9 months, 2 weeks ago
Glenn Reynolds recently linked an article at World Net Daily where Christians are being told to weapon up and fight back against jihadist fighters in Nigeria because the government won’t protect them against Boko Haram and others who intend them harm. This kicked off a conversation between me and my son over the response of the Christian church worldwide, a church I have variously called weak, pathetic, pitiful, disgusting and repulsive (I have that right because I’m a Christian).
I have [previously] asked when is the last time a reader had even heard a prayer in worship for Christians being slaughtered across the globe? (This week was the first indication that anyone cares, with a note from Leith Anderson, head of the National Association of Evangelicals, to pray for Iraq, after Christians have been slaughtered and driven from their homes for more than three years (and the church in Mesopotamia having disintegrated). What? No imprecatory prayers at all? We’re too busy trying to disarm each other to pay attention to the suffering of Christians rather than our own comfort. My son, in disagreement (of course) with the anemia of the global church, demands to know why we aren’t arming Christians across the world from the offering plate.
To this I explained that there are a number of complicating factors in such a proposal. First of all, arming Christians in Iraq or Nigeria involves export of firearms which falls under a whole gaggle of federal laws. To avoid that the church would have to find a weapons trafficker to get the arms to the Christians under attack. In the unlikely event that a pastor anywhere had the stomach for this, the weapons cannot be gotten to the Christians now anyway. They are surrounded and cut off, or scattered to the four winds as they run for their very lives.
A good summary statement of where the Christians are at the moment might be this: they waited too late to think about self defense. They waited too late not because of the mistaken notion that the jihadists would have mercy on them, but because there is a basic sickness in the worldwide church. This sickness, which is the root cause of the problem, is anti-intellectualism and bad hermeneutics.
Christians justifiably hold high regard for what the Scriptures teach. But failing proper interpretation and application, unlearned Christians are at the mercy of teachers and pastors who have been brainwashed at liberal seminaries in the art of form, source and redaction criticism, and deconstruction. Many seminary professors no more believe what the Bible teaches than my dog believes in Newtonian physics.
The Bible gets (intentionally) conflated with social action and a thousand other things, and one consequence of this, just to bring this around to the main subject, is that Christians the world over are in large part pacifists. The honorific title of “Prince of peace” governs the interpretation of words like “My kingdom is not of this world,” “turn the other check,” and “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” That He can become angry and jealous and full of wrath are seldom discussed. It’s what theologian John Frame calls an “exclusive reduction” of God to one characteristic, like “God is love” (which is poor hermeneutics) versus an “emphasizing reduction” (which can be temporarily useful for teaching). Passages are ripped out of context without regard to the rules of hermeneutics or other passages of the Bible and the need for logical consistency.
But despite bad hermeneutics, there is no unmitigated promise from God to protect His people without regard to their foolishness, if they will only trust Him for their provisions. In order to prove this notion false all one must do is find a single example where Christians were killed en masse. Such an example isn’t hard to find, as it is estimated that Hitler killed some three million Christians during his evil reign in addition to the millions of Jews, including some half a million clergy. Another instance of Christians perishing at the hands of evil men can be taken from Stalin’s starvation of the Ukraine, what may be called the holocaust by hunger. Christians were certainly among the seven million souls who perished in the Ukraine in the 1930’s. So David’s comment that he has never seen the children of the righteous “begging for bread” (Ps 37:25) must be a normative statement rather than a promise. In fact, the entire approach to interpretation of the so-called “wisdom literature” in the Bible is different from say, didactic (Romans and Ephesians) or apocalyptic (Revelation) literature.
I am afraid there have been too many centuries of bad teaching endured by the church, but it makes sense to keep trying. As I’ve explained before, the simplest and most compelling case for self defense lies in the decalogue. Thou shall not murder means thou shall protect life.
God’s law requires [us] to be able to defend the children and helpless. “Relying on Matthew Henry, John Calvin and the Westminster standards, we’ve observed that all Biblical law forbids the contrary of what it enjoins, and enjoins the contrary of what it forbids.” I’ve tried to put this in the most visceral terms I can find.
God has laid the expectations at the feet of heads of families that they protect, provide for and defend their families and protect and defend their countries. Little ones cannot do so, and rely solely on those who bore them. God no more loves the willing neglect of their safety than He loves child abuse. He no more appreciates the willingness to ignore the sanctity of our own lives than He approves of the abuse of our own bodies and souls. God hasn’t called us to save the society by sacrificing our children or ourselves to robbers, home invaders, rapists or murderers. Self defense – and defense of the little ones – goes well beyond a right. It is a duty based on the idea that man is made in God’s image. It is His expectation that we do the utmost to preserve and defend ourselves when in danger, for it is He who is sovereign and who gives life, and He doesn’t expect us to be dismissive or cavalier about its loss.
This same sort of thinking can be applied on a larger scale to states and nations as so expertly done by professor Darrell Cole in Good Wars (First Things), relying on the theology of both Calvin and Aquinas. But this is a bridge too far for some Christians who are just now dealing with the notion that they might be in danger.
And danger it is. If it isn’t out of control SWAT teams in wrong address raids or home invasions by felons, Christians might begin to think about the possibility that jihad will show up on our own shores (jihad version 4.0 includes mass executions, burying people alive and beheading of children). And if it isn’t that, consider that illegal immigrants have been seen walking armed and in military fatigues in tactical formation (“Ranger file”) across Texas farmland.
But the most pressing danger isn’t ISIS, or felons, or illegal immigrants. The most pressing danger is the intransigence of the global Christian church in refusing to weapon up and defend themselves. The Christians in Iraq waited too late, have lost their homes and all of their belongings, and are on the run or sitting on a mountain top thirsting to death (and thirst is a bad way to perish). I just don’t how to say it any clearer than my favorite actor, Sam Elliot. If you won’t listen to me, listen to him.