by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.
I am deeply troubled and grieved by Donald Trump’s order to kill by drone strike Iran’s second most powerful leader, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, together with the Iraqi Shia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The Trump Administration’s killing of these two men on January 3, regardless of their offenses, is evil, going against God’s command: “thou shall not kill” and Jesus’ command: “love your enemies.” It also threatens to plunge the United States and the Middle East into a major war leading to far more death and destruction.
As we hear critiques and defenses, and brace ourselves for retaliatory violence and retributive counter measures, let us consider Jesus’ seeing Jerusalem and weeping over it, and practice something like this ourselves, remembering his highly relevant words:
“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Continue reading A Response to Recent U.S. Killings in Iraq
by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.
All of us raised in Western culture have been strongly conditioned by what is called a secular worldview. The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum, meaning “the present world.” A secular worldview, therefore, is one that focuses on the present physical world and ignores or rejects the spiritual realm. To the extent that one is secularized, spiritual realities like God, angels, demons, and heaven don’t have a significant role in one’s thought or life.
Of course many of us continue to believe in things like God, Jesus, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. But as every study on the topic has shown, our beliefs tend to have little impact on our lives. The majority of Western people hold some sort of spiritual beliefs, but nonetheless continue to live much of their lives as functional atheists.
Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t think about God in most of our waking moments. Still fewer consciously surrender to God in most of our waking moments. Even fewer experience God’s presence in most of our waking moments. Our day-to-day lives are, for all intents and purposes, God-less.
This is the tragic affliction of secularism. Continue reading Don’t Be a Functional Atheist at Christmas
by Craig S. Keener, originally published on his blog.
While there is some debate about the identity of the 144,000 in 7:1-8, everyone agrees that the innumerable multitude in the next vision refers to believers from all peoples—a vision that ultimately includes all of us who believe in Jesus.
These people are “from all nations and tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9). Revelation uses this fourfold formula, in varying sequences, seven times. The formula echoes the book of Daniel. Daniel has the threefold formula six times; the Greek translation of Daniel makes the first instance (Dan 3:4) fourfold, as in Revelation. That context applies to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire.
By the time of Revelation, however, people would no longer think of “all nations” as part of the Babylonian empire. Another passage in Daniel predicted an innumerable multitude from all nations serving the Son of man (Dan 7:13-14). Yet despite the hyperbole of Roman imperial claims, most people in John’s urban audience in the Roman province of Asia knew about many other parts of the world beyond the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had trade ties with India, China, parts of Africa as far south as Tanzania, and northern Europe perhaps as far west as Iceland. The idea that members of all peoples would stand before God’s throne would have been unthinkable! Continue reading The Multicultural Multitude of Revelation
by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.
Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.
A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.
The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?
by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.
The crisis in Syria has been on my heart in a new way this past week, when Gracie and I were in Beirut, Lebanon. We were part of a team that offered four days of training in evangelism and prayer appointments to 65 Syrian Christians who came over for Damascus.
We were deeply impacted by the humility of these Syrian believers, who have gone through devastation on so many levels. Everything that could be shaken has been shaken, and yet a vibrant faith remains, visible in a thirst for God and eagerness to learn more.
One woman told how over 13,000 bombs fell on her city over the past nine years, but only 100 were killed (a small but still horrific number considering the number of bombs). She attributed this to her faith community’s constant intercession. She said that there are many testimonies of people deciding suddenly to walk away from a particular place that was subsequently hit by a bomb. She said many came to believe in God due to widespread stories of protection.
We met people from Aleppo who saw their city destroyed by the fighting. It seemed everyone had lost people they knew or had family that lived abroad as refugees- some 2 million of which are in Lebanon. We visited a Lebanese Christian outreach to Syrian refugees near the Syrian border that brought education, clothing, food and medical care to thousands of vulnerable people. Continue reading The Syrian crisis: Comforting and defending the vulnerable, exposing and confronting the powerful
by Jacob Schönning.
This summer it was reported that the Australian liberal prime minister Scott Morrison was welcomend on stage at a gigantic Hillsong meeting during their annual conference in Sydney. He led the congregation of 30-35000 people in prayer and confessed his faith in a miracle working God. Andreas Nielsen, lead pastor of Hillsong Sweden, affirmed that the prime minister ”is a devout Christian”. He also said that that ”his participation in the conference is a recognition of the important role that the church in general plays in Australia and that it makes a difference.”
Fantastic, isn’t it?
I am not so sure about that. On the contrary, I think that it is very dangerous for the soul of the Church in Australia. Last winter Magnus Malm wrote in Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen that God is not on the side of the powerful. In fact God says in Psalms 146,3: ”Never put your trust in powerful men.” For centuries, Catholic and Orthodox churches have often been close to political power. That was the case when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors went ashore in South America, and it is the same today in countries like Russia and Poland. Continue reading Hillsong Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Powerful Men
by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2015 at his website ReKnew.
For more of Boyd’s thoughts on Old Testament violence, check out his book Cross Vision of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.
Since the time of Augustine, Christians have consistently appealed to the violent strand of the Old Testament to justify waging wars when they believed their cause was “just.” (This is Augustine’s famous “just war” theory.)
Two things may be said about this.
First, the appeal to the OT to justify Christians fighting in “just” wars (if there are such things) is illegitimate for the simple reason that the OT knows nothing of a “just war” policy. The wars that Yahweh had the Israelites engage in were not fought on the basis of justice. They were fought simply because the Israelites perceived that Yahweh told the Israelites to fight them. They were holy wars, not just wars. Continue reading Does the Old Testament Justify “Just War”?