Stranger Still

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Apr 6

Regarding The Moral Implications Concerning The Waging of War And The Participation By Christians Thereof: The Just War Theory

The Morality of War

            The world is filled with war, and men constantly attempting to overcome other men through conflict and strife. The question of whether this strife is inherently immoral is important if the Church wishes to be relevant in the world today; for if the Church cannot answer the questions of the world, or actively engage present problems, then it has little application to the lives of present and would-be adherents. Much of the Church has long taken the stance which is known as the Just War Theory as the attitude toward war in the past. This needs to be re-examined and refreshed in the eyes of the Church so that it can make proper judgments upon current events. In this paper I will show that the Just War Theory is the proper view toward war and is the standpoint which the modern Church should hold.

            To clarify what war is proper, one has to understand what types of War the Just War Theory applies to. In the Old Testament, war is the means by which God delivered over the Promise Land to the children of Israel, his chosen people. The conquest of Palestine, as recorded in Joshua, is one of the most discussed wars in the Bible because in some cases genocide is commanded of the people of God. Important as this war is to the theme of God’s promises in the Bible, it is important to differentiate between a holy war and other wars that man engages in that may be just or unjust. The nature of the holy war is distinct from the wars of human volition because it is defined by the following: “It’s cause has a transcendent validation…This transcendent quality is known by revelation…The adversary has no rights… The criterion of last resort does not apply… [and] It need not be winnable.”[1] This is important to note because it is different from those wars waged by man which one may speak of as just or unjust. The criteria for a just war do not apply to these sorts of wars because they are inherently just as they are commanded by God who is the definition of Justice. St. Augustine of Hippo said as much in his book Contra Faustus, saying, “[H]ow much more must the man be blameless who carries on war on the authority of God, of whom everyone who serves Him knows that He can never require what is wrong?” Thus it is clear that the Just War Theory applies to those wars that are by the impetus of man, and not those commanded of God.

            The nature of the wars that are addressed by the Just War Theory have their origin in man. The question the theory answers is “under what circumstances is it permissible and just to wage war?” Many men have answered this question in many ways, but the Church has long adhered to the positions held by two saints that went about creating a systematic way of approaching the subject. These two men are St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Thomas Aquinas. The work of these two men is where the Church’s historical position of the Just War Theory comes from.

            St. Augustine argues, in his book Contra Faustus, that men may, without guilt, engage in warfare, saying,

A great deal depends on the causes for which men undertake wars, and on the authority they have for doing so; for the natural order which seeks the peace of mankind, ordains that the monarch should have the power of undertaking war … and that the soldiers should perform their military duties in behalf of the peace and safety of the community…  No one can have any power against them but what is given him from above. For there is no power but of God, (Romans 13:1) who either orders or permits. Since, therefore, a righteous man, serving it may be under an ungodly king, may do the duty belonging to his position in the State in fighting by the order of his sovereign—for in some cases it is plainly the will of God that he should fight, and in others, where this is not so plain, it may be an unrighteous command on the part of the king, while the soldier is innocent, because his position makes obedience a duty.[2]

Here Augustine lays out a number of criteria for war. First he says that it must be waged by a legitimate authority. Secondly, that such a war be on behalf and towards the end of peace and safety of the community. For the purpose of peace and defense a rightful authority, says Augustine, may wage war. He goes on further to say that not only is it permissible to engage in war, but that it is moral for a man to serve in the armed forces, for it is doing his duty to legitimate authority which God has put in place.[3] Upon this basis has the Church maintained the position that neither wars, nor men fighting in them are necessarily immoral, but are just within the proper restraints. Though one may loyally serve an ungodly king and be moral, there must be the limitation of refusal to commit atrocities. In Acts 5:29, “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”[4] If the situation is unclear, then the soldier can follow the king’s orders in good conscience, but if he is ordered to commit an atrocity, then he must not comply, fearing God more than man.

            The second most influential author to the Church’s standpoint, next to St. Augustine, is St. Thomas Aquinas. Because much of his work is but an expansion of the work of Augustine, he shares a similar view to Augustine, but expands the ideas  in his classic Aquinan style. The same three qualifications come up for a just war: (1) that it be waged by a legitimate authority, (2) That it be fought for just reason, and (3) that it be fought in the right manner by those participating[5]. Though Augustine does indeed speak briefly in Contra Fautus upon the manner in which the war is fought, he does not as clearly speak of the goal of war as Aquinas does who quotes him. He speaks clearly to this end, saying,

[I]t is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says …”True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good. [6]

 The true purpose of a just war is to attain a good peace, instead of, as Aquinas calls it, an evil peace. The end of the war must be a better situation than the one preceding it. It cannot be waged just to satisfy the desires of a tyrant for vengeance, but for a good end of peace. Not only does he say that these wars are permissible, Aquinas asserts that they should be viewed as peaceful. It then is proper for a nation to maintain a standing military for the resisting of evil and standing for the good, as the old Latin adage says, “si uis pacem, para bellvm”[7]

            Though the Just War Theory is the way that the Church has answered the problem of war for most of its history, there are other schools of thought in response to the same. There are two distinct but similar positions called “Christian Non-resistance” and “Christian Pacifism” that are held by some parts of the Church today. They both  hold that Christians should not engage in war, but the difference is in regards to whether war should be waged at all. Those who hold to Christian passivism hold that all war and physical violence is evil and that none should engage in it. “Starting with the position that war is wrong, they have decided that it is wrong even for nations of this world and therefore they should oppose the war effort in their own nation. They have refused to buy bonds, participate in the mobilization effort, enter into the armed services in any capacity, or even pray for the nation.”[8] Christian  non-resistance, on the other hand, agrees that it is not the place for the Church or for Christians to engage in any form of war. They will, however, support their own country in the war efforts, but do not believe it is moral for they themselves to fight.  They believe that “the obligations of non-resistance are laid upon believers only.” [9] The argument is that the kingdom of God is not of this world, so that the believers should not engage the world like the world does, but rather differently. They, however, believe that one can engage in war as a non-combatant in accordance with Romans 13 and supporting the government and system that they are a part of by the providence of God.

            These positions are inconsistent upon the following grounds. Christian pacifism does not take into account that there are important examples where one must engage in war where it be necessary to fight. It is called out as inconsistent by pointing out that they are subversive to the government that they are under in violation of Romans 13. The non-resistors hold that because the state and the church are separate they, as a part of the church, can fulfill their role, supporting the state while not engaging where the church has not authority, but where the state does. Christian non-resistance is inconsistent because they would keep themselves from that which they believe is wrong, but they do not protest others doing the same .They say that Christians should not take life or fight because it is wrong, but they do not hold that others should not do that same wrong. It is hypocritical to allow or support others doing what you consider wrong. Though the argument of authority of the state and church somewhat alleviates this tension, individually it is an inconsistent viewpoint.

            Though war be an evil, and every human life sacred, there is a time and a place for engaging in it. When a war is waged by a legitimate authority, for just reasons with the end goal of reconciliation and peace, and with Christian integrity,  such a war is just, and it is moral for a Christian to participate in such a struggle.

 

Bibliography

Augustine. Contra Faustushttp://www.newadvent.org/fathers/140622.htm (accessed 4/8/2013)

Aquinas, Thomas. “Question 40, Question 1.” In Summa Theologica, pageNr. publication place: publisher,publication year. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3040.htm (accessed April 8, 2013).

Clouse, Robert G., and editor, eds. War: Four Christian Views.  BMH BOOKS, 1986.

Morey, Robert A. When Is It Right to Fight? Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Pub, 1985.

Yoder, John Howard. When War Is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Pub, 1984



[1] Yoder ppg. 26-27

[2] Augustine Contra Faustus 75. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/140622.htm

[3] See Romans 13:1-7

[4] English Standard Version, and so will all other Bible references quoted.

[5] St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, Question 40, Article 1, I Answer that.

[6] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 40, Article 1, I Answer that. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3040.htm

[7] if you wish for peace, prepare for war.

[8] Clouse  pg 47

[9] Ibid. pg  37

Apr 6

Under what conditions would you make the choice to kill a man?

Anonymous

I hope I never have to.

That said, it would be a shame not to dress the topic sufficiently.
For those who do not know (or can’t tell from “Dreams and Nightmares”), I want to join the US Marine Corps (preferably as an infantry officer). I am under no illusion about what that entails, especially in times of war. (Hint: killing). Further, it is my general policy to consider extreme situations before they happen so that in the moment I do not have to make up my mind when the pressure is on. I may simply act, with mind already made up long before. This principle I got from (some sermon regarding) the book of Daniel where it says “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (1:8, KJV).

NOW: Killing:
I have a pretty short answer for this:
I would kill if it were just, and it were necessary.

Now I don’t know how well versed you all are in just war theory so i will after this post my paper on it (which is fairly brief, I think I was supposed to keep it under 1800 words-and failed). The paper isn’t golden, but it gets the idea across methinks.

Just War notwithstanding, on a more individual basis the same two principles apply.
I believe in the realm of defense killing can be permissible (if it is an appropriate response—I.E. the correct amount of force considering that which is applied or potentially applied against you). Don’t go crazy, but I think that the defense of life an limb are pretty clear areas where they would not be convicted of “wrongfull death” of any sort.
Now if it be for the protection of others, I would more readily kill, because I am not just concerned with my own well-being, but others. Now I don’t want to kill anyone, and even in a situation that might be appropriate to escalate to lethal force, I would prefer not to even if it’s a risk I take. But if others are involved, it’s not just about whether i’ll make it or not, I think that i have a duty to protect them as well.

To finish off, I’m going to leave you with a quote that is slightly off topic:


True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good -Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Question 40, Article 1)

PS: On this basis, i’m a pacifist. Weird, isn’t it…

Apr 6

What do you think the difference is between falling in love, being in love, and simply loving someone?

Anonymous

Well, this is an interesting question and I don’t quite know where to start….

I think that ‘LOVE’ like in the case of the first two… it seems to be a sort of haze. Some sort of fog that occludes the sense of a person. Falling ‘in love’ is the entering into that state of being (mind?) and the being ‘in love’ is… well… being in that state of mind, or continuing in it. However, I think our culture talks up or idolizes this state of being in all of the chick-flicks and cartoons (thanks Disney… no seriously, thanks… i love it); we can get a bit carried away with it. I think that in all of the “buzz” we can get away from the fact and basis of the matter is that we have to truly love the person, otherwise its selfish.
What is love? (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more) I like how Disney has been going after it recently: it’s putting another before yourself. I define love  (I think I got this from Aristotle or some such place) as desiring the good of another. Its wanting the best for somebody else. If you are “in love” with somebody, but don’t love them, then who is that about? It’s about you. That’s not really love then, it probably should be called “in like” or, in worse/more ‘intense’ cases (for lack of a better term) “in lust” with the other person.

[corollary: just wanting them to be happy is not the same thing: Love is wanting what is GOOD for them. the best. If they do not want what is good, then these can often contradict one another]

As a perhaps overly personal and off topic side-note:
Maybe i was in love. I don’t know: i certainly wasn’t thinking straight (though that’s really not the criteria, just pretty much a qualification). But above all the haze, I loved her, and at the end of the day, I wanted what was best  for her.

But seriously, (because this is in the context of romance of sorts, i’ll keep it there) if a romantic relationship doesn’t begin and end with people loving one another (I.e. desiring the good of another person) then I (hesitatetosaythisbutheregoes) guarantee you’re going to have some serious problems.

I hope this answers your question… further questions?

"He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 10:39

Anonymous

Amen

These were some concept drawings for a potential team emblem/patch for a group of my friends that are trying to start an airsoft team in the SF-bay area, CA.
Thoughts?

Mar 7

Opinion on Pope Francis's newest revelations? "The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”

Anonymous

    Thank you, dear Sir or Madem(oiselle), for your question, as it is a very good talking point and has many many facets to it. I will attempt to answer the whole of the idea, in all its magnitude, but I cannot promise that it will be brief. Conversely, I also hope that it not only answers your question, but also leads to more fruitful conversation honoring to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

     IMPRIMIS: I would like to start with that it seems that it was all a hoax. Through a little digging on the google machine, I don’t think it happened(1).  First of all: there has not been a Third Vatican Council, and so there can be no remarks made at it. Secondly, the blog that posted the article was, in fact, a heavily satirical blog and as such is not meant to taken seriously. However, as many on the interwebs did, in fact, take it seriously, we all were afforded a peek into what might happen if such a mainstay of Christianity did go “belly up.”
      However, I gladly would like to answer the question all the same:
I was incredibly disheartened.  Some context: Unlike many other protestants, I consider the Roman Church a great part of the true Catholic Church. Though I disagree with much of their theology, they do, at the heart, believe in Christ Jesus. This is of course punctuated by a whole lot of other doctrines that I consider only as Religion creeping in. But much of this can be understood in a historical perspective of pragmatism gone wrong long ago. Though I do consider this theology problematic, I do not hold that the Roman Church is apostate.
       Now in regards to this proclamation, were it true, it would be what I would consider the truly forsaking sound doctrine and buying into the zeitgeist. Now although it is not rejecting the core of Christianity directly, which is the Gospel (good news), it is undermining the whole of the Faith. Though in the abstract one can believe in a non-literal and heavily allegorical interpretation of much of the Bible, I do not think that it is really worth it. If the Bible cannot be trusted in its word, then what really do we have? If the Bible is untrustworthy, then really what knowledge do we have of God? I think that if the Bible is not exactly what it says it is, then it is a worthless collection of spiritual writings. (with the exception of I Corinthians 15:32b). Let me be clear, however, that I do not believe in the existence of God, or the veracity of scripture, because the Bible says so: that is circular. I believe in God somewhat because of the philosophical arguments for the necessity of His existence, but really the lynch-pin is the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, after having called it beforehand. How do I know this? History attests to it. If we take everything that we know from manuscripts of the time (not considering scripture as inspired but just as historical documents) then there can be little doubt that Christ was raised. Otherwise we must conclude that people of the time were crazy as they acted outside of reason unless something truly incredible had happened. Now the whole argument for the historicity of the resurrection, I think, need not be copied and laid out here, but It would be a great thing to post later (thank you, I think I shall). FINISHING THE THOUGHT: if He, Christ, did rise from the dead, then the sovereign inspiration of the scriptures is by no means too incredible for this same God. If Jesus called his resurrection, then I’m with Him.

     Back to the point: because, if the proclamation was actually what happened, then I would say that they have undermined the whole of the Gospel. For if we cannot take scripture seriously, then we don’t really know much about this God. But if the Bible is really considered at all, there is one thing that you cannot overlook: God is dead serious about sin.

     Let us assume, for a moment, that the Bible is not literal, by and large, and that everything can be called into question of being allegorical. Well, for starters, this is directly forsaking the framework that the Bible was assembled upon (with much prayer, fasting, and consideration): one of the qualifications to be considered was that each book was not contradictory to the rest of scripture. Now if this God has chosen to reveal Himself, why then would He do so in a wishy-washy way where interpretation could vary even wider than it could be even if it was literal? Was it so that His message could develop or ‘evolve’ with humanity’s understandings? (as some have argued) This does not seem to fit with who He says that He is: Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the LORD, do not change” (NASB). CONTEXT: He is speaking, through Malachi His chosen prophet, about his return both to purify His people and to judge unrighteousness. Something that cannot be miss throughout the whole of scripture is that, though He loves mightily and graciously, NEVER is sin waved off. It can be forgiven, but only though the punishment falling on another. It is never laughed at or ignored. No indeed, in according to the law, there were many things for which you could be executed on the spot.

     IN SHORT: I don’t believe that the Bible (/the author who wrote it: God) really left room for passages that are clearly written as histories to be considered allegorical, to be interpreted liberally with ‘growing understanding.’ It seems to me that there are parts of scripture that are very clearly meant to be factual, and there are parts of scripture that are clearly allegorical and poetic (just compare the ‘histories’ to the Psalms, Proverbs, or the poetic portions of the Prophets). To properly exegete the Bible, you must use it as its own measuring stick. Scripture must interpret scripture. The miracle of the Bible is that it does not contradict itself. Though there are apparent contradictions, there are no true contradictions. (this is not really a point I would like to argue at length upon)

     If you reject the Word of God, I know not how you might do so without rejecting the God of the Word in the process. I was disheartened when I heard that the leader of a huge portion of the church (who seemed to be getting the whole of the Roman church back on track for better theology) go so flippantly and drastically ‘off the tracks’ theologically speaking. I was about ready for another schism or reformation. The former, I doubted, would be very constructive and probably would just polarize people, however I am optimistic as to what another reformation might accomplish.

At the end of the day, though, we must come face to face with the beautiful reality that God does not pander to our preferences. In the end, He is God, and we are not. So often in our culture we try to take a buffet approach to Christianity, or faith in general. Our culture, in this post-modern world, has adopted a pluralistic worldview. This is almost a non-position: tolerance is the rule, and truth is ‘non grata’. I very strongly believe that if we believe in the God of the Bible, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we must meet Him on His turf. The Truth is, we have no ground to stand on, none to claim as our own turf: as it is written, “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1, KJV). Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6, NASB). Part of the lordship of Christ is that there are things that don’t fall within our understanding and paradigm. There are things that we think “God, did you really have to…?” God simply does not operate on our level, and why should He? The author of time and creator of all, operating on our understanding or even schedule: weird. Thus did the prophet Isaiah (55:8,9) proclaim,

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God is not constrained to our understanding. He is simply not constrained, except by his own character (which is to say, that He does not change, thus He is, in a sense, constrained to be Himself).

To Conclude: I will say that for the above reasons was I very sad to hear that they were abandoning sound doctrine and really taking the Bible seriously. I hope I have answered your question sufficiently without too much going off course. I hope that this all linked together sufficiently to see why I disapproved of the statements.

Mar 2

The Executive


As an ENTJ, your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you deal with things rationally and logically. Your secondary mode is internal, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

ENTJs are natural born leaders. They live in a world of possibilities where they see all sorts challenges to be surmounted, and they want to be the ones responsible for surmounting them. They have a drive for leadership, which is well-served by their quickness to grasp complexities, their ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and their quick and decisive judgments. They are “take charge” people.

ENTJs are very career-focused, and fit into the corporate world quite naturally. They are constantly scanning their environment for potential problems which they can turn into solutions. They generally see things from a long-range perspective, and are usually successful at identifying plans to turn problems around - especially problems of a corporate nature. ENTJs are usually successful in the business world, because they are so driven to leadership. They’re tireless in their efforts on the job, and driven to visualize where an organization is headed. For these reasons, they are natural corporate leaders.

There is not much room for error in the world of the ENTJ. They dislike to see mistakes repeated, and have no patience with inefficiency. They may become quite harsh when their patience is tried in these respects, because they are not naturally tuned in to people’s feelings, and more than likely don’t believe that they should tailor their judgments in consideration for people’s feelings. ENTJs, like many types, have difficulty seeing things from outside their own perspective. Unlike other types, ENTJs naturally have little patience with people who do not see things the same way as the ENTJ. The ENTJ needs to consciously work on recognizing the value of other people’s opinions, as well as the value of being sensitive towards people’s feelings. In the absence of this awareness, the ENTJ will be a forceful, intimidating and overbearing individual. This may be a real problem for the ENTJ, who may be deprived of important information and collaboration from others. In their personal world, it can make some ENTJs overbearing as spouses or parents.

The ENTJ has a tremendous amount of personal power and presence which will work for them as a force towards achieving their goals. However, this personal power is also an agent of alienation and self-aggrandizement, which the ENTJ would do well to avoid.

ENTJs are very forceful, decisive individuals. They make decisions quickly, and are quick to verbalize their opinions and decisions to the rest of the world. The ENTJ who has not developed their Intuition will make decisions too hastily, without understanding all of the issues and possible solutions. On the other hand, an ENTJ who has not developed their Thinking side will have difficulty applying logic to their insights, and will often make poor decisions. In that case, they may have brilliant ideas and insight into situations, but they may have little skill at determining how to act upon their understanding, or their actions may be inconsistent. An ENTJ who has developed in a generally less than ideal way may become dictatorial and abrasive - intrusively giving orders and direction without a sound reason for doing so, and without consideration for the people involved.

Although ENTJs are not naturally tuned into other people’s feelings, these individuals frequently have very strong sentimental streaks. Often these sentiments are very powerful to the ENTJ, although they will likely hide it from general knowledge, believing the feelings to be a weakness. Because the world of feelings and values is not where the ENTJ naturally functions, they may sometimes make value judgments and hold onto submerged emotions which are ill-founded and inappropriate, and will cause them problems - sometimes rather serious problems.

ENTJs love to interact with people. As Extroverts, they’re energized and stimulated primarily externally. There’s nothing more enjoyable and satisfying to the ENTJ than having a lively, challenging conversation. They especially respect people who are able to stand up to the ENTJ, and argue persuasively for their point of view. There aren’t too many people who will do so, however, because the ENTJ is a very forceful and dynamic presence who has a tremendous amount of self-confidence and excellent verbal communication skills. Even the most confident individuals may experience moments of self-doubt when debating a point with an ENTJ.

ENTJs want their home to be beautiful, well-furnished, and efficiently run. They’re likely to place much emphasis on their children being well-educated and structured, to desire a congenial and devoted relationship with their spouse. At home, the ENTJ needs to be in charge as much as he or she does in their career. The ENTJ is likely best paired with someone who has a strong self-image, who is also a Thinking type. Because the ENTJ is primarily focused on their careers, some ENTJs have a problem with being constantly absent from home, physically or mentally.

The ENTJ has many gifts which make it possible for them to have a great deal of personal power, if they don’t forget to remain balanced in their lives. They are assertive, innovative, long-range thinkers with an excellent ability to translate theories and possibilities into solid plans of action. They are usually tremendously forceful personalities, and have the tools to accomplish whatever goals they set out for.

- Personalitypage.com/ENTJ.html
Portrait of an ENTJ

Dreams and Nightmares

“ADAMS, ON ME!”

     The two young men sprinted for the trees that marked the side yard of the old Victorian house, footsteps and heavy breathing deafening to their ears. Upon rounding the corner, they dove for the cover of the trees as another sound consumed their hearing:  a machine gunner had “squeezed off” his first salvo, but not fast enough. As the air hummed with projectiles, the trees groaning and surrendering their bark, Adams and I couldn’t help but grin at one another, feeling so alive despite the proximity of peril.

     “Our turn” mouthed Adams as he leaned around his tree and returned fire upon the well placed and fortified gunner’s nest.

     The game was afoot. Our mission: to secure the facility by eliminating all hostiles. Adams and I were one half of the fire-team, tasked with occupying enemy forces on one side of the house while the other half, Jackson and Rea, broke through the far side of the house to break their line. An elegantly simple plan, but it relied upon Adams and I to stay alive while attracting enough attention to draw enemy fire.

     “COVER ME! MOVING RIGHT!” Adams immediately leveled his rifle again and put several more rounds downrange to suppress the machine gunner, as I bolted toward the compound’s wall to flank the gunner. As I reached the landlocked ship that provided the cover along the wall, the machine gunner pinned me down again.

     Suddenly, there was a break in the fire, and a commotion amongst the hostiles. Peeking around the corner I saw the machine gunner displace and begin to fire upon Jackson, who had just broken through the far side of enemy defenses. “NOW!” I bellowed and broke from cover to take out the gunner. As I ran I let lose a burst from my rifle catching him square in the torso. Upon gaining the nest, I turned and fired upon the last of the enemies, who was fleeing Jackson and Rea, only to be caught in a four-way crossfire in the open and promptly perish. It was all over as fast as it had begun: the mission was accomplished in only thirty-four and a half seconds.

     My name is Wesley, and war is my dream, and also my nightmare. I am many things, but in the end, I am a warrior and a son of the King of Peace. This portrait is but a brief expose of who I am.

     First: a warrior. For as long as I can remember I have desired to be a soldier and to serve my country honorably like my cousin, uncle and grandfathers. At six I learned what sort of soldier I wanted to be: a United States Marine. This martial ambition, though immature at first, has been greatly tempered by growing maturity as well as my education.

     As I have grown, so has my interest in the specifics of war. With September eleventh, and my cousin’s subsequent enlistment in the Marines as dominant landmarks of my childhood, it is little wonder that war was often occupying my mind. This interest and preoccupation led me to more often than not be in my backyard ‘playing army’ which, as I grew older, morphed into my love and enthusiasm for the sport of Airsoft. Airsoft is a sport that consists of mock war games with remarkably realistic model firearms which shoot six millimeter pellets at speeds from one-hundred and fifty to five hundred feet per second. As my friends and I matured both physically and in interest, our gameplay began to attain greater intensity, and our accoutrements greater refinement. Though airsofting is only a sport enjoyed with friends it has served as an excellent catalog of my growth into a man.

     When I began airsofting, I had only a spring powered Desert Eagle pistol which was par for the group that I played with. However, as we progressed in skill and equipment, I moved up to a bolt-action, high-powered sniper rifle. Because of the power, effective range, and accuracy of it, I was not required to face my fear of the pain of getting hit. Though I was moderately aggressive upon occasion, ultimately I was more ‘bark than bite’ as the saying goes. My form of leadership was, by default, very directive and placed the onus of action upon others. As I began to mature, however, I realized that what I was truly doing was asking others to do something that I was afraid to do myself. Over the course of a year I went through a metamorphosis of thought and ambition that transcended leisure and sport, but at the same time was mirrored and well exhibited in my form of playing airsoft.

     I bought a sub-machinegun style airsoft rifle when I was sixteen and with it, unbeknownst to myself, stepped into a whole new world. As I matured I was taught and realized how leadership must be, at its root, service and by example. These seemingly unconnected events together drastically changed my style of play while airsofting. Not only was I capable of close quarters combat, with my new rifle, but it was actually nearly required of me. As the sub-machinegun type rifle cannot compare to the precision of a sniper rifle, my previous support role was not even an option. This, combined with my growth of courage, and physical ability made me make the great leap from “Adams, go! I’ll cover you!” to “Adams, cover me! I’m going!” Though this much more audacious outlook on airsofting has not been without pain or failure due to it, it is not rashly or unconsidered that I take what may be called a more rash approach to life. It was in a well-rounded education and faith that I found my inspiration.

     I was homeschooled from birth through high school, and because of that, I was able to participate in a five-year survey of Western Civilization, literature, and thought. Having read the great works of literature, philosophy, and theology from Homer and Plato to Smith and Lewis, one of the things that was incredibly clear to me was the supremacy of daring over cowardice. Though famously did Virgil once write “fortuna favet fortibus” and Machiavelli did well exposit the claim, lady luck was not the only one with whom I became better acquainted. The linchpin, the cornerstone, the instigator of my transformation and ambition was Jesus Christ.

     It was when I truly met Jesus, and committed my life to follow him in earnest, that I learned true courage. As Aristotle once exposited, the absence of fear is foolish and rash, for fear can be appropriate. Courage is having the proper fear, and acting properly anyways (Nicomachean Ethics book lambda). John Wayne once said something of the same sort, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways.” This metamorphosis I went through was, in essence, because I had been given new values, new hope, and new life.

 Though I grew bolder and less fearful of the physical pain of getting shot while airsofting, the drastic change in style of play was because of a shift in understanding of leadership, servant hood, and courage. Jesus is the greatest example of leadership by example, for He was a servant and a leader even unto death. So too I, following my Lord, chose to lead by example, and require nothing more of others than what I required of myself. That day, when I rushed the machine gun nest with Adams, I took the initiative, and choose, in spite of fear, to lead and do what needed to be done. I did that, not on my own, but following Jesus’ lead.

Following Jesus, the king of peace, my Lord, is not incongruous with being a warrior, instead, it is perfectly in line. Day by day am I being taught love, leadership, and courage. What better things might a soldier be taught? Because of the hope that He has given me, of resurrection and eternal life, it is now inappropriate for me to fear death for “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Because of the love that He has shown me, I can love others, and truly value human life for all that it is worth. Because of His example, I can lead well: serving.

It is ironic that war is both my nightmare and my dream. It is a nightmare because of the love I have for all humanity. I never wish to kill another human being in my life, but I believe that I may be called up to do just that. If the cause be just, then slay I shall in love of that which is behind and not in hate. But it is also my dream, for I have been given this martial ambition, and the courage and love to execute the duty well.

Maybe one day the story of the gunner’s nest will be true of more than just sport. Maybe one day I may have my terrible dream.

Come, Lord Jesus.

The Beauty of Death:

I love the idea that Tolkien presents in the Silmarillion: When he describes men as opposed to the immortal elves. He says that men are gifted with death. Unlike the elves who are destined to live forever until killed, men are allotted a very small number of years of this earth. I suppose that this is the absurdity and glory of Christianity.

Ironically, death gives meaning to life. Were it to continue on perpetually, then nothing would mean anything. Ultimately morality too would be ridiculous too, as there would be no final end when one would be judged. There would be no ultimate result of good and evil and they would be pointless. The idea of the transcendent –the passing and degrading—nature of life is its very virtue.  It might almost seem that this idea is not compatible of what is taught of heaven: that we shall be there forever. This apparent contradiction or at least invalidation of the principle is simply a shortsighted approach to the idea of why living here forever is not good. It is because we are in a situation that is not natural. It is said in one of the creeds that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Catechism, shorter version, question 1). In our present state it is impossible to truly enjoy God because we are not walking with him. We are fallen. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. How can we truly glorify Him in this state? I think we can, but we get only glimpses of the joy that is found in His service, and in bringing glory to Him.
            As a side note: I love the idea of the two things being one end—the chief end. “end” is singular comprised of both glorifying God and enjoying him forever. With the fallen nature of the world, immortality is as nothing. It is void of all but ourselves. And this is indeed nothing as it is clear we are full of sin. Sin, by nature, as Augustine once said, is a form of nothingness. If good was original, and sin the corruption, then it can be seen that as being was original, non-being is the corruption: Nothingness. So a world full of sinful Humans is a very empty world indeed.

Back to the point to conclude: I prefer, by far, to be mortal here on earth, and as such, with the end and after in mind, am not afraid to die. I do not shirk from the possibility of death, but rather welcome it.

In the words of the Martyr in Saudi Arabia, as his final words before he was hung, “JESUS, Here I come!” This is the way that I want to meet death. For what is it but to meet Jesus?

Maranatha

[See Live Free, Die Well]

“When people die, they are coming to the end of death, not life. When death ends life continues” - Janette Oke (During the talk of Palliative Care) 

Re: Purpose and Plans

There is a position that I think somewhat faulty that is supported by many at Bighorn. It is the position that God doesn’t have any plan for people, and that there is no path that is before us, all we have to do is follow the life that he has called us to (i.e. the ‘law’ that we live under a.k.a. loving God and neighbor etc.) and do what he has made us desire to do.  I think there is certain merit to this point of view, but not in its entirety. This has been taken to the extreme of saying that God is not in control and/or interested in control[1], but more on this later.

     Starting off with desires: It is clear to me that God created each and every one of us unique as we are, and things have happened to us, and that is what makes us who we are: Nature and Nurture. (Perhaps this is an oversimplified model, but we shall work with it). The things we desire to do is part of the way we are made, and I think, it is fair to say a part of our experience as well.

But, let’s take a moment to examine the nature of experience, and whether providence exists.

     Think me not proud to try to deal with such an expansive topic in so short an attempt. The answer to this question is much simpler than it seems, if one has any stomach for paradox. The question really is, when boiled down, the same question that has been asked and debated endlessly: Predestination vs. Free will. It seems to me very clear. Though the proofs in the positive are difficult to make and retain, but in the negative it seems much clearer. If we were not ‘in control’ of ourselves, and how we acted with free will, then God truly would be ‘to blame’ for everything that ever took place, because the volition of man would be naught. This would make God unjust, and thus would necessarily contradict that which we hold to be true about God: that He is just. Now, on the flip side, if God were not in control and His will was naught, then he really isn’t God. And this cannot be either.

     After more prompting by Dr. Anthony Siegrist, I have come to more thinking on the matter. Freedom, as portrayed in the OT, according to him, was not “freedom from” things, as we think of it today, but instead it was a “freedom for” something. This is shown when God sets them free from Egypt. Without this sort of idea and background, it really makes no sense that he immediately sets them under a law again. This would be ridiculous if we were considering freedom like we do in the modern sense. Thus, I do not think that it can be the modern sense in which we take the meaning of this “Freedom”. Rather, we need to take the idea which we are working with to interpret the situation from the context, and what else we can gather.

     The switch from “Freedom from” and “Freedom to” is a significant one, but one that perhaps we might not see all the implications of immediately. I certainly don’t, but that which I want to focus on is the purpose or meaning in life. God is a God of liberation, but it isn’t liberation from, it’s liberation for. As Anthony said, “It’s freedom to be what we were made to be.” This is the thought that I think might have been missing from this article: purpose in design. I don’t know how definite God’s plan is for one’s life, but He made every person in the way He did, and gave them desires and aspirations and gifts. These things, says I, cannot be soughed off so easy because they can burn down to our very core. (But I have said much of this above).

     I think that God has made us a certain way that through our unique roll we can play in the body of Christ (wherever we are and whatever we are doing) to bring Glory to God, and to enjoy Him and His creation—thus fulfilling the chief end of man.

     A good example of this is Eric Liddell. He is best known for winning the 1924 Paris Olympics 400m dash for Britain. But this he did while honoring God with all his abilities. He refused to run on the Christian Sabbath: Sunday. For this reason he was not able to compete in his own event: the 100m dash. Yet through this he chose to honor God even though he was called things as bad a traitor and accused of as bad as treason. God was more important to him, and so he honored God. God had made him to run, to love it, and to be fast. But he didn’t dwell on that, he used other gifts God had given him like the skills in speaking Mandarin so that he could minister to the people in China, where he happened to be born. All these things were orchestrated far beyond just what he wanted to do, it seems that he was meant, or at least, very well equipped to do such things—both to his own pleasure and also to the Glory of the father. I think these things will often intersect.

     One other thing we have to take into account in all this is concursus. I believe that concursus[2] is the best way to explain the interaction between our wills and God’s. In this way I think that our private aims can also be God’s aim, however, with the catch that we should be doing things for His glory, and not just because we want to. But I still believe that God’s will will coincide with that which we desire to do, and the trick seems to be the surrendering of it to Him that He can bring it further into alignment with His purposes.

     One final note upon providence: I believe that Christians must believe in providence, but not necessarily meticulous providence. I believe that there is providence, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be about every small action we take, like spilling water, or salt, or picking up a spoon. But I do believe that God has influence in our lives and does work things out for his purposes and for his will. That much is inescapable judging from the scriptures available to us. But I do not take this to the extreme of many Calvanists, which is the meticulous point of view, where all is orchestrated by God. This leaves us as little more than confused puppets.

     In the end, then, that position that is often supported at Bighorn is not so far off in the end, but I think that there is some discrepancy between what they say and what I would say. I think really the most important things to note are God give desires (as surrendered to God) and God given gifts. These things we need to use to glorify God and fulfill our chief end: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”[3]

Maranatha.



[1] J. W.

 

[3] Westminster Catechism, answer to question 1.