The Christianity of War?

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When I first saw this video, I was wondering what Andrew Sullivan was getting at by calling it The Christianity of War. He obviously finds it problematic but says nothing about what is so problematic. But then I followed the link to the original location and read some of the comments, and I think I know what's wrong with it. The problem is that the makers of the video produced something for the evangelical community that anyone remotely biblically literate would understand as a call to spiritual action, cognizant of the reality of Satan and the necessity of bearing up the weapons of Christian warfare as listed in Ephesians 6:10-20 and referred to in II Corinthians 6:7; 10:4; Hebrews 4:12 (among other places). These weapons are things like faith, righteousness, the good news message about Jesus Christ, the word of God in general, and salvation. Most of them are defenses against spiritual attacks from Satan and his minions.

But it seems to me that in a biblically-illiterate culture, it's setting yourself up for misunderstanding to post something on the internet if many will not understand the biblical context of the metaphor you're using. This is especially true given those vocal anti-evangelicals who adamantly misinterpret everything evangelicals do in order to further the completely ridiculous thesis that evangelicals are all about political agendas and that evangelical missions groups have nothing to do with spreading the gospel but seek to fight human enemies (not the spiritual enemies discussed in the verses I just referred to that the video was actually about) with human weapons (not the spiritual enemies in the verses I just referred to that the video was actually about).

I am not going to absolve the pretty ridiculous commenters on the video from doing their homework. Anyone who thinks that video was about political fighting against the political opponents of the religious right is morally at fault. There's plenty of publicly-available information that should easily make it plain that that's not the case, and it is indeed immoral to make base charges, that are so obviously false, against such a large movement when it's so utterly obvious that you know so little about that movement.

But I think evangelicals have a calling to make the message of the good news plain and clear in a way that videos like this are not going to get in the way of that. This was obviously not intended to do anything but motivate Christians to pray, study the Bible, hold each other up in times of spiritual trial, and seek to live a godly life. Its creators therefore didn't expect this to be viewed by those who know very little about evangelicals besides the popular misconception based on how evangelicals are treated in the media. But they put it on the internet, and they failed to take into account the small but vocal miscreants who find anything they can about evangelicals in order to take it out of context and put evangelicals in as bad a political light as possible, and that's what's happened here. Those who would produce such videos ought to take that into account and not just leave metaphors like this hanging unexplained to be taken to be about whatever the viewer happens to want it to be about.

Update: I write this post, and then I check up on what's been going on at the Volokh Conspiracy in the last couple days while I haven't had the chance to check in there, and I find this post, which has statistics showing that the demographic group that is most disproportionately Christian fundamentalist in the U.S. is African-American women, and more fundamentalists are Democrats than Republicans. Neither of these is all that surprising to me once I think about it a bit, but it certainly goes against the sort of thing I was trying to confront in this post.

16 Comments

I was going to criticize you for failing to admit that a video portraying hostile Christians screaming about slaying their enemies should be expected to be viewed in a negative light by MANY more than just the " small but vocal miscreants" opposed to any and all Evangelicals. But I decided against it when I read your statement at the end:

"Those who would produce such videos ought to take that into account and not just leave metaphors like this hanging unexplained to be taken to be about whatever the viewer happens to want it to be about."

Exactly. This is the Internet. If ever there where a time and place for Christians to be as certain as possible to not be misunderstood by even the "fringest" of possible observers, this is it.

Jason, my statement at the end wasn't an afterthought. It was the primary purpose of this post. I just didn't want to give the impression that I thought it was morally ok for people to allow easily-dispelled ignorance to lead them to such a ridiculous misinterpretation. Anyone willing to comment publicly on something they obviously know nothing about has committed a serious moral crime. It's opening yourself up to the possibility of slandering someone. That's not very good. But my main purpose in posting this was not to say that. It was to tell evangelicals to be more careful given that this crowd is out to misinterpret every evangelical move.

Jeremy, your comments above about it being a purely spiritual battle and being metephorical would be wonderful and so true, except for the fact that the US is fighting two wars started by a President who is a self proclaimed Christian. In a time of peace, this video would not be easily misconstrued. However, in a time of war, it appears as a US Army recruitment video. Your claims of metaphors do not change reality and sound as hallow as those who claim islamic jihad is only a metaphor.

Don, I don't buy it. Anyone remotely biblically literate will recognize the context of the scripture used in the video and that it refers to spiritual warfare. Nothing in the video uses anything close to modern warfare imagery. Nothing in the video makes any hint of any human enemy. Those who don't bother to know anything about the Bible are concluding in ignorance that this has anything to do with a political war against Democrats or a military war against Islamicist terrorists. I don't think that conclusion is warranted given the facts about what those verses signify in context. It certainly leaves it open so that the ignorant could conclude that, and that's why I'm calling on evangelicals not to do this kind of thing, but it doesn't excuse the drastically ignorant from their responsibility to understand evangelicalism before jumping to ridiculous conclusions.

A great place for this video is within the Christian community. I have to agree, putting it out there for biblically illiterate, Christian-hating people isn't wise. But, it's a great video and I'd love to see it used within churches or parachurch organizations.

"Battle Cry" Words:
I am not an innocent bystander.
I am a threat to my enemies.
I am powerful.
I am strategic and bold.
I will not sit idly by.
I will take ground.
I will advance.
I will tear through my enemy.
My enemy will hit me.
I will not avoid the difficult fight.
I will fight.
I will be wounded.
I will be targeted and I will bleed.
I will not tire.
My wounds will be healed.
I will see tragedy.
I will feel pain.
But I will be restored.
My feet will not stumble.
My hands will hold fast.
I will not be intimidated.
I cannot be stopped.
I will stand by my brothers in arms.
I will fight until my last breathe.
I will push the limits.
I scale the mountains.
My enemy will cower.
For I serve a great king.

These are the words to the video. The number of doctrinal errors in this piece are staggering. The last line mentioning a great king might as well be Satan, there are places in the Bible where Satan is referred to as a king and a prince of this world. It does not sound like Jesus would approve of this. Jesus told us to love our enemies. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, not to be a threat and tear through our enemies.

I am powerful? If the video has said "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", that would be one thing. It doesn't. It says "I am powerful", with no acknowledgement of God. The last line of serving a great king does not give me sufficient proof that they are referring to God when taken in the context of the rest of the video.

I will stand by my brothers in arms? That to me sounds like military talk. No church I've ever been to has anyone referred to the congregation as their brothers-in-arms.

I am familiar with the putting on the full armor of God. Again you speak of this as being metaphorical, but the evidence is that it is literal. Here's a test. Show this video to someone, but start it at 00:23, so as not to show the quote from Jesus. Ask someone what the video is about. Try this on the pastor of your church or a friend whom you know's heart is right with God. Do not let them see the URL or the word Godtube. I did this, and the person thought it was a military recruitment video. Putting a quote from Jesus in front of Satanic content like this does not make it Christian material anymore than putting a cross on a marilyn manson CD makes his work Christian, or putting a bumper stick that says "Jesus is my copilot" makes you a Christian.

You may say this is a spiritual metaphor, and they're vanquishing demons. Fair enough, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:22-23 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

I do not claim to know the hearts of the people who made this video, but they do not show the fruits of the spirit. I will list them and you can tell me which of them are portrayed in this video: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

If I seem like I'm getting worked up about this, it is because I'm seeing a growing trend of militarism in Christianity. This may be because many like Pat Robertson and his contemporaries are preaching "end times" doctrines that interpret prophesies that advocate this mindset. Just as when Jesus saw the moneychangers in the temple and he turned the tables on them, I'd like to think that by systematically pointing out the flaws in this video we can turn the tables on the militarists that would pervert Christ's message.

In relation to Bible prophecies, I'd also like to point out that the religious scholars of Jesus' day were very far off in what they imagined the Messiah would be and what He would do. I have the feeling that many scholars in our day and age are just as far off base in what they preach the end times will be like. Seeing these kinds of videos as fruits of their mindset is all the evidence one needs to come to this conclusion.

I am encouraged by the increasing number of comments on the Godtube page speaking out against this video.

God bless the peacemakers, and may Christ's Love be shown through all who know Him.

(PS. I hope the formatting came out correct, I tried to put breaks in.)

Don, it's hard for me to see your interpretation as anything but the most radical way you could possibly take the video, given that it's an interpretation so thoroughly against the spirit of all the biblical texts the video relies on. You seem to be asking for absolute proof of the intent of each statement in the video, when the best you can do for interpreting anyone, ever, is to determine the most reasonable interpretation, not absolutely proving what they mean. I'm not prone to conspiracy theories, and yours seems pretty radical to me.

I didn't say that it's perfectly balanced theology or that it's the best way to promote interest in spiritual warfare. I did say that it's fairly at odds with the biblical context of contemporary evangelicalism and how evangelicals at large do use this sort of imagery to take it to be about either the global war on terrorism or the political disagreements between Republicans and Democrats. This video does not seem to me to be the kind of thing you'd find at a Republican political convention. It does seem to be the sort of thing I'd expect to see at a Campus Crusade for Christ conference. While there are some real fools (and I use the term in the fully biblical sense to refer to the morally challenged) who insist on portraying groups like Campus Crusade as political, nothing could be further from the truth. Pat Robertson is not exactly an examplar of typical evangelicalism. Most evangelicals take him to be a crank who could never see him as an evangelical leader.

You're right that putting a quote from Jesus in front of Satanic content doesn't make that Christian. This is a Christian message that uses military metaphors, not a military message with Christian words tagged on to the beginning. As you say, someone could have come up with a very similar video as a recruitment video for the military. It would be strange that it uses only first-century imagery, but someone could do that by a pretty generous stretch of the imagination. If so, then it would be tagging a Christian label onto a non-Christian video. But that's not what this is. It's a Christian video calling people to spiritual warfare. It's the intent of the people making it that determines its meaning, provided that there isn't any complete misuse of language and such.

Do I see the fruit of the Spirit here? Yes. Love for neighbors and love for other believers requires being alert and thinking carefully about the schemes of the evil one. It requires putting on the armor of Ephesians 6. What do we have joy in? One thing we have joy in is the future victory already achieved in Christ that he asks us to join in achieving as it works its way out in history. Peace will only be achieved through his victory over all evil, and our participation in that involves living righteously now, according to the things that amount to the armor of God. Patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are part of this as well.

Does the video spell all this out? No. But neither does the book of Jude say much about love of neighbor, and neither does the book of Philemon say much about the riches of the depths of the love of God through Christ that you find in Romans or Ephesians. A statement on one subject need not say everything that could be said, as long as it's not irresponsible in its context. In a context with a broader teaching on spiritual warfare and its relation to other aspects of the Christian life (in particular its non-relation to military war and political disagreement), a video like this could be ok.

[Note: Because you put breaks in, the formatting came out terrible. I had to remove them. The formatting is fine if you just type the comment. Perhaps you were fooled by the preview, which doesn't include any formatting. Why it does that, I have no idea, but there's nothing I can do about it. Since I require previewing blog comments to provide one more safeguard against spammers, and not for the sake of people checking what they write, I've never seen it as a big problem.)

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You seem to be asking for absolute proof of the intent of each statement in the video, when
the best you can do for interpreting anyone, ever, is to determine the most reasonable interpretation, not absolutely proving what they mean.
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If words have no absolute meaning, then we cannot continue a discussion about this video, as you can twist the words to mean anything. George Orwell showed this when he said war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. To me you sound like Pontius Pilate asking "What is Truth?"

If you wish to discuss the video further I would enjoy that. But unless we can agree on meanings of words and not affix free associations with every word then discussion is meaningless.

As such, I will be pasting in dictionary definitions of words and Bible verses, explaining what I find to be in conflict with God's Word about this video. If you wish to bring up different definitions of words or different translations of the Bible, that would be great.

"I am not an innocent bystander." What is an innocent bystander? In a crime scene, an innocent bystander is one who did not take part in the crime. I take this to mean that we are to somehow be active, but why the choice of words to indicate a crime was in progress?

Is this advocating to take part in the crime (of what I do not know)? This is highly doubtful, instead it may be advocating swift action to prevent a crime in progress. This statement makes sense when coupled with the next one.

"I am a threat to my enemies.", Are we to be a threat, or are we to be merciful? This video is advocating not for us to be innocent bystanders, but to be threats to our enemies, whoever they may be.

Matthew 5:7-8
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

However looking up the definition of mercy, it seems to be the exact opposite of a threat.

How can someone who is merciful to anything, be a threat to that same thing?

Entry Word: mercy
Function: noun
Text: 1 kind, gentle, or compassionate treatment especially towards someone who is
undeserving of it
Synonyms charity, clemency, lenience, leniency, lenity, mercifulness, quarter
Related Words humanitarianism, philanthropy; empathy, pity, sympathy, understanding;
commiseration, favor, grace; benevolence, care, compassion, gentleness, goodness, goodwill,
kindliness, kindness, meekness, mildness, niceness, softness, tenderness; altruism,
generosity, magnanimity, nobility; affection, devotion, love, worship
Near Antonyms reprisal, retaliation, retribution, revenge, vengeance; venom,
vindictiveness, virulence, vitriol; brutality, cruelty, savagery, violence; castigation,
chastisement, punishment, scolding; abhorrence, abomination, execration, hate, hatred,
loathing; cattiness, malevolence, malice, malignity, meanness, spite, spitefulness, spleen;
animosity, antagonism, antipathy, bitterness, enmity, grudge, hostility, jealousy, pique,
resentment; bile, jaundice, rancor; hatefulness, invidiousness; coarseness, grimness,
hardness, harshness, roughness
2 an act of kind assistance

-- see FAVOR 1
3 the capacity for feeling for another's unhappiness or misfortune -- see HEART 1

If we concede this video is not talking about human enemies, then we are to assume it is referring to spiritual enemies. The Devil, Demons, and perhaps even Sin if you wish to personalize it. Christ has already defeated all 3 of these enemies in His death and resurrection on the cross. What more of a threat are we than the eternal damnation these enemies will recieve? Instead of proclaiming being a threat to Satan and his followers, why does this video not speak to the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and merely say that he has overcome all my enemies for me? You can not imply that saying "I am a threat to my enemies" is the equivalent statement. "I am a threat to my enemies", accomplishes nothing. It is hubris, bravado, empty words, and worst of all denies reliance on God, and smacks of military jinjoism.

"I am powerful." In the beattitudes, Christ said blessed are the meek.

Matthew 5:1-5
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came
to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

What is meekness?

Main Entry: meek
Pronunciation: 'mEk
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse mjukr gentle; akin to
Welsh esmwyth soft
1 : enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD
2 : deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE
3 : not violent or strong : MODERATE

If this had been worded "I am meek." in the video, then I would have been fine with it. But instead the video claims "I am powerful." A statement of self-righteousness and self-reliance. It is the opposite of meekness. For the life of me, I can't imagine Jesus saying on the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the powerful, for they will inherit the earth."

"I will not sit idly by.", Similar to the above claim of not being an innocent bystander, seems to be coupled to the next statement.

"I will take ground.", take what ground? Spiritual ground? Surely the video isn't calling us to storm the gates of Hell. What would be the point? Perhaps growing as a Christian is what this metaphor is referring to, but framing it in a militaristic manner obscures its meaning. But this statement I find little fault with. However, this statement alone does not hold the video up.

"I will advance.", nearly the exact same meaning as above, potentially redundant. You could argue that militarily they mean different things, but how does that fit into our metaphor? Again the problem with these statements is the continual self-absorption, and denial of any need for God. It is almost like I can hear the "Army of One" matra in the background. "Be all that you can be", also fits nicely in here.

"I will tear through my enemy.", Christ called us to love our enemies.
Matthew 5:43-48
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward
will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect,

therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If this had been worded "I will love my enemy." Then I would be fine with it.

Main Entry: 1love
Pronunciation: 'l&v
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lufu; akin to Old High German luba love, Old
English lEof dear, Latin lubEre, libEre to please
1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt
by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests b : an assurance of love
2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
3 a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration b (1)
: a beloved person : DARLING -- often used as a term of endearment (2) British -- used as
an informal term of address
4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly
concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person's adoration of
God
5 : a god or personification of love
6 : an amorous episode : LOVE AFFAIR
7 : the sexual embrace : COPULATION
8 : a score of zero (as in tennis)
9 capitalized, Christian Science : GOD
- at love : holding one's opponent scoreless in tennis
- in love : inspired by affection

explain to me how one can tear through one's enemy with a sword, even if that sword is the
metaphorical word of God, and love them with any of the above definitions of love. If this is being metaphorical, did Jesus tear through demons? No, He did not.

In this account of Jesus enountering a demon possessed man, Jesus appears to show kindness even towards the demons by granting them passage to go into pigs instead of sending them into the Abyss.

Luke 8:26-39

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,
which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a
house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" 29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Jesus showed mercy even upon demons. Demons that He could have easily spoke into non-existance. What are we to learn from this? If you answered that we are to tear through our enemies, then try again. Jesus loved His enemies, even Judas who betrayed Him.

"My enemy will hit me.", Christ told us to turn the other cheek, not to return the blow.

Thankfully at this point, the video doesn't call to strike back. But it has already pre-emptively claimed "I will tear through my enemies," so its kind of a moot point.

"I will not avoid the difficult fight.", this goes back to the innocent bystander and idly
by lines above.

"I will fight."
Lets look at the Ephesians 6. I'm not going to paste the whole chapter in here, then my post would become too long. :) A quick scan of the whole chapter reveals nothing about
fighting. It does however mention wrestling. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with an Angel.

Neither one died from the encounter, Jacob just ended up being really tired. The physical
fight was a futile effort.

"I will not tire.", not sure what to make of this statement, but it doesn't refer to the
source of our strength, which is Christ. More military strutting.

What about the armor of God? Shouldn't we use that to "do battle" with our evil enemies?


Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of
the devil.

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against

powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in
high [places].

Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to
withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the
breastplate of righteousness;

Eph 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all
the fiery darts of the wicked.

Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word
of God:

Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;


So we have all these items that parallel military paraphenalia of the day. What Paul is showing us is that we don't need physical swords and physical armor. We have an even greater source, that is God, His Son, His Spirit, and His Word. With these we are protected from harm in the spiritual realm. It doesn't say to go into battle with the breastplate of righteousness that works most of the time but sometimes the enemy can pierce it when your not looking. So the following statement is incorrect metaphorically:

"I will be wounded.", Indeed those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.
"I will be targeted and I will bleed.", Jesus bled and died, so that we wouldn't have to, spiritually that is, if that is indeed what we are still talking about.

Interestingly, it doesn't say to use the sword of the Spirit to tear through your enemies.

Instead, it says what the sword of the Spirit is, its the Word of God, the very thing we're using to examine this video's claims. So how would we use the Word of God? Jesus gave us

an example of that when he faced Satan in the desert. He rebuked Satan with scripture. Not
with Samuri swords and Karate kicks. The sword may represent God's Word, but what does the karate represent?

"My feet will not stumble.", I like these, I don't know why. Just do.
"My hands will hold fast."


"I will push the limits.", As Christians we are never called upon to "push the limits" of anything, this statement also smacks of military "I can do anything"ism.
"I scale the mountains.", same as above. Faith to move mountains, this is a very obscure metaphore, maybe you can help me with it? Or are we talking about literal things now? I

don't know.
"My enemy will cower.", Implies that the enemy is cowering from said God Warrior, and not God Himself.

The underlying theme of this video is self. Like Agent Smith in the Matrix said, "Me, Me, Me, Me, Me....", and, "Me too." It doesn't show the humility that Christ's character portrayed in His life and death on the Cross and doesn't adequately (at all) acknoweldge His resurrection, and forgivenss of our sins. All of these statements could have just as
easily been made by Satan, or his demons.

I have gone through each statement that this video makes, and shown that they are against the teachings of Christ. The length of this was necessary to dispute every line with verses from the Bible and explanations to support them. I look forward to hearing your comments and original thoughts on the contents of this video.

Once again, may God bless the peacemakers, not to be interpreted as Colt peacemakers.

Don, it is utterly obvious that words don't have a fixed meaning and can mean different things in different contexts. Anyone who denies that is linguistically ignorant, and such a person has no business discussing the meaning of a video like this, so I agree that we can't have a conversation about this if you're going to deny the obvious. Let me give you several biblical examples.

1. When the devil tempts Jesus, he uses scripture. Does he mean those verses the way they were intended? Of course not. But the words, in that context, could plausibly mean what he intends them to mean. It's just that it's not what they mean in the biblical context.

2. Consider the following two verses from Proverbs 26, which occur back-to-back: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." (Prov 26:4-5, NIV)

Surely these contradict each other unless you can take them differently in different contexts, so that one is true in one context and the other true in different contexts.

3. I Kings 7:23 and II Chronicles 4:2 give the measurements of a circular item. The ratio given between the circumference and the diameter is exactly 3. If you saw this sort of statement in a lab report in physics class, you would mark it wrong for estimating pi to be exactly 3. But in a rough measurement of an item to be built, it's perfectly fine. It's not perfectly precise, but you can't be perfectly precise with an irrational number. You have to round off somewhere. The biblical author rounded off at one digit in this case and was not claiming that pi is 3. But writing this on a lab report that requires a more precise measurement does amount to claiming that pi is 3. So the same sentence could be used to communicate a more precise proposition in two different contexts.

I could go on, but this should suffice to show that allowing for context-sensitive meaning does not amount to relativism about meaning. You don't use the word 'war' to mean peace. You're not likely to find a context in which that's legitimate, at least not as the English language currently works. But you can use the word 'nostrils' in a metaphorical description of God's anger that speaks of God's nostrils flaring, even though God the Father has no nostrils, and Jesus' nostrils don't literally flare whenever God is angry. You could also use the word 'nostrils' to refer to someone's actual nostrils.

This fact allows for different words to be used in different ways and for the same sentence to be used in different ways. If I say that I'm going to put my money in the bank, I could mean that I'm going to bury it in the sand on the edge of a river. But that's not the most natural way to take my sentence unless I've got contextual indications to show that (say, perhaps, I've already told you that I need a shovel for digging in sand and that I've got a chest buried near the river, then commented that I'm going to make a very bad pun, then saying I'll put it in the bank with a very sly look).

So there's some room for ambiguity, but there's some reason to favor one interpretation. I think that's exactly what's going on with this video given the context of scripture and the predominant evangelical perspective on spiritual warfare. Those unaware of that context might easily misunderstand it, but I'm arguing that that's at least partially their own fault for commenting so vehemently about something they don't understand. I also argued that this fact of misunderstanding should make Christians more careful about something like this.

The term 'innocent bystander' is not exclusive to crimes but can be used in war. Some innocent bystanders might be killed, for example. I do think a lot of Christians see themselves as innocent bystanders insofar as they don't see the need to pray but expect God and Satan to battle it out without our taking part. It seems completely foreign to the context of the video to take it in terms of a crime. (As I said, some interpretations are not allowed or are very unlikely, and I think that's one of them.)

Are we to be merciful to demonic powers? I see no biblical statement that accepts our human enemies to be real, spiritual enemies. I in fact see a denial of that when Paul says that our enemies are not flesh and blood but spiritual. This explains why we are to love those who we might more naturally regard as our enemies, including any human being, even Usama bin Laden. Of course, loving someone is consistent with seeking justice. So it doesn't mean never protecting others or engaging in the God-ordained power of the state to enforce justice. But it does mean this cannot ever be done while seeing human beings as enemies. I see nothing in this video that requires it to be about human enemies, and that seems very unlikely given the posture of people kneeling, which suggests praying as the real weapon, not fighting with real swords (never mind guns, which never appear, because the Bible is referred to as a sword and not a gun). So I don't see how the video itself is inconsistent with love for human so-called enemies. I don't think there's any clear reference to a human being as an enemy in the entire video, and I didn't take it to be referring at any time to human enemies to begin with. But I admit that someone who misunderstands the biblical teaching behind this video could mistake it that way, which is why I criticized the creators of the video for putting it up with such an imprecise description.

Christ has already defeated all 3 of these enemies in His death and resurrection on the cross. What more of a threat are we than the eternal damnation these enemies will recieve? Instead of proclaiming being a threat to Satan and his followers, why does this video not speak to the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and merely say that he has overcome all my enemies for me?

Good question. This is a criticism I have a much talk about the devil and demons in contemporary evangelicalism. But it is indeed typical to express things this way among certain spheres of evangelicalism. That's a question of whether this presents a balanced theology, not a question of whether the intent could be to refer to demons and Satan. It seems highly likely to me that it does refer to them, given this common trend among certain sectors of evangelicalism.

As for being powerful and meek, I think there's room for emphasizing both truths in different contexts. The proud and boastful ought to be encouraged to remember that they are nothing without Christ. There's no room for pride in the Christian life. How can you compare yourself with perfection? But at the same time, those who have indeed entrusted themselves to Christ have been given authority (also often translated as power) over the spiritual authorities or powers. This is a common theme in Ephesians and Colossians. It's also implicit in much of II Corinthians in statements like "God's power is made perfect in my weakness", which actually emphasizes both sides of this particular truth-coin. I think it's a bad idea to emphasize one side, and you're right to point out that this video does so, but taking it as if what the video says is false seems to me to go too far in the opposite direction by denying a truth about the power we are invested with as we have the in-dwelling Holy Spirit guiding and empowering us to live the Christian life in the face of spiritual assault from powers beyond our comprehension.

In case you've forgotten about the vision of Jesus tearing through his enemies with a sword, let me remind you:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. [Rev 19:11-21, ESV]

Now it does take some hermeneutical work to put this together with the picture of Jesus as meek, but this is as much a part of the Bible as those statements in the gospels (and so are the accounts of Jesus tearing through his enemies as his disassembled their tables in the temple). I don't think the video talking about human enemies to begin with, but even the Bible speaks of Jesus doing that, never mind demonic enemies. It's again an issue of two themes in scripture, one emphasized in the video and the other emphasized by you. If scripture is not contradictory, then it's possible to fit the video to scripture. It's just unclear and incomplete, as I admitted the video is.

I've never been sure I had a clear sense of what's going on in the Gerasene/Gadarene case. Jesus grants their request and thus seems kind to them. However, he sends them into pigs knowing that the pigs would run off the cliff. Did he do this merely because the demons wanted it? Did the demons expect the final result? I don't know. It could have been punishment for them for all I can tell. I know commentators are divided on this question, and I haven't really formed an opinion, so I don't think it constitutes a clear case of Jesus being kind to demons. It's possible that he foiled their plan deliberately by leading the pigs off the cliff to put them out of their misery, leaving the demons homeless against their will in the end will seeming to satisfy their request but in the end using it to foil it.

I could say more about the other points you make, but I think I'd be repeating myself by applying things I've already said to new points. I do think this video was an attempt to capture a biblical motivation for spiritual warfare, and I think that's the most reasonable interpretation given what contemporary evangelicalism is like. I agree that it's imbalanced in a lot of places and wrong in a couple. But I think you're swinging too far in the opposite direction by denying that an evangelical could have come up with this for the purpose I'm taking it to be for. I think evangelicals would be very likely to produce this kind of thing for those purposes, and I would find it very strange to see this at a political convention to motivate voters or at a military recruitment center to motivate enlistment.

Great discussion! I haven't seen such a civil discussion on the Internet in a long time :)

I would like to point out that your example of Jesus on the white horse is from end times biblical prophesy, just as I said two posts ago, that those who take this view of Jesus are playing from an end times script. You cannot deny there are those out there that want to hasten His coming with war. Pastor Hagee comes to mind and his desire to rebuild the Jewish temple and resume blood sacrifies to cause Christ to return. It is this mindset that I am completely against. God is not a puppet we control by earthly events. He will return in His time and not in man's time. The people who use the verse you quoted above to make war and be of a violent mindset are taking the verse out of context, for it is not actually the end time. Christ will let us know when that is by His return. He will make war, notice that is what it says in that verse, not man. Also Jesus is the judge, not man. We are not called to take part in the judgement. In fact, in the verse you pointed out, it was the beast that had gathered armies of kings to fight. God's army described there is purely angelic, in fine linen, pure and white. I know there are some that believe by aligning ourselves with Israel we become part of God's army, but that is not what this verse shows. Bottom line is, we are not called to take part in this spiritual warfare, this is God's fight. We are called to read His word, pray and share the good news of Christ to all people, that is all. That is our function on this planet. Those who imagine we are to slay demons or Satan or conquer Sin, are Biblically incorrect. Jesus did all these things. Satan has already been conquered, he is just biding his time until the final judgement. He knows that there is nothing he can do to win, so it is his desire to take down as many humans with him as possible. Therefore we can counter his desire by spreading God's Word, proclaiming Christ's death and resurrection as payment for our sins. This simple act alone is all that is needed. Imagery of war and swords is unnecessary. This video does not spread the message of Christ as a Savior for mankind. It spreads a message of Man as a boastful henchman for God.

I find I agree with most of your points above though. I think we are on the same page. I'm glad you agree with me about the tone of this video being too self centered. There is much editing that could be done to this video.

Again I would like to thank you for this civil discussion.

May God bless the peacemakers.

What if, in I Kings 7:23, the measurement of 10 cubits from brim to brim is NOT the Diameter, but the distance across the arc of the bottom surface of the "sea." After, the dimensions are being provided for the "SEA," not for the mere surface of the vessel. In order to provide the dimensions of a spherical segment, we must be provided with more than the dimensions of one plane. We must be provided with the depth of the basis. So, if the 10 cubits refers to a measurement across the bottom surface, then that arc is exactly one sixth of a full circle and the basin that is at least 9.5 cubits across the water surface is 1.34 cubits in depth and exactly 10 cubits across the bottom surface and exactly 30 cubits in circumference. This vessel contains 2000 baths. Now we know the precise size of a bath.

The ancients were intelligent and were not limited to plane geometry, but also understood spherical geometry. All parallel lines intersect at two points, etc.

I've never heard that view before, but can you say the same of every instance of a rounded number in scripture?

Being intelligent does not rule out rounding numbers. You can be intelligent and imprecise when precision is not required.

The above two posts are the most irrelavant off-topic posts I've ever read. Did you watch that video? How in the world do you get from that to a discussion of cubits to the length of the sea? Your argument above about pi being 3 in the Bible has nothing to do with Christian militarism and was an attempt to hijack the train of thought. 3 is an approximation of pi, which is not the same as context. Taking a concept out of context is NOT the same as taking an approximation of a number. I guess I've been checking back here expecting some intelligent discussion, but that obviously can't happen.

Don, if you mean the above two comments, then the topic isn't all that close to what the post is about, but it's not as if it's irrelevant to the entire conversation, since it takes off from something I said in one of the comments. It's just not all that close to the main point of the post. Besides, if someone raises a question that's easily responded-to, I don't see any good reason not to give that response.

The author is really intelligent and have explained very interestingly about th war of Christianity.
By reading the total article I got the summery of the story and it is very good.

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