Did God Command Genocide?

In Joshua 8:2, Yahweh seems to command the indiscriminate killing of the inhabitants of the city of Ai: “And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.” If this were said today, it would widely be regarded as a command to commit genocide.[1] The severity of the command seems validated by what Joshua records about the battle (vv. 24-25):

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.

This account—and others like it in the Old Testament[2]—are often viewed as problematic for contemporary Christians. How can a God of love command murder? How can the God who says “love your enemies” have ordered their destruction? These are, in my estimation, entirely legitimate questions worth wrestling with.

In what follows, I hope to breakdown some of the key aspects of thinking through the question of whether or not God commanded genocide and (some of) what that means for Christians today. Continue reading

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The Next Chapter: Rooftop Church

I am excited to announce that I am joining the staff at Rooftop Church as Pastor of Church-Planting, effective today!

Rooftop on a Sunday morning

Rooftop is a non-denominational, Bible-centered church committed to “making followers of Christ who make followers of Christ who make followers of Christ….” Located in Affton (a community in the St. Louis County metro area), Rooftop is a vibrant, growing church that’s devoted to reaching St. Louis with the Gospel. One unique thing about Rooftop is their commitment to “mere Christianity,” a big-tent approach to faith that focuses on essentials and living as disciples rather than dividing over nuanced doctrinal points.

Friends and regular readers of Pursuing Veritas will be familiar with our ministry at The Rock Church of Saint Louis the past three-and-a-half years, as well as our two year “church search” before that.[1] Hayley and I have learned so much over the past several years of ministry, life, and education. We have grown and benefited from so many friendships and experiences.

After many years of praying, discussing, and inquiring into church-planting, this Rooftop position came to our attention right as we were facing some uncertainty about our future plans. We firmly believe that God has whispered into our lives for such a time as this, and we are extremely excited to start this new chapter of our lives and faith journeys.

I am honored and humbled to be beginning this vocational work for the Kingdom, and I look forward to all that God will be doing in and through Rooftop in the future. And I look forward to sharing here about our experiences and adventures during this journey.

Best and Blessings, Jacob Prahlow Continue reading

The Non-Denominational Reformation

Every 500 years or so in the history of the Christian church, a significant restructuring seems to take place.

Around the year 500, a church council at Chalcedon published what most of Christendom calls the clearest explanation of orthodox Christology: Christ is one person with two natures. However, large swaths of Christians—the Oriental Orthodox (such as the Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian churches) and the Church of the East—found the Chalcedon Definition lacking. And so the first major division in Christianity occurred.

About 500 years later, a hot-headed Bishop of Rome (or at least his hot-headed legates) and an angry Bishop of Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other,1 leading to nearly 1000 years of division between the western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Some 500 years after that, a tempermental Augustinian monk in Germany posted some theses for academic disputation that started a firestorm of theological controversy, reformation, and church divisions—resulting in the proliferation of thousands of Protestant denominations.2

Historically Speaking

Now, the historian in me is obligated to note that using a clean, round number (500 years) to delineate these dates is somewhat artificial. There’s nothing inherently special about the passage of 500 years that leads Christians to say to one another, “I don’t like how you do church anymore.” But humans enjoy describing the past in easy-to-remember terms that serve as useful baselines for historical knowledge, whether or not they encompass the totality of historical truth (476, 1492, or July 4th, anyone?). Even so, given Christianity’s track record so far, you might expect another monumental moment to occur any year now, since it’s been about 500 years since the last major shakeup in Christendom.

The argument I wish to make in this article, is that we’ve already begun to see the next great restructuring of Christianity: the rise of non-denominational Christianity. Continue reading

Church Search Update

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long BeachIt’s been a while since our last Church Search post and people have been inquiring about where we stand in our search, so I thought I would take some time to offer e brief update this morning.

First, I want to thank everyone for your prayers as we wrestle with various issues, for your interest in our search, and for the stream of suggested books/blogs/churches to consider/places to visit. From the start of this process, we have sought “accountability” through sharing our experiences online, and it’s been very encouraging to have people checking in with us, especially on those days when we’re really not sure what the next step is going to be. Continue reading

Church Search: Beginning the Second Phase

This post is part of our ongoing Church Search. For more information, please click here or visit the Church Search tab above.

PENTAX ImageFor the past year (with some interruptions), Hayley and I have been visiting different churches, some for only a week and others for more extended periods of time, as part of the “First Exposure” phase of our Church Search. These visits have been to a purposefully broad range of churches, both to denominations we thought we might seriously consider, as well as several visits which were primarily aimed toward experiencing other forms of Christianity and gaining an appreciated for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result of this “First Exposure” phase, we have learned lots and gained some insights into where we should investigate further as part of our “Serious Considerations Phase.”

In this second phase, we intend to engage several churches/denominations more intensely as we seek to understand where we will best fit in the People of God. This investigation will involve two primary steps: First, extensive research on the churches we are considering. This means engaging additional written works theologians, pastors, and teachers within each respective denomination that we are considering, as well as seeking in-depth conversations with pastors and members of the local churches that we are visiting. A second step will be multiple visits to the churches/denominations we are considering. Here we intend to visit not only specific churches multiple times, but also to visit multiple churches within the denominations that we are considering. Where possible, we hope to visit at least three different churches in each denomination, at least one of which we will visit three or four times.

After much thought, prayer, and conversation, we have narrowed down the churches we are considering into three broad categories: Orthodox, Lutheran, and Episcopal/Anglican. We have come to recognize the internal diversity within each of these labels, and thus again emphasize that these are the broad denominational categories which we are considering. That said, the central theme that we have found to be important in our faith lives is the balance of ancient truth and tradition with contemporary applicability and service. That is, by-and-large these churches (or certain parts of these churches) seek to balance scripture, liturgy, tradition, worship, and living Christian love. It is for this reason that we have decided to focus our search on these three groups of churches.

Through our experiences with each of these churches already, we have already experienced that no church is a perfect church, primarily because we are there. Yet we are excited to learn and experience more fully how God and His people are learning, living, and loving in these churches. Though we have learned much already, we recognize that God is but beginning His work in our lives, and eagerly await this next phase in our journeys, including the part where we leave Winston-Salem (NC) and move to St. Louis (MO) in a few weeks time. We ask for your prayers and guidance as we continue this search, and look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come.