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January 14, 2015

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Why Christians Don’t Seek to Avenge Insults against God

Because He told us not to (Rom 12:14-21), and when we do seek vengeance that's actually a form of us usurping God's rightful place and placing ourselves in a position of authority where we don't belong. That's the antithesis of "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me."

F, yes, you'll see a link to that passage in the post above. (It's unclear to me if you're adding or disagreeing.) We leave room for God's wrath, who will bring about perfect justice. But our behavior isn't just a matter of law—of obeying God's commands. It goes to the heart of the gospel, and this needs to be viewed in terms of the gospel because it's the gospel—it's who Jesus is and what He did for us—that changed who we are, the way we view the world, and how we live, not rule-following. "For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law" (Galatians 3:21).

Unfortunately, humans are predators. Meek and mild can be seen as the actions of prey.

Not to at we should be aggressive, but we have to be aware that nonbeliever's natural instinct will be attack.

And when those non-believers attack, you must turn the other cheek.

John Moore,

>> And when those non-believers attack, you must turn the other cheek.

Must, eh? Certainly so! So, let's take this one step farther. If on attack, Christians turn the other cheek, in response, the "non-believers" will either 1) realize the advantage and continue to oppress, 2) realize there is a perceived value in the teachings of Christ by the faithful and seek their rationale, or 3) remain neutral to this oddity in the Christian nature. This would make the "non-believer" a 1) consummate bully, 2) pensive and sensitive, or 3) apathetic. I see no value in positions one and three. It would make the "non-believer" the artifact in a culture of the mean and surly.

I don't know how the "non-believer" would take to parables, but this Christian sees their importance and offer you one. A young prince, in the years leading up to the succession, had many people who rivaled him and sought to disgrace him in the royal family. However, on the passing of the king, the prince gained the throne in spite of his rivals' efforts. As king, he decided to show the greatest kindness to these men. Some subjects were puzzled, and one asked the new king, "Sire, you hold the throne and can wield the power to destroy your enemies. Why this kindness to your opponents?" The prince now king replied, "How best to destroy your enemies than by making them your friends?"

Our culture is developing a strange fondness for power. Should power then be exercised to run (ruin?) the lives of others, or rather to use power in the defense and support of the weak?

A pleasant day to you, John.

The humility of Christ may not be equal to what you're saying here, if I understand what you are saying. If we are saying we don't address the insults then I'd have to disagree. Christ addressed several insults. And once even used one calling the pharisees a brood of vipers. We are to be humble and servants. This doesn't rule out defending ourselves graciously. I'm just not sure what we are talking about here. What kind of insults? Either way christ should be exemplified and proclaimed.

I am curious as to your use of "weakness" several times to describe Jesus' obedience to God. How can facing a cruel scourging and death on a cross ever be considered a weakness? What great, supernatural strength it took to endure what He did.

Ann, rather than using it to describe His obedience, I used it to describe a result of the incarnation. A human body is weak and destructible—dying, in particular, demonstrates our human weakness, which is why Yusuf Ismail was so dismayed by the idea God could become man. But of course Christ's obedience in coming to suffer and die was not weak. Rather, it was strength through weakness. This is exactly what Yusuf Ismail could not see (which is what James White notes if you keep listening to his commentary after the Yusuf Ismail quote).

GraceToDesire, there's a big difference between addressing insults and avenging (punishing) them! The news of this past week makes that clear.

Amy

I think we are all in agreement that God's (ultimate) perfect justice in the end will prevail. Praise the Lord!

The overall context of the difficulty that mos.lems have with Christianity (in addition the weakness comment that you discuss) is the issue of temporal justice.

What is evident from the news lately and in general, is that they believe that their actions are meant to execute (temporal) justice because of their god or prophet being dishonored.

There are many complex philosophical and epistemological issues involved but I wanted to be as narrow as I can so that this isn't a 400 comment thread.

From your worldview as a Christian, what place does temporal justice have? (penal sanctions against crimes etc..)

Christopher, Romans 13 talks about the fact that God has given His authority to governments to punish evil and reward good. They stand in His place to do this, and individuals don't have this authority. Because of this, we're not allowed to seek vengeance for crimes on our own. The government is the proper authority to do this: "[I]t is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." (When we "never take our own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God," as it says in the passage immediately preceding the passage about governments, part of that wrath of God is accomplished through the government.)

But I don't think insults against me rise to the level of a crime to be punished by the state (just as there are many immoral things that aren't punished by the state). And since God has not created a theocracy with the New Covenant (unlike Israel in the Old Covenant), neither are insults against God punished as crimes by the government. The government punishes crimes against the people and the state, not against God. But in each of the crimes punished by the state, there's an element of those crimes being crimes against God as King, which will be punished ultimately not by the state, but by God Himself.

So the government punishes some, but not all, evil when bringing about temporal justice. But in all cases of people doing immoral things (adultery, lying, insulting God, etc., etc.), God's wrath will eventually punish. Either we will face the wrath of God for everything we've done that was immoral, or we'll join ourselves to Jesus who will have faced it for us.

neither are insults against God punished as crimes by the government

pfff

I find it odd that Muslims do not see that when they call the New Testament corrupt, it is they that are insulting their own prophet by calling him a liar since he claimed that it is a text that is profitable for Muslims to read. The fact that we have a copy dating back to Muhammad's time would speak against the alleged corruption and find Muslims guilty of slander. This error should be an object lesson to us why we aught to leave vengeance to God.

You can’t make fun of other people’s faith ... You cannot insult other people's faith
says Jorge Bergoglio (aka the Pope) in response to Charlie Hebdo.

What does can't/cannot mean in this context?

What kind of prohibition does Bergoglio have in mind?

If you must use this event, Amy, as a chance to score a theological point, then you might at least mention those among the dead who were murdered for 'blasphemy' even if you don't recognize their courage.

RonH,

"You might at least mention those among the dead who were murdered for 'blasphemy' even if you don't recognize their courage."

Ron, please understand that most Christians are very much against killing people for the reasons that were given by the Muslims involved in the murders and that we view courage as a virtue and support free press (even if it is lacking in any filter of good taste as in the case of Charlie Hebdo paper), it would be remiss on our part to not point out that sometimes courage that produces more bad than good in its wake is perhaps not the right way to express one's courage. Courage in the service of a good cause is one thing. Courage in the service of a cause of something twisted and immoral is quite another. This paper was born out of rebellion for rebellion's sake as is the case of such satirical papers. Rebellion in itself is not necessarily a good, but depends on the nature of its deployment and the reasons for its existence and its ultimate telos. There have been times in the past when Christians were rebels (Bonhoeffer), but in a manner that was a measured and circumspect way that did not ignore the rules of decency and fitting the nature rebellion and degree of it to the tyranny in question.

This brings me to this point. While tyranny and rules of appropriate behavior both seem repressive and some folks will look only this far to make a judgment, I think the difference between the two is striking in that in the accurate implementation of rules of behavior one is free to be that which his inner moral nature dictates anyways, while tyranny goes against that moral nature and it is the perceptive that make this distinction and understand the ramifications of such a distinction. I don't think that the authors of Charlie posses this kind of discernment and their shotgun approach to social critique reflects that fact.

Louis,

I wish everyone disagreeing with Charlie would say something like: Charlie, that is not an argument!.

That's not this world.

Some of what Charlie prints may disgust you, but printing it is the ONLY answer to those who would forbid and punish printing it.

Printing Who Told You That You Were Naked is the only answer to those who would forbid and punish printing Who Told You That You Were Naked.

There is only one side to be on here and that is not with Bergoglio or with the Irish blasphemy law but with Charlie.

Charlie is a hero.

Ron

Ron,

Perhaps it is because I was raised as an oppressed minority in an agrarian culture that my ideology was shaped to think that a hero is someone whose actions, thoughts, and values were worthy of emulation because all of them were virtuous in nature. So, perhaps that is why my expectations of a hero sets the bar quite a bit higher than the simple knee-jerk reactionary one with no moral filtering ideology. Then again, perhaps it is simply because I have remained true to the roots of my humanity that I hold a different view from that of the publisher of Charlie regarding the issue of a hero actually posessing good taste. I know that this is a horrible example to use, but I hope it drives my point home. How admirable would the character of James Bond be to the general audience if he walked into a posh coctail party with the most unattractive, dressed in rags, bag lady he could possibly find (no offense to those ladies who have an inner beauty that outshines your otward appearance(I'm no prince Charming myself :) ))? Along with that...he, himself would walk in dressed in the torn rags of a homeless bum, including a pungent aroma of someone not having bathed or showered for a year? Let's say that he saved the world from the brink of catastrophe...fine...but why would one wish to emulate this kind of HERO in every way possible? One shouldn't. Nothing wrong with his virtuous actions, but his moniker of HERO is badly tarnished by these other flaws and I think this is true of the publication under discussion. A hero should tick all the boxes of a true hero, not just some. A hero should set a high enough (not lowering it to the common denominator) standard that it becomes worthy of following its every step and doing so without shame or self degredation. Yes Charlie stood up to a terrible system, but failed to do the same when it came to the oppression of immorality its staff is under. I think it would have taken greater courage to have said "Who cares if our paper makes no money...we will not use trashy tactics to appeal to the basest portion of human nature in order to rake in profits, while at the same time stand up against what we know to be wrong." Now that would be a HEROIC STANCE that did not cowardly hide behind the shield of popular pbulic opinion (i.e. political acceptability). Sometimes it is far more courageous to stand up against the culture you live in...even if no one is pulling out guns to kill you...than it is to stand up to a fanatical gunman. The reason for this is that the gun of cultural acceptability is far less obviously a weapon that kills a human soul...which is a far worse death than one inflicted by hollow-points.

I'm not as capable in making my words drip with meaning as some here can, but I hope this might help some, in some small way, to put this topic into appropriate perspective.

no moral filtering ideology

You have my answer to this suggestion already: Charle prints the ONLY answer to those who would forbid and punish printing what Charlie prints.

the oppression of immorality its staff is under...Sometimes it is far more courageous to stand up against the culture you live in
What does this stuff mean and what's it got to do with anything?
I'm not as capable in making my words drip with meaning as some here can
Who are the 'some' you refer to?

ronh,

I'm puzzled.

>> Charlie is a hero.

Before comment, I think it best if I could ask you for your reasoning on this statement. If I understand, that might remove the need for my two cents.

DGFischer,

I gave my reasoning and repeated it above. You can figure it out, I'm sure.

But one more time: Printing what Charlie prints is the only response to any who would prohibit and punish what Charlie prints.

If you want to give me two cents, then answer that explicitly, stay away from side issues, stay away from parables. And please be brief.

Just so you know: You can put in your two cents but at this point I have said all I have to say about this and repeated much of it. I don't have much time for this stuff anymore so I might not see your two cents. In that case you'd get no response. The same could happen if I see your two cents and think they add to nothing. Sorry.

ronh,

I fear you don't understand the logical chasm you're building.

>> I gave my reasoning and repeated it above. You can figure it out, I'm sure.

Then you graciously offered me your "But one more time ..." Which I read, and tried to digest. It is so hopelessly backwards. Temporal at least. The prohibition/punishment prompting the response of Charlie printing. The nature of satire is to attack institutions and would desire that all this be accepted as the subject of intellectual humor. Still, satire needs to respect the essential taboos of culture (let's discuss LGBT for a while and critique scientific procedures for a time and see what intellectual perils we encounter). For every "je suis Charlie" there is a person who understands that Charlie asked for reprisal (some even relish this reprisal; hence the point of this post's topic.

I feel that recently we have confused "victim" for "hero." The business of CH was founded on a "freedom of the press" which is suddenly discovered not to be universally recognized. We both know that CH could raise controversial subjects; so can any rabble rouser. And perhaps the nature of the chasm between us is your idealism centered on the freedom of the press defended in spite of the consequences and my idealism that "one reaps what one sows," and a zeal to avoid serious consequences.

Voila. Two cents. Let's go in peace.

I believe the answer is summed up in John 18:36 (KJV), Jesus answers Pilate by saying, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

Those of the world will fight. They will contend, argue, belittle, all the things that Satan craves and propagates. Those not of this world know better. They know who their God is and are confident in His power and in His Divine mission. There is no need to fight.

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