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Sunday, July 28, 2013

6 Big Questions about Your Purpose in Life

God made each individual in a unique fashion, and when he redeems someone it is for specific purposes. God calls us to various missions and tasks through our lives that together compose the unique reason he chose us. Though those calls often come as a surprise, in many cases God has already offered us knowledge about ourselves that may fuel our prayers and prepare us for his next call.

Discerning this knowledge takes a good deal of thought, prayer, and usually conversation with trusted mentors and advisors. Though this is large and serious quest, I offer six simple questions to get you started. I have found these half-dozen questions to be among the most profound, useful, and revealing.

(Let me also give credit where credit is due. I didn't come up with these. 1 and 3 are from Lee Spitzer; 2, 4, and 5 are from Will Mancini.)

1. What are the 4 to 6 most important milestones in your life?

2. What accomplishments have meant the most to you, even if others wouldn’t be impressed by them?

3. Who is your favorite Bible character and why?

4. What bothers you the most about the world that you would change if you could?

5. What one thing would you do for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?

6. What do your answers to questions 1 through 5 have in common?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"A Common Word between Us and You": A Response from Just above the Roots

To the Islamic scholars and clerics who signed "A Common Word between Us and You," and to all those whom you represent:

Mercy and peace be yours.


First, forgive me for being late to the party. I only recently became aware of this thoughtful and gracious overture from global Islam to global Christianity composed five years ago.

At one level, my response to your letter means next to nothing. I do not have the kind of position of prominence and responsibility that the original recipients of your letter have. In fact, even in the position of responsibility that I do have as the pastor of a small American church, I do not write representing the group of believers that I lead but only representing myself.

Nevertheless, there may be some value in my response. As some Christian respondents indicated and as surely at least some of you agree, in order for there to be peace between Muslims and Christians in our world as a down-payment of peace for the rest of the world the sort of message of peace in "A Common Word" must echo not merely at the peaks of religious eminence but also among the rocks where the feet of the mountains meet. Or to change the picture, peace cannot come merely from the flowers but from the roots of the grass. As an ordinary pastor, I am part of the blade of grass just out of the ground, connected on the one side to the roots—the laity, who must make peace work—and on the other to further up the stalk eventually terminating in global Christian leaders. So I hope my vantage point lends a peculiar value to the conversation.

I also wish to indicate that of the responses you have already received, some of them represent me, either formally (organizationally) or by affinity. The one that I particularly would like to point out whose content best represents my views is the response from the Baptist World Alliance.

I want to begin by affirming your perceptive insight that the two Great Commandments to love the Lord our God with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself are at the center of the Christian faith. In fact, I affirm that those two commandments are the Christian faith entirely—as Jesus simply said, "Do this, and you will live" (Luke 10:25-28)—but only as these commandments are unpacked Christianly. If Christians and Muslims can all together affirm these two Great Commandments, then they truly do form "a common word"—so "common," in fact, that we may genuinely be able to call each other fellow worshipers with no boundary between us. But if the content, definitions, and relationships between these two commandments are not agreed upon, then the "common word" is actually not common between you and us after all.

Loving the One God

The heart of both of our faiths is the Godhood of God. For us, this includes his oneness, his onlyness; for you God's oneness dominates the entire doctrinal edifice, and that is where your letter to us begins. On the surface, it would appear that this is the ideal starting place for commonality between our faiths, but it obscures a difficult question.

As Christians discuss Islam among ourselves, one of our most controverted questions is whether we and you worship the same God. On the one hand, this would appear to be easily answered. Both you and we affirm that there is only one God. If there is only one, then by definition there are no alternatives. So if we claim that there is only one God and we worship that God, and you do the same, it would seem that there is no logical room for the idea that we worship different gods. In addition, when we talk about God's attributes and character and when you do the same, we use the same words to describe him, words like infinite, all-powerful, just, merciful. This also would indicate that we endeavor to love the same God with our whole being.

But on the other hand, when we say that there is one God, we do not mean exactly the same thing as when you say that there is one God. We mean that there is one Divine Nature or Divine Essence, one "Godness" that comprises all that it means for God to be God, his infinity, his power, his justice, his mercy. We also mean that three Persons revealed as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each entirely possess that one Divine Nature so that they are exactly the same; that these three have total access to, knowledge of, and love for each other; that their loves and hates, choices and actions are all perfectly aligned; and that the only distinction that can be made between them is who comes from whom and how. All of this is what we mean when we say "one God."

I also note by way of explanation something that could easily make our faith especially confusing to you. In the Christian Scriptures, the word rendered in English "God" sometimes refers to all three Divine Persons as One and other times refers specifically to the Father. Similarly, the word rendered in English "Lord" sometimes refers to all three Divine Persons as One, sometimes to the Father, and sometimes to the Son. In the First Great Commandment, we believe that "God" means all three Divine Persons as One; therefore the command is to love the One God Who Is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

This is important, because it would seem that the very least we can do to love this God, especially with "all our mind," is to believe what God says about God's self. No one can love anyone without believing that the beloved's self-description is trustworthy. That trust is something of a base level of love. We believe that God has described God's self as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We trust God's self-description, and this trust is essential, our bare minimum of what it means to love God.

We realize that at this time you cannot agree with this and do not accept this revelation, and therefore it is not certain that we and you agree in a meaningful sense on the Great Commandment to love God with all our being. It also suggests that if we worship the God Who Is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while you do not that we actually do not worship the same God. But whether or not that is the case, it still raises serious doubt that we and you are actually pursuing the same goal when we each speak of loving God.

Why We Love Our Neighbor

I could not help noticing that the section of "A Common Word" on "Love of the Neighbour" is strikingly brief compared to the rest of the document. I wonder why this is, and I hope that you have produced or will produce resources that explain this and more generally explain love of neighbor in Islam. I also noticed that in that section you do not describe the connection or relationship between love of God and love of neighbor. In other words, why are these two particular commandments the greatest, and what do they have to do with one another?

In Christianity, the relationship between love of God and love of neighbor is grounded in the relationality within God. As one of our apostles (John) wrote, "God is love," not just that God does love (1 John 4:8, 16). The love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is part of the very being of God.

Because relational love is inherent in God, relational love is a necessary part of human nature, since, as you and we agree, God created humanity in God's image and likeness. Among other appropriate inferences from this idea, it means that the relationality among humans is a reflection of God's inherent relationality, and love among humans is our God-intended imitation of God. Therefore, loving one's neighbor as fully as one loves oneself is love of God with one's entire being, because it is by loving one another that we obey God by displaying his image as he created us to do.

We hold that God did not only create humanity to reflect his relational love, but God saved (began redeeming and re-creating) humanity to reflect it also. We hold that by disobeying God and plunging into sin, humanity severed its connection to the love of God in crucial ways. In the same way that an irrigation system's water turns stagnant, stale, foul, and limited by being cut off from its water supply, so humanity's love soured as humans recirculated a finite quantity of tainted, impure, inferior, ignorant, often destructive, mortal love amongst each other. But God, being Love itself, began restoring us by reconnecting us to God and pouring God's infinite love back into us again. We hold that God did this through the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son. As John again put it, "By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God [the Father] sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

Based on what you wrote in "A Common Word," it would seem that in Islam the love of neighbor is essentially legal, whereas in Christianity it is essentially relational though sometimes expressed in legal terms. It also appears that in Islam God's love is God's response to those who love (Aal ‘Imran, 3:31), whereas in Christianity God's love is primarily God's enablement of those who love—in other words, "We love because he loved us first" (1 John 4:19).

With, For, and Against

In "A Common Word," you thoughtfully compare two of our own Scriptures, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Matthew 12:30) and, "For whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40; also Luke 9:50 which replaces "us" with "you"). However, both of these sayings need to be looked at more closely in their respective contexts.

You cite Theophylact of Ohrid as interpreting Matthew 12:30 to refer to demons as the ones who were against Jesus. As Jesus is teaching about demons in that part of Matthew, that is assuredly the case. But just because Jesus' principle applies to demons, it does not negate the saying's application to humans as well. Theophylact himself pointed out that Jesus' human critics were the ones "scattering" people away from hearing and being healed by him so that, to Jesus, the critics were like the demons.

As it happens, the saying in Mark (and Luke) also involves demons. When Jesus' disciples were jealous of a stranger who threw demons out of people in Jesus' name, Jesus replied, "Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me" (Mark 9:39). The man in the story who was "not against" Jesus and his followers was a man who worked a miracle through his faith in Jesus as the source of power over supernatural evil.

What both sayings have in common is Jesus portrayed as the peerless Savior of human beings from demonic forces. The sayings also agree, from different angles, that a person is either "for" and "with" Jesus or "against" him. There is no neutrality or third option.

I am grateful for the respect that you have shown us Christians by the respect that you show Jesus Christ in "A Common Word," which is founded on the honor paid to Jesus by the Prophet Muhammad. But a crucial word of clarification is in order. Though the English word "Christ" and the Greek word it roughly transliterates quickly evolved into a name for Jesus as early as the 1st century C.E., it did not begin this way. "Christ" comes from a Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "anointed" (in English roughly transliterated "messiah"). "Christ," then, is a title: he is Jesus "the Anointed."

The background of the title "Anointed" comes from the richness of the Hebrew Scriptures, which we Christians call the Old Testament. Formally anointed men were leaders: prophets (for example, Elisha, 1 Kings 19:16), priests (for example, Aaron, Leviticus 8), and kings (for example, David, 1 Samuel 16:1-13). Each of these three roles was mediatorial—prophets, priests, and kings were go-betweens between God's people and God. When Christians call Jesus "Christ," the Anointed One, we are naming him the "one intermediary between God and humanity" (1 Timothy 2:5-6), the final, complete, superior, living bridge between us and God. Jesus the Christ, God the Son, fulfilled this role not only in what he did by serving as "a ransom for all" through his death but also in his very person as the one who possesses all that is inherent in God's nature and also all that is inherent in human nature.

Therefore, when Christians think about being "with" and "for" Jesus, we think the same as we do about loving God with all our being. The least we can do to be "with" and "for" Jesus is to believe what God has revealed about him, including what he says about himself. Distrust about something that basic is incompatible with being "with" and "for" him. If he truly is the Christ, the sole Anointed Intermediary, with all that that means, then any honor shown to Jesus that falls short of that acknowledgment is in the end mistrust—in the end, it is standing "against" him. Thus, despite the sincere honor that you and all Islam endeavor to pay to Jesus, if it does not affirm what Jesus said about himself as the most minimal honor, it casts serious doubt onto whether our honor of Jesus and yours truly cohere in "a common word between us and you" and if we really are both "for" Jesus.


To conclude, thank you for the concern for our world and indeed for our lives that led you to do the difficult but well-done work of composing "A Common Word" and submitting it to us. It is in the same spirit of grace that I compose this response to you. I write in the belief that whether or not this word truly is common—an assertion about which I have grave doubts, as my response describes—nevertheless sharing a common word is not a requirement for us to love each other as we both believe we ought to do. We can, we should, and I pledge to you that I will. Your affirmation of the basis for religious freedom in Islam—a principle that historically has been especially beloved to us Christians in the Baptist tradition—gives me hope that you truly do and will too.

I notice that you have explored the first three of our four books called Gospels in your search for "a common word between us and you." That is an excellent place to start. However, let me suggest that for further exploration, the best Christian writing you might peruse is the First Epistle of John (commonly abbreviated "1 John"), which I cited in this response. I mention 1 John because the book carefully considers love of the one God, love of neighbor, what it means to be for Jesus, and the relationships between all these ideas, and it does so in a remarkably small space. Some study of this short book would likely reveal the essence of Christianity more efficiently than any other approach.

Once again, thank you for the thoughtful care and careful thought you have given us. I join you in praying for peace in our world. And I pray that you and we both would excel ever further in our pursuit of loving God. Wal-Salaamu ‘Alaykum.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Appealing to the Secular Religion

A few months ago I was sitting in the "multipurpose room" of a moderately swanky suburban private day school. Various brightly colored, encouragingly instructive messages and iconography adorned the walls (like stickers about "the wilderness" and composting). Among them were five signs that I took to be the official values of the school:
  • critical thinking
  • diversity
  • integrity
  • community
  • empathy
It occurred to me that these values are among the basic tenets of contemporary secular religion. I use the term "religion" a bit boldly, because the accoutrements of traditional religion—including priesthood, liturgy, pantheon/saints, festivals, doctrine, purity codes, etc.—manifest themselves subtly in secular religion and can be difficult to pick out, though one could brainstorm examples of all of them. But because it is an integrated, though at times self-dissonant, worldview and lifestyle that orients a person and community to Ultimate Matters, I think that "religion" is the best word for it. It also casts in a somewhat amusing light another word on the gym wall:

I thought about how all five of those values are positive things that I agree with and believe in but about how if the Christian school that I graduated from were to articulate its top five values, they would be entirely different. Some people have pointed out that what makes values valuable is not the values themselves but their comparative ranks. This is because almost everyone affirms almost everything put forth by anybody as a value. What makes an institution or individual unique, however, is which values take precedence over other values if a crisis forces us to choose among them.

So even though I affirm all these values to one degree or another, at first I smirked cynically (and self-righteously) at this display of secular religion, thinking, "I'd never send my kids here (as if I could afford it)."

But then I opened my Bible to pick up my daily reading in the Book of Acts, and I realized that Paul the Apostle would not look at these tenets of secular religion as I just did. He would view them as a bridge, a means to connect with people of a different religion in order to introduce them to the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Paul would affirm critical thinking. He would make common ground with the honing of the mind to look at the roots of ideas and where ideas lead, cutting through thoughtless foolishness along the way. He would then point out that this is exactly what God does when he looks at humanity's best thinking: "Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish?" (1 Cor. 1:20). He would note with Isaiah that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). Nevertheless, "God has revealed these to us by the Spirit," and therefore "the one who is spiritual discerns all things" because "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:10, 15-16). Therefore, supreme critical thinking is possessed by those who have been enlightened by the Spirit of God.

Paul would affirm diversity. He would celebrate the joining together of a vast array of cultures, nations, languages, sexes, classes, educational attainments, vocations, and gifts. He would then argue that the only way to achieve this diversity authentically without it blowing apart is if the bond among diverse persons is Christ himself. In him "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all" (Col. 3:11). But this is not a melting-pot eradication of diversity, because through him are (not "were") all things (Rom. 11:36). Christ is the only one high and worthy enough and also accessible enough to connect all peoples, and he is also the only one broad and deep enough that each unique person or people is a precious, irreducible manifestation of his beauty.

Paul would affirm integrity. He would wholeheartedly insist on it in all one's being, thinking, speaking, and acting. But he would set a far loftier standard for integrity than people usually settle for. Then he would give the good news that integrity can be secured by justification—the reception of God's undeserved gift of a "not guilty" verdict by nothing more than faith that Christ is our comprehensive, sacrificial substitute by his death on the cross. He would then announce the further good news that "now we have been released from the law . . . so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit" (Rom. 7:6), who transforms us inwardly into the sort of people who do live with integrity as Christ himself lives through us (Gal. 2:20).

Paul would affirm community. He would maintain strongly that human beings are more than individuals—they are part of a whole, and always will be. He would claim that the question is not whether one is in community but which community one is in. He would contrast the community into which we all are born—the community "in Adam," a community doomed to die, in which natural ("of the flesh") warring subcommunities of race, tribe, and faction prevail—with the community into which we may be born again by faith—the community "in Christ," which is "one body" that shares one bread and drinks of one cup (1 Cor. 10:16-17). This community of peace lives forever and tastes that eternal life as its members live together even now.

Finally, Paul would affirm empathy. He would sketch numerous examples of empathy in action, as for example to "rejoice with those who rejoice [and] weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15). He would describe empathy as "be[ing] of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose . . . be[ing] moved to treat one another as more important than yourself" (Phil. 2:2-3). As Paul hints here, empathy is not a strong virtue on its own but only as an assistant of love, "which is the perfect bond" of all the virtues (Col. 3:14). Love goes beyond empathy, beyond merely understanding or even feeling for one's neighbor to sacrificing oneself to help them, deserving or not, just as God did for us in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:8). Only those who have received this love in fullness have the resource within to pour it out on others.

We don't live in an irreligious world. Even in its most irreligious places, there is often a covert religion humming in the background. It is not a religion that saves. But like the rest, it is a religion that contains signs that point to salvation in the name of Jesus. We who have the mind of Christ are to help people to see the signs and walk with them on the way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Christian Pacifism and Christian Fellowship: A July 4th Meditation

I stand by the response I wrote to my friend about pacifism in my previous post, especially the parts about not forming a "canon within the canon" of Scripture and sensitivity to both the personal and the social consequences of the Bible's ethical teaching, which sometimes coexist in paradox. However, I wrote the response to my friend months ago, a bit before I attended my latest Doctor of Ministry residency, an experience which unsettled my confidence on this issue.

But before I talk about that experience, I need to sketch background by describing my personal journey of understanding and evaluating the American Civil War.

I'll never forget my 5th-grade teacher giving me her weighty copy of The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, which I still treasure. As a boy my excited thoughts on the Civil War were simple and predictable. War was glorious and thrilling. And the Union forces were the good guys for straightforward reasons: (1) they were from the North, like me; (2) what they did freed slaves; (3) they won. Then and through Ken Burns' awesome documentary a few years later, the war was fun for me. The good guys prevailed against an honorable foe.

I dropped the subject for a long time, picking it up again as a young adult. My perspective had changed. Suffused with political theory as I had become, the war seemed to me a tragic bloodbath over rival constitutional truths, a sweet tension between the One and the Many delicately arranged by our Founders turned into a tug-of-war and wrenched to one out-of-balance pole not by reason but by force. A war that in one way nobody won . . . except for slaves, who didn't in fact really win for another hundred years or more.

Now I'm back at it again, older still. I am doing a doctoral thesis on an abolitionist active during the Civil War, and research has propelled me into the war and its causes at much greater breadth and depth than I have ever looked at it before. In my study over the last year I found myself taken out of what I thought was my mature balance, thoughtfulness, seeing-all-sides-of-the-question and sent back to my childhood. The magnitude of slavery, the true, deep, often invisible rottenness of it, and the extent of its tentacles suffused through American life in all states, in all classes, has staggered me. Now, despite my sympathy for soldiers on all sides, despite my loss of youthful bravado and my fear of war, despite my realist's appraisal of the impurities in the Union cause . . . if I was suddenly transported back to 1861, I would enlist under the United States flag in a second.

At least, that's what I thought before my last residency. My cohort is composed of a healthy mix of Northerners and Southerners (with a Canadian and a Korean to boot) who love each other dearly and who have very different takes on the war. We are more intimate friends now than when we started our program, and at our last residency our subject matter took us closer to the Civil War era. There was some good-natured banter about nomenclature—is it "The Civil War" (or "The War of the Great Rebellion") or "The War between the States" (or "The War of Northern Aggression")?—but there was an edge that you could feel under the joking, an edge that sometimes emerged into serious (and, thank God, peaceable) conversations.

It was here that I was forced to confront something that my friend X pointed out in his message to me weeks before. If I know a believer who is my brother in Christ, with whom I have shared sweet fellowship, with whom I have prayed and worshiped and embraced and even wept, how could I go into battle with the possibility that I could intentionally slay him? It is unthinkable. No matter how wrong he is in his political convictions it is difficult to imagine any justification for personally putting a Christian brother to death because of it.

But that experience of fellowship with a Christian brother is just an outworking of the union we have with Christ and with each other in Christ. We would have that union whether we had ever met or not. That means that even if the men across the field from me were total strangers, if any of them were born from above in Christ then we have that very same union that it would be ghastly to strain by purposely killing each other.

Three days ago I stood on the ridge where the first shot was fired in the Battle of Gettysburg exactly 150 years before. 150 years ago thousands of men, most of them professing Christians, slaughtered each other on those fields and woods and hillsides. I believe that the war was a pitiable, tragic shame though I also believe in my bones that the Union cause was right, if not without flaw. But would I really have shot or bayoneted or clubbed to death an anonymous Christian brother for it? Would I have endured the terror of impending death in the roar and smoke and sprayed blood and shattered bones, eyes fixed in fear and rage on my enemy, only to suddenly, in the blink of an eye, find myself dumbstruck in the blazing throne room of Almighty God looking at the very man I had just killed, who had also just killed me?

The day after the battle both sides remembered that exactly four score and seven years before a group of revolutionary leaders ratified the text of America's Declaration of Independence. Both sides believed they were fighting to secure the result of that revolution. I think about the earlier struggle in much the same way as I do the Civil War. I believe that the principles of the Declaration are right, that they elevated a revolt against paying taxes into a moral stand worth taking and a cause worth fighting and dying for. But would I have bayoneted an unknown Christian Englishman or attacked my Christian, Loyalist neighbors for it?

The dilemma is this: if I believe that a cause is just, but I refuse on principle to fight for it, then do I really believe that the cause is just for anyone to fight for it? But if no one fights for it, then how will the government do its duty to uphold justice?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pacifism and "Red-Letter Christians": A Letter from a Friend

"On the one hand" today. "On the other hand" later this week.

Hi Cory and J,

On Wednesday I read this blog post written by a current U.S. soldier who is in the process of becoming a conscientious objector. I found it to be very powerful, especially the link to a clip of Tony Campolo telling a story he heard from Philip Yancy about a Christian purposefully blowing out the brains of another Christian (in war).

I will gradually be viewing this video series, which the blog author says was instrumental in his conversion.

That's all for now. I try not to become one of those people who is always passing something on for you to read or watch, but this really hit home for me.



I finally read this. Thanks for your patience. I didn't take the time to watch the videos or read the links though.

First, I want to say that I admire this young man tremendously for being so principled—for seriously grappling with the Scriptures and being willing to stick his neck out alone and go against the grain because of his obedient love for Christ. That's awesome.

Nevertheless, let me bluntly warn you that I have a MASSIVE level of irritation with the so-called "Red Letter Christian" concept (notwithstanding my great respect and appreciation for my fellow American Baptist, Tony Campolo).

The irritation can be summed up in two critiques.

First, prioritizing the "red words" as "the words that Jesus said" implies that the "black words" are not ALSO "the words that Jesus said" through his Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles. I have sharp distaste for the deliberate construction of a "canon within the canon," no matter who makes it and no matter what its shape (notwithstanding the Christ-centered exegesis of the Old Testament modeled by Jesus and the apostles). It violates Jesus' own theology of Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:17-18 in the Sermon on the Mount of all places; also John 10:35). I greatly resent a theological ethic of state use of force that presupposes the superiority of Matt. 5 over Rom. 13.

Second, peace-and-justice Christians do not improve the inferior hermeneutic of politically conservative Christians; they simply invert it. Political conservatives read what the Bible says about showing distributive justice and mercy to the poor, and interpret it in the most narrowly individualistic fashion—that it is all about voluntary charity from one individual to another. Then they read what the Scriptures say about war and retributive justice and construct a far-reaching social ethic regarding the state's use of force.

All peace-and-justice Christians do is flip this around. They read what the Bible says about the poor and construct a complex social ethic of state-administered wealth (or at least income) redistribution and social safeguards on the market. Then they read what the Bible (actually only a portion of the Bible) says about war, violence, and criminal justice and interpret it individualistically—"I can't shoot a person and love him at the same time, so war is wrong." Note that at no place in this young soldier's testimony does he say a word about what the Bible says about the state's obligation to its citizens and the scope of its God-given authority.

The right method for theological-ethical construction is to take what the WHOLE Bible (Christocentrically interpreted) says about wealth and poverty and derive (1) an ethic for individuals and (2) an ethic for societies and states, then to do the same for what it says about war, violence, and criminal justice. The ethic for individuals may in some ways easily cohere with the ethic for societies and states. In other ways the ethics may coexist in paradox (e.g., "Individual, don't steal; state, tax and redistribute"; "Individual, don't retaliate in kind; state, retaliate in kind, preemptively if necessary").

Finally, though, I am glad for Christian pacifists, because they force the rest of us to be careful that we don't get lazy by just giving lip-service to "war as the last resort." Also, pacifists have been motivated to pioneer peacemaking strategies that prevent conflicts from getting to "the last resort" or backing it down once it gets there. Every Christian should support and celebrate this, and too often we don't. Nevertheless, I have never seen a case made for thoroughgoing pacifism that does not appear to me to be biblically narrow, selectively individualistic, and unbalanced.