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The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 1

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I have been a frequent visitor to the VA Hospital in Indianapolis lately. There is a lot of complaining that goes on there by the vets, mostly about the wait time and secondly about the quality of care. Neither of these greatly alarms me; I think they do a commendable job. I also think that most of these veterans have a preconceived idea that veteran health care should to be like private health care; but it must be evaluated in the context of their purpose; one is for profit and the other is not. I just went through a radical prostatectomy surgery that will cost me nothing; they are even willing to pay travel expenses to and from the hospital, and will pay me disability due to my Vietnam service during a period which Agent Orange was heavily used to kill jungle foliage. On the other hand, there were no robotics doing the surgery; everything was done the old fashion way. But I cannot imagine any other nation doing a better job treating their veterans; and I am please, to say the least, to be a beneficiary of the governments veteran care program, and to see other vets benefit for their service to America, even if they are a bit slow and antiquated.

Thursday, while waiting for my post-surgery exam, I was sitting in a corner away from the TV so I could read, close to the magazine rack, reading a book and watching, mostly old vets like myself, coming and going. In the book rack there was a booklet, produced by Sword of the Lord Publishers that got my attention by its title: The Christian and War: Murder, killing, war; is there any difference? Where do we draw the line? With that title I thought, at first, that I may have found a person of like mind as myself, so I immediately picked it up and started to read. What I found was an entrenched Baptist supporter of war and the Christian war machine. Here is a man who claims the absolute support of Scripture for Christian involvement in a system that methodically destroys human life. Someone in the system had found it necessary to publish and make this booklet available to military vets? I wonder why? If killing is natural, and a part of the evolutionary process, then why would it be necessary to try and convince us of its legitimacy? This bookrack was directly across from a poster advertising a suicide hotline. The truth is that our hearts and minds do not synchronize with the idea of killing, and therefore, extreme measures must be taken to justify this unconscionable act while maintaining a level of sanity. Again, “context” plays and important part. Killing and violence are not in the context of who we humans were originally meant to be.

The government must dramatize its ads for soldiers with vast measures of pride and patriotism, and promise a crown of glory, to lure volunteers to sign-up; and the modern Church follows on with its absolute bulletproof documentation and approval from the Bible, because that Church has its life in the context of a world it can see and touch and relate to, in a physical way, and therefore compelled through the flesh to believe that that way is right. But, is that way reliable and can it be ultimately trusted? With the vast majority of the world and Church in lockstep agreement on this issue of war what chance does a sane view of truth have? What chance does a spiritual context have over the here and now world? Does a context of believing without seeing or of trust in ancient Biblical promises compel any Christians today, in a physical world on the edge of destruction?

Before I go any further I need to state my personal position so that I am not confused with pacifist liberals and the anti-war crowd. Today there is a distinct line drawn between conservative orthodox Christians and liberal unorthodox Christians; I am neither. I am not anti-war, anti-politics, or anti-government; all of these things have a place in this world’s economy, but they have no place in the life of one who claims to be of an economy that is foreign to this world, therefore they have a legitimate place, as ordained by God (Romans 13). I am in complete agreement with Jesus on the answers to these questions. Jesus’ answer to Pilate when asked if He was a king, said simply, “If My kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight.” In other words, if Jesus was not a citizen of this world then He would not try and subvert its government or political process, or save His own life; He would not protest its initiatives or wars; he would not defame its leaders or promote an uprising; He would live as a stranger and obey all the laws, and even pray for the government’s leaders. Jesus was not known for political action, or social action. If Jesus’ kingdom was in the context of this world then would His servants fight, vote, campaign, protest and march, organize and politicize, create laws to legislate morality, and fill the Whitehouse, Congress, and Senate with His followers; but Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, and He never authorized His followers to do any such thing, and for most of the first three hundred years they obeyed. I believe this position illustrates more closely what Jesus meant when He said, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:14-16. The message of my articles are not to non-Christians, but to those who profess to follow Jesus and at the same time do those things that Jesus stood against.

Having read the pamphlet, The Christian and War: Murder, killing, war; is there any difference? Where do we draw the line?, I realized that there must be untold numbers of Christians, like I used to be, who never even consider that fighting for one’s country might not be a righteous thing and not supported by the Bible and Jesus. I think one of the most disturbing things I have come to learn about the Church is that Christians have been fed a system of belief that is not Biblical. We are told to believe the Bible, and we think we do believe the Bible, when really what we believe is orthodoxy, a belief or orientation that’s in agreement with conventional standards or party line. For many years I read the Bible, and many of those years completing it from cover to cover, always trying to force the tough parts of the Bible into my particular mold of orthodoxy. When I finally gave up on that method of understanding, I immediately understood that Jesus wasn’t speaking in code, but spoke plainly, and that He could be believed and trusted to do what He said when we remove the blinders of orthodoxy and adjust our will to obey, John 7:17. So naturally when I read the pamphlet about this Baptist preacher trying to convince young pliable “Christian” minds that Jesus approved of their going off to kill and destroy, although Jesus nowhere approves of this, I was deeply troubled, and wondered why this is so confusing for our schooled leaders to grasp. I guess it isn’t totally their fault; but at the same time it is their fault, and our own individual faults, for not believing what we read. These religious doctors, all across our country, are products of a highly developed orthodoxy which is funneled through our institutions of higher learning; but only a superficial reading of Christian history will reveal a serious downgrading of once great institutions to a level that Christ is not earnestly respected as King of kings and Lord of lords.

I am going to make a few more general comments here, then over the next couple of articles, I am going to take our Baptist preacher’s prized bulletproof texts and examine them to see in what context he is making his claims.

The reason I am so adamant about keeping things in context is primarily because it is the schoolmen themselves who demand that we stick to the context of a passage when determining its meaning. On this point I must agree; the ignorance of context has been the reason for so much confusion when trying to understand what the Bible says and why we have so many differing opinions.

One of the main things we must grasp initially concerning context is the overall general context from which Jesus spoke. In other words, what was His contextual foundation? Was He ever confused about who He was, i.e. God in the flesh, or what His purpose was? Did Jesus ever contradict Himself? The obvious answer is no! if we read simple and explicit words from Jesus, which cannot be misunderstood, then we read something that seems to say a contrary thing, what are we to think? Are we to assume that Jesus is back-peddling, contradicting, or giving extra information which He purposely withheld or wasn’t aware of till later; or are we to assume that the problem is not with Jesus, but rather with our limited understanding? In nearly all circumstances if we apply the rule of understanding a passage in its context, most problems will vanish. If we look at the general context of Jesus life and the things He wrote, we will certainly agree that warfare and violence is something which appears strangely inconsistent with His life and teaching. On the other hand, if we look at the context of the average earthling we will easily discover a very different context. In the history of the world the context of man has been one of war or rumors of more war, and that every period of his existence upon the globe is stained with blood, except for one brief period; the period of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was such a period. There is another period that stands out as a period of peace, but it was not without the shedding of blood. The period of which I speak is the years following Jesus’ ministry on earth, which encompasses about three hundred years. The peacefulness that our attention is drawn to during this time was a spiritual peace enjoyed by believers, trusting in the providence of God to overcome all enemies through their imitating and espousing of the Lamb of God, who was Himself the Prince of Peace. It was a peace that did not rely upon earthly means or methods but relied on the spirit, whose weapons  are spiritual. Jesus’ ways do not make sense to the world, nor to much of the Christian world. His ways must be understood in the context of the Kingdom of God in which there will be no war or violence, and all of His children who are at this time living in this world, live by the rules of that Kingdom, where killing and violence do not exist; we are to emulate the Lamb of the first coming, not the Lion of the second coming.

As is apparent; the general context of Jesus and His followers stand in stark contrast to the context of those who have not fully appreciated His way, and remain primarily those who interpret life and Scripture in the context of what seems to be the apparent outward meaning as seen through the eyes of the world. These people have, in essence, re-contextualized Jesus’ teaching and His Kingdom to fit in the framework of the current dominant philosophy of life, and have not exercised Biblical faith and trust in the unchanging nature of God.

There are a few core Scriptures that are used to prove that Jesus sanctioned war, military service, carrying weapons of self defense, and political activism, and we will deal with each of them. The goal here is to discover the truth and to discover whether we are walking in the faith of Abraham and many others as illustrated in Hebrews 11, or if we are in bondage to mere orthodoxy.

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1 reply on “The Church and Its Orthodoxy (Conformity) Toward War: Part 1”

"Thank you, Father, LORD of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will." (Matthew 11:25-26, ESV).
Steve, I also appreciate the fact that you began this message with a statement of gratefulness, so rare in this "crooked and perverse generation." (Philippians 2:14-15).  

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