Monday, November 9, 2020

Deliver Us From Evil

From my post on a discussion between two pastors, Paul VanderKlay and Paul Anleitner, comments were offered by RMB and ATL that are worth addressing in some detail.

One of the pastors asked, “How to recognize ‘this is the evil we are actively to resist.’”  This in the context of the current culture wars and riots that are tearing apart the United States and much of the Western world. 

I addressed this in the earlier post – the evil we are to resist is the evil that intends to destroy Christianity; it is the same evil that intends to destroy liberty.  Recognizing the perpetrators of this evil is easy, because they have no shame or fear in identifying themselves and their purpose – either against Christianity or against liberty. 

In any case, the comments opened new questions and topics. First, from RMB November 6, 2020 at 9:40 AM

I don't know exactly how to fight the culture war but by standing firm on what I know to be true and to be ready to tell others when the time comes.

This is exactly where to start.  It does not require any complicated decisions about taking violent or even political action (albeit, I know some consider political action to also be violent).  It merely requires speaking truthfully.

We know that the objective of the leaders of those marching in the streets is to destroy Christianity; they are avowed Marxists and have not been shy about saying so.  We know this is true of many in academia – especially in the various social sciences.  We see it in action in many of our political leaders; we see it in the major media.

We see it in too many church leaders – the financial, spiritual, and moral corruption have been well-documented, and, for the most part, well-ignored by the leadership.  The advocacy of military aggression, especially in the service of the Scofield Bible and the state of Israel.  The regular praise of military adventurism and those who execute it.  Spanning the globe in search of enemies to destroy.

We see it in much of the church’s reaction to the culture war, with confusion about BLM, the role of and purpose for family, and the abdication of responsibility to the state for moral teaching.

So, I can only say: RMB knows exactly how to fight the culture war.  The difficulty is that there are times when this might not be enough.  From A Texas Libertarian November 6, 2020 at 11:39 AM:

The really hard question is: how are we supposed to thwart the plans of those enthralled to it while still maintaining love for them in our hearts as our King commanded?

It isn’t as if we have a clear-cut answer from the Bible – even from Jesus.  Give me a moment to explain.  Jesus offered, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

We are also told to turn the other cheek.  Ultimately, Jesus forgave those who put Him on the cross.  Verses such as these are cited for those who find in Jesus’s teachings and life a very pacifist calling.  Some see this as the end of it. But it isn’t.

There are, apparently, over 600 laws and commandments in the Old Testament.  Jesus has, thankfully, summarized these to two, from Matthew 22:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I could be a little cheeky and say that the “love your enemy” part didn’t make the cut.  Well, there, I said it.  And, of course, just because Jesus didn’t include it in the top two (or add a third) doesn’t make what he said earlier about loving our enemies disappear. 

We know, for example, the story of the Good Samaritan.  He was able to love his enemy; the example is clear-cut and free of truly difficult ethical conflict for a Christian. 

But what if loving your neighbor and loving your enemy come into conflict? 

I have this image of the mob going through the neighborhood where the McCloskey’s live.  Had the mob turned toward the house to brutalize the family and guests, what would have been the appropriate action for the neighbors?  Even without this turn, what would have been appropriate for the neighbors to do to demonstrate their love for the McCloskey’s?  How might this have resulted in action against the enemies?

Does this mean I should love my enemy if he tries to kill me, but love my neighbor if my enemy means to do my neighbor harm?  I don’t think so.  It would be hard to love my neighbor if my voluntary self-sacrifice now turned my neighbor into the next victim.

Even after God gave the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, He sure had Israel do an awful lot of killing.  As G.K. Chesterton offered, the commandments were all meant for a purpose – to protect the Ark.  The Ark held within it the order around which Hebrew society would thrive.  Loving one’s neighbors by protecting the Ark (the society), it seems, trumps loving one’s enemies.

Conclusion

Why my title to this post?  From the Lord’s Prayer:

Matthew 6: 13(a) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

How is God to deliver us from evil?  I have written recently about the spirit behind those working evil in the world today – the prince of the power of the air.  This evil prince is working through real human beings; does not God do the same?  Sure, you say; but how?

We are to love our enemies, pray for them; this is hard enough to do when there is no ethical conflict – e.g. the Good Samaritan.  But when Jesus boiled the hundreds of laws down to two, He didn’t find this “love your enemies” teaching sufficient to put on the list, whereas loving our neighbors is identified.  Perhaps there is a reason for this; perhaps from this we can find an answer to how we are to act when loving our neighbor and loving our enemy come into conflict.

I am sure that there are far more sophisticated answers out there to this issue.  I also know that there are numerous wrong-headed answers as well: I find neither the extreme of pacifism nor the extreme of searching the globe for enemies to destroy satisfactory from a Biblical sense, yet there are many Christians who strongly advocate for one or the other extreme.

Epilogue

Returning to the comment from RMB:

I think Christians should still focus on the central message of our guilt before God as sinners, His payment for our sins on the cross, and our access into grace and peace with Him through believing in that message.

Despite the slight variations that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations of all stripes might put meaning to these words, all I can say is: Always.

19 comments:

  1. "he really hard question is: how are we supposed to thwart the plans of those enthralled to it while still maintaining love for them in our hearts as our King commanded?"

    I can't do it wit people advocating this. Warning, drawing of procedure for Late Birth Adoption:
    http://earnestlycontendingforthefaith.com/Images/PartialBirthAbortion.jpg

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  2. After thinking more on this, I’ve come to the following conclusion (which more or less lines up with your conclusion above) based on the two scenarios below: we must love our enemies without violating our love for, and our corollary duty to protect, our neighbors (family, friends, community, church or nation).

    Scenario 1) Your daughter is attacked in the middle of the night by a male intruder. You hear the commotion and intervene. You gain control of the situation because the male intruder is physically inferior. You are holding him down deciding what to do.

    Scenario 2) Your minority community is being persecuted by a tyrant. Many in the community want to start a violent uprising to overthrow the tyrant, but you judge that this will not be a realizable goal due to lack of resources, fighting age men, and support among the majority community around you who remain more or less indifferent to your plight. You are deciding whether to wage an unwinnable war that may bring about the complete extermination of your community or to peacefully endure the unjust arrests of those you love and watch them face execution one by one at the hands of the tyrant.

    In scenario 1) there is no way it is God’s intention to have us sit back and watch our daughter be victimized. When He says to turn the other cheek, He surely doesn’t mean for us to say, “Hey, once you’re finished with her, I have another daughter in the next room.” Intervening is a moral duty. If you love your daughter, and want what’s best for her, you don’t sit back and let this vile thing happen to her. Once you have the man subdued, I believe that it is here where God asks us to have mercy and to love our enemy. I take this to mean that we should not beat the man into a vegetable or especially to death, but instead hold him until authorities arrive so that he may face trial and imprisonment (like a being created in the image of God who has lost the path).

    In scenario 2) we must decide how taking justified violent action against an oppressor will impact our community. If victory in battle is hopeless, by any realistic estimate, and there is no means of escape, the only course may be that of the martyr, to willingly go to your death with love in your heart for those who oppress you like Jesus and Stephen. Because to go to war in an unwinnable conflict may just succeed in bringing more persecution, if not annihilation, on your neighbor.

    Think of a libertarian group waging a war on the US government and of course failing, and in doing so, bringing the state down on the heads of all libertarians, and all libertarian communication, essentially extinguishing the spread of libertarian ideas.

    I guess boiling it down, what I mean is that if you have the power to forcefully stop evil, you must do so. If you don’t have the power to do so, then you must weigh the options based on how best to love your neighbor. Now there is a whole lot of grey area in between these two scenarios, but they helped to clarify my thoughts. I’m not saying the underdog should always concede, but it is a decision which must be subjected to considerations of prudence.

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    1. ATL, Instead of "have mercy and love our enemy," I would have rather seen this translated as,"have mercy and respect our enemy." Treating an enemy with respect means not beating him into a vegetable, but instead the promotion of due process for egregious behavior. It's not incredible to think the texts might have been translated in such a way. Peg

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    2. I think respect is a type of love, if love ultimately means wishing or actively promoting what is good for another. If I have respect for someone, I may not be actively promoting the good for them, but at least I am going to refrain from promoting what may injure them.

      I always wonder about translations of the ancient Biblical texts, though I've not wanted to go through the effort of learning ancient Greek or Hebrew to decipher them myself. The YLT or Young's Literal Translation is an interesting Bible I've found online, which I like to cross reference every once in a while.

      For instance, the Decalogue in most Bibles says thou shall not kill, but the YLT says no murder. Now, as any libertarian knows, there is a difference between killing and murder.

      Good to hear from ya Peg!

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  3. There is something in economics called the impossible trinity. A nation cannot have a fixed exchange rate, free capital movement, and an independent monetary policy. One of these three must go.

    See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossible_trinity

    Likewise in theology there is the impossible trinity. It cannot be that God is good, God is all-powerful, and that evil exists. One of these three must go.

    The best known presentation is attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus by David Hume, who was responsible for popularizing it. Hume summarizes Epicurus's version of the problem as follows: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil?"

    I should note that theodicy is a dead end. It works fine until you try to explain why people die in earthquakes, or why little children die from cancer.

    See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

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    1. There are too many church fathers who have dealt with this issue. Even CS Lewis has dealt with it. Hume and Epicurus? This sounds like the childish analysis of today's modern atheists.

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    2. You're assuming that a good entity must always be chomping at the bit to correct wrongs by any means necessary, or else they're not good. It's the typical simplistic and shortsighted view of Progressives everywhere. Including the ones who want to fix evil by dropping bombs on brown people on the other side of the world.

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  4. What you have to understand is that genuine Christianity is The Lost Cause. Our King went to a cross, not to a throne in Jerusalem or Rome. He declined that temptation, twice, when Satan offered it and when Peter offered it and was called Satan. Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me, not take up your sword. He said, remain faithful until death, not until you have political power in Babylon.

    It is a mistake to suppose that we should attempt to impose Christian values on Babylonians using the coercive force of Babylon. It is a performance violation. It is why the US is failing. Babylonians are not suited to liberty.

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    1. Mike, I have never once advocated that "we should attempt to impose Christian values on Babylonians using the coercive force of Babylon."

      As to why the US is failing, maybe more analogous to Israel and Judah after Solomon. It may be our turn for the exile.

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    2. Oh... no... never intended to imply that you did. It is simply the context in which we live, as evidenced by those who claim the US is or was a Christian nation. It is not, and never was. It is simply another iteration of Babylon.

      As for Judah and Israel, two things, first the situation with Christianity in the US seems more akin to 1 Sam 8, where covenant people are clamoring for a king like the other nations have. Except, in the US, they renew their rejection of God as their king every four years. The present situation then seems more analogous to Judah pursuing covenant with Egypt in the face of Assyrian aggression.

      Second, I would make a distinction between relationships between covenant peoples and none covenant peoples, and relationships within the covenant community. I see the Judah/Israel split as more analogous to the East/West split or the Catholic/Protestant split.

      In my view, as it currently stands, I see two kingdoms. The kingdom of God is real in the same way that the US is real. But it is also categorically different. The governing principle of the kingdom of heaven is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The governing principle of the other, which I typically call Babylon, is that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must. They are the cruciform kingdom and the ensiform kingdom. There is much syncretism, unfortunately. But we have been warned that it would be so; wheat and weeds, and the violent taking the kingdom by force, etc.

      I, tentatively, see Babylon as the rod of iron in the hand of God. God uses the wicked to punish the wicked. Satan told Jesus, all THIS authority has been delivered to me. That is, authority to pick leaders in Babylon. On the other hand, Jesus said, ALL authority has been given to me. Both kingdoms are under the authority of God. The choice presented to us is between the pursuit of power, or love.

      I have really enjoyed following your journey. I have have been on a similar path for perhaps twenty years. My journey has been slower than yours.

      Grace and peace.

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  5. Great thoughts. I'm reminded of ordinary Catholic catechetical teaching, whereby loving one's enemies justifies--and actually requires--one to correct and resist their errors. Because true love means concern for their salvation. And they risk damnation by persisting in sin and persecution.

    In that vein, we should resist the evil acts of our enemies, initially and primarily by speaking the truth to teach them, allowing them a chance to listen and cease the evil and perhaps repent. And we must resist if we are not heard, because it can be in resistance they are taught that these truth claims of the Christian are quite sincerely and deeply held. Many a Roman was moved by the martyrdom and resistance of the resilient Christian, and later, many a pagan.

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  6. “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

    ― G.K. Chesterton

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    1. Quite true. Value judgements will have to be made in case of conflict....

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  7. "You also told us to turn another face" ... wouldn't the aforementioned message have the meaning of staying in combat, handing the other face over?

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  8. Since childhood, I have struggled with Christ's admonition for us to "turn the other cheek." Not as much with regard to myself, (in the flight or fight personality type spectrum, I am firmly in the flight category,) but with regard to the proper response to an attack on my neighbor. To not defend the victim seems to be turning someone else's cheek rather than my own. Indeed, such withholding of defense for the victim seems to be providing aid to the attacker.

    The most persuasive guidance for resolution of this ethical question that I have found comes from C.S. Lewis in his essay, "Why I am not a pacifist." Therein he makes the case that Jesus never meant, "...if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and get his victim." He adds his summation that Christ's message is perfectly clear, "Insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back." Lewis then notes that there may many other motives, other than egotistic retaliation for hitting back. But we must always remember, "...insofar as the only relevant factors in the case are an injury to me by my neighbor and a desire on my part to retaliate, then I hold that Christianity commands the absolute mortification of that desire."

    This interpretation of the Christian message was for many centuries practiced in Christendom by adherence to the codes of chivalry. Richard Weaver, who describes chivalry as a practical expression of the basic brotherhood of man, further states, in Ideas Have Consequences, "The virtue of the splendid tradition of chivalry was that it took formal cognizance of the right to existence not only of inferiors but also of enemies."

    So, it seems we have our Christian to-do list: Fight our enemies, but do not hate them. They are also God's children.

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    1. Yes. I think if an enemy persists in endangering my neighbor, I am to love him to death!

      In all seriousness, if my choice is to love the victim or the perpetrator, the choice is easy. If it is to defend my life, the choice is equally easy.

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  9. Proverbs 6
    16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
    17 haughty eyes,
    a lying tongue,
    hands that shed innocent blood,
    18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
    feet that are quick to rush into evil,
    19 a false witness who pours out lies
    and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

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  10. How to love our enemies is determined by context.
    Watch "To End All Wars"
    What are the 3 world views shown?
    Which one do you choose?
    Do not forget how POWs got to be POWs in the first place.

    I also recommend "Sophie Scholls: The Last Days"
    What would you do under the circumstances?

    "Joyaux Noel" about the Christmas Truce of 1917.
    Are you sure you know who is the enemy?

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