Hauerwas and Dever on Patriotism

Stanley Hauerwas and Mark Dever had a fascinating conversation about patriotism on July 3 with Russell Moore on “The Albert Mohler Program.” Moore asked both men for their opinions about the propriety of patriotic church services.


Hauerwas said that such observances are idolatrous. He also compared the American military to that of the 3rd Reich in Nazi Germany. Moore’s rejoinder to this latter point in the third segment is insightful.

“Should We Be Patriots In The Pew?” – The Albert Mohler Program

78 Responses to Hauerwas and Dever on Patriotism

  1. Brittany July 10, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Hauerwas doesn’t really compare the two militaries; he was referring to the dangers of blind patriotism, not comparing the actions of both countries. I didn’t hear him reference Iraq at all, and that’s what Moore jumped on. I thought his words about “not knowing” whether you lived in a benign or malignant government was, although counter to common sense, in a way insightful. Perspective comes from hindsight – not the now. I’m sure it would have been difficult for a 1938 German to see that Hitler was a nutcase, and that’s something all of us should remember.

    I also thought his comment about war being a cause for mourning, rather than celebration, was relevant.

    I liked Dever’s comment that a patriotic celebration, if you do one at all, would be best done at another time during the year.

    As my school, Abilene Christian University, we have international students from a number of foreign countries. At opening chapel every fall, we have a parade of international flags carried by students from those countries. The last hurrah, though, is the humongous American flag – so big that it dwarfs all the others – that unfurls from the ceiling (heralded by the sound of trumpets, no less). Some friends of mine have said that they think it’s insulting to their own countries and nationalities for opening chapel to be so Americanized, and I think they’re right. If the Christian university proclaims that it is an assemblage of international Christians, it should act like one.

    That’s about the same way I feel about patriotic services. One of the primary concerns of the New Testament writings – and Paul’s letters in particular – is, I think, the relationship between the Jews and the Greeks, and the struggle they have over their national identities. Especially in our day and age, Christians should be “thinking globally” (to steal a cliche).

    I also think that thanking God for your blessings is something to be done all year round, as well as acknowledging your country’s sins and praying for those in leadership positions. July 4th is not a special day for Christians.

  2. Brittany July 10, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Ah, italic mistakes. They’re the best.

  3. Darius July 10, 2008 at 11:19 am #

    “…his words about “not knowing” whether you lived in a benign or malignant government…”

    It’s called discernment. If Christians don’t have it enough to tell when we’re living in 1939 Germany, they have bigger problems. By saying something like that, Hauerwas implies that either he believes that America today is the same as Hitler’s Germany or that Christians don’t have any discerning capabilities. Either one is a scary proposition from a supposed Christian theologian.

  4. John July 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Amen Brittany, I find mischaracterizations quite common in this crowd

  5. John July 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    I have to side with Hauerwas on this issue. Dever actually seemed to be very close to Hauerwas as well. I kind of think that Moore was expecting them to be polar opposites, but in reality they weren’t very different at all. You may frown upon Hauerwas’ mention of 1934 Germany, but his statement should be given weight. Many of the Germans that fought for Hitler were Catholics and Lutherans who thought what they were doing was okay. They did not know the difference. I think Denny and Moore misrepresent Hauerwas to some extent. He was not equating the two at all, but just saying “what if.” There’s a big difference and I am disappointed with how it was handled.

    Democracy is not biblical. “Freedom” and “independence” for a country is not “biblical.” It certainly does border on the idolatry line, and it’s sad that people in our churches stand and raise their hands to “God Bless America” and give standing ovations to soldiers coming home from the war and just sit in their pews and give a golf clap to others who get baptized and missionaries leaving for the field.

    We may rejoice at our “freedom” to worship or whatever, but I wonder how good it really is? Didn’t Paul say that all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer? Didn’t Christ say that we are blessed if we suffer for his sake? Rejoicing in being “safe” is rejoicing for not living Christianly.

  6. a preacher's wife July 10, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    July 4th is a special day for Christians because it remembers the price Christians paid in order to be free to worship the Lord. Without July 4, 1776, we’d still be bound to the English throne in more ways than one, but a big one is in regard to religious freedom. As a Daughter of the Revolution, I am honored by the courage and sacrifice of patriots, and as a Christian, I am happy to be enjoying a freedom my forefathers paid for in blood.

  7. Ken July 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    We may rejoice at our “freedom” to worship or whatever, but I wonder how good it really is? Didn’t Paul say that all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer? Didn’t Christ say that we are blessed if we suffer for his sake? Rejoicing in being “safe” is rejoicing for not living Christianly.

    Balance your perspective, John, with Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 2 and Peter’s charge as recorded in the second chapter of his first epistle. By the nature of the world and the prince of this world, it is undoubtedly true that those who take a stand for the name of Christ and his kingdom may expect opposition, even persecution. But should we then jump to the conclusion that Christians who don’t experience persecution are automatically suspect in their profession? Is it not rather a manifestation of the outworking of God’s providential grace that some realize in truth what Paul and Peter enjoin?

  8. Celucien Joseph July 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm #

    I don’t see any contradiction between the two: those who clap for our soldiers coming back home, in some fashion, have fought a good fight to preserve national freedom, and those who rejoice at the baptism of others in simultaneously. This is not biblical idolatry! Is it? I do understand there’s a sharp distinction between the kingdom of God and kingdom of this world. At least, it is ambiguous when one equates the kingdom of God with the kingdom of this world. These are two complete, separate realms that operate quite contrary. Nonetheless, one can still be a good American citizen and a good Christian concurrently.

    But we are citizens of both spheres. Aren’t we? Of course, our ultimate allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom. Nonetheless, why should we divorce “totally” what we are and should be spiritually to what we are naturally, socially and politically?

  9. Celucien Joseph July 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    “those who rejoice at the baptism of others simultaneously”

  10. mike July 10, 2008 at 1:51 pm #

    I’m sorry Brittany but I think you’re a little Wright here. Pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist!

  11. Eric Killian July 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    One of the chief reasons I am in disagreement with the american church is that it has forgotten something about the scriptures. I simply do not remember Moshe praising Pharoah for giving us steady employment in Egypt, or Yehoshua enjoying the religious liberty of the Canaanites, or Hananiah, Mishael, and Asariah being thrown into the furnace for enjoying the music and festivities of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue worship in their local shul, or Shaul being imprisoned for proclaiming the pax romana and remembering all of the poor Romans who died to attain it, or Yeshua the King being murdered because he was willing to reign in heaven while sharing his glory with Caesar and Herod while allowing them to oppress Israel on earth.

    Scripturally, I cannot see how one can fail to see that america is no different from Babylon, Egypt, Canaan, Ahab’s Israel, Ahaz’s Judah, Assyria, Persia, Rome, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, or any other nation state that claims for itself that which is only found in the Moshiach.

  12. Todd Pruitt July 10, 2008 at 3:35 pm #

    I very much agree with Dr. Dever’s cautions. In the church I pastor we do not have “patriotic” services or display American flags. I do believe these are appropiate in the public square.

    I would like to know from John what is idolatrous about freedom and liberty?

  13. Todd Pruitt July 10, 2008 at 3:40 pm #


    I hope you’re being hyperbolic. Can you really see NO difference between the U.S. and Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Rome, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia? Are we really supposed to take that statement seriously?

  14. Matt Svoboda July 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm #


    Eric is right to an extent. Every example he gives has forgotten God and lives for their own fleshly passions and desires. In this way, they are all the same. Idolaters to the core.


  15. Adam Omelianchuk July 10, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    John is right. Hauerwas was trying to illustrate that Christians in Germany went along with Hitler’s regime, and that any position that compromises blurs our discernment. However, I think Moore made a good point that that doesn’t necessarily mean we are utterly blind.

    Hauerwas may sound like a crank, but the fact is people like Bonhoeffer held exactly that position and made a prophetic difference. The Pope and Lutheran leaders at the time didn’t get it.

  16. jeff miller July 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    More important than discerning between Germany and the USA is discerning between American civil religion and Jesus.

    Isa 30:1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, In order to add sin to sin;
    Isa 30:2 Who proceed down to Egypt Without consulting Me, To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
    Isa 30:3 “Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.

  17. Truth Unites... and Divides July 10, 2008 at 7:42 pm #

    He [Hauerwas] also compared the American military to that of the 3rd Reich in Nazi Germany.

    The most deeply unintelligent thing that Hauerwas has ever uttered. It has the same validity as a comparison between him and Bishop John Spong.

  18. Eric Killian July 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    In response to Todd Pruitt, I do see a substantial difference between america and all of those other nations…america is much more abominable than all of them combined. At least with those nations, they outright denied HaShem. america, on the other hand, attempts to justify its atrocities with references to Him.

    In regards to the comment about hauerwaus’s comparison between the american military and the third reicht being a poor comment for him, I must ask, Have you served with the marines in the middle east? Have you witnessed the retched actions that are carried out by america’s military for the cause of freedom? is there a difference between reducing a person’s identity in auschwitz to the number tattooed on their forearm and reducing another in baghdad to a statistic on the collateral damage inventory?

  19. Truth Unites... and Divides July 11, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    Eric Killian: “Scripturally, I cannot see how one can fail to see that america is no different from Babylon, Egypt, Canaan, Ahab’s Israel, Ahaz’s Judah, Assyria, Persia, Rome, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, or any other nation state that claims for itself that which is only found in the Moshiach.

    I do see a substantial difference between america and all of those other nations…america is much more abominable than all of them combined. At least with those nations, they outright denied HaShem. america, on the other hand, attempts to justify its atrocities with references to Him.”

    (Shaking head) No need to add anything else to Eric’s words. They speak for themselves.

  20. John July 11, 2008 at 1:41 am #


    Sorry if I sound ignorant here, but I don’t understand some of the words you use. “HoShem,” “Moshiach,” etc are words that are not a part of my vocabulary. Please try to contextualize to the audience when you post, it makes understanding you much easier by a great deal.

    I ask this in good faith. I am by no means “pro-American” like many on here, so if my words come across as arrogant they are not meant to be. Some of us on here try to be civil to others (and some don’t, as #19 illustrates by the one and only TUAD. Just ignore him like the rest of us do).

  21. Darius July 11, 2008 at 7:42 am #

    John, pray tell how TUAD was being uncivil. Perhaps you should read comments more carefully next time.

    Eric said “Have you witnessed the wretched actions that are carried out by America’s military for the cause of freedom?”

    You mean like building schools and protecting the innocent? You know, Eric, you would do well to read (and take to heart) Isaiah 5:20. Otherwise, your twisted moral compass will never change.

  22. Darius July 11, 2008 at 7:44 am #

    By the way, Eric, are you Jewish, since you repeatedly use Jewish terms to refer to God? Or do you just like to sound smart by using words that the rest of us are unfamiliar with?

  23. Darius July 11, 2008 at 7:45 am #

    John, I was rereading your comment #20… if anyone was uncivil on this thread, it is you. “Just ignore him like the rest of us do”… how nice and civil of you.

  24. William July 11, 2008 at 8:22 am #


    Do you see a significant difference between the nation of Israel (as it exists today) and all of the nations you previously compared with the US?

  25. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Although I do not agree with the format and illustrations of Mr. Killian, I agree with the correct attitude of he and Professor Hauerwas towards hyper-Americanism in the evangelical community. Putting aside the whole church service concept of ‘honoring’ the soldiers in the military that are a part of the congregation, let’s just address the concepts of America and other nations. The most fundamental aspect of Jesus’ ministry was to establish the kingdom of God. He did not have in mind a different ‘spiritual’ life that we live while in this world that would later be actualized in a disembodied state in an ethereal heaven, but rather, in light of the resurrection the kingdom has been ushered in, and is physically manifested in the church. The church cannot be loyal to multiple kingdoms. Mark’s first words he reports from Jesus’ mouth are in Mark 1.15 ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ Have we traded the idea of commanding the word bow its knee to the rightful king of the universe for stars and stripes? When did liberties in America become of higher significance than the resurrection? Do we really treasure and put our hope in America (The Last best Hope vis. William Bennett) over and against the resurrection? When did we start to think that soldiers keep us safe and free, and that it is not Christ that upholds all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1.4)? Why coerce and flex muscle when it is Christ that has brought us into a new kingdom? We are a new race and new humanity that has been dispossessed and now capable of truly following him by not holding on to anything more, not even life, liberty and the pursuit of Pax Americana?

    I am a citizen of the United States of America, however, my allegiance is dedicated to one ruler over any other. Let us not sell out our Lord’s kingdom and the demands of it, for the idolatrous god of comfort and security. HONOR CHRIST and celebrate his resurrection and the Eucharist on Lord’s Day, do not EVER let attention be diverted to another, for in the worship and honor of another kingdom the church commits high treason.

  26. William July 11, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    If we are going to engage Hauerwas in this discussion we need to do more than just banter back and forth with assertions that what America does is good or bad. We need to actually present arguments! Talking about our experiences or making pithy references to scriptures (like Isaiah 5:20) does not legitimate any particular position… I understand that this is an emotional issue but we have to have some kind of respectful dialogue if we are ever to present a cogent message to the world… and avoid being mostly wrong or only right by accident!

    Hauerwas has a strong point in his work. He argues that the Western Church (not just the US) underwent a “constantinian” shift early in Church history. As the name implies, this shift came about as a result of Constantine’s edict allowing the free practice of Christianity. After this edict, Christianity became popular, which resulted in the interests of the state being joined to the interests of the Church… so much so that distinguishing between Church conviction and secular interests became muggy at best, impossible at worst.

    I think he has some point here. We do tend to equate the purposes and actions of the USA with those of the Church. The capitalistic, individualistic, and largely humanistic philosophy that America is built on often is portrayed as “the” Christian ideal. What we don’t realize is that much of what we hold to be good old fashioned Christianity is in fact derived more from John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and John Stewart Mill than from scripture.

    This however does not mean that American ideals are entirely unchristian. What is important is that Christians must do good in light of the resurrection of our savior. That is, I do not think we ought to identify our interests with those of state so much so that we end up being identified with a government comprised mostly of pagans. I am not advocating isolationism. We do live in a wonderfully peaceful and free country and we should thank God for this. We have the right to vote and I see no reason not to exorcise it. A great many men and women have given their lives for these things and I do not want to lambast them now. We should simply avoid thinking that the purpose of America is really any different than most other nations. We should avoid one-to-one correspondance of our interests with our nation’s interests.

    The Church is motivated by the resurrection of our king… congress and the president are obviously not… therefore, we should be careful to distinguish our loyalties insofar as they differ. That said, let’s pay our taxes, vote, and thank God for peace within which to spread the message.

  27. Ken July 11, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    Just for clarification, the phrase “the last best hope” comes from Lincoln’s address to Congress in December 1862, issued just a month before the Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect. Here’s the concluding paragraph:

    Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.

    Mr. Bennett is an unabashed admirer of Abraham Lincoln, as any reading of his recent two-volume popular history of the United States will attest. There is no doubt he took his book’s title from this address.

  28. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 9:23 am #

    To William:

    I would say that America’s ideals are UN-Christian, because their morals and the grounds for them are not based on the resurrection and lordship of Christ. America’s morals are greatly founded on the principles of James, Dewey and Mill (Utilitarian and Pragmatic), while Christ’s kingdom and its citizens find their identity in light of the resurrection. We are people of eschatology, while America is a nation of force and coercion (and that is not an America exclusive trait). All nations must deal in coercion, because all are attempting to assert their rule without properly placing their affections on their rightful king.

    If a civic society is dedicated to propositions and those propositions are not synonymous with the Gospel, then one who has claimed identity in Christ, ought not to see oneself necessarily dedicated to that civic society creating and asserts its propositions no matter how quasi-Christian those propositions may be.

  29. Ken July 11, 2008 at 9:32 am #

    I’d argue that America’s CURRENT pervasive morals, such as they are, may be traced to numerous bases, among which the philosophies of William James, John Dewey, and J. S. Mill may be prominent–there are certainly others. But it would be anachronistic to insist that the country’s morality as as whole is based or grounded upon these 19th-century and later concepts. And putting Locke in with these later gentlemen is a stretch.

  30. William July 11, 2008 at 9:35 am #


    I agree that many American ideals are unchristian… I said that they are not so “entirely.” It is true that much of America’s ethic is based on what works (pragmatism) or what produces the best results (utilitarianism) or on a duty-based individualism (Kant). However, it is necessary to decide whether all or any of these ethical methods are completely incorrect. For instance, can you prove that the catagorical imperative cannot work in a Christian context?

    Are deeds good or bad in and of themselves… or only in relation to the resurrection?

  31. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 9:37 am #

    Certainly Locke is not to be confused with the moral foundations of Dewey, Mill, James, et al. However, the question for right now is for right now, not 1750. The current evangelical setting is more often than not, dedicated to Americanism and the morals of Americanism are and the actions that precipitate from those beliefs and morals are not rooted in the Gospel.

  32. William July 11, 2008 at 9:42 am #


    But you stated that American ethics are unchristian because they are based on such thinkers. Regardless of whether it is 1750 or 2008, you have to decide whether their ideals are decidedly incompatible with Christianity. You must answer this before you can begin to make the assertion that the current evangelical setting is entirely unchristian because of its ties to American ideals.

  33. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    To William:

    The categorical imperative, of which many contemporary moral questions correlate, is not rooted in the cross and the resurrection. The categorical imperative was created out of Kant’s desire to create a metaphysics for morals that was autonomous, “A person who takes the law from some other lawgiver (God, tyrant, his or her own cupidity, etc.) must be driven to obedience by hope or fear; that person is not truly moral” (Foundations, Kant). Kant’s project was to establish morals without reference to supreme or supernatural authority. However, the very words of Christ concluding his Sermon on the Mount, were met with awe at the authority from which he spoke. The church receives it ethic from Christ.

    The categorical imperative is not the guiding light for the church’s morality, the gospel is.

  34. William July 11, 2008 at 9:54 am #


    Josh does have a point though… I was not arguing that the ethics of America’s founders were based on men like Locke, Dewey, Mill, Kant, etc… rather, I was pointing out that they are currently so. However, one could make the case that philosophy is a descriptive enterprise… that is, that philosophers most often only articulate and systematize the ethos of their days. In this sense it is entirely possible to make the case that the founder’s ideals were base on the ideals of Dewey, Mill, Locke or whoever else. I am not going to argue that here but the charge of anachronsim is not a legitimate cause for divorcing the ideals of the founders from the thinkers mentioned.

  35. William July 11, 2008 at 9:55 am #


    Josh does have a point though… I was not arguing that the ethics of America’s founders were based on men like Locke, Dewey, Mill, Kant, etc… rather, I was pointing out that they are currently so. However, one could make the case that philosophy is a descriptive enterprise… that is, that philosophers most often only articulate and systematize the ethos of their days. In this sense it is entirely possible to make the case that the founder’s ideals were base on the ideals of Dewey, Mill, Locke or whoever else. I am not going to argue that here but the charge of anachronsim is not a legitimate cause for divorcing the ideals of the founders from the thinkers mentioned.

  36. William July 11, 2008 at 9:57 am #

    sorry for the duplication

  37. William July 11, 2008 at 10:02 am #


    Your critique only highlights that Kant’s morals were “derived” apart from God (at least that is what he attempted to do, it can be argued that he did not)… but that does not mean that they are not correct. In other words, Kant’s imperative might be seen as a correct way to discern God’s instituted morality. Can you show otherwise?

  38. William July 11, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    What I am saying is that “current” American ideals are not all unchristian because they are derived from “secular” philosophies. Therefore, we should not take the extremist approach that says that everything American is unchristian… see post #26 again for my main argument.

    Josh and Ken… I would love to carry on this conversation about ethics but I fear we stray too far from the topic at hand.

  39. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 10:14 am #


    If one has the outcome of genuine morals and ethics yet is not grounded in the gospel, no level of seeming connection to God is relevant.

    If the ethicist in question does not base her morals in the gospel and the eschatological aspects of the cross, the resurrection, and the church all of which nations of the world dishonor, then she has not discovered Christian morals, for her morals are in the pragmatic outcome and not generated out of properly placed affections.

    The categorical imperative may seem like a systematized outworking of God’s universe, but having made no reference to the cross, Kant is baseless in his attempt to find a metaphysical foundation for morals.

    Morals without reference to the cross and resurrection are UN-Christian and that comes back to my first original point. The morals of nations (including America) and the actions directed by those morals and beliefs are UN-Christian, for they are not made with reference to the cross and resurrection.

  40. William July 11, 2008 at 10:25 am #


    You have not answered the question. The original question is can an act be called good if it veracity is derived from the catagorical imperative instead of the Bible?

    (understand that I am not arguing for a position… just trying to show that this is not as simple as you are making it)

  41. Ken July 11, 2008 at 10:33 am #

    Similarly, what of morals based on creation ordinances and/or general revelation, i.e., natural law theory?

  42. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 10:49 am #


    When you speak of things like natural law and so forth the Thomistic concepts are still not connected to the gospel. In order to be direct and put this issue of Americanism being idolatrous, let me say simply that morals derived from the categorical imperative and not directly from the gospel of Christ are UN-Christian morals.

    These kinds of morals are those of all nations, including America. Therefore, Christians within Christ’s church ought to abstain from Americanism in church services.

  43. William July 11, 2008 at 10:51 am #


    So then an action is not inherently good or bad?

  44. William July 11, 2008 at 10:56 am #


    For the sake of everyone else on this blog we should stop going on about this.

  45. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 11:03 am #


  46. Ken July 11, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Gentlemen: Quite to the contrary. This discussion about the basis for morality is absolutely central to considerations of Christians and their relationship to the state.

    Josh, FWIW, natural law theory should not be confounded with the thought of Thomas Aquinas, although he certainly systematized much of it. We have to deal with Paul’s arguments in Romans 1 and 2 in which he states that the pagans have the law “written on their hearts” although not consciously aware either of God’s specially revealed law or of the gospel.

  47. Eric Killian July 11, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    Josh and William,
    Could one then put forth the position that the problem with the nation state, whichever one it may be, is not one of the quantity or quality of its morals and ethics, or even a problem of morals and ethics altogether, but one of authority. That is, who has and is the authority to establish life and death, freedom and enslavement, instruction and wisdom? Which would then leave one in a position to say that no matter what a person’s or nations’ actions or ideas may be, if in any way it denies the resurrection of Yeshua and the enthronement of him as king of everything, then everything that such an entity holds to becomes a lie, thereby negating any and all authority which that person or nation claims to possess. If then that entitie’s authority is stripped away, does it not leave the jew and the christian free from any bonds and ties that such entities claim upon them?

  48. jeff miller July 11, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    I am trying to keep up with your converstion. It seems like comment 41 by Josh is a fair place to rest. So what are you getting at with: “So then an action is not inherently good or bad?” It seems like “good and bad” are often used in a relative way so that we would have to ask good or bad from what perspective. I hope we could agree that for an action to be righteous before God the required component is faith or “loyal recognition” of God. Yes?

    “pretty Isn’t the necesary component of a good action the faith (loyal recognition) of Jesus?

  49. jeff miller July 11, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    oops,disregard the last paragraph.

  50. jeff miller July 11, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    Thanks for encouraging Josh and William. I suggest that paul in Romans 1 and 2 is refering to gentile-Christians having the law written on their hearts as spoken of by the prophets.

  51. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    To Eric:

    I would say that your depiction of correct morals and ethics are correct except I would disregard Jews from the discussion. A Jew is not free from bonds that ties her to a nation or state, because she has not become a possessor of Christ’s kingdom.

    To William, Ken, and Jeff:

    ‘Right’ action is based in correct motives. Motives derived from devotion and loyalty to King Jesus is the only sustainable Christian ethic. This is where Hauerwas is correct in calling militaristic Americanism idolatrous for the Christ community.

    Is there a such thing as inherent ‘goodness’ and ‘evil’? No, not in and of themselves, because the standard by which they are measured in the Triune God. They have no inherent properties, but find their values and assessments in their relation to God.

  52. William July 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm #


    I (I think along with Ken) am trying to figure out if you think that a person can to a good thing without consciously being motivated by the resurrection or Christ etc.

    If so, where do you get your belief that right action can only occur where motives are “derived from devotion and loyalty to King Jesus?” (scripture would be nice)

    By the way, I agree with Hauerwas and I think you misunderstand him if you think he uses your line of reasoning.

  53. William July 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm #


    In response to your question in #48 See above question in #52. This is going somewhere I promise.


    In response to #47: “no matter what a person’s or nations’ actions or ideas may be, if in any way it denies the resurrection of Yeshua and the enthronement of him as king of everything, then everything that such an entity holds to becomes a lie, thereby negating any and all authority which that person or nation claims to possess.”

    Romans 13:1 …for there is no authority except from God…

    I don’t see how your comment makes any sense in light of this passage (and others). If nations have authority from God, then how can that be negated? I think it is wrong to deny that government has authority… it is the position of the believer in relation to that authority that is the issue.

    And what is this about a Jew being free? Are speaking about those who practice Judaism today or OT Jews… I don’t follow.

  54. William July 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    In comment #52, change “if so” in line 4 to “if not.” Sorry.

  55. John July 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm #


    All of your previous posts precede you. If anybody thinks America is the savior of the world and fuses two kingdoms, it is you my friend. You have proven you are nearly impossible to have honest dialog with by your conversations with others in the past, so no discussion will be made on my part because it will end in you insulting me with harsh rhetoric, praising America with no critical reflection, quoting ridiculous proof-texts taken out of context which you have no idea what they really mean to back up your pro-American claims, and misrepresenting the words I type to fit your own pro-American agenda. Suffice it to say, if one person on this blog has no room to speak about civility, you are the man.

    Stay away from the right-wing kool-aid and watch something other than Fox news, it may just be good for you.

  56. Josh Mayfield July 11, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    I am not saying that my line of reasoning is parallel to Hauerwas, I merely am saying that it is true that it is idolatrous to import the Americanism that is found again and again in evangelical churches each July 4th. I am trying to deal with the interview that was posted, and now we have been spiraling out to other issues that are indeed related but off topic.

    In short, Christians must see themselves true citizens of a counter-kingdom to all the kingdoms of the world. To merge Americanism with the church is faulty, even if the motives are to appreciate freedom and soldiers who fought. I believe we ought to consistently focus on Christ and celebrate his resurrection instead of shifting focus to other things in a service.

    America is not our center of worship nor is our hope found in freedom or liberty or the morals and ethics of America. Our hope is the resurrection of Jesus and our hope is in him alone. He is the controller of history and we can put all our trust there. Any attempt to base our morals, ethics, governments, politics on anything other than Christ is misguided.

  57. Darius July 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    Okay, John, so you won’t retract your uncivil remarks and would rather heap more on us. Please spare us your condescending comments, the rest of us have had quite civil discussions at time, even between Paul and myself. You have proven your character by your words.

  58. William July 11, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    So what is your answer to the question then? See #52. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

    I actually agree with you for the most part. I am just concerned with how you are getting where you are going.

  59. Darius July 11, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    Perhaps John, you could, for just once, actually do more than engage in ad hominem attacks. In case you don’t know what that means, it means to argue against the person rather than the argument. For example, I pointed out how you condescendingly referred to TUAD as “uncivil” even though all he did was quote Eric’s comments side-by-side. How you take that giant leap is beyond me, but perhaps your agenda blinds you to reality. Or here is another example, why don’t you tell us how I have improperly used Scripture before you just claim I do? That would show you actually know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, we all have to assume you don’t (which would explain why you stick to ad hominems).

  60. William July 11, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    #58 is to Josh (or anyone interested in answering)

  61. Darius July 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm #

    As for fusing two kingdoms, I most certainly do not (at least I try not to). I merely thank God for blessing this world with a country that, for the most part, could provide political freedoms that were otherwise unavailable. Spiritual freedom comes only from God through Jesus our Lord, but political freedoms (in this life) comes from countries willing to fight for them (as long as God wills it). I liked the sermon I heard this past weekend at a tiny little country church I visited… basically, the pastor began by discussing the political freedoms that this country has obtained for it’s citizens and the blessing that it is from God, but then went into how real freedom that matters in the long run is spiritual freedom, which only Christ can offer. They sang lots of American hymns, yet they also know where their real hope lies.

  62. John July 11, 2008 at 1:30 pm #

    (Darius sitting in front of his computer)

    “I’ll show him” (type a smart-alec post)

    (after posting the first comment while getting no response)

    “Ooh, I should’ve said this too” (type another smart-alec post)

    (after posting the 2nd comment while getting no response)

    “Ooh, here’s another good one” (type another smart-alec post)


    (me after 1st post)


    (me after 2nd post)


    (me after 3rd post)



    I could do this all day 😉

  63. Mark Gibson July 11, 2008 at 1:36 pm #


    If you’re not “pro-American,” then exactly what are you?

    Where are Darius’ smart-alec posts? I see #61 as the only smart-alec post on this thread?

    All of the other guy debating,

    Keep it up. I enjoy reading it.

  64. Darius July 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    It’s okay Mark, I didn’t expect him to actually address any points.

  65. Eric Killian July 11, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    When I mentioned jews and christians in my previous post, jew, while its boundaries of definition change depending upon the topic, as it would fit into our context of the kingdom of Yshua against the kingdoms of this world, refers to those of us who are faithful to our messiah and to his instructions that he taught us through his prophet Moshe. Christian refers to those who follow Yshua as Messiah, but abandon the Torah for western philosophies of morals, ethics, scripture analysis, etc., etc.

    (#22) Darius,
    Yes, I am a Hebrew. gd refers to pagan concepts and ideas foreign to the bible that are often imported into it, sometimes intentionally, other times not. HaShem, elohim, and el, are radically different from the concept of gd. I am in no way attempting to bolster my intelligence, I am merely using terms from the Hebrew Bible with the exception of HaShem in place of the name so that no one will print out the blog and inadvertantly defile the name through carelessness with the printout. I hope that clears a little confusion.

    (#20) John,
    No disrespect towards you, and no animosity intended, but contextualization is in many ways synonymous with assimilation, which is something I work hard at each day to undo. So, with that in mind, you will just need to continue in your study of the scriptures will need to continue conforming yourself to it rather than us changing to accomodate you. It is HaKadosh Shel HaIvri’im and the relationship between his kingdom and america that we are discussing today. Blessings on your studies.

  66. William July 11, 2008 at 4:24 pm #


    In response to your response to John in #65: While contextualizing belief is synonymous with assimilation, recognizing that language changes is not. I think John was merely saying that you should use more common language… something the writers of the New Testament did not seem to have a problem doing. You are making a big mistake in thinking that the spelling or pronounciation of words is essential to remaining distinct in a fallen world. You would be best served to understand that you don’t have to use every Hebrew name for God in transliterated form… instead, why not just interpret the name and use it… like Lord instead of “Adonai”? There is nothing wrong with this and it will help your audience keep up.

    …most of us know words that others would not understand and choose not to use them in every context.

    I also find your response to Darius disturbing. Again the New Testament writers had no problem using the language of the day to talk of God… hence their prolific use of the word “Theos.” We don’t need to get in a lexical fight but it is wrong for you to assert that anyone not using HaShem or some equivilant somehow defiles the Name. Please be careful… you are a seminary student after all… and therefore and example to all of what learning should do to a man.

  67. William July 11, 2008 at 4:27 pm #

    “an” instead of “and” in that last sentence… so much for learning 😉

  68. William July 11, 2008 at 4:30 pm #


    …and are you a only a Hebrew in practice? If so, why do you feel the need to call yourself a Hebrew in light of the gospel?

    If you are of Hebrew descent then disregard this question.

  69. Eric Killian July 11, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    while i do see where you are coming from when you speak of the use of language, i will not be contextualizing whenever possible. as far as the new testament writings are concerned, we do not know that they were written in greek, it is only that the earliest manuscripts availabe are in that language, so we left to deal with them on those terms. was not the use of the greek language one of the major ways that alexander was able to assimilate the world, much like britain and america have done with english? did you know that the primary order of assimilation of jews into the ways of the goyim is neglect of hebrew, disregard for kashrut halacha, breaking shabbat, followed by intermarriage?

    i do believe this brings us back towards our original topic of the church’s bringing in of goy holidays into the weekly services. for today, “america’s ‘let’s rebel against hashem and his moshiach by claiming his kingdom’ day.” where does the assimilation stop william? language? food? holidays? next thing you know, christians will be calling the high place that the pastor preaches from an “altar” and setting up wooden poles on and beside it in order to remind them of their deity.

    WAS a seminary student. WAS. i graduated and it was expressed to me by the faculty and students that i am no longer welcome there. that dang time aspect of the “to be” verb will catch you off guard if you are not paying attention.

  70. John July 11, 2008 at 5:33 pm #


    I agree with William 100% (thanks William). Viewing contextualization as assimilation is a slippery slope argument and dead wrong. How do you think the decalogue was written to the ancient Israelites? It was contextualized and similar to what the surrounding nations were used to (Ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaties). The same goes for law codes (Hammurabai) and historiography and wisdom literature (are you a Messianic Jew?). In fact, you typing on a BLOG is contextualization to the culture. You speaking in English is contextualization to the culture. You transliterating your Hebrew words and not using a proper Hebrew script is contextualization. Suffice it to say, your argument is very weak and has many loopholes.

    Essentially, it’s like me coming on hear and typing Chinese words and not explaining them to others because I think they’re sacred. Not only that, but I use a transliteration and not even the proper Chinese script. And then after I do this and somebody asks me what they mean, I say “I’m not going to accomodate to you, you’ll just have to figure it out by your own study and conforming to Chinese culture.” It may make you feel pious and devout, but it is a dangerous and weak line of thought and you should give it reconsideration.

    Is Moses’ name holy too? You use “Moshe” instead of “Moses,” and you will have a hard time justifying his name as being holy from the Hebrew Bible. If you’re going to be so strict about using their Hebrew names, then you should use a Hebrew font, because you’re contextualizing if you don’t and polluting holy names. Also, Hebrew is a dead language and the only reason we study it is to know the Hebrew Bible better, not to protect some sacred name. “Elohim” revealed himself to ancient Israelites and told them to call him “YHWH,” this doesn’t mean that for all time, everywhere, nobody must use this name because it is sacred. In fact, this line of thinking didn’t even start until the exile and there was never any command for it in Scripture. It was rather out of fear for disobeying the 2nd commandment (a line of thinking that would extend to the Pharisees in Jesus’ day). It’s like saying “I don’t want to commit adultery, so I’m going to live with guys the rest of my life and never see another woman.” Or, “I don’t want to covet, so I am going to withdraw from the culture and live on a private island the rest of my life.” I think I’ve made my point and if this is how all Jews think then they’re dead wrong and need to learn the Hebrew Bible better.

    Jesus himself even uses “theos” and “kurios” instead of protecting the “holy name.” Contextualization and accomodation? I think so. The son of God himself does not use “HaShem” or “Elohim” or “YHWH.”

    Seriously bro, I don’t intend to sound hateful but your words just seem very self-righteous and prideful. “You will just need to continue in your study of the scriptures will need to continue conforming yourself to it rather than us changing to accomodate you…” Okay? So everybody has to learn Hebrew so no accomodation can take place? You need to study the Hebrew Bible, because accomodation is something “Adonay” uses quite often. Do you think Jonah preached to the Ninevites in Hebrew? Don’t you think God spoke to and handled things different with Moses and the 15th (or 13th) century Israelites than he did with Elijah and 8th century Israelites? People and cultures change, and YHWH accomodates himself to those cultures to communicate in ways and symbols that they can comprehend. This is hermeneutics 101 sir.

    Basically, if you don’t want to accomodate to any of us, then don’t type on a blog, and certainly don’t answer anybody’s questions. You are seriously confused in this way of thinking. The Rabbis instructing you is accomodation because you don’t know as much as them. You were instructed at one time what “HaShem” “Elohim” “Moshe” and “Adonay” means, and there is no rule that says you have to figure it out by your self through your own self-study. Indeed, ancient Israel was a very communal religion and they had no concept of “private study” as many do in the western world.

    I’m hoping your new and young in your studies because a seasoned, mature Jew would never handle this in such a manner. If you don’t contextualize, then others won’t understand. If others don’t understand, then communication does not take place and your whole purpose for typing or speaking is in vain.

    Think about these things.

  71. John July 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    Eric said,

    “did you know that the primary order of assimilation of jews into the ways of the goyim is neglect of hebrew.”


    Did you know that it was always God’s intention ever since Genesis 12:1-3 with father Abraham that the Jews would be a blessing to the “goyim”? The “goyim” or “ammim” motif permeates the Hebrew Bible. Israel was elected for a purpose, not exclusively for their own benefit. And that purpose was for the “goyim” so that they may come to know the one, true “Elohim”. Again, hermeneutics 101 my friend. Not only hermeneutics 101, but Hebrew Bible 101. It’s a shame that the Jews never caught on to this, not in ancient times, and not even today.

  72. Eric Killian July 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm #

    descent and practice. but what about those who are not by descent and decide to follow torah? do you ask me such a question so that you could curse me with some misplaced pauline rhetoric? what if a goy decided to forsake his customs and live by the hebrew customs of his hebrew master, yshua? how is it that such an issue as celebrating july 4 in a church causes such division among christians because they desire to continue to live according to their accursed “natural law, ” but if a hebrew that was not according to descent decided to live according to the torah which yshua gave moshe in the wilderness (i.e. eat kosher, keep shabbat, celebrate sukkot, wear tzitziot, etc.) the church would quickly unanimously decide that he was attempting to justify himself by works and declare him seperated from moshiach?

  73. John July 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm #


    Do you mind me asking where you went to seminary? I find it disturbing that you feel you are no longer welcome there.

  74. William July 13, 2008 at 8:27 pm #


    Two words for you brother… new covenant.

    …and you are totally off on the language issue if you are trying to assert that Christ spoke Hebrew. There are numerous reasons to believe he spoke Greek… or at least Aramaic. Especially because he seemed to like using the Septuagint more than the Tanach. This is generally accepted by most any language scholar. The case can be made the he referenced the actual Hebrew Tanach… but that that Tanach was later modified by the Masarites (sp?).

    Perhaps we should take a look at what Paul said about the Judaisers that sought to encumber believers with unnecessary stipulations and practices… again, I think we need to remember Jeremiah 36 as well as the entire New Testament.

    …that is unless you reject the New Testament.

  75. William July 13, 2008 at 8:44 pm #

    John… I have to agree with you on 72. Thanks.

  76. William July 13, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    John… and way to go with #70… Eric, you really have to answer this.

  77. Brittany July 18, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    I think John’s comment about freedom being idolatry was misunderstood on this thread. I think his point was that “freedom” and “democracy” have become idolatrous concepts for most of us living in the free world in the 21st century. “Democracy” has become a moral good and a worthy moral goal, when it is, by itself, neither.

  78. Mike Sager November 11, 2008 at 11:58 pm #


    In response to the long-ignored #52 on this long-dormant thread, I will offer an answer.

    Jesus said that no good tree can bear bad fruit, and no bad tree can bear good fruit. The specific context was in reference to knowing a person by their actions. This yields a truth which is at the core of the Christian understanding of pretty much everything. Follow my reasoning:

    * Good people (good trees) cannot commit bad actions (bear bad fruit).
    * Bad people (bad trees) cannot commit good actions (bear good fruit).
    * If a person commits a bad action (bears bad fruit), it follows that he or she is a bad person (bad tree).
    * Likewise, if a person commits a good action (bears good fruit), it follows that he or she is a good person (good tree).

    Obviously, everybody on earth has committed a bad action at some point in time, thus we must all be bad trees. Being bad trees, it is impossible for us to commit good actions, only bad ones.

    This is where people usually get confused. They say, “But people do good things too! So what are they, then?”

    This is resolved fairly simply. Basically, a bad person can pretend to be good, can maintain the appearance of good, and can even formulate moral ideas that sound approximate to truly good things. And they would have every reason in the world to do so. However, a good person would never pretend to do a bad thing and could not do one even accidentally.

    The only way humans who are only capable of sin can do truly good action is when it is somebody else who is truly good living within them who commits that action. In this case, it is Christ, but He only lives in those who are devoted and loyal to King Jesus. Depending on your ideas about regeneration, perhaps in Christ we become good while still retaining the “old man” who can do evil in the same body. Either way, though, the point is clear that good action can only flow from a good person, and nobody is good but Jesus Christ. Thus, no good can be done outside of Christ.

    The passage from Paul you quoted at some point about the gentiles having the law written in their hearts means very clearly that they knew the difference between good and evil very clearly. However, we must not make the mistake of thinking that because they knew the difference that they could act against their natures by doing good.

    We act according to what we are, not what we would like to see ourselves as.

    That said, I pretty much agree with everything Josh has said, except that I would say that right action flow from right being even more than from right devotion or intention. I won’t dock him any points, though, because I have never before seen anybody elaborate thoughts on this matter that so closely match my own–with possible exception of Jacques Ellul.

    Does that help? I hope I didn’t miss something. It’s been a long time since I have been involved in anything like a civil, intelligent debate about pretty much anything spiritual and I am a bit out of practice. 🙂

    Grace and peace to you.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes