Moore: What Does the Gospel Teach Us About War?

“As we celebrate Memorial Day, millions of Americans will be reflecting on war. This weekend is, of course, a national time we’ve set aside for grateful contemplation for the liberties that have been won for us by those who sacrificed. As Christians, we too can be thankful for those who’ve defend life and freedom at the ultimate cost.

We should, though, use this national holiday to reflect as Christians on what the gospel teaches us about war. For some Christians, Memorial Day is a complicated experience. These Christians would argue that it is inconsistent at best for believers in the gospel to celebrate anything won by war. They think, “Didn’t Jesus settle this on the Sermon on the Mount? What’s hard to interpret about ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your enemies’?”

In one sense, pacifism has biblical warrant. The New Testament does command us to live peaceably with all people and not to seek vengeance from those who do us wrong (Rom 12:18-21). This means revenge of any sort-whether through physical violence or through office gossip-reveals that we truly don’t believe that God will avenge his people at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 12:19). Jesus and then his apostles also forbid the church from exercising vengeance on anyone (Matt. 5:38-44), and even from exercising judgment over those on the outside (1 Cor. 5:12).

And yet, in Romans 13, right after the Apostle Paul has called Christians away from vengeance (Rom. 12:14-21), Paul speaks of the Roman state “bearing the sword” against “evildoers” by God’s own authority (Rom. 13:1-5).

Paul’s admonition is consistent with the rest of the Bible. The Old Testament is, among other things, the story of a warrior people triumphing over their enemies and finding rest in the land of promise. Moreover, Jesus never commanded those in the military-even though these soldiers were serving a pagan Roman Empire-to walk away from such service, though he was quite willing to command prostitutes to abandon their employments. This is the biblical foundation for the belief in “just war” that was articulated by Augustine and has been shared by most of the church since.

Pacifism is problematic because it is utopian. Yes, the Bible affirms the way of peace. And the ultimate vision of peace is that of a restored creation in which there is no more war (Isa 2:4). And yet, the Bible also tells us that this shalom comes when all Jesus’ enemies are subdued, when, as the old gospel song says, “every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.” The Bible tells us that day is not yet here. We do not yet see all things under Jesus’ feet (Heb 2:8). In the meantime, governments must some times, though only carefully and as a last resort, go to war in order to protect the innocent and to restrain evil. Pacifists are right to tell us that war is always tragic. They are right to tell us to long for peace. But they are wrong to think that such peace can come by avoiding conflict. Passivity in the face of Hitler means a murderous Europe under a Nazi flag and, quite possibly, the extinction of the Jewish race. This is not peace, but horror.

But if pacifism is too utopian, so also is militarism. A Christian whose first response to news of unrest or persecution overseas is, “Just nuke them” is also speaking outside the way of Christ. Yes, military action is sometimes necessary. But Christians have always seen war of any kind as a tragedy-even when it is the least bad of the alternatives before us. Christians also recognize that a concept of “perpetual war for perpetual peace” is an illusion. Jesus rebuked Peter for believing the answer to Jesus’ arrest was the declaration of a violent counter-action (Matt 26:52). Sure, there will be a “war to end all wars,” but it will be fought at Armageddon-and it won’t be planned by the Pentagon.

In truth, questions of war and peace are never easy this side of the New Jerusalem. This is why Christians through the centuries have avoided both pacifism and militarism: holding to a “just war” concept that killing is never good but is sometimes best. This “just war” concept limits such action to duly constituted governments, and strictly contains the bounds of such warfare. The intentional killing of innocent non-combatants, for instance, is wrong and outside the parameters of just war.

We shouldn’t tie dye our shirts and pretend a United Nations-enforced peace can end bloodshed. But neither should we callously cheer the violence of war, as if it were a video game. Yes, we should visualize peace-but only a real peace, when the true Emperor of the universe rules over a world so truly pacified that we cannot even imagine the violence we once saw on CNN, or on Animal Planet. On that day, and maybe not until that day, there won’t be the sound of rattling swords, firing guns, or bombs bursting in air.

-Russell Moore

https://www.russellmoore.com/2016/05/30/what-does-the-gospel-teach-us-about-war/

There Is No Greater Crown

Not in my own righteousness,
But the righteousness of Your Son
Not in empty promises,
But the truth of what He’s done
Not in my brokenness,
But the fullness of His life
I have no holiness
But the holiness of Christ

It is mine
I am Yours
It is mine
Because I am Yours

Oh, the Love of Christ
He was born to die
So that we are reborn
To claim His life
He who laid Himself down
Has lifted me up
There is no greater crown
Than Jesus’ love

Not in what my hands can make
Not my wisdom, will, or my ways
I have no resting place
But the arms of the Ancient of Days
Not in my strength to see
But the sight Your Spirit gives
There is no life for me
But that Jesus died and lives

He is mine
I am Yours
He is mine
Because I am Yours

Oh, the Love of Christ
He was born to die
So that we are reborn
To claim His life
He who laid Himself down
Has lifted me up
There is no greater crown
Than Jesus’ love

All crowns all around the world
Fall down at the feet
Of the King of Kings
The King of Kings
Where glory and grace
Forever reign
In the King of Kings
The King of Kings
No crown I could wear
Could ever compare
To the King of Kings
The King of Kings
God’s love is revealed
Salvation is sealed
In the King of Kings

This is the Love of Christ
In darkness He died
So the world is reborn
In His great light
He who laid Himself down
Has lifted us up
There is no greater crown
Than Jesus’ love

Oh, the Love of Christ
He was born to die
So that we are reborn
To claim His life
He who laid Himself down
Has lifted us up
There is no greater crown
Than Jesus’ love

He who laid Himself down
Has lifted me up
There is no greater crown
Than Jesus’ love

-Eric Scholtens

His Heart Beats

His heart beats
His blood begins to flow
Waking up what was dead a moment ago
And His heart beats, now everything is changed
‘Cause the blood that brought us peace with God
Is racing through His veins
And His heart beats

His heart beats
He breathes in
His living lungs expand
The heavy air surrounding death turns to breath again
He breathes out
He is word and flesh once more
The Lamb of God slain for us is a Lion ready to roar
And His heart beats

So crown Him the Lord of Life
Crown Him the Lord of Love
Crown Him the Lord of All
He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat
I know, I know His heart beats

He rises, glorified in flesh
Clothed in immortality, the firstborn from the dead
He rises, and His work’s already done
So He’s resting as He rises to reclaim the Bride He won
And His heart beats

So crown Him the Lord of Life
Crown Him the Lord of Love
Crown Him the Lord of All
He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat
I know, I know His heart beats

The last enemy to be destroyed is death
The last enemy to be destroyed is death
He must reign until no enemy is left
The last enemy to be destroyed, to be destroyed is death

His heart beats, He will never die again
I know that death no longer has dominion over Him
So my heart beats with the rhythm of the saints
As I look for the seeds the King has down
To burst up from their graves

I know, I know
He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat

I know, I know
He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat
How great, how great is His victory

I know, I know His heart beats
I know, I know His heart beats
His heart beats

-Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive

I Needed A Savior

Who could say that You, Oh Lord
Should pay the debt I can’t afford?
Who could say to God, “It must be so”?
But in the Garden You ordained
The price would be Your death and shame
And so the Word became the Name
Above all other names

I needed a Savior
And You found a cross to call Your tree
Only in God’s Son is my sin undone
Hallelujah, Jesus!
I needed forgiveness
You looked at the blood and saw my sin
There on Calvary, love has ransomed me
Hallelujah, Jesus!

Who can make me wait in fear
When Jesus’ voice has called me near
Who can say the Cross was not enough?
In His death I’m sanctified
And in His life I cannot die
And now I know the Father
And the depth of His great love

I needed a Savior
And You found a cross to call Your tree
Only in God’s Son is my sin undone
Hallelujah, Jesus!
I needed forgiveness
You looked at the blood and saw my sin
There on Calvary, love has ransomed me
Hallelujah, Jesus!

I am defended by the blood
The blood I spilled
Defended by the love
Of the One I killed
Defended by the grace
That took my place
Defended by the blood

Cancelling Dr. Seuss?

We live in a fallen world—even our heroes are tainted by sin.

It’s not an outrage to retire a few books with offensive stereotypes, even if we love the author. We can still enjoy any excellent or praiseworthy works, while recognizing that certain other works might wisely be set aside.

As Christians, we should be eager to repent of our sins, and willing to acknowledge our faults. Brokenness, prejudice, and pride shouldn’t be ignored by us. We aren’t scared by the light but also know that the deeds of evil ought not be paraded around or allowed to propogate.

Let’s acknowledge the errors—even of our favorite authors—while humbly striving to change the way we and our culture treat those who are different. The imposing of uniformity, white supremacy, and white superiority are all antithetical to the gospel and the God who made every man, woman, and child in His image.

Challies: Ordinary Things

“This morning, all across the world, thousands of ordinary pastors will preach ordinary sermons to ordinary people, and through these sermons they will communicate the most powerful, extraordinary news of all. This news will slowly but definitely make its mark on these people, conforming them ever more to the image of Christ. These congregations will also read the Bible together, pray, sing, and fellowship. Some will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and some will witness a baptism. These are the beautiful, wonderful, ordinary means of grace.”

-Tim Challies

Ellis: A Dysfunctional Church — Part 2

…Those in the Reformed church community, who pride themselves on having a wholistic theology, were better equipped to understand the phenomenon of Brother Martin. Dr. King was trying to bring the reality of the biblical world-and-life-view to bear on the real problems in society, such as racism and segregation. He firmly believed that history was neither autonomous nor a chance occurrence of events, but that God was sovereign over all things He believed in the power of the Spirit of God to quicken people to respond positively to the Word. Dr.King was firmly rooted in the life of the church and saw the kingdom of God as having a broad sphere of influence in its theology and ethics.

Yet the Reformed Christians who shared Brother Martin’s outlook did not recognize him. They were caught in the “paralysis of analysis.”

When Dr.King listed the churches that endorsed the Civil Rights Movement, the so-called Bible-believing churches were conspicuously absent. Was it too much to expect them to recognize the ethical and theological nature of the movement when it was at its peak?

Without input from the Black community, the White church was unable to see the structural sin in the American system. Reformed thinkers like J. Marcellus Kik who attempted to apply theology to social problems tended to be negative. Other thinkers said things like “Immediate integration would be destructive to Blacks and Whites alike,” or “The problems of racism will eventually disappear under the present system of preaching the Word.” The same arguments were being offered by proponents of apartheid in South Africa.

Thus the mainline, Bible-believing community generally misunderstood the significance of Dr. King—the fundamentalists and evangelicals primarily because of their defective theological position and the Reformed Christians primarily because of their defective cultural position.

This dysfunctionality of the conservative churches was due in part to the nature of Western theology itself. It had developed under the challenge of unbelieving philosophy and science, and thus it was much more concerned with epistemological issues (what we should know about God) than with ethical issues (how we should obey God). The White church had generally been isolated from the African-American community for almost a hundred years, and Brother Martin was the product of the African American church—a church with a distinctly different growth and flavor. Hence, just as the kingdom ofGod had caught the scribes and Pharisees unawares, the Civil Rights Movement caught the predominantly White, Bible-believing communities unawares. Ironically, the liberals, who had apparently departed from God’s written Word, were able to recognize this move of God better than those who were supposed to be committed to God’s Word.

-Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience, 82-83.

Ellis: A Dysfunctional Church — Part 1

Dr. King was misunderstood by many in both the Black community and the White. The most acute misunderstandings came from the predominantly White, so-called Bible-believing community. Dr. King’d theological dynamic gave him a biblical message and method that conformed neither to the White conservative agenda nor to the White liberal agenda.

Sadly, many White evangelical, fundamentalist, and Reformed churches were caught sleeping with no oil in their lamps at the outbreak of this move of God in the land. They had evidently been rendered dysfunctional by a defective view of theology and culture. They failed to distinguish between White standards and scriptural standards. Their theology had led them to a preoccupation with private salvation.

The importance of personal salvation should never be diminished, But the whole counsel of God revealed in the Scriptures goes far beyond the scope of the private realm. According to God’s Word, even, salvation itself finds its significance in terms of a much larger picture—namely,the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1-2). But many leading evangelicals never came to grips with the big picture of God’s purposes. They never saw the broad cultural implications of the Great Commission. This is why their Christianity never had application beyond the private aspects of life. Many believed that America’s racial injustices would fade away automatically as more individuals had conversion experiences. This naive view completely ignored the patterns of racism that had been woven into the American system.

The fundamentalist reaction was much harsher. Fundamentalists and right-wing politicians branded Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement as “communistic.” Though there was no evidence for such allegations, the label effectively scared off some potential supporters. The Civil Rights Movement and the words of King were beginning to strike at the very root of the White Christianity-ism that supported the political, economic and social system in which they had a vested interest.

Many fundamentalists and evangelicals saw the message of Brother Martin as an experience in futility in light of the total dichotomy between “the sweet by-and-by” and “the nasty now-and-now.” They saw Dr. King as absurdly “bothering to polish the brass and rearrange the furniture on the Titanic.” According to them, “he should have been getting people ‘saved’ in these ‘last days’and not been concerned with eating at lunch counters….”

-Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience, 81-82.

Ellis: Slavery: A Dehumanizing Practice

The whole basis of this dehumanizing practice [slavery] was an illegitimate view of humanity—a view in which skin color determined not only a
person’s status but indeed the presence or lack of the image of God. It became a time-honored belief among many adherents of White Christianity-ism that the uprooted African had no soul. Black people were therefore classified as nonhuman—in later history as three-fifths human. So raping a female slave was not a crime,nor was it considered fornication or adultery.

Yet something positive began to develop in the consciousness of the enslaved Africans, something so significant that it would have a profound effect on African-American culture from the days of slavery up to the present. The slaves learned new things about God.

The early masters, with few exceptions,had never intended that their slaves should become Christian. However, this did not prevent the slaves from experiencing the power of the Word of God. As I pointed out in chapter three, resistance to oppression is itself an expression of God’s grace. When a people are subjected to such oppression, they are driven inward, to the depths of the very humanity the oppression is trying to negate. Any cultural expressions that emerge from such a suffering people will come from those human depths. Other human beings who encounter these expressions will be affected at comparable depths. This, I believe, is what LeRoi Jones meant when he described us as the “Blues People.”This cultural depth and the skills to express such depth are what is today popularly known as “soul.”

Humanity is made in the image of God,and through it God reveals his personhood and power. The deeper we go into our humanity, the more we experience God’s power. This is part of the reason soul culture is so penetrating. It is also one reason the existence of God was never a matter of argument in our historic thinking. African-American culture always presupposed God. Soul culture thus became fertile ground for the gospel.

-Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience, 43.

Ellis: The White Church in Transition

Many White Christians had been faithful to the cultural mandate of Jesus Christ during Reconstruction. They brought education and other forms of help to the former slaves. When the pressure of Jim Crowism arose in the late 1870s, however, they were forced to abandon the African-American community, leaving us to face the horrors of the Southern racist backlash alone.

Another concern was drawing White Christians’ attention. Just after the turn of the twentieth century, the “battle for the Bible” was heating up. On one side were those following in the footsteps of others who a century earlier had given in to the basic assumptions of secular humanism. As a result, their Christianity had eroded into an empty Christianity-ism, with a god whose substance depended on human definition and human opinion. For them Jesus was a mere man—a prophet at best—and the Bible was merely a human book containing some passages that might be considered “inspired” in some vague way. These people became known as “liberals” or “modernists.”

The liberals had lost their theological direction and had nothing to do but play connotation word games. This all changed in 1907, when Walter Rauschenbusch published Christianity and the Social Crisis. Advocating social action and neglecting personal salvation, his “social gospel” breathed new life into the liberal movement.

On the other side of the battle were those who, reacting against the liberals, advocated personal salvation and orthodox doctrine over social action. They became known as fundamentalists or “conservatives.” Those who stood for the conceptual authority of Scripture took the fundamentalist side, while those who stood for the ethical authority of Scripture took the liberal side. To make a sharp distinction between themselves and the liberals, many fundamentalists abandoned all social involvement and concentrated on merely getting people “saved.” They wrongly identified social action with liberalism rather than Christian action. Furthermore, the fiascoes of Prohibition and the Scopes trial made fundamentalists feel the heat of cultural defeat. This effectively closed the books on fundamentalist cultural involvement and opened the door for secular humanism.

The Bible itself never sets up such a dichotomy between personal salvation and social action, between conceptual and ethical authority.

So in essence both sides lost the battle of the Bible.

Between 1877 and 1930 the White Bible-believing churches developed a double isolation from the Black community: They capitulated to White racism, and they adopted a socially impotent gospel. The rift was deep, because social ethics and the quest for freedom and dignity lay at the heart of historic Black theology. The social retreat of White Bible-believing Christianity made it resemble White Christianity-ism.

-Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience, 55-56.