Archive for theology
Introduction to War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism by Laurence Vance (Vance Publications, 2013), 416 pgs., paperback, $19.95.
These essays, although organized under four headings, have one underlying theme: the relation of Christianity to war, the military, and the warfare state. If there is any group of people that should be opposed to war, torture, militarism, and the warfare state with its suppression of civil liberties, imperial presidency, government propaganda, and interventionist foreign policy it is Christians, and especially conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians who claim to strictly follow the dictates of Scripture and worship the Prince of Peace.
These seventy-six essays also have one thing in common – they were all published on the premier anti-state, anti-war, pro-market website, LewRockwell.com, during the period from October 29, 2003, to March 28, 2013. The vast majority of them first appeared on and were written exclusively for that website. LewRockwell.com is the brainchild of Lew Rockwell, the founder and chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., and a leading opponent of the central state, its wars, and its socialism.
Thirty-five of the essays contained in this work originally appeared in the second edition of the author’s book Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, published in 2008. Four of them appeared there and in that book’s first edition, published in 2005. In addition to essays relating to Christianity and war and Christianity and the military, that book also included essays on war and peace, the military, the war in Iraq, other wars, and the U.S. global empire. Although a third edition was planned, two things served to redirect my intentions.
Because the second edition had already grown in size to seventy-nine essays in 432 pages and I had written so much on these subjects since its publication early in 2008, a third edition would just be too large of a book if I tried to include everything I had written on these subjects since the publication of the second edition. Additionally, since one part of the book and much additional material consisted of essays with a decidedly Christian theme, while the other part of the book and much additional material was more secular in nature, it seemed best to organize the existing and new material along these themes. So, instead of issuing an unwieldy one volume third edition, I opted to collect all of the former material into War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism, and issue the latter material in a companion volume titled War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Each essay is reprinted verbatim, with the exception of the correction of a few minor errors. It should be noted, however, that the original spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are followed in all quotations. Because they were published on the Internet, most of the essays originally contained numerous links to documentation and further information on the Web that the reader could click on if he desired. Because this feature is not possible in a printed format, the reader is encouraged to consult the online versions of each essay at LewRockwell.com where they are archived. Many of the essays also originally included pictures, which, for space considerations, are not included here.
Although many of these essays reference contemporary events, the principles discussed in all of them are timeless: war, militarism, the warfare state, and especially the proper Christian attitude toward these things. The essays in each chapter are listed in their order of publication. Each chapter as well as its individual essays can be read in any order.
In chapter 1, “Christianity and War,” Christian enthusiasm for war and the military is shown to be an affront to the Saviour, contrary to Scripture, and a demonstration of the profound ignorance many Christians have of history. In chapter 2, “Christianity and the Military,” the idea that Christians should have anything to do with the military is asserted to be illogical, immoral, and unscriptural. In chapter 3, “Christianity and the Warfare State,” I argue that Christians who condone the warfare state, its senseless wars, its war on a tactic (terrorism), its nebulous crusades against “evil,” its aggressive militarism, its interventions into the affairs of other countries, and its expanding empire have been duped. In chapter 4, “Christianity and Torture,” I contend that it is reprehensible for Christians to support torture for any reason.
The books listed at the close under “For Further Reading” include not only some of the more important books referenced in the essays, but other recommended works that relate in some way to Christianity and war, the military, and the warfare state. Most of them are available from Amazon.com. The inclusion of any book should not be taken as a blanket endorsement of everything contained in the book or anything else written by the author.
It is my desire in all of these essays to show that war and militarism are incompatible with biblical Christianity.
Purchase War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism at Amazon.com through an LibertarianChristians.com link and continue to support the work of LCC.
Tags: Christianity, Laurence Vance, militarism, theology, war
The legislature of the state of Colorado recently passed, and the governor signed into law, a bill to repeal an antiquated state law that criminalized adultery. The only thing worse than such a dumb law is an even dumber preacher who bemoans its repeal.
Colorado House Bill 13-1166 repeals two sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Section 18-6-501, on adultery: "Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person’s spouse is adultery, which is prohibited," and section 18-7-208, on promoting sexual immorality:
Any person who, for pecuniary gain, furnishes or makes available to another person any facility, knowing that the same is to be used for or in aid of sexual intercourse between persons who are not husband and wife, or for or in aid of deviate sexual intercourse, or who advertises in any manner that he furnishes or is willing to furnish or make available any such facility for such purposes, commits promoting sexual immorality.
Although adultery was illegal, no criminal penalty was specified. However, promoting sexual immorality was a class 2 misdemeanor.
The bill was introduced on January 30 in the Colorado House and on March 13 in the Colorado Senate. It passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-3 and the full House by a vote of 37-26. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 3-2 and the full Senate by a vote of 23-10. It was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on March 22. The bill takes effect on August 7.
Every "no" vote was a Republican vote. And only 4 Republicans out of 40 in the legislature voted in favor of the repeal bill. Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg opposed the bill, arguing that the law is not archaic and that moral standards continue to be important.
I may not agree with anything else that Denver Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, an original supporter of the repeal bill, ever said or ever will say, but this comment he made about the bill is right on: "I see it as saying adultery is a matter between a spouse and his conscience and his God, but not his local sheriff."
Laws that criminalize adultery or "promoting sexual immorality" are dumb laws. There is no other way to describe them. As legal scholar Jonathan Turley said in 2011 when a similar attempt at repeal failed: "These laws harken back to an earlier period, where a majority of citizens claimed the right to impose their values and morals on their neighbors. The notion of a government policing immorality runs against the grain of our constitutional system. That is more often associated with countries like Iran, where morality police roam the streets." It is ridiculous to say, as Jessica Haverkate, director of Colorado Family Action, a political arm of Focus on the Family, did in 2011 that repealing the adultery law encourages "the moral decay of our society." Sorry, Jessica, but the morals of society have already decayed. And no one in Colorado who wanted to commit adultery was deterred by any dumb law against adultery. Laws that legislate morality are not what keep morality from decaying. If this were so, then no adultery would have taken place in Colorado during the last century.
The only thing dumber than a dumb law is a dumb preacher who defends it.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler appears to be an intelligent man. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a Th.M. and a Ph.D. (in systematic and historical theology) from the seminary where he is now the president. He also teaches at the seminary and edits its theological journal. Time calls him the "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S." The Chicago Tribune terms him "an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large." Mohler is the author of several books, writes a popular blog, has a daily podcast, has appeared on national news programs, has been widely published, and has lectured at many prestigious institutions.
Back in March, when the Colorado legislature was considering the repeal of its adultery law, Mohler weighed in favor of keeping the law on the books. Explained Mohler:
Throughout most of human history, morality and law were united and in agreement when it came to the reality of adultery and the larger context of sexual immorality. Laws criminalizing adultery were adopted because the society believed that marriage was central to its own existence and flourishing, and that adultery represented a dagger struck at the heart of the society, as well as the heart of marriage.
Marriage was not considered merely a private arrangement. Every society regulates marriage, and most have adopted clear and punitive sanctions against adultery. But the moral and cultural revolutions of the past several decades have shifted the meaning of marriage from a public institution to a private contract.
Mohler criticizes the aforementioned Colorado legislator Daniel Kagan for saying:
Adultery is a matter between a person and their spouse and their conscience and their minister, but not between a person and the full enforcement of the state of Colorado. Let’s keep the police out of our bedrooms.
Although acknowledging that "the law in Colorado criminalizes adultery, but includes no penalty," Mohler likes the law because it "has been, at a bare minimum, a reminder of the public nature of marriage and the societal threat of adultery."
Governments at all levels – federal, state, and local – have too many laws. There are thousands of dumb and illegitimate laws that should be repealed by all levels of government. We should rejoice when any of these laws are repealed.
If a law is legitimate, then its purpose is never to make a statement or serve as a reminder of anything. The purpose of any legitimate law – those that criminalize aggression against one’s person or property and protect people from the violence and fraud of others – is to punish genuine criminal activity. A law without a penalty for violating it is no law at all; it is merely a suggestion.
The fact that throughout human history rulers and government bureaucrats have been nanny statists and puritanical busybodies that wanted to unite law and their concept of morality is a historical fact, but it is certainly not the way things ought to be – not if we are to have a free society.
Laws that criminalize activities that voluntarily take place behind closed doors are unenforceable. An unenforceable law is no law at all. Again, it is merely a suggestion.
Every crime needs a victim, not a potential victim, a possible victim, or a supposed victim, but an actual victim who suffers actual harm or loss. This means that over 90 percent of all federal and state laws are bogus.
Moral crusades of the nanny state fail to distinguish between vices and crimes. As the 19th-century classical-liberal political philosopher Lysander Spooner explained it:
Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.
Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property – no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property.
To be a crime, adds Spooner, there must exist criminal intent to invade the person or property of another. But vices are not engaged in with criminal intent. A man practices a vice "for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others."
And finally, there is no support in the New Testament for the idea that Christians should seek legislation that would criminalize immoral behavior. For Baptist Christians like myself and Mohler, the New Testament is our rule for faith and life. Christians are making a grave mistake when they look to the state to legislate morality. Why would they even think of looking to the state to enforce their moral code? The actions of the state are the greatest examples of immoral behavior that one could possibly think of. The state exists only by stealing and killing, and then lying about it. It is not the purpose of Christianity to use force or the threat of force to keep people from sinning. Christians who are quick to criticize Islamic countries for prescribing and proscribing all manner of behavior are very inconsistent when they support the same thing here.
Let me be perfectly clear: I think adultery is always wrong. I believe it is immoral. I consider it to be a grave sin. But it is neither my business nor the business of government to keep people from bad habits, vice, or immoral activities that take place between consenting adults.
If Mohler wants adultery laws to be enforced he should volunteer to be the first to have cameras installed in his home, office, and car (with full NSA surveillance everywhere else), and be taxed to support the army of bureaucrats it will take to monitor the cameras to make sure he doesn’t commit adultery.
Laws against adultery are not what deter people in Colorado or other states from committing adultery. Religion, morality, fear, reputation, and/or family might serve as deterrents, but not dumb laws.
I don’t know if my state of Florida has an antiquated state law against adultery that is not enforced, but whether such a law exists or whether such a law is enforced has no bearing whatsoever on why I choose to be faithful to my wife.
Tags: Bible, church, history, legislation, morality, theology
This past Memorial Day brought forth the usual military idolatry. What makes it worse, though, is that this military idolatry is so rampant among Christians and in churches.
And just how can a Christian know if he is guilty of military idolatry? Simple.
Christian, you might be guilty of military idolatry:
- If you send a care package to a U.S. soldier, but not to a missionary.
- If you thank a veteran for his service, but not a pastor, priest, deacon, or minister.
- If you can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but not the Ten Commandments.
- If you value serving your country more than serving your fellowman.
- If you sing the National Anthem at a sporting event with more enthusiasm than you sing a hymn in church.
- If government welfare spending bothers you, but not government military spending.
- If anti-war rallies make you mad, but cadences recited in basic training don’t make you blush.
- If you shed more tears singing patriotic hymns than hymns of worship about the person and work of Christ.
- If you get more excited about U.S. soldiers killing Muslims overseas than U.S. missionaries preaching the Gospel to them.
- If you pray for the troops more than you pray for the furtherance of the Gospel.
- If you can sing patriotic songs without looking at a song book, but have to look at one to sing hymns of worship.
- If you compare the death of a U.S. solider killed in combat to the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.
- If the murder of American unborn children by American doctors upsets you more than the murder of foreign children and adults by American soldiers.
And how can a Christian know if his church is guilty of military idolatry? This also is simple.
Christian, your church might be guilty of military idolatry:
- If it asks veterans to wear their military uniforms to church on the Sunday before a national holiday like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day.
- If it applauds young men who announce their intentions to join the military with more fervor than it applauds young men who announce their intentions to study for the ministry.
- If it has the members recite the Pledge of Allegiance in church on the Sunday before a national holiday.
- If it sends more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries.
- If it decorates the grounds and buildings with flags on Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, and the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day.
- If it has special military-appreciation Sundays.
- If it has the members sing patriotic songs on the Sunday before a national holiday.
- If it has the members sing the blasphemous "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at any church service.
- If the sign in front of the church on the Sunday before a national holiday says that as the soldier gave his life for your freedom so Christ gave his life for your soul.
- If it welcomes home U.S. soldiers from war with more enthusiasm than it welcomes home missionaries from foreign fields.
- If it recognizes veterans in church on the Sunday before a national holiday.
- If it offers up more prayers for U.S. troops to be kept out of harm’s way than for foreigners to be kept safe from U.S. bombs and bullets.
- If it justifies Christians serving in the military because the Bible mentions soldiers.
It is no longer safe for non-imperial Christians who think the state should be separated from the church to attend church on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day. And woe be unto them if the Fourth of July or Veterans Day falls on a Sunday!
Originally appeared on LewRockwell.com on June 10, 2013.
Tags: Christianity, church, culture, ethics, theology, war
Philip Mauro (1859-1952) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and educated at Columbian University in the nation’s capital, now known as George Washington University. He was a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and one of the foremost patent lawyers of his day. Mauro maintains offices in Washington DC and New York. Among his regular clients were American Telephone and Telegraph and Bell Telephone. He was a personal friend and patent counsel for Alexander Graham Bell. Mauro was converted to Christ at the Gospel Tabernacle in New York in 1903. In 1905 he published his first of about forty books and at least eighty shorter writings. He was on the Carpathia in 1912 when it rescued survivors from the Titanic, and later wrote "The Titanic Catastrophe and Its Lessons." In July of 1917 he wrote a small booklet titled Shall We Smite with the Sword? In the Christian Workers Magazine, published by the Moody Bible Institute, for August (p. 923) and September (p. 1) of 1917, there appears an ad for Mauro’s work reading: "Plain words regarding the teaching of the Bible as to the Christian’s position and attitude toward war. If you are not clear as to your position; if you have no settled convictions regarding a Christian and war, be sure to read this. It will give you the help you need. Just the thing for placing in the hands of fellow-Christians. It should have a wide circulation at this time. We solicit your co-operation. Single copies 3c; two for 5c; 25c per dozen, postpaid." After World War I was over, Mauro added an eight-page "Part II" to his treatise. The whole work, which is reproduced below, was later published by the Scripture Truth Depot of Boston. – Laurence M. Vance
Tags: Bible, ethics, theology, war