Thank you for your prayers!

I go into the hospital tomorrow for surgery (which will take place on Wednesday, Sept 27, in the morning). If all goes well (and I know we are all praying for that!), I will be in the hospital about 10 days for recovery and then home. I'm hoping that my full recovery will take only about two months.

We wanted to give a special “thank you” to all of our friends and family who have been praying for us and caring for Linda’s needs while I am in the hospital.

Watch this video! (2-1/2 minutes; Click on the image to activate the You Tube embedded video, then click on the play button)

To check on my status while in the Cleveland Clinic, you can log into "TheStatus.com" and do the following:

  • Type in my Last Name: Robinson
  • Type in the password: getwellsoon1

This page will give you the background of what has happened to me and when I’m allowed to have visitors. Linda will be able to easily update my status under “news updates.” Linda’s phone number and e-mail address are there as well so that you can encourage her!

There is a place for you to sign a guest book and/or leave a message for Linda and me while I am in the hospital. Hope to hear from you there.

You’ll also find links there for further info (maps to and of the Cleveland Clinic, info about my surgeon, etc).

Thanks again for your support.


Reformed Young Christians and the Emerging Church

The current issue of Christianity Today features the cover story, “Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback—and shaking up the church” about how, in particular, the Calvinism of John Piper (and others, including Joshua Harris, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler) has taken young Christians by storm.

"Its exuberant young advocates reject generic evangelicalism and tout the benefits of in-depth biblical doctrine. They have once again brought the perennial debate about God's sovereignty and humans’ free will to the forefront. The evidence for the resurgence is partly institutional and partly anecdotal. But it's something that a variety of church leaders observe. While the Emergent 'conversation' gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon. It certainly has a much stronger institutional base."

On his blog, Emergent Village’s National Coordinator, Tony Jones, wrote,

"I've spent a lot of time considering why the conservative Reformed crowd is so concerned about Emergent thinking and theology…

But it's clear that other Reformed folks are friendly toward Emergent. There's the Calvin College crowd (like Jamie Smith), the Kuyperians (like Vince Bacote), and even the Barthian-Hauerwasians (like the Ecclesia Project (Geoff Holsclaws is an example). I'm cautioned a lot by these folks not to allow the most conservative forces to define Reformed thought. (But it's interesting to note that in this month's Christianity Today cover article on young people who are joining the Reformed movement(s), there was nary a word about Karl Barth or Calvin College or the PC(USA). The entire article was about the right wing of the Reformed movement.)

My challenge to the other Reformed folks out there is to start speaking out. For instance, why doesn't Jamie or Geoff or someone else write a blog post laying out the entire landscape of Reformed thought as it's currently playing out in the American church?"

Well, Tony, at least I can serve to make the case about what you called the “Kuyperians.”

While Calvinists in the United States were fighting mainly for the doctrine of Predestination, the Calvinists in the Netherlands were developing the concept of “Worldview”—an overarching metanarrative that can explain all of life and allow Christians to eliminate a dualistic understanding of how to live. If Christ is King of all things, then it follows that nothing in our lives, in our institutions and structures, should be outside that kingly rule. All things are to be redeemed by Christ’s Kingdom.

While John Piper offers a wider-than-usual understanding of discipleship than some of the older school Calvinists who fixated only on TULIP, his Reformed Theology is still not quite a fully-orbed Calvinistic worldview, with God's Sovereignty spelled out for the various social spheres ordered into the creation by the Creator.

As Peter Heslam notes in his book, Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper's Lectures on Calvinism (Eerdmans, 1998),

"[Kuyper] considered the doctrine of God's sovereignty to be the fundamental principle of the Calvinistic worldview, and it was one he often expounded in his discussions of both political and cultural matters, and of theological matters. In doing so he was concerned to counter the idea that Calvinism was primarily a dogmatic position concerning the doctrine of redemption and of significance only to the church. The dominating theme of Calvinism, he explained, "was not, soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos."

This Dutch neo-Calvinist tradition has influenced many since Abraham Kuyper gave his influential lectures at Princeton 100 years ago, and its influence has not just been the philosophy movement that follows Herman Dooyweerd, but more broadly in the work of the progressive evangelicals from John Stott and Francis Schaeffer, the renewal of Christians in the arts (groups like CIVA, and most of the many recent books on the arts cite neo-Calvinist Calvin Seerveld), leaders in Christian scholarship (like Richard Mouw), some of the best thinking about vocation (like Os Guinness and Steve Garber), some of the most cutting-edge engagement with postmodernity (see Jamie Smith and Brian Walsh), and the cutting-edge work of the Fermi Project to engage culture, led by Gabe Lyons and Danielle Kirkland with the input of Andy Crouch. George Marsden, world renowned Christian historian, has said that Kuyperianism has triumphed in the world of Christian higher education because this stream of Christianity seeks to "integrate faith and learning" in order to help students discover the meaning of vocation. This is the goal of the ministry I help to lead, the CCO.

Christianity Today had an article (“Compassionate Evangelicalism”) that explained how thirty years ago The Chicago Declaration launched Ron Sider’s Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA). Who were there, willing to say that evangelicals must be engaged in social action? “Black evangelicals, peace-church Mennonites and Brethren, and Dutch-American Calvinists led the way in reasserting a whole-gospel witness. Representatives of these three groups were prominent in the Chicago Declaration meeting, in the early ESA, and in the ensuing movement.”

The point: Neo-Calvinists have been saying for the last century (yes! that long! “Emerging” ideas are not all that new!) that Christianity needs to be holistic, that our faith should impact every aspect of our lives, that we must be in conversation with philosophy, that we must truly live out hospitality, that we must celebrate the arts, and that political engagement must seek Justice and Shalom for all (contrary to the agenda of the Religious Right). This is the reason why the "Kuyperians" are more open to the Emerging Church conversation. What we see "Emerging" are many of the things that neo-calvinism has been advocating for 100 years.

Now that I have those two “friend of” icons in my side bar (“Friend of Emergent” and “Friend of Missional”), I thought I’d create my own. (Hey, it’s the latest fad, isn’t it?)

Check out the new web resource: “Friend of Kuyper.”

You’ll find all sorts of resources there, including the convergence between Kuyper and the Emerging Church.


Friend of Missional

We seem to have a new title being bandied about for what we’ve been trying to accomplish with recreating the church that is capable to be in the vanguard into the postmodern culture.

The new title: The Missional Church.

Of course, this has always been the sub-title of the "Emerging Church," but what we are starting to feel is a tension—some in the emerging church conversation have wanted to re-define the gospel in ways that many of us consider to be outside the lines of orthodoxy.

Now, I’m all for exploring what the Bible has to say about the gospel (and not presume that I've figured it out). But it seems trendy in the emerging church at times to say things just to sound heretical.

Most of us engaged in this conversation are simply trying to explore the gospel as it can best be proclaimed in this postmodern culture. This is not changing the gospel, but it does change much of what church has done and said in the past 400 years.

Blogger Robbymac offers this quote from Len Sweet:

"The mystery of the Gospel is this: It is always the same (content) and it is always changing (containers). In fact, one of the ways you know the old, old truths are true is their ability to assume amazing and unfamiliar shapes while remaining themselves and without compromising their integrity."(Aqua Church, page 30)

I am still a "Friend of Emergent," for I deeply respect what the leaders of Emergent Village are trying to accomplish. And I am still a blogger mainly about the "emerging church." It will be interesting, however, to see if this new title for what we are trying to do catches on -- I sort of hope it does in that it better explains the heart of the movement.

Another blogger, The Blind Beggar, has launched a new site called “Friend of Missional.” Check it out.



The Myth of a Christian Nation – Wrap Up Review

Greg Boyd is a breath of fresh air in a Christian milieu that has become active in political issues from mostly a conservative, Republican vantage point. In his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church (Zondervan, 2006), Boyd takes on the Christian Right with dogged determination.

I agree with Boyd when he says,

"A significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry… For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, 'taking America back for God,' voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings." (p. 11)

However, his theological solution is to say that since there is "the kingdom of God" and there is the "kingdom of the world," all government is in the latter category and not in the former category. Not only that, but…

"Fusing together the kingdom of God with…the kingdom of the world is idolatrous…This fusion is having serious consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom." (p. 11) "The kingdom Jesus came to establish is 'not from this world' (John 18:36), for it operates differently than the governments of the world do. While all the versions of the kingdom of the world acquire and exercise power over others, the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advances only by exercising power under others. It expands by manifesting the power of self-sacrificial, Calvary-like love." (p. 14)

While there is no doubt that there is a battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, Boyd mistakenly places all government into the realm of the Kingdom of Satan. This dichotomy is the basic premise of the entire book. There are two kingdoms, one of God, one of the world, and all governments are a part of the kingdom of the world—all governments are ruled by Satan.

Boyd often cites Jesus’ words in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight.” He therefore makes the connection that since governments fight and force “power over” others with the “sword” (see Romans 13), then government is not of God’s kingdom, it is “of this world.” He furthers this assessment by pointing out that when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert ( Luke 4:5-6), he showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” and said, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” He links this to Revelation 11:15, where he sees a future in which the kingdom of the world (that is, all the governments of the world that are ruled by Satan will “become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”) In other words, all governments are actually under one authority, Satan, and Christ’s authority as the King is delayed until that time.

“The kingdom person is to remember that it’s still a 'Good Friday' world. We are to have faith that things will look different when Easter morning arrives. The ultimate hope if the world is not found in achieving victory now. The ultimate hope of the world is the resurrection, when all things shall be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20)." (p. 186)

Therefore, Boyd insists that kingdom people are to live in light of Calvary. He says that kingdom love always looks like Christ, suffering on the cross for sinners. There is certainly truth in that. Christians are to first seek to serve the people of this world, loving them as Christ did.

While I whole-heartedly agree that the Christian life must be shaped by Calvary love, Calvary is not the end of the story.

We are not living in pre-resurrection times, as Boyd puts it. We live in light of the fact that the resurrection has already occurred and that Christ has indeed triumphed over Satan. Satan is certainly still active in this world, but he is a defeated foe. The resurrection represents the dawn of the New Creation, and Christians are empowered by that resurrection God to be the very agents of redemption in this world. After the resurrection, Jesus told his disciples,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18-19). The shift in authority from Satan to Christ does not wait for the future; it is already accomplished through the resurrection. Contrary to Boyd’s words, we are living in an “Easter morning world.”

In that last quote from Boyd, he cites Colossians 1:20. If we read that verse in context, it’s clear that the hope of the death and resurrection of Christ is the redemption of all things.

16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:16-20)

Boyd seems to think that these verses refer only to a time in the future, when reconciliation will ultimately be accomplished. Granted, we cannot say that ultimately all things are already reconciled through Christians engaging in political processes. But the emphasis of the passage is not merely on that future ultimate reconciliation but rather on the fact that Christ not only created all things (including, Boyd should note, the “thrones, powers, rulers and authorities”), all things were created “for him.” All these things, including the “powers” that Boyd insists are a part of Satan’s “kingdom of the world,” are meant to be a reconciled back to God, for “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ, and through him to reconcile to himself all things.”

Therefore, I applaud Boyd’s arguments that the rise of the Religious Right does not best represent this Christian vision of reconciliation and I also agree that the myth of America being a Christian nation does more harm than good.

However, Boyd’s solution to the problem is to hand over the government to Satan by saying it is his for the having. According to Boyd, government is evil because it is ontologically evil; government itself is a fallen power (not just an institution that is under the influence of evil powers).

Boyd attempts at times to hedge his words by saying that its okay for Christians to participate in the political process of the kingdom of the world (as long as they know that this is not a uniquely “kingdom of God” endeavor). However, the dualism of saying that the Kingdom of God does not include political engagement in this world keeps Christians from being the fully redemptive body of Christ we are called to be in this world.

Christ is King of all things, and he is reconciling to himself all things that are not ontologically evil through his kingdom people.

Posts in this series:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Reflection: Boyd and Colossians 1
Chapters 6 - 8
Chapter 9
Wrap-up Review

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Jim Wallis vs. Tony Perkins on CBS Evening News

Tonight, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric offered a story about how not all evangelical Christians are right-wing Republicans. The story featured Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine in juxtaposition to Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.

Couric opened the story by saying, “Many people might assume all evangelicals are conservative Republicans and speak with one voice, but more and more, this is a group that’s branching out in different directions.”

Couric doesn't quite get it right. She paints it like there has never been any other kind of politically-active Christian other than the kind repesented by James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, or Donald Wildmon.

Jim Wallis’ Sojourners has been in existence since 1971, and other long-standing major Christian leaders have had issues with the Religious Right, including James Skillen (Center for Public Justice) and Ronald Sider (Evangelicals for Social Action). However, it is true that in the last election we have seen a renewed interest in Jim Wallis’ words, as evidenced by his book God’s Politics being on the The New York Times bestseller list for four months.

The Emerging Church has embraced Wallis (I first heard him speak in person at the Emergent Conference in 2004). The reason that he is a good match with emerging church sensibilities is that he exemplifies a post-conservative/post-liberal political agenda (what is now being called "purple politics"). Wallis refuses to allow partisan politics to guide his prophetic voice but rather attempts to be a prophetic voice into the politics of both the left and the right.

Watch the “You Tube” video of the CBS story by first clicking on the image, then on the play button.

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The Myth of a Christian Nation Ch 9

Book Review

In his final chapter (entitled “Christians and Violence”), Greg Boyd makes the case for a consistent Christian pacifist ethic.

Boyd answers some common questions posed to him in light of the stand he makes in this book:

1. What about self-defense?

“(A Kingdom person) would have cultivated a kind of character and wisdom that wouldn’t automatically default to self-protective violence. Because he would genuinely love his enemy, he would have the desire to look for, and the wisdom to see, any nonviolent alternative to stopping his family’s attacker if one was available. He would want to do good to his attacker.”

2. What about Christians in the military?

“Do you know—can you know—the myriad of personal, social, political, and historical factors that have led to any particular conflict and that bear upon whether or not it (the war) is justified?...Out of their cultural conditioning, most blindly assume their authorities are trustworthy, that their cause is justified, and that each person they are told to kill is a justified killing…So, while I respect the sincerity and courage of Christians who may disagree and feel it their duty to defend their country with violence, I honestly see no way to condone a Christian’s decision to kill on behalf of any country—or for any other reason.”

3. Haven’t some wars resulted in good things?

“While military victories tend to be celebrated, nonviolent victories seem to pass without notice. Most knew about Gandhi and Martin Luther king Jr., but the nonviolent revolutions that ended various unjust dictatorships and brought increased freedom for more than three million people in the twentieth century are hardly ever discussed. Consequently, we are conditioned to think violence is the only viable approach to resolving conflict…(As kingdom people), we are called to show by our life that, while violence sometimes brings about positive results, violence is never inevitable—if only kingdom people will live out their unique kingdom call.”

4. Don’t your ideas lead to passivity?

“We now find ourselves in a version of Christianity where protecting ourselves is one of the main things we stand for—“in Jesus’ name”! In the name of the one who surrendered his rights and died for sinners, we fight against sinners for our rights!...Our call is to simply live in sacrificial love and trust the sovereign God will use our love to further his kingdom, as he did with the love of Jesus expressed to us and all people on Calvary.”

5. Don’t we best serve the oppressed by overthrowing their oppressors?

“The kingdom person is to remember that it’s still a ‘Good Friday’ world. We are to have faith that things will look different when Easter morning arrives. The ultimate hope of the world is not found in achieving victory now. The ultimate hope of the world is the resurrection, when all things shall be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20). Then we will see that no act of kingdom love has ever been wasted.”

There’s much to be commended in this chapter. Boyd is certainly consistent and biblical.

Last week I made a trek with some friends to the United Flight 93 crash site. A temporary memorial stands there, while the funds for a permanent memorial are raised. As I looked out across the field to the pit that is now covered with grass, my gaze lowered down to the individual markers in front of me. Each person’s marker had photographs stapled onto them and family memorabilia hanging all over. Fresh flowers lie there in front of each, the fifth anniversary of the tragedy being only three days before my visit.

I read the flight recorder’s log of the final minutes and thought about the courage of those people on that airplane.

These people had to do what they did. They could not sit by passively while their plane flew toward the White House or the Capitol Building.

We are not called to be simply passive to evil; we are called to confront evil and do what must be done to eradicate it. Sometimes it takes the route of forcefully overcoming evil by force.

Boyd himself admits that these are hard matters.

I consider myself more a pacifist these days than I used to be. But pacifism does not equate to passivity. A follower of Jesus confronts evil. The best way to do so is not with more evil—we seek to subvert evil the way Christ did—turning the other cheek and then confronting it when it does indeed strike us (Jesus, when he was struck on the cheek said, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike me?”- John 18:23).

But in a fallen world, there are times of utter desperation, emergency times in which there can be no other course than to stop evil in its tracks. The passengers and crew of United Flight 93 did just that. They did not have time to subvert the evil they confronted with loving interaction. The terrorists that high jacked that plane were not open to acts of kindness. And they were 20 minutes from Washington D.C.

I don’t know what Greg Boyd would have done if he were a passenger on Flight 93. I suspect, from his honesty in the book, that he would have been torn, but would have reluctantly joined with the rest who valiantly attacked the cabin.

Posts in this series:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Reflection: Boyd and Colossians 1
Chapters 6 - 8
Chapter 9
Wrap-up Review

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Osteen, Warren, and Prosperity

This from Ted Olsen at Christianity Today's Weblog:

That the prosperity gospel has a hold on a segment of American culture is not disputable. Time quotes its own poll numbers:

17 percent of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61 percent believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31 percent—a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America—agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. … Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three—Joel Osteen's Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes' Potter's House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar's World Changers near Atlanta—are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits.

For Osteen, "Prosperity Gospel" isn't a pejorative term:
"Does God want us to be rich?" he asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it." Rather, he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?"

On the other side is the guy whose church rounds out the "largest four" list:
"This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", [Rick] Warren snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"

It's smart for Time to make Warren the piece's chief critic of the Prosperity Gospel. (One of his favorite lines, "I don't think it is a sin to be rich. I think it is a sin to die rich," doesn't appear.) And it allows Time to make its most astute observation: one of the reasons that the prosperity gospel has been able to grow is because (particularly white, middle-class) evangelical churches have avoided talking about personal finances or social inequality.

Now, however, white, middle-class evangelical churches are starting to talk about personal finances and social inequality. So the question becomes whether Prosperity Gospel is as ascendant as Time suggests, or whether it's just an aberrant theology that's about to have an unprosperous future.

This is very insightful.

Evangelicals will overcome the prosperity heresy that has crept into the camp when we overcome the insideous overly-capitalist heresy that has long ago crept into the camp - a heresy that says that God does not care about the vast economic inequality in our midst.

We have acted for far too long like free-market American capitalists ("This is my money, you get your own!" "Look at me and all my stuff! Hasn't God blessed me since I am so rich!?") and not enough like the body of Christ (that is supposed to sell their posessions and give to each other as there are needs).

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (Acts 2:44-45)

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." (Acts 4:32,34-35)

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The Nativity Story and Wondering About Mary

This December, New Line Cinema will release in theaters the movie, The Nativity Story. It stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, nominated at the age of 12 for an Academy Award as Best Actress in Whale Rider.

You can read a behind-the-scenes report from Christianity Today MOVIES.com here.

Just in time for discussions pertaining to the birth of Jesus and the life of Mary, Scot McKnight has written a book called The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. Paraclete Press is offering the book at a 20% prepublication discount until November 1.

Here at Vanguard Church, you can view and print out the first two chapters of Scot’s book (compliments of Paraclete Press - pdf format).



News on My Next Surgery... and My Latest Newsletter is now Online

Please read the pdf of my latest newsletter.

In it, I talk about the frustrations and joys of my ministry in light of my medical issues.

My next surgery is coming soon! Please keep me in your prayers—it is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at the Cleveland Clinic.

The surgeon will be Dr. Lars Svensson. I think he’s Italian. ;-)


Iraq and 9/11: Bush gets testy with Reporter

After 5 years of telling the American people, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" (see quote here), President Bush continues to try to infer a connection, but a reporter keeps him from doing so, forcing Bush to admit that there was no connection between Iraq and the attack on 9/11.

Video from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

click twice on the gray play button on the bottom of the frame to play the youtube video.

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Five Years After 9/11 – What Christians Have NOT Learned

What have Christians learned from 9/11? I fear that we have not learned much. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned (feel free to add your own). While the nation may have reasons to defend itself and engage in war, Christians must understand some things that we have not yet grasped.

What Christians still need to learn:

1. We need to trust not in military might but rather in God.

In the wake of the trauma of 9/11, many Christians unquestionably backed a military response, trusting that it will bring us security in a world that has spun out of our control. The shock of 9/11 should have taught us that we are as vulnerable as the rest of the world, and instead of depending on our own military strength, we should have been humbled and forced to trust in God.

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.”
Isaiah 31:1, see Psalm 20:7)

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
Psalm 118:8-9)

2. Because of Christ, the “Christian Nation” is a trans-national, supra-national entity; and due to war, the Christian witness in Muslim nations has been devastated.

The Religious Right has perpetuated the myth that America is a Christian nation, that therefore our international policies somehow have the imprimatur of God. However, we must learn that there is no parallel between ancient Israel and the United States (or any other modern nation)—we cannot presume that anything we do as a nation has the direct guidance or blessing of God. We seem to care little about how many missionaries in Muslim nations have had their ministries devastated by war. Christian evangelism is the proclamation to the world of the Prince of Peace, and here is a nation calling itself “Christian” fighting a destructive and questionable war, appearing to care very little about civilian deaths and casualties. Christians and Muslims have a long and ugly history (remember the Crusades and the Serbs in Kosovo!), and the current war on terror is not helping this history.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those
who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”
Isaiah 52:7)

3. Christians need to confess our idolatry.

As the outflow from numbers 1 & 2, we Christians need to confess that we have placed our faith in idols: be it our nation, our government, our president, or our military might. When Christians too readily fly the American flag of nationalism without questioning their nation’s righteousness in its actions, when we presume that our leaders would not sin in their power, when we sacrifice our discernment over to the government’s decision-making, when we seek to fulfill our need for retribution, we are participating in idolatry.

“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

4. We must rid our thinking of a dualistic attitude to following Christ’s nonviolent model.

Too many Christians seem to think that if they personally turn the other cheek and carry someone’s pack a second mile, they are fulfilling Jesus’ command to not retaliate violence with violence. They think that the Republic that represents them does not have to reflect their individual convictions—that there is a different ethic for governments than the people in that government. However, a consistent Christian ethic would demand that the government that represents us needs to actually represent us! Even if we interpret Romans 13 as giving Rome the use of the sword for the sake of justice and raising taxes, we must admit that the United States is not Rome—our government is elected and is meant to represent us and our values. It’s amazing to me when Christians who want to pass laws banning gay marriage, displaying the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, forcing prayer into public classrooms, and overturning Roe v. Wade do not want a government that seeks to find loving and nonviolent ways to find peace. Nowhere does Jesus or the Old Testament create a dualistic view that separates out individual ethics from the rest of life. Jesus is Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

5. Whether you are a Christian Pacifist or a supporter of Christian Just War Theory, you must first and foremost acknowledge that Christ came to bring peace.

It seems that often those who seek to justify a war go to “Just War Theory” to do so. But this theory is meant to not justify a war but to find out if a war is “just” or “righteous.” There are specific rules to Just War Theory, and ALL the rules must be met for a war to be just. If a leader is going to say that a war is “just,” he or she has the burden of proof. The presumption of Just War is that we do not want to do violence but that we do want justice in the world. And sometimes in an evil world, war is the only way to arrive at justice. But the overriding principle in our debates about war must be this: Christ wants peace. Period. Anyone advocating for war must prove that war is the only (that’s ONLY!) way to a lasting peace.

When Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey, he showed that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:9-10)

6. Before pointing out the evils of our enemies, we must confess our own.

It is difficult for us, when we are so convinced of our own righteousness and so convinced of the evil of our nations’ enemies, to pull the logs out of our own eyes when it comes to international relations—how economics, oil, ideologies, fears, and prejudices have given rise to rationalizations for our actions as a nation. If there is to be a lasting peace, we Christians need to confess to the international world that we have sinned when we defended the use of torture, the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and an ideology of "if you're not with us, you’re against us." Until we repent of our nationalism and honestly decide to love our enemies, we are continuing in sin.

“How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4).

7. We must realize that peace (shalom) is not just the absence of war; peace and justice cannot be separated.

All Christians should be praying for peace (at least as much as we "pray for our troops"). While many Christians on the left have wholeheartedly renounced the war on terror as being contrary to Jesus’ call to be peacemakers, we must remember that in order to make “peace” in an evil world, we may have to use some dreadful means. We may have to take down a Hitler to stop a Holocaust (which we did), or go in and stop a Rwandan Genocide (which we didn't). Peace cannot be found merely by protesting war. We must remember that peace cannot be had without also seeking justice. As there can be no peace while criminals run rampant in our streets, there can be no peace while terrorists can threaten nations. Christians must not sever peace from justice, and we must seek both in an attempt to bring into our violent world the eschatological peace promised in the Messiah.

Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Isaiah 32:16-18).

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Decision Making and Vocation

There’s an excellent conversation going on over at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog. Over the years, I’ve had plenty of conversations with people young and old about their work—how they can make decisions about their career in a way that honors their relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you are struggling (and I know a LOT of us struggle with this) to try to figure out how your vocation fits into God’s will, go read Scot’s post and the comments of the readers there. Also, grab yourself a copy of Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass, 1999).

The primary thing we need to completely rid the Christian world of is the notion that there is some “higher calling” in being a pastor or missionary. This warped thinking says that pastors and missionaries are in “full-time Christian ministry.” This is not a biblical idea - God has "called" all of us to be in "full-time Christian ministry" in our various vocations. The very term "vocation" means "voice" or "call." And we must live out our fullness as Christians in each and every calling we have. There's not "part-time Christian ministry" for a believer in Christ - it is all full-time. There is not a "secular" part of life and a "sacred" part of life - it is all sacred. Work is a part of the Creation that God called "good," and we need to understand that in our work we are being Christian when we participate in creating culture in the world.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)

My good friend, Paul Sartarelli, Associate Senior Pastor at The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, just gave an excellent message called "My Work…His Work" (mp3). Do yourself a favor and listen to Sartarelli's message.

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