Recently a family member railed against the newest Prince Caspian movie that has been put out. Now, for me as the marketing dweeb, my first thoughts on this type of activity is the commercial aspect of the film. It has grossed all of $75M, which means that it has gotten a slow start out of the blocks. The reviews have been pretty good, but the newest movie fails the impact of the first installment of the series. Therefore, it will be questionable if it gets a follow-up third episode, as it needs to get to $400M to make enough money to justify making the next one.
Now, while I have not been able to see the film, when my family member savaged it on his blog, I was curious as to why he disliked it so much. The main bone of his contention is that the story, which he has only seen in the movies since he has not read the book, is very anti-Christian to him. At the core of his issue is Aslan, who is obviously a incarnation of the Christ, and his violent crushing of his foes.
My favorite line from him is as follows:
"If the Church stands behind "Christian" stories such as this one, We make Ourselves into little more than the White Islam. We claim to love peace one moment, only to claim the next moment is special or too much and calls for anything-but peace."
In this post, I want to open up the problem of violence, and what it means. Those that criticize a violent God have the exact same core of the problem as those that do violence to others. Because they do not understand the fundamental nature of God and his rights, we misinterpret what the scriptures say, and we don't understand who God is.
Before we talk about the right viewpoint of God and violence, we need to first understand the two viewpoints commonly held in the church today.
Viewpoint 1: God Has Changed
This is the viewpoint that I see in our young reviewer above. To him and his friends, the image of God as a violent being that expresses this violence through people has clearly passed. He consider who Christ was and the time that he walked on this earth. Their logic goes something like this:
If we look in the Old Testament, we see God prohibiting a lot of things. For example, prostitutes were to be executed. People caught in adultery were to executed. Yet, when we get to the figure of Christ, we find a man that was willing to eat with the prostitutes. We see him saving a woman in adultery. The message that Jesus brings to the earth is that "we are all sinners." We should try and do good, but if we do bad, then we are forgiven.
So, the God in the Old Testament has transformed. He now has a New Testament and a New Covenant. We have the propitiation model.
Nobody is perfect, and that is okay.
Viewpoint 2: God As Being Justified In His Actions And Sometime Violence Is Okay
These people are much more open to violence of all sorts. They are the ones that are willing to go to Iran to fight. They are for a strong defense. They believe that America is right to go to war.
Now, let's look at a troubling passage in Numbers 31:
" 13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.
15 "Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. 16 "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."
I had one of my family members state that God was justified in condoning this activity because the Midianites burned their babies. They were so bad, God just needed to kill off these people. So, in really "bad" cases, God will commit genocide. Thus, having a little war for a good cause is just fine. In really bad cases, God may need to wipe somebody out.
So, let us look at both of these viewpoint from a scriptural standpoint. Do these hold up?
For the new found tolerant person, they ignore Revelations 19.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."
We find out that the risen Lord is not a man of passiveness. We find he is not a man of tolerance. We find out that he is violent in nature, and his slaughter is so great that the birds feast on the flesh of the dead enemy.
Our milquetoast savior is gone. Left is a might force that is terrible to behold. A force the same as his Father.
The tolerant viewpoint just doesn't stand up.
But, how about the other viewpoint. The idea that in "really bad" cases, violence is okay?
This is as fatally flawed as the tolerant person. We must start off with the example of the early church. The gospel was spread by a group of individuals that were kind to all. They took in the prostitute and the greedy.
However, from a complete scriptural standpoint, these views are most difficult to puncture. So, of the two viewpoint this is the less egregious of the two.
However, we must appeal to commonsense here. One only needs to read of the 30 Year War that demolished the continental Europe to understand what religious "intolerance" means. Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists all killing each other because they had the "right view" of scripture. Schwedentrunk being practiced by the armies of the religious. Intolerance breeds destruction and curses down on the heads of Christians.
So, what is the right viewpoint?
The first thing to realize is that God knows and approves every death. Did you die in the great slaughter of Numbers 31? Yes? Then God approved this death.
Did you die of a heart attack? If the answer is yes, then God approved this death. Were you tortured and killed? Then God approved this death.
As hard as it may seem to us, God allows torture, suffering and pain. God approves and allows every death. Not a sparrow falls from the sky that God doesn't know about it.
"How can God be so heartless?" one might ask.
See this is the secret of the incarnation. With this act, God declares that "I ask you no more than what I did." Christ allowed himself to be tortured beyond belief, and see the worse of all deaths. While we may hate suffering, to God it is all part of life. It is not desired, and Christ asked for the cup to pass him by. But the lesson of the incarnation is that we must all take the road in front of us. I will not seek it out, as I am not a masochist. If asked to suffer, I will go begging and screaming in the other direction. However, I have no perception that this is "unfair." I am scared of it, but accepting.
It is my belief that killing is not wrong. The key, however, is that it must be God who directly commands the killing, for it to be right.
Now we get to the whole point of the right view of killing, tolerance, suffering, and genocide. The tolerant viewpoint gets it wrong, because they believe that God has changed. This is incorrect. He is exactly the same. With the advent of our Lord on Earth, what has changed is our rights and our relationship with the Lord. In the Old Covenant, we were dead under the law. In the New Covenant, we are freed from the law. However, because we are forgiven, there is no right for us to judge. By in large, we must give up our desire for revenge, and we must forgive.
I will not cast a stone at homosexual, and neither will I put an adulterer to death. I am a part of the new covenant, and I am following our Lord's example of how to live an earthly life.
However, this does not mean that the Lord has continued in this role. Mind you, we are not under the Old Testament Law. It is passed. However, holiness and purity are still required. Violence is no longer our option, but it is our Lord's.
We cannot listen to a crazy person or a pastor that tells us to take arms. We should not be convinced in some slick propaganda that we are "doing the right thing and defending our country."
However, if the Lord appears tomorrow on a White Horse and commands me to take up my sword....
I will do it willingly. And if that seems disturbing, I have great confidence that it will only happen after the rapture or the resurrection.