05 April 2015

The Christian Response to Bestial Regimes

How are we called to live under  tyrannical and murderous regimes, governments that claim universal conformity and have all but deified themselves? This question is often utilized to argue for Christian involvement in war, the justification of Christian participation in government and many other issues that obfuscate the teachings of Scripture regarding the Kingdom. It also all but ignores or distorts the countless examples of faithful people from the past that have stood for truth but not turned to the sword.

First there must be a recognition that the New Testament teaches that we are called to imitate Christ, suffer and expect persecution. We are called repeatedly to endure and though it defies the wisdom of this world we are to rejoice when we suffer for the name of Christ.

This is completely contrary to the Pseudo-Christian ethic of wealth and acquisition, security and the wielding of power. This heretical ethic has governed Christendom and still reigns supreme in the Evangelical Church of our day.

Second, we do have the option of flight. Christ encouraged people to flee the advance of the Roman legions and the events of the year 70 foreshadowed and typified the destruction to come at the time of His return. Paul fled on numerous occasions when his enemies sought his life.

We do not have the option to capitulate. If we stay, then we have to be prepared to suffer the consequences. We never back down or compromise our message.

We do not compromise Christian ethics in the name of the greater good. Consequentialism has come to dominate Christian ethics and this needs to be revisited and reconsidered. Ethics are difficult and sometimes there is no good solution. Think of Rahab and the spies or the Ten Booms in the Netherlands. Sometimes you might have to lie and that opens the door to larger ethical questions. Some have argued that we should kill in order to prevent greater numbers of deaths.

Sometimes we are forced into situations that no matter what happens we will essentially engage in some kind of sinful behaviour. But we must be careful that we don't start to form new paradigms that normalize and justify the behaviour. Sin should be grievous to us no matter the circumstance. Lying is problematic but taking life and plotting murder would seem to belong to a different category.

Those that would make all sin equal have oversimplified the Bible's teaching. Before God all sins are worthy of death and eternal destruction. All sins are rejections of God's Sovereign and Holy Authority.

But before men, there's a difference. Lying and thinking adulterous thoughts are worthy of God's judgment but under Mosaic Law, these sins did not command the same penalty as murder. There is a difference in degree.

As Christians we are not called to wield the sword of vengeance. We are called to be witnesses and martyrs if need be. We are to be loving and/or sacrificial. We can give our lives for others but not in the process of taking lives.

History is replete with examples of horrific regimes, bestial manifestations, governments that demand total subjection and worshipful veneration. I will admit there are some situations hard to imagine and in some cases watchful wary Christians can do little more than warn and flee.

Since we are exiles, strangers and pilgrims living in the wilderness the affairs of Babylon do not greatly concern us. We need to be vigilant, knowing the times, how to speak, and taking care to provide for our families. We need to know which way the wind is blowing and we need to speak out on the issues of the day... not politically but spiritually. The Bestial powers may politicize our speech and persecute us but that's their problem and they'll answer for it. We're not to suffer as agitators and evildoers. If we go about the business of the gospel, lead quiet lives working with our hands, minding our own business, not entangling ourselves in the affairs of this life, we will for the most part be left alone.

There are always exceptions.

The plight of Christians living in Nazi Germany was such a time but we've seen it before. Assyria and Babylon were not all that different from the Nazis. Brutal conquerors they would enslave and remove those they captured and kill any who resisted. They were genocidal idolaters and monstrous in every way.

Imagine a true believing Jew from the Northern Kingdom, exiled into Assyria and hearing about the impending Battle of Carchemish, the climax of the Babylonian-Assyrian war.

Now, were there Jews writing 'Land Letters' to Assyrian politicians telling them what the Biblical worldview was regarding this war? Perhaps they wrote to the Egyptian allies?

Did the Jews believe that the collapse of Assyria would somehow affect the Covenant?  In fact did it really matter which Beast ruled over them?

Granted some were better than others. Babylon probably was preferable to Assyria and Persia though still a Beast was even better.

While Greece and Rome may have seemed less brutal they were in some ways more dangerous. They had a strong cultural message which greatly affected the Jewish people, were spiritually seductive and ultimately created a cultural division. In the end it may have been seductive Greek culture that was more dangerous than Babylonian captivity.

There are many ways to look at these questions and weigh them, but as exiles our responses are quite different than the Constantinian framework which is in itself Bestial as well. It creates a social monism and seeks to coercively apply its theology. It makes claims of Divine sanction. Its wars are holy. Dissent is heresy.

God took care of the Assyrians when it came to Judah. For Israel it was different and yet many of the Remnant would have suffered along with the apostates.

Assyria will fight Babylon and then they'll both be replaced by something else. You cut off one of the dragon's heads and another grows back and takes it place.

There will be wars and rumours of wars. See that you're not troubled.

This is not to say that it's always easy. Times can be hard and desperate, full of peril, suffering and tears.

But that doesn't mean we abandon who we are. God rules the wheels of time, the paths of history. His hand of restraint keeps any Assyria from going too far.

But isn't that letting the world fight the battles for us? They fight for their own reasons and by their own motivations. They don't fight for righteousness. We do err when we think of one side as good and the other evil. Usually it's Assyria vs. Babylon. And even under that paradigm many innocents will suffer, villages will be sacked etc...

There are plenty of occasions of wanton destruction and unprovoked invasion and it's a great crime when this happens. But we do not repay evil for evil.

God will protect His own and Providence will raise up another Beast to slap down the one who became too aggressive. Regardless His purposes are accomplished.

We can be thankful the Soviets with the help of the Anglo-Americans stopped Hitler. But it hardly brought about a happy ending. It was Assyria vs. Babylon with the help of Egypt. There are no 'good guys' in such a war. America and Britain were both empires of blood as well. Maybe they didn't look so bad when compared to the USSR or Germany, but the people of the Philippines or China might have offered a different take on the question.

We can show mercy, help the wounded, save lives and testify to the truth. But take up the sword and kill? That's not our calling. We are called unto prayer and spiritual warfare and if necessary use the testifying weapon of martyrdom.