In today’s culture that includes all view from the pendulum swing of gun-free extremism to open-carry extremism, how relevant is a book like this? My younger brother introduced me to Preston Sprinkle’s Fight – The Christian Case for Non Violence, and I was very skeptical thinking, “It’s probably just liberal politics with some holy water poured on it to make it sound Christian.”
I was both wrong and right. Let me start with my conclusion: This book is worth reading because of how Christians are influenced too much by what the culture is teaching rather than influencing culture by what the Bible teaches.
Is there a more lazy condemnation of something distasteful than to say, “Well, Hitler did xxxxxx?” Even though, he only mentions Hitler in passing, the context of that paragraph suddenly get swallowed in that black hole because of the strong emotions that come with his mere mention.
Some strong points from the forward:
The cure to bad theology is not “no theology” – but good theology
Definitely, and I found this book contained both good and bad theology
But in the end he reminds us that we are not called to follow Augustine…we are called to follow Christ.
This is so relevant to our culture because there is a strong temptation to latch onto some bumper sticker proverb or clever tweet from a famous pastor as though it were doctrine.
One of the themes that runs throughout that book is the way that Christians have conflated the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of the United States of America. It is a heresy that has infiltrated the church, and has diluted the power and truth of the gospel. If the reader gets nothing else from this book, Christians should live as citizens of the Kingdom of God with more passion than as citizens of their mortal land.
One of the first opportunities for recognizing this dichotomy is when he asks, “Should Christians celebrate the death of a terrorist or suicide bomber?” Our patriotism shouts victoriously that it’s good that this terrorist is dead, but as citizens of the eternal Kingdom, we recognize that any terrorist is suffering for eternity because of his sin. Death is the enemy (I Cor 15). What a sad state of affairs that we don’t weep for how sin has perverted Creation and instead cheer for the death of America’s enemies.
One of my favorite paragraphs from the whole book:
All the more need to open God’s Word to see what He thinks about these issues…But in order to address these issues from a Christian perspective, we need to dig into scripture to see what God does say about them. So often in heated debates, the Bible is rarely consulted. Or if it is, it’s done haphazardly or with blatant bias. Oftentimes we start with a view we are convinced is right; then we go to Scripture to find verses that support it.
More than anything I got from reading this book was the conviction that my Americanism influenced my view about guns and violence rather than letting God’s divine Word shape my thinking.
Sprinkle brings to light some horrific heretical teachings by famous Christian teachers:
Hal Lindsey, located the moral demise if America in the “crisis of military weakness.” He believed that “the Bible supports building a powerful military force…the Bible is telling the US to become strong again” and “to use our vast and superior technology to create the world’s strongest military power.” Jerry Falwell…called America back to biblical values, which included patriotism and a strong military to ward off the threat of atheistic communism…Wayne Grudem saw America’s “superior military weaponry” as “a good thing for the world.” After all, “genuine peace in the world comes through the strength of the United States.”
Grudem’s final comment is so disheartening that Christian leaders would so dishonor the Prince of Peace by elevating the USA to His rightful throne and say that the USA provides genuine peace through superior firepower.
As a youth, I loved this phrase, and it is easy to rally behind! But that again is the patriotism deciding my doctrine rather than God’s Word.
Some questions (though not specifically in the book) were brought to mind for me in reading ch 1:
- Has Americanism invaded the church?
- Is religious freedom God’s intention?
- Is militarism the key to religious freedom and a hope for peace?
Sprinkle spends most of these chapters building his case for non-violence. Sadly, I found most of these chapters as scriptures taken out of context, a huge stretching of the text to make a point, or repetitive frustration with militarism.
Sprinkle introduces a strange resolution to the Israelite’s destruction of the Canaanites (and other OT sins).
God both accommodates to and improves upon the ethical systems of the surrounding nations. p49
Accommodating sounds very much like God compromises his holiness since the Hebrews are unable to obey perfectly. It’s like saying, “Well, at least the Hebrews weren’t as bad as the surrounding nations. They did some things better, so God must have changed his standards to accommodate their behavior.” This is NOT God’s plan, so to say this (more than once in these chapters), Sprinkle seems not understand God’s purpose to redeem Creation from the curse of sin…completely.
But in light of other ancient war accounts, the Old Testament looks much less gruesome. p65
Compared to other nations, Israel did not glorify violence. p68
Here it is again – this idea of “At least it’s better than others.” God is not into hierarchical sins and above a certain threshold is unacceptable.
The section heading on page 68 is “Should America follow Israel’s war policy?” I mentioned earlier that patriotism should not be intertwined with Christianity. In this section Sprinkle explicitly states a powerful truth that Christians today need to embrace:
But America is not God’s nation. Let me be clear: I do not think that America should use the Bible to construct or defend its military program, because America is not the new Israel, nor is it a Christian nation…God’s people should never celebrate military power, and we certainly shouldn’t find our hope and security in it.
There are lots of Christians in the USA, and a valid case can be made that some Christian principles were employed by many Christian founding fathers to create this nation, but it is not (as a nation) God’s chosen people.
In my opinion Ch 4 can be skipped completely, because he builds a strong case that American Christians today should not wipe out Canaanites as the Israelites did (either hyperbolically or otherwise.) We agree.
In chapter 5 he makes the strange case that Israel was not to possess “advanced weaponry.” So, for the time, horses were seen as advanced weaponry, and Israel (under Solomon) sinned by adding advanced weaponry (horses) to his army. What? And even though he specifically said earlier that the USA is not God’s nation, Sprinkle condemns the USA’s acquisition of advanced weaponry today as against God’s commands. So, why would that matter if the USA is not God’s nation? This contradiction is peppered throughout the book.
I can very much appreciate the sentiment in chapter 6 that Christians are called to be citizens of the eternal Kingdom rather than subject to the thoughts and desires of the world. Jesus confessed before Pilate “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.” Christians should evaluate their involvement into the affairs of the world’s kingdoms the way Jesus did.
[SPOILER: Skip to the next paragraph if you want to appreciate the surprise] On p.130, Sprinkle shares a powerful “gotcha” moment in which he describes a young man named, Martin, who served his country with honor during WW2. Martin said, “When this great nation was formed, God gave Christianity as its soul, and it is from these Christian roots that it has grown and developed.” Martin Niemoller served in the German army out of his allegiance to his earthly nation. It is a good reminder that when we ally ourselves with the world, we will inevitably not be serving the Kingdom of God.
I found myself in agreement with most of his writing in chapters 7 and 8. Love your enemies and Good Citizens. In Chapters 9 and 10, Sprinkle again builds a tired case that just because there is violence in the Bible (Revelation in this case), that Christians should not seek out violent means. Perhaps, it is because I do not travel in specific circles, but I’ve not heard Christian leaders make the case that because there is bloodshed prophesied in Revelation that Christians can kill and maim unbelievers, so I’m in agreement with Sprinkle…the chapters just seemed to drag on as unneeded to make his case.
Chapter 11 discusses what is perhaps the most asked question with regards to Christian violence. “What should Christians do when an attacker comes into your home?” Sprinkle does not answer conclusively, but the questions and concepts covered are very valuable in answering this question for yourself. When the Christian culture says, “Blast anyone who comes into your home” can we as Christians not recognize that when the people that Jesus loved most were faced with persecution/death, He chose not to act in violence?
success isn’t the highest goal. Faithfulness is. So what would be the most faithful Christlike response to the attacker at the door?
Pray for him. I’m living in a world ruled by Jesus.
We love our enemies because we were once God’s enemies. We were the attacker at the door who crucified His Son, and He didn’t shoot us. And even if we killed our enemy as the lesser of two evils, it’s still a horrific incident. We don’t cherish the death of our enemies.
It’s true that we were once enemies of God, but we do not love our enemies because we were once enemies. We love our enemies because Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” No other reason is needed.
There are other questions and objections answered in Sprinkle’s book, but my blog post is about 10X longer than I like to write, so I’ll end it here with an endorsement.
Christians should read this book – not because we have to agree with everything written in it. This book challenged my thinking…to break out of the cultural comfort of patriotic compromising of God’s Word. Today’s Christians have inherited/developed a strong sense of self defense and justice in violent retribution. More than anything else, we should strive to honor the King and obey him with faithfulness. If faithful obedience means sacrificing our Constitutionally-protected right to self-defense, obedience is the most important.