Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Living By The Sword

I would like to follow-up on two of my earlier posts: Deliver Us From Evil, and The Lion and the Lamb.  These posts deal with the issue of using physical force in defense.  Are we called by Scripture to be pacifist?  That is the question.

I know the views stemming from the sacrifice of Jesus, or from using the verse that is paraphrased in the title of this post.  I do not intend to develop these here, but will address these views later.  I intend to offer something to the contrary – as I have in these earlier posts.  Several verses are offered, interspersed with my thoughts.  Note: where indicated with an asterisk, these passages were found here:

Psalm 82: 3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Isaiah 1: 17 Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Proverbs 31: 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Here are several verses about defending the weak, those who are oppressed.  I wonder: are we to defend them only with words, perhaps just in court, in front of a judge?  Are we only to act passively, after the injustice has been committed – perhaps even their murder?  What if defending them requires something more…like a sword?

Jeremiah 22: 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

This is another verse on defending those oppressed.  It requires that one does not shed innocent blood while doing so.  It offers no prohibition regarding the blood of the guilty.  The following verse offers an insight regarding what the guilty can expect:

Exodus 22: 2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. *

At night, intentions are not clear.  In the daytime, presumably, intentions can be better understood.

Proverbs 24: 11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 

How would we rescue those being led away to death?  Again, with words, a judge – after they are killed?  God will repay us according to what we have done.  Continuing with this passage:

12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?  Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

According to this verse, it seems this also includes being repaid for what we haven’t done.  Perhaps like not using the sword to defend those being led away to death.  This might be better understood by the following:

Exodus 21: 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death. 15 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death. 16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession. *

Deuteronomy 24: 7 If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. *

Am I on safe ground to suggest that if these actions are worthy of the perpetrator being put to death, these are also actions for which one may physically intervene to defend the poor and oppressed?  Again, what does “defend” mean?  Is it only in court, in judgement?  It doesn’t seem to be helpful to the dead victim if this is the case.

Are weapons allowed?  In Nehemiah, the Jews have returned to rebuild the walls.  The locals are opposed to this.

Nehemiah 4: 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” *

Half the men did work while the other half held swords.  This was to defend against the locals – not against animals of prey, but human beings.

But enough of the Old Testament.  Many, like  Marcion of Sinope, believe that the Old Testament doesn’t really count anyway.  Let’s go to the New Testament.

Matthew 18: 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Jesus is making the comparison to the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one lost sheep.  What if we are the only ones standing in between the little one perishing or not?  What if that lost sheep was surrounded by wolves?  Sword, or no sword?

1 Timothy 5: 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Food?  Check.  Clothing?  Check.  A roof over their heads?  Check.  Oh, you want to rape my daughter and kill my wife?  Sure, go ahead.  Is this how we should understand the word “provide”?

Romans 13: 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Now, I do not want to debate here what is meant by the word “authority.”  I have given my thoughts before (most recently here), and in any case the precise meaning is irrelevant here.

So, what is relevant here?  Someone is entitled by God to bear the sword, to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Finally, the passage that inspired the title of this post – considered in all four Gospels:

Luke 22: 36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

We are to buy swords. For what purpose?  To slice cheese?

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”  “That’s enough!” he replied.

He didn’t say that they misunderstood Him.

John 18: 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Jesus didn’t tell Peter to put the sword away because he shouldn’t use a sword.  Jesus didn’t say put it away because it was only to be used against wolves.  He told Peter to put it away because Jesus was sent to drink the cup.

In Mark, there is no comment from Jesus to Peter after Peter uses his sword.  Finally, Matthew:

Matthew 26: 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Jesus had Peter put away the sword, as He was to drink the cup; it must happen in this way. 


Astute readers will note that I skipped over a key verse:

Matthew 26: 52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

If there is one passage in all of Scripture pointed to by those who believe in pacifism or non-violence in all situations, it is this (along with the “love your enemies” passages, which I have addressed in the two posts cited in the first paragraph, above).

In any case, Jesus offers fine advice.  But Jesus does not say that it is sinful.  He just says that one will die if he draws the sword – it would likely have been the case for Peter that night.  Of course, we also know that many who do not draw the sword also die by the sword. 

John 15: 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The context, for Jesus, was our eternal salvation.  We do not have this same character; we are not unblemished, a perfect sacrifice.  In what context, therefore, would we ever have reason to lay down our life for a friend?

According to the several verses cited, we are responsible to defend those who are oppressed and defenseless.  Sometimes this requires a sword.  Sometimes drawing a sword will cost us our life. 

Hence, the greatest love.  There is no love greater.


  1. In our sojourn with Our Father, we follow the Perfect Pattern, and always follow the Will of Our Father in Heaven in everything. We did not always have the good counsel, but we sought it continually. He has always guided us around violence, leaving one place for another, writing a letter to change the heart, and even once we confronted the evil head on, though we did not know it at the time.
    Putting God first is a minute by minute seeking out of His will. It came in dreams, it came in the still, small voice, it came in knowings, knowing something without knowing how you knew it, and then His constant, conscious, empathetic companionship. It was His gift for all, but we were never taught and made to forget.

    1. Jenny,

      Who or what is the Perfect Pattern? Do you mean Jesus the Christ or something (someone) else? A plain simple answer will suffice. Beating around the bush will not.

      You say that we (who are we?) "...always follow the Will of Our Father in Heaven in everything." Now, either you mean ALWAYS or else you mean there are times when you don't. According to the Bible, the only person who followed God's will in everything is Jesus Christ. To say that you always do this is to equate yourself with Him, which is the same as saying that you live a sinless life. This is contradictory to your statement because it is God's Will that all people, everywhere, confess their sins before Him and seek His salvation, which must come through Jesus. This is the biblical standard of salvation. There is no other way.

  2. This post is so off base from usual I wonder if someone hacked this entry in. We aren’t called to be pacifists - that’s a straw man, a political corruption. As Jenny said in the comments, we are called to follow Christ, moment to moment in all we do, a way of non-violent power, diametrically opposed to violent power other men might want us to participate in for their short term benefit (at our expense).

    It is a misuse of scripture to pick and choose snippets to construct an argument to fit our will.

    Catholics against militarism has a recent talk with Emmanuel Charles McCarthy: “Should a Christian vote?” McCarthy clearly explains the kind of power a Christian doesn’t use - he explains this power of enmity a Christian doesn’t reach for - the sword is merely a symbol. To get stuck discussing the sword as merely a “self defense” weapon is to miss the point. Part 2 is more pointed, but both parts are good.

    1. Nat, many Christians make the call to be pacifist. Because you say otherwise does not change this fact.

      If someone is raping your daughter, and you could stop it with physical force - even if killing the rapist was necessary - would you do it?

      Or would you wait until the rapist finished his deed, and then have your day in court?

      The questions are simple, I expect simple answers. No links, no videos. Just asking: what would you do.

    2. "...we are called to follow Christ, moment to moment in all we do,..."

      Years ago, I knew a man who was so desirous of following Christ, moment to moment, that he could not get dressed in the morning without praying to God for wisdom to know what color of socks he should put on for the day.

      Same argument, taken to the extreme. Common sense would tell you that you don't wear blue socks with a black or white outfit.

  3. It is a temptation to play the what if game, but I will bite:

    I desire to follow Christ moment to moment. This means to love ALL as Christ loved us (enemies included as they are people too) to the best of my ability. The Kingdom of God is within us - all people. Who am I to reach for the "power of the sword" to use against God?

    As I alluded to, the first way down the “wrong road” is to play the “what if” game and strategize as if “we” are in control. You don’t own your next breath. March on in Christ moment to moment. It will all be Revealed. Lord have Mercy.

    It is an illusion to think life follows man's mechanistic machinations.

    1. So if the Holy Spirit moves in you to pick up a sword to kill an evildoer in the act of murder, you would or wouldn't obey the Holy Spirit?

      You two replies have been overly mysterious and don't address the content.

    2. Nat, you don't know if you would prevent your daughter's rape by force if necessary? That you have the ability to do so, but would not do it? You aren't sure, it all depends?

      Does she know this about you?

    3. "The Kingdom of God is within us - all people."

      I dispute this. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual realm which is inhabited by those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and who live under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, constantly bringing themselves into submission to His Word and His Spirit. Evil people (those who do not) have no place in His kingdom, which can be seen as righteousness ruling over themselves and Creation according to the Will of God.

      If all people are part of the Kingdom, then the Bible is wrong. In fact, if ALL reside in the Kingdom or the Kingdom is within ALL, then Jesus Himself is a liar and not to be trusted.

      Matthew 7:21-23
      King James Version

      "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

  4. Where is the greater mercy? To put one's body in front of a machine gun, about to kill a dozen people, or to kill the machine gunner, maybe even getting killed in the process, and saving most if not all innocents.

    1. If you put your body in front of him, he will just kill you and then kill the other dozen.

      I know my answer; it isn't very difficult.

    2. If death of someone is inevitable shouldn't the evildoer die?

    3. My point is that the greater mercy can be the taking of an evil doer's life. Giving one's life often is just cowardice and has nothing to do with being a follower of Jesus.

  5. BM, I agree with you on this. Defending yourself and other by violence is supported throughout scripture. The OT must be included. It is inspired by God and makes up 2/3 of God-inspired writing. Jesus spoke as if the OT was truth Himself. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the reliability of OT and NT. Abraham himself fights multiple kings in order to rescue family members from unjust capture. That is an example of individuals fighting the closest thing to a state in his day.

    In Esther, the whole people of Israel within the Persian empire defend themselves from annihilation.

    The OT is clear in many places that a person who is in the position of rightness and justice has the right to kill those who are committing serious crimes.

    We don't see the same types of examples in the NT. I think that is because it so concentrated on the person of Jesus, speaking the gospel, and church operation. But as you point out, there isn't a prohibition to using force for protecting people.

    The only question is can people protect themselves against the state because of statements in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 5. I think they can based on my study.

  6. I reiterate: It is a misuse of scripture to pick and choose snippets to construct an argument to fit our will.

    Explore this great mystery (yes, mystery) for yourself in personal relationship (the face of God, the face of another person) - apophatically - maybe the Holy Spirit warns you NOT to go somewhere (and is it the “holy spirit” if it doesn’t follow Christ’s teachings or picks and chooses which ones to follow?) . . . but I have moved into the realm of man machination and away from how utterly simple it all is:

    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. . . . You shall love one another as I have loved you.

    Moment to moment human action, walking in relationship with Christ, the power of non-enmity, non-coercion, non-violence in relationship to others. Not practically calculating 20 steps ahead to willfully position myself where I think I should be - treating other people as mere objects - missing everything that could be revealed, life itself, “real” education. Turn, look and be amazed at the possibilities of life.

    Where are we spending our mind, time, and money? Most comments around this topic (here as well as elsewhere) are in the realm of the abstract “what if” game - as if we, man alone, are in control of time, space, and events. What a temptation to play god. We miss the basic relationship between (and amongst) real, actual people when we abstractly objectify people into collectives to fit our willful scenarios/predictions. The power of Christ does not objectify people (weather we believe them to be good or bad) for manipulation - it transcends with de-objectification.

    I comment on this blog assuming people reading it have a concept of Hayek’s “Pretense of Knowledge,” Mises’ “economic calculation” problem, or why the Austrians have a lack of desire to incorporate mathematics in general into their method. These concepts may be appropriate analogies to begin to understand and differentiate the way of Christ-like power from the way of man without relationship (or cleverly twisted) from Christ/God.

    Fundamentally, everyone with life believes/“knows” the natural relationship between people is in peace/under God. Even in ignorantly arguing for the necessity of a “third party” (weather it be the state, a gun, or a mercenary person, etc.) “to make/force things right” between people, reconciliation in relationship under God/in peace is ultimately desired. Maybe we should stick to our own relationships in peace and not get drawn/tempted into “third party” strategies (playing god) in response to boogeymen - real or imagined. Turning toward “third party” intervention didn’t work real well for the original two people in the garden and it hasn’t worked real well for the world ever since . . . The Kingdom of God is WITHIN us, seek the Unknown God as Paul describes in Acts 17. Lord have Mercy.

    1. Nat, my question is much simpler than this. Really it is.

    2. I am afraid of that - and that I've been verbosely kind.

      Peace through war is a contradiction. Killing in love/for love is a contradiction. No matter how badly we want it to be otherwise.

      Every person is loved by someone (always Christ). We don't get to choose what people deserve or don't deserve love - live or die - even when we objectively label some oppressed or defenseless and others oppressive or killers. We know how those objective categories get flip flopped depending on what side of a war one might be on - harder to see the more "personal" it gets.

      We all have to make our own moment to moment choices to follow Christ - or not. Let's just try to keep from calling when we don't follow Christ following Christ. We all have the opportunity for mercy, metanoia, no matter what we've done. The interview with McCarthy I mentioned in an above comment should help to clarify Christlike power from non-Christlike power for us to be more consistent.

    3. I will show mercy for my daughter or wife. I am told to love my neighbor - which made it higher on the list for Jesus than did loving my enemy.

    4. Oh, be careful - I don’t think you mean to go there, break free.

      “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

      It is evident that you care about your wife and daughter and that is admirable. But to pick and choose, relativize Christ’s teaching for your will/purposes is a yoke, a trap.

      The guy next to you will do the same thing and come up with a slightly different list to rationalize from, constructing his own illusory certainty. Then the battle of wills is on - worst of all “in the name of Christianity.” Welcome holy wars.

      (And what rationalization process of selected teachings of Christ suffices when it comes down to a choice between mercy for your wife OR daughter? - I slipped into the what if game - sorry - but a good example of why we don’t play this game as if we are in control - futile - not a good way to spend our time)

      I am not telling you not to defend your family - make the choices you want to make - go right ahead, but don’t confuse man’s way of legalism, a positive way of constructing ethics for merely temporary survival living in the world with the way of Christ. (as an aside, I am thankful for the Mises institute for doing probably the best job possible to get men “straight” on survival ethics in the world).

      I am not trying to be a jerk, or an elitist, but this is something very personal and no man on earth can give it to you or tell you what to do to get it. Has to be done within yourself in relationship to God. Metanoia.

      “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject
      again to a yoke of slavery.”

      “Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

    5. Nat, you keep complicating this, and all you are achieving is to confuse me.

      Early on you write: " We aren’t called to be pacifists - that’s a straw man, a political corruption."

      Pacifist: a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind.

      If we are not to be called to pacifism, then when are we called to war or violence of any kind? Or is the Bible silent on such matters (which can't be, as far as you are concerned, given your responses)?

      I keep asking you simple questions, and you keep responding in confusing answers.

    6. Nat,

      "do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

      It isn't slavery to fulfill your obligation as a husband or a father to protect, with or without a sword, those in your care.

      "You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

      I think Bionic made it pretty clear what God's point of view on defending the weak is (at least as far as we can discern given the best resource we have on the subject: the Bible). Or do those parts of sacred scripture not count?

      "Turning toward “third party” intervention didn’t work real well for the original two people in the garden and it hasn’t worked real well for the world ever since"

      Without 'third party' intervention, that is, without some recourse to defensive violence, Christendom would have perished, and we'd have all been subjects of Islam for 1000+ years. There'd have been no flowering of freedom in the West, only submission to Eastern style despotism.

      Perhaps Christianity would have survived this, but at what cost?

    7. ATL regarding the verses I cited in the Bible...I know the issue isn't completely black and white, but these verses must be dealt with just as much as those cited in favor of pacifism (and I am still waiting to hear on the fine line between pacifism and resisting - at some point - evil).

      But just as I recognize the issue isn't completely black and white, it would be nice if the critics would do the same.

      Hence, the reason I use the example I use: if we cannot find common ground here in this example, and justified through Scripture, then I am at a loss.

    8. “Nat, you keep complicating this, and all you are achieving is to confuse me.”

      Great - maybe we can start approaching this in a different way and drop the mechanistic way (labeling, objectifying people) that keeps us trapped in “what might happen” as if we ever have some kind of certainty. We don’t own/control our next breath. We are talking about people and people relationships. Not engineering a bridge. Turning from the visceral rationalization toward the intellectual, contemplative nous would be a start. Relationships are moment to moment, dynamic. Pre-empting the future in our own minds then living to make it happen is a form of enslavement. The point is to transcend the objective.

      “Early on you write: " We aren’t called to be pacifists - that’s a straw man, a political corruption.”"

      We are called to follow Christ moment to moment. Not pre-empt our future by binding ourselves to an objective label and defend the label above our calling. But we are humans and this happens all the time - a temptation. Once drawn into the objective defense game of “what would you do” labels become straw men and our calling is/may be eclipsed. For example, fundamentally all churches are non-resistant churches, but the temptation to move from a non-resistance standpoint to align with political peace activists (viscerally focused on an end-goal) has drawn many now self-labeled “peace” churches to align with the violent state (the state is not a person, it is a spiritual/religious power of the world we are to not engage with/resist not evil). Focused on “pacifism” as an end-goal, “the means” of the church may be corrupted (the entire way of Christ), and the message of Christ often takes a back seat. Once in this realm, “pacifist” as an objective label becomes a great straw man for other “sides” to resist and attack with their own clever ways of using scripture (or secular rationalization) to justify what they want to happen in the world. Battle of wills is on - everyone wants to play God. This is the world model: objectify others as if we have certainty (play God) and force them to do our will - we all have a tendency to play this game well. It is fear based, and many just don’t know another way. When we turn toward and engage in the survival ethics of the world, we turn away from God, Life.

    9. “Pacifist: a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind.”

      Fundamentally, to turn toward Christ, illuminate his way, life, we must give up on the protection of violence - maybe discerning the difference between non-resistance (apophatic) and pacifist (as an end-goal) helps? Two different ways. Will send along a Christian statement of non-resistance from pre-WWI that might help.

      "If we are not to be called to pacifism, then when are we called to war or violence of any kind? Or is the Bible silent on such matters (which can't be, as far as you are concerned, given your responses)?”

      We are called to Christ moment by moment. Period. Keep desiring and striving for happiness, the blessed life reunited to and in God (Truth) with others. Don’t get trapped with the false certainties or machinations of other men (or our own calculating minds). Men use time-preference to their advantage. We take the long view.

      “I keep asking you simple questions, and you keep responding in confusing answers."

      If this seems confusing go back and read the greatest commandment or the Early Church Fathers. If people are “adverse” to “Christianity” start investigating the mystical theology of the Platonists/Neoplatonists - particularly negative theology that the Early Church Fathers describe as Apophatic (they were well educated, especially in Plato, which is important to understand in what they convey in their writings and the NT). There is a reason the New Testament was written in Greek? Embrace the paradox.

      Transcending objectification of others (and God) is a personal practice (with Christ). To live without fear and stop controlling others (even in scenario) is very simple (yet may come with suffering): constantly, moment by moment seeking Truth, Revealed.

    10. "If someone is raping your daughter [wife], and you could stop it with physical force - even if killing the rapist was necessary - would you do it?" --Bionic Mosquito

      This is a simple question and all it requires is a simple answer. "Yes, I would", or, "No, I would not."

      I submit that these people are not going to answer the question, preferring instead to obfuscate the issue with long, evasive, rambling arguments instead. They do this because to answer the question directly would result in one of two things.

      1. If they said, "Yes", then this would come into conflict with what they profess to believe and contradiction would enter their theology, meaning something would have to change, or,

      2. If they said "No", then this would show their own wives and daughters how much they could rely on the man of the house to protect them in case of an intruder bent on rape and mayhem. Can you imagine what would happen if someone was honest enough to state that he would NOT forcefully intervene to stop the rape of his wife or daughter? Chances are that the next time she saw him, there would be hell to pay. My wife wouldn't wait until I got home, she'd be burning up the phone.

      A "Yes" answer would cause spiritual agony. It would mean that my theology was wrong and that I must change my beliefs. A "No" answer would cause marital agony and might mean the end of the relationship with my wife and daughter. It is easier to simply avoid the question, which they do, trying to cloak the indecision with high-sounding words.

      Here's another question. If these men are married, then presumably their wives follow the same doctrine. Does this mean that the wives understand that they MUST suffer a violent rape because their husbands will do nothing? Is she OK with that? Would she fight back on her own? Would she passively accept it as God's Will? Would she "love" her enemy even as he was raping her? Would she forgive him as soon as he was done? Would she spend the rest of her life in emotional and psychological turmoil because of the event, never able to fully recover?

      Greater love has no man than this, that a wife passively accept and allow a rape rather than insisting that he step in to protect her when she needs it most.

      Personally, I would not want a woman like that.

    11. Roger, you are right. Nat will not answer the question.

  7. It should be quite clear to everyone after 2,000 years that Jesus’ disciples were armed. We know this because we know Peter attempted to kill an officer of the Sanhedrin. How is this not known? Jesus wasn’t always with His disciples (nor the disciples’ disciples), so to deter violence against them Jesus allowed for their arming themselves.

    In Galilee when a Roman Centurion approaches Jesus with a request, Jesus does not scold the Roman officer for killing his fellow man. Instead, Jesus lays praise on the Roman soldier for his knowledge of who Jesus is. This, of course, begs the question: If Roman soldiers know who Jesus is, who else does who isn’t supposed to accept Jesus as the Messiah? The Jewish people asked this question too, and were very suspicious about the [understandable] hostility towards Jesus by the Jewish authorities in Judea and Galilee-Perea:

    "Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ?"

  8. Marcion, was quite mistaken. The Old Testament is quite useful.

    “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
    (Rom. 15:4 ESV)

    The central thing we find in the Old Testament is Jesus. But we also, looking at the geographically anchored Israel, see the type of the transcendent Israel. We can see that human governments, even given the best possible start, are destined to descend into corruption and decay and collapse. And that while this is inevitably the case, there remains a remnant, though not necessarily known to us, who decline to bow the knee to Baal.

    There are also fascinating studies of individuals, faithful and unfaithful, that show the active intervention of God in history, or his permitting the logic of history to run its course.

    At the same time, the Old Covenant, is not normative for those living under the New.

    “But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.”
    (2 Cor. 3:14)

    “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.

    In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
    (Heb. 8:6, 13 ESV)

    We see this also in the “it is written... but I say...” and “you have heard... but I say...” statements of the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. And it is this, the Sermon on the Mount, that is the constitution of the kingdom of God. Here he elevates the standard to new heights, replacing reciprocal violence, with receiving the violence, and praying for the perpetrators. Chesterton was correct when he wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, but it has been found difficult; and left untried.”

    Our battle is no longer against physical evil, but against the motive force that drives it. One lesson we learn from the Old Testament, is that evil cannot be overcome by physical action against. Those who lust after power and money are willing to do anything to get it. Decent people aren’t willing to do anything to oppose them. The Old Testament shows that path is a dead end. Evil will prevail in that system. The impulse to violence only leads to the escalation of violence.

    Thoreau told us, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Hacking at the branches of evil seems only the leave the on the ground to take root again and multiply.

    Jesus teaches us how to hack the root. Paul explains it this way, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
    (Eph. 6:12 ESV)

    Our war is now on a different plane.

    More on your New Testament points tomorrow.

    Grace and peace.

    1. "Our battle is no longer against physical evil, but against the motive force that drives it."

      Well, yes, but both Jesus Christ and Satan are in an all-out battle for the souls of man and both are using men to advance their causes. We are in a spiritual battle of good vs. evil which is manifested and played out in the physical world. The spiritual directs, the physical obeys.

      It is true that spiritual evil cannot be overcome by physical action against it, but physical evil is a different story. We should take action against physical evil to keep it under control so that it does not destroy us. If we don't, it will.

      Spiritual action CAN overcome evil, so too can a 12 gauge shotgun.

    2. You cannot employ satanic means to advance a godly cause. It is a performance violation.

    3. Mike, the question is simple: what would you do if you saw your wife or daughter being raped? Would you use violence against the perpetrator to stop it?

    4. BM, Of course, you will remember that I already answered that question on a previous post. I also qualified it by saying that what I would do is not the standard.

      “The answer to your second question is much more difficult. Which is why I pray each day for God’s protection. If someone was to threaten my wife, or children, or mother, I would act to defend them. I think two swords among no less than thirteen men, might mean that much. Even though in the only recorded attempt to use one of them it was condemned. But how could I know if it was God’s intent to rapture them out of suffering and test my faith, while leaving me to fulfill my own suffering? What if I was successful in preserving life, and yet, thereby condemned them to years of slavery and suffering here?”

      I extended the scope, first, because, I had already answered the question, and second, because mission creep is a perennial problem.

      A third would be that rape seems to me a rather remote possibility under ordinary circumstances. About 91% of reported rapes are committed by intimates or acquaintances. It seems to me, that in a society not already consumed with feminism and/or violence, the occurrence is quite rare.

      Of course, our society is presently suffering and epidemic of both. The consequences are the judgment of God to permit the logic of history to work itself out. That is not to say that God will not intervene to protect the faithful, or not, perhaps his intent is to “rapture” some of his faithful out before the real suffering sets in. Violence is not a solution to the problem of violence, for covenant people. It is the logic of history, though, for Babylonians.

      Grace and peace

    5. Mike, I apologize. I am losing track of some of the threads, these last couple of posts have generated significant discussion.

  9. Matthew 18: 14

    Jesus’ orientation is spiritual rather than physical.

    “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
    (Matt. 18:6 ESV)

    1 Timothy 5: 8

    Yes, I think this text is primarily oriented toward food, clothing and shelter. Concerning personal defense of family, the issue is at least plausibly defendable. But hard cases make bad law. Volunteering to kill people you don’t know for the State and the nefarious entities that control it is not.

    Romans 13:4

    “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
    (Luke 4:5–6 ESV)

    There are two kingdoms and only two. The fiefdoms of this world are given into the hand of the devil. It is his kingdom. The governing principle of this kingdom is that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must. The direction for Christians is to go along to get along until we can’t, and then suffer what may come. This kingdom is still under the authority of God. The devil says, “all THIS authority has been delivered to me”. God delivered it to him. God uses the wicked to punish the wicked. Jesus on the other hand says, “ALL authority has been given to me”. In the devil’s kingdom, God permits the logic of history to work itself out. The sword is wielded by the servants of the devil. There is no place for covenant people in sword wielding. That is God’s purpose for the ensiform kingdom, rather than the cruciform kingdom. The one engages in violence to achieve its ends. The other receives violence to achieve its ends. The one views people means to acquire stuff. The other views people and relationship as the end. This is what distinguishes them.

    BM: Jesus didn’t tell Peter to put the sword away because he shouldn’t use a sword.  Jesus didn’t say put it away because it was only to be used against wolves.  He told Peter to put it away because Jesus was sent to drink the cup.

    “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
    (Luke 6:40 ESV)

    “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
    (Luke 9:23 ESV)

    Jesus was speaking to a Peter who had no understanding of what was taking place. Even after his resurrection, his disciples still didn’t get it. Jesus had to go down to the sea and drag Peter off a fishing boat and ask him if he loved the fish more than Him. To a large extent, two thousand years later, we mostly still don’t. We have been told it would be this way. The lesson of the remnant is something else we learn from the Old Testament. At the same time it is not simply about “getting it right” in the sense of thinking the right thoughts or holding all the right doctrines. It is faithfulness. Jesus stands in the gap between who we are and who we ought to be. And there is always a gap. But we do have an obligation to strive.

    Another note: Paul gives witness to an appeal to the state for protection. But it is only while being held against his will by it. And when it is about to get him killed. Very Sun Tzuian, let your enemy fight your enemy.

    1. 1 Timothy 5: 8

      "Yes, I think this text is primarily oriented toward food, clothing and shelter. Concerning personal defense of family, the issue is at least plausibly defendable. But hard cases make bad law. Volunteering to kill people you don’t know for the State and the nefarious entities that control it is not."--Mike

      How you got from 1 Timothy 5:8 which enjoins a man to take care of his family to volunteering to kill people you don't know for the State is beyond my comprehension. Please quote where someone here has advocated for that. I must have missed it.

      Volunteering to kill people you don't know for the State could have been a slogan on a military recruitment poster. It fits there like a hand in a glove. It does not have anything to do with defending one's household against an evil intruder.

    2. Mike: "Volunteering to kill people you don’t know for the State and the nefarious entities that control it is not."

      I second Roger's comment: who brought this up?

      As to the disciples not getting it, I have written on this more than once. I have also written on the troubles caused by Christians of different stripes arguing over very nuanced issues - I am a fan of Lewis's views in Mere Christianity.

      But my question is simple, not nuanced: what would you do if you saw that your wife or daughter was being raped, and you had the means to stop this using violence? Would you?

      "But hard cases make bad law."

      I agree. There are also times that hard cases make good law.

    3. "There are two kingdoms and only two. The fiefdoms of this world are given into the hand of the devil. It is his kingdom. The governing principle of this kingdom is that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must. The direction for Christians is to go along to get along until we can’t, and then suffer what may come."-- Mike

      I do not agree that we are living in Satan's kingdom. It was wrested from him by Jesus Christ at His resurrection and ascension to the throne of Heaven--Revelation 11:15. But that is another matter entirely.

      Mike, you may be correct with the assertion that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must, but to say that Christians have to "go along to get along until they can't and then suffer for it" is ludicrous garbage. Absolutely not! That attitude is not worthy of a disciple of the Messiah.

      As Christians, followers and disciples of the Most High King of Creation, we are commanded to transform our world, in particular and in general, so that His Word reigns over everything. In the verse cited, Heaven rang with a triumphant declaration of total victory over the forces of evil. This was the definitive pronouncement, the details and the battles are being worked out in history and time through the lives of men and women on Earth, and there will come a moment when He returns to bring final victory. This is a biblical concept and there is no mealy mush-mouthed attitude about it. He is victorious and, by extension, so are we. Or we can be if we don't allow ourselves to be sidetracked by some erroneous teaching which only validates defeat.

      Please quote the Bible, chapter and verse, where it says we have to go along to get along and suffer for it when we can't go any further. I want to see where my theology is wrong.

    4. One more thing, Mike. Going along to get along is not advancing the Gospel, it is compromising the principle laid down in it. As such, that is evil in itself. Yes, let me say it again loud and clear.

      Going along to get along is an act of evil and is the primary reason why so many people are suffering today. As Christians, we need to stiffen our spines and refuse to do this any more.

    5. Matthew 5: 13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

      14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

      15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

      16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

      I am with you, Roger. We are called to act, not to watch.

    6. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
      (James 1:27 ESV)

      This is acting.

    7. One verse. I guess that settles it.

      I had perhaps 20 passages in this post. So far, none of the critics have addressed these.

    8. Roger, I didn’t stop at “going alone to get along”. You go along to get along, and you you die for what you believe. Attempting to transform some iteration of Babylon into the kingdom of heaven on earth, by Babylonian means, is not advocating the gospel. It is advocating for Babylon while hiding behind the mask of Christianity.

      “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.””
      (Rom. 2:24 ESV)

      BM: I think I have addressed each verse you posted. There is no advocation, justification, rationalization of violence by men in the kingdom of heaven. That is above our pay grade. All of that began to arise with the corruption and syncretism of the third and fourth centuries. The lust for power is strong.

      “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
      (Matt. 5:39 ESV)

      “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
      Rom. 12:19

      See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
      1 Th. 5:15

    9. What is all this about Babylon? That means nothing at all unless someone is clued in on the "Code", which you did not communicate. And it was brought into the discussion out of left field like your comment above about "volunteering to kill people you don't know for the State", which you have never explained even though you were asked to.

      Two things:

      1. There may be people reading this who don't know what you mean by "Babylon". Please explain this in plain English for their benefit. Don't worry about mine.

      2.Explain what you meant about volunteering to kill people you don't know for the State. If you don't want to do this, then retract the comment.

  10. Here is a thought and research question for you. I wonder how often, absolutely and relative to the general population Amish women are raped?

    1. I do not have an answer, nor really want to research it.

      I have used the violence of rape of a wife or daughter as a thought experiment, to offer what seems to me one of the most offensive acts imaginable against those we are most called to provide for.

      It seems to be a good dividing line to understand how people see this issue.

  11. This is probably the best homily I've ever heard.

    Well constructed, not needlessly eloquent, flowery, or long winded, to the point, quoting multiple places in scripture, from both the Old and New Testament, to weave an understanding of one of the most important questions concerning our lives on earth as Christians, capped with one heck of a clincher. Love it man. Seriously.

    There's no way God is asking me to sit back and watch my wife or daughter get abused by an intruder. That would be the most extreme example of cowardice I can imagine. And if He is asking this then I guess I'll be dining in hell after I die.

    So my justification of defensive violence is sort of a rational (NAP) and emotional (gut feeling), but the one you've just assembled is much more important and profound.

    God did ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, but He sent an angel to stop him before he did. Apart from this, in the entirety of the Bible, I cannot think of one instance where God asks someone to allow someone they love to die for love of the assailant.

    Well, apart from when God Himself in the man of Jesus is that someone.

    1. Thank you, ATL.

      I have been wondering: if it is not acceptable for the man to do so on her behalf, is it acceptable for the woman being raped to resist evil?

      I know it is a what if, but where is the line?

      I find it better to know beforehand how I might behave in such circumstances. There are principles involved, no matter which side of the line one eventually falls.

    2. ATL: “God did ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, but He sent an angel to stop him before he did. Apart from this, in the entirety of the Bible, I cannot think of one instance where God asks someone to allow someone they love to die for love of the assailant.”

      But God did do that himself. It is the central event of Christianity, and of history.

    3. Yes, Mike. ATL said that. And I pointed out the difference in my post.

  12. . . .“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” - Genesis 22:12

    God wanted to ensure Abraham put God above all else, he had to "dis-posses" his greatest love - in accordance with the greatest commandment - and when he dis-possessed Issac - a kenotic, emptying - the Angel intervened in recognition of Abraham’s metanoia, kenosis. He and Sarah had been getting a bit possessive/treating their son as THEIR object and not as a gift from God (Genesis 21:8+ trying to secure “the inheritance” by their own means). As Mike points out, this story foreshadows the central cosmic event of Christianity and history: when God actually follows through in the greatest sacrifice we are to exemplify, the kenosis of Christ on the cross. Thy Will (not ours) be done.

    This should conclude this entire discussion and answer your original question? Not really what anyone wants to hear . . . We love to hate the Truth.

    1. Well, it might conclude the discussion...if you quit, but you have still not answered the question.

    2. Yes, Nat. Let's conclude this discussion.

  13. That's fine and let's move on. To Roger (and others), I may not have answered "the question" because you can't - it's loaded as in "Did you stop beating your wife today?" I've attempted to point out the futility with the approach - any short answer will incriminate you.

    As with Abraham, it is up to us to live moment to moment interacting non-violently with other people (follow Christ). Let's not get ahead of ourselves and attempt to predict our own or other's behaviors.

    1. Nat, even when you say you are moving on, you are unable to move on.

  14. Wonderful post Bionic that got the juices flowing. This isn’t a “Catholic” blog, but I feel that the Church has been vetting this question for a long time. The below was shamelessly cut and pasted from another blog. It starts with citations to the Catholic Catechism, which relies heavily on quotes from Thomas Aquinas.

    2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. The one is intended, the other is not.”

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

    Bl. Pope John Paul II gave the issue a more extensive treatment in his encyclical, March 25, 1995, Evangelium Vitae ## 54-55:

    54. As explicitly formulated, the precept “You shall not kill” is strongly negative: it indicates the extreme limit which can never be exceeded. Implicitly, however, it encourages a positive attitude of absolute respect for life; it leads to the promotion of life and to progress along the way of a love which gives, receives and serves….

    As time passed, the Church’s Tradition has always consistently taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment “You shall not kill”. It is a known fact that in the first centuries, murder was put among the three most serious sins — along with apostasy and adultery — and required a particularly heavy and lengthy public penance before the repentant murderer could be granted forgiveness and readmission to the ecclesial community.

    55. This should not cause surprise: to kill a human being, in whom the image of God is present, is a particularly serious sin. Only God is the master of life! Yet from the beginning, faced with the many and often tragic cases which occur in the life of individuals and society, Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what God’s commandment prohibits and prescribes. There are in fact situations in which values proposed by God’s Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defence, in which the right to protect one’s own life and the duty not to harm someone else’s life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defence. The demanding commandment of love of neighbour, set forth in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the basis of comparison: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself ” (Mk 12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defence out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.

    Moreover, “legitimate defence can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State”. [The quotation is from # 2265 in the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.]