12 October 2016

Spurgeon on the Unrighteousness of War

A great quote from Charles Spurgeon. Isn't it interesting how when Bible-based Christians are not wielding political power, as indeed Non-conformists in 19th century Great Britain certainly were not, there is no zeal for empire, for conquest, for the 'glory' of the nation. Establishment Christianity whether formal or simply the result of a contrived theological narrative is a poison to the Christian soul. How quickly does it invert the ethics of the Christian Church!

It's also interesting to consider that the quote comes in the context of Britain's wars in Afghanistan and later that same year the United Kingdom would be engaged in yet another imperial scheme in the First Boer War.
“We are up to the hilt advocates for peace, and we earnestly war against war.  I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter. . . . Today, then, my brethren, I beg you to join with me in seeking renewal.”
From An All-Round Ministry, (Charles Spurgeon’s Annual Conference Addresses at the Pastors College), “A New Departure.”   [SIXTEENTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Spring 1880]


  1. Thank you for this.

    Two big things I think about are peace-making and masculinity within the Church. In the gender anarchy of the era, I see some Christians conflate a sense masculinity with blood-shed and militarism. And simultaneously, I see peace advocates who disregard sexual differentiation as distraction or irrelevant (and not impinging on the psyche). I feel like a space-alien in trying to make arguments.

    Recalling Spurgeon's own principled stance is helpful. Whatever your intentions in posting this, God blessed me with it.


  2. Mike Snow's blog is all about Spurgeon on War: https://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/. His story is like yours - I think.

  3. I can't remember right now but that might be where I got it from. It's been sitting in my pending file for some time.

    I posted it because the world is gripped by war and its lies. This is true all the time but it seems particularly poignant at that moment.

    1. Laurence Vance wrote a lengthy article over a decade ago about Spurgeon and War.

      Sorry to go off-topic but have you seen this interesting article from Metaxas?

  4. Funny it was Vance. He's quite hostile to Calvinism. I appreciate his work regarding Christians, militarism and war. It's too bad that he's also part of the Austrian School crowd but despite that I think he's doing a great job.

    I'd happily read the Metaxas article but WSJ won't let you unless you register with them. What does he say?

  5. Wow the article was available to everyone just yesterday. WSJ locked it down fast. When I get some time I'll share some thoughts but here's a summary from another site http://religionnews.com/2016/10/12/popular-christian-author-eric-metaxas-stands-by-donald-trump/

    1. Yeah Murdoch wants you to pay.

      Metaxas has been indicating as much in his daily 'Breakpoint' commentaries. It's not much of a surprise is it?

      Of course once again, 99% of the public is stuck in this false dichotomy of either/or. Not to defend Trump for one moment, but it's ironic that Hillary Clinton has now turned to the same tactics the Right used against her husband in the 1990s. Issues? No. They're just going after his character and have turned to smut.

      The president is launching cruise missiles into Yemen, we're on the brink of geopolitical and economic meltdown... but we're talking about smut.

      Trump and Bill Clinton are likely both rapists. It's not that shocking. They're megalomaniacs as are many who seek power.

  6. Another blog that focuses on calling to account Metaxas, David Barton, and others of the Christian Right is Warren Throckmorton's site: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton. Of course he does not track along with the Christian sacralization themes your site unveils, but has a contribution otherwise. I think most of the political discussions today would be better able to understand what is going on if they would frequent this site. The groundwork is here along with the implications to the structure(s) being built by Christians. I just finished a good book called "It is Not Lawful for me to Fight" by Jean-Michel Hornus. While dealing mainly with the violence of the state, it shows the early Christian wrestling with their relationship towards it and what faithfulness should look like.

    1. No indeed he does not. In fact his media commentaries I've heard via interviews are pretty bad. Yet, it's nice to see that at least a few people have realised that Trump is not someone a Christian can support.

      I see this whole Trump thing as an outworking of the same forces that were behind ECT in 1994. This is where it all leads. It's bigger than just catholicism and evangelicalism. It's about the prioritisation of culture war over principle. This combined with other social factors at work in Right wing politics have brought us to this point.

      It's baffling why they would support him anyway. He's not a conservative.

      I'm waiting to see what happens after the election. Is he going to go away? Is he going to be like Sarah Palin and keep stirring the pot? It sounds like he's trying to build a movement... one based on delegitimising Clinton et al. Someone recently said something to the effect that by breaking with the RNC he's basically saying the next round is going to be at the street level. That may be true but that's going to mean street violence.

      I just looked up the Hornus book... yikes, it's kind of pricey. But it's worth the read?

    2. OOPs. After rereading my post, I realized I mixed something up. Frequenting YOUR site, not Throckmorton's, to lay the groundwork is what I meant. Once someone gets acquainted with the history you relate, they can navigate a site like Throckmorton's and be able to see how what he is taking to task has parallels, without swallowing everything he blogs about.

      Yes, it is disappointing that Hornus' book is so expensive. Hornus is a French reformed pastor who was forced to deal with "Constantinianism" by what he saw as the "complexities and contradictions" in Christian thinking when moving from Pre-Constantinianism to Christian Soldiers to "Soldier-Saints." The French 2nd edition was translated by Alan Kreider - a Mennonite historian - and first published by Herald Press. I think Wipf and Stock bought the rights to many Herald Press books for republishing.

      It IS worth the read. What I found so good about it was that he realizes and attempts to avoid as much as possible the generalizations that plague issues like this. Christian faithfulness is spotty at best even before Constantine, but the thinking of church leaders which Hornus relates shows the honest (and sometimes not so honest) grappling with trying to figure out how to relate to empire and remain faithful. Hornus had many French critics of his first edition, which he addresses in a Postscript. It is interesting to see the rationalizations of those critics. I am of the opinion that whenever a way of thinking - like Jesus' - threatens someone's identity and the means to secure it, people react vehemently in protest, and expose their own dissonance in defending the indefensible.

      Just to get that nuance and careful scholarship is worth the price.

    3. No, no I understood what you meant about Throckmorton. He's interesting, I will say that.

      Alan Kreider has done some fine work. He's speaking in Ohio next month on his new book. It's a pastor's conference so I'm not sure I can get in but I was thinking about trying to go. It's a bit of trek as I'm in PA, but I may go if I can.

      Your comments on the Hornus book intrigue me. I'll put in on the list and wait until I'm making a big book purchase. Thanks for the tip.

    4. Check out Ebay. I did a Google search "Jean Michel Hornus Ebay" and this came up:

    5. I think Metaxas should have stuck with VeggieTales. Sacrilegious cartoons are more his province. (wincing smile)

      Thanks for the ebay hint. I'll look into picking it up.

  7. OOPs again. I forgot to add something concerning whether "Donald Trump will go away." My wife and I are involved in a Muslim community. They've welcomed us even though they know we are committed Christians. We've stopped to listen first rather than plunge forward in evangelism tactics. As a result we've had more discussions about Jesus' claims than we probably would have otherwise. For us, we see a fearful minority sandwiched between their radicals and those "radicals" of the Christian Right. This community reminds me of the minority Christian community under pagan Rome in the first century. Christians in America have sacralized a piece of real estate and "claim it for Christ." But you already know and understand that disastrous thinking. This community does not (even if Islam has the same kind of thinking).

    I've had discussions with both Christians and Muslims about the election. It can afford the opportunity to talk about what your site is all about - with the disastrous implications to Christian mission.

    Taking what I consider a more "mission" approach, We've told both our Christian and Muslim friends that we will be voting for Hillary (!) We explain we don't want to see our Muslim friends under constant fear of deportation or torture. Even those who contribute to missions in the church never stop to think past the end of their own noses when it comes to American politics. When confronted with the issues of abortion and sexual perversion associated with the Democrats, we relate how Paul thought about "moralizing" or social engineering the world as if that was the church's mission. Paul clearly saw where accountability lay with the church. But the decision we are making may have to be more critically thought through.

    When reading Daniel, when Daniel confronts Nebuchadnezzar that it is "God who is sovereign over the nations and places whomever he wills over it" the first thing that might strike us as odd is why would God put someone like Nebuchadnezzar over it all? Compared to him, Donald Trump looks like he is in playschool (but having the power of the president of the US in the hands of a narcissistic psycopath today might be more troubling). At any rate, we do have to consider God having plans that we can't see clearly. Like Habakkuk, we have to come to the place of trust.

    I see Hillary as a sigh of relief for my Muslim friends. But I explain that if she wins, all that disgruntlement that is coming out in this contest might just erupt in violence anyway. And of course, just like every election, those who opposed her could just say "See, we told you so" as things fall apart as they do under every administration. Seeing Trump win and showing that he is no more capable than anyone else to solve all problems might give us the ability to say "See, we told you so." But even I wonder if the risk is too great.

    At any rate, all this should challenge us that there is a way to carry out faithfulness totally unrelated to worldly politics, even as it must call out those politics. Even if I have to understand my audiences political context, hope is only found in Jesus' audit of it all in relationship to God's kingdom coming.

    1. Hillary won't be as domestically antagonistic but I fear she may prove quite bellicose and that may bode ill for the Muslim world. It's strange the whole post 9/11 experience has become something of a blur. It's never gone away and yet in another sense it's been so long, it's almost like with ISIS and now Trump our society is having to experience the angst all over again.

      The story about the Muslim friends is interesting. I wish I had more opportunities for interesting social interactions. I usually get on rather well with any 'foreigners' I meet. Lamentably I live in an area that 99.9% white. It's kind of dull and there aren't even any good restaurants!

      But seriously, I think a TRUE Christian testimony to immigrants, especially Muslims is really important and you're sowing seeds that may bring forth a tremendous harvest. God speed.

    2. And I wish more people would take the Nebuchadnezzar perspective that you mention. Trump and Hillary are both awful. Most presidents have been. But all this hype, this notion that the world is about to end if this or that person gets elected... give me a break. I get a lot of blank looks when I repeatedly remind people that Romans 13 war written when Nero was the emperor. Bill and Hillary are deplorable. Trump is detestable too, but they're not Nero.

    3. Concerning Hillary Clinton, that is why I think my decision to vote for her requires more critical nuance. Currently I would have to say my vote is a pragmatic way to keep Trump out and give our Muslim constituency a sense we care for them in a practical way. But you pointing out her hawkish ways "over there" is an important observation that needs to be considered as well. I think, though, anyone who is going to be president of the U.S. is doing so at a time of its demise. The empire is reaping what it has sown. And the response, regardless of who is president, will be one of escalation as America's supposed "exceptionalism" is threatened. After all its Holy War, isn't it, when a geo-political nation-state is sacralized? Even though the Republican Evangelical constituency only sees God attached to them, the Democrats do the same implicitly.

      You are right to say our involvement with our Muslim community is interesting. Our Christian friends think we are at risk of being converted by the way we find ourselves approaching this circumstance. But given most Christian thinking here these days is apostate, my wife and I are walking through an open door of unknowns, having a sense that it may be the only way God can communicate with these people in light of an apostate church all around them. And the conversations have been incredible. Still, our greatest grief and disappointment is how the Christian constituency reacts.

      At any rate, I kept a journal of much of our experience and am attempting to write about it. A possible title: "Getting Past the End of Our Own Noses: Either We See God's World God's Way Or We Reap What We Sow." It gets a bit long to add "An American Evangelical's Journey Out of His Parochialism." At the same time it is an offer to the Muslim community of how a Crucified Messiah brings the freedom from fear we all want. And that I found is the linchpin of controversy with Islam - Jesus' death. They deny it. My focus got centered here when they wondered why, with all the troubles Christians have caused me, I don't become Muslim. I focus on the Christian story of Jesus' death, not as an atoning value first, but as a victory through death by resurrection of God's Messiah. Whereas Islam sees Allah rescuing Jesus from death by a disingenuous substitution of Simon because it (like the Jews) can't stomach the defeat that Jesus' teachings would surely bring, the Christian story relates God's trumping Caesar's power over death, thereby giving hope to all who recognize that - especially the powerless. Most people need deliverance from political powers that make extravagant claims with the threat of death for noncompliance. The Christian story keeps all those evil rebellious powers that enslave us with fear front and center and roundly defeats them by striking that power (of death) out of their hands. The call of Jesus to follow his path is an act of faith in that story - the only path to real freedom. And if I can get there in the conversation with them, they might consider the full reason for Jesus' death.

      Of course, what comes out of this experience is a troubling sense that Christians also deny Jesus' death when it comes to following him as Lord. A Messiah who gives up unto death his expected identity and the means to secure it (and for his enemies at that!), and who wins it by his obedience to God through resurrection is pretty much lost on Christians. No wonder everyone is full of fear! And that behavior demonstrates no real faith. But there really is no other antidote in this world.

      Overall I am "kind of" excited. I do wonder though who will kill me first, an American Christian or a Muslim. Both will find their way of life threatened by such a story.

  8. http://lettherebejustice.blogspot.com/2016/10/up-to-hilt-advocates-for-peace.html