Sunday, February 28, 2010

Treasures from Tozer

The Old Cross and the New
by A.W. Tozer

ALL UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.

From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrill seeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.

That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval.

Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.

-A. W. Tozer from "Man, The Dwelling Place of God"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


“God created man in His image and man returned the favor” – Voltaire

“I like to think of Jesus with, like, big eagle's wings, singin' lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynrd with, like, an angel band, and I'm in the front row, and I'm hammered drunk.”
– Cal Naughton, Jr., "The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

A few years ago I sat down and read through the Gospel of Mark in a single sitting. It opened my eyes to narratives and themes that are only visible when taken all at once. One thing that jumped out at me while I was reading Mark this way was that the book has a climax which comes at the point where Jesus stands up in the boat and silences the storm by commanding the wind and waves to cease.

Up until this point, the disciples have been following Jesus as if he were simply a Jewish Rabbi, a teacher of the Law, and perhaps the Messiah who was to come and set their people free. But when Jesus stands up in the boat, with lightning crashing all around, thick black clouds pelting them with rain, and giant waves tossing the boat like a toy in a bathtub and commands the elements with his voice, all bets are off. In that moment, Jesus utterly destroys their version of the Messiah and sends everyone back to square one. The Gospel of Mark records it like this, “They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (4:41).

You can almost taste the sense of fear and uncertainty of those disciples. They had just moments before this been afraid of the power of a storm, and now they are even more terrified of this man in the boat with them. “Who is this person?” they ask. All of sudden, they are not so sure. They look to one another for answers and realize that none of them has any clue who this Jesus is, or what might happen next. This is a side of Jesus they have never seen before. He is not who they thought he was at all.

Sometimes I feel as if you and I need to have that sort of moment in our lives where Jesus can be who He really is and not necessarily who we have made Him out to be. Let me assure you, Jesus is not who you think He is. He is more glorious, more powerful, more confusing, more fascinating, and more radically inclusive than you or I can possibly imagine.

There’s a version of Jesus that we are comfortable with. He’s our friend. He’s our provider. He’s our encouragement. He is whatever we need at the moment. But, sometimes the Jesus we need isn’t the Jesus we should be following. Even worse, the Jesus we are comfortable with may not even actually be the real Jesus at all.

So, when we fashion a version of Jesus we are comfortable with, we run the risk of missing the real Jesus who upsets our status quo and makes us tremble in his presence asking, “Who is this?”

Maybe we’ve been confused by the language being thrown around in Christian circles about how we need to “know Jesus” in order to be saved. Jesus Himself said as much (John 17:3). But maybe knowing Jesus isn’t a past tense reality? Maybe knowing Jesus is an ongoing, daily journey of discovery. You meet him as a friend, you receive him as a savior, you embrace him as a brother, you marvel at him as a teacher, you lean on him as a provider and a good shepherd, and you are continually surprised to discover another new facet of his character with every passing day, because he is alive, and he is bigger than your expectation.

I don’t know about you, but if I am offered a choice between the Jesus I have made in my own image or the Jesus I have not fully understood yet, I would rather have the Jesus who is still bigger than my ability to understand, who defies my description, who challenges my preconceptions, and who takes my breath away. I would rather have the real Jesus, and I have to be willing to admit that the real Jesus may not fit into my convenient little box.

Let Jesus be who he really is. Jesus is not your UFC fighting champion. Jesus is not your flag-waving Republican (or Democrat). Jesus is not your blue-eyed all-American boy.

Don’t fabricate a version of Jesus who happens to share your political viewpoint, or who hates all the same people you hate, or who tolerates all the minor sins you happen to practice.

Our journey of faith is to find out who Jesus really is. Not to mold him into the version we are more comfortable with. We must take his words to heart. We must grapple with his teachings. We must take up our cross daily and follow Him - not our own agenda.

Jesus doesn’t want to be your co-pilot. He’s either the pilot, or you’re on the wrong plane.

On the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:27-29)


Friday, February 19, 2010

A Note from Frank Viola

Frank Viola sent me an email suggesting that I let everyone know that every single one of Mark Driscoll's points has already been addressed over at Frank Viola's own blog. (see below)

Hi Keith.

Perhaps you can add to your blog for your readers' interest and education that every argument in that critique has *already* been addressed on this page
HERE -- which is an exhaustive list of q and a plus several public debates re: the book.

also: house church is not a monolith. different house churches, missional churches, and organic churches (we support the latter in our book by the way) deal with "church discipline" in very different ways, just like institutional churches do. so this is really a strange argument that's made in the critique.


More to come...


Since I have no way of directly responding to pastor Mark Driscoll concerning his late review of Frank Viola and George Barna's PAGAN CHRISTIANITY, I wanted to respond to a few of his points here on my blog.

First of all, I must disclose that, although I love Mark as a brother in Christ, I am still struggling with his previous comments about our Lord. Specifically, where he has said that he "cannot follow a God I can beat up" and voiced his preference for an ass-kicking UFC-style champion Jesus. (Which only makes me think of Will Farrel's scene from the film "Taladega Nights"...but I digress).

Pushing this aside for now, I turn to Mark's recent review of PAGAN CHRISTIANITY. Most of his critique is based solely upon the response of New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, and while it's always good to rely on the wisdom of others in areas where we are weak, Driscoll makes the mistake of ignoring the very public trouncing of Witherington's arguments by Jon Zens over a year ago.

Anyone who would like to read Jon's rebuttal of Ben Witherington may do so

Honestly, if you will read the point-by-point response that Zens gives to each and every one of Witherington's arguments, you will pretty much have decisively answered every one of Driscoll's points (because they are one and the same).

I would also like to call out the section of Mark's review where he mentions me by name. By quoting from Belcher's DEEP CHURCH, Driscoll uses me as an example of why he has trouble with house churches. I'll quote from Driscoll's article here:

One glaring absence in this book is a lengthy discussion of how church discipline is done. How does an organic house church practice church discipline without any form of hierarchical leadership? Pastor and author Jim Belcher, in his book Deep Church, discusses this issue in the context of his relationship with a house-church leader, “My greatest concern about house churches like Keith Giles’s is that there is no formal structure for discipline. When I asked him how he would mediate a struggle between him and another member or leader…he really did not know. He would try, he said, to convince that person based on the strength of their relationship. But I have seen firsthand that this is not always enough. Sometimes a higher court, like an elder board or a denomination is needed.” This is indeed a major problem for house churches of the Viola and Barna mold as well. On the other hand, Belcher appeals to “The Great Tradition” and its “ordained office of elder/pastor” as being “charged with godly discipline.” This is not simply a tradition but appears to have biblical precedent as the nature of the pastoral elder’s governance extends to “refut[ing] those who contradict” sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), and “reprov[ing] with all authority” (Titus 2:15).

First of all, Driscoll omits the section from Belcher's book where the author agrees with my assertion that anyone in our house church family who will not repent based on their ongoing relationship with me, and the rest of the Body, will hardly respond to the voice of an authority figure they have no relationship with.

Allow me to share the entire quote with you for clarity:

"Keith would agree that they have no hierarchy, offices and fluid structures. But he would disagree that they have no accountability. When I asked about discipline, he said it is done through the relationships that are built in the house church. He mentioned a few times that he has had to confront wrong choices people have made.

'But what about when the leader is a lot younger and not as theologically trained? Would they be able to do the same? Or would they just let it go?' I asked.

'If they are not going to listen to me, when I love them,' he said, 'why would they listen to someone above me in a hierarchy?'

I would have to agree."

-Now, does that sound like what Driscoll reports in his article? Does it sound as if I have not thought of how to respond to church discipline, or make provision for it in my ecclesiology?

No. In fact, the actual quote from Belcher's book not only reveals that I have "had to confront wrong choices people have made" in our house church (church discipline) but that my assertion regarding the power of hierarchy to overcome sinful behavior is affirmed by Belcher, not contradicted.

In the actual interview between Belcher and myself for this book, the author went on to share several very specific instances where he personally confronted people in his church who were behaving sinfully and they did not respond. Nor did they waver when he brought in the denominational authority.

Granted, Belcher and I disagree on the importance of hiearchy, and Belcher does go on to say in his book that he doesn't feel comfortable without a hierachy in place, but Driscoll's pull quote is misleading and doesn't present the entire dialog in context.

Perhaps I will take the time to respond to a few more specific points of Driscoll's assessment of PAGAN CHRISTIANITY later, but I had to get this off my chest for the record.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I'm honored to be among those who are helping Jon Zens spread the word about his very important new book, "What's With Paul and Women?"

For years, centuries to be exact, women have been silenced in the Body of Christ due largely to a lack of understanding about passages like 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.

Whether or not you agree with Jon Zens, you're not fully equipped to discuss the issue until you take the time to read what he has to say about these two difficult passages of scripture.

I had an opportunity to read a bit of this book as Jon was putting it all together and I can honestly say:

“This is an important book. It provides new insight into a topic which has sadly divided the Church for much too long. I have been greatly enlightened by the work Jon has done in this book and I strongly recommend it to everyone who takes God’s Word seriously.”

What others are saying:
“Jon is one of the church’s best kept secrets today. This little book presents a colossal challenge to years of subjugating women in the name of Christ. It is a theological bulwark against those who would use the New Testament to teach a second-class citizenship in the kingdom of God.” - David Flowers

“This passionate, well-researched work is not only a fair treatment of the subject, but one that is biblically sound, drawing from the entirety of the Word of God. Intelligent, captivating, covering new ground — a must read!” ~Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D.
Palm Beach Atlantic University 
W. Palm Beach, FL

“In this engaging and careful study, Jon Zens provides a thoughtful and unique examination of the thorny passage in 1 Timothy 2 that deals with a woman’s ministry in the church. A hugely insightful read.” ~Frank Viola, author of From Eternity to Here, Reimagining Church, Pagan Christianity, and Finding Organic Church
Find out more and order this book today


Last night I spoke on the phone with his son, Richard. He was very nice on the phone although he did admit that there was some "major drama" between Robert and the rest of the family that is still hanging in the air. Because of this, Richard was not willing to give out his Mom's phone number, or the contact info for his 2 sisters - although he confessed he wasn't even sure where one of his sister's was now.

Richard shared with me that he felt like he had made peace with Robert over whatever it was that took place. He said he sometimes wondered about his Dad, and he did ask me a few questions about how Robert was doing. I only shared with him that Robert was in a wheelchair and that his arm was in a sling. Beyond that I didn't feel like it was time to share any more than this - at least not until the two of them have a chance to talk one-on-one.

Richard said he was ok with me sharing his phone number with Robert. He said he might try to come and see his Dad sometime, too. Although, I did not tell Richard that Robert was in an assisted living facility.

Tonight I plan to drop by and inform Robert that I’ve found his son and offer him the chance to talk to Richard again over the phone.

Please pray that God will use this to bring healing to Robert's family. My concern is that this might only bring up more painful and negative feelings for Robert. Obviously, there is a long way to go for God to bring reconciliation to this family. But, I've seen God work in situations like this in the past and I'll be praying that He can soften hearts and restore relationships in Robert's family.

Of course, a big step for Robert is still his own faith in Christ. He and I are having lunch together on Friday. Pray that he and I might have an opportunity to talk about the Lord and for me to have wisdom as I ask Robert some important questions about his faith.

God is doing a great work in Robert's heart these days. Yesterday when I went to visit him he asked me to tape up his birthday cards on the edge of his tray so that everyone could see them.

His Hospice care nurse, Mona, shared with me last week that when Robert told her about the birthday party he started to cry. She wanted me to know that Robert was very blessed by this simple gesture of affection. So, THANK YOU to everyone who participated in that.

The night of the birthday party, as we were leaving his room, Robert took my hand and with tears in his eyes he said to me, "No one has ever done anything like this for me before." It's astounding to me that someone could live for 78 years without experiencing such a simple act of love, but this seems to be Robert's story.

Robert's favorite song, on one of only 2 CD’s he owns, is Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is". As I spend time listening to him talk about his life, I can understand why this is his favorite song. He really doesn't know what love is and he really does want someone to show him. I'm praying that one day, very soon, he will know who love is and embrace Jesus with all of his heart.

Thanks for keeping Robert in your prayers. I’ll provide updates as they come.


Friday, February 12, 2010


Over on my Facebook page I posted this simple statment: War Is Not Christian.

What followed was a very long and fascinating dialog debating the topic, and several peripheral concepts related to the ideas of non-violence and following Christ.

Here is the text of that exchange between myself, Paul Martin, Lionel Woods, Sam Sim, John Lamoreau, Randy Gallagher, Robert Manigold, Martin G., David Flowers, Derrick Pedranti, Lito and Ruth Bujanda-Moore and several others.

War Is Not Christian.

Robert Manigold But, it gets you out of the house....

Samuel Sim ...but what if the Pope says I have to go kill infidels?

Kathy Johnston Lindquist Praying for our soldiers is.

Lionel Woods Kathy, praying for Iraqi soldiers and terrorist is also :o) hopefully we are not just praying for "our soldiers".

Kathy Johnston Lindquist Please pray for mine.

Lionel Woods I was in six years Army as a Tank Gunner I was in the middle east so I understand, though it was not as bad when I was there about 13 years ago

David D. Flowers I am reminded of Mel Gibson's character prayer in the movie WE WERE SOLDIERS: "Lord, ignore their heathen prayers and help us blow those bastards to hell."

Wendy Engebrecht Giles Kathy we will pray for yours.

Kathy Johnston Lindquist Lionel, my husband is a retired tanker. He also served during Desert Storm. My son is in the Army now.

Lionel Woods I will definitely be praying. My heart aches and I know everyone involved wants to see this thing be over. I am grateful for both your son and husband and like Mrs. Giles said I will be praying. Whats his name?

Kathy Johnston Lindquist Noah, thank you.

Keith Giles Yes, we will. And we'll also pray for everyone caught in the violence of war.

Paul Martin War is not "not Christian"-it is sometimes necessary, a form of social justice (i.e., the righting of wrongs).

Ruth Bujanda-Moore @ Paul M: The righting of wrongs is not done so by MORE wrong doings...and, as Keith poined out, we will pray for eveyone caught in the violence of all current wars going on: soldiers (ours and theirs), civilians, etc.

Anthony Mathenia War is a necessary business of the World - thankfully our Lord says we are no part of it. Praise God!

Keith Giles Whether or not War may be necessary, it is not necessary for a follower of Jesus to engage in War. In fact, it is never "necessary" for a Christian to engage in War.

Paul Martin Yes, we should pray for ours and theirs. But "our Lord" never said to his followers "though shall not go to war." In fact, he told his followers to pay that Rome could continue its wars!

And thank our Lord that, for example, men and women fought (war) to end the murderous injustices of Hitler.

Keith Giles "Love your enemies", "Turn the other cheek", "Pray for those who mistreat you", "Do good to those who seek to harm you", "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword", "Do not return evil for evil for overcome evil with good."

Does any of this ring a bell?

Keith Giles Wars will be fought. No argument. But Christians need not fight them.

Paul Martin Thank God millions of Christians have disagreed with the pacifist stance you take!--it has saved the lives of millions of innocent women and children.

Anthony Mathenia It doesn't take long before Hitler gets raised from the dead, dusted off and trotted out in support of military action by Christians. Since he is already out I'll give you something to think about, Adolph Hitler's "murderous injustices" were carried out with the support of "Christian" churches. If the Christians living in germany had been obedient to Jesus' word then the course of World War II would have been entirely different.

Keith Giles War saves lives. Not sure why I never realized that before. Wow.

Paul Martin Guys: google Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech on war.

Anthony, respectfully, "churches" don't support anything. I think what you mean is that certain people who called themselves by that name supported Hitler. To that claim, (1) you will find, should you wish to study this, that so much of Germany didn't learn of these atrocities until after the war. And (2) any German who was both aware and supportive of Hitler's injustices, I think it's fair to say, could not have been a follower of Jesus.

I think it's important to understand the very lucid distinction (yes, Biblical and linguistic) between murder and killing. And yet, Keith, while the Romans were even murdering, Jesus says nothing to them about it--but he tells his followers to give them more money for war. I'm with you about murder, but this issue cannot be a simplistic as turing a blind eye to those kinds of atrocities found in concentration camps. That was, by definition, social justice.

Charles Pike paul, can you please explain this: " In fact, he told his followers to pay that Rome could continue its wars!" ? i am curious to know what you are talking about, where the source information is, and how you come up with this conclusion? thank you.

Andy Yoon Surprised no one has yet mentioned the biblical accounts of God's role with Israel as it warred against other nations.

Paul Martin Sure, Charles. Matthew 22. Another plot to have Jesus deemed heretic by Jews or worthy of immediate death by Romans. Who will he side with? The Pharisees or Herodians (Rome)? They hand him a coin--one with Tiberius' face, a Roman coin that the Palestinian Jews had to use for poll taxes. What Jesus does not say: "they are holding Jews hostage," "Rome will wage war with this and kill the innocent (eventually me!)," "don't give him these coins..they are evil/pagan/for ill purposes."

He was in a perfect position for a sermon on war, secularism, the evils of this godless government, the perils of paganism, the effect of using these coins (how they will be used for evil), or even the need for pacifism.

He says, "give Caesar what's his" (he is referring directly to the coin), appeasing the Herodians, "and to God what is God's," appeasing the Jews....

You see Paul do the same later when he calls for submission to governing authorities (even if you happen to be their slave!).

Paul Martin So, Andy, it seems as if God was not always against war. Though I agree with Obama's speech, which is an eloquent packaging of Just War Theory.

Keith Giles If you go to the OT then you can justify war. But I said that War wasn't Christian which is NT.

Jesus was not concerned w/ politics so his answer about the coin was meant to put emphasis back on the Kingdom of God. "Give to God what is God's" was his point. Not to submit his opinion of Rome.

I just can't reconcile Jesus' commands to love our enemies, turn the other cheek and do good to those who harm you with the concept of participating in - or supporting - a war.

Your mileage may vary.

Paul Martin We agree to disagree, again. Dang. You had to have rooted for the Saints though? Please say yes! :)

Keith Giles Of course I rooted for the Saints! I'm not THAT crazy.

Paul Martin K. If we are to follow him, should we not engage in politics either? Jim Wallis is listening.

Paul Martin After I sent that I remembered you lived in Indiana. Is that right? So I was scared for a moment!

Andy Yoon i would posit that if (1) 'turning the other cheek' still allows for certain acts of self-defense (ex: protecting one's family); and if (2) some wars are fought as an act of self-defense for a nation; then (3) 'turning the other cheek' would allow for these types of wars.

Martin Gugino Holy cow. What a discussion

1. re Obama's Noble speech that you asked us to google: he said "We have never fought a democracy"
Of course we have, Germany among them.
2. you mention the command to pay taxes as a proof text for the support of war, but why dont you quote 'go the extra mile' as approving military logistical support? That seems like a more specific verse to me.
3 re Just War:
4. If you can conduct a war while full of love for the enemy, then I suppose it would be morally ok.

A question might be why God was so bloodthirsty and warlike in the OT, and such a pansy in the NT. But I assume that the reason is that the Jews were numbskulls and

He wanted to be practical rather than go fanatic on them. After all, he only gave them 10 rules, and they couldn't manage to keep those, and one of them was: try not to kill too many innocent people if you can. Very sketchy guidance if you ask me.

Even Jesus later said - you dont get it when I talk of earthly things - so how can you expect me to talk to you of heavenly things? meaning he was leaving some things out.

Paul: You are suggesting that the Pope is not Catholic?

Paul Martin Martin: To point #1, I don't believe that you believe Hitler's Germany was a democracy. You've studied the burning-down of the Reichstag building and Hitler's Enabling Law, right. The US declared war on, by definition, a Dictatorship. To point #2, I don't understand what you mean. To point #3, I don't understand what you mean. To point #4, I might have loved Hitler as an Allied Christian soldier; I might have prayed for him, too. Same with Bin Laden (I do pray for him). My love form them has nothing to do with my duty to save the lives of innocent men, women and children.

Martin Gugino The Christians in America did " turn[] a blind eye to those kinds of atrocities found in concentration camps."
Unless I am mistaken.

Paul Martin The pope is not a catholic? Huh? And, the Americans were the ones to let them out of the camps (am I missing something here?).

Martin Gugino Are you agreeing with Obama that the US has never fought a democracy, and if so, what is the conclusion that you draw from that statement? That's the real question. But also -
History shows that Germany held elections. Are you saying that you believe that those elections were not as fair as the recent elections in Afghanistan?

Martin Gugino
re #2: maybe someone else can explain point 2 - it seems as clear as i can mke it to me.

re#3: Just War is the title for the theory of the good war.
But war entails atrocity, and atrocity is just war - a play on words. It means that all war is sick, and modern war more so.

re#4: if you shoot the enemy out of indifference or hate, then it's wrong. Raghead and gook and chink and other such terms, used in military training, indicate that even if you think that some wars may be dandy, we are not waging those kinds of wars.

Paul Martin Iraq was a democracy as well under Hussein, I suppose? Because the people voted? OK, then. Have it your way. The US fought Democratic Germany. Same end. We saved the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children. Like my grandparents who lived in Italy and had to live in the mountains with my (then newborn mother) because the Nazis would come into the villages and rape, pillage and murder. Thank God that Christians--even if they acted against Jesus' teachings, which I don't believe they did--came to rescue lives.

Paul Martin I see your point, Martin. I'm not a hawk. Was very outspoken against Iraq (as was the Pope). But I just don't see how we can sit back when we know there are plans being devised to, quite literally, murder innocent lives. The US has by no means be perfect. Gotta go. War...I mean peace out. (:

Martin Gugino Regarding Germany, it IS true that by the time the US got involved, Germany was well at war, and they had raised their threat level to White, and certain emergency measures were being taken to secure the Homeland, but I don't think that that meant that Hitler was unpopular with the people, or would have lost another plebiscite, had the security situation have allowed one.

Timothy L. Price That's why I have a t-shirt that askes: Who Would Jesus Kill for America's foreign policy... Its a poignant thought seriously, no credit to me whatsoever.

Peace :)

Marlys Samler Does anyone understand how the same God (Jesus) who tells us to turn the other cheek, told the Jews to fight a lot of bloody wars in the Old Testament? I don't really get it. The Old Testament is very hard to comprehend sometimes.

Paul Bujanda-Moore wow... what a small venue for such a heavy topic of faith, society, and history. My worldly interests find me grateful for a standing military and law enforcement, prepared to destroy lives in the name of society's expectations. It's the threat of force that sometimes compel many to rethink their intents. But, I readily agree with Keith's initial statement. History is full of examples of devout believers committing acts in direct contrast to how others view their faith ("killing in the name of....") Turns out, very few people really want to kill... but, even fewer still want to die or see harm come to their loved ones.

Keith Giles Marlys: Jesus himself pointed out this difference, so it's not something we should be afraid to talk about.

Jesus said, "You've heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth', but I say to you, do not resist and evil man, and whoever shall shall strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Mtt 5:38-39

So, Jesus came to announce a Kingdom and to proclaim a New Covenant. The New is not like the Old. So, we shouldn't be surprised at the differences. In fact, what frustrates me is how we seem to confuse the OT and the NT when it comes to Christianity and the Gospel of the Kingdom and what Jesus was coming to proclaim.

We suffer from "Old Testament Christianity" (as I sometimes call it). What we need is true New Testament Christianity that fully embraces and understands the Kingdom that Jesus came to announce.

Paul Martin Keith. It's both. Not either, or. Right?

Keith Giles Paul: If I'm understanding your question correctly (please let me know if not), I'd say that the OT and NT are not concurrent. I'd say that the OT is fulfulled in Christ and now we are under a New Covenant. Behold the old is gone and the new has come.

Paul Martin I guess I'm in the historical/traditional camp here, where we see Jesus' model of using the OT. He quoted it quite often. Not under the law of course, but as part of sacred scripture and the fabric of our story, God's nature, etc.

Keith Giles The OT is not irrelevant at all. But it's the shadow which pointed to Christ and so understanding it is important to connecting all the dots in the New Covenant. I think the challenging part is understanding what has been fulfilled and what hasn't.

So, the 10 commandments are still valid as God's Law, but we're under Grace (as an example).

I think that it's the areas where Jesus says things that challenge us that are most important. Like this one, actually. We're more comfortable with "an eye for an eye" and we have all our reasons and justifications (IMHO), but then have to reconcile this with Jesus words which challenge that: "Love your enemies".

I'd suggest that the remedy is more to adopt Jesus' viewpoint than it is to justify the opposing argument simply beause we're more comfortable with it.

John Lamoreau This is not a matter of war or peace. If you are a Christian it is a matter of following Christ. If Christ taught His followers war then go. But if he taught His followers love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile... then if you are a Christian... you should stop making excuses for not following these instructions and start giving your whole heart and life to Christ.

Jesus died on the cross for His enemies. He asks us to be willing to the same.
Yesterday at 8:57pm · John Lamoreau The Christians closest to the time of Christ renounced Christiian participation in violence and war. From the first 300 years of Christianity there is no writing from any of the early church leaders who supported Christians being engaged in any form of violence. None. It was the fallen church that argued the church could be violent.

John Lamoreau “We, who were formerly slayers of one another, not only do not make war upon our enemies, but, for the sake of neither lying nor deceiving those who examine us, gladly die confessing Christ.” - Justin Martyr, 100 - 165 A.D.

“You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers.” Origen of Alexandria, 185-254 A.D.

"And so, in this commandment of God, no exception at all ought to be made to the rule that it is always wrong to kill a man, whom God has wished to be regarded as a sacrosanct creature…Thou shalt not kill… It is always unlawful to put a man to death.” - Lactantius of Bithynia, aprox 240-317 A.D.

Martin Gugino My response "Is the pope Catholic"? was to your statement that "Any German who was both aware and supportive of Hitler's injustices, I think it's fair to say, could not have been a follower of Jesus."
Since Cardinal Ratzinger was a German and was both aware of and supportive of Hitler, it follows that you think that the pope is not Catholic. I say that Ratzinger was supportive of the Nazis in that more Nazis than Jews were smuggled out of Italy.

This may be a bit of a stretch, but it is close enough to be worth stating. The many Christians who supported Hitler are like the many Christians that you thank God for that are waging the war on terror - mistaken.

Martin Gugino Paul - you dodged the question - why does Obama repeat the false statement that we have never fought against a democracy? Ans: the implication is that if the leaders of the other countries would just pay attention to the will of their people, as we do here in America (flag waves in breeze), then we would have no need to go kill those people.

This veiled assertion is absurd of course. We kill people not because the ruler is a dictator, but because our Way Of Life is not negotiable, and we need what they have.
[We have obviously undermined many democracies and assisted others who fought against them - as noted in the list referenced - to which we can probably now add Bolivia].

Martin Gugino re:"I'm was very outspoken against Iraq. But I just don't see how we can sit back when we know there are plans being devised to murder innocent lives. "

Kind of an odd argument. That cant be in relation to Iraq. Do you mean that there are Iraqis planning to murder American soldiers, do you?

The invasion of Iraq was not a "mistake", it was a war crime, and Bush & co will be tried and convicted for it.

Martin Gugino Keith re: "Jesus himself pointed out this difference"
I am holding out for a reconciliation of the OT and the NT, so I would like to comment on the difference, which I am sure you know.

An eye for an eye was intended as a limit (No more than: an eye for an eye) I believe. So that Christ's instruction was to through light on what God's heart was, not the practical political this-world matter of restraining excesses. The OT kingdom WAS of this world, not that God intended that, but was dragged into it as He is with so many of our hair brained ideas. (maybe)

Martin Gugino By the way, in Iraq, we have passed 'an eye for an eye' quite a long time ago. Actually, we lost no eyes at all, and our corrupt embargo, itself an act of war, killed hundreds of thousands of innocents. The formulation of "plans devised to kill innocent lives" could be pointed towards the US all too easily.

Charles Pike paul, thank you for sighting a quote from scripture as your source. this makes it easier to see where you are coming from. i can see how you would make those assumptions about matthew 22. "..give to caesar what is caesar's, and give to God what is God's...".

you seem to interpret this as a command or suggestion for us to pay both. perhaps Christ's wish is for us is to weigh what belongs to each. so, for sake of argument we ask our selves, "well, what belongs to caesar?" and we list off things. servants, wives, land, countries, the civilized world. etc. a lot of stuff. the we ask, "what is God's?" and the answer is to long to list, because we realize that everything belongs to God, including caesar and all of his stuff. it all belongs to God. the pharisees were trying to trap Christ. trying to get him to speak out against rome, or against the temple. instead he does something really jiggy and invites them to think for themselves.

It all belongs to God, and there is more "all" than we can even imagine. i am curious, do you have any other examples of Christ endorsing war, taxes, revolution, or rome's political structure?

Martin Gugino @John Lamoreau: right on.

Martin Gugino hermenuitics: the pay tax command implies that war is ok.

My altenative proof text was that Jesus advised people to carry a soldiers burden for two miles rather than one, and that this could be interpreted to mean that he supported the Romans and their wars in so far as they had logistical requirements.

He approved ad hoc "CO" service in the Army. This seems a slightly more direct text that the one you chose (taxes) as a support for His backing of war, but of course, I am intending to ridicule the argument - probably not a nice thing to do.

Charles Pike thank you martin. i was reiterating paul martin's quote of matthew 22. a roman soldier, as occupier, by law could force a subject to carry his burden for only one mile. more than that would be an abuse the soldier could be disciplined for. Jesus has offered a hilarious way to subvert the occupying power. it would make it more worth while to carry one's own load and not risk recrimination.

Martin Gugino yes Charles - we were both struggling with the idea that Mathew 22 on taxes could be interpreted as an acceptance of war. Your understanding of Jesus's reason for 'an extra mile' are amusing, but I don't believe that the advice was offered as a tricky way to subvert the Roman practice. Rather I think it was a suggestion first to accept reality unpleasant as it may seem at times, and then second to be generous even while in that unpleasant reality in recognition of the abundant grace of God if nothing else, and lastly being friendly with grumpy people who are heavily armed is generally a sound idea.

Martin Gugino Regarding Hitler and World War II
Howard Zinn examines our Holy Wars

Timothy L. Price I think its needful to differentiate "our" wars as in the secular belonging to the nation states that have to do such to stay in existence and "your wars" putting us outside such belonging into the kingdom of God, which does not have to fight to stay in existence. Our kingdom exists through war, tyranny, "freedom" plenty and famine: coexisting with the reality of the world that the unregenerate have recreated it in their image. Our kingdom is a testimony that contrast theirs, their foolishness and inability to better than "mankind" (thats people in general for all you gender neutral folks) has been in the past. Man cannot "improve" himself in the ultimate sense and war is mere proof. In all the so-called improvements in mankind of the last three centuries, in the last more wars were fought and people killed in such than in the prior 17 centuries COMBINED. That kind of "improvement" I want nothing to do with. This is why all the peace efforts are bullocks of the highest order. Man is not capable. Peace is one of the chief marks of the Kingdom of God. We are peace because we are subjects of the King of peace.

Paul Martin The weirdness factor is only rising here. Martin: study your facts about what the Nazi Youth was. I am ignoring the folly about democracies, etc. The US does not and never has been an aggressor in the spirit of the Axis powers, Russia under Stalin, Amin, Pot, etc. Look into the eyes of those rescued by our courageous in France, Italy, Germany. Speak with English men and women who can recall years of the terror of bombs being dropped into their neighborhoods. Look these people in the eye and peddle this flimsy and trendy pacifism which is being utilized while you enjoy the luxury of freedom at the expense of Christians who had the courage to love their enemies by standing-up to their murderous schemes. I would kill to defend my children, my wife, and for that matter you. We are called to care for the helpless, those being targeted for murder. Jesus never said a word about war, he said many things about murder. And if you want to get fancy with passages about going the extra mile, then I'll misuse passages about Jesus saying he would bring the sword, not peace.

Paul Martin Charles: to your question. Do I have examples of Jesus making endorsements of war, taxes, Rome, etc.?

Here's my logic:

1. Some Christians have firm and ardent convictions about war--namely, that war, in any and all cases, is wrong, and especially wrong for Christians....

2. These Christians cite Jesus as their example and teacher on issues of morality and ethics (war). They are FOLLOWERS of Christ's teachings.

3. During Jesus' life, Rome was an aggressive, pagan, warring, superpower that, at the time, held "God's chosen people" captive.

4. What did Jesus say about Rome in general, and about war specifically?

5. At this point, it seems to me at least, that a proponent of pacifism would have clear, direct and lucid material from Jesus. Instead (as Keith states earlier) he appears to have not shared your passion about the evils of superpowers, military might, Rome's murderous history around the world. Nothing. Not a word. Zilch. Instead, he talks about caring for the lost, least and oppressed. He says so much about social justice--the righting of wrongs.

6. So, to you Charles, why is he so silent about Rome's pagan, murderous and warring regime? Charles, why is he so silent on the issue for which you are all so passionate?

David D. Flowers Paul, you confuse "pacifism" with Jesus' actions. And it's Jesus' living that Keith is promoting (1 Jn. 2:6). Pacifism is non-violent "political" revolt. It uses non-violence with an intent to change the political landscape. It still has in mind the same thing as a person who trusts in the sword to suppress evil. But we are called to overcome evil with the good of Jesus. And that always looks like the cross.

Pacifism doesn't require a person to love their enemies, only trust in non-violence as a method. If it's just a method... I agree... it's a bit "flimsy." Folks like Ghandi can actually hate their enemies and not harm them. But Jesus did something much different. His actions were born solely out of God's love in a wonderful display of the Kingdom of God. And he intended us to follow. Christ and his followers do effect worldly kingdoms by their living, but it is always indirectly, not by directly involving ourselves in their civil affairs. Our citizenship is in "heaven."

Take a long hard look at the New Testament and church history. Ask yourself, "Did Jesus really mean for me to love my enemies as he loved them? Does Jesus truly show us how to live? Why is it that Christians first started killing in the 4th century?" If we are honest... I believe... the answer to these questions will totally change the way we view the world and our radical call to discipleship. His Kingdom is "not of this world" but it is coming to this earth.

Paul Martin Thank you, David. The problem with my position is that I immediately become a non-loving, neo-con, hawk to those taking the true "Jesus/kingdom position." Undergrad and graduate degrees are both in philosophy, and ethics was a big part that. The definition of love varies from believer to believer to believer; the issue if ethics ("what should be done?") from philosopher to philosopher. The argument from the first centuries is irrelevant. So what? Believers have changed their minds on war and on the practice if making the Sign of the Cross. We disagree. But what should we do to today to protect women and children from being murdered en masse? Talk? Have a conversation? Sing All You Need Is Love? Think social justice here. Not how do we do good to the murderers; how do we do good to the murderees?

David D. Flowers Paul, "love" is not defined by Christians, but by Christ. And his love always looks like the cross. It changes the hearts of men... it does not use force to reform their actions. (Matt. 5:38-48; Rom. 12 & 13:8; 1 Cor. 13)

Romans 12-13 contrasts believers with the kingdoms of the world. We are agents of Christ's "love" and are called to overcome evil with that love. The state is ordained to be "agents of wrath" to execute force and suppress the evildoer. What kingdom do we trust?

Regardless, of how Christians have defined "love" through the centuries... it remains the same in Jesus. Look to the Gospels... every time you turn there... you will find Jesus commanding Peter to put away his sword. And it was Peter that said we should mimic Christ's example of love in patient suffering. I have found that there have always been those who have taken Jesus at his word. They were the ones being persecuted by the state and the imperial Church who discarded those first-century believers as primitive.

Jesus' love always looks like His example. If we move away from that... it's all relative and we've lost Christianity. There can be no Christianity without Christ.

Paul Martin Oh no, David! I shudder. I just realized that I am not taking "Jesus at his word." I guess I'm not a real follower. Thank you also for pointing out that love is defined by Christ. I will now turn my attention to the gospels instead of of diaries of Charles Manson.

Has it dawned on you that good people might disagree about Christ's definition of love? Or do you possess some supernatural interpretive powers that those for whom you disagree lack?

I think Jesus calls us to be inclusive of others' views, without judging them as having "Christianity without Christ." That's old fashioned fundamentalism.

Martin Gugino Paul - we clearly disagree.
-Re: the US has never been that bad an aggressor: The war against Iraq was a war of aggression. Did you forget? Together with the "run-up" to the war, sanctions, killed maybe a million people? And at the other end of our glorious history, we see the US killing off the Indians. Manifest Destiny was realized by the gun. The USA has pursued its national interests even when it could not achieve those interests peacefully, viz The Panama Canal; the actions of the Dulles boys supporting the United Fruit Company.

- I am sure you would retract your comment that freedom is a luxury. Not sure what you mean by the folly of democracy - you probably mean that you think that my argument related to democracies is foolish, but of course, I don't think so; I think it betrays a deep national self-deception, as I pointed out.

- I don't take seriously the idea that Jesus forbids killing but allows war.

- You ask - what should we do about evil and evil doers? Like the Nazis. And your solution is to say that luckily many Christian soldiers killed them lovingly? Not historical, obviously. Or possibly you say that that is the ideal, what Christ would want, which we approximated more or less. Well, less.

-You say Jesus never said a word about war? I thought you were arguing that by supporting taxes he was approving war. Glad to see that you have stepped away from that thought. And, Jesus did mention "war" twice in the gospels.

- yes He did say "I came not to send peace, but a sword."
meaning I assume something like "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Keith Giles Paul: I don't know David very well (we're just "online friends") but I don't think he's intentionally trying to insult you here. I think (maybe I'm wrong?) that he's pointing out his own difficulty with your position when you appeal to other philosophers or modern examples to justify your postion.

Ok, maybe I'm projecting here. I guess I have a problem with that, too.

For me, (and I know for you as well, Paul), I'm trying to follow Jesus here, and it makes me nervous to interpret the words of Jesus through Catholic saints or political figures or even my own inner voice. ...

I am constantly being challenged by the words of Jesus. "If you look at a woman lustfully you have committed adultry in your heart". Now, I can go to all sorts of other sources and smooth that statement out until I'm comfortable with it...or I can grapple with those actual words on a daily basis and draw wisdom from Christ and try to reconcile His words with my life.

So, we wouldn't recommend that a brother in Christ treat the words of Jesus in this way when it comes to lust or greed or anger, etc...and it makes me nervous when we appear to waffle on His words about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek, etc.

We know that the Kingdom is upside down to the World system. We should expect that His words would challenge and come into conflict with what we know to be common. "That's just the way things are" and "The real world doesnt' work that way" are not acceptable responses to the sermon on the mount.

David D. Flowers Paul, please do not resort to sarcasm. I'm really not trying to be rude. It is Jesus' word when we call others to live by "love your enemies." It's not my word... it's His. And living by it... is "taking Jesus at His word."

I know good people disagree, brother. I didn't always believe this way. It seemed quite foolish to me at first. But there was simply no way I could reconcile the American view of Jesus with the Christ of the Gospels. If there is no authority in the words of Jesus, then I guess there's nothing to talk about.

Jesus "includes" people into himself. And he "excludes" those not coming into the Kingdom of God by the way in which he has laid before us....

Love you, bro.

Martin Gugino I want to express my thanks to all who are contributing.

David D. Flowers Thank you, Martin. :-)

Paul Martin Oh but Martin. I never defended war with Iraq. In fact, I vote for John Kerry because Bush's war was totally unjustified and evil. That was not a just war. Nor was the murdering of the Indians. You see, I am support of just wars. Those that save the lives of millions of innocent people who are under direct threat. Those I support precisely because of the call of Jesus for social justice--to defend the cause of the weak and defenseless.

Don't categorize me as one ignorant of the US's imperfections. May I say it again... I am not a hawk. Extremes, Martin, are easy. Either war or no war. Either Jesus or not Jesus. Either peace or violence. I am glad to have on my side great liberals (meaning non-hawks) like FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, Obama, all of whom understand the sad necessity war (though they are never perfect either).,

Martin Gugino Paul re " why is he so silent on the issue for which you are all so passionate?" - or - why is christ silent on the Roman oppression?

Ans: I assume that he felt that the corruption in the temple was the issue that needed urgent attention, and that the oppressive Roman administration could only kill the body; in the larger scheme of things, not that important.

Paul Martin David. There is no "American view of Jesus." There are people. Millions. Each with his or her own view on Jesus. There are individual views, like yours and mine. There is not one "American view."

David D. Flowers Paul, I understand. I had other things in mind as well. You're right, maybe that's not the best descriptor when targeting this issue alone. I guess I find that there's usually a whole system of thought that accompanies the belief that it's perfectly in-keeping with the Christian faith to support war in any form.

Martin Gugino david - yes!
"It changes the hearts of men... it does not use force to reform their actions."
Not only is war useless, so is force.

Keith Giles I would also like to thank everyone in this thread for maintaining civility and demonstrating what brotherly Christian love (and debate) should look like.

I would also acknowledge that this issue is not an easy one and that we are all in process when it comes to grappling with this - and every - command of Jesus.

Charles Pike paul, i am having a little trouble following you. you seem to be addressing several people and issues at once. the result is rather convoluted. i say this with no passion whatsoever. by the way, thank you for listing your degrees, i am a high school drop out. in which courses did they teach you that failure to mention a subject is a defacto endorsement of anything? i am very interested in the logic and assumptions you make about Christ based upon what he does not say. thanks.

Paul Martin I couldn't agree with you more, Keith. I guess my feathers get a bit whacked when I hear the dualism. I read the exact words you read. I've given my life to promoting, preaching, living, teaching, sacrificing to follow these words. I'm called a liberal by my conservative friends, a hawk/right-winger by those with views like yours. I look at individual issue. I read the red letters every day. Jesus is my final source.

But you and I have disagreed before on "other sources." If you are honest, you also drink for other sources (Shane Claiborne?, Jim Wallis?). Honesty, Keith. Each of us has a free will, a choice, as to what genres of literature we will attend to. You seem to gently critique the influence of "Catholic Saints or political figures" upon my thinking.

But I'm just like you, and David, and Martin. I am an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, and very, very serious about the thoughtful study of his teachings, and, moreover living them....

And yet, we disagree. But please don't imply my lack or unwillingness to take them seriously, just because my interpretations differ from your.

That, to me at least, is a judgment of my heart.

Martin Gugino Paul: " how do we do good to the murderees?"

Yes how do we protect, for example, the children.

Again, as an example, the pretty girl whose picture I use as an icon, recovering nicely from a cluster bomb.

Ans: oppose the war.

David D. Flowers Thanks for your patience, Paul.

What do you think about Jesus' words "love your enemies... turn the other cheek" and the apostle Paul's words "love does no harm to its neighbor"?

How do you understand "Those who claim to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."
1 John 2:6

Keith Giles To go back to our original touch point: "War is not Christian" was the statement that launched this dialog. My point was that it is not specifically "Of Christ" to kill another person for any reason.

When we debate the need for use of force, or the merits of a"Just War", etc. we are not specifically doing so as followers of Jesus. (I feel).

Under the definition of "What is a Christian?" I would argue that "one who participates in the shedding of blood" does not belong there.

Charles Pike but keith, isnt this what the eucharist is all about :) ??

Paul Martin OK, Charles. War is evil. Rome was a warring machine. Jesus did not directly speak about Rome. Keith agrees on that earlier.

Peter tried to stop the cross; he struggled earlier about his Lord being murdered, earlier.

The passage about the sword is about Jesus not letting Peter get in the way of the cross, not about war....

Gotta go, guys. I love you all. I pray that we be honest with ourselves. We write about all this without the immediate threat of violence to us and our loved ones.

I really wonder if your respective Christian pacifism would endure while your families were under the direct threat of evil and crazed murderers.

Keith, Jesus said murder is also about hating your brother though your words. Did he mean that literally? If he did, then murder cannot be reduced only to physical killing. So the believer that shoots and kills with a gun is no different than he that shoots hate with his mouth. So I guess we are all murders?

Keith Giles You tell me, Paul. What did Jesus intend to communicate?

David D. Flowers Paul, Jesus didn't speak to Christian's about war because his words and living preclude the notion that his followers can kill for Rome. He is calling them to come out of Rome and come into the Kingdom.

Is it wise to compartmentalize Jesus' words and actions? To say that Jesus simply didn't want them to interfere with the cross is not only a stretch here... but it also says that Jesus' words and actions were merely a guise in order that he might get nailed to a tree for our sins. If this is the case, then Jesus doesn't truly show us the character of God and how to live out the Kingdom on the earth. He only wants to "woo" us by words that don't really mean what they mean. Then we make Jesus out to be a liar and a deceiver.

Was Peter really going to stop the cross from happening? One lone man who can't swing a sword right (chopping of ears instead of heads)? And Jesus put the man's ear back on his head. Does that not reveal something else is going on in the garden?

Jesus went on to say he was not leading a bunch of rebels that you need to come at him with clubs. Why? Is this just a bunch of nice proverbial adages or is Jesus speaking about the eternal nature of His Kingdom that is "not of this world"?

I really hope we can dialogue about this. It just seems to me you have quickly swept Christ words aside to go about this business of swinging swords for Rome.

Paul Martin Again, David, your comments are sad. You accuse me of sweeping Jesus' words aside because my interpretation differs from yours. Brother, I hate war too. Call me one who compartmentalizes. Call me names. I respect you nonetheless. I respect your earnest belief in your position. Even though I disagree with its conclusions. I will remain inclusive and tolerant of all those serious about understanding and following the teachings of Jesus. Bless you.

David D. Flowers Paul said: "We write about all this without the immediate threat of violence to us and our loved ones. I really wonder if your respective Christian pacifism would endure while your families were under the direct threat of evil and crazed murderers."

There's always a threat to us believers. We are like "sheep for the slaughter" everyday. And there are many Christians presently enduring extreme persecution that would disagree with you. Some of them pray that we would experience this "immediate" threat in order that we might know the real power that is missing in our pop-culture Christianity.

And again... it's not "pacifism." I clarified that in a previous comment: it's living like Christ called us to live (as he lived) and ceasing this carnal desire to trust in redemptive violence and protecting earthly goods. We are called to overcome evil by cross-shaped living... always.

Paul Martin Keith: he intended to communicate that we are all sinners in need of grace. We all murder with our mouths. Murder is not only about the physical. Hate and divisiveness and lust is the root of all war. Hate is the problem, it is the genus. War is a species of hate. Peace is more than mere pacifism. Christians have honestly believed that stopping rampant murdering was a form of social justice. You just cannot dismiss these people as being un-Christian. That judges the heart of the person. You might say that you disagree with their interpretation; but to say they are not followers of Christ, is wrong.

I stood up to your view on the church, exactly for the same reason. Let's separate people from their ideas. People are not evil or not Christians because they differ in their respective interpretations. Paul SPECIFICALLY gives us instruction on issue for which Christians disagree. His summary: don't judge you brother, don't be mean to him, he's part of God's family even though you disagree with him on war and church polity.

Paul Martin David: when I said "we" I was referring to you and me. Your theory on pacifism is easy as long as you remain in your warm living room, with your remote control. It's different from previous believers who did not have the luxury you now have--who had to put their pacifism into action at the expense of the lives of their loved ones.

David D. Flowers Paul, I am not "accusing" you of anything. I am only saying that you have not sufficiently dealt with the words and example of Jesus... and the entire New Testament. You can not sweep aside his words with a quick jab of the computer keys by presenting a weak argument that doesn't reflect any serious engagement with the text.

I'm not calling you names. I expressed my heart before... you never acknowledged it. I am sorry if our limits on this thread has given you that impression. I'm simply trying to talk about the words of Christ.

Martin Gugino Paul: "So the believer that shoots and kills with a gun is no different than he that shoots hate with his mouth"
Reply: "no different" is not the right phrase. But I do agree that "pushing someone out of your heart" is the action that is being spoken against, of which shooting would be a typical extreme manifestation.

Paul Martin Again, David. Because you don't "see" my interpretations, you accuse me, me, say I "sweep aside his words." Sad. Accusatory. Mean.

We could play tennis with his words all day long. I could cite passage after passage, just to have you judge me again of not being a real follower.

I could tell you that he says "inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these, you've done it unto me." Then, I could say that saving hundreds of thousands of captives on the brink of death in concentration camps, IN MY HONEST VIEW, is a mode of following Jesus. But you will accuse ME of "not sufficiently" dealing with the words and example of Jesus..."and the entire New Testament."

So, my friend, I cannot convince you. But I do respect you, and know that you are sure of your position, even though I disagree. But I will not accuse you of sweeping aside anything. Peace to you.

Martin Gugino Paul: What's the reference for this: Peter tried to stop the cross?..... ?Is it this:

Here Christ looks at Peter and sees a flash of Satan - surely the enemy. Does he try to kill him? No. Does He reject him? No, not even Satan.

David D. Flowers Paul, you have spent the majority of this thread arguing about the differences of opinion that Christian's have on the issue and insistent on driving in one direction (regardless of what others are actually saying)... instead of meeting us around the words of Jesus. That's my only concern. I will back out now.

JUST TO BE CLEAR: If we are calling ourselves "Christian"... we must look to Christ in everything and follow His example. He is central and supreme for life and living. We must not be so quick to resort to philosophy, ethics, and human logic to come to any "not of this world" interpretation.

Blessings, bro. If you are interested in discussing these things further, please shoot me (poor choice of words) a message. :-) Thanks!

Martin Gugino Paul, here is a problem. you say: "Christians have honestly believed that stopping rampant murdering was a form of social justice. You just cannot dismiss these people as being un-Christian."

Let's forget Christ. Let's go back to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, a much more lax standard. Even by that standard, we need to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have exceeded our allotment of eyes and teeth five times over.

Why do you not see the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the napalming of villages in Vietnam and France as rampant murder?

Paul Martin And that's what I just did in my last comment, David. I cited a specific passage...of Jesus' words! I met you "around the words of Jesus." And you didn't respond to them.

Earlier in the thread, I commented on Jesus' lack of specific teaching on a topic--war. I surmise, if war was such a big deal, if governments and politics, and policy was so paramount, why didn't Jesus speak specifically about them? Michael has much to say, as believer, about the US and its anti-Christian policies. So, it would seem to me, that Jesus would have shared this kind of explicit censure of Rome.

He doesn't. So Keith concluded earlier that "Jesus was not concerned w/ politics..." If HE wasn't concerned with politics, and we are to follow his example, why are you concerned with politics?

Paul Martin Michael: I really have to go this time...(: There's a context to the "eye for eye" passage that I don't have time for.

I despise the atrocities you cite. Pathetic.

I can only say that many believe the actions to be defensive, ultimately, in nature.

We did not, one day, decide to invade France or Japan or Vietnam. There was justification. You know that. We tried to stay out of WWII for years. You know that, too. Estimates were that millions of innocent lives would be lost if Japan didn't stop. Germany had already murdered millions before their (forced) surrender.

Some hold that the killing of those lives prevented the killing of millions of others. Hard stuff, I know. Sad. Seems to me, though, that the evil initiated (in these cases) with murderous aggressors. Would it be just have let Hitler to take over the world (then exterminate and experiment on "sub-humans"?).

Keith Giles Jesus doesn't explicity speak about torturing puppies or child trafficking, etc., etc., but we can take what he did teach about and apply those principles of the Kingdom - or at least wrestle with the application of them - in light of His life, His example, and how the earliest disciples who walked with Him responded.

Martin Gugino paul. "accuse me of sweeping Jesus' words aside because my interpretation differs from yours." Not exactly.

He IS saying show me the words that you interpret to mean that war, that killing another, is OK, in the face of Love Your Enemy. Show where it says that people are allowed to kill provided that they are in an official army and the Congress has declared war, and they need to protect the lives of their darling children or national interests or do regime change.

Some may want to justify war on the basis of common sense, but your claim is that your interpretation of His words is different.

David D. Flowers Ok, I couldn't resist.... :-)

Paul, I did answer your question. Are you reading my comments? I said...

"Jesus didn't speak to Christian's about war because his words and living preclude the notion that his followers can kill for Rome. He is calling them to come out of Rome and come into the Kingdom."

Martin Gugino Paul: "You see, I am a supporter of just wars."

Possibly it would help if you explain how one goes about justifying war, or at least say that the justification for war is not to be based on the words of the gospels or the leading of the Holy Spirit.

David D. Flowers I highly recommend the book: "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Gregory Boyd. His presentation on "war" and the rest of the concerns is one of the best I have read. It's a very helpful book for those interested.

Keith Giles Well, if you need a source outside of Jesus and the NT, I'd suggest "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and that other dude.

Paul Martin Keith. From a point of grammar, War is not Christian" is incorrect. Christians have fought in wars. Christians have had abortions. Christians have not loved their enemies. Christians have been materialistic and selfish and thieves and fornicators and blind to the plight of the poor. For 2000 years. You and me too. None of us are true followers of Christ.

David D. Flowers "Jesus for President" was good. I also like "Jesus and Empire" by Richard Horsley. "Mere Discipleship" by Lee Camp is challenging. But that's for us who believe that books can help shed light on the New Testament. :-)

Martin Gugino Paul:I could tell you that he says "inasmuch as you've done it to the least of these, you've done it unto me."

Is this the passage upon which you want to base your defense of war?

You also did mention you could cite passage after passage. I wonder what the next passage might be?

Martin Gugino Paul "I can only say that many believe the actions to be defensive, ultimately, in nature."

Michael: So defensive wars are ok then?
Paul: There was justification. you know it.

Michael: I thought that was what we were questioning: Is there justification for war. I mean, for followers, and what is it. That's "begging the question", it its original (and correct may I say) sense....

Paul: Estimates were that millions of innocent lives would be lost if Japan didn't stop."
Michael: Yes, but were those estimates after the fact attempts to justify of a war crime? Yup.

Martin Gugino Paul:"Christians have fought in wars. "
Michal: True but aside from the point. The question is SHOULD Christians have fought in wars. Or under what conditions SHOULD Christians fight in wars, or what kind of wars SHOULD Christians fight in. You mention "just wars" I assume referring to a vast collection of Catholic literature. But could you summarize one or two of the more salient points. You mention saving innocents or helping the poor. So do you mean it is ok to kill the strong to save the weak? Or kill the rich to save the poor? And can you explain if or how the other statements in the NT about "love your enemy" etc do or do not restrain that interpretation.

Martin Gugino It would be nice to collect all these comments and try to arrange all the arguments in a tree of some sort. some software thing that would do this would be so helpful.

Keith Giles Paul: I would say, in your examples above, that whenever Christians do those things: kill, steal, committ adultry, etc., that they are not following Jesus in those actions. I think that is my point. Whenever a follower of Jesus engages in activity that is un-Christlike they are not "following Jesus" in that action.

So, when I say, "War is not Christian" I am saying that whenever a follower of Jesus engages in this un-Christlike activity they are not being like Christ.

"Nobody Follows Jesus"...hmmm..sounds like a great title for a book!

Paul Martin You are funny, Keith.

Martin Gugino I think that Paul's question amounts to: what do we do about Hitler?

He could use Proverbs 24:11-12
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter....
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?

This is, I believe, the Operation Rescue text.

The problem with using this text is that it is intended to stimulate involvement, not limit involvement; so that you cant get at the limits through this text, in my opinion.

As to Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's answer was it was worth a try to assassinate Hitler. This didn't work out well as a practical matter, nor establish its morality.

Keith Giles It's amazing to me how those 4 words can cause such a negative reaction. It makes me wonder, what if I had said, "War IS Christian" - would I have an equal level of response or would I get "Amen, brother!"...?

David D. Flowers Yep. In our last organized church a few years ago, we were basically told we weren't welcome there anymore because we believed Jesus when he said, "love your enemies" and Paul when he said, "love does no harm to its neighbor."

I was actually asked, "Where in 'love your enemies' does it say not to kill them?" I kid you not. We stood up against nationalism and began questioning the church's faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus. This concern was one among many growing suspicions we had about the Church. It factored in to our exodus of organized religion.

Isn't it a horrible thing that we must defend this among the brethren? I have found it's not so much a confusion with the Old and New Testament Scriptures as much as it is an unhealthy love of the world that forces us to read those Scriptures in keeping with our blind nationalism. The very walls of tribalism that Christ destroyed on the cross.

Derrick Pedranti I hear you both but remember sometimes war is necessary. I agree which wars is indeed debatable. But we wouldn't have our nation without the Revolutionary War. And we might not still have it if we didn't fight in WWII... I believe there is a difference between a nation defending it's national security and us loving the neighbors who mistreat us. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world where sometimes we need to protect ourselves and our children from evil forces that would kill or enslave us.

Keith Giles For a follower of Jesus who is chiefly concerned with following Christ, the question of whether or not war is necessary or not is moot. It doesn't matter to us because we are not going to be fighting in those wars or taking another human life to show our nationalism.

War is a fact of life. I agree. But Christians need not participate in those wars.

Ruth Bujanda-Moore @ Keith: "Amen, brother!" (and no, you would not have gotten that response from me had you posted "War IS Christian)

Derrick Pedranti I don't think though that soldiers who fight to defend our country are not true Christians.

We are blessed to have the freedom to talk about these things and voice our opinions and religious freedom without being jailed or killed for it. I'm thankful for those who fought for those freedoms.

And remember if we didn't fight against ruthless madmen like Hitler, we might be living under tyranny and genocide. War in of itself is a terrible thing but I think unfortunately sometimes necessary.

Ruth Bujanda-Moore @ Derrick: "we might be living under tyranny and genocide"...WE who? There are many peoples, cultures still living under these conditions, and war (whether OURs or not) does not create sustainable, viable solutions to these and other horrid conditions.

Derrick Pedranti Do you think we should have not fought against Hitler? Do you think we should have a national defense that protects us against foreign invaders? Is it ever okay to fight against these kinds of atrocities? I believe in my heart that it is. And even in the Bible some battles are righteous. Agree to disagree I guess. I still love you guys! :)

Keith Giles Derrick: What I want to point out is that being a follower of Christ isn't the same as being an American. So, when you say, "We are blessed to have the freedom to talk about these things.." I agree, but is having that freedom "Christian"? Wasn't our faith born under the tyranny and oppression you say we should be afraid of?

Not that I WANT to live under tyranny or oppression, but my point is that Christians aren't called to fight or kill to avoid oppression and tyranny. In fact, orginally, the only blood shed in opposition to Government such as this was our own as we (followers of Jesus) lived peacefully and died by the sword. Was that "UnChristian"?

Derrick Pedranti I agree with your last point. There is no greater love than to give your life for the Lord or your brother. That definitely is Christian. Though we can never comprehend what that would be like -- to give yourself over to be eaten by lions -- we should never deny our faith and be willing to suffer the consequences for doing so.

If someone came into my house and tried to kill my wife and children and I killed that person to stop them I don't think that goes against the teachings of Jesus. In that case I wouldn't sacrifice my family or myself for this person's evil intent.

Forget nationalism. I agree with you that the life of a person in another country is viewed equally in God's eyes. But if an evil ruler like Stalin tried to invade this country, impose their rule, enslave the citizens, ban Christian or for that matter, free expression and commit genocide, I don't think it's unchristian to fight against him. Remember that God viewed some battles as righteous such as those fought by David. BTW, this stuff can get a bit heated but it's good to talk about it!

Keith Giles Derrick: In the case of self-defense or the defense of the innocent, it is not always automatic that our response should result in the death of the perpetrator. It's possible to disarm them, to render them unable to harm others, etc. Killing shouldn't be our intent- even in that extreme example.

As you point out, if I were to take the life of someone who was attempting to harm an innocent then perhaps that would not be a sin (murder), assuming I did not want or intend to kill the person.

Again, this is not my original point. My point was that War is not Christian. All of the other debate is fascinating, and important, but not exactly on point.

For a follower of Jesus, the one who said, "love your enemies", it is not consistent to engage directly in the act of taking another human life in War. Period.

Should wars be fought? Should we be allowed to defend our children from home invasion? I think these are good conversations to have. And we are. But, again, this was not my original point.

Keith Giles We can fight, but does that always mean killing? MLK fought for human rights, but the only one who died was MLK.

Again, if you want to justify violence you have to go to the OT. But God wouldn't allow David to build His Temple on Earth. Why? Because David had blood on his hands. Apparently there is a need to separate these two things: violence and holiness.

NOTE: A huge "Thank you" to everyone who participated in this long, and mostly civil dialog of such a touchy subject.

Share your comments and reactions below if you like.




"Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson, is a sci-fi set in 2003, which only underscores the fact that we are living in the future today. It's really not a sci-fi, although Gibson is immortalized for writing "Neuromancer" which predated the Internet and, if you read it today for the first time, you would think he ripped off "The Matrix"...until you looked at the publication date and realized that he wrote his book a good ten years before Keanu ever said "Whoa".

It's funny to me how a good book, in this case a great book, can influence your way of seeing the world and moving through space. The book's protaganist has a gift for sensing "Cool". She is hyper-sensitive to marketing and is psychologically offended by logos and advertising, which is why she can sense the "next big thing" before it crests the horizon. Her sensitivity to brands and iconographic advertising has made me more aware of how enslaved we all are to marketing. Branding is pervasive. You cannot stand anywhere without being marketed to. You cannot wear anything without being told, on the outside as well as on the tag, who made it and that it is "Cool" to have one.

The character in this book is so oversensitized to logos that she clips the tags and removes the logo from her clothing, her glasses, her watch, her shoes, her computer, etc. It almost made me want to do the same.

It approaches something called by Richard Foster, "The Discipline of Simplicity". I believe there is an inherent human desire for simplicity, and yet at the same time a hunger for something beyond ourselves. Marketers (and I am one of them) take advantage of the human desire for something beyond ourselves and twist that into a desire for a product that will fill that emptiness. This is why television commercials and glossy magazine ads suggest, or even overtly declare, that owning or using the product in question will make you popular, or fulfilled, or beautiful, or complete in some way that you are now aware that you are not.

It's easy to say that one desire is of the flesh and one desire of the Spirit. I know I've talked that way in the past myself, but now I think this is wrong. I believe that the desire for simplicity is a desire of the soul, and the desire for something beyond ourselves is also a desire of the human soul. Both are "of the Spirit" or Spiritual desires because this is what makes all of us Human.

Marketing plays one of these desires against the other. We are told we can fill our empty places with stuff, and so we try to do that, while at the same time our desire for simplicity disappears beneath a mound of receipts and boxes of junk in our garage.

There is a point, and I believe it is early on, when the things we own begin to own us. Once this happens, we are hooked and we continuously create mental shopping lists of things that we want or need or desire. I do this. You do this.

What if we could silence the coarse whisper for "more"? What if we could close our eyes and strain to hear that faint echo for "Less" instead?

A friend of mine used to regularly "De-Accumulate" his life. He would come to work with a box of goodies he had decided he no longer needed and start passing them out as gifts for his co-workers. I have a lot of cool stuff in my garage that I inherited from him this way.

I think the concept of "De-Accumulation" is a good one, but maybe we could modify it a bit? Maybe we could find people who really need what we don't need? Maybe no one really needs our junk? Maybe we could stop buying and start sharing?

These thoughts have lingered on the fringes of my brain for years now. When we moved into this house about a year and a half ago, as I was moving box after box of my junk into a storage unit, I found myself apologizing for the obscene amount of garbage I had acquired. My friends all told me to stop apologizing.

I remember taking a sweep of the orange and white storage farm we were in the middle of and realizing that, in our society, we all own so much junk we have to pay someone to keep it for us in the event that we ever need it. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built around the American acquisition sensibility. Do they have these things in India or Africa, I wondered? Probably a few, I thought, but I'm sure we Americans have more, as usual.

How has the shopping mall replaced the cathedral? How have we allowed the pursuit of happiness to become an endless hunt for more objects and gadgets and trinkets and adornment? Maybe it was when the Church started entertaining us? Maybe it was when we realized that people would buy products created just for Christians? I'm not sure of the timeline, but I do know that we are now living in a Pop Christian Consumerist Culture and I want off the merry-go-round.

Maybe I'm recognizing a pattern too? Maybe the character in Gibson's book is helping me to see something that's been there all along?

Either way, it's worth exploring.

Time for my second cup of coffee.

**Orignally posted August, 2007

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New Webzine:

Jon Zens, Alan Knox, Milt Rodriguez, Tim Price, Marc White, Maurice Smith, Jay Ferris, Doug Spencer, and myself are part of a new Kingdom-focused online magazine (Blogzine?) called

Go check it out

My article PRIDE KILLS is up now, alongside Alan Knox's article YOUR KINGDOM COME.

Book mark this new website and check back often to read some great articles - and join the discussion - on the subject that captured Jesus more than anything else: The Gospel of the Kingdom.

*Special thanks to Tim Price for dreaming this up and putting it all together for us.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Happy Birthday: Robert Higgins (78)

On Wednesday evening we gathered at Fountain Care to celebrate the birthday of Robert Higgins. He's dying of bone cancer, alone, with no family around to comfort him.

His friends Stan (from Southwest Community Center), Kathy, Cindy, Jim, and my family were there, along with the man who owns the gas station on the corner near the motel where Robert used to live.

We are Robert's only "family" now.

Everyone brought either a candy bar or an apple pie for Robert since these are his favorite things to eat and he has no room for other gifts - or any use for them. He's already given away everything he owns in this world except for his wrist watch, his cigarette lighter, and a few clothes.

The man who owns the gas station (can't remember his name) brought Robert a carton of cigarettes (worth about $50). These day's Robert measures his life in terms of how many cigarettes he has left to get him through until the end.

Keep him in your prayers. Pray that we can find his son and daughters before he dies. Pray that we can get back in touch with his ex-wife so he can say goodbye to her. Pray, especially, that Robert will trust Jesus as His Lord and Savior. I'd really love to continue our friendship on the other side of this life.