You Gotta Fight For Your (Religious) Right

beastie boys

Early in this treatise [“Temporal Authority”], Luther asserts that temporal authority, with its law and sword, exist by God’s ordinance. Citing Genesis 4:14-15 and 9:6, he says that they have thus existed since the beginning of the world and have been confirmed by the law of Moses, John the Baptist, and Christ [pgs. 85-88]. Luther then divides the human race into two classes, those belonging to the kingdom of God (true believers) and those belonging to the kingdom of the world. The former, he explains, need neither law not sword, but the latter do and are under their authority [85-88]. In light of this, God has established two governments in order to complement these two kingdoms. The purpose of the spiritual government is for the Holy Spirit to produce righteous Christians under the rule of Christ and the purpose of the temporal government is for retraining the wicked and non-Christians by the temporal sword. The world cannot be ruled in a ‘Christian and evangelical manner’ since most people are not real Christians and a common Christian government is therefore impossible. Thus, Luther states that ‘one must carefully distinguish between these two governments’ and yet affirm the existence of both, one to produce righteousness and the other to secure ‘external peace and prevent evil deeds.’ In fact, Luther says, ‘Christ’s government does not extend over all men; Christians are always a minority in the midst of non-Christians’ [91-92].

 With these ideas in hand, Luther propounded a novel reading of the Sermon on the Mount’s exhortations to shun violence and retaliation. In opposition especially to those who proposed that Christ commanded these things not to all Christians but only as counsel to those who wished to be perfect [81-83], Luther urges that these commands apply to all Christians, though only to Christians. Christ commands Christians to refrain from violence because the sword has no place in Christ’s kingdom. Non-Christians, on the other hand, are ‘under another government’ and by external constraint are ‘compelled to keep the peace and do what is good.’ Christ sanctioned the sword, but he made no use of it and rules by his Spirit alone, the sword serving ‘no purpose in his kingdom….” [92-93]. Thus, Christians are under a spiritual government that does not bear the sword—hence the commands of the Sermon on the Mount—and non-Christians are under a temporal government that indeed uses the sword to keep order among the wicked. For Luther, the Sermon on the Mount was not intended for some Christians who wished to attain a higher righteousness, but was the norm for all Christians, all of whom are under Christ’s spiritual government.

 Luther’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount through the two governments paradigm, however, did not separate Christians entirely from the use of the sword or make political life irrelevant to them. He goes on to explain that though Christians have no use of the law or sword amongst themselves, they submit to its rule and even do all that they can to help the civil authorities, in order to be of service and benefit to others. In fact, he explains, ‘If he did not serve he would be acting not as a Christian but even contrary to love….” [94]. This counter-intuitive conclusion leads Luther to encourage Christians to seek out temporal occupations, even those that require using the sword: ‘If you see that there is a lack of hangmen, constables, judges, lords, or princes, and you find that you are qualified, you should offer your services and seek the position….” Luther reconciles these seeming contrary injunctions by emphasizing that Christians should never take up these tasks for the purpose of their own vengeance, but only for the safety and peace of their neighbors. And so, when a matter arises concerning themselves, Christians live according to Christ’s spiritual government ‘gladly turning the other cheek and letting the cloak go with the coat when the matter concerned you and your cause.’ This, claims Luther, brings harmony to the Christian’s life in both kingdoms: ‘at one and the same time you satisfy God’s kingdom inwardly and the kingdom of the world outwardly’ [95-96]. Shortly thereafter, Luther announces the final reconciliation of life in the two kingdoms: ‘No Christian shall wield or invoke the sword for himself and his cause. In behalf of another, however, he may and should wield it and invoke it to restrain wickedness and to defend godliness.’” [103]

 David VanDrunen, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms (pgs. 56-58).

But how does this square exactly with modern American notions, particularly those of modern American Christians who seem curiously to think they are yet one more special interest group who have certain inalienable rights to their religious beliefs and practices? If Luther is right then it would seem that it’s at least worthwhile to consider whether the efforts of professing Christians to fight for their own religious rights runs counter to what Jesus himself taught on the Mount (the New Covenant version of the Old Covenant mountain). But there are some who contend that the teaching to turn the other cheek is not meant to be universal or to be otherwise interpreted through a plain reading, but rather through the lens of the modern American project built on the pursuit of individual rights and so forth. But this would seem to make relative hay out of Jesus’ own teaching. How? Because it seems to suggest that turning the other cheek has more to do with fighting until you lose then being a good loser—because, remember, the modern Christian who argues to fight for his legal religious rights has a standing doctrine of non-violence, which is what he seems to think turning the other cheek is all about. But fighting until you lose and then being a good loser has more in common with politely giving up in the face of sure defeat than laying aside rights and power. For my part, I must admit this has some great appeal. After all, I too was born and bred on the American mixed diet of political rights and social politeness. But if Jesus had every right not to have to stoop to incarnation and taken off the cross, and if he declined every opportunity to take advantage of his heavenly rights, and if we believers are supposed to take up our crosses an follow him, what makes us think that we should take every advantage of our earthly rights.

This isn’t to be deliberately cavalier or trite about the complexities of being a religious person in a modern state such as ours, nor is it to suggest that we cannot make civil appeals to our magistrate the way Paul did when his Roman rights were violated. Rather, it is to seriously wonder just what the overwhelming New Testament teaching to turn the other cheek and sheath our swords means in a political arrangement that encourages us not to. After all, we seem to have little to no problem denying a fleshy culture that encourages us to all sorts of carnality and sin, or a lazy one that encourages us to “work for the weekend.” The list goes on about how our time and place encourages a counter-Christian ethic. What about a set of politics that encourages us to read the Sermon on the Mount to be, at best, something as effete as non-violence and, at worst, the sort of advice that would actually have Jesus come down off the cross and consequently leave us in our sins? That is, if he ever got around to the incarnation.

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37 Responses to You Gotta Fight For Your (Religious) Right

  1. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim- I see “turn the other cheek” as hyperbole, as is “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out…”, etc. I do realize that some Christians would see this as a cop-out on my part.
    But I think the critical passage addressing your point is 1 Peter 2:21-24. Verse 21, considered by itself, could be taken to mean that if falsely accused of a capital crime, Christians should not have recourse to any sort of defense -but should allow themselves to be executed. Apart from the fact that no one (as far as I know) holds this view, the theological objection is that the purpose of Christ’s death was to atone for the sins of the whole world -something which Christians aren’t called upon to do. Verses 22-23 make it clear that what we *are* to imitate is Christ’s guilelessness, and His refusal to revile and threaten in return. I would point out that according to verse 24, Christ’s purpose in bearing the sins of the world was not that we should then imitate Him in doing the same, but that we should be “dead to sin and alive to righteousness.”

  2. Zrim says:

    I see “turn the other cheek” as hyperbole, as is “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out…”, etc.

    John, I’m no exegete, but I’m not sure the figurative genres are as comparable as you suggest. And I’m not sure that just because Jesus doesn’t mean to literally disfigure yourself to avoid sin that he also means don’t literally turn around when someone hits you. Besides literal points about eyes and cheeks, the larger point in both commands is to respond counter-intuitively to certain things: don’t indulge certain appetites and don’t return eye for an eye.

    But I think the critical passage addressing your point is 1 Peter 2:21-24. Verse 21, considered by itself, could be taken to mean that if falsely accused of a capital crime, Christians should not have recourse to any sort of defense -but should allow themselves to be executed.

    I don’t see how this text isn’t complimentary to the points I am making. And I’m not clear on what capital offenses committed by believers has to do with it, but it seems like you’re creating an extraordinary example that might get us away from the normative thrust of turning the other cheek. In other words, look again at the idea that Luther was refuting (in the post proper), namely that turning the other cheek was for those who wanted to be extra pious. One way to prop that up is to say that the teaching is for those of us who murder, but for the rest of us it’s negligible (really, Scripture most people can ignore?). The problem is that most of us don’t murder. What Luther is teaching is for everyone, those of us who are guilty of capital offense (!) and those of us who are quite law abiding.

    Apart from the fact that no one (as far as I know) holds this view, the theological objection is that the purpose of Christ’s death was to atone for the sins of the whole world -something which Christians aren’t called upon to do. Verses 22-23 make it clear that what we *are* to imitate is Christ’s guilelessness, and His refusal to revile and threaten in return. I would point out that according to verse 24, Christ’s purpose in bearing the sins of the world was not that we should then imitate Him in doing the same, but that we should be “dead to sin and alive to righteousness.”.

    Yeah, I’ve heard this one before. I find it very strange, to say the least. “Jesus is the only one who can atone for sins, so we aren’t to bodily obey this aspect of his teaching because we aren’t the second Person of the Trinity who can atone for sins, so the point is to merely imitate the spirit of his teaching but not bodily, not when it actually costs us something.” Huh? I’m not suggesting that we are to imitate sin-atoning (seriously?), I am saying that if we are to imitate Christ in both our disposition and in our physical bodies then it includes being free from guile, yes (speaking of 1 Peter and showing guile toward our magistrates), but it also seems to include not retaining a lawyer because someone crossed his eyes at us on the proverbial playground. So, what you’re saying is that we should fight but be really polite about it, like land a soft punch in the arm instead of a hard one in the groin? Not only is that a poor strategy for fighting back, but it basically seems to spiritualize Jesus’ teaching.

  3. John Harutunian says:

    >So, what you’re saying is that we should fight but be really polite about it, like land a soft punch in the arm instead of a hard one in the groin?

    No, I’m saying that the use of force in self-defense is OK as a last resort -which I think goes back to Augustine.

    >Besides literal points about eyes and cheeks, the larger point in both commands is to respond counter-intuitively to certain things: don’t indulge certain appetites and don’t return eye for an eye.

    I quite agree. The principle behind the hyperbole is, “Respond counter-intuitively” -the specific application of the principle is “Turn the other cheek” -whether the application is intended literally in a way which would forbid self-defense is another question entirely.

    >Yeah, I’ve heard this one before. I find it very strange, to say the least. “Jesus is the only one who can atone for sins, so we aren’t to bodily obey this aspect of his teaching because we aren’t the second Person of the Trinity who can atone for sins, so the point is to merely imitate the spirit of his teaching but not bodily, not when it actually costs us something.”

    Well, I don’t know about you, but if someone slanders me and I refuse the temptation to slander him back, there’s no “bodily” dimension involved -but it nevertheless costs me something!

  4. Zrim says:

    I’m saying that the use of force in self-defense is OK as a last resort -which I think goes back to Augustine.

    It may go back to Augustine, but where is it in the biblical witness to “Turn the other cheek…but if he hits that one use self-defense, because, you know, now it’s getting serious” or “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well…but if he comes after more then sue him back, because, well, now you’ve got no clothes, man, stand up for yourself!”

    Well, I don’t know about you, but if someone slanders me and I refuse the temptation to slander him back, there’s no “bodily” dimension involved -but it nevertheless costs me something!

    The question here is what happens when things are bodily, when the ante is raised, so to speak? Is it “sticks and stones” when it’s merely verbal slander, but “fight!” when things get rougher? If so, then maybe the teaching should be, “Look, guys, when people mock you, let it go like I did. But when they seek to do you harm because of me, the kind of harm I endured, then it’s another ball game. Then I want to you strike back. Don’t lay down your life and rights like I did, because then you’re saying you’re pretty much like me, taking on sin and all, which is actually pretty blasphemous. So, when it costs you little, refrain, when it costs you a lot, don’t. We don’t want anyone to get hurt here.”

  5. John Harutunian says:

    “where is it in the biblical witness to “Turn the other cheek…but if he hits that one use self-defense,'”

    It isn’t. But neither is “If he hits that one, then turn the first one to him again, and keep doing so until he stops hitting you.”

    Re: your last paragraph, I wouldn’t say “strike back” since that suggests retaliation. But actually, no, I don’t think God wants His children to get hurt. Which of course doesn’t imply that He never lets it happen.

  6. Zrim says:

    John, re cheeks the point isn’t to keep turning so the persecutor stops but keep turning because Jesus commands it. Obedience, not practicality.

    But God didn’t just let Jesus get hurt for his witness, he commanded him to and Jesus obeyed and was injured for his witness. It seems to me like Jesus is passing along that same burden to us, as in whoever would follow me will take up his cross, etc. And let me be clear again: I’m not suggesting something cavalier where believers act like fools and get hurt accordingly. There’s plenty of that going around, believers foolishly manufacturing their own silly martyrdom. I’m talking about simply being obedient the way Jesus was.

  7. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim, in both cases you missed my point. In the first, it was that Jesus never told us, “Keep turning cheeks indefinitely.” (Although yes, I am assuming that the hitting will eventually come to an end -if for no other reason that the guy will get tired out.) Since He never said that, the issue in question becomes: At what point do things get serious enough to warrant a believer’s defending himself?

    >But God didn’t just let Jesus get hurt for his witness, he commanded him to and Jesus obeyed and was injured for his witness. It seems to me like Jesus is passing along that same burden to us, as in whoever would follow me will take up his cross, etc.

    No. God’s command to Jesus was, “Drink this cup of suffering and death to expiate the sins of my Covenant people.” *That* burden will never be passed on to us.
    Now, if you’re asking if there might be occasions where God will require a believer to sacrifice his life for a particular cause -especially the spread of the Gospel- that I’d agree with. But (and this might be where we differ), I don’t see that as normative.

  8. Zrim says:

    John, if the point is about being indefinite then whatever isn’t covered in the cheek command is in the cloak/tunic command: if he wants your cloak give him that plus your tunic. You know, if he makes you walk one mile, go two, etc.

    At what point do things get serious enough to warrant a believer’s defending himself?.

    The question has a premise about self-defense I don’t see in the Bible. The questsion actually for you is, What does sheathing the sword mean then? Seems to me things were pretty darn serious when Peter drew his. A life was at stake, yet the command was to sheath.

    God’s command to Jesus was, “Drink this cup of suffering and death to expiate the sins of my Covenant people.” *That* burden will never be passed on to us.

    John, please, I think I have been pretty clear that this has nothing to do with thinking that our imitating Christ has anything to do with our expiating sins. Can we be done with this part?

    Now, if you’re asking if there might be occasions where God will require a believer to sacrifice his life for a particular cause -especially the spread of the Gospel- that I’d agree with. But (and this might be where we differ), I don’t see that as normative.

    First, I am saying that the only cause God asks us to self-sacrifice for is the gospel; he doesn’t ask us to die for anything else. Second, if the command, contra Luther, isn’t normative then that must mean that only some of us are commanded to obey. So you must agree with his opposers who said that dying for the gospel is for those who want to be super pious, but the rest of us can pretty much ignore that command. That’s odd, if for no other reason that it suggests that the vast majority of believers can actually ignore a portion of Scripture.

  9. Paul M. says:

    John: I see “turn the other cheek” as hyperbole, as is “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out…”, etc.

    Zrim: John, I’m no exegete, but I’m not sure the figurative genres are as comparable as you suggest.

    Me: Most exegetes don’t take it literally. I recal Julius Kim (of WSCAL) giving a great sermon on this. Basically, the background of “shame culture” is the key to the text’s exegesis. It basically means that if a man dishonors you, let him dishonor. Note that the “right cheek” is struck. Most people are right handed, which means this is a backhanded slap. This doesn’t hurt physically so much as your pride, your dignity. Kim, as well as other exegetes, do not read this as denying self-defense or physically fighting if the situation calls for it.

  10. Paul M. says:

    BTW, confessionalism demands self-defense. To not do so is to violate the general equity of the 6th commandment.

  11. John Harutunian says:

    Paul, to me this hits the nail right on the head. (To use an appropriate metaphor.)

  12. John Harutunian says:

    “The question has a premise about self-defense I don’t see in the Bible.”

    Does this mean, “Unless the Bible says that a Christian has the option of self-defense, then he doesn’t have that option”? If so, it’s an assumption which you’re bringing to Scripture; just as it would be were you to say, “Unless that Bible says that a Christian *doesn’t* have the option of self-defense, then he *does* have that option.” It can go either way.

    “Seems to me things were pretty darn serious when Peter drew his. A life was at stake, yet the command was to sheath.”

    True enough. But if that life had been saved -the result would have been eternal death for all of us. Surely this is critical?
    Also: there is indeed a time for a Christian to sheath his sword. But of course this implies that he owns a sword in the first place! And Jesus goes so far as to tell His followers to sell their clothes and buy one (Luke 22:36).

    “the only cause God asks us to self-sacrifice for is the gospel; he doesn’t ask us to die for anything else. Second, if the command, contra Luther, isn’t normative then that must mean that only some of us are commanded to obey. So you must agree with his opposers who said that dying for the gospel is for those who want to be super pious, but the rest of us can pretty much ignore that command. ”

    I was using “normative” to refer to [ordinary] circumstances, not ordinary-vs.-extraordinary categories of Christians.
    I don’t know if we’re in agreement -but I hope this clarifies my perspective.

  13. Zrim says:

    Paul, the shame culture point is interesting and I think a good one. Still, what we see with Jesus is that while his life entailed shame it also ended in death. He wasn’t only mocked but also killed.

    So, if the point is that there comes a time when the believer must do more than simply ignore being shamed and actually defend himself I wonder where the example for that is in the person of Jesus? Where did he say, “Ok, bud, now you’ve gone too far,” took hold of a worldly weapon and defended himself?

    And Jesus goes so far as to tell His followers to sell their clothes and buy one (Luke 22:36).

    John, the point I am trying to make has nothing against self-sustanance. If, tangentially along the way whilst proclaiming the gospel, a man mugs you then having a sword to defend yourself seems perfectly fitting. But if he attacks you specifically because of your gospel witness I simply see no biblical precedent for pulling it out.

    But if that life had been saved -the result would have been eternal death for all of us. Surely this is critical?

    Yes, that’s precisely the point I was making in the post proper when I said, “What about a set of politics that encourages us to read the Sermon on the Mount to be, at best, something as effete as non-violence and, at worst, the sort of advice that would actually have Jesus come down off the cross and consequently leave us in our sins?”

  14. John Harutunian says:

    “So, if the point is that there comes a time when the believer must do more than simply ignore being shamed and actually defend himself I wonder where the example for that is in the person of Jesus?”

    There is indeed no precedent for it in Jesus’ life. But of course it’s the whole of Scripture which must be considered (the Old Testament included).

    “if he attacks you specifically because of your gospel witness I simply see no biblical precedent for pulling it out.”

    Zrim, both of these points bring us back to what I said in my Oct. 22 post. To say that the absence of Scriptural *warrant* for self-defense while witnessing for the Gospel implies that such self-defense is *wrong* -this constitutes an assumption, just as much as saying that the absence of Scriptural *condemnation* for such self-defense implies that it is *right*.

    “Where did he say, “Ok, bud, now you’ve gone too far,” took hold of a worldly weapon and defended himself?”

    Can’t resist pointing out that right now you’re using a worldly computer. What makes a sword more worldly than a computer? (Believers certainly used them in the Old Testament.) It looks like there’s some circular reasoning here.

  15. Zrim says:

    There is indeed no precedent for it in Jesus’ life. But of course it’s the whole of Scripture which must be considered (the Old Testament included).

    But Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole of Scripture (Jn. 5:39, Lk. 24:27). And he gives us no precedent in his earthly witness for defending his own life against persecution, as you admit. And he’s saying to imitate him. How does this equal us defending ourselves when persecuted?

    To say that the absence of Scriptural *warrant* for self-defense while witnessing for the Gospel implies that such self-defense is *wrong* -this constitutes an assumption, just as much as saying that the absence of Scriptural *condemnation* for such self-defense implies that it is *right*.

    I’m not actually saying self-defense is wrong per se, I am asking on what grounds is it right? But we do have Jesus rebuking Peter for self-defense. Where do have a rebuke for passivity?

    Can’t resist pointing out that right now you’re using a worldly computer. What makes a sword more worldly than a computer? (Believers certainly used them in the Old Testament.) It looks like there’s some circular reasoning here.

    I’m using the PC to converse with a fellow believer, not fight against persecutor. Come on, John.

  16. David Cronkhite says:

    Zrim, very interesting conversation.

    I’m really in the dark about this but am beginning to sort this out by categorizing my thoughts in terms of christian duties and civic duties.

    My civic duty is to do justly. That is, work towards maintaining public peace, even in defending myself.

    My christian duty is to love mercy. That is, love my enemies and not seek vengeance.

    (Operating on these two levels requires that I walk humbly before God asking for His guidance.)

    Turning the other cheek works on both levels because it is a method of quelling violence, but only under the assumption that the perp’ is reasonable and will feel the coals of conviction thereby causing him to cease from further violence.

    Luther’s idea of never using the sword for self seems to fall short. Or maybe he meant using the sword selfishly? Afterall, it is for the public good that I stay intact in order to do good. But it is not for the public good that I take revenge.

  17. David Cronkhite says:

    P. S.

    Ofcourse there is compatibility in both spheres for doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly.

    However, an example of incompatibility of duties might be voting Mitt Romney for president, but not voting Mitt Romney for elder.

  18. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, Jesus said if someone hit *you* on the cheek, not *him*. He came to die for our sins, his physical hits were for our salvation. I didn’t take you for a “Jesus-as-moral-exemplar kind of guy. So, his hits are obviously disanalagous. Also, your response isn’t doing *exegesis*.

    I understand that there are times that the believer does more than put up with shame. But my point is that you’re not going to get that from the putative text under discussion. Jesus didn’t say what you said because he had a *specific mission*, and that mission is not our mission. However, Jesus will say “Ok bud, not you’re gonna get it” when he returns.

  19. Paul M. says:

    David, turning the other cheek isn’t about physical violence. Zrim’s eisogeting that text.

  20. Zrim says:

    Paul, you often fault me for over-reacting, so I’m surprised I am not getting more credit for not throwing the exemplar baby out with the bathwater. Jesus certainly isn’t a mere example, but that certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t our example. Big difference.

    I understand and agree that his hits were for us. But he also seems to be commanding us to return his favor (as in, I will confess him to the Father who confesses me to men but disown him who disowns me to men). I fail to see why it is that just because we aren’t expiating sins like him that this call to imitate our Lord is null and void. How far do you take this reasoning? If we aren’t the second person of the Trinity what other commands to imitate Jesus can be dismissed?

    I can’t help but wonder if the resistance to passivity is a function of the natural impulse not to die. It’s understandable, but isn’t it our supernatural call to die?

  21. Zrim says:

    Turning the other cheek works on both levels because it is a method of quelling violence, but only under the assumption that the perp’ is reasonable and will feel the coals of conviction thereby causing him to cease from further violence.

    David, it may be that turning the other cheek is a way to quell violence. But the question that arises is, What if my oppressor isn’t reasonable? To my mind, it’s a matter of obeying the Lord more than manipulating my oppressor to my advantage, if I may put it that way. I hope my oppressor is reasonable, to be sure. But my Lord seems pretty clear about how he wants me to obey him, regardless of the results.

  22. John Harutunian says:

    “And [Jesus] gives us no precedent in his earthly witness for defending his own life against persecution”

    But he wasn’t persecuted unto death -until He was actually crucified, which was
    a unique, God-ordained sacrifice for the sins of the world.

    “And he’s saying to imitate him.”

    Not in every respect. We get married, we don’t wander from place to place teaching, and we don’t resort to violence if a holy place is being profaned.

    “I’m not actually saying self-defense is wrong per se, I am asking on what grounds is it right?”

    This is getting tricky. If someone were about to shoot me and I could save my life only by killing him first, and I chose not to do so, but let myself get killed-
    would I thereby be categorically guilty of sin? I’m not prepared to say so (I don’t think too many people are). The question is: Do I need Biblical warrant for defending myself under these circumstances? I don’t think so; I don’t think that God saw a need to tell us, via special revelation, that defending ourselves is OK. The instinct is already deeply rooted in us. Of course, if you can show that that instinct is a result of the Fall, that would be a different matter.
    Here’s a more concise way of putting it. It looks to me like you’re taking a Regulative Principle-type stand on the issue. Not in the sense that what is not commanded is thereby forbidden (I realize that you don’t consider self-defense as such to be wrong) -but in the sense that what is not commanded is thereby questionable. Does this do justice to your position? If so, we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree.

    Re: your use of a “worldly” computer-
    “I’m using the PC to converse with a fellow believer, not fight against persecutor. Come on, John.”

    -Well, maybe I had this coming! But then again maybe not: Suppose you were using it to conduct a job search? Sounds pretty “worldly” to me; so what makes a sword worldly?

  23. David Cronkhite says:

    Paul,

    Yes, the real substance of ‘turn the other cheek’ is ‘let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who being in the form of God…took upon Himself the nature of a servant.’ What servant lashes back at a master? We are called to serve. But prudence dictates. By the way, I heard Kim’s lecture on that too.

    Zrim,

    What if the one dishonoring me is unreasonable?
    I think that Christ’s command would then not apply in some cases. In the case of someone slapping each cheek in turn to sort of see who can hold out the longest in a Guiness record would certainly not be in the spirit of it. (I’m thinking out loud) But you make a very good point. I can’t think of another good example.

    I can think of bad example. What about being slandered? A minister of the gospel ought to make a defense of some sort, shouldn’t
    he? I heard an account of a minister officially charged with lewd conduct. He pled no contest. Neither was he disciplined. (It was an evangelical church) He should have contested it for the sake of the name of Christ.

  24. John Harutunian says:

    David, I mostly agree. But I’ve one reservation:

    >‘let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who being in the form of God…took upon Himself the nature of a servant.’ What servant lashes back at a master?

    We’re to be servants, yes. But does that mean that other people (particularly non-Christians) are our “masters”? I think that’s pressing things, in a way that is typical of Western -not necessarily Biblical- logical categories.

  25. Anonymous says:

    David,

    I can’t say I follow your response. You certainly can’t mean that everything Jesus thought or did is what we are to think or do. If so, how’s it like being ontologically one with the Father?

    Zrim,

    Like with David, I can’t say I entirely follow your response. I am commenting on the exegesis of one particular passage. There’s nothing in that that supports standing there and letting someone pound on your face because he doesn’t like your shoes. In fact, if we’re going to be Confessionalists, the general equity of the 6th commandment speaks against that.

    Anyway, with me you get credit when you’re right. Not credit for the sake of giving credit. As far as what you think he seems to be commanding us, exegete it from the text.

    You’re reasoning like a baptist. That Jesus in fact did not return violence (at that time, he will) for violence—because he rather had something more important to do—does not mean that that is a command for us to do the same. That’s like the baptist who says that the only examples of baptism we have are of believers, therefore only believers ought to be baptized. Furthermore, even granting your claims, it would only justify us to be non-violent in similar circumstances, not in any circumstance forever. I don’t have proof here, but I bet the 12 year old Jesus got into a scrap or two. Let’s not try to Gnosticize Jesus. 🙂

  26. David Cronkhite says:

    John,

    Yes, I agree. We have one Master. I like Zrim’s rejoinder that our response to a slap on the cheek is counter-intuitive, that is, in Christ. It’s counter-kingdom. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.” Therefore, in carrying His name, I must not think primarily of my own dignity and honor.

    In regard to civic duty, where the church would be indifferent, again I must not think of my own dignity but the welfare of the public, and not discounting that I am a member of the public.

  27. David Cronkhite says:

    Anon,

    Yes, you raise the same point about Christ’s office which we have no part. But the command is ‘you shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’. There is only one ‘perfect’.

  28. Zrim says:

    Paul the Anonymous,

    There’s nothing in that that supports standing there and letting someone pound on your face because he doesn’t like your shoes.

    I’m not saying that. You’re completely misconstruing my argument. If a man is pounding you for any other reason than your gospel witness then you have every right to hit back. If you say, “Jesus is Lord” and he hits you then you have no grounds to resist an evil man, that is, if Jesus command to do so is actually binding.

    And I may be reasoning like a Baptist, but it seems to me you’re using exegesis to circumvent the plain reading of Scripture. Over at OldLife it was the favored exegetes who tell us the “obey your magistrates” isn’t universal. Now it’s privileged exegesis that tells us to resist an evil man. What’s next, exegesis to tell us that sometimes it’s ok for a woman to have authority over a man?

    Not in every respect [imitate Christ]. We get married, we don’t wander from place to place teaching, and we don’t resort to violence if a holy place is being profaned.

    John, we were never explicitly commanded to do these things. We were, however, commanded to not resist an evil man, turn the other cheek, give a man our tunic if he sues us for our coat and go two miles instead of one for he who demands it. And take up our cross, etc. Jesus also was a carpenter, but nothing in my argument is saying we should be carpenters.

    I can think of bad example. What about being slandered? A minister of the gospel ought to make a defense of some sort, shouldn’t he?

    David, sure, it seems to me fitting that if a man is actually being slandered, as in lied about, he has every right to defend himself. But if a man is being persecuted for confessing Jesus alone is Lord then he isn’t being lied about he’s being persecuted. And I’ve yet to hear a good argument for resisting an evil man, something Jesus said not to do.

  29. Paul M. says:

    Anon was me. For some reason I was logged out.

    Anyway, I’m having problems following what you think the relevance of your comments are in response to the exegesis offered. Why think begging the question is a good way to proceed? If you admit that there are things Jesus did that we don’t do or need to do, then to claim that his actions when getting hit for our salvation is one of those things we do, I must raise my hand.

    So, perhaps you could respond without begging the question.

  30. Paul M. says:

    Zrim,

    The problem is that I simply responsed to the exegesis of one passage. If your response was not in response to that exegesis, then why are you changing the subject and holding me responsible for misunderstanding your argument?

    I agree if a man hits you for preaching the gospel, you take the blows. But that’s not what the turn the other cheek passage is about.

    You even say “obey your magistrate” isn’t universal, Zrim. You do. You say that if they command you to sin then you shouldn’t obey. Why do you insist on refuting yourself?

    I didn’t say the exegesis said to resit an evil man—try to pay attention. I said the exegesis of “turn the other cheek” couldn’t be used to support what you claimed for it. From that it does not follow that I am saying “resist an evil man.”

    And, “common sense” is part of your problem. The Bible was written thousands of years ago. Common sense is often common to the times. We need to get into the sandals of the original audience rather than imputing our modern Western notions of “common sense” on to the text. Take more care with the Word. It’s not your wax nose, Zrim.

  31. Paul M. says:

    Zrim should be a 6 dayer. Isn’t that “the plain reading of the text.” Similarly, you should be a flat earther. Isn’t that the plain reading of some texts? Steve, you need to think through your comments. Anyway, I’m struggling to see how you can say we may punch back if someone smacks us because he doesn’t like our shoes? The “turn your cheek” passage doesn’t say, “turn your cheek in the context of preaching the word.” No, it’s an *everyday* action-guiding principle. Everyday principles for everyday people. So by your logic, you shouldn’t hit Bubba back. How could you non-arbitrarilly get around this? I take your claim that you don’t believe this to be a tacit denial of your exegesis, or lack of it, of the text.

    Look, Darryl Hart’s pacifistic reading of the text isn’t (a) Confessional and (b) isn’t the standard. Heck, Hart’s not even an exegete, he’s a historian.

  32. Paul M. says:

    (BTW, I’m being snarky to make sure you turn the other cheek! 🙂

  33. David Cronkhite says:

    >”But if a man is being persecuted for confessing Jesus alone is Lord then he isn’t being lied about he’s being persecuted. And I’ve yet to hear a good argument for resisting an evil man, something Jesus said not to do.”<

    Yes, we are to count it all joy to suffer for His name. We are to reject the eye for eye principle in one on one personal dealings. But we mustn't extrapolate this to wider dealings among groups and a pacifistic abstinence from defending innocents.

  34. John Harutunian says:

    “John, we were never explicitly commanded to do these things [remain single, assume the life of a wandering teacher, use violence against those who desecrate sanctuaries].”

    Of course. But my point was that John 5:39 and Luke 24:27 don’t imply that we should imitate Christ *in every respect*. Considering the unique atoning nature of His death, don’t you think that the burden of proof lies with you -to show that we have no warrant for self-defense, even in the context of witnessing to the Gospel?

    “We were, however, commanded to not resist an evil man”

    True. We must not resist the *man*, insofar as he bears God’s image (however defaced). We may resist his actions. Fleeing would be one way to do
    this. Self defense, using the minimal amount of force necessary, would be another.
    Another way of looking at it: If self defense isn’t categorically *wrong*, but we have no warrant to say that it’s *right* (or *permitted*) -then it sounds like God has left His people in an empirical and spiritual limbo. And the fact that Jesus told His followers to arm themselves with swords (Luke 22:36) is warrant for believing that self defense is right. Does it then become wrong (or questionable) if done to avoid persecution for the sake of the Gospel? You’re assuming that it does because there’s no Biblical example of a Christian doing this. But you’re not taking into account the historical context, in which Christians -as adherents to an illegal religion- were essentially powerless to do so.

  35. dgh says:

    Paul, how could a six day creation be the literal reading when you don’t have the sun and the moon (by which we mark a day) don’t come until after the first day.

    I’m no exegete and you’re no reader.

  36. Zrim says:

    David, I’m not advocating a pacifistic abstinence from defending innocents. When modern day Anabaptist parents ask judges to dismiss the guy who just mowed down their daughter’s classroom because “we’re supposed to forgive our enemies and turn the other cheek” I cringe at the tragic confusion of law and gospel. Judges are to dispense law, not grace (vice versa for elders).

    But almost as disturbing for me is the idea that when Jesus said not to resist an evil man he meant fight him when the going got tough.

  37. Paul M. says:

    Darryl, I’m not 6 day, but most everyone seems to agree that 6 literal days is the prima facie reading of the text. Even Kline said so. Even Tremper Longman says so. That’s why 6-day is called the fundy reading of the text. Anyway, I guess on your view a historical Adam isn’t the literal reading of the text since you can’t have grown men who missed childhood. The point is, if Zrim’s gonna pull “that’s the common sense reading,” he’s going to commit himself to all manner of silly readings. You know this is true.

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