Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More?
A series of 8 videos featuring NT scholar Craig Evans, entitled: Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More? Enjoy.
Michael Brown and Bart Ehrman have recently debated. Listen to this audio from a fellow atheist of Ehrman afterwards. He says that Ehrman seemed "disturbed".


The Only Thing Worth Knowing by Steve Pixler

Posted: 06 Apr 2010 11:59 PM PDT

Text: I Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Religious Tradition vs. Pagan Philosophy

Paul told the church at Corinth that he “determined”—which means to me that he decided after deep reflection—to “know nothing among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” It is quite likely that Paul wrestled with the question of how to best reach the pagans with the gospel, of whether to approach them with religious tradition (the Jewish approach) or with pagan philosophy (the Greek approach). Some wonder if Paul may have worked through this on Mars Hill in Athens when he utilized a philosophical approach to reach the pagans. There is no certainty on this point.

Regardless of the Athens angle, Paul had “determined” that he could not win the Gentile world by using the wisdom of man. He could not win the world by presenting the gospel in a way that removed the offense and folly of the Cross. The answer for the world is not religious tradition or secular philosophy. The answer is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Paul, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” presupposes the resurrection. As Paul argues elsewhere, there is no reason to preach Christ crucified if Christ is not raised from the dead (I Corinthians 15).

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. If this story is true, then God has intervened in history to make all things new. Thus, all religion must be reinterpreted in light of the resurrection. Any religion that does not confirm to this reality is false worship, and thus, idolatry. All philosophy must be reinterpreted in light of the resurrection. Every philosophy that does not account for the meaning of life with the resurrection as its fundamental explanation is a deeply flawed, indeed, false, philosophy of life. All religion and philosophy must be reoriented toward—in and through—the Cross.

All Knowledge Must Conform to Christ

In fact, all knowledge must be conformed to the truth of the gospel to be true knowledge. All knowledge must die and be resurrected with Christ in order to live as true knowledge. This means that every realm of life, all knowledge—reality as we know it in everything—must be conformed to the reality of the new creation that arose with Christ in His resurrection. Science must conform to the reality of the resurrection. Politics must conform to the reality of the resurrection. Education must conform. Entertainment must conform. Medicine must conform. Environmentalism must conform. Social services must conform. Social justice must conform. Technology must conform. Sports and recreation must conform. The family must conform. And, believe it or not, theology must conform!

The church—and this is the most crucial, for on this all other conformance depends—must conform. The church is the means by which the kingdom of God breaks into the world. Nothing on earth can experience resurrection apart from baptism into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The only way all of the areas of life and culture can conform is to be transformed through the lives of individuals within each area that bring the power of the resurrection to bear upon it. Science cannot be saved unless scientists are saved! Politics cannot be saved unless politicians are saved! And so on.

Of course, we affirm that the fullness of the new creation awaits the resurrection at the end of history when the Lord Jesus returns victorious over all nations, but we also affirm, and we boldly affirm it, that the resurrection of Christ in the middle of history has brought the end of history to us in advance. Christ brought the future into the present. We already know the outcome of history, and it is Christ, the only thing worth knowing!

The Resurrection as a Present Reality

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. The new creation had already broken in upon the world, and the future is now. The first century world of Jewish believers expected Messiah to come and make all things new all at once. But Jesus, the true Messiah, revealed that God’s kingdom rule over creation would come gradually like leaven in the meal. And this gradual coming of the kingdom would begin in the personal resurrection of Jesus as the embodiment of both Yahweh and humankind as the federal head of the new creation. The resurrection, then, would be the “seed planting” of the KOG. This “seed planting” would spread throughout the field of the world by being planted in the lives of individual believers, who would then extend the vine of the kingdom into every field of personal endeavor. Through the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection breaks forth in the earth through the individual lives of believers, and through the lives of believers, the resurrection breaks forth into all creation, subduing the enemies of Christ as He rules from heaven through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in believers.

Paul declares that, in the resurrection, Christ Jesus has become a new kind of human, a glorified human, and now, a “life-giving spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45). The man, Christ Jesus, has now been “omnipresenced” in the universe, and because we have been baptized into Him, we share in His life-giving Spirit, which flows into all of us as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit mediates Christ to us, and we mediate the presence of Christ to the world. Thus, His resurrection is flowing through us into all creation as the catalyst of the coming universal resurrection and the new creation.

So often on Easter the focus is primarily on Good Friday, when Jesus died, and Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus rose again. In other words, we usually see Easter as a time to reflect on the past, on what God did in Christ back then, way back on Calvary. And this is good, as far as it goes. But Easter must be more than a memorial service. Easter must be a continuing celebration, which, in fact, we celebrate every Lord’s Day, of the ongoing work of Christ’s resurrection now in us! We must see more today than just what Jesus did; we must see what Jesus is doing!

To only preach about yesterday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, without preaching about today, good Monday and ordinary Tuesday, is to drastically reduce the gospel down to mere memory. But the resurrection of Jesus is much more—so much more—than mere memory. It is the living witness of the daily presence and power of Christ to make all things new! We are living between the push of Easter Sunday and the pull of the Second Coming, both moments pulsing with the power of Christ's resurrection in the world.

When we preach about Easter we are preaching about Jesus, about His present work at the right hand of the Father, about His ever-living intercession as priest for us and His ever-subduing reign as king for us. And through our baptism into Christ, we share in His resurrection and stand to minister daily, both in the weekly corporate worship and in our daily work as agents of Christ’s dominion in the world. The resurrection of Jesus continues daily in the resurrection that works in us and flows out of us into a world dead in sins and trespasses. We are Christ’s life for the world, and we are hastening the coming of Christ and the resurrection of all things.

Conclusion: Celebrating Easter

Do you want to celebrate Easter? Then, do more than attend an annual service to honor a parent or please a spouse. Do more than paint eggs and chase bunny rabbits around the lawn. Do more, do much more! Celebrate Easter by hearing the gospel, the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; by believing that story, for it is true; by participating in that story through repentance and baptism confessing Jesus as Lord and being filled with the Spirit; and by living out the ongoing story of the resurrection in your world until the story of Christ's victory is complete in the last resurrecion. Celebrate Easter so that the world may know “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” which is the only thing worth knowing!

Click here to visit the blog of Pastor/Muscian Steve Pixler.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich by Eric Metaxas




Gone in seconds as the Gestapo sweep Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his home.

This biography is a literary paradise for those who truly love the period of WWII where much of this book is historically postured, climaxed with the execution of Bonhoeffer in 1945. They will love it even more if they are also interested in philosophical and theological tensions about war and killing. Metaxas is timely since it wrestles with current issues. Issues resonating since modern warfare. For example, we see this element in the British or  American solider and the Iranian or Iraqi soldier as well as the Maoist or former Nazi’s.

The thought of dying is usually not glorious to us. Death coupled with a crusade or a just war is known to give death meaning. Death in this sense is viewed as righteous because it is has been coupled with righteous cause. By resisting the onslaught of the Third Reich Bonhoeffer felt the intensity of his times and rose to the occasion. The fruits of his opposition to National Socialism grew to the place where Bonhoeffer was part of a conspiracy to kill Hitler. Here he clearly reveals to us that some evil cannot be avoided. At times even inaction can be viewed as evil. We must never remember that we are not only striving for heavenly citizenship but we are also members of an earthly citizenship.

The reason many theologians and Christians believed the West should intervene in WWII was because inaction, on their part, would have constituted an even greater war if Hitler had not been stopped. Even with the intervention of the British and the United States Hitler almost attained total European domination. To protect human free-will at some point we may have to accept guilt in order to protect her.


JN Anderson


Is Love a Reason for a Trinity? By Rodney Shaw




This article originally appeared in the September-October 2008 issue of the Forward.


One of the arguments used to support a trinitarian view of God is that since God is love, and since love requires an object, God must be comprised of more than one person, all of whom are in loving relationships with the others, or else God could not be love. In short, God could not be love unless there were something upon which He could project His love. Though this understanding of the supposed trinity is ancient, going back at least to Augustine, it seems to be rising in popularity. A recent articulation of this view can be found in The Reason for God by Timothy Keller (pp. 216-7).

If God is unipersonal, then until God created other beings there was no love, since love is something that one person has for another. This means that a unipersonal God was power, sovereignty, and greatness from all eternity, but not love. Love then is not of the essence of God, nor is it at the heart of the universe. Power is primary … . We believe the world was made by a God who is a community of persons who have loved each other for all eternity. Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made.” This view is often described as a “social” or “communitarian” model of the trinity. This argument fails on several accounts. The points raised below are not exhaustive and could be debated even among Oneness believers. The point of this article is not to suggest an undisputable understanding of God’s nature or to give the definitive answer to the argument above. Rather, the point of the article is to show that there are many reasons why the existence of love does not require a trinitarian view of God.

Belief that God is triune is an a priori assumption. The fact that God is love—or anything else for that matter—does not lead to the conclusion that God is triune. The assumption of God’s triune existence precedes conclusions about love and its supposed role within the Godhead. Only after assuming that God is triune can one make such claims about love within the Godhead. Accordingly, the appeal to love does not prove that God is multi-personal; it is only used to support an already-held position. There is no theological basis to make love God’s essence. The argument that God is somehow less God if He is primarily characterized in terms of power, sovereignty, or greatness is baseless. First, this dictates that God must be what we conceive Him to be, not what He has revealed Himself to be. Second, it is based on unsubstantiated claims about God’s essence. Love is not so much the essence of God as it is an attribute of God. The essence of God is the sum total of all His attributes. The attributes of God overlap at some point, each informing and shaping the others. Any ordering of God’s attributes is based on both logic and theological assumptions. For example, if one does not assume that God is triune, one is less likely to conclude that love is God’s chief attribute or essence.

The claim that God’s essence is love is usually rooted in I John 4:8, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (cf. v. 16). However, Scripture does not say that God is primarily, preeminently, predominately, or only love. He is love, but is at the same time many things. Scripture also says “God is Holy” (Psalm 99:9); “The LORD our God is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4); “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24); and “God is light” (I John 1:5). There is certainly no consensus on God’s essence or chief attribute because Scripture does not tell us if God has a chief attribute. Many theologians argue that holiness is God’s chief attribute, and it is His holiness that informs and qualifies His love, not vice versa. (God hates the transgressor, idols, wickedness, divorce, and so on because of His holiness.) But holiness, too, is a relational attribute (only realized in relation to other things); therefore, some would argue that God’s self-existence is His chief attribute, for He exists apart from anything else and does not rely on anything else in order to be complete in and of Himself.

The most fundamental self-disclosure of God is in Exodus 3:14: “I AM that I AM.” Many translations render this, “I AM WHO I AM.” This was in direct response to Moses’ question about God’s identity as a (the) deity apart from all the other false deities. God’s self-revelation was one of self-existence and independence from all other gods or causes. His self-existence was not qualified by holiness, love, or any other attribute. He exists by Himself and because of Himself. Hence, His self-existence is His attribute that best describes Him prior to creation in eternity past.

This understanding of God reduces Him to spacial, temporal, and relational categories, all of which derive from time/history, not eternity. Upon what authority can we claim that only what is realized about God is true about God? This limits God to our own experience. God is eternally complete and whole. God has from eternity past been holy. However, not until creation was there anything with which to contrast God, so His holiness was not realized until something, presumably an angel, was created. Therefore, God’s holiness was always existent though not realized. God knows everything there is to know and has known such from eternity past. Accordingly, since God has eternally known the elect, this does not mean that the elect have eternally existed. No, it simply means that He has foreknowledge.

Without creation all the attributes of God are incomprehensible. His attributes are ways for us to comprehend Him over against every thing else. Hence, if God cannot possess His attributes until He expresses those attributes, then we have dissolved God completely. According to this trinitarian view of God, God could not be sovereign until there was something against which to measure His sovereignty. He could not be power until there were some demonstration of His power, which would not be observable, measurable, or even possible prior to creation. God could not be great because greatness is a quantitative assessment. God is only great in comparison to things which are not great. Following this logic, we could whittle God down to nothing at all.

God is beyond time and space, so He eternally can be love, holiness, power, and so on, whether He exhibits those attributes or not. So taking the love argument for a trinity, we could just as easily say, “Until God created there was no power, wisdom, knowledge, or redemption.” But we know this is not true. God has eternally loved humanity and planned our redemption. However, the fact that humanity has been the object of God’s love in eternity past does not mean that humans have existed eternally. We only existed in the God’s foreknowledge. He can eternally be love without being triune, for His love is for His creation which was part of His foreknowledge. (See Isaiah 46:10; Romans 4:17; I Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4; II Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; James 1:27; I Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8.)

The argument is self-contradictory. If God is truly multi-personal so that each person can give and receive love, this is practical tritheism, for it defines God as multiple centers of consciousness. Alternately, to continue to argue that God is one(-in-three) leads right back to the supposed problem, i.e., God is self-centered if He indeed is one and if He loves Himself. So proponents of this position are left with two choices: practical tritheism or, by their own definition, “self-centeredness [which] destroys the fabric of what God has made.” This view of love reduces love to sentimentality. Biblical love is an active reaching out by one person to another person primarily for the benefit of the other. It is not primarily emotional, sentimental, or romantic. However we understand love, it must be consistent with Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of love. The love of God in Christ is sacrificial, selfless, giving, benevolent, and others-focused. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:16). Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection are consistent with His own teachings about love.

The story of the Good Samaritan is a story about violated boundaries, condescension, inconvenience, pity, helplessness, giving, and debt (Luke 20:27-27). This is the imagery Jesus chose to depict love. Elsewhere Jesus gives us a statement about the ultimate expression of love being sacrificial: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This is consistent with Paul’s description of love in I Corinthians 13, the most comprehensive description of agape in Greek literature. Paul describes love in behavioral terms. Of necessity then, love as we know it is only possible in conjunction with choice.

Using a biblical understanding of love, in what way could individual, all-knowing, all-powerful, self-existent “persons” project love upon one another? What need is being fulfilled in the others? In what way are they improved by receiving love? In what way would they be lesser if they did not receive love? To say that the supposed persons of the trinity have love for one another must leave open the option for them to choose not to love.

So is love a choice or an essence? If love is an essence then it must be a state of being that is free from personal concern or care with a sacrificial focus on others. If this is the case, to say that God is love does not require an object; rather, it is simply the way He is as He exists apart from sin and in His infinite completeness. After creation there were moral agents to receive the benefit of His love (state), but they, nor persons in a trinity, need not be present in order for God to exist in this state. Love then becomes associated with God’s holiness and foreknowledge.

This brings us full circle to the volitional element of love. If love involves choice and requires an object, and if love must be realized eternally in God, then tritheism is the only possible conclusion, for love is about giving of one’s self for the benefit of another. To love is to project certain attitudes and behaviors upon something other than oneself. No three-in-one formulation of God can satisfy this without fundamentally becoming tritheistic. In this regard, a difficulty for trinitarians is to define love in a way that is meaningful in an environment of sinlessness among ultimate beings. To say that the love within the supposed trinity is a different kind of love or a love that transcends what we know about love defeats the point of the argument in the first place, for love then becomes something other than what we know it to be, so to refer to this as love is meaningless.

The New Testament mentions the love that God the Father has for His Son, Jesus Christ (e. g., John 10:17; 17:24), but this is love shared between the eternal God and the man Christ Jesus, not two eternal persons within God. This is love in the context of the Incarnation, which, too, was in the foreknowledge of God. To import the dynamics of this relationship back into the eternal Godhead is only possible if one has already assumed that God is triune. It does not in any way prove that God is triune. Trinitarians must admit that the eternal Spirit of God loved the man Christ Jesus without regard for whether His spirit was the second person in the Godhead or the singular Spirit of a unipersonal God. There is no biblical reference to the Father loving the Spirit, the Spirit loving the Father, the Son loving the Spirit, or the Spirit loving the Son.

This view recreates God in our image. It is inappropriate to say that God’s existence parallels ours. If God is unipersonal, He can still be love. If He loves himself, this cannot be seen as self-centeredness in the same way it is of humans. God is jealous, vengeful, and a judge, things we are commanded not to be. Likewise, if God has love toward Himself, it is not destructive and self-centered any more than it is sinful for Him to judge. All the rules that apply to us do not apply to Him and vice versa. However, it is a leap in logic to say that he projects love upon Himself in the first place, for this s not revealed in Scripture. Accordingly, we cannot impose our self-understanding and human experience back upon God.

There is no questioning the fact that God is love. This is what makes the Oneness view of God so powerful. The one, true God loves His image creatures, and He has loved us from eternity past! He loves us so much that He came in human flesh to redeem us. The gospel is not that God so loved Himself. No, the gospel is that “God so loved the world!” (John 3:16).

© 2008 Rodney Shaw

You can visit or read this article from the blog of Rodney Shaw here.


The Holy War

crusades A classic example for Holy War theology, for Jew and Christian alike, begins in the book of Joshua. For the Muslim, who is often participant in this type war, may be found in Sura 2, Al-Baqara verses 190-193 or 214-217. The book of Joshua, however, is “YHWH’s victory account.”[1] In fact, the Hebrew word (kherem) which refers to “utterly destroy” occurs frequently throughout the book (e.g. 6:17; 8:26).

By His own decree God has used progressive revelation. Essentially God has not revealed all truth about Himself at one time, rather He has revealed Himself portion by portion (e.g. Zechariah 14:9). This revelation is tending toward a goal, to different people in the space-time-matter continuum (c.f. Hebrews 1:1).

God has used men of God and the Scriptures to be recipients and appropriators of this revelation. For example, Noah and Abraham, or even David, had a different relationship with God than say Paul or Peter or you and I as New Testament believers. This does not mean that the object of faith has changed but that there is a difference between an old covenant and that of a new one. The particulars here are debatable. God called Abraham out of the heathen though. I believe that Israel, the “fewest of all peoples” (Deuteronomy 7:7 NRSV) became the sword of morality to the fallen men since Adam. It was a bright light, so to speak, in a dark world. Light can be bright and piercing at times. Man in his fallen nature was vile and yet God called a man out of that vileness to raise up a special people with which God will bless the nations of the earth.

The Love of God Revealed:

Eventually, through that Semitic line, from Abraham, came the Messiah. In Him we have forgiveness of sin and salvation from the fallen sin nature. God will return soon to take away His special people. Obviously, during the course of that journey God has dealt with and required different things of man. Christ has come to atone for the sin of humanity, essentially reconciling the world. Shedding abroad the love of God. Notice the following Johannine theology very early in Christian tradition:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16 NRSV
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
1 John 3:16 NRSV
God loved the world. This might have been a novel idea to some. Many Jews believed that God loved the Jew only, specifically a religious Jew. Some may have imagined God hated the Gentile world. Even though God had showed them His love towards any who would repent in the story of Jonah and the Ninevites. It is also a virtue that transcends the god represented in the Quran who seems impersonal, at the very least. Muslim defenders might reply with Sura 50, Qaf vs. 16 however this verse only suggest that God knows us very well. Consider these two Quranic translations:
“We created man: and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are closer to him than his neck-vein.”
Sura 50, Qaf. vs. 16 (J.M. Rodwell)[2]
“It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Yusif Ali)[3]
It says nothing about Allah desiring to have a personal or loving relationship with creation. God knows every man since He knows all actual and even potential knowledge. It is what God has decreed or chosen to do with man that is significant in Christianity. Even while knowing our human frailties and flaws God extends His love towards us. He desires a personal relationship with him. God’s entrance into time and space has indeed made history significant. By the Incarnation He has set into motion the means of reconciling and restoring fallen man to Himself by Jesus Christ and powered by the Holy Spirit.

The Quran commands Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims and apostates (Surah 5:33; 9:5, 29). The Quran is riddled throughout its pages with commands and innuendos to do violence to non-believers and the un-faithful. Of the 114 Surahs, 109 have identifiable war verses. One out of every 55 verses in the Quran is a war verse. What about the book of Joshua in the Christian Bible? There is much that could be said here but the significant distinction between an Islamic jihad (holy war) and a Christian holy war is that the believer in Christ is mitigated and controlled by love with an awareness of spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12). Being controlled by love however does not mean we are also inoculated from God’s justice. The Christian believer has a new covenant that introduces revelation about God and His love whereas the Quran has seemingly no ethical progression.

Western Inheritance of The Holy War:

Mennonite scholar John Yoder in his tome Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution noted that the advancement of Islam during the period of the crusades was the “dramatic equivalent of Marxism in the twentieth century.”[4] He goes on to note that “Islam was a threat on a world scale that called into question the very existence of Christian culture”. Yoder also agrees that “the Muslim holy war tradition is not very different from that of the crusade.”

Yoder suggests that two elements from the medieval crusade model are still resonating in our Western culture. Since the time of the Crusades our globe, and much of Western civilization, bears the scars of various wars (Korean War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Desert Storm) He cites two elements that are still lodged in our thinking about war.

1. A transcendent cause justifies downgrading the rights of the enemy.
2. The value of martyrdom

We experience the first element still. This struggle was recently seen in the Guantanomo Bay prison proceedings. Dying though is usually not glorious or appealing to us. However, death coupled with a crusade or a just war is known to give death meaning. Death in this sense is viewed as righteous because it is has been coupled with a righteous cause.

The value of martyrdom is almost intrinsic in the fabric of early Christianity. The Greek  root word (Grk. martus) for the English “witness” or “testify” (Grk. marturion) is translated as “martyr”. Amazingly, until the peace of the Church in 315 A.D. the church or “Christians”, in any sense, were in season.  In fact, some of the greatest flourishing of the church occurred during this period of persecution. Michael Servetus was burned at the stake as late as 1553 for denying among other things the doctrine of the Trinity.

Yoder goes on to suggest that we juxtapose and consider afresh the idea of “martyrdom” over against the sacrifice of Christ. His point is valid and we should consider this more closely. The sacrifice of Christ pertains to the salvation and atonement of mankind. The sacrifice of Christ however cannot amount to a sacrifice of Christians. A “martyrdom” complex arises when one believes they are dying for a cause they firmly and wholeheartedly affirm. The Christian and the Muslim both experience this metaphysical impulse. Our religious preferences have a tendency to embed themselves deeply into the fabric of human emotion and intellect. We should also remember that just because Christ has died it does not also mean that there will never be a cause demanding our ardent reliance upon faith.  As we rely on faith must be resilient in standing for that faith.

Four Considerations:

1. Justice. The love of God is balanced by His divine justice. For example, God’s justice demanded retribution for sin but it was God’s love that reckoned His own righteousness on our account by the death of the Son of God. This is a judicial system and in such systems justice is distributed upon both the just and the unjust. In his letter to the church at Rome (13:1-7) God authorizes the state to punish the disobedient and even mentions the “sword” which refers to death—the ultimate punishment. This is fitting since man is responsible for his actions, as free moral agents. We can find God’s retributive justice being practiced in both covenants. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and Herod (Acts 12:20-23) are examples where God directly kills people to exact His justice. The principle of retribution is also evident for those who will experience eternal torment if they reject Christ.

2. Some evil cannot be avoided. At times even inaction can be viewed as evil. J. Vernon McGee once commented “You have forgotten that you are not only a citizen of heaven, but you are a citizen of a country down here.”[5] For example, during WWII a Protestant scholar and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted the onslaught of the Third Reich. The fruits of his opposition to National Socialism grew to the place where Bonhoeffer was part of a conspiracy to kill another human being—Adolf Hitler. In his book Ethics Bonhoeffer noted the tension of guilt and freedom, or free-will:
“the structure of responsible action includes both readiness to accept guilt and freedom.” (Ethics, pg. 210)
During the 12th Century the Waldenses were a pre-Reformation group, led by Peter Waldo, that stressed a return to the Bible. They also rejected war and the taking of human life. After the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) the Inquisition was revived to stamp out heresy. This group was condemned as heresy and eventually forced to defend themselves.

Pacifism is not workable in all situations although it is, at times, the necessary or correct approach. The reason many theologians and Christians believed the West should intervene in WWII was because inaction, on their part, would have constituted an even greater war if Hitler had not been stopped. Even with the intervention of the British and the United States Hitler almost attained total European domination. Yoder himself notes that “Pacifism can aggravate the issues by siding with inaction or reaction.”

3. Natural Law. Plato, Aristotle and Cicero all believed that man naturally desired peace and a sense of order. This can only be achieved through right reason, which is granted us by God. For example, by use of reason we will come to establish certain norms or axioms that help to maintain peace and order. At times war, governed by moral law, must be appealed to in order to maintain that peace and order. Even the pax Romana of ancient times would not have flourished without protection and defense of its outer borders from less civil peoples.
4. Biblical Teaching.
a. The biblical view of man. Man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Therefore man has intrinsic value and should be protected and his dignity and inalienable human rights defended.
b. The biblical view of the state. "Government originated as an ordinance of God. It is, in one sense, God’s response to the nature of the people themselves. While it cannot redeem the world or be used as a tool to establish the kingdom of God, civil government does set the boundaries for human behavior. The state is not a remedy for sin, but a means to restrain it.” ~Charles Colson
In Romans 13 Paul informs us that God has "appointed" government (vs. 1). Therefore, if government, is an establishment of God then it is to manifest the character of God in some way, e.g. justice balanced with love. Paul, in no way, is advocating our adherence to any government, then, that is indeed contrary to Himself. Government is God’s way of maintaining the public good and directing the affairs of state. It is a temperate hand resting on a restless humanity. Legitimate government then, is one instituted by God and consequently an exhibitor of His ways.
The implementation of justice is done so, by the government, to punish bad and approve good. It is interesting to note the use of the term "sword" in the text. "Because a sword is an instrument of death, the weapon here symbolizes the right of civil government to inflict punishment, including the ultimate penalty of death for crimes that deserve it. In the earliest period of human existence, the Lord instituted capital punishment. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). When Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52), he was reminding His disciple that the penalty for his killing one of Jesus’ enemies would be to perish himself through execution, which the Lord here acknowledges would be justified."[6]
*Note: There are more arguments that could be listed here but for the sake of brevity they have been omitted.
Man must not be governed by his passions but rather the rule of reason should prevail. Godly reason. Any war then should be limited to what is needed to maintain peace. Men like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin or modern scholars like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr have held a similar view. Pacifism may be ideal and strived for yet it is not workable in all situations.
In the twenty-first century we have changed. I noted the diplomatic efforts of Saladin and Richard the Lion Heart in my writings about the Crusades. First, in order to intimate Christian virtues such as patience and love diplomatic efforts should be exhausted. Second, we should also remember that the Church cannot be extended by purely physical causes but it is possible that it be defended in some sense. Defended foremost with godly and Christ-like love through character, writings, acts of benevolence, education, patience and turning the other cheek. However there was a time when even deity became irate at the behavior of the heathen in His House and drove them from it by force. We are not simply to look in the sky for redemption alone, as time and the lost pass us by, instead the believer can be willing to defend what God has given us in this present world, working until He comes again.
JN Anderson
[1] Barton, John. and Muddiman, John, et al. Oxford Bible Commentary. © Oxford University Press 2001 pg. 159
[2] Rodwell, J.M. The Koran. Ivy Books. Published by Ballantine Books (Edition April 1993)
[3] Ali, Yusif, The Quran http://www.harunyahya.com/Quran_translation/Quran_translation_index.php
[4] Yoder, John H. Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution. © 2009 by The Institute for Mennonite Studies. Brazos Press. pg.
[5] McGee, J. Vernon: Questions and Answers. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001, c1990, S. 218
[6] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. © 1955 by Mcmillan Publishing Company. New York, NY pg. 210
[7] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Romans. (1996, c1991, c1994). Chicago: Moody Press. pg. 226


The Legacy of the Crusades

Seige of Antioch I say it to those who are present. I command that it be said to those who absent. Christ commands it. All who go thither and lose their lives, be it on the road or on the sea, or in the fight against the pagans, will be granted immediate forgiveness for their sins. This I grant to all who will march, by virtue of the great gift which God has given me.” ~Urban II

The Crusades:

In 1095 Pope Urban II perhaps officially enjoined the physical meaning of “holy war” or fighting for faith and material gain in the same sermon. . While preaching at the Council of Clermont in France Urban roused Christian believers to take up a holy war, a war under the cross of Christ. To accentuate this urge he also promised that the conquered lands would indeed be their own. Historian Bruce Shelley records, “As Urban ended his impassioned appeal a roar rose from the multitude: Deus Volt! God wills it! So there on the spot Urban declared that Deus Volt! would be the crusader battle cry against the Muslim enemy.[1] Until King Louis IX of France this impetus was seeded in each and every effort to follow in taking up this newly idealized cross for Christ. Many men and women would go on Crusade for the next 200 years. It was a time for Christian “holy war” something very similar to the Islamic “holy war” or jihad.

The reasons for holy war ranged from economics, adventure, excitement, or pride but the main motivation was religious. In fact, Louis Brehler, of the Catholic Encyclopedia, states “The Crusades were expeditions undertaken, in fulfillment of a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny.”[2] During the medieval period Europe was overpopulated[3], crops were failing and disease was running rampant[4]. Famines were also prevalent. Historian Williston Walker has noted that “between 970 and 1040 forty-eight famine years were counted.”[5] The ambition to make money, the dream of adventure, and the pursuit of fame and power permeated the dialogue and minds of that day.

Along with Urban’s suggestion that material gain could be attained through fighting in the Holy War, he also “promised remission of sins to those who marched under the banner of the cross.”[6] The First Crusade was comprised primarily of feudal nobles from Germany, Italy, and France. Men who, no doubt, had great need and desire for remission of sins. Initially Alexis I the Byzantine emperor called for help in defeating Seljuk Turks. Instead he ended up with way more than he probably wanted. An “unruly horde” arrived in Constantinople to only be redirected to fight the Seljuks. This horde probably consisted of about 40,000 men, women, and children who boasted a fighting force of only about 5,000 knights and infantry. It was this First Crusade that was the most successful of any of the subsequent crusades. Victory over the Turks was decisive and absolute as the Crusaders flushed them from Jerusalem, the Holy City. The bloodshed was no respecter of persons as “men rode in blood up their knees and bridle reins.”

Jerusalem would remain a feudal kingdom until 1291 when it fell once again to the Muslims. In 1147 however Bernard of Clairvaux aroused the Second Crusade. It would virtually go nowhere until 1187 when Saladin would capture Jerusalem and all of Christendom would again center on the Holy City. This brought about the Third Crusade (1189-1192) which revealed such men as Richard the Lionheart of England and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany. Barbarossa would drown in Palestine. Richard however would go on to recover coastal cities, including Acre and Joppa. He would also be instrumental in winning the respect of Saladin himself. Saladin also offered Richard his sister’s hand in marriage. The diplomacy of Saladin and Richard should be remembered here since they finally agreed to a three year truce and the restarting of pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Essentially Richard did not complete the very task he intended to accomplish—to free the Holy City of Muslim infidels. This period and these “holy wars” were complex and the nuances of them cannot be simply flattened out to support hasty generalizations.

There would eventually be about seven Crusades into the Holy Land. These Crusades were led primarily by popes from the end of the eleventh century to the end of the thirteenth. Shelley also notes that “the long range results of two centuries of crusading zeal are not impressive.”[6] To confound the notion of popery, it is a bit ironic that a pope is responsible for the very First Crusade and is indeed inspiration for the subsequent ones as well. The Crusades were mostly a papal attempt to bridge the Eastern and Western churches to extend its universal sovereignty.

Seedbed for Questioning and Heresy:

The Crusades contain a seedbed of arguments against religion and faith today. Popular critics of religion and history mention this era of time in rightful disdain. Carrying the cross of Christ ironically does not necessarily mean abandoning morality and embracing evil. The very establishment of the office of pope and the subsequent actions of many of the Crusaders flew in the face of true religion and morality; it was the cause of great evil. The rise of popish rule and ridiculous indulgence for absolution would only grow as a result. In fact, church historian Phillip Schaff wrote “the Crusades gave occasion for the rapid development of the system of papal indulgences, which became a dogma of the mediaeval theologians.”[7]

In the end, the Crusades were an exercise in futility. Schaff also noted, “The Crusades failed in three respects. The Holy Land was not won. The advance of Islam was not permanently checked. The schism between the East and the West was not healed. These were the primary objects of the Crusades.” Not only was the overall impetus of the Crusades incompatible with an authentic Christian worldview they were also self-defeating. All the wealth and efforts of Richards’s lion heart did not win him the Holy City and remission of sin is not obtained by stepping into a gated city or finding oneself in any particular geographical location on earth. This notion, as with much of Catholic doctrine, goes against the text of Scripture since in Christ alone can we have forgiveness of sins. The atoning work of Calvary is final for contemporary Christians as well as Crusaders of days gone by.

“Many wended (sic) their way to the holy city, unmindful that our Jerusalem is not here.”
~Walter Map, an Archdeacon at Oxford

The builders of the Tower of Babel thought that in their rebellious unity that nothing would be “impossible for them” (See Genesis 11:1-6). As they were to soon find out they would be scattered abroad and their goal destroyed. With the popes of the Crusade we see, once again, an attempt at man positioning himself too high. Ego came crashing down. Even though they were a significant influence the advancement and progression of Europe did not hinge upon the Crusades. History could have done without much of this holy war blood shed just as it could have done without the atrocities of the Holocaust. The popes of the Crusades failed to grasp what Christ had come for, and what His work had accomplished while on earth. No special earthly city would ever satisfy man, only Christ and New Jerusalem. No sword would ever extend the Church, only Christ.

JN Anderson

[1] Shelley, B. L. Church history in plain language (1995). (Updated 2nd ed.). Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub. pg. 187
[2] Bréhier, Louis. "Crusades." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 11 Aug. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm>.
[3] Latourette, S. Kenneth. A History of Christianity Volume 2: Reformation to The Present Copyright 1975 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Prince Press pg. 408
[4] Gonzalez, L. Justo. The Story of Christianity Copyright 1984, 1985 by Justo L. Gonzalez. Prince Press pg. 293
[5] Walker, Willistion. A History of the Christian Church, Scribners.© 1959 pg. 219
[6] Vos, H. F., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. Exploring church history. (1996) Originally published in 1994 under title: Introduction to Church History; and in series: Nelson's Quick reference. Nelson's Christian cornerstone series. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[7] Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. History of the Christian church. (1997) Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)