Any contemporary reader who picks up the Bible will be struck by the seeming divide between the God of Jesus Christ and the God who commands the destruction of whole nations and the obliteration of Canaanites during Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. And while many Christians simply don’t think about the possible difficulties of a loving God commanding genocide, that has not stopped critics of Christianity—especially the New Atheists—from using portions of Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges as ammunition for their assaults on Christian faith. Truth be told, this seeming contradiction between a God of Love and God of Wrath is not something new, for as early as the mid-second century a follower of Jesus names Marcion argued that the god’s of the Old and New Testaments were different entities. Clearly, there is much at stake in the answer to the question: did God really command genocide in the Old Testament? Continue reading
Can God really be good? Will God really judge all non-Christians? How can you believe in a God who commanded genocide?
These are questions which many people—many Christians—struggle to honestly answer, queries which have caused people to walk away from the Christian faith, problems that have eroded many hearts and minds. And, lest we be seen as overly dismissive, these are significant and important questions, questions which need understanding and (when possible) answers. To help us think through such questions, Joshua Ryan Butler has written The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War (Nashville: Thomas Nelson: 2014). Continue reading
Having considered context and terminology of Luther’s Two Kingdoms, let us now turn to his writing on this subject in On Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed. Luther begins Temporal Authority by outlining the Biblical basis for understanding the civil government and the sword as having been established by God. Romans 13 “Let every soul [seele] be subject to the governing authority, for there is no authority except from God; the authority which everything [allenthalben] exists has been ordained by God. He then who resists the governing authority resists the ordinance of God, and he who resists God’s ordinance will incur judgment” and First Peter 2 “Be subject to every kind of human ordinance, whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors, as those who have been sent by him to punish the wicked and to praise the righteous” are key passages in understanding the necessity of obedience to those in authority. While these passages constitute the basis for Luther’s understanding of civil government having been instituted by God, passages such as Matthew 5:38-41, 44, Romans 12:19, and First Peter 3:9 make it seem as though new covenant Christians should bear no sword, even if they are civil authorities. Continue reading
Very often (especially among us academic types) we tend to read a snippet of news here, a blog post there, and maybe have a conversation with a friend about a topic and, suddenly, our minds are made up about that topic. There’s nothing more to learn, to additional evidence to consider. This is especially true when it comes to important issues like religion or politics: we want stability, so we grasp whatever affirms our worldview as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, its good to undergo a bit of “paradigm realignment.” That is, it’s good to engage sources that stretch (or even break) the limits of your worldview by forcing you to consider evidence outside the realm of what you normally think about. And for well-off Americans, one such topic is poverty. Continue reading
The sixteenth century was for Western Europe a time of much socio-theological consternation and change. Numerous theological reformations occurred (or sought to occur) in a variety of social contexts, for a plethora of reasons, and employing numerous methodologies. One such reformation was that of the institutional Catholic Church under the auspices of such leaders as Girolamo Savonarola and Ignatius of Loyola. These two theologians, whilst occasionally interacting with the theologies of other contemporary reformation attempts apart from the Catholic church, crafted reformation theologies within the institution of the Catholic Church. In this essay we examine some of the reforming perspectives of these men, noting that central to their conception of reformation within the Catholic Church was the reformation of the individual Christian. Continue reading