Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Noting progress or 'progress'

One keeps an eye on the wider world.

Though it might be better to keep one's eyes closed, there are so many sad, awful, and bizarre things going on. The story of the Canadian oil train exploding after running away seems to be an example of everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong with tragic results. Close to hand as a story of one wrong action leading to multiplying tragedy is the plane crashing at San Francisco, seemingly at the hands of a trainee pilot. (I am quietly disposing of my lifelong theory that it is better to sit at the back of a plane). Definitely in the bizarre category is politics in New Zealand. Recently we had the spectacle of a person wanted for extradition in the USA lecturing our Prime Minister. Now we have rumours that our Opposition Leader [Labour Party] is about to be toppled in a coup. Perhaps some kind of socialist bacteria jumped across the Tasman!

Stuff is happening in Anglicanland. The C of E General Synod is slowly making its way towards having women bishops. In Canada they are making their way towards changing their marriage canon to include same sex marriage. The motion they have just passed is a prelude to the change envisaged when their GS next meets.

My own efforts in this area are not attuned to such development. This is a motion I am proposing for our Synod in September:

"That this Synod:

( (1) Notes a resolution from General Synod 2012,  “THAT this General Synod/ te Hinota Whanui resolves:

That given the long‐held mission of our Church to challenge and support couples publicly to commit themselves to each other,

Asks Episcopal Units to hold conversations in our Church and with the wider community about the nature of marriage,

And to explore how the Church might theologically and liturgically respond to gay and lesbian Anglican couples who request this rite,

Further, it asks General Synod Standing Committee to support and resource the Episcopal Units in this endeavour;

And for Episcopal Units to demonstrate progress to the General Synod Standing Committee and where appropriate, to Ma Whea? Mei Fe Ki Fe? Where to? Commission, in advance of the next General Synod/te Hīnota Whānui in 2014.”

(2)  Notes the existence and work of the Ma Whea Commission, as well as other work of a theological and doctrinal nature instituted by General Synod Standing Committee, with a view to the deliberations of these bodies informing further discussion of likely motions (at least two of which lie on the table from General Synod 2012) concerning ordination of partnered gay and lesbian persons, marriage, same sex marriage and liturgies for relationships at General Synod 2014;

(3)  Requests the Bishop and the diocesan representatives to General Synod 2014 to prayerfully discern the mind of this Diocese on these and any related matters which come before General Synod 2014.

(4)  Affirms the doctrine of marriage of this church, as explained in Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage.

Appendix to Motion: Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III reads as follows:
“The minister shall provide education to the parties seeking marriage on the Christian understanding of marriage, or see that such education is provided by some other competent person, in accordance with any Guidelines that General Synod may from time to time issue.
In particular the minister shall ascertain that the parties understand that Christian marriage is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into in the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind and will, and with the intent that it be lifelong.
The Church's teaching on Christian marriage is enshrined in the Formularies of the Church and is expressed in all the marriage services in the Formularies and in the introduction for the congregation to Christian marriage in A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, (See Schedule II of this Canon).”
Explanation: ‘Formularies’ here means the Book of Common Prayer and A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia o Aotearoa. Schedule II of the Canon collects together teaching on marriage enshrined in our prayer books."

POSTSCRIPT For a good argument for society investing in marriage, read here.

33 comments:

Jethro Day said...

"entered into in the community of faith"

I find this statement in Title G very interesting. When we got married 3 years ago we were the only couple on the marriage prep course that identified as Christian and attended the church in which we were being married; we were the only couple in "the community of faith". Some were downright opposed to Christianity, but could look past it for the pretty building.

Perhaps the debate on who should be married in our church should be cast much further? Should the Anglican Church be offering the Christian marriage rite to those who are not church members or those who are not Christian?

carl jacobs said...

Peter

If you ...

"[affirm] the doctrine of marriage of this church, as explained in Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage."

... then there is no reason to ...

"hold conversations in our Church and with the wider community about the nature of marriage"

Alternatively, you could hold such conversations given that certain presuppositions hold:

1. Homosexual desire is unnatural and in violation of the created order.

2. Homosexual behavior is inherently sinful behavior.

3. The characterization of a homosexual relationship as monogamous and faithful does not alter its sinful nature.

What you cannot do is hold conversations that implicitly or explcitly presume that the moral nature of homosexuality is open for discussion. It isn't. People who think otherwise are simply wrong. No amount of blathering about "justice" (read 'autonomy') can change that.

And why the church should care what "the wider community" thinks is beyond me. The Church is not supposed to follow the world. The Church is supposed to lead the world.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
Welcome to life in my church!

Chris Hynde said...

Carl, I propose then that the discussions center around how to drive the homosexuals out of the church altogether to remove the taint of their immoral presence, as is being done so successfully by the brethren in Africa and other Southern Cone countries. We have a couple of millennia of historical precedence to follow so let's start thinking about how the Church has protected this unchanging moral truth over the centuries and use that as our guidebook, shall we?

What tests are there to detect the possibly hidden presence of homosexuals? What canons can be invoked to deny homosexuals and their supporters the sacraments and attendance in churches at all? How can moral Christians avoid contact with the immoral homosexuals and their supporters altogether? How can we legalize the Levitical call for the death penalty for those caught in homosexual acts? How can revive the biblically supported stoning or the medieval burning at the stake for those taken in homosexual congress? How do we force homosexuals and their supporters to obey the immovable moral dictums without question? What medical and psychological treatments can we require to rid human beings of the immoral inclination to homosexuality? How do we prevent homosexuals and their supporters from reading the Bible and making false claims about their salvation, misleading weak believers and falsifying the faith once delivered? How can we declare all homosexuals within and without the church of reprobate mind and irredeemable sinfulness? How, in other words, do we totally eliminate the homosexual menace among us?

Since immediate death is preferable to condoning immorality and instilling a false sense of choice and perceived happiness, how can we move persons with homosexual inclinations closer to death and away from immorality?

This is the good news on offer to homosexuals. If you despise your very being, deny with great vehemence your deepest inmost longings and understandings and call false every single experience and understanding you have of yourself, your world, and your faith and agree to live a life of profoundly empty loneliness and despair, dying unloved and unwanted at the end, then God may spare you. Otherwise you are lost and might as well take your life. At the very least stay far away from Christianity for the Bible says that you are intrinsically disordered and better off dead than polluting the body of Christ.

Most of us have simply left the church altogether and become vocal and angry enemies rather than live within this kind of dark and empty moral prison.

It's a shame that some persist in claiming a personal relationship with God, a different reading of scripture, and a deeply-held belief in morals that are the opposite of tradition, isn't it? Since there is no room for debate, no need for discussion, and absolutely no way there will ever be a way beyond this the historical, orthodox, traditional message to me is quite clear: change or die.

I choose neither and I remain committed to my faith, my Lord, my God, and my Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Chris for making the point you have made.

Even as a conservative it troubles me that some (or most or all) we have to say has a logical corollary (which we do not much talk about), namely that church as a social community of believers would be a lot less complicated if gay and lesbian members were not so identified. Yet we can live in a relatively uncomplicated way with those members who identify as remarried after divorce, living with a partner to whom they are not married.

Tim Chesterton said...

Carl says: 'And why the church should care what "the wider community" thinks is beyond me. The Church is not supposed to follow the world. The Church is supposed to lead the world.'

I'm sorry, but I can't take this seriously when it comes from a man who thinks it is morally acceptable for a Christian to lie in the service of his country, or to serve in its armed forces and kill other human beings, contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus, Paul, and Peter. How is this the Church leading the world'?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, inthe context of your most reasonable and intentionally eirenic postingon this importamt subject, i find C.J.'s comment intentionally obnoxiou and completely un-pastoral. I don't know whether Mr. Jacobs is a minister of any religious organisation but, surely, if he were an Anglican priest, he would need to have a little more pastoral knowhow about the movement of ACANZP onour pastoral attitude towards thosein our Church who happen, through no fault of their own to be gay.

To simply repeat the old shibboleth about gays being 'sinners' indicates a total lack of understanding of their situation, rendering the repetition lof this calumny little less than homophobic.

To return to the essence of your posting, Peter; I,for one, appreciate your attempt to move the conversation forward in our General Synod. Hopefully, someone else will pick up the ball and run with it. May the eventual outcome bring about a coherent understanding in our Church of the need to provide for some spiritual resolution to what is proving to be an important issue for us all.

En Christo, Ron

rogerharper said...

Thanks Peter,

Are you open to a Church of Scotland -ish reaffirmation of traditional marriage, with also a 'nevertheless' which allows those congregations etc., who believe themselves led by the Holy Spirit to widen the traditional definition of marriage, to do so? The discussions you propose could have this in mind. Are there NZ Anglicans who would make use of such a nevertheless? How would other Anglicans respond to such a nevertheless? Would this be a good and workable way to make every effort to maintain unity in diversity?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Roger
There are certain attractions to the Scottish position (e.g. allows disagreement to carry on). But there is the difficulty of understanding how one can live with intellectual integrity in such a church of contradiction.

I think there are NZ Anglicans who could follow such an option. Workable? I don't know.

Bryden Black said...

I have recently come across this really rather fascinating summary reading of the past decades.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/sex-after-christianity/

I wonder what the likes of Roger and Ron and Chris make of it. Not least, as I too have written and linked some material on this site re a "sacramental ontology".

Fascinating!

Andrew Reid said...

Socialist bacteria from across the Tasman!!!
Last time I checked there was a rather large community of Kiwis in Australia doing rather well from our social welfare system :)

Can I just confirm that your points 1 and 2 are simply noting developments already undertaken, rather than calling for anything new? That is, points 3 and 4 are the action points you are calling for in response to the events already mentioned in 1 and 2?

Do you think "prayerful discernment" might need a bit more meat on the bone? Experience from other places would seem to suggest that when bishops go throgh a period of prayerful discernment, they find the mind of the diocese happens to agree with their personal position. Ultimately, the only way to get a quantitative indication of the diocesan mind, other than voting on a specific legislative proposal, is via a survey or a plebiscite (non-binding Synod vote).

Just a point of strategy, be ready for an amendment from another Synod member that seeks to delete (4) from the motion. You might want to pre-empt that you will withdraw the motion if (4) is removed.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
Last time I checked Kiwis or "blood relatives of their Australian cousins" are brutally excluded from various handouts of the Oz welfare system! :)

Yes, 1 and 2 refer to developments already underway.

3 and 4 are the action points, but 3 is asking for breathing people to breathe, that is, for our representatives (who, apart from the Bishop, will be elected at the Synod) to represent us.

Yes, I am well aware that 4 could be amended. Bring it on, I say, because what our synod needs to consider (whether it got to it at this synod or at a subsequent synod because of *) is what its corporate position is. Currently we have no idea.

*A possible amendment would be for our diocese to kick the matter for touch by creating a study process, with reports to be brought back to a future synod etc.

I don't think withdrawing the motion would be a good idea. That would be tantamount to conceding that the diocese denied 4 fullstop.

rogerharper said...

Thanks Peter,

Don't we already participate in and celebrate a church of contradiction / breadth?

Might 'nevertheless...' become workable as we work on it? What other avenues are open to us?


Peter Carrell said...

Maybe, Roger, but some "contradictions" are easier to live with than others. The Scottish one, arguably, is absurd (X is a sin but we don't mind if you bless it).

hogsters said...

Thanks Bryden for the link. Nice to think people still think.

blessings

rogerharper said...

Thanks Peter,

Yes that is a nub about which we disagree. Some say gay marriage is a sin, others that it is the opposite ie a way of holiness for gay people. Others say 'we don't know.' If that diversity of view is the reality in our church, how do we express it? How do we graciously make space for each other?

Some of us say killing people is a sin, but we have a long tradition of blessing trained killers when they are in the uniform of our country. Yet over this we stay in the same church... Not an exact parallel by any means, but with some similarity.

Shawn Herles said...

Tim,

I cannot find anywhere in Scripture your claim that Jesus and Paul opposed military service.

I also find your dismissal of Carl bordering on ad hominem.

By the way, thousands of Jewish people would have perished had not some good Germans lied to and deceived the Nazi authorities and smuggled them out.

Were they wrong to do so?

Shawn Herles said...

The problem with the "gay marriage" = pacifism argument is that it assumes there are legitimate differences of opinion over these issues.

This is not true.

The Bible does not at any point advocate pacifism. Nor does it, at any point, condemn military service in and of itself. Pacifist readings of Scripture are not a different interpretation of Scripture, but are simply plain wrong, as is the pro gay marriage position.

Scripture is clear. It is human beings who are confused or merely picking and choosing which parts of Scripture they accept to suit themselves.

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Shawn, I think there are scriptures (including Jesus' own teaching about turning the other cheek etc) which point to pacifism as the way of Christ (to say nothing of a history of interpretation in the early church which viewed military service negatively). Yet I agree that the Jesus who engaged with soldiers without telling them to stop being soldiers and the Paul who upheld the right of the state to bear arms did not deny the role of military/police ... so, personally, I do not see things as clearly as you do re these matters.

Tim Chesterton said...

Peter, it's worth noting that the Jesus who engaged with soldiers without telling them to stop being soldiers also engaged with prostitutes without telling them to stop being prostitutes.

It's true. Never once does he tell a prostitute to stop being a prostitute. The reason we assume he would have done so was because he told people to turn away from lust and fornication.

Funny. We assume that turning away from lust and fornication automatically means prostitution is forbidden. But we don't assume that loving your enemies and turning the other cheek means that military service is forbidden.

Tim Chesterton said...

Justin Martyr, circa 160 A.D.:

‘We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.’

- (Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4)

Tertullian (c.160-220 AD):

'Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he, forsooth, either keep watch-service for others more than for Christ, or shall he do it on the Lord’s day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself?…


‘…Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed’ (i.e. in believer’s baptism), ‘there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured’ (i.e. martyrdom) ‘which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept’.

(‘De Corona’ Chapter 11)'

As an Anglican, I'd hesitate to state categorically that the Church Fathers were just plain wrong.

Tim Chesterton said...

Here's one from Hippolytus (170-236 AD):

“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath (sacramentum) to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”

(Apostolic Tradition, ch. 16)

Shawn, you make it sound as if pacifism is a weird position taken only by a small group of fanatics. In fact, it is the majority opinion of the Church Fathers for at least the first two Christian centuries.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim,

Read the Church Fathers on the issue of the Jews.

Scripture is more reliable. Nevertheless the picture even of the early Church you paint is one sided. In 'The Virtue of War' by Darrell Cole and Alexander Hamilton show many examples of positive views of military service in the early church.

Still, I'm really only interested in Scripture. Tradition is useful but not a source of revelation, merely commentary.

The very first time God commands the Israelites to go to war the pacifist argument goes out the door. It becomes impossible to reconcile the God revealed in the OT with the God of the NT, which is why pacifist theology always ends up cutting out and discarding significant parts of Scripture.

This is done through the idea of a Canon within the Canon that is the true Word of God. In other words, parts of Scripture are true revelations of God, and parts ate not. Pacifiers apply this principle to dismiss the "warlike" God of the OT, preserving only those parts of the OT that do not contradict the pacifist principle.

This way of doing Biblical theology quickly descends into pure subjectivity and any real self-revealing by God is lost.

So any argument based on a Canon within the Canon should be dismissed outright. It is certainly not a legitimate Anglican approach to Scripture (or tradition for that matter, which is not confined exclusively to the pre-Constantine church).

Getting to Scripture itself pacifists need to explain passages like this: "Blessed be the Lord my Rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle."

Jesus commanded the disciples to carry swords on their journeys, not something a pacifist would do. And in fact it would have been impossible for Jesus to carry out his mission had not at least some of the disciples been armed, given how dangerous the country roads could be at the time.

Pacifists lay their claim largely on the Sermon on the Mount and a few other passages. But a plain reading of the text dies not lead to pacifism.

Jesus commands that we are to treat our enemies according to what would later be called the rules of chivalry. Note that he does not say that we are not to have enemies, only that we are to treat them in a certain way.

Jesus commands that we are not to resist eveil with evil. Pacifists claim this precludes war or violence, but this is a very large assumption which assumes that all war or violence is inherently evil, and again, this position drives a wedge between parts of Scripture which clearly show God doing both. So it is not at all a good reading of the text.

Jesus commands us not to engage in revenge for attacks on our personal or family honor (being slapped on the face). He dies not command us to stand around doing nothing while someone rapes and murders your wife or children. Nor would any truly moral person.

The pacifist position would mean that Christians could never serve in the police. Is that Tim's view?

Pacifism, far from being moral and good, let alone commanded by God, turns people into parasites, happy to enjoy the blessings of peace, freedom and law and order, but unwilling to make the sacrifice and service necessary in the military and the police to help maintain those blessings.

That is not moral. It is in fact selfish and evil.

Tim's view would lead to more war, more violence, more crime. How is that the Gospel?

Pacifism is a morally unworkable and morally dubious ideology at best.

That is why neither Tim nor anyone else here advocating pacifism has faiked to respond once to a single real world test that I have proposed,

I thank God for the men and women who serve in our military and police forces, who use force to keep murderers and rapists off the streets. I thank God for the armies that destroyed Nazism.

I thank God for the Germans who lied and deceived to save thousands of Jewish lives.

Can Tim do the same?

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim,

Your confusing two different issues, idolatry and military service. In Roman culture all social and official positions were religious in nature. Even moving up the ranks of the Roman army meant a religious ritual.

So for the same reason that Christians could not offer prayers to Caeser, so they could not serve in the Roman military.

To interpret that as a blanket ban on all military service is just reading into the Fathers what pacifiers want, not what the Fathers actually said.

Question: what would you do if someone tried to harm or murder your wife or child?

Anonymous said...

"As an Anglican, I'd hesitate to state categorically that the Church Fathers were just plain wrong" - Tim

I doubt you would hesitate to disagree with Tertullian on asceticism or on post-baptismal sin and repentance. And whether Tertullian, who died outside the Catholic Church, should be called a 'Church Father' is disputed, to say the least. Would you also forbid actors and teachers of the classics from being baptized?
The 'Church Fathers' cover a very long period, from Clement to John of Damascus. After the legalization of Christianity in 313 and the conversion of Constantine, formal religious barriers to Christian military service were gone.
Martin

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi Shawn, thanks for your replies. I'm having a busy day today so might have to keep popping in to answer more bits of what you said! So pleae be patient with me.

You said' The very first time God commands the Israelites to go to war the pacifist argument goes out the door. It becomes impossible to reconcile the God revealed in the OT with the God of the NT, which is why pacifist theology always ends up cutting out and discarding significant parts of Scripture.'

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it doesn't only justify war, it also justifies genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the killing of unarmed women and children. In the Old Testament God is depicted as commanding the Israelites to slaughter men, women, and children without mercy (think: babies in their mothers' arms) so that not one single person is left alive, not even the very smallest. If you are going to use these OT texts to justify war today, then logically you must also use them to justify that kind of war. So you cannot say categorically that God is against the slaughter of babies and children, since he has commanded it himself.

You said, 'This is done through the idea of a Canon within the Canon that is the true Word of God. In other words, parts of Scripture are true revelations of God, and parts ate not. Pacifiers apply this principle to dismiss the "warlike" God of the OT, preserving only those parts of the OT that do not contradict the pacifist principle.'

All Christians believe in a Canon within a Canon, You believe in it yourself; if you didn't, you'd be circumcised and would be observing all the Jewish festivals, sabbaths and food laws. New Testament teaching has explicitly abrogated huge swaths of the Old Testament. The Old Testament says that anyone who refuses to be circumcised is cut off from God's people, but the New Testament tells us that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Both of those statements can be true. I choose to regard the revelation God gave us in Jesus as higher and more accurate. You do to, or you'd be an observant Jew.

Is this subjective? Maybe so. I think we all tend to be subjective in choosing which bits of the Bible to take literally and which to ignore or 'interpret'. For instance, you take the texts on homosexuality literally, but you feel free to ignore or interpret what Jesus said about loving your enemies (which the Church Fathers took literally) or lying. I suspect that you do that because your military background has made it difficult for you to do otherwise - just as the fact that I have a dearly loved daughter who is a lesbian (and a Christian) makes it difficult for me to believe that God is going to automatically consign all gays and lesbians to the lake of fire.

But I don't personally feel we're stuck with subjectivity - I think Christian theology has consistently taught that Jesus is the true Word of God, the highest revelation of God's will for us. Therefore everything in the rest of the Bible needs to be interpreted in the light of the teaching and example of Jesus. Hebrews explicitly teaches that the new covenant mediated by Jesus is a better covenant than the old covenant mediated by angels (note that Jewish tradition at the time of Jesus understood the Law to have been given to Moses by the mediation of angels). So I think my Christocentric interpretation of the OT is entirely consistent with biblical principles.

Right, time for me to run. I'll be back! Hang on a bit before you reply, if you don't mind - I'd like the chance to reply to all your points before you give me a fresh set of points to reply to!

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi again Shawn:

You said, 'Still, I'm really only interested in Scripture. Tradition is useful but not a source of revelation, merely commentary'.

I take the Anglican position to be that tradition is a very useful guide to the interpretation of scripture. Not an infallible guide, of course, but if a passage of scripture has tended to be interpreted in a particular way by the folks in the early Christian centuries, who were closer to the original culture and language, I would find that to be a strong argument in favour of that interpretation. And in some cases, of course (eg. the Creeds) the CAtholic Church has developed a tradition of interpretation which most Christians would consider to be normative.

You said, 'Getting to Scripture itself pacifists need to explain passages like this: "Blessed be the Lord my Rock who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle."

Yes, and we also need to explain passages like this:
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem's fall, how they said, "Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!" O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock'.

Seriously, now - if you are going to appeal to verses in the psalms, then you need to appeal to all of them! If God is training David's hands for war, does God also consider the man blessed who bashes Babylonian babies heads against rocks? Or how about this one: 'The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked'. IS vengeance okay for us? When we see 'the wicked' (whoever they are) slaughtered, should we do a little dance in their blood? Is that Christian behaviour?

Jesus commanded the disciples to carry swords on their journeys, not something a pacifist would do. And in fact it would have been impossible for Jesus to carry out his mission had not at least some of the disciples been armed, given how dangerous the country roads could be at the time.

Actually he did not command them to do that. The most likely interpretation seems to be a figurative one, underlining the seriousness of the situation. This instruction (to sell your cloak and buy a sword) appears in Luke 22:36, ending with the disciples saying "Here are two swords" and Jesus saying, "It is enough!" Joel Green's commentary on Luke in the NICNT series (a solidly evangelical series, as you know) says: 'The possibility that Jesus' followers are literally to respond to hostility with a sword - that is, with violence - is negated in 22:49-51..., and elsewhere in the Third Gospel "sword" has been used as an image of animosity (12:51-53, cf. 2:34-35). In v.38, then the apostles manifest their dullness when they suppose that Jesus opposes his own extensive and emphatic teaching by encouraging them actually to possess (or to purchase) weaponry. His words, "Ir is enough!" are an expression of his exasperation.' As Green points out, this interpretation is confirmed by Jesus' reaction when his disciples actually took him literally and fought to protect him in Gethsemane (22.$9-51).

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi again Shawn:

You said, "Pacifists lay their claim largely on the Sermon on the Mount and a few other passages. But a plain reading of the text dies not lead to pacifism".

Well, I'll point out again that the majority of the Church Fathers thought that it led to exactly that. You are at liberty to disagree with them, of course, but it's plain that your 'plain reading of the text' is every bit as subjective as mine.

You said, "Jesus commands that we are to treat our enemies according to what would later be called the rules of chivalry. Note that he does not say that we are not to have enemies, only that we are to treat them in a certain way."

It is obviously impossible to live in this world without having enemies. Jesus does, however, tell us how to treat our enemies. He tells us that the OT command 'An eye for an eye' etc. is wrong - 'But I say to you...' We are to turn the other cheek, and if a soldier in the occupying army compels us to carry his pack one mile (as was the legal right of Roman soldiers) we are to go above and beyond that in loving and serving him. Jesus also points to the example of God, who pours down the blessing of sun and rain on good and bad alike - so we are to be children of our heavenly Father by loving our enemies. Shawn, if you can twist that scripture to make 'love your enemies' mean 'drop bombs on your enemies and kill their defenceless women and children', then I don't think you can accuse me of being disrespectful of the text of scripture.

You said, "Jesus commands that we are not to resist eveil with evil. Pacifists claim this precludes war or violence, but this is a very large assumption which assumes that all war or violence is inherently evil, and again, this position drives a wedge between parts of Scripture which clearly show God doing both. So it is not at all a good reading of the text."

Well, I would first of all point out that not everything that is legitimate for God is legitimate for us (judging, for instance, which is part of God's role in his world, is forbidden to us by Jesus).

I am not of a settled opinion personally about the legitimacy on non-lethal violence. Many of my Anabaptist friends have differing opinions on that subject. But surely Shawn even you would agree that all war necessarily involves evil. The 2nd World War may have been a conflict of good against evil (although undoubtedly there were good and evil people on both sides, and German mothers and fathers were praying just as hard for the safety of their young men as were Allied mothers and fathers). But all the people who lost their lives - all the families that were made fatherless - the way the economy of Europe was wrecked - the fact that in my own country rationing continued for almost a decade afterwards, so devastated was the infrastructure - is this not evil? The fact that the Allied victory would have been impossible without Stalinist Russia, and plunged Eastern Europe into forty years of communist tyranny - is this not evil?

Tim Chesterton said...

Hello again Shawn.

You said, ":Jesus commands us not to engage in revenge for attacks on our personal or family honor (being slapped on the face). He dies not command us to stand around doing nothing while someone rapes and murders your wife or children. Nor would any truly moral person."

So you are of the opinion that the text primarily refers to personal relationships. I think this is a convenient interpretation, but it is belied by Jesus' reference to someone in authority making you go one mile - a clear reference to the occupying army of Rome. I think it would be incredible for Jesus to use the word 'enemy' without people thinking immediately of the most obvious enemy, the occupying army. Could a pastor in occupied FRance in 1942 have exhorted his congregation to love their enemies without his hearers immediately assuming he was referring tot he Germans? If he was not, would he not have had to clarify immediately, "Look, guys, I'm not talking about our battle against the Germans, I'm talking about what you should do when you get into a punch-up outside the pub"?

You said, "The pacifist position would mean that Christians could never serve in the police. Is that Tim's view?"

Tim has not come to a settled view on that question.

"Pacifism, far from being moral and good, let alone commanded by God, turns people into parasites, happy to enjoy the blessings of peace, freedom and law and order, but unwilling to make the sacrifice and service necessary in the military and the police to help maintain those blessings.

Your words are a good challenge to pacifists, SHawn, and in fact I do not like the word 'pacifism' because it is far too close to the word 'passivism'. If I am content to hide behind someone else's army instead of boldly going to places where there is suffering and strife and actually 'loving my enemies' intentionally, taking the initiative rather than waiting for them to hit me so I can not hit back - well, then I obviously fall short of the standard Jesus sets for me.

But let me point out that the shoe is often on the other foot too. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When you have the world's biggest and nastiest military, then you're going to use it. Experience would seem to show that this is not always - or even usually - the best answer to the problem. And I could also turn around and say, look, Jesus commanded his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Taking up the cross was an obvious reference to being executed as a rebel against the empire, and Jesus' call for them to follow him was an obvious call to be willing to suffer that and not to respond violently, just as he was about to do. Could I not say that Christians who are willing to kill others rather than obey Jesus are obviously not willing to make the sacrifice he calls for?

Tim Chesterton said...

You said, "Tim's view would lead to more war, more violence, more crime. How is that the Gospel?"

More war, more violence, more crime is exactly what I see around me today. I suppose the percentage of pacifists in the world population is less than 1%. I never knew we were so influential!

You said, "That is why neither Tim nor anyone else here advocating pacifism has faiked to respond once to a single real world test that I have proposed". I think you meant, "has responded", yes?

You said, "I thank God for the men and women who serve in our military and police forces, who use force to keep murderers and rapists off the streets. I thank God for the armies that destroyed Nazism.

I used to have a woman in my congregation who lost most of her family in the fire bombing of Dresden. Most of them were not Nazis. They included defenceless women and children who were burned alive. Now, let me propose a real world test for you, Shawn. You are a Christian bombardier in one of those Allied planes flying over Dresden. You know full well that below you in that city are hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians, many of them not Nazis, many of them children and babies. You are a follower of Jesus who has told you that if anyone harms one of these little ones it would be better for him to have a millstone thrown around his neck and be hurled into the sea. Will you go ahead and kill those innocent people?

Shawn you said, "I thank God for the Germans who lied and deceived to save thousands of Jewish lives.

Can Tim do the same?"

No, I cannot. That is because the teaching of Jesus about lying and deceit seems very clear to me. And it seems to me that you are descending into situational ethics here - saying 'Jesus is Lord of my private life, but not of my life as a citizen and as a soldier etc.'.

Tim Chesterton said...

One last pair of comments in answer to Shaun:

You said, "Your confusing two different issues, idolatry and military service. In Roman culture all social and official positions were religious in nature. Even moving up the ranks of the Roman army meant a religious ritual.

So for the same reason that Christians could not offer prayers to Caeser, so they could not serve in the Roman military.

To interpret that as a blanket ban on all military service is just reading into the Fathers what pacifiers want, not what the Fathers actually said."

Well, actually, to quote again from Hippolytus' 'Apostolic Tradition', ch. 16:

“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath (sacramentum) to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church...Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”

There is no mention there of idolatry - it is the killing that is singled out as evil. Again, in my earlier quotes from Tertullian and Justin Martyr, it is the killing, with no reference to idolatry. Justin obviously believes that the OT prophecy about beating swords into ploughshares has been fulfilled in the Church, which is why he thinks Christians should turn from war and violence.

You said, "Question: what would you do if someone tried to harm or murder your wife or child?"

That is a hard question to give an honest answer to. I might ask you, "If you were arrested and told that unless you denied Christ your wife and children would be executed, what would you do?"

I freely admit that I am a theoretical pacifist - my pacifism has not been tested with the sort of thing you mention. I hope and pray that I would use all means short of lethal violence to protect them, out of obedience to Christ.

OK, I've said enough, and I doubt if I can add anything to what I've said, so I'll give you the last word.

Anonymous said...

Tim asks: "You are a Christian bombardier in one of those Allied planes flying over Dresden. You know full well that below you in that city are hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians, many of them not Nazis, many of them children and babies. You are a follower of Jesus who has told you that if anyone harms one of these little ones it would be better for him to have a millstone thrown around his neck and be hurled into the sea. Will you go ahead and kill those innocent people?"

The short answer is that you should not engage in such warfare. It was terror bombing against civilians that violated the painfully worked out principles of just war theory (ius ad bellum, ius in bello). Bishop George Bell of Chichester undertood this and spoke out against it during the war.
Modern warfare (at least as far as the west and the IDF - yes, the IDF - are concerned) is much more circumspect and seeks to put into practice the principles of Augustine and Aquinas. I am far from certain that Obama has been following these principles in the program of drone assassinations, which must be killing quite a few technically 'innocent' people. (But what the heck - Obama gets a pass for doing things Bush would've been denounced for, and you don't need to send a man to Gitmo - 'which I will close by 2009' - if you kill him by Predator.)
The Anabaptist tradition fails as a comprehensive understanding of biblical theology. Calvin understood this already in the 16th century.
Martin

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Tim,

No problem on the response issue. I am extremely busy myself with new training and a whole new career, so I'm not in a position to post much, and I apologize that I cannot respond to your responses with the degree of time and thought they deserve.

So just a couple of quick responses.

With regards to the "ethnic cleansing" commanded by God, I guess this is where the rubber hits the road with regards to the difference between a modern and a pre-modern pov, because I affirm that God did indeed do that. He is God, we are His creatures, and we are in rebellion against our Creator. Thus, whatever God deems necessary to our salvation I submit to without hesitation. If God considered the complete annihilation of the Cannanites necessary then so be it. Given the nature of the Cannanite religion I am not surprised.

I agree that we have to take all of Scripture seriously. That is exactly why I reject both pacifism and "total war" or war without strict rules of engagement, and which is why I believe for example that the fire-bombing of Dresden was wrong, as is the use of nuclear weapons.

So to me at least both pacifism and unlimited total war veer off into un-Biblical extremes.

Finally, while I don't think I use a "Canon within the Canon" I am so aware of my own sinfulness and ability to delude myself that I am happy to be challenged on that repeatedly, if for no other reason than to keep me on my toes!

Good debate. I think we can all agree that the time of true peace when our Lord returns and we do not need to learn war anymore cannot come soon enough.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!