I am reading Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan. (It is one of three IVP Academic publications I am trying to read and review, so I’m moving slowly, a chapter at a time!) In Chapter 3 “Martial Memory, Peaceable Vision: Divine War in the Old Testament” the author, Stephen B. Chapman, makes the following statement (p. 64):
“…in order for Christ to appear in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) it was necessary for God to elect and preserve the people of Israel. And apparently–this is the hard part–God was not able, given the violence of the world, to preserve Israel purely nonviolently although, even so, Israel’s history witnesses to and moves toward nonviolence as it moves toward Christ.”
Now, let me be clear, I share this quote not to reflect or comment on Chapman’s essay (which I found thought provoking). Often, when I share quotes from books I have had commenters berate the author (something that is not fair if the chapter itself has not been read) with no knowledge of the broader argument, so I am cautious about short excerpts like this one (i.e., I am not asking comments about Chapman’s essay as a whole), but I wanted to share it because it does present a common view among those who both recognize (1) Christ seems to have taught his disciples nonviolence (to some degree, even if one doesn’t affirm complete pacificity) and (2) YHWH engages and even commands warfare. Many solutions to this problem are seen as too close to Marcionism or more critical of the theology of the Hebrew Bible than even Jesus himself. Chapman’s statement seems to be an attempt to hold together a view of the Hebrew Bible as theologically authoritative alongside the acknowledgment that Jesus called his disciples to a higher ethic (maybe this falls under the paradigm of “progressive revelation”?), so it is worth sharing to hear your thoughts.
Again, the basic idea is this: does it satisfy to propose that YHWH did command violence and warfare in order to preserve Israel, but not as a basic affirmation of war in general, since Jesus (his Son) both taught peace and lived sacrificially or do you think this explanation is insufficient?
Check out this amazingly helpful site. After reading your blog on annihilationism I went through
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Especially Podcast Numbers 4 and 7.
The church is grafted in, an exception. Ezekiel’s temple commences after the church age for a millennium. The Lord’s Supper and presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice will no longer be available. Ritual purification with animal sacrifices will return for all who live during that time. We barely discern the immensity of the love that God has bestowed on His Church.
Mat 5:38-48, Luk 6:27-36, Mat 6:32-34
When I am weak then am I strong. 2Cr 12:10, First when last Mar 9:35, live if I die Jhn 11:25, rich when poor 2Cr 6:10, giving is better than receiving Act 20:35
Of the quote “…in order for Christ to appear in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) it was necessary for God to elect and preserve the people of Israel. And apparently–this is the hard part–God was not able, given the violence of the world, to preserve Israel purely non-violently although ..” is biblically justifiable.
However, this last bit ” ..even so, Israel’s history witnesses to and moves toward non-violence as it moves toward Christ.” goes beyond the text. Given certain presuppositions it may be read into the text, however, negate those same presuppositions, and the opposite is read into the text.
Personally, as long as the world remains fallen, it remains violent – which means I personally don’t believe anything is trending towards non-violence.
Just as one of the speakers at your conference on Christian ethics has suggested we must live within our “creatureliness” rather than trying to be divine (5:39p, CST) in dealing with the violence of sin there is more reason to believe Christ’s appearance has not fundamentally changed human nature so that it non-violent or that violence has been annulled.
Therefore it is more reasonable to say so long as violence is part of our fallen state, use of force (violence) must be used in a God honouring way (minimal force at all times if and when possible, but otherwise not prohibited outright).
To say that use of force has been prohibited outright, or that humanity is trending towards it as a consequence of Christ is both extreme and speculative. Only the return of Christ will ultimately free us of it completely, which means in the mean while we do the best we can ….
The conquest of sin and death was the victory of the Lamb over violence. This elemental purpose for creation interrupts ritual sacrifice. The Church Age is the profound expression of God regarding the violence of the flesh. At millennium’s end for Ezekiel’s Temple we find the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelations 21 without any further mention of ritual sacrifice.
Isa 53:1-12, Act 8:32-35
Who can question His place at the head of all things?
He suffered the degradation and shame without being overcome by them. In this He confirmed His utter authority over them. God proved that He is over every thing. It was necessary for God to have a body to demonstrate His control over the entirety of creation.
1Cr 2:4-16, Eph 4:1-16
The human inconvenience with God is His preeminence. Human choices betray inaccurate pronouncements of belief. Love God with your entirety, then love your neighbor as yourself is the strongest possible commandment against violence.
Bob, if the Victory of the Lamb was a victory over violence, we’d see no violence in the world. We still see violence in the world so either the Victory of the Lamb was ineffective, or it was a victory over something else.
Could you clarify a couple points for me.
You stated that the world will remain violent as long as it remains fallen, therefore, you reject non-violence. What if we were to say the world will remain sexually abusive, or the world will remain greedy, or broadly the world will remain sinful, does it follow that we should participate in these things? I presume you’d say “no,” so maybe some clarification on your statement would be helpful.
Similarly, we may say that since sin and death are in the world Jesus was not victorious over those things. Again, I presume you don’t mean this, but rather some caveat is missing, so would you mind explaining more precisely why you see violence as acceptable but not other things that Jesus defeated, but which exist in this age before his coming?
Brian, there is a difference between a thing, and the sinful abuse (or use) of a thing. At the heart of sexual abuse is ‘sexuality’. Sexuality is not bad, but sexual abuse is. At the heart of greed is desire, but desire itself is not bad, even if greed is. Violence is ‘use of force’ and not only deadly, but a gradient. If I were to restrain you, I would be employing force (violence) against you.
At the heart of discussions about the ‘use of force (or violence) is authority. The proper exercise of authority is not bad since it sets boundaries, establishes right from wrong; use of force is part of the proper exercise of authority. God wields ultimate authority, and uses this authority to decree His laws. But even God’s use of authority entails ‘use of force’. Breaching those laws is sin. If we don’t sin, there is no violence since God’s authority is respected absolutely. If we sin however, violence is inevitable. [Rom 6:2] says ‘the wages of sin is death’. This is the violence.
If I were to tell you, in this our fallen world, you could never use force what-so-ever to re-enforce your God given authority (such as the authority you share with your wife over your family, or your soon-to-be children, or your property, or your commandment to defend the weak, whatever) the question is ‘Is that outright prohibition against the use of force a consequence of the Gospel’?
I would say ‘no’. I would say this even if I were to say that use of ‘minimal force’ as an act of Mercy is. There is a difference between saying you ‘cannot use this’, and ‘you can use this only as necessary’. The bible clearly teaches we are to be merciful, meaning use minimal force. The bible also teaches the idea that actions have consequences. [Pro 13:24] does not advocate we beat our children, but it does advocate we set limits which have consequences and enforce those limits. Societies are expected to punish criminals. Restraint is a ‘use of force’ and this use of force is something more than a complete prohibition.
If someone where to attack your family, the Gospel does not deny you the ability to uses minimal (but proportional) force to defend your wife, your self. Proportional means you don’t take 2 eyes for an 1 eye, but 1 eye for 1 eye. Minimal use of force, means mercy, but it also means use what force is necessary to exercise lawful authority. Likewise if our societies indeed are prohibited from using force (violence) as a consequence of the Gospel, we cannot punish criminals. We cannot even lock them away in a jail.
The problem is that people who advocate ‘non-violence’ don’t fully appreciate what violence is, nor do they appreciate the consequences that truly living that ideal would entail (of course I’m speaking about a world where Christ has not yet returned). Look, I’m not advocating for the use of force, rather I’m arguing against the idea that God ties our hands completely requiring we never use it at all.
Like sexuality, or desire, or anything else, we are to use authority in a God honouring way, and though minimal use of force as an act of authority, as ‘no force what-so-ever’ is preferable, sometimes minimal use of force is something more than ‘none’. Sometimes minimal use of force (which I’ve argued is mercy) might even be deadly force. Woe to he who has direct experience where minimal use of force is deadly, indeed, an act of mercy. Even so, the question is, was it God dis-honouring? I think not.
My position is not the extreme position here. Claiming God expects us to exercise authority while denying us the ability to exercise authority is the extreme position.
Thank you for the clarification.
Jesus said that His Kingdom is not of this world. Actually the Father sacrificed the Lamb via religion and the state. This discussion is titled, “Israel’s Wars” so the answer is violence will continue to meet violence. Jesus commanded non violence.
Bob Demyanovich said “Jesus commanded non violence“.
Actually, He didn’t speak to this at all – that is unless one takes other things he said violently out of context ….
references please. Mat 5:17-48, Luk 6:27-33
Bob, your response is disappointing. You haven’t shown Jesus commanding ‘non-violence’. Citing the sermon on the mount is an especially egregious misuse of text (but an excellent example of proof-texting).
Jesus is clarifying OT law, and for you to suggest this amounts to Jesus prohibiting the use of force is simply imposing your prejudices onto the text. Same with your use of Luke. Neither the Sermon on the Mount, nor Jesus’ admonition we ‘love our enemy’ preclude us from using force. God’s loves us, yet he still disciplines us [Heb 12:6][Pro 3:12]. Love and the appropriate use of force by a lawful authority are not mutually exclusive. Nor does the use of force require we hate others ….
As I said before, one can only conclude what you are concluding if “… one takes other things he (Jesus) said violently out of context …” You are taking Jesus’ words violent out of context.
context? The referenced statements are biblically attributed to Jesus. Jesus speaks non violence, His manner is non violent with the single exception of overturning the money changers tables. Jhn 2:14-15 Jesus drove them from the temple with a whip of small cords yet there is no indication that they were physically injured. Culturally, Jesus would be expected to avenge His cousin’s beheading. Jesus answered the heinous act with the sermon on the mount. Identification as The Lamb is no accident. The gentleness of a lamb is recognized throughout the generations that have inhabited this world. The identity in Rev 22 is the culmination of all ritual animal sacrifice. What remains is choice for whosoever will. The resurrection, the keys to death and hell allow this choice.
Gen 9:6 Human, (Adam) Gen 5:2 was not offered in ritual sacrifice because they are made in the image of God. The substitute was animal flesh and confirmed with Abraham and Isaac. Jesus Who knew no sin became sin for us in the only instance of the sacrifice of human flesh in substitution and propitiation. The glory of God is the Lamb. Rev 21:23 and Rev 22
In Luke 22:35-38 Jesus tells the disciples to sell what they have and buy swords.
Jesus halted swordplay and healed the servant of the high priest. His purpose was not to wield the sword but to identify transgressors. The swords are symbolic. Jesus reminded the disciples that without provision still they lacked nothing before advising them to sell what they had to buy swords. Even though His disciples were armed, they were insufficient to stay the will of God. Peter was not yet converted. This was an introduction to a vitally important lesson. Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit saith the Lord of hosts. Zec 4:6
So, in your opinion did Jesus’ use of a whip constitute an exhibition of non-violence in [John 14:14-17]? Legally, meaning according to standard NATO definitions, the over-turning of tables in [Matt 21:12-13] constitutes a low-level ‘use-of-force’, so that can’t possibly be seen as non-violent; or do you not agree? Whatever you call it – Jesus actions resulted in fear [Mark 11:15-18].
It seems to me you’re proof-texting is making Jesus out to be something of a hypocrite, teaching one thing, doing another. No Jesus taught ‘mercy’ not ‘non-violence’. The two are not the same.
The potshard cannot question the potter. Preminence admits God can be zealous regarding His temple yet require inter human nonviolence.
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
Just how would the head of household not allowed his house to be broken into
Exodus 22:2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed;
Yes this is just an example for Yahshua to make a point but does is not support certain acts of violence unless you can claim there is another way to stop a thief. This verse shows that Yahshua believe some acts of violence were justified. Where not the money changers actually thiefs.
Bob Demyanovich, while it is true the potshard cannot question the potter, Jesus, as Jesus was also in the form of a potshard and not in the form of the potter, sent to provide an example to all potshards, so your response is a non-sequitur.
Robert, I agree, and I agree with your insight of [Exo 22:2].
Yahshua would not have instructed his disciples to buy a sword unless it was to defend themselves by deadly force. Just carrying a sword commanded respect through fear but that isnt violence till the threat of use is applied.
I think he promoted violence but only in a defensive manner.
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