Book Review : Fight – A Christian Case for NonViolence

Fight

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.

Forward

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.

Chapter 1

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.

PeaceThroughFirepower

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?

 

Chapters 2-5

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.

 

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YoctoNumeroPhobia

It’s not a real word, but I’m going to construct it and use it as:

The abnormal fear of the smallest defined number.

Stephen Meyers lays out a case that makes it impossible to believe in evolution. The whole video is worth watching, but the link starts at minute 24, when his talk begins to destroy the foundation of evolution.

If you know and understand math, you’ll agree. I’ll leave alone (for now) that without a Christian worldview, one cannot even account for the invariant, absolute, and universal laws like mathematics. At about minute 30 he gets into the math itself:

 For every 12 letters (in the English language) that are functional/meaningful there are 100,000,000,000,000 other ways to arrange those same characters…that are non-functional/meaningful. The very same things are true in the DNA protein case. The ratio to non-functional sequences to functional sequences is even more prohibitively small than in the case of the English language.

For a small protein, the chances of getting a functional sequence without guidance is 1 over 10 ^ -77. This is a number so small that it does not even warrant a definition with latin prefixes. The real problem is much worse for evolutionists who insist that natural selection acting on random mutations has generated all functional code. Since the chances of getting a non-functional protein are so much greater than all of the possible chances (all of the creatures 10 ^ 40) over the perceived available amount of time (3.5 X 10 ^ 9), logic dictates that we declare the evolutionary theory as failed.

Dr. Meyer built his case to answer theistic evolutionists, but the case is even more powerful when used against naturalists, who demand that there is no Creator. So fearful are evolutionists of these arguments that they choose not to even engage with Meyer’s arguments. They resort instead to strawman, ad hominem, and genetic fallacy arguments. When exposed to the near infinitely small chances that their worldview kingdoms have any substance, they become prey to YoctoNumeroPhobia. It is an irrational fear and is solvable by trusting the Creator in what He has revealed. It makes sense rationally (to trust One with infinite knowledge and love), logically (science supports the conclusion) and morally (God provides forgiveness for sin.)

I do want to cover a few comments that Meyer only minimally addresses in his talk. Meyers is not a biblical creationist, but I’m pretty sure that can be solved if he were to read my posts on this blog.

Many think they must adopt an evolutionary understanding of biological origins despite its substantial cost to the coherence of basic Christian doctrine.

I could not agree more!!!! The gospel of Jesus Christ is clear!

  • The Creator made a universe that was very good
  • God declared that life was to reproduce according to its kind.
  • Adam and Eve rebelled and brought death, bloodshed, pain, and the curse of sin into creation. Genesis 3. Romans 5. Romans 8. I Cor 15
  • To bring glory to Himself, God’s plan to offer a substitute to take on God’s wrath in the place of sinful humans was made manifest in Jesus. Jesus took the curse of sin upon himself, which allowed God’s children to be in relationship to him.
  • Jesus rose from the dead.

Is evolutionary theory so well established that it makes it compulsory to read scripture in a completely different way.

It is so important that people not take naturalistic interpretations to scripture. So many heresies arise from trying to dilute the teachings of God’s revelation with cultural proclivities.

So, don’t let YoctoNumeroPhobia crush your soul.

God’s Word can be trusted in what He has revealed about history, so we can trust Him with our future! He is trustworthy!!!

Trust, but Verify!

I love watching and listening to debates. Listening to the arguments for and against a position really helps me to see new ways to think and new ways to study God’s Word. When someone challenges my worldview with difficult questions, it’s probably not the 1st time someone has brought up that question or the 1st time someone has answered it. So, viewing debates is a nice way to see how these questions come about and how to answer difficult questions.

Almost always, these debates drive me back to scripture to confirm that someone has answered in accordance with God’s Word. This pattern is called noble in Acts 17:11

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

So, let me encourage anyone reading this blog or any other blog to test what is read against the scriptures. Now, we live in a special time in human history as well, because not only are we able to READ the scriptures, but we can dig deep with all of the available tools of the internet. Let me put in an endorsement for Blue Letter Bible. They have a great website and mobile app! My favorite use of this tools is to see the original Hebrew and Greek words in which the divinely inspired texts were written, since I do not speak either language.

This debate caught my interest this week, and I’ve linked to the beginning of the cross examination portion of the debate. It is between old earth theist, Fuz Rana and philosopher Michael Ruse.

In their 1st exchange, Ruse reads Genesis 1:16

[Gen 1:16 ESV] 16 And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

He then asks where is the sun is for the 1st three days. I’ve got a much better answer than Rana tries to give below

Watching Rana, you can clearly see he is uncomfortable with this line of questioning because he has left the safety of God’s Word and is crafting a new story with new definitions. At 54:57 he says, “We take days as a long period of time…” His yarn includes not 1 but 2 invented transformations of the atmosphere to allow light to pass to the surface of the earth. And then he is either badly mistaken or lying to cover a glaring hole in his worldview. Starting at 56:00 he says:

The text in the original Hebrew doesn’t say that the sun moon and stars were created, it says that let them appear.

Well, let’s check his scholarship of scripture with the tools we have available. If you click here on this link, you’ll see Genesis 1:16 open in Blue Letter Bible. You should see something that looks like the picture below. Notice the English transliteration of the Hebrew word for “made” is ‘asah.

Gen1_16

You can drill down further into the usage of this term by clicking the link H6213. This will show you specifically about this Hebrew word: how many times it’s used in the Bible, and which ways it is translated. Not once is this word (as Rana says) ever translated appear…as though the clouds cleared to show these lights having existed for millions of years prior as Rana sadly believes.

Now if Rana wants to believe this, he then has to account for other times this word ‘asah is used within the context. It is used in

  • Gen 1:7 – creation of the expanse
  • Gen 1:11 – plants making/bearing fruit
  • Gen 1:26 – creation of mankind

So, if we put Rana’s misinterpretation of ‘asah from Gen 1:16 in place of the other uses of ‘asah in the same context, can we say that the expanse, fruits, and humans have existed for millions of years and then the atmosphere cleared so that they became visible to a hypothetical observer. This is a huge problem for Rana and his parent company Reasons to Believe.

Perhaps Rana meant that in Gen 1:14 was when these concocted atmospheric transformations took place, and the sun, moon, and stars “appeared”. But God does not use the Hebrew word for appear (ra’ah) like he did in Gen 1:9. This would have given credence to Rana’s legend had the Biblical text included in Gen 1:14 the Hebrew word ra’ah because its definition is:

  1. to see
  2. to appear
  3. to present oneself
  4. to become visible

Dr. Ruse rightly pushes Dr. Rana and says, “as most of us would read Genesis then, it is profoundly misleading.”

Gen1_16

Yes, Dr. Rana, you are teaching misleading doctrine. This is not the only example of the folks at Reasons to Believe teaching indefensible interpretations of scripture.

Thankfully, we can check their words with context, other parts of scripture, and the tools available to us with the internet. God’s Word can be trusted in all matters.

Suppress the Truth at Your Own Peril

I’ve listened to Shermer debate several different Christians, and his debate style has grown tiresome.
In this debate, Shermer declared victory in the opening paragraph and spent the rest of his time “killing” straw men, showcasing red-herrings, and refusing to provide justification for his assertions. It was terribly frustrating to hear Shermer, who failed miserably at defending atheism, declare victory in the closing remarks when Hernandez chose not to join Shermer outside the debate boundaries. His entire argument (as Hernandez correctly pointed out) was “I don’t like God.”
It’s time for Shermer to retire from debate. He was never able to understand the depth of Dr. Hernandez’s transcendental argument. Shermer continued to “argue” against tired classic Christian apologetics, which Dr. Hernandez never employed.
I find similar responses from atheists with whom I interact. They do not understand the depth of their philosophical dilemma, and they resort to scientism (“we have evidence….you don’t”), wild accusations (“stone adulterers and children!”) and vicious circularity.
In many ways, Christians must do better at framing the debate, so that atheists can at least try to tackle the real philosophical problems rather than fighting on the surface. But it’s certain that those outside the church who continue to suppress the truth will bring on themselves the “futile thinking…with foolish darkened hearts.” (Romans 1)…and thus never be able to understand the freedom of Truth (John 8:32).
It comes down to authority. The atheist chooses dirt (material) as the eternal authority. The follower of Jesus chooses the revealed Creator (and his Word) as his authority.

Goodness Gracious!

God is good. We can see this from several texts in the Psalms and in the gospel of Mark.

jesus-christ-good-shepherd-religion-161289.png

Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good

Psalm 135:3 Praise the LORD, for He is good

Mark 10:17-18 A man ran up and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’

While this list is not comprehensive, we get a picture that one of the characteristics of God and the way that he acts is his Goodness. The English word from these passages that has been translated to be “good” is the Hebrew transliteration: towb.

This same word is used in Genesis 1 as God describes his new creation. After the first, third, the fourth, and the fifth days, God describes his creation as ‘towb’ or good. Genesis 1:29-31 says, “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food. And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning the sixth day.” In fact, since God called his creation “good” twice on days 3 and 6, there is a total of seven “good” descriptors of his creation. As seven is seen throughout scripture as the perfect number, God is bringing extra emphasis on the goodness of his creation. Creation wasn’t just “good” in a trivial sense, it was made to reflect God’s goodness and glory (Psalm 19:1).

We know that later on in chapter 3 of Genesis, it describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s one command. Sin caused pain, thorns, and death to pervert God’s “very good” creation. Romans 8 confirms this when it says, “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Sin perverted God’s “very good” creation. And God revealed that the curse of sin included death, pain, thorns, and creation being in bondage to decay.

When archaeologists dig down into the layers of earth, what do they find? Fossils of billions of dead things. Fossils of dinosaurs and other animals that had terrible diseases like cancer are found. Some fossils show teeth marks of predators in layers that evolutionists date as having been buried millions and millions of years before mankind walked the earth. Even fossilized thorns have been found in layers that evolutionists date as being 400 million years old.

sharp_thorns

But there are Christian teachers out there, who are trying to harmonize clear teaching of scripture with billions of years of bloodshed, suffering, and death. Is this what the Psalmist would relay as a character quality of the Almighty? But that’s exactly what Hugh Ross,  the Rossians, and John Walton would have us believe. To make this work, they have to re-define the Hebrew word “towb” to mean potential or ordered.

It is no small thing to attribute billions of years of cancer, bloodshed, pain, and death with the perfect character of the Almighty. Yet, when Walton and Ross redefine the same word “towb”, which is used to describe God’s character, as inclusive of death, one has to question their understanding of scripture.

Lastly, Isaiah 11:6-9 describes a time when God will restore his perfect creation. God revealed to Isaiah that there will come a time when predatory behavior, harm, and destruction will be a thing of the past. But Ross and Walton would say that predatory behavior, harmfulness, and destruction was a part of creation prior to Adam’s sin. Their interpretation of scripture has serious problems that affect the gospel. If death and destruction and harm were part of God’s very good creation, then why did Jesus have to die a horrific physical death on the cross? Romans 8:21 “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.”

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

We can trust the Good God Almighty about what he has revealed about the past, and we can trust him about the good He plans for the future. Praise Him!!!

Don’t Trust the Rossians…Trust the Bible

I’ve only gotten half-way through reading this article, but I couldn’t wait any longer to post a link to Jason Lisle’s response to Critics #3.

For years now, the invasion of Christendom has been spearheaded by attacking the Bible. So much so, that now, even committed believers like Hugh Ross cannot see their own indoctrination to materialistic philosophies.

In Dr. Lisle’s article, he engages with a critic, who accommodates secular teachings into his interpretation of scripture. Dr. Lisle uses hermenuetics, logic, and science to re-calibrate the critic’s flawed thinking. If you’ve ever wanted to read dialogue on how to engage a Rossian with solid scripture and sound logic, then you will enjoy reading.

Christians = Terrorists

Sadly, the church in America has gotten a little too cozy with the government of the USA. There’s too much “rah-rah; kick ’em in the jaw!” when it comes to bombing Muslim extremists or assassinating Bin Laden. The church has been fine supporting and giving more power to the government.

What will happen if when the government adds Christians to the terrorist bucket?

It has only begun.

Now, the SPLC is not the government, but the government has been using the SPLC’s lists of hate groups to build their strategies. The SPLC even added Dr. Ben Carson to their extremist list back in 2015. There is a strong desire by those in power and those with “the microphone” to marginalize Jesus and his Word.

All of that to say that being an outspoken disciple of Jesus is becoming and will become more unpopular. All the more reason for us as Christians to stay grounded in the Word because our hope and our citizenship is not in this world (Phil 3:20.) Since we recognize Jesus as King, we must continually be reminded that our King’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The kingdoms of this world have fallen and will continue to fall, but Jesus’ kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and it is for this kingdom that we should endeavor to serve. There is a battle, but our enemy is not abortion or liberalism or agendas or the Gaystapo. Those seem like ripe targets as Christians, and I’ve struggled with battling those physical targets. Ephesians 6:

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

So let yourself be filled with righteousness, truth, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

Remember that history is written by the victors and we know that the victory has already been won. So, it will be unpopular and it will get tougher to be a disciple of Jesus, but that should not dissuade us from being lights in a dark world.

 

UPDATE: Now the courts are making it a standard practice to punish those who express quiet thanks to God in a public place.