All posts by brendon

War

The second in a series of short essays for a course in Ethics. 

How is a Christian to relate to the reality of war?

“…for his own glory and the public good… [God] has armed [civil magistrates] with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”[1]

“It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto… they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.”[2]

The reality of war is rooted in the nature of government as ordained by God and armed by Him with the power of the sword.  That God has done this is established in Romans 13:1-4.  While the Confession is perhaps referring to the exercise of capital punishment in both defensive situations (i.e. “for the defence of them that do good”) and offensive (i.e. “for the punishment of evil doers”), there is no reason to limit the exercise of the sword to the sphere of domestic relations.  Rather, “…this responsibility from God also provides justification for nations to engage in armed conflict (“to bear the sword”) in order to protect their citizens from evildoers who would attack them from outside the nation, including a defence against armies sent by other nations when those armies are “those who do evil (1 Pet 2:14) in the pursuit of such a war.”[3] The second paragraph of the same chapter of the Confession asserts that not only may Christians be involved in the exercise of the sword in domestic affairs, but may also “lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.”

While there is divergence with regard to a Christian view of war, it would appear that the Confession would support the Just War Theory. The concept of Just War is built on several presuppositions, namely[4]:

  • some evil cannot be avoided;
  • the just war position is normative for all, Christian and non-Christian alike;
  • this theory does not try to justify war, rather it attempts to bring war within the limits of justice so that if everyone were guided by these principles, many wars would be eliminated;
  • the theory assumes that private citizens have no right to use force.

This theory, from the outset, “sees war as evil” (Feinberg, 652) and must met several criteria in order to qualify as an ethically permissible “just war”.  Criteria has typically been considered under the categories of jus ad bellum (i.e conditions that must be met before war can be deemed just) and jus in bello (i.e. the conduct and aims of the war). 

Conditions that must be met before war can be deemed just include the following[5]:

  • There must be a proper or legitimate authority who has responsibility for judging whether the other criteria are met.
  • War must be the last resort.
  • Insofar as possible, a formal declaration of war is required.
  • There must be reasonable hope of success.
  • There must be some proportionality between the good objective hoped for and the destruction involved in achieving it.
  • There must be a just cause.
  • The war must be fought with the right intention.

Criteria for the right conduct of war are as follows[6]:

  • There must be a limited objective in waging the war, namely, the restoration of peace.
  • The immediate object is not to kill or even injure people, but to incapacitate or restrain them.
  • Direct attack on non-combatants is illegitimate.
  • One is obligated not to inflict unnecessary suffering.
  • Indirect effects upon civilians must be justified by the principle of proportionality, i.e., the evil averted or the good attained justifies the action.

With regard to those persons featured in the New Testament who were militant by profession, they are never told to resign from their positions, but are rather exhorted to abound in compassion (Luke 3:14).  Additionally, “The NT church included many soldiers on active duty and saw nothing morally inconsistent with Christians serving as military professionals.”[7] 

In sum, how ought the Christian relate to the reality of war?  For one, war is a last resort and as such, the church must insist that all other diplomatic means are employed.  Secondly, there is scope for members of the church to be involved in the military. Third, Christians may serve in active duty in combatant roles given the above criteria of a Just War (with both categories of criteria being substantially satisfied) though they would be compelled to advocate the extending of mercy and sparing of “innocents” such as those serving in non-combatant roles and civilians.

[1] LBC 24:1

[2] LBC 24:2

[3] ESV Study Bible, 2554

[4] Feinberg, 653

[5] Feinberg, 654-655

[6] Feinberg, 655

[7] ESV Study Bible, 2554

Gender

The first in a series of short essays for a course on Ethics.

Explain and demonstrate from Scripture a Christian understanding of gender (sex – male/female) and discuss the implications of this on our culture’s current “gender debate”.

Gender is established in God’s sovereign act of creating man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 21-23).  In this a male/female distinction is established.  Genesis 1:27 is a fundamental text because of the closeness of association between God creating man in his own image, and His creating them male and female.  The creating of man at the start of the verse need not be understood as being synonymous with male (i.e. it would not be right to translate it as “God created males in his own image”).  Rather, it is the collective humanity that God creates in His own image.  This collective humanity is created male and female.  The use of the word translated “them” means that man is neither androgynous nor hermaphrodite.  Rather, it is right to think that God creates human beings and that whether male or female, they bear His image.  There is no scope within the creation account to suggest non-binary gender distinctions.  As Kevin de Young has written “The Bible knows no other gender categories besides male and female. While men and women in Scripture may express their masculinity and femininity in a wonderful diversity of ways, Scripture still operates with the binary categories of men and women. You are one or the other.[1]” Jesus Himself affirms the origin of maleness and femaleness in God’s creative design (Matthew 19:4).

The fall of man into sin has obviously had a significant impact on creation in that through it, it is subject to futility (Romans 8:20).  Again, Kevin de Young asserts “The anomaly of intersex individuals does not undermine the creational design, but rather gives another example of creational “groaning” and the “not the way they are supposed to be” realities of a fallen world.” Though this is the case, and it must be taken into account, there is nothing in the biblical record that supports gender fluidity or non-binary gender distinctions. Granted, although Paul distinguishes a naturalness from an unnaturalness when it comes to the use of one’s body and human sexuality, there is nothing to suggest that naturalness/unnaturalness gives rise to a substantial change in the biological realities of binary gender.  

de Young is not so naïve as to suggest that there are not individuals who struggle at a profound level with the issues of whether what they think and feel accords with the biological gender assigned to them at birth.  Rather, he asserts “The question is whether the is of our emotional or mental state equals the ought of God’s design”.  In other words, he does not allow the existential or situational perspective to confuse the normative perspective on issues of gender. 

de Young concludes his article by saying “I have not begun to answer all the important questions about pastoral care, counsel, and compassion for the hurting and confused.”  In this, he acknowledges that though we stand on a solid foundation of God’s truth concerning gender, we have obligation to approach the issues is raises with Christ-like compassion, especially when acknowledging the hurt and confusion from which gender confusion can arise as well as result in.

[1] https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2016/09/08/what-does-the-bible-say-about-transgenderism/ retrieved 18-10-2017

God in Christ

“Apart from Christ we can only experience the wrath of a dishonored and distant God Who “is angry with the wicked every day” (Psa 7:11). But in Christ God has become to us a reconciled God, a promising God, a glorified God, and a God near to us. Erskine opens up a great deal of the glory of grace that we see when we view God in Christ.” – – Ralph Erskine http://www.chapellibrary.org/book/gich/god-in-christ 

Now Why This Fear and Unbelief

Lyrics:
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for the debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?

Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love

Complete atonement You have made
And by Your death have fully paid
The debt Your people owed
No wrath remains for us to face
We’re sheltered by Your saving grace
And sprinkled with Your blood

How sweet the sound of saving grace
How sweet the sound of saving grace
Christ died for me

Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free

Original Verses by Augustus Toplady (1772), Music, Alternative, and Additional Words by Doug Plank
© 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Pro Life Auckland at Auckland University

Recently, students at the Auckland University were invited to a public discussion concerning an upcoming referendum. The question to be voted on from Monday is relates to whether or not Pro Life Auckland should be disaffiliated from the Auckland University Student’s Association (AUSA). The question also relates to whether a permanent ban should be imposed, preventing any group of similar ideology from becoming affiliated with the AUSA.

The 90-minute discussion was live-streamed to Facebook by the AUSA.

I have taken the liberty of making the watching of the discussion more palatable by isolating selected clips from it and presenting it as a Youtube Playlist. Some of these clips include members of Pro Life Auckland at Auckland University.

Permissive Will

Permissive Will

This is part three in a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Permissive Will

The Permissive Will of God is that will which God does not decree to occur, nor is it His will since it is not in accordance with His Law.  God’s permissive will is His will to permit sin to occur.  God allows man to rebel against Him, and in this God permits people to do such things as lie, steal, etc.

  • Jer. 19:5, “and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind.”
  • Luke 8:32, “Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons entreated Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.”
  • Rom. 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

 

See also Decretive Will (what God causes) and Preceptive Will (what God desires for people).

Matt Slick

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Preceptive Will

Preceptive Will

This is part two of a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Preceptive Will

The Preceptive Will of God is the will of God for man.  For example, God wills that man does not sin, that we do not lie, do not steal, etc.  It is the will of God for man that is revealed through his Law (Exodus 20:1-17) where God is concerned with man following his precepts.  It is also the will of God for us to be holy, repent, love, etc. (1 Pet. 1:16Acts 17:30John 13:34)

  • Rom. 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Eph. 6:6, “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”.
  • 1 Thess. 4:3-6, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”

See also Decretive Will (what God directly wills to cause) and Permissive Will (what God permits to occur).

Matt Slick

About The AuthorMatt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Decretive Will

Decretive Will

This is part one of a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Decretive Will

The Decretive Will of God is that which is God’s sovereign will that we may or may not know, depending on whether or not God reveals it to us.  The decretive will is God’s direct will where he causes something to be, he decrees it.  For example, God has caused the universe to exist as well as Christ‘s incarnation.

  • Job 23:13, “But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does.”
  • Psalm 33:11, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever. The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”
  • Isaiah 14:24, “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand.'”
  • Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, ‘Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’”.
  • Acts 17:24, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.”

See also Preceptive Will (God’s good will for man) and Permissive Will (God permits bad to happen).

Matt Slick
About The AuthorMatt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.