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"It’s Just War" – Should Christians Fight? Debate

On March 28, 2014, Anchor-Cross Publishing and Followers of the Way sponsored a debate on the subject of just war. We sought to bring leading thinkers together to discuss the issue in historic Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston. Speaking on behalf of just war were Dr. Peter Kreeft (professor of philosophy at Boston College) and Dr. J. Daryl Charles (Berry College). Speaking against just war and for biblical nonresistance were David Bercot and Dean Taylor. from 

This very important subject, of “Just War”, which is for the most part accepted by Christendom, needs to be reconsidered in the light of the teachings of Jesus. For the first three hundred years of the primitive Church, involvement in war was rejected, as anti-Christian. Since the time of Augustine and Constantine this attitude of non-resistance toward their enemies has been set on its head, and now virtually all Christians think it is okay to kill their enemies. How has this happened? Is not the teaching of Jesus, the Apostles, and the primitive Church valid today? What has changed?

Please, if you give any serious consideration to truth, take the time to view this video; it could change everything!

Steve Blackwell

“It’s Just War” – Should Christians Fight? Debate from FollowersOfTheWay on Vimeo.

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16 replies on “"It’s Just War" – Should Christians Fight? Debate”

Another thing you must consider as a Christian. St. Peter carried a sword with him. Not once did Jesus ever tell him not to use it except when Peter used it against God established authority.

Steve, earlier I wrote that I think you also err in using the lamb analogy. Christ has given the sheep Shepherds to protect them.
“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them.” (St. Luke in Acts 20:28-30)
Furthermore, we are also called warriors of God.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes (just?) war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.” (St. John in Rev. 19:11-16)
Did you notice we are “like” sheep, in the verses you provided, but we are “real” warriors in the economy of God? Yes, we fight a spiritual war with spiritual weaponry but it is very much a reality. Yes, Satan is behind the evil of this world. But God is behind the good of this world that instructs criminal justice and just wars.
I asked, “What is that Jesus taught that makes you think you can’t physically defend your family?”
I don’t believe you answered that.
Also, please forgive the grammatical errors on my part. It is very difficult to read and write correctly and without error using an iPhone.
Here are your questions:
Q. 1. You said, “You are to love all, but not at the expense of loving yourself or your neighbor.” Where is this supported by Scripture? Is our neighbor only those who live adjacent to us?
A. 1. Moses, by the Spirit of God, taught in the Old Testament that one is to love his neighbor (which is everyone besides oneself, in the Jewish understanding, but especially one’s family. Jesus, by the same Spirit of God, further taught in the New Testament that our neighbor is everyone, even those outside our ethnicity or nationality e.g. the Samaritans in Luke 10. St. Paul says everyone is a neighbor in Eph. 4:25) as one loves themselves. (Lev. 19:18) Jesus called loving one’s neighbor and one’s self the first and the greatest commandment of the Torah and the rest is commentary, as Rabbi Hillel taught. (Ss. Matt. 22:24-30, Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:26-31) St. Paul taught is the fulfillment of the whole Torah. (Rom. 13:9-10 and Gal. 5:14) St. James agreed, calling it the royal law. (2:8)
These teachings tell us there is to be an equal love of neighbor as love for one’s own flesh. (Eph. 5:21-32) To play of a saying, “There are no pacifists in foxholes”. We are to love even our enemy as we love our own body and family but not above or below these first two commands. Yes, sometimes that love requires dying in place of our wife, children, family, neighbor, and enemy when it is the Father’s will and for the cause of Christ and His Gospel, not when it is merely to kill me or my kids or my enemy out of a demented mind. For example, what happens when a stranger wants to kill a man who has declared himself my enemy? Do I let an enemy kill my enemy? No. Think about that. If I merely call the police, am I not complicit in the “bearing of the sword”, especially if they kill or maim the assailant? When the Amish young ladies were attacked at the school house a few years back, were not the police called? Yes, they were, and they stopped the assault. Yes, David Bercot, it does happen even among your own community. We must always defend the innocent, even with physical force.
Q. 2. You said, “If I love my neighbor as myself or my wife as Christ does His, I’ll protect them.” Where is this supported by Scripture? Can my enemy be my neighbor? If my neighbor is my enemy can I then kill him? Or, is my neighbor all those who I come in contact with?
A.2. I answered these above. Eph. 5:29 says no really hates his own flesh but provides for and protects it. We are to love our wives and children and neighbors and enemies the same but there is a pecking order. God has put our wives and children under our direct care and then our neighbors equally. After that, all living creatures are considered sacred but certainly not above humans made in His image. (Gen. 9) Every enemy falls within the neighbor category. Your neighbor is, as Christ taught in the story of the Good Samaritan, even the Jews (Priest and Levite) and the Samaritan. We are to be a merciful neighbor to all. However that does not entail not punishing the band of robbers when caught nor does it mean not defending the man on the road to Jericho, had the Good Samaritan arrived at the time of the assault.
However I think you have a distorted view of love and thereby a distorted view of God. God, who is Love (1 Cor. 13) will destroy both the body and the soul in Hell. (St. Matt. 10:28; Rev. 21:8) “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into Hell.” (St. Luke 12:5)
Q. 3. You said, “Hell is the most loving thing Love decides for His enemy.” Where is this supported by Scripture? I must say, this comment is the most contorted idea of Christ’s love I have heard recently, please verify.
A. 3. I’m glad for your response since my intent was to make such a bold statement. However, I am not surprised as to your thoughts that it is contorted, since I assessed that you have a distorted view of God and love. God is Love. Every act He does is an act of Love. Even when He casts sinners into Hell, it is an act of Love. When I place my child in timeout or in the corner or spank them or pinch them to stop their bad behavior, it is out of love so that they learn to act within the laws of my home and do so, as an adult, within the laws of the community. Furthermore, does the Church not have the power to deliver over unrepentant sinners over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh so that their spirits might be saved? (1 Cor. 5-7) Even though this is a spiritual act, it has physical ramifications. It is done in love. When the death penalty and war are exacted, which must be the last resort as they are with God, those acts are acts of love. The same God who instructed the Gen. 9 death penalty on Earth is the same God who will exact the Rev. 20 death penalty for Heaven on Earth. “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’” God suffers long but He doesn’t suffer forever. Don’t be a Marcionist.
Every human being has the right to life, liberty, property, and the ability to pursue happiness. Jesus did. He gave these up at times, out of obedience, in order to gain the greater reward of the joy set before Him. However, in providing and protecting them, Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy them. (St. John 10:10) Satan wants us to act out of step with God. He wanted Jesus to turn stone into bread when it was not God’s time but when it was He turned water into wine. He wanted Jesus to serve him to get the nations but when he served God at the Cross, He was given the nations as His inheritance. Satan wanted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple so that the angels would succor Him but we see that at the end of His trial in the desert, the angels did succor Him. He called down fire from Heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring cities but when Ss. James and John wanted to do so upon a Samaritan village, they were rebuked- for God had a greater purpose in their rejection so as to send them on to Jerusalem. (St. Luke 9) This is the same God who will send fire upon Babylon and destroy her within one hour. The same God who told the Disciples not to live by the sword told them to buy one, and is the same One who made a whip and drove the “indulgence sellers” out of the Temple perhaps on two occasions. He is the One with a sword coming out of His mouth that will destroy all the wicked at the Battle of Armageddon with it, is it not? (Rev. 19) Let us ride with Him.
There is coming a day when the right to defend one’s life, liberty, pursuit of joy, and property is going to be truncated by the inability to do so. Jesus said for those in Jerusalem to flee. (St. Matt. 24) There will be a day when those who are married must live as if they are not but that time is not now. “I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31) St. Paul wrote this during the Roman persecutions and when Christians were being slaughtered daily. (Rom. 8:26-31) These days will be repeated, and no amount of weaponry will be able to save our lives, liberties, hopes, or properties. But nothing will separate us from God’s love and He will avenge us when the Lamb opens the Seven Seals of the Scroll that declares judgment on His enemies. (Rev. 6) The God of the
Even in those days, we must be willing to defend our wives and children and our neighbor. The synagogues, the police, the courts, the mayor, the congress, and the presidency will all be against us but He holds their hearts in His hands and has made us more than conquerors, even though we may be rendered headless.

Ken,

I do not mean to sound offensive, but you have totally misconstrued the Kingdom of God of which Jesus came to announce. You have cherry-picked versus from Scripture with no regard to context or regard for proper exegesis.

You say we are sheep that need a shepherd to protect them; then you say we are “real” warriors but only like sheep. Do warriors need a shepherd? Then you prove this by quoting Revelation and the second coming of Christ, when you should have used the earthly ministry of Christ as the example we are to follow. Christ’s first advent was portrayed as the Savior who gave His life as the Lamb of God. It is this picture of Jesus we are to emulate, the Lamb, not the Lion of His return. You have used the Old Testament to validate your arguments with no regard that Christ has overridden the Old with the New where He many places testifies to, but none more clearly than in the Sermon on the mount where He says, “You have heard it said, But I say. . . .” It is common knowledge that the New Testament must be used to interpret the Old Testament, not vice versa.

You asked, “What is that Jesus taught that makes you think you can’t physically defend your family?”

Let’s look at this question in the light of the Gospel. When we ask such a question we must not assume an answer on the level of the flesh, or we will surely go astray. We must ask this question, and expect an answer from the New Testament.

In the New Testament light of Jesus’ own words, to love Him above all other things, including your family, suppose for a moment that the government demanded that you deny Him, and that you should offer up the obligatory sacrifice to their god, “The Grand Architect of the Universe,” or the Statue of Liberty, or to the American Flag, or else they would kill your wife and children. What would you do? Or, say a terrorist held your family hostage, threating to kill them unless you detonate a dirty bomb in a highly populated area. Would you save your family at the cost of say 1,000,000 people? For the true Christian the answer is clear; he could not do it; he could not kill others or deny Jesus to save his family. Jesus has given us the answer. If we love our own life, or the lives of our family more than we love Jesus, we are not worthy of Him, or to wear the name of “Christian” (Matthew 10:33). Or, what if Jesus Himself instructs you, as a loyal servant to not “return evil for evil” (1 Peter 3:9), but to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21), “Love your enemies”(Matthew 5:43, 44), or to “turn the other cheek” and “resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39). All of the “What if . . . ?” questions are answered the same way, obey the Lord. You say we should resort to the sword, but Jesus says we should resort to obedience.

The great sin of King Saul was that he chose not to obey God, and presumed upon His grace. Above everything else we do, it is OBEDIENCE that God wants. Jesus demands obedience. King Saul should have obeyed God regardless of the “what if” scenario that was playing-out in the absence of Samuel.

You said, “There are no pacifists in foxholes”. Your intention, in these words, is to show that everyone will kill their neighbor when faced with no other options. Your assumption is wrong, and the sorted history of Christian martyrdom by professed Christians upon those who chose to follow the non-resistant teachings of Jesus show this plainly. The number of dead at the hands of the Romans cannot hold a candle to the vast numbers of Christians killed and tortured by the so-called Christians of the Catholic Church. So, to answer your statement, that there are no pacifist in foxholes, you need only open your history books. Christians, although few have chosen to follow this path, have routinely sacrificed their lives, rather than to follow the “broadway” of the Christian majority. Their understanding of the words of Jesus is and was, “self-sacrifice is better than dis-obedience,” Rom 12:1.

Do you believe that Jesus was unaware that His teachings would lead to the death of many of His followers, and that really tough decisions would have to be made regarding life and limb? Jesus knew full well that John, His cousin, was about to die, but He never lifted a finger to prevent it, when He could have. The Devil himself offered to relax his death grip on the world, if only Jesus would bow the knee, but He declined, and left the death sentence for very, very, many in place. Jesus could have prevented not only the deaths of many, but His own death also, and then commanded His disciples to follow His example.

God declares that, “My ways are not your ways.” If we chose to believe that God sanctions the killing of our enemies, then we can believe that God’s ways and our ways are really no different. Are we to believe that “counting the cost” of following Jesus allows for our disobedience in certain tough cases?

You said, “God is Love. Every act He does is an act of Love. Even when He casts sinners into Hell, it is an act of Love.”

This statement is arguable; but I must confess I do not know God’s every ability, especially His ability to both love something perfectly while at the same time expressing hatred and vengeance on evil and the evil doer. If I concede this arguable point it reveals nothing concerning our own ability to show love to those who we kill, whether legally, nationally, or in self-defense. It does not follow that because God is perfect love that we too will show perfect love. Are we too allowed to send a person to Hell when God expressly states that, “Vengeance is mine I will repay.” According to you we are also permitted to exact vengeance, as long as it is done in “love.”

You said, “The same God who instructed the Gen. 9 death penalty on Earth is the same God who will exact the Rev. 20 death penalty for Heaven on Earth.”

Are you purposely forgetting that there is a period of time between the ending of the Old Testament and the beginning of the Book of Revelation, popularly known as the age of grace, when God patiently waits and suffers our disobedience? I might add that at the time of Christ’s return, with all His angels, to present the title deed of planet Earth, and to forcefully take back what is rightfully His, He is met with a vast army that will oppose His requisitioning of said planet. Those who oppose Him will be those who are waging what they will consider a “Just War,” approved and sanctioned by their respective governments, proudly displaying their banners of righteousness, and patriotism, believing they fight a Godly war, for a just cause, and they will all be taken away in their sins, as they willfully attempt to wrench from the hand of Christ the deed of planet earth. This is the correct picture of the end time when those who have sworn allegiance to another king, country, or flag will receive their just deserts.

Do you seriously believe you can follow Christ without following Him?

You said, “Every human being has the right to life, liberty, property, and the ability to pursue happiness.”

Rights? Ken, you sound like a proper American, always true to their gifted human rights! These words are not the words of a true Christian or the words of Jesus; these are the words of a carnal Christian deceived into believing he has some rights in this world. Don’t you know that this world is the domain of the Prince and Power of the air who is Satan? These rights you mention are imaginary only, something you feel you must fight for; you are mistaken. What about the “rights” of the Indians whose land was stolen from them, by Christians? What about the rights of the British under whose legal charters the colonies were established? You are correct in stating that Jesus gave up His rights. Jesus gave up His rights as His children do. Our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not of this world. Jesus when asked by Pilate about His kingship stated that His Kingdom was not of this world, and then He said that if His Kingdom were of this world, “then would His servants fight.” If your kingdom is of this world, by all means fight for your rights!

One more thing then I will bring this response to an end. You mentioned Peter’s sword, this is a good question, with an even better answer.

This question is probably the most misunderstood statement of Jesus on this issue. He says, Luke 22:36 Jesus says, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” You are correct, it does say that; and we should not spiritualize the “sword” to make it agree with the non-conformist or pacifist view. Some people “insist that what our Lord meant was that the sword was to be used merely for self-defense.”

Warring Christians make two grave mistakes here. First, they totally ignore the very plain and simple teaching of Jesus, for a more obscure passage and draw unwarranted conclusions based on a faulty analysis of the text and subject; by doing this they lead their students into darkness instead of light. The many plain and simple teaching of Jesus are replaced by one obscure passage; and a whole new doctrine is created from pure artifice and illusion.

The second error they make is one that a freshman student can easily avoid. They completely disregard the context of what is being said and choose rather to use a little sophistry and dishonesty to promote a mere opinion. Let’s look at the complete passage, and related passages, and see if any kind of truth emerges. Luke 22:36-38, 49-51; Matthew 26:50-54; Isaiah 53: 12,

“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. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.’ The disciples said, ‘See, Lord, here are two swords.’ ‘That’s enough!’ he replied.”

“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, (in the garden) they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”

“Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’

“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

The context and the related passages give a complete picture and remove the obscurity; there is no need to use conjecture or opinion when all is spelled out for us through prophecy and the very words of Jesus. Why did Jesus ask for swords? To fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy! When they said they had two swords, Jesus wasn’t telling them to–shut-up!–when He said, “That is enough,” He simply said that two swords were enough to fulfill the prophecy and to be numbered with “transgressors;” and Peter’s use of the sword against the High Priest’s servant certainly made them transgressors. Then Jesus, who warring Christians say approved the use of the sword for self-defense, tells Peter to put the sword away, and heals the servant. By simply reading the passages all the mystery vanishes, and leaves in its wake the truth that men’s hearts love darkness more than light, and violence more than peace.

Steve Blackwell

Steve, I think you also err in using the lamb analogy. Christ has given the sheep Shepherds to protect them. Furthermore, we are also called warriors of God. Let’s not use analogies aside from how Christ did. So let’s discuss the issue at hand using Scripture. What is that Jesus taught that makes you think you can’t physically defend your family?

Ken,

I do believe the lamb analogy is the correct one. All the promises are to those who manifest the presence of Christ’s Spirit through their own lives.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” (no shepherd here) (Matthew 10:16).

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:12-17).

All these things you concern yourself with, are they not the things of the flesh, i.e. self-defense and protection? It is hard for the flesh to believe that God will actually keep us “in perfect peace” as He promised. As a consequence the flesh has to have a contingency plan to hold out for that one thing that God may have overlooked, like defending its family. By not providing for the contingency of family protection we admit that there may be the necessity to “suffer,” but it is with the promise that if that happens, glory follows. “For in this hope we were saved.”

“As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:36-39).

I could easily get my defense from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus enumerates the way in which we are to not resist evil, and reinforce those passages with others, but the above verses should be enough to express the spirit in which we are to follow Christ.

As far as being warriors, listen to Paul;

“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

In His service,

Steve Blackwell

Yes! These verses tell us that we must die for the glory of Christ when it for the His cause, not it is when someone is attempting to harm us or our neighbor. You are to love your all but not at the expense of loving yourself or your neighbor. If I love my neighbor as myself or my wife as Christ does His, I’ll protect them. In fact, God is love and He will lovingly send people to death, will He not? Hell is the most loving thing Love decides for His enemy. Or is it you don’t believe in Hell?

Yes! These verses tell us that we must die for the glory of Christ when it for His cause, not if is simply when someone is attempting to harm us or our neighbor apart from the cause of Christ. You are to love all but not at the expense of loving yourself or your neighbor. If I love my neighbor as myself or my wife as Christ does His, I’ll protect them. In fact, God is love and He will lovingly send people to death, will He not? Hell is the most loving thing Love decides for His enemy. Or is it that you don’t believe in Hell?

Ken,

Yes I most certainly do believe in Hell, just as much as I believe that we must obey His commands.

Please Ken, in your last comment you said we would keep to Scripture, yet you fail to quote one Scripture to support your opinions, either in the last comment or in this one.

1. You said, “You are to love your all, but not at the expense of loving yourself or your neighbor.” Where is this supported by Scripture? Is our neighbor only those who live adjacent to us?

2. You said, “If I love my neighbor as myself or my wife as Christ does His, I’ll protect them.” Where is this supported by Scripture? Can my enemy be my neighbor? If my neighbor is my enemy can I then kill him? Or, is my neighbor all those who I come in contact with?

3. You said, “Hell is the most loving thing Love decides for His enemy.” Where is this supported by Scripture? I must say, this comment is the most contorted idea of Christ’s love I have heard recently, please verify.

Steve Blackwell

Steve,
I agree with you that the approach of appealing to difficult cases is generally not effective, and could have been set aside quickly if the non-resistance side had not attempted to address the manifold aspects of the problem and had simply stated up front that in this fallen world, we cannot always avoid the consequences of evil. When they did, this ended that argument.

However, I do not quite follow one part of your argument, please clarify. As I understand it, you are saying that the intellectually compelling argument is usually not the correct one. You do agree that we must freely seek the truth though. Yet, it is the intellect which God has given us in order to seek and know the truth. In fact, your arguments to me seemed clearly aimed at convincing me intellectually of the truth of your position. This seems to me to be an internal contradiction in your approach if I am understanding you correctly.

I understand your position on accepting Scripture alone as your sole rule of faith. Yet, ironically (a couple of weak passages aside) the Bible says quite the opposite. Scripture approached from a Biblical perspective (rather than a Renaissance humanist, legal positivist perspective which is the origin of the human Sola Scriptura tradition) is quite clear that Jesus established a visible kingdom which He called a Church-ekklesia. As the King of Kings (a Davidic King of course), in Mt 16 citing Is 22 He installs St. Peter as His steward (prime-minister). It is quite notable that He gives Peter the keys over His kingdom-Church and the royal come rabbinic authority to bind and loose. Moreover, we see Jesus quite surprisingly telling His disciples that those whom He criticized the most (the pharisees and scribes) still had the authority of Moses seat (Mt 23) and so even though they had established faulty traditions, His disciples (while Jesus was still with them) had the obligation to obey the scribes and pharisees. Even their distortions did not deprive them of the divine authority they had been given. Moreover, Jesus tells His disciples that His Church is visible and has the authority to teach and discipline to the point of excommunication (Mt 18:17-18). Peter and John both explicitly say that Scripture is not self interpreting and must be interpreted by teaching authorities. The Apostles say that only those “sent” by the Apostles have the authority to teach. Finally, Paul says that not Scripture but the Church is the pillar (it upholds) and foundation (it underlies) of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Scripture alone is not only strongly refuted by Scripture itself, but one finds it implicitly rejected from the earliest Christian writings up to the time it is more formally proposed in the 15th and 16th centuries. It
is undermined practically as well, no two open, honest and committed Christians will interpret Scripture exactly the same way. They all rely upon an interpretive tradition to help them. The question, which extra-Biblical tradition is the authentic one…

David,

You said “I do not quite follow one part of your argument, please clarify. As I understand it, you are saying that the intellectually compelling argument is usually not the correct one.”

What I said was, “The winning history of debates nearly always goes to those who make the best show of intellect or are more skilled at the art of argument.” A show of intellect proves nothing, according to Paul: “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” The intellectual world of religionist, both Catholic and Protestant, has multiplied the simple meaning of the Gospel until believers are lost in the gossamer shavings of an intellectual wasteland; intellects hide the truth, they don’t reveal it.

David, are you saying that intelligence trumps the foolishness of simplicity? But we know the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men; so the foolishness of the one who sticks close to Scripture, although of no high intellect, has the promise of understanding truth and attaining wisdom?

Rather than go into lengthy diatribe, let me quote one of your own, Mister Desiderius Erasmus:

“I advised divines to leave scholastic subtleties and study Scriptures… I wish there could be an end of scholastic subtleties, or, if not an end, that they could be thrust into a second place, and Christ be taught plainly and simply. The reading of the Bible… will have this effect. Doctrines are taught now which have affinity with Christ but only darken our eyes” (Froude, J.A., The Life and Letters, pp. 356).

Erasmus’ mistake was to believe the corruption he witnessed could be reformed from within the organization; and Luther’s mistake was that he brought too much of that corruption with him when he departed.

I do agree with you that, “we must freely seek the truth.” The only problem with that statement is that with the Catholic Church that is not possible, as your history and a few of your more gifted believers confirms. As far as the “extra-Biblical traditions” that we must accept, I am delighted to say, they are not necessary at all.

As Scripture declares, very few will enter in, and many will be disappointed. The truth, although simple, is hidden from the proud and self-wise.

In the spirit of fairness, I will let you have the last word.

Steve Blackwell

I would like to thank Ken Follis for directing me to this very interesting exchange. Both sides have presented compelling arguments in support of their positions, and one might justly seem at a loss as to how to adjudicate such diverse positions looking at the very same evidence. In terms of enthusiasm one certainly can give the debate to the non-resistance position. In terms of intellectually compelling arguments, I must give the edge to the just war position. The only possible resolution for certitude is to observe that the non-resistance position comes from a position a particular ideological presupposition about the nature of Divine Revelation and the teaching authority of the Church. I would propose that Scripture and Tradition indicate that there is a living source of adjudication for such dilemmas. Taking Steve’s lead, perhaps we could go to another of Tertullian’s quotes which is a bit more helpful than the observation that antiquity was a necessary (though insufficient) criteria. Tertullian indicates what the living source of adjudication was (and one can show still is): “Moreover, if there be any [heresies] bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, so that they might seem to have been handed down by the Apostles because they were from the time of the Apostles, we can say to them: let them show the origins of their Churches, let them unroll the order of their bishops, running down in succession from the beginning, so that their first bishop shall have for author and predecessor someone of the Apostles or of the apostolic men who continued steadfast with the Apostles.” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 32,1).

David,

I too would like to thank Ken; we are always thankful for the opportunity to engage in any debate that would further the progress of truth.

I am, at all times, reluctant to side with those who are the supposed winners of a debate based on a show of intellect. The winning history of debates nearly always goes to those who make the best show of intellect or are more skilled at the art of argument. I have to admit I was a little surprised that David Bercot was not more persuasive since I am convinced truth was on his side.

Personally I am not at a loss on how to judge the debate. Just because their positions were so diverse makes it all that much easier. The fact that David and Dean represent the less popular position puts them at a decided disadvantage regarding numbers, but that is all. I doubt that many opinions were changed because of the debate. The sad thing about debates is that victory usually goes to the most talented and skilled at debating. Debates show more about who can best perform on their feet, under pressure, than it does about where the truth rest. An adult mind that has had years to formulate a worldview, and sees life through the rose colored lenses of his presuppositions and traditions, will resist any force that assaults his cherished system of beliefs. Only if a person comes to the debate with an open mind, pursuing truth, regardless that it may set him on his head, will he risk finding real truth.

I do not adhere to the Catholic dogma of Apostolic Succession. On this note the rule that Tertullian lays down has to be likewise applied to him. The New Testament gives no rule for this dogma as the Catholics suppose, so I reject it as mere tradition of men. In my understanding of Scripture it is neither valid as the word of God, nor is it accepted because it is “tradition,” and disqualified by our Savior. Even if it were the case, the Catholics have so corrupted the teaching that it would no longer be valid as it was originally supposed. The non-resistant teaching comes from the simple un-contorted reading and understanding of the New Testament. Strip away all the theological verbiage of tradition and all that is left of their theories are minnows floundering in a drop of water struggling for life.

The “Just War” debate is not difficult for me to judge because I am not trying to maintain a false position based on theological interpretations or traditions presented by both Catholic and Protestant schoolmen, but I simply allow Scripture to speak for itself.

The Just War side kept repeating the question of a personal attack against one’s family as if this were some impregnable wall of defense. “Would they just stand by and allow their loved ones to be attacked?” This question always seems to be the most important because it hits you where it hurts the most, but the answer is no more difficult than the others.

Lambs do not have big teeth or sharp claws, neither can they run fast or climb, they do not make threatening screams or have a terrifying appearance, so how can they defend their “self” or their family. Strange wouldn’t you say that the Lord was represented by a defenseless lamb, and then asked his followers to imitate Him, as lambs amongst wolves? If we are to copy our Lord should we growl and fight, should we attack our enemies and get the advantage, should we present ourselves as ferocious, and should we arm ourselves with weapons and prepare for battle? I, of course, would not just stand there and let my wife, child, or any other person be devoured by evil; it is the Christians duty to put himself between the defenseless and the aggressor and prefer that the blows be struck on his own body instead. The Christian should not render evil for evil, as do the unbelievers, in doing so he would be no different than the devouring lion, only a little more civil, but certainly not Christian. Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to protect the defenseless by doing harm to another person, nowhere! If we truly want to surround a defenseless person with safety there is no greater way than to introduce them to the Savior who says, “I Am your Protector.” It takes no faith or trust to kill someone, but it does take trust and faith to put your life into the hands of the unseen God.

Steve Blackwell

I appreciate you posting this. I was invited by Dean to attend the debate at the last minute and unable to do so. Having not yet spoken to him since the debate, I wanted to know how it went. I’m very proud of he and David and their delivery and conviction. Each are forces of nature. I’ve known Dean and David for 20 years and love them with all my heart. However I unequivocally side with Kreeft and Charles. These two articulated most of what I am compelled to believe.

Ken,

Thanks for the comment.

I have to admit that you are in very good company, the consensus is on your side.

Peter Hoover relayed the message that Dean said, “Well, praise the Lord. Couldn’t have gone better. When I went up to Dr. Kreeft right after we spoke to shake his hand, he said half-jokingly, “Thou almost persuaded me.” Then he said, “I’m not the moderator, but obviously you guys did your homework better than we did. You were much more prepared than we were. I’m not the moderator, but I feel you clearly won the debate.”

One person reported that it was obvious that the “just war” side was set back a couple of times, but the final blow came when David or Dean quoted from the Nicene Council (which I believe says that anyone joining the military should be excommunicated.)

In a confrontation with the Gnostics (distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis i.e. knowledge) of his day, Tertullian (160-230), a gifted Christian writer and apologist, defended his claim of the true Gospel this way,

“I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion’s Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is. Now what is to settle the point for us, except it be that principle of time, which rules that the authority lies with that which shall be found to be more ancient; and assumes as an elemental truth, that corruption (of doctrine) belongs to the side which shall be convicted of comparative lateness in its origin. For, inasmuch as error is falsification of truth, it must needs be that truth therefore precede error. A thing must exist prior to its suffering any casualty; and an object must precede all rivalry to itself. Else how absurd it would be, that, when we have proved our position to be the older one, and Marcion’s the later, ours should yet appear to be the false one, before it had even received from truth its objective existence….”

So, if the doctrine of “just war” did not appear until Augustine (354 – 430), two hundred years after Tertullian, and was 180 degrees out of sync with the apostolic Church, to whom should we go for authority? and who should we believe? Justin-Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and Arnobius, to name only a few, spoke with a single voice, that war was simply murder, but on a grand scale.

The tragic shift in opinion since the primitive Church has had a lasting and endearing effect on the hearts of men, but the hearts of men are prone to deception, as we have been forewarned.

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell

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