links: this went thru my mind (on violence)


American exceptionalism & military intervention: Is Vladimir Putin Right?

“… Putin does have this to say in response to American exceptionalism: ‘There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.’

Desensitization, evil, forgiveness, labeling & violence: Good and Evil: Wearing Hitler [required reading]

“We think we have corralled evil to somewhere else, somewhere where “they” live, but then we hear evidence that suggests that if someone just puts on a white coat and pretends to be in charge we will push whatever button they tell us to.”

Government, nonviolence & pacifism: * Responding to Critics of a Pacifist View of the Syrian Crisis (parts 1 & 2) * Can Christians Ever Use Violence? A Discussion with Preston Sprinkle (Part 1); * Can Christians Ever Fight for Peace? A Discussion with Preston Sprinkle (Part 2) [all four of these entries are essential reading]

* “…  to say “God uses the sword-wielding authorities to punish wrongdoers” entails that every time authorities use their sword, God is using them. In logic, this is called a non sequitur – viz. ‘it does not follow.’ If I say, ‘Uncle Joe uses cow dung to fertilize his field,’ it doesn’t mean that every time Uncle Joe’s cows crap they’re fertilizing his field! This is why I stated that God doesn’t approve of the violence of governments: he simply uses them, as much as possible, as he finds them.”

* “Our call is to put on display an alternative to all the kingdoms of this world by refusing all violence and laying down our lives for others – even, and especially, those who identify themselves as our enemies.”

* “… before we ask the question, ‘Can a Christian be president,’ we need to first ask the question, ‘Does the Bible, especially the New Testament, allow Christians to use or command others to use violence to confront evil?’ Put more broadly: ‘Is there anything in the New Testament that encourages believers to put aside their Christian ethic for the sake of their vocation?'”

* “What if America killed all the bad guys, defended its borders, and exported democracy to every nation on earth? What would this accomplish? Would this further the kingdom of God? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it would steer everyone’s gaze away from Jesus as the only true source of peace and toward America as the world’s savior—pax Americana. Rome almost did this in the first century: robbers were nearly stamped out, the Parthians were kept at bay, and Barbarians to the north posed little threat for hundreds of years. Pax Romana. And in Revelation 12 and 13, John said that they were empowered by Satan.”

on tagging & stereotyping


American-RiflemanThough I’m no longer a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have been in years gone by. I have a number of family and friends who are members. It’s not at all unusual for me to engage in conversation with them about the NRA and any and all things gun-related. I’ve read or perused nearly every issue of one of the NRA’s chief publications (American Rifleman) over the course of the past forty years. I have read reams of other literature the NRA has published. I visit their website. I take careful note of anything said about them when I notice their appearance in the news.

I say all of that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of the NRA and I know and understand something of its membership. And I also know that not every NRA member sees things as the NRA’s current president, Wayne LaPierre, sees things. What the NRA declares as gospel, by no means would all of its members subscribe to in faith and practice. That is, while the NRA may say one thing, some of its members would do another. In many of those cases I would say, “That’s a good thing.”

And that’s one of the reasons it really bothers me when I hear or see sweeping assumptions and generalizing statements made about the NRA. “NRA people think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you do [or don’t] …” “Only _____ are members of the NRA.” Such remarks don’t merely bother me, but also, and especially, members of the NRA who don’t subscribe to everything the NRA publishes.

Would it not then be much more accurate and respectful to say otherwise, perhaps something like the following: “I understand some members of the NRA think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you might do [or don’t] …” “Some members of the NRA appear to be …”

To some this might seem like a small or subtle difference, an even trivial or unimportant difference in wording, but I beg to differ. I perceive it to be huge and obvious, vital and crucial. And for one reason, if nothing else: no one should be misunderstood or falsely accused.

I am a Christian. I’ve been a member of Churches of Christ for the past thirty-six years. I’ve preached virtually every week within Churches of Christ for the past thirty-three years. I hold a graduate degree from a university associated with Churches of Christ (Abilene Christian University). I have written for half-a-dozen of publications within Churches of Christ. When I notice a Church of Christ appearing in the national news (as one did last week in the New York Times), I take note of it.

I say that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of Christ, Christians, and Churches of Christ. And so I know that not all members of Churches of Christ believe or practice their faith the same way. By no means “all; as in, “not even close.” And sometimes – often – that’s a very good thing indeed.

And so, I cringe a bit whenever I hear someone say: “You Church of Christ people believe …” “Church of Christ people all think …” People who belong to Churches of Christ are …” And why do I cringe? Because I know we don’t all see everything alike and to pretend everything on the canvas is all one color is to miss the painting entirely.

Consequently, whenever I hear or see someone make statements like those, I know they’re likely being made by someone who either doesn’t have much personal knowledge of Churches of Christ and/or they’re just not thinking about what they’re saying at the moment. Either of which only perpetuates mass ignorance and feeds misunderstanding from misrepresentation, neither of which I care to be a part of at all.

And so I say, let’s each make an extra effort to not label or pigeon-hole people whenever we speak of groups of people. We best respect groups of people when we respect the individuals who compose those groups. After all, our salvation is not of the NRA, Churches of Christ, or any other group of people. Rather, we all stand or fall before the one God and Father of us all, through the one Savior and Lord he has provided for each of us, Jesus Christ.

fresh bread: what makes a false teacher “false?”

“… false teachers will come among you.” (2 Peter 2:1)

Peter chose his words carefully. That’s what men who know they’re about to die are want to do (2 Peter 1:14). He surely lingered not only over his choice of subject and expression, but deliberately spoke so as to maximize the chance of what he had to say becoming memorable (2 Peter 1:15).

This is how Peter penned his last letter, at least the last of which we have record; 2 Peter. Nearly 40% of that letter he spent warning believers of “false teachers” coming their way. Five times he called them such (2:1,2,12,17,19) and he described their ways in detail.

Now we would be naive to think “false teachers” are only a thing of the past. But if we are believers and the words and example of Scripture matter to us still, then we should be exceedingly careful as to who we would ever brand as “false.” We would do well to ask Peter here and now: “What ways would make a teacher so fallen as for us to rightly tag them as ‘false?'”

While nothing in this letter would cause us to think Peter was comprehensive in his answer, we ought to notice its scope for the teachers Peter labeled as “false” were obviously, and exceedingly, ungodly in all their words and ways.

Their tongue was untamed. They introduced destructive opinions (2:1), lied with premeditation (2:3), and were unafraid to use insult (2:10b). They used “slander” as they addressed what they didn’t even understand (2:12b). They were teachers whose speech betrayed their true allegiance.

Christ’s Lordship is something they had left far behind. As Peter put it: “… they deny the master who bought them …” (2:1) What they had to say about Jesus, whether with words or ways, was anything but fitting of his place or power as ruler of all.

Immorality was their ID. Their unprincipled living wasn’t just a reality, but was “unrestrained” (2:2,18a). They followed after “the corrupt cravings of the sinful nature” (2:10a). “Unruly parties” were their trademark and “seductive pleasures” (2:13b) are what they sought. They appeared to “always [be] looking for someone with whom to commit adultery” (2:14). Clearly their cravings enslaved them (2:19b).

Money was their master. They were given over to “greed” (2:3a), their “hearts [being] trained in greed” (2:14). So obvious it was that money was their god Peter could only say it reminded him of one who “loved the payment of doing wrong.” (2:15)

People were their prey. Though their ways could be subtle like a snare (2:18), they lived to “take advantage” of people (2:3), targeting those weak of faith (2:14), those just coming to faith, and those who had wandered from faith (2:18). People were only their means to their selfish end.

And they had a propensity for pride. “They openly defied “the Lord’s authority” and were “reckless” and “brash” (2:10b). Their harsh words or mockery were even known to be openly directed against beings greater than themselves (2:10b). You would think the universe revolved around them.

Now what makes a false teacher false? Surely from this short study we can say that at least in this instance, the issues involved not merely the teachers’ words, but their ways; their motives and character as much as the content and style of their teaching.

The thoughtful reflection on which should lead us to pray.

Heavenly Father, give us the discernment and courage to always stand for what is truly of you. But Father, we confess our history is strewn with the wreckage and results of the careless use of the phrase “false teacher.” The slightest variance in the understanding of your word and will has all too often given rise to the labeling of falseness and fostered the needless division of your people. Father, forgive us of this sin; have mercy on our souls. This we pray in the name of him who is nothing but True. Amen.