Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dating the Gospels


There are different dating schemes for the canonical Gospels.

i) One common approach is to treat it like the domino effect. Assuming Markan priority, and the literary dependence of Matthew and Luke on Mark, if we have a date for Acts, then Luke's Gospel predates Acts, and Mark's Gospel predates Luke. So you work back from Acts as your chronological benchmark.

Likewise, it's sometimes argued that John's Gospel takes the Synoptic accounts for granted, making passing references that would be unintelligible apart from knowledge of those prior accounts ("undesigned coincidences"). 

According to one stock argument, Acts ends at that juncture because Luke takes the action up to the present. He says nothing more because nothing more had happened. 

I think that's easily the most plausible explanation for the abrupt ending, which leaves things up in the air. 

a) Why would Luke devote a quarter of his church history to Paul's arrest/trial/appeal, only to say nothing about the final disposition, if this was written after Paul's execution? That's quite a build-up. He knew his readers would be curious about the outcome.

b) Moreover, Luke already mentions the martyrdom of two Christian leaders (Stephen, James), so why would he avoid mentioning the martyrdom of his hero (Paul), if it was written after the fact?

ii) Given (i), scholars date Acts to 62-64. But that in turn pushes Luke further back in time, and Mark further back in relation to Luke. 

iii) In addition, scholars like R. T. France have argued that Matthew refers to many topical Jewish customs and controversies which would be moot after the fall of Jerusalem. Would Matthew's selective account preserve information irrelevant to his audience?

iv) Admittedly, dating is less significant than authorship so long as a later date doesn't preclude traditional authorship.

However, a potential casualty of dating one or more Synoptic gospels to sometime after 70 AD is the argument from prophecy. In the nature of the case, prediction and fulfillment are more impressive if the prediction was publicly known in advance of the event. If, however, both the prediction and its fulfillment are recorded after the fact, then is that a prediction or retrodiction? 

If all three Synoptic Gospels were written after the fall of Jerusalem, then the prophecy of its impending downfall loses some evidentiary value. That invites the charge of prophecy ex eventu. 

There can, of course, be a significant gap between the time a prophecy is uttered and the time it's written down. The prophecy itself may be in circulation. Be remembered by the original audience who heard it, and, by word-of-mouth, for others who were not in attendance at the time. Oral tradition can precede a historical record. So it could still be common knowledge for people living before the event. In principle, they could vouch for the oracle. But, of course, later readers of the Gospel have only the Gospel accounts. We live on the other side of the event, looking back. 

In principle, Mark could be pre-70 AD while Matthew and Luke could be post-70 AD. In one respect, their record of the prophecy would be dependent Mark insofar as they copied and edited Mark's version, rather than independent corroboration.

If, however, they lived before the event, then even though they only wrote after the fact, that would still constitute independent attestation. And, indeed, Matthew and Luke do use earlier sources. So we need to distinguish between the date of their Gospels and the date of their sources.

If, however, all three antedate 70 AD, then that simplifies the argument from prophecy. In that case we clearly have priory and multiple-attestation alike. 

v) Here's a classic case for the earliest possible date of Mark:


vi) Some commentators object that it's a dubious inference because Mark also has an abrupt ending. That, however, is a poor comparison, for the ending of Mark is, itself, considered to be problematic, requiring a special explanation.

vii) Some scholars think Mk 13 reflects a Roman setting, with specific reference to the Neronian persecution of Christians, which would date Mk to the late 60s. However, that's been challenged:

The linguistic data, for example, have come under fire from Theissen (Gospels, 244-49) and Marcus ("Jewish War," 443-46), who have argued that in 12:42 and 15:16, Mark is not substituting western terms for eastern equivalents but explaining imprecise Greek words by means of precise Latin ones.  
More importantly, although the persecution of the Roman Christians under Nero is the best-attested case of persecution of Christians in the first century, it is not the only such instance (for surveys, see Beare, "Persecution," and Potter, "Persecution"). Acts, the Pauline correspondence, and later church sources attest sporadic persecutions before Mark's time, in Judaea (Gal 1:13,22), particularly in Jerusalem (e.g. Acs 5:40; 7:54-8:3; 12:1-5; 21:27-36; 23:12-15; Josephus Ant. 20.22); in Damascus in Syria (2 Cor 11:32-33; Acts 9:1-2,23); in several cities in Asia Minor (Acts 13:50; 14:19; 19:24-34); and in Greece (Acts 16:19-24; 17:5-9,13; 18:12-13). Some of these persecutions seem to have been spontaneous acts of mob violence (cf. "hated by all" in Mk 13:13); Josephus, for example, mentions that James, the brother of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem church, was killed by a Jewish mob in 62 C.E. (Ant. 20:200), and in Acts the Christians' antagonists are often simply called "the Jews" (Acts 9:23; 12:3; 13:50; 14:19, etc.), though this term may sometimes denote Jewish authorities rather than the general populace (e.g. 13:50.  
In any event, some of the actions against Christians involved rulers as well (cf. the reference to trials before kings and rules in Mk 13:9). In Acts 12:1-5, for example, we hear of the involvement of Agrippa I of Palestine, sometime before his death in 44 CE., in the execution of James the son of Zebedee and the incarceration of Peter in Jerusalem, and in 1 Cor 11:32-33 we are told of an attempted arrest of Paul by agents of the Nabataean King Aretas in Damascus. Official persecution of some sort is also implied…by Paul's arrests of Judaean Christians before his conversion (Acts 8:3), by the letters he obtained from the high priest in Jerusalem to authorize the arrest of Damascene Christians (Acts 9:1-2), and by the punishment meted out against him after his conversion by the magistrates of Derbe in Asia Minor (Acts 16:22-24). Examinations of Christians before rulers, moreover, are described as taking place in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17), Jerusalem (22:30-23:10), and Caesarea (23:33-26:32), and beatings in synagogues or other Jewish venues, similar to those mentioned in Mk 13:9, are referred to as occurring in Jerusalem (Acts 5:40) and unspecified locations (2 Cor 11:24). The persecutions described in Mark 13:9-13, therefore, do not necessarily point toward Rome or the events under Nero. 
Indeed, it may even be questioned how well Mk 13 fits the circumstances of the Roman persecution described by Tacitus. If this chapter really reflected those events, in which Nero was such a dominating presence, would we not expect a Nero-like figure to be prominently featured in the Markan "prophecies"? Tacitus makes it clear that the persecution of 64 C.E. was instigated by Nero himself and that he played a central role in it, even using his private gardens for the slaughter of Christians. This information is intrinsically credible, since Nero would have had a plausible motive (scapegoating the Christians for a crime of which he himself was suspected) and since Tacitus himself had no love for the Christians and thus would probably not have invented the charge merely to slander Nero. But Mk 13 does not concentrate disproportionately on the wickedness of a Nero-like pagan king; there is only an incidental reference to hearings before rulers in 13:9, not the sort of preoccupation with regal wickedness that we see, for example, in the descriptions of the "beasts" in Dan 7 and Rev 13. And Nero is an unlikely candidate for the "abomination of desolation" in 13:14, since he never visited or even planned to visit Palestine, and the "abomination" is probably some sort of desecration of the Jerusalem temple. If Mk 13 really came out of the Neronian persecution, would we not expect it to focus more, as in Daniel and Revelation do, on a bestial, anti-God figure? Joel Marcus, Mark 1:8 (Yale U, 2002), 32-33.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Another passage that doesn't seem to make sense unless compatibilism is true

Genesis 24 records an interesting story, one that at first glance doesn't seem to say much about libertarian free will or compatibilism. But on closer inspection, we can see that the events that unfurl make no sense unless compatibilism is true.

The chapter begins with Abraham being advanced in years and wishing for his son Isaac to have a wife. Abraham has his servant take an oath to go back to Abraham's home country to fetch a wife for Isaac. As he sends the servant, Abraham tells him, "But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there" (Genesis 24:8, ESV). So we see that Abraham is concerned about the freedom of the wife the servant is to pick; she must be willing to return, otherwise the servant is released from his oath to find a wife for Isaac.

When the servant arrives, he prays:
"O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master" (Genesis 24:12-14, ESV).
So this is a very specific sign that the servant asks for. It is interesting in that while mere hospitality might have someone give a drink to a stranger, it is above and beyond the norm for someone to also water the animals. Therefore, what the servant requests is not likely to be the result of random behavior. And because of that, he takes confidence that if he finds such a woman then he has found God's choice for Isaac's wife.

And we read:
Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking” (Genesis 24:15-19, ESV).
So even before the servant had finished speaking his unusual request for a sign, Rebekah appeared...and then proceeded to fulfill the very sign that the servant had asked. And as we continue, we find that Rebekah did become the wife of Isaac, and she would later become the mother of Jacob and Esau.

But consider again the sequence of events. The fact that Rebekah fulfilled a sign is only amazing because the request was something that was so unusual it would guarantee for the servant that God was guiding him in that choice. This means it is an extremely unlikely set of circumstances.

So how did this set of circumstances come about if we assume Libertarian Free Will (LFW)? No supernatural being told the servant what to pray--the text indicates that the request came from the servant. Likewise, Rebekah's behavior appears to have been her own. That is, nowhere does she say, "An angel told me to do this" and nowhere does she say that she was compelled by external forces to water the servant's camels too. The fact that the servant had to run up to her indicates she was not close enough to have heard his request

So how is it that the servant just happened to ask, without external influences that would override his LFW, for the exact thing that Rebekah would just happen to be doing, without external influences over her LFW? It doesn't make any sense.

What does make sense is that God was in control of all that would happen, including the servant coming up with the request and Rebekah doing the action. And because there is no aspect of compulsion being talked about, and because it is impossible for this event to have occurred on LFW grounds, the only possible explanation is that this event presupposes compatibilism.

Should a pastor resign if his grown child backslides?


If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination (Tit 1:6).
Some Christians think this means that if a pastor's adult son or daughter strays from the faith, he should resign the pastorate. Several problems with that inference.

i) It gives the text a more specific meaning than the text states. The text doesn't specify that this includes both underage children and grown children. Although the wording of the text doesn't rule that out, it doesn't spell that out, either. 

ii) Most commands and prohibitions have an implied context. We need to ask what kind of situation they envision. Commands and prohibitions typically deal with common situations rather than exceptional situations. 

iii) Apropos (ii), the passage doesn't imply that an elder must have children. For instance, what if his children died? Child mortality was high back then. Disease. A fatal accident. Snakebite. Famine. 

Rather, it means that if he has children, then they should be believers (or faithful). It's dealing with a typical situation rather than every conceivable situation.

Likewise, Paul presumably doesn't mean to exclude a widower or celibate man from eldership. The statement is not intended to cover every possible case, but normal situations. By the same token, there's no reason to assume it's talking about "children" in general. 

iv) Fathers have no direct or ultimate control over whether or not their children will be believers. That's in God's hands.

By contrast, fathers, especially in the ancient world, where paternal authority was strong, had considerable control over the behavior of minors living under their roof. 

v) To make eldership contingent on the spiritual condition of adult children would subvert paternal authority. Instead of making children subject to the father, it makes the father subject to children. It makes the father's ministry dependent on the attitude of his grown children. But does Paul really intend to undermine paternal (and pastoral) authority in that way?

vi) Likewise, there's the well-worn distinction between apostates and backsliders. Should an elder resign the moment a grown child strays from the faith, even if that turns out to be temporary?  

vii) Christians who draw that inference seem to have this situation in mind: two Christians marry and raise their kids in a Christian home. Indoctrinate their kids in the faith. Take them to church from birth. But when they are grown, one or more of them stray from the faith.

Problem that scenario is that it's anachronistic in the context of mid-1C churches. It's not like these had been around for decades. Many of them were planted just a few years earlier by an apostle or missionary. They hadn't been attended for two or three generations. 

In addition, many or most of the Christians were fairly recent converts to Christianity. Former pagans. And in many cases, their grown children were raised in paganism. 

At best you have a father and/or mother who converts to Christianity, then begins to raise the younger kids in the new-found faith. But it may well be too late for the adult kids. The parents can witness to them, but they can't start from scratch. 

I'd add that that situation can easily be duplicated in many parts of the world today, including unchurched Americans.

viii) Finally, modern-day fathers in the West don't have the same authority their ancient counterparts did. So it's harder for them to keep their kids in check. Our culture undermines parental authority at every turn. 

Coincidence or God's providence?

http://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/04/coincidence-or-god’s-providence

Friday, April 24, 2015

Freedom of expression


Note from KBJ: There's more at stake than freedom of religion. There's also freedom of expression. If I am required by law to affirm something I disbelieve, my First Amendment right is violated. Freedom of expression includes freedom not to be made to express. Let's apply this idea to the case of homosexual "marriage." If I bake and decorate wedding cakes for a living, then I may not be forced to express, either in, on, or though the cake, views I reject (for whatever reason, including reasons of religious conviction). The same is true of photographers, painters, and caterers, all of whom express themselves through their work.

Free-range kids


There's a debate going on in this country about "free range kids." To what extent should parents be allowed to leave younger kids unattended? To walk alone, play in the park by themselves?

The stories I've read overlook a basic issue: who decides? Should we leave this to the discretion of CPS? The police?

I think that's a mistake. If this is going to be a matter of public policy, it's something that ought to be addressed in statutory law, with some specific parameters, rather than leaving it up to the whim of local gov't agencies. 

There's a dangerous trend of the legislative branch punting to executive agencies. 

Because liberals refuse to execute pedophiles, unattended younger children may well be at greater risk in parks, &c., than was the case in the past. Typically, liberals create social problems, then crack down on the wrong group.

The Genesis Account


Looks like this will be the new go-to book on the interpretation of Gen 1-11 from a YEC perspective:


On the one hand, I think scientists generally make poor commentators on Genesis. 

On the other hand, scientists have a how-to mentality which inclines them to look for realistic interpretations. They try to visualize the text at a very concrete level. That can be much better than scholars trained in ancient languages, comparative literature, and hermeneutics, who minimize or deny the referential aspect of the text. 

Also, I think he does know Hebrew. 

Do soldiers hate the enemy?


One stock objection I've seen pacifists use is to equate killing somebody with "hating your enemy." There are several problems with that argument:

i) I may not be killing my enemy. Rather, I may be killing your enemy, to protect you from wrongful aggression.

ii) In addition, why assume that a soldier (to take a stock example) must "hate" the enemy? Whether or not hatred is involved depends on the soldier and depends on the enemy.

Some enemies are hateful. Some soldiers hate the enemy. But that's hardly something we can universalize.

i) A soldier may kill the enemy simply because he's been ordered into combat. He goes wherever he's told to go. He may personally dislike killing. He's just following orders.  

ii) He may regard killing as a necessary evil. He'd prefer not to kill anyone, but losing is worse. 

iii) He may believe in the mission, but that doesn't necessarily mean he entertains personal animus towards enemy combatants. 

iv) He may kill, not because he hates the enemy, but because he finds himself in a kill-or-be-killed situation. Given a choice, he'd rather survive. 

v) He may kill to protect his comrades. Take a military sniper. It's not so much a question of what he feels about the enemy, but what he feels about his comrades. 

vi) He may kill because he has to make a split-second decision. It's not premeditated. He doesn't have time to feel anything about the enemy. The only thing he feels is adrenalin.  

vii) He may be pretty detached. Take dropping bombs at high altitude. Or launching a cruise missile. He never sees the enemy. It's fairly abstract. He doesn't feel much of anything, one way or the other. He doesn't have a mental image of the enemy. It's about the target. The strategic objective. 

viii) He may be sympathetic to the plight of enemy conscripts who are there because they were drafted, and not because they want to fight.

In many or most cases, a soldier may regret having to kill the enemy. He must overcome his innate reluctance to be responsible for someone else's death, even if it's justified in his eyes. 

i) I think pacifists caricature soldiers. That serves their polemical purpose to oversimplify the psychology of a soldier. 

ii) In addition, the moralistic affectation of the pacifist prevents him from assuming a soldier's viewpoint, even for the sake of argument. Because he thinks killing is evil, he thinks it's evil to think like a soldier, even for purposes of understanding the other side. So it's more convenient to impute malign motives to the soldier. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Homosexuality in Scripture

"Homosexuality in Scripture" by Barry Webb.

A Short Defense of Sola Scriptura

A Short Defense of Sola Scriptura
A Short Defense of Sola Scriptura
Stephen Wolfe has produced a blog post entitled “A Short Defense of Sola Scriptura” – a link to it has been posted on the front page of The Gospel Coalition (in case it leaves there soon, I’ve put a screen capture of it on the right).

He writes:

… the texts were received as scripture and later codified in the form of the canon. Sola Scriptura is simply the following: the sole rule of faith is contained in texts that have been received as scripture. It is only a consequence of this principle that one can say that all doctrine must come from the sixty-six book canon. The doctrine of sola scriptura is not about a list of books, but the principle that all doctrine must come from scripture. In other words, all doctrine must come from a certain type of revelation, namely, inscripturated divine communication. The codification of the canon as a list of books is subsequent to the receiving of texts as scripture, not prior to it; and saying that the rule of faith is contained in the sixty-six book canon of scripture presupposes this codification as subsequent.

Read the entire blogpost here.

See also: The Twenty-Seven-Book New Testament Before Athanasius.

See also: My series of articles on Michael Kruger’s “Canon Revisited”.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is "Christian pacifism" Christian?


I'm going to post part of a Facebook debate on pacifism:


Pacifists point to Jesus' command to love enemies. It's good to make sure we don't ignore anything Jesus said. Jesus also said to love our neighbor. Sometimes loving a neighbor conflicts with loving an enemy (e.g., ISIS and Middle East Christians). Sometimes pacifists say that we cannot violate one command to serve another, for that would be to sin to bring about good. That may be true when the commands are equally weighty. But Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is to love your *neighbor*. That's more weighty. Indeed, Jesus went on to say that the other commandments all hang on the first two. So loving enemies hangs on our fiercely loving neighbor. That must be protected over the command to love your enemies, and there are cases where loving your neighbor requires killing his and your enemy.

Steve Hays Cody,

Regarding 1 Pet 2, every command or prohibition has an implied context. The question at issue isn't even self-defense, but defending others. Indeed, defending another can put yourself at risk. 

Is 1 Pet 2:21-23 addressing the question of how we should respond if we see a mugger assault an old woman in the park? Is that the implied context? I think not.


Calum Miller:

"We are called to imitate Christ."

Well, according to NT Christology, Christ is Yahweh. Christ commanded the Israelites to wage war against Canaanites in Palestine. Christ rained fire and brimstone on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. That's just in the past. In the future, Christ will be the eschatological judge. 

So I'd say your principle backfires.


Calum Miller:

"I'm not normally so blunt or rude, but if you read the clause *immediately after* what I said there which *directly and explicitly* addresses what you just said, then you are being profoundly intellectually dishonest. If you can read it but chose not to, then you are uncharitable. If you can't read it, then you are an idiot. Take your pick."

i) To begin with, it's ironic that in the context of Christian love, Calum is so abusive. Didn't take much for his true character to break through the skin-deep rhetoric of love and civility. 

ii) If that's how you wish to cast the alternatives, what if you're idiotic for overlooking the obvious argument from analogy:

a) Christians should imitate Christ.

b) We're debating whether imitating Christ selects for pacifism. 

c) According to NT Christology, the pre-Incarnate Son commanded Jews to wage war. And he himself was a warrior God. Moreover, he will resume that role in the future. 

That's directly germane to whether the command to love your neighbor sometimes justifies killing the enemy. Israel was Yahweh's neighbor (as it were). Yahweh loved Israel–at the expense of her enemies.

So, Calum, who's the "idiot" now?


Calum Miller:

"The argument is obviously invalid, for starters."

I didn't present a formal logical syllogism. Rather, I listed some key elements of the analogy.

"Beyond that, c) seems false."

That's not an argument. 

What "seems false"? That the NT identifies Jesus as Yahweh? Or, given that identification, that commands and actions which the OT ascribes to Yahweh are likewise attributable to the Son? What are you denying, and why?

"not retaliating, and so on."

At best, nonretaliation" refers to self-defense, not defending your neighbor. So your appeal is fatally, equivocal. 

Finally, scratch a pacifist, and look what surfaces! Unfortunately, I have extensive experience with professing Christians who wax rhetorical universal love, but the moment they perceive a verbal pinprick, they lash out and make it clear that in reality, they only love those they like. And they only like people like them. Like-minded people.


Calum Miller: 

"So the conclusion doesn't follow. Right."

It's amusing how, in the name of "intellectual honesty," Calum misrepresents the claim. I didn't set it up as a syllogism where a conclusion (c) derives from premises (a-b). 

To say the "conclusion doesn't follow" is a category mistake.

"I deny that predicates true of the Father are necessarily true of the Son, or of Jesus. Even if I granted it, I doubt any conclusion of interest to Christian militants would follow."

How does Calum even come up with this stuff? I didn't draw inferences from the Father to the Son, but inferences from Yahweh to the Son [or vice versa], based on how the NT itself identifies Jesus and Yahweh.

Does Calum deny that the NT identifies Jesus as Yahweh? Is he unaware of the exegetical literature on that subject?

That's something I'd normally encounter from unitarians like Dale Tuggy.

"Nope. Part of what we were talking about was self-defence. And it is at least plausible that the reasons killing in self-defence are prohibited also prohibit violence in defence of others."

You offer no supporting argument for treating those as comparable. You just assert that it's "plausible."


Calum Miller;

"Well, it is also false that predicates true of Jesus are necessarily true of God, and so of Yahweh if we take Yahweh to be identical to God."

Are you just attempting to be evasive? If the NT identifies Jesus as the God of the OT, then how do you avoid saying that what the OT attributes to Yahweh is attributable to the Son vis-a-vis OT history? 

That doesn't mean it's only attributable to the Son, to the exclusion of the Father or the Spirit. But it is at least attributable to the Son. 

"Well, read the passages on vengeance, defence, retaliation, and the like. The grounds are usually that Jesus' kingdom doesn't work that way, that vengeance is for God alone"

And by what logic do you equate forcibly protecting an old woman from a mugger with "vengeance" or "retaliation"? That intervention is not, in the first instance, an act of retributive justice or tit-for-tat. It is simply protecting the innocent against wrongful aggression. Are you unable to draw rudimentary distinctions like that?

"Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5).

1. Notice how Jude identifies Jesus as the God of the Exodus, who subsequently killed faithless members of the wilderness generation. That ascribes divine violence to Jesus. It implicitly attributes the plagues of Egypt to Jesus, as well as killing faithless Israelites.

2. Jn 8:56-58 illustrates the same principle. Jesus makes a suggestive and provocative claim in v56. Considered in isolation, it might merely seem to be a reference to Abraham's inspired foresight–although it could mean more (e.g. the theophany or Christophany in Gen 18). Yet as the exchange unfolds, the claim in v56 is less about Abraham than Jesus.

In v57, Christ's opponents sense that Jesus is making a more audacious claim, by hinting at his contemporaneity with the historical Abraham–which they greet with contemptuous incredulity. How could a man his age possibly coexist with Abraham! 

Perhaps this reflects the difference between the spoken word and the written word. The speaker's posture or tone of voice can communicate more than what appears on the page. 

Ironically, they were right! More so than they could ever imagine. For Jesus, confirms their interpretation by asserting his preexistence in terms which unmistakably evoke Yahweh (e.g. Exod 3:14; Isa 41:4). 

So Jesus claims to be Abraham's God. And, of course, that entirely consistent with Johannine Christology.

But Abraham's God firebombed Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's God was not a pacifist. Rather, you have the "divine warrior" motif. And that's not just a metaphor for spiritual warfare. That involves actual, repeated divine violence–often on a large scale. 

But in that event, the pacifist appeal to the "imitation of Christ" backfires. This is the basic argument: 

i) Jesus never resorted to violence

ii) Christians are called to emulate Jesus

iii) Hence, Christians should renounce all forms of violence

But given these NT counterexamples, we can plug them into the same principle (follow the example of Christ), but derive the opposite conclusion.

Therefore, pacifists will have to use a far more qualified version of that principle. Their argument either proves too much or too little. 

3. I should add that my argument actually doesn't require a specific prooftext. So long as the NT identifies the Son as Yahweh, then what's generally said about Yahweh's commands and actions in the OT is implicitly attributed to the Son, inasmuch as he and Yahweh are regarded as one and the same individual. 

4. In fairness, my appeal to Jude 5 turns on which textual variant we think is original: "Jesus" or "the Lord."

Metzger, along with commentators like Gene Green and Curtis Giese, favor the originality of "Jesus" on internal and external text-critical principles alike:

i) It is the best attested reading (external criterion).

ii) It is the more difficult reading (internal criterion).

Hard to see what would prompt a scribe to substitute "Jesus" for "the Lord." "Jesus" is so unexpected in that passage. 

iii) Jarl Fossum has argued that Jude views Jesus as the Angel of the Lord in vv5-7. That would account for the Yahwistic identification and narrative flow alike, inasmuch as the Angel of the Lord is a divine agent in all these events. 

iv) if "Jesus" is the original referent in Jude 5, that would dovetail with v4.

v) So Jude draws a parallel between Christ's past (OT), present (NT) and future (parousia) agency.

Pacifists could try to preempt my Christological argument by denying the historicity and inspiration of the offending OT passages. That, however, would be a short-lived victory, for the same skepticism can be redirected at pacifist NT prooftexts. You can't impugn the OT without impugning the NT, for the NT so routinely relies on the authority of the OT.


Calum said:

"It's usually more of a recognition of the fact that the kingdoms of this world are going to expand their kingdoms by killing anyway, and that Christians aren't *primarily* to be concerned with how the kingdoms of the world are run."

To recur to my stock example, defending an elderly woman from a mugger has nothing to do with political-military expansionism. That's just a bait-n-switch. 

This isn't a question of how or whether we should build an empire. This isn't even, in the first instance, about national defense. It can just be a question of defending your immediate family, or the neighbor across the street.

Pacifists typically rip Jn 18:36 out of context.

i) Remember that this disclaimer takes place in a Gospel which opens with the statement that Jesus is the divine Creator of the world (Jn 1:1-3). 

His power and authority don't derive from the world; rather, the world derives from his power and authority.

His kingdom doesn't have its source of origin in the world; rather, the world has its source of origin in his (divine) kingship. 

And that implies ownership. He's pulling rank on Pilate and the Roman regime which he represents. To some extent, the Romans are usurpers. For the world truly belongs to God.

ii) Keep in mind, too, that in John's Gospel and 1 John, "the world" has a sinister connotation. It's not a synonym for the creation, but for the fallen creation. For the "kingdom of darkness."


C'Zar Bernstein:

 "Why is this even a debate? St Paul says pretty clearly that the state can kill. My suspicion is that Christian pacifism is motivated by a strange anti-violence intuition."

I think it's generally motivated by decadence and self-flattery. Most professing pacifists are pacifists in the abstract. They are safe because others protect the country they live in. This, in turn, gives them a chance to feel smugly virtuous.

It's a position that few of them have ever had to put to the test.

Maul Panata Some Christian pacifists hold the nuanced position that state may kill (they don't ignore Rom 13), but *Christians* may not. So Christians should not be police, join military, etc.

David Houston Which is awkward because its basically means that you get those unholy non-Christians to do your dirty work for you so you can enjoy all the benefits of living in a country with military protection.

I understand the position but you've got to admit that its a bit awkward to preach non-violence when you're under the protection of a powerful military, police force, etc. This may not be the pacifists fault but it does tend to raise the, "You can only say that because of..." objection to everyone's mind. Not a defeater. Just awkward.

Steve Hays To piggyback on David's point, it's like a woman who marries a "drug kingpin" for the lifestyle. She herself doesn't murder anyone or order any hits. But she benefits from the "family business."

Maul Panata Cody, to bring up that Jesus didn't sin, and he never killed anyone or went to war, therefore we shouldn't, is obviously question begging unless you think that everything Jesus did is normative. But then you get the silly counter examples about staying single, growing a beard, etc. 

…But here we can *easily* explain why Jesus didn't kill anyone or start a war. He had a unique mission, he had to die for people. If he had acted like he will act at the end, then we'd not have salvation.

Maul Panata Okay Calum Miller, getting to your comment now:

Before getting into my reply, I'll just say that I don't think the argument from silence, viz., Jesus didn't make your dependency point, holds much weight—especially when I think I cited Jesus saying just that. Okay, so you're claiming that *just as* we *were* commanded to love our neighbor back in Leviticus 19:8 (right, we agree that that's clearly what Jesus is referencing), we are commanded to love our neighbor *in that way*. Thus, you'd be bound to say, that if X was consistent with loving one's neighbor, X is consistent with loving one's enemy, for we're to do the latter "*just as*" (your emphasis) we do the former. Now, Jesus clearly knew the OT, and he's clearly saying that "just as" you knew and understood to love your neighbor, I now command that you extend that very concept to non-neighbors, namely, your enemies.

So here's the problem: In the OT it was acceptable to kill your neighbor (the DP). Moreover, it seems just obvious that, in the OT, had a group of people from one tribe grabbed swords and began systematically beheading people from another tribe, it would be acceptable to "violently resist" and even "kill" these "neighbors." All of this was *consistent* with the *command* to "love your neighbor. Thus, if, as you grant, the command to love your enemy is "just like" the command in the OT to love your neighbor, it's not at all clear why you must think killing certain enemies is impermissible (based off this command here to love your enemy "just as" you were told to love your neighbors).

There's other interesting factors too. The command in Leviticus 19 says we are to "love our neighbor" and not "take vengeance." Christian pacifists will often refer to Paul's injunction in Romans 12:19, for example, that we are not to "take vengeance," and then use that to say Paul is speaking against actions like the death penalty. But we know that this very same command was included in Leviticus, this "not taking vengeance" was considered, by God, the Jews, and Jesus (and Paul I'd argue) *consistent* with certain cases of killing people, e.g., the death penalty.

Maul Panata I don't think one needs bother with the awkwardness point. We can grant that the kingdom advances through the preaching of the word, making disciples, etc. We can agree that, for example, churches engage in excommunication rather than using the death penalty. We can agree that Christ is Lord over all, and that we are citizens of his kingdom. However, though we are not *of* the world, we are *in* it. We live ordinary lives in a certain sense, as doctors, teachers, husbands, wives, etc. There are plenty of things that we do that are not "the way the kingdom grows and advances." We might lift weights, play football, or engage in other physical contests. It's not clear these things are to be left to the "pagans." One also cannot beg the question by assuming that killing in a war, or as a police officer, is automatically sinful, and so Christians cannot do it. So there's a *lot* of steps from "give to Caesar" to "Christians can't be soldiers." Indeed, that verse plausibly *supports* the permissibility of "giving to Caesar" in the capacity of, say, soldier. There's also the arguments I've raised above that the nuanced Christian pacifism must address. So the nuanced Christian pacifism still has a ton of work to do to tighten the wide gap between the way the church advances and what Christians may do for a living or out of a sense of duty, love of neighbor, or etc.

David Houston Two quotes from CS Lewis's fantastic essay _Why I Am Not a Pacifist_:

'The whole Christian case for Pacifism rests, therefore, on certain Dominical utterances, such as “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” I am now to deal with the Christian who says this is to be taken without qualification. I need not point out—for it has doubtless been pointed out to you before—that such a Christian is obliged to take all the other hard sayings of Our Lord in the same way. For the man who has done so, who has on every occasion given to all who ask him and has finally given all he has to the poor, no one will fail to feel respect. With such a man I must suppose myself to be arguing; for who would deem worth answering that inconsistent person who takes Our Lord’s words à la rigueur when they dispense him from a possible obligation and takes them with latitude when they demand that he should become a pauper?'

Commenting on 'not resisting an evildoer': 'I think the text means exactly what it says, but with an understood reservation in favour of those obviously exceptional cases which every hearer would naturally assume to be exceptions without being told. Or to put the same thing in more logical language, I think the duty of nonresistance is here stated as regards injuries simpliciter, but without prejudice to anything we may have to allow later about injuries secundum quid. That is, insofar as the only relevant factors in the case are an injury to me by my neighbour and a desire on my part to retaliate, then I hold that Christianity commands the absolute mortification of that desire. No quarter whatever is given to the voice within us which says, “He’s done it to me, so I’ll do the same to him.” But the moment you introduce other factors, of course, the problem is altered. Does anyone suppose that Our Lord’s hearers understood Him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim? I at any rate think it impossible they could have so understood Him. I think it equally impossible that they supposed Him to mean that the best way of bringing up a child was to let it hit its parents whenever it was in a temper, or, when it had grabbed at the jam, to give it the honey also. I think the meaning of the words was perfectly clear—“Insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back”—even, one would have assumed that insofar as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different, different because [there] may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back. Indeed, as the audience were private people in a disarmed nation, it seems unlikely that they would have ever supposed Our Lord to be referring to war. War was not what they would have been thinking of. The frictions of daily life among villagers were more likely to be in their minds.'