Archive for theology
“I simply admit that I have written some rather distasteful things for the purpose of frightening Christians away from the insanity of war, for I observed that the largest part of the evils of the Christian community take their origin from the wars which we have seen for all too many years.” ~ Erasmus
In the first of my articles on Erasmus (“Erasmus on the Evils of War”), I wrote a brief introduction to Erasmus and his works on war and peace that should be read to better understand what Erasmus has to say here about Christianity and war.
Erasmus had much to say regarding Christianity and war. This is especially relevant today considering the level of Christian support for the U.S. government’s wars and military interventions.
“Since we see that there is hardly ever any respite from wars, which normally arise from the ambition or anger of princes and thus are usually fought for the worst reasons, in my writings I frequently frighten people away from warfare, and in doing so I follow the example of the ancient Doctors of the church.” ~ Erasmus
The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536) was one of the most prolific writers in history. It has been said that in him we see the union of classical scholarship with Christian piety. The eclectic nature of his writings is quite remarkable. Since 1974, the University of Toronto Press has been in the process of issuing “an accurate, readable English text of Erasmus’ correspondence and his other principal writings in an edition of 89 volumes.” New and used copies of most of the available volumes can be found on Amazon.
In a letter written in 1500, Erasmus correctly related the significance of his writings:
Please explain to her [Lady Anna van Borssele] how much greater is the glory she can acquire from me, by my literary works, than from the other theologians in her patronage. They merely deliver humdrum sermons; I am writing books that may last for ever. Their uneducated nonsense finds an audience in perhaps a couple of churches; my books will be read all over the world, in the Latin west and in the Greek east and by every nation.
In a letter written in 1515, Erasmus explained that he wrote in order to serve “some useful purpose.” One of the most useful purposes of Erasmus’s writings is the insight he gives on war and peace. As the translator and annotator of one of Erasmus’ Colloquies wrote: “His writings had little or no direct political effect. Nevertheless as a propagandist for peace he produced some of the best and most widely read arguments on war and peace, and they are still worth reading.”
Review of Daniel M. Bell Jr., The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 2012), 224 pgs., paperback.
This is the sixth volume in the series The Church and Postmodern Culture, edited by James K. A. Smith. The series “features high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church.”
Although I am not the least bit interested in postmodern theory, I am very interested in the intersection of Christianity and economics or politics. Thus, the phrase “Christianity and Capitalism” in this book’s subtitle caught my eye. Nevertheless, I have never been more disappointed, or bored.
The author describes his work as “a contribution to the conversation about the relationship of Christianity to capitalism with a postmodern twist.” That twist is nothing short of pure Christian anti-capitalism, although of a very unique kind. You see, Daniel Bell, professor of theological ethics at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and the author of several books, is not a socialist. He maintains that his book “changes the focus from capitalism versus socialism to capitalism versus the divine economy made present by Christ and witnessed to by the church.”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to read through the whole book to discover what the author meant by capitalism. He equates capitalism with the “free-market economy” because the name “highlights the centrality of the market.” This is well and good, and certainly makes it easier to understand where the author is coming from. Unfortunately, this is not the case for understanding Bell’s concept of the divine economy. Read More→
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.