of his teaching. The NT material presents a comprehensive case for Christian nonviolence from the way that the Lord lived, and it his life that is the premiere and authoritative pattern for Christian discipleship today. In every concrete situation, we are obligated to live and to die the way that Jesus did. 

So Christians should forego marriage and children, like Jesus did. By the same token, since Jesus left his mother in the care of a friend, we should delegate the care of our parents to second parties. 

We are always and everywhere his disciples, and we are to integrate our lives of sacrificial love into the daily suffering of the world, renouncing its perpetual cycles of violence, and overcoming its evil with good. 

"Renouncing" cycles of violence does nothing to end cycles of violence. "Renouncing" cycles of violence doesn't overcome evil. To the contrary, that exacerbates violence when there's no check on evil. 

In fact, the Great Commission itself involves obeying the command to replicate and recapitulate the life of Jesus, and to teach others to do likewise. 

Except that Travis is myopically focused on a single command, to the exclusion of all others. 

Who will take our message of peace and reconciliation seriously without a principled refusal to instrumentalize the dehumanizing chaos of weaponry and warfare? 

Innocent suffering is dehumanizing. 

What should the world think when God commissions a community of peacemakers to arbitrate cosmic healing, yet they are as violent as the world to which they’re sent? Is this not absolutely ridiculous?

The world thinks that pantywaists like Travis are absolutely ridiculous. 

The command to love your enemy is not an abstract ethical entity, but a concrete way of life patterned after the example which the Lord provided us through his own life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ life is itself a demonstration of his command to “not resist an evil person” (Matt. 5:39). 

If Jesus is our example, then we should exact retribution on our enemies, just like Jesus will do (see above). I'm not speaking for myself–just responding to Travis on his own grounds. 

There is simply no basis for compartmentalizing Jesus’ example of nonviolence, peacemaking, and enemy-love (with the consequence that he lived a life that we are not also manifestly required to live). 

Pacifists like Travis are forced to compartmentalize the teaching of Jesus. When push comes to shove, that's the only part of Jesus' teaching they think we're required to live. 

While others might respond with an argument to the effect that Jesus’ death was unique and not normative, the NT seems to have no issue directing us to imitate the example of Jesus in every regard, including his death.

In that case we should emulate the example of Jesus by punishing our enemies (see above).

—and it does so without having to raise counterexamples to create context-specific exceptions to his commands. 

In the nature of the case, commands are typically context-specific. A command to honor your parents has a parental/filial context. A command to provide for your family has a familial context. A prohibition against illicit sex has a sexual context. Travis isn't thinking–just emoting. 

Attempts to wrest Natural Law ethics from the natural, nonviolent meaning of the enemy love antitheses in the Sermon on the Mount are simply shallow.

I haven't used that argument, myself. 

Our enemies don’t cease to be objects of our love when we or others are threatened by them. 

But if others are threatened by them, then how does he propose to love both groups? 

If we consistently employ the example of Jesus as the paradigm for Christian faithfulness, rather than argue from counterexamples down to the text, we won’t need to retreat into the Bible’s silence in order to develop a non-pacifist ethic (as many do). 

I, for one, haven't retreated into the Bible's silence. To the contrary, I've drawn attention to Biblical commands which the pacifist nullifies. My counterexamples come straight from Scripture. Usually the NT.

Jesus did not pause enemy love in order to engage in neighbor love. Neither should we. 

Jesus is omnipotent. Jesus planned the world. Even if Jesus never found himself maneuvered by circumstances beyond his control into a choice between competing duties, it hardly follows that mere creatures like you and me have the same freedom of opportunity. 

The innocent is protected and defended and the enemy is loved and reconciled in the same self-giving event: the cross. Christians do fight, they do protect, and they do defend, even aggressively, but they do so as Jesus commanded them to.

How does the cross protect a woman from being gang-raped? How does the cross protect the elderly from physical abuse? How does the cross protect a child from a schoolyard sniper or pedophile? 

There's no thought behind these slogans. No truth behind these slogans. These are empty phrases on a billboard. They sound nice, but mean nothing.

Our faithful suffering on behalf of our neighbors and our enemies serves to recapitulate the unique death of Jesus. However we protect others from an unjust death, we do so, as Jesus did, without violence. 

Travis is drunk on his own intoxicating rhetoric. What's unique can't be recapitulated; what's recapitulated can't be unique. 

The Tanakh might have accommodated Israel’s national life of violence, but it also contained a non-militarized trajectory toward a ‘perfected’ community of nonviolence (Josh 6:1-7; Ps. 20:6-9; Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-5).

In Isa 2 & Mic 4, world peace is the result of divine arbitration, not the philosophy or lifestyle of pacifists. 

The true enemy is not the mugger, the murderer, or the maniacal fascist, for “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The true enemy operates on the visible front through human marionettes. He cannot be bested with bombs and bullets, and we serve his narrative when we succumb to his tactics.

Classic false dichotomy.

Through cruciform love we embody the imminence of the world to come, recycling its weaponry of hatred into ploughs of redemptive peace. Christians are the presence of God’s peaceful future. 

Nothing like bad poetry as a makeweight for the poverty of argument.

True Christian love is suffering love, for violence can never be said to be a form of love if love is to look like Christ. Love is too gentle, too vulnerable to be violent. It would rather die than kill. 

Travis is playacting. Swept away by gushy vacuous oratory. 

And God will always raise this kind of love from the dead. 

What does that even mean? Is it supposed to mean anything? It's like a throwback to the hippie Jesus. Swami Jesus with the Nehru jacket and love beads. 

Should bombs succeed in deconstructing the world, the church will go about her eucharistic identity in its ashes, reconstructing what was lost to bombs by offering herself up as a gift from God—a tree of life, planted at the very heart of worldly horror, in order that those ravaged by violence might taste and see that God is good, and his promised future of peace has already arrived in Jesus. 

More sophomoric poetry. Pacifism is a literary construct. String together pretty phrases on paper. 

Peacemakers exist to manifest the reign of God through faithful reconstruction of the human condition—a vocation that violence cannot upend.

Pacifists aren't peacemakers. Talking isn't doing.