Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Just War Theory

A while back, when I was visiting Lancaster, my most esteemed brother was discussing just war theory, and what he saw as a major problem with it. In his view (let me know if this is fair, Chris), the prohibition on harming non-combatants was an issue, mostly because in his view, there is really no such thing as a non-combatant. His argument is that by virtue of being a citizen of a country at war, you are in the war, and should have no reasonable expectation of protection.

I was not comfortable with this, but wasn’t sure why. After some thought, I think I figured out the reason behind my uneasiness. Here is my main argument as to why we should spare non-combatants in any conflict: everyone has been created in the image of God. While it is necessary to wage war at times to protect human life, or to defend our own nation, the taking of lives is always a weighty matter. God created man in his image – we bear his likeness. When we see other human beings, we aren’t just seeing people – we are seeing a reflection of God. I believe that this basic dignity is the reason we should be careful to not wantonly kill those who do not take up arms against us, even if they are in a country where arms are being taken up – their lives are too precious for us to discount.

I will admit that in our modern age of warfare, the lines between civilian and military populations are much more blurred than they used to be. Because of this, many aspects of just war theory need to be looked at and adjusted, and there may be circumstances where the killing of someone once considered a civilian, while regrettable, is necessary because of who we are fighting. However, we should make every effort to spare those who are not involved in the conflict because we respect human life, and want to give those we are fighting every chance at repentance.


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You would be right in saying that the marriage relationship is used a lot more than the relationship of brothers. However, that language is there, and I believe it is helpful to examine what is meant by any metaphor in the Bible. After all, God created us, and designed relationships to teach us something about him, and when the inspired Word of God calls attention to a particular relationship, we should look at it. Also, the picture of Christ going before us in death and resurrection is a good find! This is indeed something that husbands and wives don’t experience (or at least, aren’t guaranteed to experience).

While thinking about other passages that talk about our relationship to Christ, this one came to mind (Romans 8:12-17):

12 So then, brothers, [4] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [5] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Now at first, this just seems to be stating “yeah, we are brothers with Christ”, and it is saying that. However, the term fellow heirs would have sounded very different to Roman ears than it does to modern Western ears. When we talk about heirs to a throne, we typically think of the English and French kingships, where an heir was a biological son – thus, calling someone “fellow heirs” with Christ is talking about a family relationship. Now, thankfully, this IS the picture – we are brought into God’s family, and he treats us as such. However, to a Roman mind, another picture would have also came into picture. Royalty back then wasn’t hereditary. This makes reading Roman history an interesting experience filled with much unnecessary drama – the lack of a clear succession plan caused a lot of headaches for the Empire, as there was a lot of fighting and weakness as a result of this plan. The closest the Emperors ever got to solving the problem was the Roman institution of adoption. In Roman times, adoption could happen among two people of similar ages – a grown Emperor could adopt someone who was around his age, and this person would be immediately brought into the family, and an heir would be clear. I’m not sure if this practice was adopted before or after the Apostle Paul wrote, but this would have informed early Christians reading the text. In this case, God would be the emperor, and he would have adopted his children into his family, placing them with Christ. The adopted weren’t second class sons – they were on equal footing with the biological sons (and were sometimes considered more legitimate – they were chosen heirs, the heir the Emperor had given his blessing to). There were even cases where two Emperors were declared, with two heirs to replace them. (This tended to devolve into chaos, but that was a legal possibility that Romans did not find strange in any way.)

What a strange thought! We are considered fellow heirs with Christ – loved by God and Christ, and we will rule with him! We don’t deserve this rich honor, but God has granted it to us – praise be unto his name!

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The Little Dude

At the intense behest of my brother, I decided to post.

So, I am the little brother. What does this mean? Well, first off, I could totally take him now (ok, so maybe it’d be a close fight). So, the parallel between Christ and the church is compared to an older brother to a younger brother? Ok.

Before I make any other comments, however, I will first say that the Bible uses the covenant of marriage to speak on Christ’s relationship to the church far more frequently than the image of Christ being a big brother is used (look up Ephesians 5:22-33 for one such example).

However, I do think that the idea of Christ’s being a big brother is helpful to show some nuances of the relationship.

First off, one patently obvious thing about the big brother/little brother relationship is that the big brother goes before the little brother. The big brother has experienced the parts of life that the little brother often has to wait to go through. For example, my brother drove before I did, he shaved before I did, he went through puberty before I did, he went to college before I have, and he’s had a full-time job before I have. This means that, when I consider colleges, I seek his input. When I will think about a job offer, I will ask his advice, because he’s been through the job interview process. This idea of the older brother going before the younger is an not found in the marriage picture, but it helps because, as the author of Hebrews points out, Christ can sympathize with us because He has been tempted in every way. Even more strikingly, He has died before us, and is the firstborn from the dead (note the use of firstborn from the dead, which clearly implies that others will follow). In this way, Christ has gone before us in a way that none of us have. Much like an older brother, he can say “I’ve been there. I’ve died, and I’ve risen.” Now, it’s not exactly the same, because we are not atoning for the sins of the world (nor could we), but we will die, and those who have trusted Christ will rise from death, much in the same way Christ did.

This aspect is one completely unique to the image of a bigger brother. Unlike protection, in which the husband (or Christ) is called to protect the wife (or the Church), the idea of Christ going before us is only found in the brother picture.

Most other aspects have already been covered by Brando, and I need to get some Latin homework done!

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The Big Older Brother

Romans 8:28-30
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

John Piper’s Sermon on Glorification.

You’ve got to actually hear Piper preach this message, because I can’t find the phrase “big older brother” anywhere in the abbreviated manuscript. I have to admit, hearing that phrase from Piper was a bit shocking to me – not the theological seriousness that we normally attribute to him. However, Romans 8 DOES say that he foreknew us so that Christ could be the firstborn among many brothers, so there IS something to this thought. What can we learn about Christ and us from his being the firstborn among many brothers?

Well, much like marriage, the sibling relationship can say something about how Christ relates to us. I’m the “big older brother” in my family. While I’d love my brother to talk about how this relationship looks to him (after all, he’s in our position – the younger brother), I know my older brother responsibilities can reflect weakly how Christ relates to us.

1. Protection. Christ is our protector, and it is my responsibility to protect my brother and sister. (Especially my sister.) I am to defend their honor, and I am to protect them physically as well. While my younger brother would probably be a better protector than me now, Christ will always be in this role.

2. Role model. Younger siblings love and pattern themselves after older ones. My brother especially wanted to be just like me when he was young – he wanted to spend time with me, and be just like me. My sister and I would talk about life, and I know she was also looking to my experience. Again, this is a responsibility – I have to realize they want to emulate me, and be sure to be a good example. Even now, I am looked to for advice in their lives. Just like my siblings look to me, we are to look to Christ. We know we can imitate him perfectly – he never sins, never does anything not worth emulating. While we cannot do everything he does (and in fact, shouldn’t do some things because he is God and we are not), there are things we can follow his example

3. Love. I love seeing the child-like love that a young kid has for an older sibling. They want to be everywhere that their brother or sister are, sometimes to the annoyance of the older sibling! My little brother in particular wanted me to play with him all the time – which wasn’t always what I wanted. However, it teaches us how we should approach our big older brother, Jesus. We should approach him with a childlike love, that just wants to be around him, learn about him, and do things with him. And, unlike me and my selfish desires, our big older brother will never turn us away if we truly desire to know him.

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Creation Groans

Romans 8:18-25:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I’ve been listening to John Piper preach on suffering from Romans 8, and its been very good. I was thinking today . . . those of us in climates in which there is a winter get to watch a yearly renewal of the earth as spring arrives. I think I can speak for just about everyone when I say that we all long for spring to arrive. Right now, everything is dead. The trees are bare, or have dead leaves. The ground is brown and lifeless. We are all waiting for the redemption of creation which is the spring, when everything bursts forth with life. Flowers bloom, trees blossom, and the ground becomes green again. The best part is that this is all under a month away. No wonder we anticipate it!

Now, think about what Paul says here. The creation as a whole suffers now. It is under a curse. It is like the dead of winter – that part without snow before the springtime. The part we all hate. It groans. We wait eagerly for our new bodies. We wait for the glory that will be revealed to us – the glory of a new creation, one that will dwarf what we now know.

No one likes the dead winter. It grates on everyone after a while. Right now, we all know spring is coming. We just need to patiently wait. What an awesome picture of God’s renewing activity in creation as a whole? Ever since the fall, creation has been plunged into futility – a groaning in which bodies break down into sickness, a time in which we are broken. We cannot serve God as we ought. We suffer pain, sickness, and ultimately death. However, the spring is coming! We need to patiently wait, as Paul says, for we hope in something that we do not yet see.

Right now, I can’t see the oncoming spring. There are few signs that anything is changing except a few early buds on the trees. But even here, we see another picture of God’s kindness in his fallen creation: for is not the spring’s return like seeing a flower blossom in the midst of a seemingly futile creation? God is working! He is on the move, and despite the suffering in this world, spring will come! God will renew his creation, and as John Piper has been pointing out on his Desiring God Radio podcast, we are going to need new bodies to be able to take it all in! Our current bodies are NOT going to be good enough. Praise God!

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