Thursday, May 5, 2005

More on the Bible and Peace

Here's a reframing of an issue that's been discussed a good bit these last few years.

It occurred to me that one way to look at war and peace and the Bible is that the norm in the Old Testament and New Testament was peace. God expected God's people to be peace-loving workers of justice. Period.

That norm was interrupted at times (seemingly quite often in the OT) when God specifically told Israel to engage in a specific type of war (not depending upon her army, but upon God, and often involving wiping out every man, woman, child and puppy dog in the process).

Then we received a definitive teaching from Jesus, telling us that we ought to love our neighbors, friends, enemies and fiends.

For me, this is the last word from God. I'm willing to suggest that God may indeed want to call me to go to war again, but it'll have to be pretty specifically from God, not a questionable ruler. In the meantime, the norm at least for Christians is to follow the last word we have from Jesus.

Love your enemies.


Sky Niangua said...

My heart thanks you for being a beautiful example, for 'speaking-up' as one of those who follow the true Christ and unboxed-God. :o)


Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I think you're right about the norm for all Scripture, but I have trouble with a God that changes her or his mind about fundamental moral issues like war. I also worry about people being open to God telling them to go to war. Bush said God told him to "smite" Saddam. Any message that contradicts the norm in Christ must be from some other spirit than the Holy. I think if I heard a heavenly voice telling me to kill I would echo Abraham about the plan to kill the cities of the plain: "Shall Not the Judge of the Universe do right?"
I handle the "interruptions" of the nonviolent norm in the OT by saying that the fullness of revelation had not yet come and by saying that Israel misunderstood God when commanded to commit genocide. I am not an inerrantist. One definition of "fundamentalist" might be someone who, when faced with a choice of believing horrible things about God or believing that Scripture might not be inerrant, chooses to believe horrible things of God!
Thanks for standing up for peace anyway, friend.

Dan Trabue said...

Well, actually, I'm with you on this one Michael. But the above was written for those concerned about that kind of inerrancy (myself, I'm more concerned about the Truths of the Bible than the facts). Great definition of a fundy, there!

Sylvia said...

Howdy! I surfed in via Sand Creek Almanac, and may I say, right on! I've had this discussion on my blog (in the Narnian context, of all things) and I'm also willing to take Jesus at his word.

As I understand it, the warring, punishing God of the Hebrew Bible has been interpreted as a projection of the wishes and practices of the people, much in the same way Bush Jr. invoked God in justifying his war. Of course the real God was also working through the prophets to guide the people away from their sins, and that is recorded too. I think the reason for the wholesale slaughter you referred to was to remove booty (material wealth and slaves) as a motivation for war. Sort of a version of harm reduction: ok, go to war if you insist on it, but not for wealth (kinda still relevant, eh?).

I like this way of looking beneath the surface of the Bible text to what it's telling us about the Israelites' experience and developing understanding of God in those times and of God's work among them.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Cheers.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Sylvia. Great comments. And I agree that we need to look below the surface of the Bible. If we take it exactly literally, then we'd be stoning our disobedient children and committing all manner of obnoxious behavior.

And I've hit upon your website via Sand Creek and always enjoy my visits there. Thanks for writing.