Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Part 1

I’ve been wanting to post a series on this book for years — but could never quite get to it. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony is a great book. It was first published in 1989 and continues to have a dramatic influence on evangelical Christianity. It’s not long, only 172 pages, but those pages pack a wallop.

I working from my third copy. I keep lending copies, meaning I keep giving copies away.

Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon are both Methodists, but they are part of a cross-denominational movement called Neo-Anabaptist. Hauerwas and Mennonite John Howard Yoder helped build a system of thought that is outside the normal Protestant Calvinist/Arminian schools of thought. Indeed, their work is one major reason we see American evangelical Christianity moving away from Constantinian Christianity and toward Neo-Anabaptist thought.

Background

Let me explain. From the time of Constantine until a few years ago, Christianity and Western culture have been pretty much the same thing. Christianity enjoyed the blessings and support of the state, and in turn, Christianity blessed and supported the state.

From Constantine until the Enlightenment, this took the form of state religions, so that only one form of Christianity was practiced in each nation, and citizens of each nation were baptized into their brand of Christianity shortly after birth. Thus, when Luther introduced the Reformation to Germany, the disputes with the Catholics were ultimately concluded by deciding that each nation within Germany (at that time, Germany was divided into dozens of kingdoms) would worship as its king worshiped, and those citizens unwilling to convert would be required to move to another state.

The English Enlightenment brought the separation of church and state, realized most fully in the United States after the First Amendment was adopted. Even though US citizenship was independent of one’s religion, the fact is that for 200 years, America was deeply, culturally Christian. Thus, church and state continued to operate hand-in-hand, with “God and country” being seen as utterly without contradiction.

Inevitably, I suppose, church and state began to separate from each other, and we now have a much more secularized national government and a church struggling to decide how to cope in a nation where the government no longer blesses and supports the church. Do we push to return to the old ways? Is that even possible? Would that even be good?

We are now forced to wrestle with how to “do church” in a world where the government is not our ally and is sometimes even our enemy. Some argue that the Constitution — which never mentions God — intended for the state to support the church. Some argue that the church should see the government as our enemy. Some want the church to get organized to elect presidents and representatives who will give the church political power. Some want to flee power.

Anabaptists

About 500 years ago, when the Reformation was just getting going, a group of Christians approached Ulrich Zwingli (who helped found the Reformed Church and Calvinism). They argued that the scriptures teach baptism of believers and separate citizenship from membership in the church. Zwingli — the great Reformer — excommunicated them and had several executed!

You see, Anabaptists threatened the social order by making Christianity a choice — and kings claimed their thrones by virtue of God’s sovereign will. Disconnecting church from state threatened the “divine right” of kings to rule. Many were pacifists and so refused to serve in the king’s armies. After all, the king’s armies often fought for very unjust causes — even taking the lives of fellow Christians.

Anabaptist theology may be summarized by saying that it was an attempt by radical Protestant Reformers to complete the Protestant Reformation by recovering the Christianity of the apostolic era. It was radically anti-Constantinian in its view of the church and its relations with secular rulers. It was radically anti-Augustinian in its view of salvation and the Christian life. The Anabaptists emphasized personal, conscious decision of repentance and faith and holy living as disciples of Christ to the exclusion of any idea of salvation as a gift imparted sacramentally. They extended Zwingli’s symbolic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper to baptism and insisted that since infants cannot repent or believe the gospel, baptism should be given only to those who repent after reaching the age of accountability.

Sam Storms.

Yep, they sound a lot like us and like the Baptists, and we both claim Anabaptist roots. However, the Anabaptists were highly autonomous and so went off in all sorts of directions. Many of their best leaders were quickly killed, meaning they often failed to form a consistent theology.

The modern heirs of the Anabaptists are the Mennonites and Amish, who are far more famous for their rejection of modern culture.

Neo-Anabaptist thought

Given how much the Churches of Christ have in common with the Anabaptists, even claiming them as brothers in Christ at times, you’d think we’d be a natural fit for Neo-Anabaptist thought. And we are. Indeed, David Lipscomb, in his book Civil Government, sounded very much like an Anabaptist in rejecting all ties to civil government — even voting and jury duty.

You see, the Anabaptists were persecuted by the Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed Churches and so had little reason to place much confidence in government! The government was their enemy, quite literally.

And during the Civil War, Lipscomb came to conclude that the government was God’s enemy, because it was government that fought wars that killed Christians on both side of the war and which brought unspeakable poverty and suffering to the South.

Of course, today we live in more prosperous times, and we tend to credit government with our blessings — with our freedom. As a result, we don’t take nearly as negative a view toward government as Lipscomb did. In fact, we rarely question the American assumption of “God and country” — that is, we assume that there is no contradiction between nationalism and Christianity. But Jesus said,

(Luk 16:13a ESV)  13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Hence, the question arises in a world where the government isn’t always the friend of Christianity, how do we live? It’s not just the question of pacifism, but rather who we are. What is our identity in the American church? How do deal with being subjects of both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of the USA. Are we citizens of both? Are we loyal to both? Can we be loyal to both? How does it all fit together?

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47 Responses to Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Part 1

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    What ever country or form of government a Christian finds himself in, he should live, worship, and minister in the context of biblical truth the best he can. (none of us have every little detail exactly right)

    He should support his governments policies when they align with his world view and work to change it when it doesn’t. But, he must not deny others their opportunity to worship and serve as they see fit. Jesus didn’t come to change a sinful world by force, not even political force. He came to redeem sinners on at a time and those combined saints are then salt and light in the society.

    I have never understood the conflict of being an active citizen of both the kingdom of God and the country as long as we are careful to obey God rather than man. Our loyalty must be first to God and then to country in ways that do not compromise our first allegiance.

    Finally, when we are trying to decide on which candidate to vote for I think we should not look for an alignment of theology or doctrine but world view. Many whom I would not accept as brothers have a healthy world view that I can agree with.

  2. As Royce points out, I don’t find any inherent conflict between being a disciple of Jesus and a citizen of the US. The central question becomes which has priority.

    Jesus primary command, to love one another as he loved us, transcends all national boundaries and political points of view. It creates some very difficult quandaries, at times. But that is part of the conflict between trying to be a spiritual being in a fleshly world.

    I have a good friend who led Obama’s political outreach to the “faith” community, during the 2008 campaign. We worshipped together for several years at a local Church of Christ congregation … but we could not disagree more on current political issues.

    He remains my brother, and my obligation to love him the same way Jesus did also remains.

    So, I even have to forgive him for his erroneous political views!!!! (just joking)

  3. Emmett says:

    I have always held the position that Christians are called to be good citizens. If the USA had indeed been a Christian nation (in a generic sense) in which self identified Christians practiced good citizenship and voted according to a Christian world view…there would never have been a Roe v Wade decision…etc. Obviously that has not been the case for quite some time. Finally, though, more people seem to be awakening to that fact. Probably not in time to save the USA though. Does the USA really deserve to be preserved? Does God’s grace apply to nations as well as individuals?

  4. David P Himes says:

    What nation “deserves” to be preserved?

    For me, governments are conceptually accepted by God, but not “blessed” or condoned … they just are. God’s attention is on what you and I do. Not what governments do. The individuals within government will be judged, just as anyone else is judged…which is to say that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

    Who among us is not in desperate need of forgiveness.

  5. Todd Collier says:

    My view of God’s working in the world is one of overlapping covenants. There is of course the main covenant – Salvation in Jesus, but there are also other covenants. Some are things we identify as “laws” such as a little thing called gravity. But I also believe there is a basic covenant at work between God and governments which goes something like this: Treat people decently and establish even rudimentary justice and things will go well. Abuse folks and eventually I’ll abuse you. Make trouble for “My” folks and you will go down hard.

    If you examine how God deals with the “nations” in the prophets that pattern seems to emerge. He doesn’t demand worship of Himself, just be decent to folks and do justice.

    For nations that claim a covenant relationship with Him I think the stakes are higher. Better to shut up and be a Goy than not keep the covenant of holiness you claim to honor.

    On that note, where do we stand as a nation?

  6. Pastor Mike says:

    Somehow, in my mind, I sense a distinction between obeying the government, but submitting to Christ. I don’t have it all worked out, but I just want to throw it out there as we are commanded to do both.

  7. abasnar says:

    The fact that the churches of Christ once held to nonresistance and no-participation in politics made me join them, because that were not only Anabaptist conviction but also the unanimous teachings of the Pre-Nicene Church (prior to Constantine).

    So I am very happy, if these topics are rediscovered for discussion. And application.

    I’d like to see how one could define himself a “stranger” in this world and yet partuicipate in the politics and even government of a country where he resides as an alien. I think all who say, there is no conflict, never really understood the tension between the Kingdom of God and the world.

    Alexander

  8. K. Rex Butts says:

    Emmett,

    Had the Christians voted (and acted) according to a Christian worldview, there would never have been a United States of America. What part of Romans 13 allows any Christian to participate in a revolutionary war against their governing authorities? Especially when the people they are waging a revolutionary war against also happen to be professing Christians so that we have a war in which one Christians is killing another Christian.

    Sounds to me like the US was founded upon citizens voting (with their actions) in ways that placed national politics above the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian worldview that ought to emerge from that Gospel.

  9. Matt Dabbs says:

    I read this book in graduate school. It wasn’t required reading but I am glad that I did. It kind of shook me up a bit at the time and opened up my eyes to ask some questions that I never thought I would ask. I think it really helped me find balance more than anything else rather than being too extreme on one side or the other. What I mean by that is I think people tend to either put nation first and then figure out how to fit their faith into that or else they don’t see at all how their faith integrates with their country and politics. This book was helpful to me in helping me understand the conversation a lot better and helping me think through this for myself. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book in the coming days.

  10. Pastor Mike says:

    I appreciate the predicament when we consider some of the internal conflict inherent in any act of aggression. However, as I recall it, the original intent of the earliest settlers was to worship God without interference from the state. Then, when the colonists felt that the state was overstepping its appropriate bounds as a government, declared themselves an independent state. At that point, the state (England) chose to be a military aggressor, and the colonists essentially defended themselves.
    I guess the question I would have at that point is, “Is it ever appropriate for a Christian to physically defend themselves?”

  11. abasnar says:

    Had the Christians voted (and acted) according to a Christian worldview, there would never have been a United States of America.

    So true, isn’t it. That’s what David Bercot called The Myth Of Christian America 13 CDs that are a real eye-opener I can highly recommend. The last CD contains PDFs of all the important documents quoted ion this series. I listened to them in my last vacation, and I am astonished about the blind patriotism of so many Christians on the other side of the ocean. It will be followed soon by a book entitled In God We Don’t Trust

    OK, David Bercot is a friend of mine, I hope it is not too much that I recommend his works once in a while ;-)

    Alexander

  12. abasnar says:

    @ Pastor Mike

    I guess the question I would have at that point is, “Is it ever appropriate for a Christian to physically defend themselves?”

    Two approaches to this question:

    a) We have to make a distiction between self defense on an individual level and self defense on the level of a nation. Why? Because in he latter politics and propaganda are invoilved in a way that makes everyone be the good guy having God on his side. The “just war” theory never worked.

    Therefore I say: No Christian involvement in politics and military. We are called to be ambassadors of peace and reconciliation.

    b) If we only speak of a personal level, we are called to go by the Sermon on the Mount that teaches: “Do not resist the evil one.” Nonresistance – one of the basic convictions of the Anabaptists – should be a Christian conviction.

    So in any case I think, it is never appropriate for a Christian to defense himself with the use of violence.

    Alexander

  13. abasnar says:

    @ Emmet

    Does God’s grace apply to nations as well as individuals?

    In Abraham shall all nations be blessed, not in themselves. This means in Christ. All are called to become part ofthe Kingdom of God, but not all nations, but all people, which means that in the Kingdom there is neither Jew nor Greek, nor any other nation. So the blessing does not extend to any earthly nation, but to the Holy Nation alone, which is Christ’s Kingdom.

    But nations would fare much better if they would acknowledge God and His good laws … on the other hand, haven’t we all experienced that woithout the New Birtzh it is impossible to live u to God’s standards? Can nations be governed according to the Sermon on the Mount? Doesn’t this inabilty or even incompatibilty show clearly that the world and the Kingdom cannot be blended? I think it does, and that’s why separation from the world and its politics are imperative.

    Alexander

  14. JMF says:

    An interesting quote I heard one time:

    “Man’s first sin was to disobey and eat the fruit. Man’s second sin was to build fences.”

  15. JMF says:

    @Todd Collier:

    Your post at 10:45am was fantastic. I haven’t thought through it to determine whether I agree with you, but it is unique thought that I”ve never considered… and that is enough for me to really appreciate it!

  16. Alabama John says:

    I don’t know of any wars in history that more have died in than the disagreements having to do with Christians.

    I think I’m right on the number but 160,000 martyrs die each year for Christianity.

  17. Royce Ogle says:

    When Paul said in Romans 13 that the guy who bears the sword is God’s minister (servant) he was talking about a law man who represented one of the most corrupt gavt’s in history.

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  19. CyclingDude says:

    I’m not aware of any teaching by Jesus or any Apostle that precludes in a directive against government participation, whether administrative or a participant in the political process, but I do believe Alexander’s perspective regarding “the tension between the Kingdom of God and the world” has much merit. I believe scripture is very clear that Satan rules the nations of the earth, and that includes the U.S.

    Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of the Christian Nation”, which likely many of you have either read or heard of, had a significant influence on my views regarding government and politics. I’ll throw out a quote from an essay he wrote some time ago that someone might find interesting.

    “…governments are a mere concession on God’s part to humans who cannot trust God to rule them. Since humans are rebellious and insist on having them, God uses governments, as much as possible, to preserve as much law and order as possible (Rom. 13:1-5). But this doesn’t mean that God approves of them. Often in the Old Testament God would use a wicked nation (e.g. Assyria) to punish Israel, only to turn around and punish the nation he used for being wicked (e.g. Isa 10). That’s God’s attitude toward governments. They are under the influence of Satan (Lk 4:5-7) and are inherently corrupt, but God nevertheless uses them.
    The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is based on people trusting God as their sole ruler. Kingdom people are therefore to place no more trust or confidence in governments than Jesus did – which is none. If a government’s laws happen to be consistent with the rule of God, we obey them. If they’re not, we follow the example of Jesus and disobey them. But either way, it’s clear that our behavior isn’t to be dictated by what government says, but by what God says.”

    http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/kingdom-living/christians-and-politics/the-bible-government-and-christian-anarchy/

  20. Adam says:

    As far as the “first priority”, or “dual citizenship” theories, they are, unfortunately, not Biblical.

    There isn’t a list of priorities in which God is first. There is only God and his Kingdom. There is no second. Not family, not race, not gender, and most assuredly not country.

    It isn’t that we are members of God’s kingdom first, and then citizens of America. We are simply members of God’s kingdom. Jesus was unwavering on this. It is just so very, very difficult for us to hear we simply refuse to hear the simple and straightforward words of Christ regarding this.

  21. abasnar says:

    For those who are looking for scriptures for Adam’s claims:

    Joh 17:16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

    Just as Christ – who is not a citizen of any earthly nation but seated at the right hand of God. We are with Him and in Him, seated in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6).

    Col 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

    Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

    Thus, even though we have our passports and earthly citizenships (as Paul had his Roman one), we regard ourselves as strangers in our countries.

    1Pe 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
    1Pe 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
    1Pe 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
    1Pe 2:14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

    Such as all foreigners in our countries have to submit to the governments, so we submit. But still we see ourselves as not being part of this world. No, I am no longer an Austrian, neither are you Americans. Therefore I won’t sing our national anthem, and you shouldn’t pledge your allegiance to the flag of the US.

    Alexander

  22. Alabama John says:

    WE believe that America was founded by God.

    WE taught in our schools why the Pilgrims and others left their homelands and came here so they could freely worship God.
    WE like the Israelites will march around a country 7 times and blow our horns and kill Gods enemies for God.
    This nation has furthered the story of Jesus more than any other and that was doing Gods will. WE still are doing it and men and women are dying at a terrible rate while furthering Christianity with Gods blessing.
    To show allegiance to that Country doing the furthering is following examples all in the Bible of others God used.
    Just because we are of the NT times sure doesn’t mean the reaching out to lost souls in other countries should stop.
    As long as God is seeing our efforts He will bless us as a Nation.
    Not support this effort by not supporting this Nation?
    That is not supporting Gods commanded work and efforts.
    It is also putting yourself and your opinions above God and that my friend is a scary position to be in.
    Today we had a 3 church of Christ get together and showed pictures of the trade centers and sang our national Anthem, and other patriotic songs as well as gospel songs.
    Lots of prayers and even played the anthem of all the services and had those that fought for the USA stand when their branch anthem was played.
    very moving, never seen that before in a church of Christ but am optimistic for the future.

    It sure beat the teaching for so many years and prevalent today in these parts that all that died in those towers that were not church of Christ and even more, not of the correct one I go to, went straight to hell.
    With that belief and thinking it is easy to see why most here didn’t see any reason to speak of it in any way today.

  23. CyclingDude says:

    AJ,

    I think I’ve usually been in stride with you on most issues discussed. But, we have a huge gulf between us on this one. There’s a whole lot of dark history, really dark, missing in your list. But, thats okay…we’ll just agree to disagree on this one.

  24. Alabama John says:

    CD,
    and you make a huge point for this day and time for the COC..
    Could we still attend services and be a member of the same church?
    I sure could, and would want to. You speak your mind, regardless of the consequences. That to me is what’s needed the most to bring us together.

  25. abasnar says:

    I certainly don’t want to hurt your feelings, Alabama John. But
    this what you described I first thought was pure sarcasm, until I realized you really mean it.

    I really, really heartily recommend to you the eye-opening series The Myth of Christian America. I do admit that I am strongly influenced by Anabaptist theology – I participated in installing two Anabaptist Museums in Austria and read and researched quite a bit on the Early Anabaptists in Europe. I know of no restoration movement that came as close to the Early Christians as they (not even the churches of Christ).

    Therefore I who would never sing the Austrian Anthem and you and your 3 CoC meeting with patriotic songs stand in quite a stark contrast. This is NOT a fellowship issue, I throw in immedieately: But you miss a lot, because (earthly) patriotism is like a thick woolen blanket that covers the beauties of the Kingdom of God.

    Alexander

  26. Alabama John says:

    Alexander,

    God had His chosen people and demanded obedience based on birth into a nation he chose to create above all others. His people ordered by God to kill all, including women and children.

    Even today, many still believe the Jews are Gods chosen people, I do not but that is another matter.

    I agree with you completely on the Anabaptist.

    There has never been as much mischief and outright killing done in the world as there has been for and in the name of Christianity.

    Far more killing done in the name of religion than being patriotic. The more religious a nation is, the more it fights for and to keep that religion.

    First 1000 years, Bibles all in Latin, John Wycliffe, who we all know, hung til almost dead then burned at stake and that was mild compared to many.

    America is spreading the Good news all over the world and many are paying a price of their life for doing so.

    Who would of brought the news about Jesus to so many countries if there was no America?

    Why do we get in?

    Usually because we have kicked some countries butt and our show of strength causes them to want to be like us, and have what we have, and we show them its our God we give the glory to and they say, let me have some of that!

    America has furthered the cause of Christ more than any other country.

    Aren’t you proud of that?

  27. abasnar says:

    America is spreading the Good news all over the world

    It’s not America, Alabama John. It’s Christ’s people who do this. Some live in America, many more don’t. There are missionaries from other parts of the world in Europe as well.

    In fact, sometimes I’d rather learn from missionaries that have been sent out of a poor country, from a situaltion of persecution.

    America – here in Europe – is known for starting a number of wars on shaky reasons, for a view of economy that is socially unjust, for thinking all the world should share the American Dream and eat hamburgers and fries … in fact quite a lot of Europeans frown at the Americans.

    But I do love the Christians there. They are God’s people, and the more distinct they are from their surrounding culture, the more they shine.

    Again: It’s them who do the Kingdom Work, not America. America is just another territory of Satan … (no better, no worse than Austria)

    Alexander

  28. Alabama John says:

    Alexander,
    Europe is whoever takes charge of it. How many times has it changed hands?
    Europe should pray every day that there was an America to save their hides.
    I should of said Americans instead of America, that’s true.
    The people of America support many from other countries that preach other places.
    Our prayers are with whoever is doing the spreading of the “Good News”.
    Austria, Surely now you are kidding.

  29. Alabama John says:

    Alexander,
    Sure would like a copy of your tapes and CD’s.
    Keep up the good work.
    I’m proud of your efforts!!!!
    John

  30. Todd Collier says:

    Alabama John,

    Are you unaware that Alexander is in fact an Austrian and not an American? As such not only would it be unreasonable to expect “pride” from him for our good works but it also makes his arguments about our unity despite our territorial limitations spot on.

    I only say this because I sense that rampaging patriotism is bringing your footses dangerously close to your tonsils.

    Ah the wonders of our modern electronically connected world. Preach on my patriotic brother.

  31. CyclingDude says:

    As someone who spends a considerable amount of time each week, if not each day with my European counterparts, let me say with absolute certainty that Alexander’s sweeping generalization of European opinion(s) towards the U.S. is correct, if not understated…in other words, I take a lot of verbal abuse occasionally :)

  32. Alabama John says:

    Todd,

    Alexander and I have had this discussion before and he enjoys poking at me.
    We both get way off center as he goes far off one way I do the same the other.
    I have friends in the Netherlands and reading their paper about what is happening in the US is sure a different perspective from what we read here in many cases.
    USA has lots of problems and is way off from the WW2 thinking when I grew up, 40-50′s..

    Just this week, for 9/11remembrance, some of us old timers got together with a young school bunch and stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lords Prayer like we did every day in all school (public) classes before school work actually started.

    Interestingly, we also did as we did as 6 year old children and above, and stood silent at the part (Thy kingdom come). You could look around and see which were the COC children as all of them did so.

    What a time to grow up, it made us all patriotic as men and women returning and not, were all our heroes. The stories we heard of how we saved Europe and ran the Germans to places like Austria to hide and how the Jews were searching for them.

    We didn’t wear our uniforms to COC services though.

  33. Alp36 says:

    Sorry as looker to join this discussion late, but most of what I read here is exactly my beliefs about we being aliens in a foreign country. I do not take that so far as to reject voting and military service, however.
    My question though is: what of the people who on 9/11 gave their lives in order to save someone else’s. What do you think of their standing with God? And what of men who in WWII (and other wars) gave their lives in defense of country and other men?
    I also believe that the angst among Christians over the courts not allowing religious activities in public places is misplaced and misguided.

  34. Todd Collier says:

    Well…There it is…

  35. abasnar says:

    @ Alabma John

    Austria, Surely now you are kidding.

    We are glad to ghave two familie from OKlahoma serving in Vienna, planting a new church. They are very fine siblings in Christ and do a great job in Him.

    THe CDs I recommended are not my, from a friend of mine, David Bercot; you’ll find the link a few posts above

    Alexander

  36. gt says:

    There has never been as much mischief and outright killing done in the world as there has been for and in the name of Christianity.

    Absolute falsehood. See Stalin, Mao, Hitler for reference. Plus many others.

  37. Charles McLean says:

    GT, it is bad enough that we are qualified to be a discussion which includes those evil men. The argument that others rank ahead of us on such a gruesome list is not of much comfort to me. IMO, it is more appropriate for us to hit our knees and cry, “Woe is me!” than to stand on our feet declaring, “Hey, we’re not as bad as Pol Pot!”

  38. Bob Brandon says:

    In other words, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao have killed their tens of millions, “Christians” have only killed their millions. Ergo, we’re “better?”

    Such rationalizing doesn’t work in the criminal courts; why should it work in the heavenly ones?

  39. aBasnar says:

    You haven’t read what he wrote, Bob and Charles!

    He countered the claim: “There has never been as much mischief and outright killing done in the world as there has been for and in the name of Christianity.”

    And that’s simply wrong! This claim is usually made to say: “See how bad religion, esp. Christianity is?” Hitler, Stalin and others just demonstrate to what level humanity sinks when Christianity is completely abandoned. It is not “We are less cruel than others”.

    But we must also say: What has been done in the name of Christianity was a gross misrepresentation of Christ’s mission. But what Stalin and Hitler did was part of their programm.

    Alexander

  40. aBasnar says:

    But as a solution/prevention of the crimes of Christians in the past (and present): Unyoke yourselves from any invovement in politics and military! Stand separated as prophets in this world rather than becoming instrumentalized by the world, such as Luther did become by the German Princes, Zwingli by the magistrate of Zurich – and Evangelicals by the Republicans (and to a lesser degree by the Democrats and other parties).

    Alexander

  41. Bob Brandon says:

    aBasnar:

    For crying out loud, here’s “gt’s” post:

    “There has never been as much mischief and outright killing done in the world as there has been for and in the name of Christianity.

    Absolute falsehood. See Stalin, Mao, Hitler for reference. Plus many others.”

    He’s denying that there’s been more mischief and outright killing in the name of Christianity than in the name of anything or anyone else. Neither Charles or I deny that, although I know that I (and maybe Charles might agree or not) don’t know that to be true one way or the other. What is true is that there’s been a lot of killing in the name of Christ since Constantine.

    Our argument is that: so what? A defense that Christians in the name of Christ have murdered fewer millions of people than the hated agnostics/athiests/communists/fill-in-the-blank is no defense at all. No defense whatsoever. All of these lives lost lost unnecessarily. Every one of them a crime.

    As for “unyoking,” nowhere in the text is that expressly required of us. There is no indication that Cornelius ever resigned his commission in Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum, if that was his unit. People are going to organize themselves into governments in this world, and all the problems that are inherent in secular governments are just as present in the religious ones. And you left out Calvin in Geneva. He has blood on his hands as well.

    The proper response is to prioritize: render to Caesar what are his, and render to the Almighty what are His. We already know where to invest our real treasure.

  42. gt says:

    Boy, talk about rattling a few cages. My comment was not meant to negate the fact that atrocities have been commited in the name of Christ nor was I trying to make a comparison.It was a reaction to a trap that many Christians fall into by buying into a common theme that runs through atheist circles(Dawkins, Harris etc.)It stemmed from a discussion I have been reading on another blog.

  43. aBasnar says:

    Bob, nowhere is it said that Cornelius remained in the army and continued hating his (or Rome’s) enemies contrary to Christ’s teaching, either. That since Constantine the church has thrown out the teaching of the two Kingdoms contrary to the unanimous consent of the whole Pre-Nicene church that took Christ’s word at face value is sad enough. That thinking Christians today use every straw to defend that is worse. That’s I think was one point Hauwerwas and Yoder tried to make.

    Ironic: While you speak up against all the violence and war waged in the name of Christianity (and rightfully so!) you seem to defend the basis oif this: Remain yoked with the world. And see how many American Christians are eager to wear the uniform and pledge there allegiance to a condemned flag in unjust wars! NO WONDER the Islamic world views Christians still as crusaders … Oh yes, Calvin in Geneva was one of the worst. I see no alternative to unyoking.

    Alexander

  44. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander, to what degree should one “unyoke”? Shall he stop paying his taxes which pay for the guns? Relinquish any government-issued permits such as professional licenses or business permits? Most American businesses are required to collect taxes from others and remit them to the government, so should an American printer unyoke in this regard? Here, the government issues marriage licenses and declares who is legally married. Should we eschew paying for such a license?

    In the US, the voter is the basic unit of government. If government is of God, how does one stop voting and be true to his civil responsibility as “God’s servant”? In the US, at least, there is no way to vote and not have that vote have a political impact.

    It seems to me to be not a simple matter. Many have worked hard at navigating it, but just a blanket demand to “unyoke” from civil government creates lots of real issues which general pronouncements do not resolve.

  45. aBasnar says:

    Perhaps we should start with: What are the first and obvious steps, before asking how far we can/shall go. Pointing to things that are hard to near impossible to do (like refusing part of our taxes – which in fact some do), does not excuse from things we can: Involvement in a political party, not working in jobs that are military or for the execution of government-laws. This was the approach of the Early Church, the Anabaptists and the early Restoration Movement (see Campbells Declaration on War 1848).

    Alexander

  46. Charles McLean says:

    I am not sure that reasoning flies, Alexander. It smacks of a convenience scale more than a matter of priniciple. The fact is that we CAN do many things to “unyoke” from political and military matters, but some would have unpleasant consequences. Some Americans in the Sixties refused the military draft and had to flee the country to avoid jail. But if the severity of the consequences is the boundary marker, then this is not a principled stand, but a statement of preference which finds its limits not with God, but with man.

  47. aBasnar says:

    unpleasant consequences. Some Americans in the Sixties refused the military draft and had to flee the country to avoid jail.

    Yes, and in the 2nd and 3rd century many Christians died as martyr#s for the same reason. Seems to be part of the way …

    Alexander

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