According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, September 5, 2013

3 Christian Perspectives on War: Just War Theory, Christian Pacificism, and Active Peacemaking, Part 2

The ethics of a Syrian military intervention:
The experts respond
 
August 29, 2013
 
WASHINGTON (RNS) As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.
 
 
Duke University Divinity School theologian Stanley Hauerwas is often considered America's most important Protestant theologian. Photo courtesy Duke University
Duke University Divinity School emeritus theologian Stanley Hauerwas is often considered America’s most important Protestant theologian. Photo courtesy Duke University

This image available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.
 
Stanley Hauerwas
Professor emeritus of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School
 
What possible grounds does the United States have for intervention? The language of the world’s policeman comes up again. You want to know, ‘Who appointed you the world’s policeman?’
 
You could say the U.S. can justify the intervention because stability is part of our foreign policy in order to maintain ourselves as the premier country in the world. So it’s smart to intervene. But there’s no moral justification.
 
Of course (nerve) gas is a terrible weapon. You hear echoes of weapons of mass destruction. And with gas you can’t control it in terms of its indiscriminate effects. But again, I just don’t know how intervention fits under “just war” categories. Syria isn’t attacking the United States.
 
The U.S. ought to ask the Arab League to do something. Near neighbors have more responsibility in these situations. If the U.S. intervenes, we just reinforce the presumption, which is true, that we’re an imperial power.
 
The language of intervention and no-intervention is meaningless. America has hundreds of military bases around the world. We’ve intervened. The question is what are the limits of American intervention? Right now there doesn’t seem to be any. President Obama is clearly worried about being involved in an intervention in Syria you can’t get out of. I appreciate that. But America is everywhere.
 
The just war tradition is based on a series of arguments to be tested before using force against another population. Legitimate and competent authorities must logically argue that the use of force will end or limit the suffering of a people and these forceful actions are the last options after all diplomatic, social, political, and economic measures have been exhausted.
 
 
William Galston is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.  Religion News Service photo courtesy Brookings Institution
William Galston is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Religion News Service photo courtesy Brookings Institution

This image available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.
 
William Galston
Senior fellow, Brookings Institution
 
In principle, just war theory does justify military intervention to protect innocent human life — as long as the proposed action meets the tests of effectiveness and proportionality. But nations may undertake military action only after every other possible means of ending the bloodshed has been exhausted.
 
Although we can argue about whether that condition has been met in the case of Syria, prospects for diplomatic progress appear slim, and the Syrian government’s recent use of poison gas against a rebel stronghold probably derailed diplomacy indefinitely. For the Assad regime, there’s no middle ground; if it doesn’t prevail militarily, it will disappear. So it’s reasonable to conclude that if we do nothing, nothing will change, and the slaughter of civilians will continue indefinitely.
 
If we can act effectively to protect innocent human life, we have an obligation do so — unless the costs to us are prohibitive (and there’s no reason to suppose they must be). We failed that test in Rwanda but met it in the Balkans. We do not know whether the options we now have will prove effective, but that uncertainty does not justify doing nothing.
 
 
Qamar-ul Huda, senior program officer in the Religion & Peacemaking Center of the United States Institute of Peace. Photo courtesy United States Institute of Peace
Qamar-ul Huda, senior program officer in the Religion & Peacemaking Center of the United States Institute of Peace. Photo courtesy United States Institute of Peace

This image available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.
 
Qamar-ul Huda
Senior program officer in the Religion & Peacemaking Center of the U.S. Institute of Peace
 
The just war tradition, in religious or secular traditions, emphasizes the principle of proportionality, that is to say that an attack on any population shouldn’t target noncombatants, the environment or natural resources; the attack shouldn’t annihilate the opponent’s military if it is clear they are in a position of surrendering or losing.
 
“Just war” arguments for a military intervention in Syria need to consider the problem of no action by the international community, which can increase civilian suffering and validate the actions of an abusive government. These discussions need to study the problems of intervening and limiting the force against military institutions and how civilians will be protected in the midst of the intervention and post intervention.
 
Also, we need to examine, when the intervention is over, how efforts can limit or mitigate sectarian violence and the possibilities of a civil war. We need to ask: Ultimately what new responsibilities do the interveners have in rebuilding, reconstructing and restoring peace in Syrian society?
 
 
The Rev. Drew Christiansen, SJ, a Jesuit priest and visiting scholar at Boston College who has been a longtime adviser to the U.S. Catholic Bishops on international affairs and the Middle East.  Photo courtesy Rev. Drew Christiansen
 The Rev. Drew Christiansen, a Jesuit priest and visiting scholar at Boston College who has been a longtime adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops on international affairs and the Middle East. Photo courtesy Caitlin Cunnihgham, Boston College
 
 
The Rev. Drew Christiansen
Jesuit priest and visiting scholar at Boston College and longtime adviser to the U.S. Catholic Bishops on international affairs
 
My problem is that I don’t see why this kind of chemical attack matters so mightily when 100,000 civilians have been killed in Syria already. It seems to me that you’ve had massive attacks on civilians — with the world standing aside — that should have been the reason for intervention. But there’s also a question of proportionality and success, and I think that there are good reasons to think you might make things worse by a military attack.
 
There’s no objective for success right now. They’d do much better to try to work long-term for support of the elements of the rebellion that the U.S. wants to support, and we should work strenuously to build up the capacity to respond and build up the responsibility to protect (vulnerable populations), which we can’t do now.
 
I just don’t see why the particular (chemical weapons) attack should justify intervention at this point, especially if it’s just a rap on the knuckles to remind Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Now if the chemical attacks were to become a pattern there would be good reason to intervene. But for one occasion, it seems to me that it doesn’t weigh up compared to those who should have been protected and haven’t been, and those who still need protection. I just don’t understand. It seems to me you need a strategic objective, which doesn’t exist, and therefore just war norms don’t apply.
 
 
Tyler Wigg-Stevenson Founder and director of the Two Futures Project and the author of the forthcoming "The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good." Photo courtesy Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
Tyler Wigg-Stevenson,
founder and director of the Two Futures Project and the author of the forthcoming “The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good.” Photo courtesy Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

This image available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
Chair of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons and author of “The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good”
 
As Christians we know precisely and unambiguously what we are for, in Syria as everywhere: peace, justice, and reconciliation. We also stand absolutely in opposition to all weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, because they weaponize the tactic of indiscriminate killing, categorically forbidden by every Christian tradition of ethics on war and peace.
 
This clarity regarding moral ends, however, does not carry an automatic prescription of means to achieve them. This is what complicates our thinking about the American response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The one who takes innocent life, in any situation, calls down the wrath of the Lord upon his or her head. But the United States is not the sword of God. Its response to Assad’s atrocities must be contextualized by prudential wisdom about the extended consequences of different actions. In such matters no “expert” can really know the future.
 
This is why our moral certitude actually leaves us in a place of profound tension regarding proposals for tactical intervention: We know what is right, but not the course of action to bring about the right. All we have is a set of convictions against which we can weigh a host of imperfect proposals.
 
 
broyde
Rabbi Michael Broyde, professor of law and senior fellow, Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion. Photo courtesy Rabbi Michael Broyde
 
Rabbi Michael Broyde
Professor of law and senior fellow, Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion
 
Jewish traditional just war theory can certainly be used to justify military intervention in Syria both to topple a dictator and to save the lives of those without guilt. But even more needs to be noted. The Jewish tradition avers that it is wrong to stand by while one’s neighbors blood is shed (and while that biblical verse does not directly apply for a variety of technical reasons), its ideals certainly ought to guide us. When the lives of innocent people are at stake, all people should do whatever they can to save those lives, even if this means that the lives of the guilty will be lost.
 
Of course, if there is any lesson in modern times, it is that the theory of just war in any religious or legal tradition can not only be evaluated based on the theory, but also based on the likelihood of success. A proper application of just war theory can produce a situation in which good people apply just and lawful force to a bad situation and make it much worse, both in theory and in practice.
 
In the real world, just war theory has to actually work, and not just theoretically work. Doing nothing is a moral option when doing anything makes a bad situation worse. Options that bring peace and protect the innocent are to be favored when reasonable people think that they are likely to work in fact.
 
 
Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University. Photo courtesy Andrew Bacevich
Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University. Photo courtesy Andrew Bacevich

This image available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.
 
Andrew J. Bacevich
Professor of international relations at Boston University
 
From a moral perspective, it appears that observers see killing civilians with chemical weapons as somehow different from killing civilians with conventional weapons. I don’t know why there would be any distinction. Egyptians who are killed are just as dead as the Syrians who were killed, and though it appears that dying of a chemical weapons attack is an awful experience, frankly bleeding to death from a gunshot wound to your chest or stepping on a mine that blows off your leg is equally awful. So anyone who makes an argument that there’s a moral obligation to act has to address that question: Why here and not there?
 
The second aspect it seems to me is: What do we expect to achieve? Even if there is a moral case for intervention, how does the use of force remedy the situation? It appears to me that this is going to be a very limited attack with a very limited target set. There’s no intention of overthrowing the regime and no intention of limiting the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian Army.
 
So beyond allowing ourselves to feel virtuous because we have done something in response to a reprehensible act, what has been gained? If indeed the episode in Syria rises to the level where it is different from Egypt and we really are morally obligated to do something, then it ought to be something more than just a gesture. And of course as a practical matter, [frankly] nobody’s got the appetite to do anything more than make gestures.
 
 
Robert Parham
Executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
 
As President Obama campaigns for military action against Syria, Christians would do well to remember the eight rules of “Just War.”
 
First is the just cause of protecting innocent human life.
 
Second is securing the authorization for war from Congress.
 
Third is last resort, the exhaustion of efforts at conflict resolution before launching a war.
 
Fourth is just intent. Restoring U.S. honor or punishing Syria after it has crossed the “red line” of chemical weapons hardly passes just intent.
 
Fifth is probability of success–a high chance to achieve war’s stated purpose.
 
Sixth is proportionality of cost. War must do more good than harm. Do U.S. strikes prolong the civil war and create more refugees?
 
Seventh is just means. Targeting non-combatant civilians is immoral, which makes strikes in urban areas problematic.
 
Eighth is clear announcement. The U.S. must state clearly why and when Syria will be struck.
 
These are high moral hurdles to cross. Yet it is better to cross them than to rush into war – war is always more costly with more negative unforeseen consequences than war-makers project.
 
 
(This article was reported by Yonat Shimron, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson and Lauren Markoe.)
 
KRE/AMB END RNS
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Dallas Willard: The Protoevangelical Faith of Evangelicalism, Part 2

 
 
The Many Beating Hearts of Evangelicalism
Part 2
 
by Scot McKnight
Sep 5, 2013
 
Let us agree that one way of talking about evangelicalism is to speak to five themes:
  • Bible,
  • Conversion,
  • Cross,
  • Evangelistic and Social Activism, and its
  • Focus on Salvation.
 
How does Dallas Willard fit into these major themes? This is the question Gary Black Jr asks in The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Protoevangelical Faith.
 
I cannot emphasize the value of this book enough: Dallas Willard was way ahead of the curve on many issues.
 
Dallas left an imprint on each of these themes. That, in many ways, was his genius, but even more he set theology in the context of Christlikeness, or he set theology in the context of formation. Any theology that is not in the context of formation needs to be recontextualized.
 
What area of Willard’s theology was the most challenging for you?
Where do you think his impact was/is?
 
To begin with, Dallas Willard ordered these themes so that Bible and conversion generated cross-and-activism in the context of a robust view of salvation. If you listen to the Word, you will be converted into those other themes.
 
Scripture: it is the human and divine in concert. He’s not into either inerrancy or plenary inspiration theologies. Infallibility is “for the purposes of guiding us into a life-saving relationship with God in his kingdom” (58). The Bible is comprised of “witness testimony” and as such has “the limitations of individual perspectives” (59). God can be trusted to communicate what God wants us to know. Once again, his view emphasizes the divine infallible ability to accomplish divine purposes. Many defenses of Scripture result in rationalism and dogmatism.
 
Black says Willard removes his view of Scripture from so much of what evangelicals fight about. Scripture is a “physical, written manifestation of God’s revealed presence” (60). Here he sketches Logos, which is “present in the Scriptures, in history, in nature, and also discovered in the lives of individuals” (60). Scriptures are an objective presence of the Logos in the world, but not an all-inclusive representation of the Logos. The living Logos transcends language (62). Straightforward readings are its design. Methodology does not necessarily lead to encounter into transformation. Let the Bible be the Bible, and listen to it. The highest view of Scripture listens and applies Scripture.
 
Also, Willard believes in a “conversational revelation”: that God speaks and we hear God’s voice. We are called to live our life “with God.” God still communicates; cessationism is contra the Bible. God still uses the “still small voice.” God is a person; we are persons; person-to-person communication follows.
 
Willard on “conversion: his focus is transformation, not the term “conversion.” Thus, he connects justification and sanctification, and conversion is thus a life-long event. It is progressive adaptation to ontological status. It is holistic conversion of the whole self into Christlikeness.
 
Black sketches Willard’s VIM theory: vision, intention and means. Christlikeness met with intention to be Christlike and the spiritual disciplines are the means. It is more than correct belief and it cannot happen all at once. God’s Spirit transforms.
 
On activism: Willard thinks evangelicalism’s activism (in evangelism) is rooted in an unhealthy and unbiblical understanding of salvation. In other words, discipleship has left salvation’s house. He advocates “discipleship evangelism.” If the aim is Christlikeness, then activism must be entirely devoted to that — not to forgiveness or guilt or status.
 
Only in light of the above can we see what Willard is onto when it comes to crucicentrism. Justification is a restored relationship with God. “Just as if I’d never sinned” is unhelpful. Atonement is God giving his Son for us and our salvation. The cross is one dimension of that giving. New life is atonement. How it happens is a mystery. Salvation is about deliverance — from sin and sins. Not just imputation of a meritorious condition but a new relationship — again showing how relational theology is at its core. Traditional evangelical atonement theories — penal substitution —  then can miss the whole point. It is all about a state of being. Thus it is not so much believing in the cross but entering into the cross.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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