Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, January 6

Having reached the end of the book of James last time, I found that my thoughts kept returning to this post from my friend akaGaGa, whose more-conventional name I know, but I'm not sure how freely she wants it used online, so we'll leave it at that. The post was concerned with the question of whether Christian believers have any business being armed in the "interpersonal" sense (i.e., apart from hunting, target-shooting, and such sporting purposes). In a comment, I claimed I had some thinking to do on the subject, as I was (and remain) in some doubt.

If one regards scripture as authoritative -- and I do -- then one starts, and perhaps ends, the thinking process by "searching the scriptures." So, for a while, that's what I'll be doing. Being Christian (rather than Jewish), my idea of how to do that is to start in the New Testament, specifically with the directly-quoted words of Jesus. From there, one branches out to the New Testament in general; and from there, to the Old.

So. In the first four chapters of Matthew, Jesus doesn't have a whole lot to say, although I'm tempted (that's almost a little Biblical pun, there, folks, "tempted," ha ha) to try to apply His colloquy with the Devil from chapter 4 to the idea of the armed Christian. But, for now at least, I think that's reaching a bit far, and I'll try to concentrate on His more directly-applicable sayings. Starting in chapter 5, He has a lot to say. Verse 5: "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth." Verse 7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Verse 9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." And then verses 10 through 12: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

These verses, pulled from the Beatitudes, are certainly not a call to arms. Rather, they are a call to benevolence, and to the patient acceptance of suffering and endurance of wrongs. On the other hand, neither do they explicitly forbid the believer to bear arms; I don't suppose it's impossible, by any means, for an armed Christian to be gentle, and merciful, and a peacemaker, and to suffer being wronged passively. About that last, however: while it's possible for an armed person to accept being wronged, it surely has to be harder. I'm just sayin'.

To be continued. Meanwhile, click here for more Words for Wednesday.

15 comments:

Tom (anonymous) said...

I would comment on the obvious Buddhist parallels in the Beatitudes as you present them. These teachings predate Christianity by more than 500 years.

Washburn in his History of Religions stated, "Finally, the life, temptation, miracles, parables, and even the disciples of Jesus have been derived directly from Buddhism."

Rudolf Seydel noted in his, The Buddha Legend and the Life of Jesus, fifty similarities between Buddhist and Christian parables and teachings, many of which are taken from the ones you cite.

Even in 1816, George Faber, in his book, The Origin of Pagan Idolatry Ascertained from Historical Testimony, stated, "There is so strong a resemblance between the characters of Jesus and of Buddha, that it cannot be purely accidental."

I'm afraid that these teachings attributed to Jesus were not revolutionary, singular, or unique. They appear to have been borrowed by unknown chroniclers from more ancient and well-established sources, particularly Buddhism.

The faux historical personage known as Jesus taught not one thing that was unique, left not one independent historical marker on his time, and those so-called gospel accounts of his life are rife with error, saturated with borrowed aphorisms, and can be largely proven to be works of later fiction which were cherry-picked by unscrupulous church fathers and other sycophants.

Sorry to point out these facts to you, but religious delusion is a form of mental regression, if not infirmity, which has to be called out and addressed in a reality-based manner.

Tom

akaGaGa said...

Well, I am surely looking forward to this series. I have not, as yet, found anything to contradict my original premise, but I'm still open to the leading of the Holy Spirit on this one.

BTW, I wouldn't let Tom the atheist distract you too much from your search. I've followed the comments he's left on your "Holiday Gift" post, and have come to a couple conclusions: he's arrogant and he lies repeatedly. No matter what you say to him, he won't get it, because these things are spiritually discerned and he's obviously lacking in that department. I am praying, though, that perhaps God will have mercy on him and open his eyes.

Tom (anonymous) said...

Hey there akaGaGa, nice polemic. Uh, could you point out to me ONE statement from the above mentioned post comments that was/is a lie? What would be the point? Maybe I have a different viewpoint about some things than you, and possibly you misinterpret the meaning of the word "lie" to mean any alternative viewpoint to your own.

Anyway, go ahead and point out one lie. You said I did so repeatedly, so it should be easy for you do. And by the way, yes I am arrogant, though I might prefer to use the word "swagger" to describe my demeanor. Because of my arrogance, I pretty much feel right at home leaving comments on this blog. Isn't it wonderful how all of we arrogant people just sort of find each other in this marvelous age of the Internet?

Tom

akaGaGa said...

Sorry to point out these facts to you

You're not sorry. You enjoy denigrating others.

all of we arrogant people

Arrogance is based on an exaggerated sense of self-worth. Jim and I base our worth on Jesus Christ. Big difference, especially when we stand naked before God.

Anonymous said...

Not that I am Jewish either, but perhaps it was a good thing that David was not a conflicted Christian.

Hmmmm....

Tom said...

Gee, akaGaGa, you really nailed me with the faux
sorry line. I guess you're a little more like me
than you would want to admit. You know, to be perceptive
enough to see through me like that.

Anyway I notice that you did not name one single
lie from among the many you alleged in your earlier
comment. I guess you may be considering the faux
sorrow as a lie, though I used it as a literary artifice.

The challenge still stands. Cite one lie that I have told
in these comments.

Tom

Jim Wetzel said...

"The faux historical personage known as Jesus taught not one thing that was unique, left not one independent historical marker on his time, and those so-called gospel accounts of his life are rife with error, saturated with borrowed aphorisms, and can be largely proven to be works of later fiction which were cherry-picked by unscrupulous church fathers and other sycophants.

Sorry to point out these facts to you, but religious delusion is a form of mental regression, if not infirmity, which has to be called out and addressed in a reality-based manner."


Wikipedia gives a useful definition of a modern term:

"Troll (Internet), an internet term for a person who willfully, through obscene, offensive or hateful actions (a.k.a. "trolling"), attempts to disrupt a community or garner reactions, attention and controversy."

"Word for Wednesday" is a kind of inter-blog meme in which I participate, along with akaGaGa and a number of other Christian believers. Its purpose is to facilitate discussion on the meaning and applicability of the scriptures among believers. This purpose does not include, nor is it compatible with, sporting about with trolls -- and what you're doing here is trolling. Please leave no further comments on any "Word for Wednesday" posts.

I have a full-time day job (as you know so well!) and a part-time night job, which leave me without the requisite time for the close monitoring of this blog. If necessary, I'll go to comment moderation, but I'd rather not bother with that. Please take the trolling elsewhere.

Jim Wetzel said...

Placeholder: Anonymous Tom couldn't resist, and trolled again in this space. I dumped his final effort and comment moderation is on, for a while at least. Sorry for the inevitable delays, but, you know ... spiteful children must be spiteful children, it seems.

Craig said...

What kind of person flames a religious post? Seriously?

Jim Wetzel said...

Based on the evidence, the kind who then goes on to issue cutesy little pseudo-threats -- against women, no less.

As I said: my first hard-core, dedicated troll. And, with any luck at all, the last.

Dauvit Balfour said...

I'll leave a non-trolling comment for ya:

I've been pondering this same question myself for at least a year or two. How does a Catholic man (vir) determine whether or not the use of deadly force against another man (homo) is justified? As far as I know, there is no obviously simple Church teaching on the matter, nor is there an obviously simple explanation to be found in Scripture (recall that Peter is reproved for his use of the sword, but the words of Christ are something along the lines of "Now is not the time"). I am interested in following the continuing of your search, as well. Perhaps I should read akaGaGa's original post, to catch up.

My own current thinking, FWIW, leans toward the immediate defense of innocents-not-myself as the only appropriate use of "interpersonal" violence. That is, using force to dispel an immediate threat to life or limb of an innocent under aggression. This could be extended to cover self defense, especially if one is providing for a family. Again, all of this is still nebulous and uncertain in my mind. More thought and investigation is necessary.

Happy hunting,
Dauvit

Jim Wetzel said...

Thanks, Dauvit, for something on-topic. In this thread, that's quite the refreshing change.

If I understand you correctly, it sounds as if there might not be an official/definitive Catholic position concerning the use of force by the believer: forbidden, or conditionally permissible, or perhaps even commanded under some conditions. I'm kind of thinking it maybe turns out to be a matter of the correct application of one or more overarching principles. But then, I kind of think a lot of things -- and, as they say, the trouble is that a lot of things that I "kind of think" turn out not to be so. I'm trying hard not to bring my own agenda to this question -- and that's a tough thing to avoid.

Thanks again for your thoughts. Don't be a stranger, now!

akaGaGa said...

Dauvit, I'm glad to here there are others struggling with this issue. Maybe between us, we can find something useful.

There's an honest examination of the subject at Berean Call by Mark Dinsmore you might want to read:

http://www.thebereancall.org/node/7641

Dauvit Balfour said...

Or, perhaps I'm just a bad Catholic, and don't know my Catechism:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

I realize that this is not the purely scriptural source you were seeking, but it does render a fairly clear explanation of the principles at work, and the Catechism does draw heavily from Scripture (which is made clear if one reads the rest of the section, which references all of the passages quotes thus far in the discussion, as well as a few others).

This also nearly matches my current understanding, though I would place great restrictions on what constitutes "legitimate authority".

DPirate said...

All I know of in the new testament is three examples. One is when Jesus tells Peter not to fight against the temple guards, directly referencing weapons. He is against it, but it is ambiguous since his objection may lie in Peter's acting against God's will that Jesus be tried, or in the simple fact that the guards were agents of the law acting in good faith, or in some other fashion not applicable to self-defense or whathaveyou.

The second is when Jesus reproves the zealots (Simon?), but again this is ambiguous since it may be rebellion against lawful power that he dislikes, or even just something to do with Simon.

Third is when he causes the people who were going to stone the adulteress to cease their actions and drop their weapons. This is interesting because they were, AFAIK, acting within the law. Considering this in light of the two previous passages, I am left thinking that either Jesus has no position and merely uses specific situations as a parable as they happen to arise, or that he is simply a pacifist. I go with pacifist.

The old testament God is of course quite violent and I think would expect and applaud us carrying weapons and using them liberally. I mean that seriously. I am no bible scholar, but that is how the old testament reads to me.

ASIDE: As far as the Tom-troll is concerned, you ought to have responded differently to his first post. He insulted you, then you insulted him worse, and so on. Not quite "turn the other cheek", eh? Sure, he was at fault, but had you responded with: I'd be happy to discuss it if you'll be a bit less bombastic, then it may have turned out differently. Now it is a forgone conclusion that he's become just a troll.