D. A. Carson on Just War

A student of mine alerted me to a lecture that D. A. Carson delivered in 2004 on the topic of Just War at a “Henry Forum” at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. Immediately following his presentation, Carson fielded questions from the audience. You can download the audio from the church’s website or listen to it below.

Carson is a Just War proponent who rightly views Just War as an expression of Christian love. Carson also discusses how just war theory informs our assessment of the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and preemptive war in general.

Just War
[audio:http://www.chbcaudio.org/podpress_trac/web/109/0/03-10-04.mp3]

Just War – Q&A
[audio:http://www.chbcaudio.org/podpress_trac/web/110/0/03-10-04q.mp3]

52 Responses to D. A. Carson on Just War

  1. Paul May 2, 2008 at 12:21 am #

    “Carson is a Just War proponent who rightly views Just War as an expression of Christian love.

    Wow, D.A. Carson AND you are wrong on this point then!

    I find myself agreeing with you on more things than I thought Denny. But on this, not only are you wrong, but you are downright irresponsible. Instead of praying to your leaders about whether their war for profit is right, I suggest that you pray to GOD for His advice on the matter.

    Shame on you, Denny, for claiming the moral high ground when it comes to pre-emptive war based on false information. Shame on you, Denny for claiming that you’re somehow better than those of us who are pacifists because some Catholic scholar in medieval times said that it was okay to kill certain people.

    There are just as many Christian scholars that would claim that the invasion of Iraq was spiritual folly. But you don’t have the courage to post or even listen to their lectures, do you Denny?

    I don’t mind if you’re a just war proponent. You can be as wrong as you want. But to claim that it’s the right and just and Christian position then labels ME (and Jeremy and Brett and Bryan L, etc, etc, etc) as war mongering, blood thirsty fools as well.

    And I can’t stand for that. Sorry.

  2. Brett May 2, 2008 at 12:34 am #

    “who rightly views Just War as an expression of Christian love. Carson also discusses how just war theory informs our assessment of the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and preemptive war in general.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. The “Just-War” theory didn’t even exist until the 5th century when Augustine formulated it because of the events going on in his day…and I hate to break it to you, but he was dead wrong.

    Viewing any type of war as an expression of Christian love is probably the most distorted, twisted, illogical, un-Christian statement I possibly have every heard in my life. “I love you guys, but I’m gonna blow your brains out! I’m gonna slit your throat, but I do it because I love you. I’m gonna throw this grenade and kill 3 of you bad guys, but the reason I do this is because I love you!” Seriously, how many military personnel really take this attitude to war? You can probably count them on one hand.

    And even mentioning Iraq and Just-war in the same sentence is blasphemous. I am in complete shock how such well-studied people can have such un-Christian conclusions. I am convinced that our Lord would cry at such a stance.

    This is much more of an American elitist imperial belief than it is a Christian belief, and I am simply appalled. I can tolerate Calvinism and all of reformed theology and dialog with my brothers about it, but this comes close to crossing the line for me…especially when you can say that it is an expression of Christian love. That is paradoxical and just plain stupid. It’s an expression of worldly love, pagan love, Augustinian love, Constantinian love, but it is not Christian love, and I will take that to the grave with me.

  3. Paul May 2, 2008 at 12:45 am #

    “Constantinian Love?”

    The same Constantine that made a pact with the devil to spread the church to the four corners of the earth?

    Yep, that sounds about right.

  4. Peter G. May 2, 2008 at 2:11 am #

    Paul and Brett, how do you understand America’s role in WW2? Was that an unjust war? Is it possible that in that case we were loving the enemies of those we were fighting more than we were loving our enemies? Is that even a possibility in your view?

    In any case, for those interested, Carson has written about just war theory and it’s relationship to loving our enemies in his book Love in Hard Places (Crossway, 2002), pp. 108-144. I’m interested to hear how he’s developed his views of the War on Terror since 2002. He didn’t have a lot of hard conclusions in his book which was due in large part to the fact that the events were so close at hand.

  5. MatthewS May 2, 2008 at 5:57 am #

    Paul,

    “I don’t mind if you’re a just war proponent. You can be as wrong as you want. But to claim that it’s the right and just and Christian position then labels ME (and Jeremy and Brett and Bryan L, etc, etc, etc) as war mongering, blood thirsty fools as well.”

    Your ability to invite irenic dialogue is truly an example to all!

    Just giving you a hard time. I have appreciated that you have been willing lately to agree as well as disagree.

    I think the community here could do better in terms of dialogue and respect for the other side. And I think you are a natural leader. And I think I have said too much, since it isn’t my blog.

    One more thing: finals will be done today!! woo hoo!

  6. Brian W May 2, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    I plan on listening, but can’t help but respond to the bigger question again: what should a Jesus-followers role be in a government executing Romans 13 justice (as argued by just war advocates)? Nations do not exercise Kingdom ways even in a “just” war. They use the ways of this world. Those are not Christ’s ways. Jesus brought about justice through self-sacrifice, not through war. So a believer’s participation in war is a participation in this-worldly ways, not Christs ways. And nations whom God establishes to bring his “justice” through war are not immune from judgment themselves, ala the Chaldeons.

  7. Denny Burk May 2, 2008 at 7:03 am #

    Paul and Brett,

    I know we disagree on Just War theory. I only meant the statement as a description of the position held by Christian Just War proponents.

    Historically, Just War has been argued as an extension of “love your neighbor.” How do you love your neighbor when your neighbor’s life is being snuffed out by a tyrant? Love requires that under certain circumstances one might use deadly force to protect the innocent from the aggressor.

    I’m not trying defend Just War theory, nor am I trying to start an argument about the Iraq War. I’m just describing what Just War theory is.

    By the way, if you listen to the lecture, Carson says that the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in WWII were violations of Just War theory.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  8. JB May 2, 2008 at 9:59 am #

    (Hirsoshima, etc.) Violations they may be. Yet they are some of the reason why Paul and Brett are speaking English now.

  9. Nuwanda May 2, 2008 at 10:05 am #

    I would suggest JWT is vacuous since the Augustinian criteria do not apply to modern warfare.

  10. Paul May 2, 2008 at 10:28 am #

    Peter G.: I see no correlations between WWII and Afghanistan and especially Iraq.

    While I am a pacifist, I saw the need to go into Afghanistan, much like I understood the need to fight Japan in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

    But Iraq was a paper tiger, and we had the intelligence to back that up. On the other hand, we well knew WELL BEFORE 1944 that there was some major and horrible stuff happening on the European front that far eclipsed “just” the holocaust. So, trying to compare the two is just ridiculous. Especially being that then, we had a draft system where many males served, and many more understood the need to enlist to fight a global enemy. Now we have a volunteer army that can’t keep troops in its ranks and a government that won’t take care of its wounded. But that’s another story entirely.

    Denny: There it is again: “I only meant the statement with which you are taking umbrage as a description of what the Christian understanding of Just War is.”

    No, it is a description of what some Christians and a lot more so-called Christians understand Just War to be. You can speak for me on Orthodoxy. And you can speak for me on translations of the New Testament. But don’t speak for me (using the blanket “Christians”) when describing something prescribed by Augustine and Constantine, and not Jesus or Paul.

  11. Denny Burk May 2, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    Paul,

    Believe me. I’m not trying to characterize Just War as your view or as the only view held by Christians. I apologize if I put it inelegantly in my previous comment. I’ve changed the wording so as to remove confusion. It now reads: “I only meant the statement as a description of the position held by Christian Just War proponents.”

    Thanks,
    Denny

  12. Denny Burk May 2, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    Nuwanda (in #9),

    You wrote: “I would suggest JWT is vacuous since the Augustinian criteria do not apply to modern warfare.”

    Then you would like Carson’s lecture because he makes precisely that point. He says that Just War theory needs to be refined so as to take into account modern realities.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  13. Gabe May 2, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    Denny,
    Don’t know if this helps:

    “Never take your own vengeance {ekdikountes}, beloved, but leave room for the wrath {orge} [of God] (Rom 12.19) … overcome evil {kakon} with good (Rom 12.21) …”

    “For it [governing authorities] is a minister of God, an avenger {ekdikos} who brings wrath {orgen} upon the one practicing evil {kakon} (Rom 13.4).”

    believer / state
    no vengeance / avenger
    no wrath / wrath
    good conquers evil / wrath conquers evil

    This helps me,
    Gabe

  14. David Rogers May 2, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    This discussion of Just War theory and pacifiscm would be greatly enhanced with awareness of the excellent book by Meic Pearse “The Gods of War: Is Religion the Primary Cause of Violent Conflict?” IVP, 2007. The chapter titled “Can a Christian Fight?” should be required reading for anyone who wishes to articulate one side or the other. Pearse finds difficulties in both positions.

  15. Mark Gibson May 2, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    I disagree with Carson when he criticizes America (and allies) on the bombings of enemy held cities during WWII. He fails to mention that we dropped leaflets warning the civilians to leave before such bombings. The Japanese military actually deceived the civilians into staying.

  16. Bryan L May 2, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    I think the problem I have with just war theory is that it’s useless from a Christian perspective. It’s mixing the church and the state. You can’t call a war an expression of Christian love. Nations go to war. Kingdoms of this world go to war. Sects go to war. You can’t support wars on Christian grounds. I think just war may be useful on purely secular grounds for nations that are not controlled by religion, that want to be just and fair and need guidelines for deciding when it is appropriate for it to go to war or not (because lets be honest kingdoms are never going to stop fighting and going to war). But leave Christ and the church out of that decision as if you can somehow give a war Jesus’ blessings. This nation is not a theocracy and Jesus is the head of the church, no the USA.

    Just my opinion.

    Bryan

  17. Nick May 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm #

    Bryan stated: “lets be honest kingdoms are never going to stop fighting and going to war”. I agree. And it seems like that’s common ground for most everyone. Taking this as common ground, how do we move on…what’s the Christian response?

    It seems to me that Carson, Denny, and other JWT proponents have a certain framework for understanding war in JWT. Their rendering of JWT may be judged as misguided, but it’s a start, is it not? Complete pacifism is also an attempt for understanding war. So both are “systems” of thought trying to understand this tension. As such, I don’t see how dismissing JWT as “useless” helps the dialogue. Should we not throw in the towel and call all attempts at understanding war from a Christian perspective (JWT down the spectrum to Pacifism) as useless? I don’t think that’s the way forward…

    JWT seems to offer some good biblical insight for understanding this tension.

  18. Quixote May 2, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    I think I’m with Bryan in #16 in that we can’t “go to war” under the banner of “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We go as the USA not as Christians-R-US, and we ought to be clear about that. However, in our armed forces there are many Christians.
    So, yes, Christians still go to war. In the end, I don’t think the argument should be about whether Christians ought to *declare war*, but about whether Presidents/Congress ought to. *Then* the moral dilemna arises when the president or congressman (or soldier) is also a Christian.

    I don’t agree that there is a vast “physical” divide between God’s Kingdom and this secular world. Yes, there is a spiritual divide, but one that we are supposed to be crossing in order to bring people from one kingdom to another. In other words, I don’t see many anti-war people on this blog arguing that Christians can’t be lawyers or doctors or architects or electricians or plumbers or accountants…and all of these are secular professions in a secular kingdom. Some of these commenters on this blog (those who constantly refer to the 2 kingdoms like Boyd does) make me think that they believe Christians should have some sort of compound somewhere so we can really be set apart. (Waco, anyone?)

    Do you get what I’m saying? I know you don’t want Waco, but in arguing against war you keep mentioning this two kingdom divide. Look, if you’re a pacifist, find some other grounds. You don’t live out the “kingdom thing” all the way down the line, so it loses its power.

    Christians are to be Christians no matter their profession. Some might become soldiers to protect the peace, but in the end, they swear to obey their Commander-in-Chief, and that requires fighting the war on terror regardless of personal feelings about Iraq. Bravo to men and women who understand honor and submission to authority. They have nothing to do with personal feelings or agreement.

    Boyd goes so far down this error that he chides people for serving as police officers and having to use deadly force. Ugh.

  19. jeff miller May 2, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Quixote,

    I agree with your sentiment that Christians are not here to form compounds. We are to be in the world and take up our cross. That cross may mean we will be considered problematic, or as non-factors in the administration of national policy. It may mean that we (disciples of Jesus) do not get use the word “we” the way that Carson has used when discussing how “we” (westerners, citizens of US, or disciples?) correctly demonstrate love.

    There is no physical division but the spiritual division allows you to come along side people of any persuasion…anything from the “America-should-be-pacifist-then Americas-enemies-will-be-reasonable” persuasion, to the “just-war” persuasion, to the “kill’em-all-let-God sort’em-out” persuasion, and invite people into a different and new realm where they can be witnesses and martyrs to the lordship of the lamb.

    There is no profession from which individuals may not come to loyally recognize Christ. There are many professions from which individuals maybe ostracized as they loyally recognize Christ. There is no biblical list of “good” professions vs. “bad” professions. If there were we would all legalistically get on the good list and look down our noses at those on the bad list without much concern for being on mission with Jesus. As one truly submits to Jesus Christ there maybe some ways of being a buyer and seller in this age that we would forgo. “Swearing oaths” or “taking the mark of the beast” maybe a thing we would shy away from. And I have noticed that with both Carson and Colson appeal is made to the idea of oath, in order to trump the way of Christ. That maybe necessary for Christendom but it won’t work if you want to be a disciple of Jesus. It is especially unfortunate if the oath itself already goes against the grain of our teachers teaching.

    Does this make sense?

  20. Quixote May 2, 2008 at 10:18 pm #

    Jeff, I don’t know if I understand what you’re saying. I believe there will always be wars. There will be no peace on earth. Will I personally be starting a war? Probably not. Will I personally be fighting in a war? Probably not. Will I praise war as being a wonderful solution? Certainly not. But do I think all wars are evil? No. Will I cheer when bin Laden is killed? Yes, if only internally. Will I simultaneously be sad that he is destined to eternity in hell? I don’t know (I could always be like “Friend of Jesus” in an earlier post thread and believe Osama found a different but equally acceptable path to God). (That’s a joke.) I don’t really know what you’re trying to say, but now you know more of where I stand.

  21. Brett May 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm #

    Let me be clear and say that I don’t think a nation going to war is always wrong. In fact, as Bryan said, I believe the “Just-War” theory would be a great guide for nations going to war…but the key words is “nations,” not Christians. I’m not pacifistic in the sense that the USA should never, ever go to war under any circumstances. In fact, I agreed with us going to Afghanistan post-9/11 (but certainly not Iraq).

    It’s when we start labeling these things as “Christian” that I get worried. How in the world we can name any war where blood will be shed as “Christian” is beyond me, and I think it’s a complete joke. How you can say any war is an expression of Christian love is beyond me as well and it breaks my heart that somebody could actually believe that way. The way I look at it is that we should let the kingdom of the world do its thing. Nations fight and go to war…there’s nothing that’s going to stop it anytime soon and war is inevitable. But actually having the audacity to call any war “Christian”? Give me a break!

    While it is my conviction that, as a Christian, I will not ever partake in a war, I do not push this on other Christians. Some see it as a “Christian duty,” I disagree with them, but I wouldn’t preach against it or anything. I had a friend go into the military as kind of a missionary thing. He’s now worse because of it, but he had goo intentions starting out and I suppose it could possibly be done.

    I would say if you believe we are claiming we should completely separate ourselves from the world (like the Mormon fundamentalist group), I would say you’re misunderstanding our part. We’re to be in the world, but not of it…those people are neither one. I firmly believe God calls people to be different professions and praise God because of it. I do think a lot of people claim that God called them to some secular profession but they really did it for the money, but God does certainly genuinely call people to study law or medicine or fill in the blank. I think it’s a ridiculous thought that if one wants to be a sold-out Christian, they have to go in to full-time vocational ministry. I don’t even know if I’m going to do this.

    As far as Christians go, we do not settle things by violence…period. Nations go to war, and Augustine’s Just-War theory is a good guideline for them, but just please don’t call it Christian. We have too much of a bloody past to still be advocating violence…and then to say one can kill as an act of Christian love is just paradoxical and just plain anti-Christ, you feel me?

  22. Quixote May 2, 2008 at 10:56 pm #

    Brett,

    All that said, am I understanding you correctly if I summarize your beliefs thus:

    Israel warred and committed violent acts (that would completely violate the Geneva Convention) as directed by God, but under CHRIST we have a new directive and that directive never includes declaring war or participating in violence against another human being?

  23. Bryan L May 2, 2008 at 11:14 pm #

    Brett:

    I agree. Good points.

    Also on a related note, I don’t think a Christian HAS to support or be against any war (As in they must choose a side). I say this because some here seem to want to know what we as Christians are supposed to do when it comes to war. You don’t have to do either. Nobody forces you to vote for either candidates in an election so why do you have to either support or be against a war?

    You can be neither but still have love for America’s enemies and even go over to that country to offer aid and help and love (to both sides, or in the aftermath when the war is over or all the damage has been don and there is aid and rebuilding that is needed) if that’s what you feel called to. America’s enemies don’t automatically become yours and you don’t have to become America’s enemy because they go to war.

    Bryan

  24. jeff miller May 2, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    If Jesus was to come back and teach individuals from among Israel and individuals from among the Gentiles to never again fight would he have to change what he taught in the gospels?

    If Yes, what more would he have to say?

    If No, maybe the real issue is who from among Israel and the Gentiles is listening.

  25. Brett May 3, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    Quixote,

    I would agree with that statement. I find it so funny that in regards to war so many are quick to point out that God told Israel in the OT to do certain acts of war as a justification for their pro-war stance. One, this is just terrible hermeneutics and they have no concept of contextualization or progressive revelation, and two, I don’t see them justifying other things because they’re in the OT (e.g. slavery, sacrifices, temple, killing babies, etc).

    It’s really a bad justification if you’re catching my drift. I do struggle with the fact that God told the Israelites to completely destroy certain nations, but we must all take into account his ultimate mission, the contextual time period, and most importantly what followers of God now are supposed to look like after Christ because he is the image of the invisible God. He would have been completely justified to start a revolt against the Romans, this is even what his followers expected, but instead of killing, he gave his own life. If that doesn’t show God’s heart then I don’t know what does.

    All that to say, I think your statement is a good one and is one we should live by. Christians are not to be people of violence…period. We do not take vengeance upon people, we do not commit acts of violence, we do not seek to stop things by taking up arms, and we do not kill people because of what they’ve done.

    Would you agree with this Quixote?

    And by the way, I don’t hate America. I’m critical of America and am very disappointed with our country often, but I don’t hate it. I think we should ALL be critical of our country and not accept everything and decision our commander in chief makes. We are not called to support him, we’re called to pray for him…there’s a big difference.

    Nibb High football rules!

  26. Wesley May 3, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    The point from using the OT is that “violence” as a concept is not inherently an evil act. God has used it, and apparently will use it again. And applied to war means that war cannot be considered an intrinsically evil act, even if it may not be allowed today for some reason. Temples as well are not inherently evil, slavery was never commanded, only allowed which makes it a little different case, and one may arge for contextualization. the issue with war is that it was not just “mentioned”, nor even “commanded in scripture”. But God is actually recording as commanding it.

    Jesus is the revelation of God yes, but he is a specific aspect of that revelation, in that he did not while on earth reveal everything there is to know. Plus it was assumed that he was not overturning prior revelation about God. I would be more weary of making a God of the OT vs God of the NT type dichotomy then authorizing war. When Jesus used the OT and applied it to himself it was never in the matter of “this was wrong” or contextualized, or mistaken. Instead it was the OT was now fulfilled in him, or pointed to him.

    Jesus tuning over the money changers is certainly “violent” to some degree, it was physical force after all. Jesus did allow his disciples to take with them two swords (Luke 22:38), which I take as allowing for self-deface against bandits and beasts (the that”s enough being a statement, not a rebuke). And in Revelation, even if you want to take it all as allegory, is still very violent imagery perpetuated by Christ as conqueror.

    Jesus not undergoing military conquest on his first advent does not negate it ever being legitimate for him to do so, it just means it was not his mission at the time, instead he was to undergo violence at the cross and defeat Satan (more war imagery used in scripture)

    Speaking of war imagery. Ever consider Eph 6 is modern context? assault-rifle of the spirit, Kevlar vest of righteousness, ect. If Scripture was “hard core” pacifist I would expect a repudiation of any and all war and violence imagery as well. I would have also expected more direct statements of Jesus overturning the OT pattern of war and for him to have not talked about his second coming in language that is easily taken as conquest. A few statements on loving enemies (which is compatible with JWT) doesn’t overturn the pattern set up for me.

    War/fighting/ect is an expression of love when the result is that someone is protected from an aggressor. If someone is being attacked for evil reasons robbery or rape) it is more loving to fight against the aggressor and protect the innocent (as it shows love for the person under attack) then to do nothing.

  27. Matt Svoboda May 3, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    I have to be honest. When I go down the line in my thinking on Christians and politics and war I usually come to Pacifism. But I do think I am missing something and that there is a problem with it. Should Christians not be willing to defend the people of Darfur, Sudan, etc… We are our brother’s keeper. We are all made in the image of God. Yet, I have not been able to come to a firm position on this in my own head. Some days I wake up a pacifist and other days I am all for War if I feel it is needed. I am about to read C.S. Lewis’ “Why I am Not a Pacifist” address. He usually helps.

    Bryan, Paul, Brett, all of you other Pacifists- So do you think America going to defend Darfur and Sudan against genocide is sin? Or would it be a sin to sit here and do nothing when we know people, made in God’s image, are being slaughtered for no reason? In my opinion, standing by and doing nothing just doesn’t seem biblical at all.

    Denny, all other non-pacifists- How in the world can you ever draw a decent line on when to pick up arms and when to put them down? Do you have a system?

    Matt

  28. Denny Burk May 3, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    Dear Matt,

    Just War theory is a set of criteria. I’ve written on it briefly before. You can do a search for “Just War” on my blog. I recommend reading this: http://www.dennyburk.com/?p=1352.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  29. Brett May 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    Matt,

    You’re missing our point. Of course I think we should defend the people in Darfur (just like we should have with Rwanda). That’s not the case or issue…it’s what Christians should do. Just look at Jesus’ response to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane when he picked up a sword and cut the soldier’s ear off.

    Wesley,

    I think it’s sad that you use Scripture to defend war…even to the degree that you butcher some of the texts you use as justification for it. Nowhere in Scripture do we have the arguments and explanations that you offer. Are you a chaplain or something?

  30. Wesley May 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Not a chaplain, never been in the military either, my granddad was is the closest military family I know of. I just never considered war/fighting to be intrinsically evil, and so never took any of scripture to be condemning it.

    If I were to sit down and just ask myself “does God condemn war in scripture? I think I’d have to come up with “no”. When I read “love your enemies” I never thought “ah, that means never fight them if necessary”. I suppose you could I say I don’t give the benefit of the doubt to pacifism, and would need direct condemnation of fighting as a concept.

    Which is why it’s not that I think the NT explicitly validates combat in certain situations except for probably the “two swords” passage. Instead I don’t see the explicit condemnation of it that would have been expected if the pattern in the OT was set up. I’m curious how exactly I butchered any of those passages?

    Luke 22:38: Jesus allows his disciples to carry two swords with them, not to start a revolution, but what else do swords do except kill something? Typically they were used to fight off bandits and beasts on the roads. So there are apparently certain circumstances where it is appropriate, although when Peter used his against the authority it was apparently not one of those times. But he was still allowed to carry it for something. self-defense against robbers on the highway and active combat against an institutional authority when God has other plans are not the same circumstance.

    Jesus and the money changers: Sure he didn’t cause them physical harm, but it was an aggressive action on his part against both people and animals. So a violent/aggressive action can be justified under certain circumstances.

    War imagery: my point with this is that scripture doesn’t at least have a problem with using the language of war to describe spiritual realities. And Eph 6 would come across differently today, “sword” would certainly be “assault rifle”. And this imagery continues into revelation where god is described as perpetuating war on rebellious humans, the best you can do with that it take it allegorically, but even then the images of God as “Lord of Hosts” destroying his enemies is considered a proper way to imagine Christ (Rev 19:13-16).

    My case is more cumulative and implied then explicit:

    1) War commanded in the OT by God (and not just mentioned) means God at times must at least allow war

    2) Language of God in OT sometimes fits warrior motif (Lord of Hosts, or Exodus 15) means that God doesn’t mind being considered as a warrior

    3) In the NT solders are never rebuked for being soldiers (which would be expected if Jesus was “changing the rules” of the OT)

    4) The same imagery of the OT warrior continues in the NT and is applied to Christ, along with war imagery being applied to Christians against Satan. indicating some continuity in this OT idea.

    5) Jesus allows his followers to carry swords, if not to kill something, then why?

    6) when Jesus does talk about shalom and love for enemies, the same ideas can be found in the OT when God commanded war, therefore these statements in themselves cannot be taken to mean Jesus is doing “something new with the OT”, as these ideas must not be contradictory. One would expect much stronger condemnations of older ideas if he were.

  31. jeff miller May 3, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Matt,
    I appreciate the tension you bring to the surface in your question:
    “So do you think America going to defend Darfur and Sudan against genocide is sin? Or would it be a sin to sit here and do nothing when WE know people, made in God’s image, are being slaughtered for no reason?”

    To relieve this tension in a way completely consistent with scripure requires adjustments to the framework of thought you are starting with.

    “So do you think America going to defend Darfur and Sudan against genocide is sin?”

    Is the USA falling short? What criteria do you propose to measure the USA with.
    There is a sense in which the USA as a “kingdom” of this age, necessarily falls short of God’s new standard for “kingdom” no matter what IT does. What WE (those in union with Jesus)do, on the other hand does not have the same destiny.

    It seems like a lot of people want the USA to be a Christian for them and that aint gonna happen.
    Yours,
    Jeff

  32. Gabe May 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm #

    Jeff,

    I appreciate the “we” (believers) and “we” (Americans) distinction in the context of blogging [or even for those responders who intentionally mean “we American-Christians”].

    It just keeps things clear. I’m not really sure what all responders mean in their frequent use of the “we’s”.

    Gabe

  33. D. Taylor Benton May 3, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    It has come to my attention that no matter the post of Denny’s… some visitors always find something to disagree with…you would think that if this site were that contradictory to ones viewpoints, that one may not frequent it as much…but I stand corrected and amazed…

  34. Brett May 3, 2008 at 11:18 pm #

    D. Taylor,

    It’s because Denny posts on such controversial issues and takes such a rigid, dogmatic stance. If you go to (e.g.) Jesuscreed or something you will not find half the disagreements and arguments.

    If all McKnight did was post about how one should be pro-choice, embrace homosexuality, be pacifistic, anti-Bush, democrat, New Perspective, non-inerrantist, not conservative, bashing Piper, bashing Mohler, Arminian, open-theist, not Southern Baptist, pro-Peter Enns, and anti-reformed then I suspect many people who are all anti-the things I listed would frequent there as well. It just draws the opposite crowd in when one takes such a hard-line stance on issues.

  35. D. Taylor Benton May 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm #

    let me get this straight…. are you saying Denny is the antithesis of what you just stated? especially the bashing and anti everything part? And Does Denny post how how we should all change our viewpoints as you suggest? if so, I may accidentally be looking at another blog or something…

  36. Bryan L May 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm #

    D,
    What point are you trying to make? Do you think this place should just be a place where only like minded people who agree with Burk post and those who disagree should go elsewhere. We should all stick to out own Christian ghettos? I don’t know about you but talking to people about issues I disagree with them on helps me better understand and sharpen my own positions as well as even change or modify my beliefs sometimes based on the interaction I get.

    Plus its not like Burk is opposed to the disagreement that takes place on his blog (as long as it doesn’t get ugly). I’ve seen him bring up controversial topics before and say something to the effect of “discuss away”. Like he was taking the pin out of a grenade and setting it down.

    Bryan

  37. D. Taylor Benton May 4, 2008 at 10:53 pm #

    First of all I would love for Brett to answer my questions but second of all….I’m just seeing who would react to my post… Hope you all have had a great Sunday and the Holy Spirit stirred your hearts to a fresh worship of the Savior and a deeper understanding of his word and application to your heart and ministries….

  38. Brett May 4, 2008 at 11:14 pm #

    I’ll answer you.

    No, I don’t think Denny is the antithesis to every single thing I posted. I think he’s the antithesis to a lot of them though. And you can interpret “bashing” however you will, but when Denny makes comments about Greg Boyd, Shaine Claiborne, and Jim Wallis and talks about how they are unreliable guides and how wrong they are; I consider that “bashing.” Maybe a better term for you would be “rebuking” or something. He frequently brings up people’s names and talks about how wrong they are and thus implying how right he is. I didn’t say this was wrong, I’m saying I consider this “bashing”. I would probably do the same thing to some people if I had a blog, so I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just think you misinterpreted my term.

    Is Denny anti-everything I listed? Most of them, yes.

    Did I say Denny posted on how we should all change our viewpoints? No, I didn’t. I said he takes a rigid and dogmatic stance on controversial issues. There’s a big difference there bro. Also, the reason Denny takes stances on these issues is because he believes they are right and he wants to convince others about it. I really don’t understand your point.

    As a matter of fact, I really don’t understand your post. The only thing I was trying to communicate was that a big reason guys comes on here who severely disagree with Denny is because of the staunch dogmatic stance he takes on some of these issues. Thus, we provide a balance and both sides are sharpened in the process. Is that difficult to understand?

  39. D. Taylor Benton May 5, 2008 at 11:59 am #

    Brett,
    “If all McKnight did was post about how one SHOULD be pro-choice, embrace homosexuality, be pacifistic, anti-Bush, democrat, New Perspective, non-inerrantist, not conservative, bashing Piper, bashing Mohler, Arminian, open-theist, not Southern Baptist, pro-Peter Enns, and anti-reformed”

    In that statement you assert that Denny is saying everyone “SHOULD” be all these things by comparing him to McKnight, I think you will find that Denny does post on things he believes and does think most topics he posts to be true…The majority of the issues that Denny posts…as Bryan L pointed out…he brings up an issue and pulls the pin…I am pretty sure you DID say Denny posted on how we should all change our viewpoints….

    my point is that you accuse and say Denny is “For” things and how is bashing people and how he is rigid and dogmatic on issues….these statements are not needed and honestly are personal attacks…that is if you leave them one sided…I can’t count how many times one of you guys have said something demeaning or “bashing” a conservatives like Piper, Mohler, Dever (etc)…and not to mention Denny himself…

    There is a big difference between disagreeing and being slanderous and bashing people…this is what the Left in both political and theological circles dont understand..when conservatives debate, its not personal…its a point/counterpoint conversation that how ever heated it gets, there are no hard feelings…
    with Libs, if one debates a position other than the one they believe, its a personal attack and it turns into an emotional, self righteous, prideful, arrogant argument as opposed to a debate.

    my post was to question your blanket and rather inflammatory statement about Denny and his views and how you said he writes as if everyone “should” change their viewpoint… and yes you did say that by your comparison of him to McKnight…

  40. Benjamin A May 5, 2008 at 12:18 pm #

    D. Taylor Benton,

    I appreciate you loyalty to Denny. As you know, Denny can take care of himself. If he felt the need to address personal attacks against himself he would. I’m guessing he’s not threatened by any opposing views not withstanding their ‘bashing’ slant.

    I personally appreciate the interaction with Brett, Paul, Bryan L, Jeremy, etc…; and no I don’t pretend to believe they are going to see things my way, your way, Denny’s way; our objective should be to see things Christ’s way. Differences in Biblical exegesis should make us all look more closely at the text.

  41. D. Taylor Benton May 5, 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    I would agree whole heartedly Benjamin, and I appreciate the word. my goal was not to stick up for Denny,even though I do hold him in high esteem, but rather point out the fact that this type of rhetoric is not honest and really unhelpful when it comes to the fact of debate and sharpening one another.

  42. MatthewS May 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    D. Taylor Benton, a comment: if you desire to have meaningful, honest dialogue with a goal of sharpening each other, I would like to suggest that this statement is unhelpful:

    “There is a big difference between disagreeing and being slanderous and bashing people…this is what the Left in both political and theological circles dont understand..when conservatives debate, its not personal…its a point/counterpoint conversation that how ever heated it gets, there are no hard feelings…
    with Libs, if one debates a position other than the one they believe, its a personal attack and it turns into an emotional, self righteous, prideful, arrogant argument as opposed to a debate. ”

    Feel free to correct me, but I read that paragraph as implying at least: “Conservatives as a whole debate important issues but Liberals as a whole are incapable of doing so.”

    There are some on the Left who can’t hold a civil discussion, some who are excellent conversationalists, and there a lot of people in the middle.
    Same exact thing goes for those on the Right.

  43. D. Taylor Benton May 5, 2008 at 5:45 pm #

    I would agree with your last point MatthewS, and your reading is somewhat on, I am saying that conservatives, can debate the majority of the time without getting personal, but I would say that many, not all, but many liberals tie their viewpoints to emotional experiences and therein they make the argument personal, that then degrades the debate and BOTH sides end up emotional, self righteous, prideful, arrogant”

  44. jeff miller May 6, 2008 at 2:19 am #

    Quixote and Wesley,

    Are you still there? Quixote (in #22) you tried to summarize what you thought might be Brett’s take as this:

    Israel warred and committed violent acts (that would completely violate the Geneva Convention) as directed by God, but under CHRIST we have a new directive and that directive never includes declaring war or participating in violence against another human being.

    I personally think there is something to be said for this synopsis…it could be filled out and explained a bit more but I wonder what you think of it yourself.

    Wesley (#30),
    Thanks for explaining your present understanding of this topic through your 6 points and mentioning Luke 22 as an important passage to wrestle with in relation to this topic. I have wrestled with it myself and have come down in different ways over the years but here is what I would say now: Notice at what point you have to begin making an educated guess…what might the meaning and purpose be of the swords???

    You said, “…but what else do swords do except kill something? TYPICALLY they were used to fight off bandits and beasts on the roads. So there are APPARENTLY certain circumstances where it is appropriate, although when Peter used his against the authority it was apparently not one of THOSE times. But he was still allowed to carry it for something.” I have wondered if this text might be for the purpose of seeing Jesus’ ongoing struggle with the temptation to bow to Satan so that all the Kingdoms of this world would be given to Him by a short cut…then this passage would be displaying the struggle of Jesus in his humanity in a way similar to the passage where Jesus in the garden asks the Father to let this (the cross) cup pass. But perhaps the text itself goes further to answer the question than what we have recognized when it says: “For I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS’.” Peter’s having a sword and attempting to trust in it rather than in the way of the Lord is actually an opportunity for Jesus to be numbered among the people who have consistently fallen short of faith and fidelity. This then is part of Jesus identifying with Israel in all their shortcomings. Now even as at His first baptism, he fully identifies with the people.. Anyway, Jesus told the disciples to get a sword so that he might be “NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS”.

    On a different note, Stanley Hauerwas has mentioned that as disciples take a non-violent stance toward their enemies they actually may be making the world a more violent place and that’s ok.
    Here is a different thought, something that we maybe unconscious of as we read and comment on this blog is how much we might be infected with the idea that God, in order to be JUST, has to be on a mission to do the greatest “good” to the greatest number of people. This idea may have an unnoticed influence on everything from “just-war” to “the abortion issue.” I mean did the O.T. prophets ever tell Israel it was their job to discern what would do the greatest number of earthlings the greatest “good”? No. Has Jesus ever told his disciples that they are to discern and disentangle all contingencies and ramifications from the spectrum of possible actions they might take to determine what will actually bring about the “greatest good for the greatest number of humans”? No, Thank God, No. He has, on the other hand, told us what to do: love, even our enemies… even to the point of a cross. And as far as the greatest number of humans is concened…”shall not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?”…

    So what must God do to be Just? If we desire to align our thinking with the prophetic scriptures, we may be helped by noticing that our English words “just”, “justice“, and “righteous” all have a common root word in the language of the New Testament which could be translated “legitimate.” So, what must God do to be legitimate? Well, not the greatest “good” (what ever that might mean) for the greatest number of creatures, but God has communicated that to show Himself legitimate he will demonstrate the richness of his generosity (grace) upon Abraham’s descendents according to His promise, AND He will overcome all his enemies, destroying every man made god in a final judgment. These are the things that God can and will do to demonstrate that He is just, righteous, and legitimate.

    Yours in Christ,
    Jeff

  45. Troy May 6, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    Jeff Miller —

    Just to be clear — “On a different note, Stanley Hauerwas has mentioned that as disciples take a non-violent stance toward their enemies they actually may be making the world a more violent place and that’s ok.”

    That’s OK? In what way? If a burglar breaks into one’s home and he does nothing to protect his family that is in no way Christ-like and he is a coward personally and spiritually. “Turn the other cheek…” doesn’t mean lay down as bullies and criminals rob, rape, and kill.

    I doubt you meant that.

  46. Bryan L May 6, 2008 at 8:25 pm #

    Troy,

    I disagree that someone who take pacifism to its extreme even refusing to protect his own or his family’s life means they are a coward personally and spiritually. Even though I personally would not lay down and take it if someone were trying to hurt me or my family I know it takes quite a bit of courage, resolve and strength to turn the other cheek when everything in you wants to fight back. It hurts.

    Jesus refusing to fight back and use his power when he was being tortured and killed did not make him a coward especially when he had all the power in the universe to do otherwise and I don’t think it makes Christians any more cowardly. You should read some stories of martyrs (ancient and modern) and you would find that a lot of them have done just what you denigrated.

    If you don’t like pacifism then fine but don’t insult and tear down its adherents especially when they just believe they are trying to follow in his example and teachings and be more like him even when it costs them greatly more than you or I would ever know.

    Bryan

  47. Paul May 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    Speaking as a pacifist this is the stand that my church takes…

    no violence.

    At least it’s simple.

    Personally, I take it to mean that if we’re pro-life, we’re pro everyone’s life. Even Iraqis. Even poor people. Even unborn babies.

    And, if someone were to mess with me, I’d more than likely let them while uttering something like “wow, you’re really bringing pride to the family name!”

    However, if someone messed with my wife or daughter, I will be ruthless. After all, I can be forgiven.

  48. Troy May 6, 2008 at 11:07 pm #

    Tell that to the Amish. It’s easy to be pacifist when you live in a country that will protect you. I don’t like pacifism (I’m talking the idea — not the people) because it makes someone else do the protecting while its adherents often (not always of course) cast stones at the protectors. In its extreme form it leads to a moral relativism where attacker and protector are just different colors on the same spectrum. A father defending his home against an attacker looking for rape or money is not the same as a soldier in an unjust war or a murderer. If the cops round me up for evangelizing, then I’ll take one for the team — that’s what brothers and sisters do in other places all around the world everyday.

    Christ sacrificing Himself is light years different than protecting your little toddler from a child molester or burglar. Don’t be obtuse. My toddler has no choice in the matter — it is my earthly duty (and my spiritual duty ) to protect them. What do you suggest — pray to God for help and when Gabriel and his hordes don’t show let the burglar do whatever he wants? I would be God’s instrument for protection — that’s what shepherds do — they protect the sheep from wolves. And some wolves won’t be talked down — they have to be killed when they attack. (rarely and all the obvious qualifiers)

  49. jeff miller May 7, 2008 at 12:42 am #

    Hey Troy,
    I hope you’re well. Just to see if we can start out on the same page maybe we should think about why “…turn the other cheek…” (Whatever it really does mean) should be important to both of us. Would each of us say that we hold Jesus Christ in high esteem and would like to have what might be called a loyal recognition of him? I am answering, YES. And I think that is important because HE is what makes the things he taught so important. In the most important way, He is the one we both really need to be concentrating on; even if neither of us understands him perfectly yet.

    Troy, below is a passage that came to mind when I thought of Hauerwas’ comment about how following Jesus’ ethic might make the world a more violent place. And just to be clear I do not want to hide behind the name Hauerwas or even the label “pacifist.” And I don’t usually think of myself as a coward, but I am pushing for hiding completely in the name Jesus Christ.
    He said:
    “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. -Jesus (Mat 10:34-37)

    Yours in Christ,
    Jeff

  50. Troy May 7, 2008 at 1:25 am #

    “Coward” was not intended personally and I apologize sincerely for the offense. I should have used a better — less pejorative (or how about one that isn’t pejorative at all?) — word.

    I don’t think that “turn the other cheek” and protecting family (and just war too, but that debate is up there and I have nothing to add here) are not mutually exclusive. God ordains Government to exact His wrath — a burglar is doing evil and by statute — put in place by the legilsature ordained by God I can — and will — and should protect my family. The OT is replete with examples. And Paul and Peter also…

    Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7

    He who bears the sword is a minister of God.

    “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” First Peter 2:13-14

    Yours also in Christ — and as St. Francis of Assisi said… “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” Hopefully this debate stays at the abstract level.

    Troy

  51. Bryan L May 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm #

    Troy,
    I’m not looking to debate pacifism because as I said I would definitely protect my family. I am moderately pacifist. I just took issue with the pejorative language used against those pacifists who are more serious about how far they take it even to the point of allowing harm to those they love. I know some might be repulsed by that or think it inconceivable but they just believe they are following Jesus faithfully and the cost is extremely high for them doing so and I don’t think their fellow Christians should add further pain and insult to injury by denigrating them.

    Thanks,
    Bryan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Just War Theory with D.A. Carson : Lakeview Christian Center - August 1, 2010

    […] I came upon a lecture and follow-up Q&A with one of today’s foremost scholars, D.A. Carson, dealing with the topic of war. I haven’t had the chance to hear the lecture, but the Q&A was very enlightening. Here’s a blurb from Denny Burk, Associate Professor of New Testament at Criswell College in Dallas, TX: Carson is a Just War proponent who rightly views Just War as an expression of Christian love. Carson also discusses how just war theory informs our assessment of the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and preemptive war in general. Listen. […]

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