Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Pacifist Jesus And His Warrior God

I attended a very interesting talk on Tuesday during the theology of mission class at Tabor Bible College. Ray Gingerich the Anabaptist scholar from the US was there discussing and conversing on issues of war, power pacifism, and justice etc.

In His introduction, Ray Gingerich said that violence over the past two centuries has not served humanity well. As Christians we must either change our strategies and our theology or the Christians witness in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace will be overwhelmed and smothered in the avalanche of violence that is pouring down upon us. He claimed that power as violence has had its time in history; and it has failed! With the explosion of the first nuclear weapons, and their horrible destruction, Albert Einstein said: "Everything has changed, except our thinking."

Many ideas and opinions were explored and debated during this meeting. One particular confusion was 'the riddle' of the Pacifist Jesus and his Warrior God. Apparently much work has been done within the past half century, especially in Anabaptist circles, to enable Christians to see a nonviolent Jesus in both his teachings and examples. This ethical dualism / paradox / dilemma in which a God of violence and acts of violence is embraced as theological and ethical necessities is contrary to the teachings and examples of Jesus.

I am interested in your thinking about these issues regarding war, power, justic, biblical violence and non-violence. Please let me know of your opinions in the comment.

14 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

To see our Lord as a 'pacifist' is to view Him through a modern lens.

Our Lord affirms the authority of the Old Testament, with its affirmation of violence in appropriate circumstances.

At His return, our Lord will use violent force to subdue the kingdoms and armies of this world.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Kitty Cheng said...

Hey Matthew, it's so good to hear from you brother! How have you been?

Yes this is a very controversial issue, and I'm grappling with it still! So in your opinions, how does the OT affirm violence, and what constitutes appropriate circumstances?

God Bless!

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

how does the OT affirm violence?

God supports the part of Israel in various wars, the right of self defence is affirmed, corporal punishment is affirmed, the death penalty is instituted.

'what constitutes appropriate circumstances?'

That is a major ethical question.

I think most Christians would affirm self-defence and would see some wars as justified. Some like myself, would also accept the use of the death penalty today.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

888 said...

Hi Kitty,
Some words from Valentin Tomberg:
"The worship of the idol of power conceived of as the superman, above all when one identifies oneself with it, is relatively inoffensive - being, fundamentally, infantile. But this is not so with the other category of power worshippers, namely those who project this ideal onto God himself.
Their faith in God depends on the power of God; if God was powerless, they would not believe in him. It is they who teach that God has created souls predestined to eternal damnation and others predestined to salvation; it is they who make God responsible forth entire history of the human race, including all its atrocities. God, they say, "chastises" his disobedient children by means of wars, revolutions, tyrannies and other similar things. How could it be otherwise? God is almighty, therefore all that happens is only able to happen through his action or with his consent.

The idol of power has such a hold on some human minds that they prefer God who is a mixture of good and evil, provided that he is powerful, to a God of love who governs only by the intrinsic authority of the Divine - by truth, beauty and goodness - i.e. they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the crucified God."

Greetings,
Bruce

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Bruce
"they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the crucified God."

Do you not believe that God is almighty?

Do you think there is some conflict between believing in an almight God and Christ's willingness to go to the cross?

888 said...

Peace Br. Matthew,
There is a discussion group devoted to Tomberg; full of folk more learned than I. So I would leave it to them to thrash out his ideas in full.

Father God is All Perfection and Omnipotent- obviously this is at variance with what happens here on Mother Earth.

The following goes a little way in explaining:

Tsimtsum

There is a helpful explanation as to the existence of evil in Tomberg's "Meditations on the Tarot". It is based on a Cabbalistic doctrine that God had created a space by withdrawing Himself in order that Creation could take place.

Valentin Tomberg explains:
"the idea of tsimtsum - the 'withdrawal of God' - of the Lurianic school of Cabala.....the existence of the universe is rendered possible by the act of contraction of God within Himself. God made a 'place' for the world in abandoning a region interior to Himself."

"In other words, in order to create the world ex nihilo, God had first to bring the void itself into existence. He had to withdraw within in order to create a mystical space, a space without his presence - the void. And it is in thinking this thought that we assist the birth of freedom."

If the Will of God permeated the world there would be no evil- or freedom for that matter. So we pray "Thy Will be done."

As the Brother's say: in the creation of the Earth, Father God "overextended Himself". And this is a quite exciting opportunity. Not all on Earth is obedient to God.

"What part of the echo does not return?
Not all of the projection
so thrown comes back ...
not all is obedient
to its first issue -

For the echo can surely never encompass
the full sum in total;
it shall never resound
a complete and uttered capacity of
that voice, which was lent to it
from the first.

And, from that which idled behind
and stayed
became the earth element
thus now remarkable
unto itself."

Now if God maintained His Will with force and violence there would have been no need for the events at Golgotha.

Best Regards,
Bruce

Kc said...

Kitty I have struggled with this myself. There are certain acts of violence that we know without doubt are unjust and condemned in the scripture but there are also acts of violence that are not condemned. I have concluded that any violent act born out of love for another must be judged by God and not me. As for my own actions I trust God for guidance as necessary. I have no doubt I would resort to violence to protect you from harm.

Kitty Cheng said...

Bruce & Matthew, your discussions are very interesting, and have deepened my understanding of this important topic! Thanks brothers!

Kitty Cheng said...

Awwww Kc, you're so kind to me. Do you think that resorting to violence to protect me from harm will not be judged / condemned by God? ;)

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Bruce

'Father God is All Perfection and Omnipotent- obviously this is at variance with what happens here on Mother Earth.'

Why?

'If the Will of God permeated the world there would be no evil- or freedom for that matter. So we pray "Thy Will be done."'

Certainly, God has granted us the ability to act against His will. But He still has the power to exert His will if He chose to.

That He witholds His use of power does not meant that He does not posess that power.

'Now if God maintained His Will with force and violence there would have been no need for the events at Golgotha.'

I believe that in the crucifixtion, God poured out His wrath on the Lord Jesus Christ, punishing Him with violent force for the sins of the world. Thus, enabling those who trust in Christ to be forgiven.

Kc said...

I honestly think it depends on whether or not it is done out of a heart of love. ;-)

Being a daddy and a hubby I can't imagine properly loving my family unless I protect them from harm.

Miss Eagle said...

Back in the 1960s, the challenge for my generation was the war in Vietnam and Australia's participation in it. I read and thought and prayed about this. Out of all this, I became a pacifist and in forty years have seen no reason to change my stance. A study of the life of Jesus - and in particular the Sermon of the Mount - in my view discourages any other attitude. I believe the reason that a lot of Christians are unable to accept this position is that they have never experienced an alternative position to that which embraces war. Kitty, you are most fortunate to have someone from one of the Historic Peace Churches speak at your college. For some years now, the Historic Peace Churches have been convening at the request of the World Council of Churches. Out of their dialogue, the WCC hopes will come thoughts and proposals which other faith communities will find useful in working for peace. Living here in Melbourne is a friend of mine who has been present at most of these meetings in his capacity as a Quaker (a member of the Religious Society of Friends). If he were to be invited to speak on his experiences in this regard, I think he would give it serious consideration. He has also recently published a book about Quaker involvement in conflict over the last four centuries: from the English Civil War of the 17th century through to the conflict of apartheid South Africa. The peace topic is too large to be discussed here. Suffice it to say that there are a number of Christian organisations and activities to tap into here in Melbourne. There are also the Christians who are being tried for their Christian peace witness in Alice Springs. Can provide more information on this. Lastly, I would like to leave you with the historic Quaker Peace Testimony:----

The Quaker Peace Testimony ----

We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world . . . .
. . . The Spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing of evil and again to move us into it; and we certainly know and testify to the world that the Spirit of Christ which leads us into all truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world...therefore we cannot learn war anymore.
Excerpts from a Statement by the Quakers to King Charles II (1660)

"I told them I knew from whence all wars arose...and that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars; and that I was come into the covenant of peace which was before all wars and strife."
George Fox, founder of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) (1650)

Kitty Cheng said...

Hey Miss Eagle, thanks for your comment, which taught me so much. The Quaker Peace Testimony is meaningful!

888 said...

Shalom Br.Matthew,

'Father God is All Perfection and Omnipotent- obviously this is at variance with what happens here on Mother Earth.'

>Why?

Greed, cruelty, hatred, evil prospering, the good suffering, intolerable suffering etc., etc...



>I believe that in the >crucifixtion, God poured out His wrath on the Lord Jesus Christ, punishing Him with violent force >for the sins of the world. Thus, >enabling those who trust in >Christ to be forgiven.

I think this is a dangerous doctrine, as far as it is an example parenting skills.

As Father God is the Perfect Parent, I don't believe that was the scenario at all.

When one goes among wild beasts, the results are predictable. Even Siegfried and Roy found that out! Therefore the Crucifixion was predictable.

There is also the aspect of spiritual evil to consider.

Also one could say that the Fall of Man was predictable- but not inevitable.

-Br.Bruce