The Biblical Theology of Violence
Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Audio: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic. The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Audio: If they don't like it here, they can leave. You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Audio: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not. From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust the Lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon, and we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you? As Keith and I record this episode in late March, we are in the middle of watching a war unfold in Ukraine, and I don't know about you, Keith, I spend a decent amount of time listening to podcasts, reading articles about what's happening over there, listening to stories of people who are reporting from Ukraine, and it's really devastating. It's heartbreaking hearing what the Russians are doing to Ukraine right now.
Keith Simon: I think one of the reasons that people are so moved by the events in Ukraine is just because, you're right, we can watch them in a way we haven't watched any other war. It's on social media, you're reading articles of personal stories. And so, I guess there's always been this sense in which the closer you are to war, the more horrible it seems. And now, all of us are being brought into the death, the destruction, the hurt, the pain, and it's very unsettling. I mean, it's just kind of miserable.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely. And on the flip side of that, though, I mean, part of me's been deeply moved, watching the bravery of Ukrainian civilians who are going to the front to fight, even though they have virtually no military training, listening to the stories of people who are delivering food to people who can't get outside of their houses, people who are elderly, to help them survive. Because they can't leave, they can't evacuate, they can't escape. And those stories, I think, of courage and bravery and self- sacrifice in a lot of ways are really moving. And for me, personally, it's been challenging because, as you know, Keith, I hold a position which most people don't hold when it comes to war and violence. I'm-
Keith Simon: Right. You're a pacifist.
Patrick Miller: I knew-
Keith Simon: I just want to go back for a second before you-
Patrick Miller: I knew you were going to try and name me. I can't even name myself.
Keith Simon: crosstalk pacifism. I want to go back for a second and say, you're right, there have been a lot of heroic stories coming out of Ukraine. But just to be fair, there are also stories of Ukrainians beating Russian POWs. So war is one of these things where it's not all good or all bad. Neither side is all good, all bad, right? The Ukrainians have demonstrated a lot of courage, but war's something that does weird stuff to you. And there's also been what, maybe, people would call war crimes. I don't know, I'm not an expert in this kind of thing, but I think beating POWs is a no- go, right? And on the other side, in Russia, you've seen people demonstrating, being arrested, this person holding the sign on the tele vision news, people resigning from their positions. And so you've seen courage there, too. So, I guess, I'm just saying it works both ways, both sides, good and bad, both sides.
Patrick Miller: I absolutely agree, it's messy. I think looking at this situation, in particular, because there's the threat of nuclear war, hopefully not massive nuclear missiles, but maybe more tactical nuclear missiles. It escalates everything in a really scary way that has forced me, as someone who believes in Christian nonviolence, not pacifism, thank you very much. We can get into that later, if we want to. It's forced me to reflect and ask myself the question, if I was in Ukraine, I was a civilian, I would have to stay there, what would I do? Would I feel compelled to participate in this war? Would I feel compelled to protect my land and my country from an invading force? If I didn't, would I be risking putting my neighbors lives at risk? Would I be doing something that was cowardly, that lacked courage? And so, I've taken this as a personal opportunity to reflect on my own positions. Now, my positions don't come out of nowhere. I became a Christian when I was 19, and that would've been in 2006. So to give you context, this is after 9/ 11 and it's after Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most people realize that our being in Iraq was a huge mistake. And so, perhaps it's no surprise that when I became a Christian, I became a Christian in a context where people were very, very critical of war and warfare. And some of the early influences in my faith and my life were people who were very outspoken pacifists, people who would agree with me right now that Christian nonviolence is the way. Now, I will say this, I flip- flopped on this issue. As I became more reformed, I got obsessed with Augustine and read a lot of his work. I actually changed sides and went to the just war side. And you know what? There are situations where violence is called for. But then it was actually in seminary, in an ethics class, where a professor trying to convince me of the position I already held, just war, that I realized he didn't have a good argument.
Keith Simon: I think so much has just come to light. I wish you would've said all this earlier. Because, let me see if I understand how it went down. You were a peacenik, a pacifist, and then you had to come- to- Jesus moment where you started reading more widely, better theologians, and you-
Patrick Miller: No, no, no, no-
Keith Simon: ... had amy eyes have opened and I came to embrace the correct position-
Patrick Miller: You've actually misinterpreted it. It was once I became a Christian that I became committed to nonviolence. Before I was a Christian, so 9/ 11, all that. I had lots of friends who went off to war. I thought that war was something that we should celebrate and was a good thing. Because again, I lived through 9/ 11 and I saw. It was when I started reading the teachings of Jesus and what he said about on violence that I actually started saying, " Wait a second, this might be talking about what's happening." Simultaneous to that, though, because again, this is 2006, it's becoming more and more clear, in 2006, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It's becoming more and more clear that this war might not have been justified. So what you're trying to do is saying I was a peacenik before I was a Christian, that that's a falsehood. I was not a peacenik before I was a Christian.
Keith Simon: Well, I wasn't so much focused on that, although, that's helpful in clarifying, and all wonderful and good. But what I was saying is the more widely you read into better theology, Augustine and all, you embraced a just war thing, but then I know you to be a bit of a contrarian. So you're sitting in a seminary class in which you went to a seminary, where all the professors signed the same statement of belief. They all believe the same things. And, of course, you are going to want to push back. So when you said he was trying to convince you of a position you already held, that's one of the hardest things to do, convince you of a position you already hold, because you want to fight it, right? So if he would've taken a different tack, a different strategy, we might be on opposite sides of the mic, or might be on the same side of the microphone.
Patrick Miller: Who does, who does? You and I are both contrarians, and I will very willingly admit that I could possibly be holding this position because of a personal disposition. I do tend to take positions that other people dislike.
Keith Simon: That are unpopular.
Patrick Miller: That are unpopular-
Keith Simon: To try to make a point-
Patrick Miller: ...I'm very willing to admit at it, right? So I'm not even going to fight with you on this. Now, I still think you're dead wrong. I mean, I don't think the arguments for just war are salient. But what about you, Keith? I mean, where have you been on this issue?
Keith Simon: So I became a Christian, too, when I was 19, although it wasn't in 2006. It was a little bit before that.
Patrick Miller: Was it 1986?
Keith Simon: I don't remember when it was. I guess it was, I don't know. Sounds somewhat right. So anyway, none of my thoughts about war were shaped by my Christian faith, either before I became a Christian or afterwards. I had the idea of patriotism, love of country, let's kick butt, we're the greatest country out there. And I remember in the first Gulf War, so this is George H. W. Bush, and Rush Limbaugh, who I listened to very religiously back then, he would do these parody songs. And one of the songs he did about the Iraq War was off of a Beach Boys' song, Barbara Anne. And it was Ba- Ba- Ba- Barbara Ann, except he made it into Ba- Bomb- bomb, bomb-bomb- Iraq. And so, you would be laughing at what was admittedly a funny song, singing along about bombing people, without ever having to consider that you're killing people, made in God's image. You're killing kids, women, everybody, right? Soldiers, everybody. And so, I think I grew up in a very nationalistic age in which I took a lot of pride in being an American. So, it's only in the last several years that my Christian convictions have started to shape and change my beliefs about war and peace, and force and all this kind of stuff that we're going to talk about today.
Patrick Miller: So let me lay out the outline of how this is going to go. This is going to be two different episodes. And, at this point, we haven't recorded. So we don't even quite know where the divide in the episodes will come, so you'll get to enjoy that with us. But we're opening right now, just setting up the context. Because I don't think a lot of people are honest enough about how their own personal story, their own personal history, shapes their views of violence, of self defense, of warfare. Most of us just don't even think about that being a part of it. But, of course, it plays a huge role. The next thing we're going to do is we're going to look at what the Bible says about violence. And on this, Keith and I actually have a lot of agreement. We aren't really confused by what the Bible says, although, we do ultimately come to different interpretations on how that should be applied in practical life. In the next section, I will do a steel man argument. What's a steel man argument? People might not know that term.
Keith Simon: It's the best version of your argument. So you're going to put together the best quality argument you can make for pacifism.
Patrick Miller: For Christian nonviolence.
Keith Simon: And then I'll come back and I'll make the best argument, or the steel man version, of the just war argument. And then, we will ask each other hard questions.
Patrick Miller: We're going to roast each other.
Keith Simon: Well, I don't know. I think that there's a lot of hard questions that both sides have to answer, and neither of us are going to have perfect answers, because we live in a messy, broken, fallen world. And I don't think the Bible is crystal clear on this. I mean, I think I'm right, and I think my position's right, but there's a lot of hard questions. It's messy.
Patrick Miller: And I want to say that neither one of these positions is airtight. I mean, it's very rare that you have airtight positions, but either one of these are airtight. And I think both Keith and I would say that there's other things that we believe much more strongly. I say I'm maybe 60, 65% into the category of Christian nonviolence. That's about how convinced I am that it's right. So there's still a lot of room where I would be very willing to admit, yeah, that's a weakness of this argument and I have to wrestle with.
Keith Simon: No, that's higher than you were a couple days ago. So your reading must have convinced you.
Patrick Miller: What did I say?
Keith Simon: I thought you said, like 52%. I don't know.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, I probably am more convinced now that I've spent some more time defending it.
Keith Simon: So think about your theology and concentric circles, and at the center is the stuff that you are most convinced about, say the deity of Christ, the authority of scriptures. And then, as those concentric circles get out further and further, these are areas the Bible is not as clear on and therefore you hold more loosely. I think this argument between just war and pacifism is closer on the outer circles. Now there's a lot that Patrick and I agree on. We're going to come to different conclusions, but we agree on some core biblical teaching. And I think that core biblical teaching is closer to the center, not at the center, but closer to the center of our faith. I think our interpretations of where it leads us in pacifism and war are probably on the outer circles.
Patrick Miller: So let me start by saying what I think you and I both agree on in this area, in this topic. The first thing is that war and violence are bad. No one looks at war and violence and says, " These are good things. I celebrate war, I celebrate violence." You're giving me a look like you disagree with that.
Keith Simon: Well, I don't disagree that war is bad, but I do think it can be a good. I do think war-
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: ...can be a good.
Patrick Miller: And so, that goes to the question that we'd agree on. And the question is whether the evil of war is ever justified or necessary to resist a greater evil. In other words, are there circumstances where the violence of someone else is so bad, so wrong, that the only way you can resist is with violence in turn. The violence itself in neither case, I think we both agree is not a good thing, but it might be a necessary thing in certain circumstances.
Keith Simon: Well, I think given that we live in a Genesis 3 world, which I'm going to say a few different times, and let me just say upfront what I mean by it, is that we live in a world that is cursed by sin, a world on this side of Eden, but before Christ's kingdom is fully established. And in this given that we live in, the Genesis 3 sin- cursed world. I think force or power is a good to be used to accomplish morally- justified ends.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And that's really helpful, because you and I are even going to define violence differently, which is going to make this conversation a little bit confusing. Because what I say when I mean violence and what you say when you mean violence are two separate conversations. But let me hit one other area that I think we agree on. So we kind of agreed on that and that's good. I like that.
Keith Simon: It's a good start.
Patrick Miller: I'm with kind of agree. Let's go on to the one I think that we absolutely agree on, war and violence are temporary. The trajectory of the Bible is towards nonviolence and peace. The question is whether we've reached the point where Christians should be living out that nonviolence and peace in a entire holistic way, or if that's something that comes fully when Jesus returns.
Keith Simon: Well, yes, but how we frame these questions and issues is really important. And I think what I would say is, that in this world that we live in, that there are spheres of influence, spheres of sovereignty. And I think the big mistake you make is that you're confusing the government sphere of sovereignty with the individual sphere of sovereignty. And so, what you're trying to do is take teaching that Jesus gave to individuals and apply it to governments in ways that don't make sense out of the biblical text, the biblical story and theological categories. So, I agree with you that war is something that is temporary. We won't have war in Christ's coming kingdom, but I don't think the ultimate question is, well, should we start practicing that now? I mean, yes, of course we should in our individual lives, but it seems like you have an over- realized eschatology.
Patrick Miller: In other words, let me define what Keith just said. He thinks I am bringing the future of God's kingdom too much into the present. And I think that that is a fair question and a fair critique. And you think I'm over- applying kingdom ethics to secular governments. So I think it's something that we're going to have to wrestle with in context. But again, big picture. What do we agree on? War will end. Why will war end? Why will there be peace? Because at the end of the day, war is not ultimately a good thing. It would not have been in a Genesis 1 and 2 world. It won't be in a Revelation 21 world. And I think on those things, we can both fundamentally agree, even though in the present, we might disagree on how that applies to our lives.
Keith Simon: Fair.
Patrick Miller: All right, so let's hop into what the Bible says. So we've already been talking about the Garden. There is no violence in the Garden of Eden before the fall, before Genesis 3. There's shalom, there's peace, there's humans living with each other, living with God. They aren't killing each other. In the Garden, there is no violence. Then, obviously, Genesis 3 happens, humanity, rebels against God and that's when we start seeing human- on- human violence for the first time in the Bible. First example, of course, being Cain can killing his brother Abel, so Adam and Eve's sons killing each other. And then, it becomes the reason for the flood. God explains, " Why am I flooding the world? Why do I need to cleanse the world?" He makes it explicit, it's because of the violence that humans are doing to one another.
Keith Simon: Okay, I want to go back to Genesis 1 and 2, where we have this shalom, peace that you talked about, and that is true. But peace there is about a justly ordered society. And that's something that we're going to get into, I'm sure, later, is that, I think that your position, the pacifist position, argues for peace, but peace that God wants is the peace of a justly- ordered society. So, there's a big difference between those two things. And in the Garden, you didn't just have the absence of violence, you had perfect justice.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, absolutely.
Keith Simon: So that's why we didn't need force or war or anything like that because we lived in a just world.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, that's exactly right. I totally agree. And moving the story forward, after Noah's ark, Noah gets off the ark, and in Genesis 9, God talks to Noah and, essentially, and instates, in a lot of people's view, capital of punishment. He reaffirms all humanity's made in the image of God, but if one human takes another human's life, they're going to spill their blood as a result.
Keith Simon: Just quick question, does your pacifist position exclude capital punishment, or have you nuanced it in a way that you are okay with the biblical position on capital punishment?
Patrick Miller: I would actually say that there's grounds for the government to enact capital punishment.
Keith Simon: Whoa, okay.
Patrick Miller: This is why it's going to be a fun episode. See, here's the deal, when people think of pacificism-
Keith Simon: Come on over, baby!
Keith Simon: Come on over.
Patrick Miller: ... When people think ofthe
Patrick Miller: term pacifism, this is why I don't like it. They think of passivity and they think there are no circumstances where violence is ever involved. I'm talking about listen, Christian nonviolence. Now, let me ask my myself a different question. Could a Christian be the executioner? No. A Christian could not be the person pulling the lever to electrocute the guy on the chair. Now, let's not get into our debate, right? I am very willing to-
Keith Simon: I'm so willing to go down that road-
Patrick Miller: ...acknowledge. I will say this-
Patrick Miller: ... I will saythis,
Patrick Miller: there's an alternative understanding of Genesis 9, which some proponents of Christian nonviolence believe, which they would say, " Look, yes, God says, 'If you spill man's blood by man, shall your blood be spilled.'" They say, " Look, God, isn't saying that's the way it should be, he's just describing a reality." And so, that's a position other people take. I don't take that because my goal in this is not to be right, it's to be true to the text. Let's keep going. Genesis 12 to 50.
Keith Simon: So in Genesis 13 and 14, what you find is that a king attacks the city of Sodom and he takes Abraham's nephew, Lot. And they are doing something evil in that by taking Lot captive. And Abraham, who some people believe is a king, responds by going after Lot and tracking him down and saving him. And it's seen as a good thing, Abraham chasing down these kings and taking Lot back is something that Melchizedek, who's the high priest, blesses and affirms. So yeah, that's good. Then you move into the Exodus, the book of Exodus, and Pharaoh is the Old Testament image of evil, and part of what he does that is so evil is he enslaves the Israelites, but he also orders for all of their children, all their male children, to be killed. And there are two Egyptian midwives. What are their names? How do you say them?
Patrick Miller: Shipra and Pua.
Keith Simon: And they-
Patrick Miller: I thought about naming Iris, Shipra.
Keith Simon: Shipra?
Patrick Miller: Yeah, I just didn't think it was going to go well for her in life.
Keith Simon: You were going to name your daughter Shipra?
Patrick Miller: No, I wasn't really going to do, but I would love to because these are the first two people in human history, that we have recorded, who use nonviolent resistance-
Keith Simon: I feel sorry for your wife.
Patrick Miller: And by the way, my wife calls my position on this issue, the crazy position, so I haven't even convinced my own wife on this one. So anyways, Shipra and Pua, they are the first people in literary history and real history, that we know of, to use nonviolence to resist violence. They refused Pharaoh's orders to kill the Hebrew children, the first- born males. And when they go back to Pharaoh, he asks them what happens and they tell a lie. They essentially say, " Well, they just have their kids so quick, we can't get around to it. Sorry." And God blesses them for their actions. So their act of nonviolence is a way of resisting Pharaoh's evil.
Keith Simon: But you know the story of Exodus, that eventually, Moses leads the people out of slavery. And he does it by a miraculous intervention. And Pharaoh finally tells him to get out after his firstborn child is killed. And they March out and they end up crossing the Red Sea, and that sea then collapses on the Egyptians. So the Israelites don't commit any violent acts, but God sure does. He avenges his honor by drowning all the Egyptians soldiers in the sea.
Patrick Miller: The Israelites don't fight. God is the one who executes Pharaoh's army, also executes the firstborn children of the Egyptians during the Passover. But right after this, Israel actually does go to war for the first time. Before they ever get to Mount Sinai, God sends them off to war, and this is part of the beginning of them taking over the promised land. So let's move forward from here and talk for a second about the law code. So when we say the law codes, there's a lot of passages in the Old Testament this covers. Exodus 20 through 23, most of the book of Leviticus, most of the book of Deuteronomy, and little snatches, here and there, out of the book of Numbers. And there's a number of things that we just have to note. First of all, capital punishment is enforced inside of Israel, and not just for murder. Capital punishment is enforced for a lot of infringement. Now, there have been a lot of discussions about why this was the case and to what degree it was actually lived out. It's certainly true that God doesn't use capital punishment in every instance. He doesn't put Moses down for executing the Egyptian slave task master. He doesn't put down David for executing Uriah. Nonetheless, capital punishment is a part of their law.
Keith Simon: We also see the law codes sanction self defense. So, here is Exodus 22: 2, " If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck with a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed." So there seemed to be laws that restrain violent behavior and other laws that seemed to permit it.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, absolutely. There are also a number of laws which tell Israel how to wage war. Now, we need to bracket out two different forms of warfare in the law codes. One was the general set of laws that Israel was supposed to follow in warfare, and then, there was a different set of laws during the time of the conquest, when Joshua led the people into the promised land and they conquered the Canaanites. Very different rule sets for these two. So I want to start with the general rules. And the first thing to note is that Israel had a very, very different set of rules around warfare than other ancient near- Eastern countries, that they would've looked radically different. For example, they had no standing professional army. This was written into the law. And again, in the ancient Near East, that was incredibly uncommon. The army, the military, was entirely voluntary. If you didn't want to go to war, you didn't have to go to war. They also put limits on armaments. So, for example, kings weren't allowed to collect a certain amount of chariots, and chariots were the nuclear weapons of the ancient world. And so, there's limits put on the kind of weaponry that you can own. And they are also commanded to seek peace first and to limit environmental destruction. So they couldn't just go to a city and knock down a forest for the sake of their siege. There were limits on how much of the environment they could destroy in warfare.
Keith Simon: But like you said, when Israel was called to go into Canaan and take this Promised Land, there were people who lived there and they were to militarily drive them out. In fact, when they didn't fully drive them out, God later criticize them. But this story is told primarily in Joshua, and then a little bit in Judges. Now, in Joshua, they are told to wipe out every human being, everyone that breathes, men, women, children, the whole thing. And yet, we know that that's not exactly what happened. It seems like the Old Testament uses hyperbolic language to make a point. And the theological point it's making is that Israel is taking the Promise Land and fulfilling God's promises to them about that land. But we know they didn't actually kill every living being, although they did kill a lot of people. And the way we know that they didn't actually kill everyone is because we see those same people groups in the following chapters, in the book of Joshua.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, so you have a passage that says they killed all the Jebusites, and then, in the time of David, we find out, oh, but wait, the Jebusites are actually still there and they're running the city of Jerusalem. And so, again, this goes back to the hyperbolic language. We also know they didn't kill everyone because we have stories. Rahab being the prime example, where the spies come in and Rahab offers them refuge. And as a result, she's spared when the army comes in. It's also probably worth pointing out here that the cities where Joshua says they destroy every man, woman, and child, these were, for the most part, from what we know in archeology, military outposts. So there's actually a good chance there weren't many women and children present. It was probably mostly men there.
Keith Simon: Jericho is the famous example of that, that they destroyed everything in Jericho. But like you said, a military outpost. And if you just think about how the battle against Jericho was fought, they walked around the city one time each of the days, until the seventh day where they walked around it seven times. And so, that would've given the people in the city plenty of time to evacuate, should they have wanted to.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. In the book of Joshua, as well as the book of Judges, we see both Israelites enacting violence on God's behest, God telling them, " You need to go do this." And we also see the same theme that we saw in Exodus of God being the one who does the violence. God's the one who knocks down the walls in Jericho, which killed lots of people. God's the one who holds the sun still so that the Israelites can go and kill more people. In the book of Judges when Gideon surrounds this army, and they pretend that they're a bigger army than they are. They're breaking all these pots. Gideon only has 300 men, which by the way, was God's plan. God whittles the army down to 300 people. Well, the people inside of the camp that Gideon surrounds, they all end up killing each other. Again implying, God's the one who does the violence.
Keith Simon: But Gideon was told to whittle his army down to 300 people, more because God wanted him to trust him instead of in his army.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: Right? Okay. So the story continues into the king. Samuel appoints Saul as the king, and Saul's kingship is taken away from him when he refuses to kill the king of the Amalekites. Now, David, who then takes the throne from Saul, is known as a guy who is a great warrior. And he is celebrated as the king who has killed tens of thousands of people. But David has a mixed record with violence and force. For example, he refuses to kill Saul. Now, I think a nuance to that story is, the reason he refused to kill Saul, I think, that's important, and that is because Saul was God's anointed. So it wasn't that David was against using violence, it's that he thought that there were certain times to use it and other times where it was wrong to use it. He is held to account by Nathan the prophet for killing Uriah, who is Bathsheba's husband. You remember Bathsheba, the one that he committed adultery with. But the reason I think that he is criticized for that is because, by killing Uriah, he was hiding his own sin. So I don't think he was criticized for the violence, I think he was criticized by the sinful, selfish motives, which, I think, goes to show that, in the storyline of the Bible, intent really matters.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Intent absolutely does matter. What I find interesting about the story of David, as well, is that David intends to build a house for God. He wants to be the king who builds God's temple and God rejects him. He says, " No, it's not going to be you, it's going to be your son." But why does God reject him?
Keith Simon: Because he had shed blood, right?
Patrick Miller: Yeah, that's the explicit reason, and it's actually given to David multiple times. You almost get the sense that David doesn't understand it and God's repeating to him, " Hey, the reason why is because you have blood on your hands." And so, for some reason, David's acts of past violence, and he says this, by the way, before the events with Uriah. So we could say when he was still justified in his violence. David's acts of past violence prevented him from being able to be the one who could make heaven come to earth, who could rebuild Eden, who could build the place where God is present with his people. There's something about violence that keeps God out in the story. It has to go to Solomon, who's the one who ultimately builds the temple.
Keith Simon: So as this part of the Old Testament story unfolds, you find that Israel is involved in a lot of wars, but they're almost always defensive wars. They are being attacked by other people and they are having to defend themselves.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely. So maybe the prime example of this is in the time of Hezekiah, when Assyria, I mean, and this is the big, bad boy at the ancient Near East comes to attack Israel, and they destroy every city around Jerusalem. And then, they begin to seize Jerusalem. And Hezekiah knows he's up a creek and so, he turns to the prophet, Isaiah, and he prays for God to deliver him. And miraculously, without an Israelite leaving the city, without an Israelite going to war, he destroys the Assyrian army. He does this through rats and plagues and all kinds of things that are happening inside of the army. But the point is, Assyria leaves, and because of Hezekiah's prayer, they're rescued.
Keith Simon: Now again, I think the point there that you're supposed to walk away from that, is that God fights our battles for us, right?
Patrick Miller: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Keith Simon: That we put our hope and trust in God, not in the chariot, not in the horse. They are a vain hope for deliverance.
Patrick Miller: You're essentially quoting from Isaiah. Over and over, he has these passages about not trusting sword, not trusting chariot, not trusting horse, trusting in Yahweh instead, which again, some people have taken as a theme of nonviolence. If we pop into the prophets, we're going to see this mixed message. The writing prophets, this would be Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, they are very, very critical of violence in general. Now, we need to be careful, because the violence they're critical of is violence that's done to the poor, to the widows, to the orphans and to the helpless, right? So they're critical to violence that I think people who support just war would say they want to use the war to stop. But the other part with the prophets is that you see this theme that runs through multiple prophets, that one day, a day will come when God will cause Israel to hammer their swords into plowshares.
Keith Simon: When's that day coming?
Patrick Miller: Well, so, that's one of the questions, I think, we're going to have to wrestle with. In my view, and in the views of lots of scholars, the passage that you see in Isaiah 2: 1- 5, it's also repeated in Micah, it's picked up in Zechariah, that Jesus is the point at which we begin to see the fulfillment of many of these things. Now, the challenge with these passages is that there's aspects of them that definitely happened with Jesus, and there's some things you look at and you say, " Well, that hasn't happened." So, for example, in Isaiah, he says, " Nations will no longer wage war against nations." Well, clearly, we haven't reached that point. And yet, the idea of the people coming to Jerusalem, the nations coming to Jerusalem, to learn the word of Yahweh, well, yes, we know that part has happened in Jesus. That's the great commission where he gets on the mountain and he says, " Go and make disciples of the world." And so, there's elements of these prophecies that seem like they're in the future and others that seem like they're in the past. But broad picture, the prophets continually point to a day where warfare is no more.
Keith Simon: So, yes, I think maybe I'm going to add a question to my list to ask you later. And that is, how this already not yet plays into this. Because there's a sense in which Jesus has come to establish his kingdom. The kingdom came with him, and there's a sense in which that kingdom will not be fully realized until he returns a second time. And how we interpret our life between his first coming and his second coming really makes a big difference here. But eventually, Jesus will come, he will return. And when he returns, he will be the king who conquers all the nations. Now, we'll get more into that when we get into the book of Revelation here at the end, but the prophets foretell of that time coming.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, it's one of the ironies of all the messianic prophecies is that the Messiah, in some passages, seems like this great peace- bringer, who's giving, like you said, the just- ordered shalom that will spread across the whole earth. And yet in other passages, he's described as a conquering, violent king who destroys his enemies and rules over them for their good, but there is the violence and the destruction that comes.
Keith Simon: And part of that is about how you think that language should be taken. Is it figurative language? And sometimes it's pretty obvious, and sometimes it's not. Now, even if it is figurative language, it still represents something, and you have to wrestle with why use violent figurative language? So that takes me to a question I want to ask you about the wisdom literature. In Psalm 144, and other places, it talks about God training our hands for battle. So, here's King David using this kind of imagery. Now, we've already said David kills his thousands, his tens of thousands, and he is a warrior. And when he's praying God trains my hands for battle, is that figurative, like he's thinking spiritual battle and prayer? Or, is he thinking, " No, God trains my hands for battle to do his justice in a real physical war."
Patrick Miller: I think, obviously, the honest answer is to say, we'd have to ask King David to get his take on it. Now, I will say this, there-
Keith Simon: That is so weak.
Patrick Miller: Oh, it's not weak, because I'll give two thoughts.
Keith Simon: Well, maybe we should ask Jesus.
Patrick Miller: Well, you're asking me what did David mean when he said it. And so, I can't speak for David. Now, how do I interpret it? I tend to take a more metaphorical interpretation. Now I do that for three reasons. One, it's in the Psalms, and I don't know about you, but I am familiar with poetry, and poetry often trades in metaphor. Okay? So that's my first reason. My second reason is this, we know that Israel did not have a standing army. Most people were not trained for violence. They didn't have military training. And so, if this is the songs of Israel, their hymns, you have to imagine that the vast majority of the people singing it, haven't actually trained their hands for war. So what did they think they were singing when they were singing it? Well, maybe they thought what I think when I'm singing it, which is that this is talking about spiritual warfare, which will lead me to my third point. The idea, which is not just found in Ephesians, but is found throughout the Bible, of people putting on spiritual armor and spiritual weapons to fighting against forces of darkness is a common metaphor that we see throughout the Bible. So I cannot possibly be said to say, " Hey, I'm taking one passage and making it say something that it doesn't say or that you can't find elsewhere."
Keith Simon: Yeah, fair enough. I just wanted to know your opinion. I could've guessed it. Proverbs 24 talks about rescuing those who are being led away to death, and Ecclesiastes, in that kind of famous passage, there's a time for everything, says there is a time for war. So, I'm not sure that wisdom literature, the Proverbs, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, has a lot to say about war, but those are some of the passages that address violence.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, absolutely. So let's move on to the period of the exile. So, Israel's history, you have the kings and David and everybody who comes after him. Eventually, the nation splits into two. There's the northern nation of Israel, the southern nation of Judah. That northern nation is conquered by Assyria, but Judah, Jerusalem, they keep going on, until 586 BC, when the Babylonians come along and they destroy the southern kingdom, and they take these southerners off into exile in Babylon. And during this time, Israel experiences an intense, ongoing period of foreign subjugation that essentially runs from 586 BC all the way up to the time of Jesus, with a very, very brief respite. And so, they experience, personally, how violence, which is enacted by a authoritarian- totalitarian state, in multiple states, right? We're talking about Babylon, Persia, Greece, and later Rome. They experience how destructive that is to their community. And they have to figure out how do you live in the midst of a violent empire? And as you can imagine, there's lots of different responses that come from this. One of my favorite ones is, at least, initially, nonviolent response of Esther, where she is trying to protect the people from a plot to kill all of the Jews from a guy named Haman. And so she goes and she puts her own life at risk to try to stop the plot. Now, ultimately, this does leave to capital punishment, Haman dies.
Keith Simon: Well, not only that, but the Jews eventually are able to fight back against oppressors and-
Patrick Miller: Take up their swords.
Keith Simon: ...kill people.
Patrick Miller: Kill people who come after them. Correct?
Keith Simon: Maybe, maybe.
Patrick Miller: Okay.
Keith Simon: Maybe. So at least they were intending to come after him. I don't know if they actually did or not. But in this time of Esther, same general timeframe, you also have Nehemiah being one of those who go back to Jerusalem to rebuild it. And Nehemiah, specifically, is rebuilding the wall. And there are a couple little interesting little tidbits in there that we should acknowledge before moving on. One is that when Nehemiah was telling them to build the wall, because they were under threat from people on the outside, he told them to work with a tool in one hand and their sword in the other hand. So they were meant to-
Patrick Miller: Work while strapped.
Keith Simon: ...they were meant to do their job, but also be ready to fight. And it also says of Nehemiah that he prayed and posted a guard. So he was able to trust God and say, " God, you are my defender. You are the one who will give me deliverance, but I'm simultaneously going to post a guard because we might have to fight here, because I think as this unfold, you're going to split those two," and I think the Bible holds them together.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. I think that's really interesting. And it's also worth pointing out with Nehemiah that he, like David, has a bizarre track record with violence. The end of the book describes Daniel coming back from Babylon, which is problematic, because Babylon doesn't exist anymore. It's been essentially conquered and destroyed. And so, a lot of commentators say, they're saying that Nehemiah's left, and now, he's coming back with the spirit of Babylon. He's been transformed by it. And what does Nehemiah do? Well, he starts ripping people's hair out who disagreed with him. It says that he beat them for not following his laws. Now, he might actually have just authority. He was a Persian official, sent by Persian rulers, to go and enforce Israelite law, so he was doing things justly. And yet, I think you and I would both agree that his violence in this passage is not looked upon kindly. It's not seen as an ideal which is meant to be replicated.
Keith Simon: So let me see if I understand you took a part of Nehemiah's story in which he may have, we're not quite sure, gotten a little carried away and acted inappropriately, and you use that to cast doubt on the pray and post a guard and-
Patrick Miller: Oh, no, no, no.
Keith Simon: ... buildwith a tool in one hand and sword in the other hand?
Patrick Miller: I'm not casting a doubt. I am, unlike you, not trying to make a case. I'm painting a nuanced picture, which is that the Bible can both say things that seem to be pro- violence in some circumstances, and other times, there's things that seem to resist it. You have a legitimate governmental authority who does some things that the Bible does not look kindly upon. One last passage before we move into the history between the Old and New Testament. Go to the book of Daniel, which you and I both enjoy. And I think our favorite chapter, both of us, is Daniel 7. Now, this doesn't really explicitly have anything to say on the face of it about nonviolence or violence. What I find interesting about this passage is that it describes a successive group of empires who come along, who destroy God's people, and each empire destroys the one before it. Now, they're depicted as these super beasts, these monstrosities, these animals, and their characteristics is the characteristic of violence. I mean, this is the thing that primarily characterizes the empires. One destroys the next, destroys the next, destroys the next, until, finally, a Son of Man comes along and he destroys the last empire and rules over God's kingdom and over God's people. Now, I only bring up the story to say it shows that the Bible has a very thorough- going critique of governments using violence wrongly, of governments using violence in a destructive manner. And it is the quintessence of what characterized Persia and Greece and Rome and all of the oppressors who oppress the Israelites.
Keith Simon: The quintessence, is that what you called it?
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: Wow, I've never heard that word before. I learned something here.
Patrick Miller: But you would agree with that, right?
Keith Simon: Yeah. I think that I would have said, I don't know if I'm right here, but I would've said that the violence part isn't necessarily what's emphasized, as much as that these empires grow, they become gods to themselves. They demand that people worship them. They demand complete loyalty and obedience, and they look scary and intimidating as if they're going to control the world and win the day. But, as if we're watching a split- screen television, the Messiah, the Son of Man, is reigning over them. One day, their reign will be ended, but that's with Christ's kingdom when it fully comes. So yes, I get it that those empires are embodied as these ferocious animals, but I'm not sure that it's critiquing the violence exactly. Maybe it is, though. I'm not against that. I just hadn't thought of it that way.
Patrick Miller: So part of why I say that is, when humans worship themselves, so I'm going to agree with you. Part of the point is idolatry. When they worship themselves, when they worship their nation, they become subhuman, right? Humans become like the beast, and what characterizes beast over humans, in part, is their inability to resist their-
Keith Simon: Urges?
Patrick Miller: Yeah, their urges, their desires. And when you read the description, there's lots of things that are described. But one of the things, certainly, is violence. One of the beasts is described as having three ribs in between its teeth, and it's told to" Get up and eat your fill of flesh." So I have a hard time, I'm not saying it's the only thing, but I'm saying, I think it's one of the main things that we're supposed to be terrified by these things, because they will kill you. They're lions, they're bears, they're animals that, at least in the ancient world, people were afraid of. Why? Because it will eat you.
Keith Simon: Yeah, I don't necessarily disagree with that. But one wise person told me it's figurative, because apocalyptic literature, which Daniel 7 is, is often figurative, much like poetry. I can't remember who that wise person was that told me that.
Patrick Miller: And I would say-
Keith Simon: Oh, oh, it was like 10 minutes ago. It was you.
Patrick Miller: I would say, I would say-
Keith Simon: Okay, so I don't know, maybe, maybe.
Patrick Miller: Well, no, no, no. I would say that I'm actually working with the grain of the metaphor. We're actually in agreement, because I think you agree with me. The problem-
Keith Simon: David trains his hand for battle isn't the grain of the metaphor? Okay.
Patrick Miller: Well, I think spiritual battle is a grain of a metaphor that we can understand. Let's keep going. Okay, let's talk about the period between the Old and New Testament. I already said this. There is a succession of foreign oppressors during this time. The Persians are replaced by the Greeks and the Greeks are eventually overthrown by what becomes a short- term Jewish monarchy called the Maccabees, or the Hasmoneans, depending on who you're reading. And this is where modern- day Jews get their celebration of Hanukah. Because the story behind this whole thing is that when the Greeks were sacrificing pigs inside of the temple, there's a guy named Judah the hammer who comes along and stops them, executes them, and inside of the temple, the candelabra, which was filled with all oil, never goes out. During this entire period, it's as though God's presence never quite leaves. And so, he cleanses the temple, he begins a new monarchy of Jews. And a lot of people think that this is the Messiah. He's finally come, he's rescued the people, God's kingdom is coming to earth. And yet, what ends up happening is they become exactly like the Greeks.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I think it's in John, chapter 10, that Jesus goes to the temple and celebrates Hanukah, that military victory. So one of the themes that we're seeing play out in the Old Testament then, is that God's people are meant to trust in him. They're called to trust in him and let him fight for them. Sometimes he executes justice and delivers them without them doing anything, but just in a miraculous way. And other times, he executes his justice through them actually fighting, through his people actually doing physical battle.
Patrick Miller: I think another theme that we have to wrestle with in the Old Testament is that Yahweh has a paradoxical relationship with the nations. There's passages where we see Yahweh wanting to rescue the nations and bring them into Israel, and there's other passages where we see him executing his justice and his vengeance against them. Perhaps the most paradoxical relationship, however, is the one that we see in books like Daniel and Isaiah, where Yahweh describes foreign, oppressive empires, like Babylon and Assyria, as a club in his hand that he's using to execute his justice. So it's like, wow, Assyria and Babylon, these are bad places, and yet, God's using them to execute his justice. And then, in the same breath, the exact same prophets will come along and say, " And by the way, now Yahweh's judging you for what you did while you were in his hand." And so, it creates this paradoxical relationship where Yahweh both acknowledges that there's justice and good that can come from secular states and nations. And yet, on the other side, somehow he's going to hold them accountable, because the justice that they enacted also has an element of evil and wrongdoing in it.
Keith Simon: Another theme we see in the Old Testament is all the way back in the Torah, in getting more and more explicit in the prophets. We see the promise of a coming Messiah, a coming king, who will come and establish his kingdom on earth, something we still pray for today when we pray that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that day when Jesus comes and reestablishes his kingdom here on earth, there will be no war. This is the time that Patrick alluded to earlier, when the weapons will be beat into plowshares, that there will be no more bloodshed, crying, mourning, pain. All of that will happen when Jesus' kingdom is fully established on earth.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And along those lines, it shows that there is a trajectory in the Old Testament, ultimately toward, like you just said, the end of war. And we see that lived out and expressed in all different kinds of ways. Sometimes that means that God mitigated the evils of warfare inside of Israel, by giving them different rules around warfare than the other nations around them practice. Sometimes it was mitigated by God being the one who did the justice himself, who enacted the justice against the people, rather than requiring the people to do it. And sometimes it was simply done by giving the Israelites a hope of a coming Messiah who would be the one who rescued them, so they would not have to take vengeance into their own hands, it would be brought into God's hands. He would be the one who would act to rescue and save them.
Keith Simon: When you say trajectory, I'm not sure I buy it, but maybe it's because I don't know what you mean. When I think of trajectory, I think of it slowly moving this direction and you can see it unfolding and changing. And it doesn't happen quick, but you can see visible progress, and I'm not sure I'm buying that. What I think it's saying is that, one day with Christ's return, we are going to have this kingdom established here. But until then, I don't see it getting better and better.
Patrick Miller: Well, I think you and I have a strong disagreement there. My argument would come from pointing out the fact that in the Old Testament, warfare, violence, looks very different than it does in the other parts of the ancient Near East. And we'll get into this, because there's other places where Israel looked different than other countries in the Near East. And there's other places, by the way, where God accommodated himself to the evil and broken hearts of Israel. My point is that when you read the prophetic literature, it is pointing towards a day of a coming kingdom where there will be no warfare. And that's what I'm saying when I say there is a trajectory. We know where the story is going, we know how the story's going to end. Now, you might disagree with me and you might want to say, " Yeah, that ending is still way distant into the future," and I might disagree with you and say, " Well, actually, I think we have a strong case for saying that parts of that have actually already come to the present." But we agree that the ultimate trajectory, the ultimate end, is the same.
Keith Simon: Well, maybe that's where I'm not understanding how you're using trajectory. Because yes, I agree that Christ sets up his kingdom and it's radically different than the things of this world. I'm not sure it gets better and better until then. Well, I-
Patrick Miller: Well, Keith, hold on a second. I've going to press back really hard on this. Do you think there's a difference between the old covenant and the new covenant?
Keith Simon: Well, of course, there's a difference.
Patrick Miller: Okay, do you think it's getting different inside of people's hearts how they're following Jesus and the powering of the holy spirit?
Keith Simon: Well, I didn't know that's what we were talking about. I thought we were talking about the ordering of society, justice in the world-
Patrick Miller: No, no, no. I-
Keith Simon: ...the need to practice-
Patrick Miller: ...I'm talking-
Keith Simon: ...maybe force in order to bring about justice.
Patrick Miller: I'm talking about-
Keith Simon: I don't see a post- millennial, the world's getting better, Disney, human behavior's getting better, that soon, one day we'll no longer have wars. That's not-
Patrick Miller: So I'm-
Keith Simon: ...That's
Keith Simon: all
Keith Simon: going to come in this cataclysmic event when Christ returns. But until that day, we'll have wars and rumors of wars.
Patrick Miller: I'm pressing back on you in one very simple sense. The Old Testament is about God's people, what God is doing with his people. Now there's all of these nations around them that are peripheral and are discussed and are part of the picture. If you think what I'm saying is that the secular world outside of God's people is going to get better and better and better, you've totally misunderstood me. What I am saying is that the trajectory of the Old Testament is that God's people will grow by the power of the spirit and increasing obedience and fidelity to God's word and God's intentions. Great example, by the way, of this would be God's teachings on divorce, right? You can go back to the Old Testament. God permits divorce multiple times in the law. It's very clearly permitted. When Jesus comes along, he says, " Well, hold on, remember how it was in Genesis 1, Adam and Eve?" God didn't permit divorce. God's not okay with your divorce culture. He's not okay with the affairs. He's just letting a woman go, because she made a meal you don't like. God's not okay with that. And so, he is taking that law, that rule, and he is saying, " You've seen the floor of it. I'm going to take it to the ceiling." He does this in the Sermon on the Mount. You've heard it said adultery is wrong. Well, I tell you don't even lust. You've heard it said... So in other words, what I'm saying is, amongst God's people, not in the secular world, amongst God's people, not in the secular world, there is a change that is happening.
Keith Simon: Well, you've said so much that deserves a response, but it's going to be hard to remember it all. So let's go to your divorce example because I think it's a good one. And so, Jesus calls us back to how it was in the Garden and says this is really God's paradigm for marriage, but he did make concessions for divorce in a broken Genesis 3 fallen world-
Patrick Miller: He says because of the hardness of your hearts.
Keith Simon: And those concessions were made in the Old Testament, and wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, they're also made in the New Testament.
Patrick Miller: No.
Keith Simon: No?
Patrick Miller: Very limited concessions are made in the New Testament.
Keith Simon: Okay, so you just agreed with me. Thank you. You said no, but then you agreed with me-
Patrick Miller: No, no, no.
Keith Simon: ...that there are still those concessions still, because we still live in a Genesis 3 world. And so, where there's infidelity, where there is, and you would say, abuse and other things, those concessions are still in play. So yes, I think, well-
Patrick Miller: Well, hear what I'm saying.
Keith Simon: That's a paradigm, but that didn't all end with the coming of Jesus.
Patrick Miller: Here's why I'm saying no. I'm saying the trajectory, when he's talking to the Pharisees, they had a no- fault divorce culture, okay?
Keith Simon: Well the Pharisees were wrong.
Patrick Miller: Well, no, no, no. He doesn't say you were wrong according to the law, he says the law does allow what you said, but God allowed the law, that allows what you said, because of your hardness of heart. And in my kingdom, we're going to bring it in, right? We're going to reign in the context and the circumstances where divorce is going to be okay. And so, he makes the most strong statement on divorce that's in the entire New Testament.
Keith Simon: And you said earlier that-
Patrick Miller: So I'm just saying trajectory. That's all I'm saying.
Keith Simon: Okay.
Patrick Miller: Floor, ceiling, floor, ceiling. God's people changing, not secular world.
Keith Simon: I'll save my rest of my comments for later.
Patrick Miller: You started this, though. That's the only reason why I'm answering the question. Let's go to the New Testament.
Keith Simon: Okay, we'll jump back in, in a second. But one of the places that Patrick and I have been getting a lot of ideas for the podcast is Twitter.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Which, actually, by the way, sounds like a terrible idea. No one should be getting their news or ideas solely off of Twitter. But I love sharing what we're going to talk about and seeing the kinds of things that people offer.
Keith Simon: I didn't quite believe you to be frank when you said all that. And then, I've watched people respond to your stuff. So I just posted some things today about an episode we're going to do, and all of a sudden, everybody started interacting with it. And I'm going to use the stuff they said in that episode, so it's kind of cool.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. So, help shape this show by following Truth Over Tribe on your favorite social platform and share your ideas. And who knows, it might make its way into one of the shows.
Keith Simon: Yeah, make sure you interact with us. Don't just follow, don't be a stalker, don't be a creeper, participate.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, we want to hear. So let's move into Jesus' teachings. Jesus clearly taught his followers to love their enemies. And, in many cases, to respond to violence with nonviolence. So a few examples of this. I'm not going to read through all the passages, but because this is so central to the argument, I do think we have to read Matthew 5, which is where Jesus says this. Hey, this is the floor, ceiling thing again. He says, " You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." He says here's the floor of ethics, this is the bottom rung of an ethical commitment. " But I tell you, don't resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, you turn to them the other cheek also." He says later on, verse 43, " You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will it get you? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Keith Simon: So obviously, this passage is a really important passage.
Patrick Miller: It is the most important passage for anyone who holds to Christian nonviolence.
Keith Simon: Yeah, I don't understand. But I was going to say that this is an important part of Jesus' kingdom ethics, and something every Christian should take seriously and has to wrestle with. Now, could you just do us a favor and explain why does he say the right cheek?
Patrick Miller: Why does he say the right cheek?
Keith Simon: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Patrick Miller: Well, so I will answer that. I will read to you before we do that, Luke 6: 29, which says, " If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them, the other also, and if someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt." So, we can have this right cheek conversation, but just let the reader, the listener, know that there's other passages that don't talk about the right cheek.
Keith Simon: So you can tell by Patrick's response-
Patrick Miller: Well, because you're about to-
Keith Simon: ... tomy simple question of why did he say the right cheek?
Patrick Miller: Well, hold on, hold on.
Keith Simon: You can tell, he doesn't want to answer that.
Patrick Miller: I'll answer the right cheek. It's a ridiculous question for this reason. So there are some commentators who claim that a slap on the right cheek was a special sign of shame. It was a way of shaming someone, as opposed to slapping them on the left cheek, because, I guess, that's less shaming.
Keith Simon: Well, because most people are right- handed and to strike another person on the right cheek who's sitting across from you, you used the back of your right hand to hit their right cheek. And it was a-
Patrick Miller: Like what Will Smith did to Chris Rock.
Keith Simon: It was a insult.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: So, look, I do not want, in any way, minimize the importance of loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you, and responding in kindness to those who are maybe cruel to you. I don't want to minimize that. It's really important. But what I do want to emphasize as we go through this is-
Patrick Miller: That there's some commentators-
Keith Simon: ... that this ispersonal ethics. This is about how you treat somebody who interacts with you as a person. The Sermon on the Mount is not written to the governments. It doesn't say governments forgive your enemies. It doesn't say governments turn the other cheek. It's about personal things. So when it says, if someone required you to walk one mile, walk two, this is about Roman soldiers who are living in the quarters or putting demands on these people. And they were saying, " Look, be kind, be gracious to them." But I have another question to you, do you think that this is unlimited?"
Patrick Miller: I want to start with what the Bible says.
Keith Simon: Again, your version of what the Bible says.
Patrick Miller: Well, not my version of what the Bible says. Again, I want to reiterate to the listener the context of the right sheet content is, you've heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. That's the context he's not-
Keith Simon: So, don't do tit for tat.
Patrick Miller: Don't tit for tat.
Keith Simon: Don't do tit for tat. Right. Hundred percent agree.
Patrick Miller: Exactly. Now, he says, that's the floor. So he's like, " Yeah, don't do tit for tat." Right? Okay? But he goes even further, he says, " But I tell you," this is like the adultery and lust command, " But I tell you do not even resist an evil person."
Keith Simon: Yes.
Patrick Miller: And then, he explains how you do it. Now, yes, do I think it was insulting in an honor- shame culture to slap someone's face? Yes. Do I think Jesus picked maybe the most insulting thing? Yes. Do I think he intentionally picked something violent, which in other places he limits and doesn't even do the right cheek thing. He's just saying, " Look, an act of violence done against you, yes."
Keith Simon: Don't return an insult with another insult.
Patrick Miller: I think-
Keith Simon: Don't do tit for tat, eye for an eye, tooth for a...
Patrick Miller: No, I'm saying he's going beyond tit for tat. He's saying go beyond that. Do not resist an evil person. And he uses examples of violence. And it's not just the right- hand thing, because again, we can go to Luke.
Keith Simon: Fair enough. But it's all about your personal ethics.
Patrick Miller: crosstalk Well, and then, that's my only other thought. Let's just remember, because this will matter. This is in the Sermon on the Mount, which is ethics. It's not personal ethics, it's kingdom ethics. And you are correct. I totally agree with you. I do not expect a secular state to live by kingdom ethics. However, this is not ethics for you, it is ethics for us, and that difference matters.
Keith Simon: Okay. Remember what Patrick just said there, because when we get to the questions, let's recall that.
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: Keep going.
Patrick Miller: I'm going to agree. Hey, let's keep going. So other things that Jesus did, he commanded his followers to take up their cross. So Matthew 10: 38, " Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." And so, the cross in that world, especially to the Jews, to whom he was speaking, was a instrument of capital punishment that was used by a foreign, oppressive army regime to execute people. And Jesus encourages them, take up that cross. Don't resist. He has an ethic of taking up the cross. Now, of course, I think this is even more deep than just, hey, go to your electric chair and die. This is something that cuts to the core of your very person. You must deny yourself, you must die to yourself. And he says as much elsewhere.
Keith Simon: Amen.
Patrick Miller: Okay, let's keep going. He tells the disciples this is one of the things that people bring-
Keith Simon: You're jumpy now. You think I'm going to disagree with everything.
Patrick Miller: No.
Keith Simon: Amen, take up your cross.
Patrick Miller: That's the first time you said amen to anything I've said on this. I said amen to you countless times on this episode. Let's keep going. All right, he tells the disciples to buy a sword, okay? This is right before he is crucified. And Peter, another guy come in and they go, " Actually we already have two." And Jesus' response is, " It's enough." Now, some people say, " See, here's an example of Jesus calling people to violence." Now, I think again, you and I would agree on this, that's not what Jesus is doing here.
Keith Simon: No, I agree. What Jesus is doing, I think, if I understand it correctly, is that he's saying, " Look, you're going to be labeled as violent overthrowers, even if you have one sword or two sword, that's going to be enough for them to convict you, to find wrong with you, to persecute you."
Patrick Miller: And the reason why you hold that view is because it's in context. Jesus actually quotes from Isaiah where it says that you will be, "... numbered among the transgressors." And so, essentially, Jesus is saying, " Yeah, two swords is enough for us to get numbered among the transgressors." And you know that he doesn't want his disciples to violently resist, because it's in the very next chapter that Peter takes up said sword and cuts off a guy's ear, and Jesus looks at him in that instance and says, " No more of this." He tells Peter to stop.
Keith Simon: So let's talk about that, because I know that's an important text in this discussion. So, they're coming to arrest Jesus and Peter pulls out a sword. Quiz: What's the guy's name?
Patrick Miller: Servant of Malchus, right?
Keith Simon: Oh, gosh, I was hoping you would get it wrong. Yes, Malchus.
Patrick Miller: You freaked me out in love. I was like, I think it's Malchus, but now I'm going to get it wrong and embarrassed.
Keith Simon: No, it's Malchus. Anyway. So, he cuts off his ear and Jesus tells him not to do it, put the sword away and he heals the guy's ear. And Jesus says, " Those who live by the sword will die by the sword," right?
Patrick Miller: Mm- hmm(affirmative).
Keith Simon: And so, I think some people in the pacifist tradition that you're arguing for have said that this is an example of Jesus saying we're not going to use violence. And I'm not as sure, because he also says that this is the fulfillment of the scriptures. So I don't know if it's about violence or it's about trying to interfere with God's plan. God has a plan that's unfolding here and Peter's not going to somehow take it over and enact his plan instead of God's plan.
Patrick Miller: Yeah, this is going to be one of our key areas of disagreement that we're going to have to agree to disagree. The main question being, was Jesus's example of absolute nonviolence in the face of unjust violence, where he could've resisted. There's no question, could Jesus have resisted? Could his disciples have resisted?
Keith Simon: Sure, yeah.
Patrick Miller: He says it as much himself. At one point, he say, "I can call angels down." He doesn't resist. The question is whether that is the model for people in the kingdom. Is Jesus' cross a model for us today, or is it a one- time event whereby Jesus defeated evil? Now, on my side, I have countless passages that use the cross as a model for how we're supposed to live, not just metaphorically, by the way. On your side, you can say, " Look, this is redemptive history. There are things that only happen once. This is something that Jesus did, and I'm willing to acknowledge that."
Keith Simon: No, I'm not sure that that's the way I would frame it. Because I don't think that the cross is just a one- time thing that no longer applies to us. I mean, I do think we're called to live a cruciform life, a life shaped by the cross.
Patrick Miller: A life shaped by a man who died a nonviolent death to an oppressor he could've resisted?
Keith Simon: A hundred percent.
Patrick Miller: Okay.
Keith Simon: Amen. But what I think that-
Patrick Miller: Just not when it's an oppressor oppressing you personally violently?
Keith Simon: Well, this goes back to your odd forgetting of what you learned about spheres of sovereignty. And so, I think what Jesus is saying here is that, " My kingdom does not come by violence." But that's different than saying that governments that he has divinely put in power and given rights and responsibilities to, that's different. So Jesus is saying here, I think in this episode with Peter, " My kingdom doesn't come through violence."
Patrick Miller: I think we agree with that. Go to John 19, because that's what you're talking about where Jesus-
Keith Simon: Well, it's one of them. So, standing before Pilate, Jesus says, God has given you the power that you do. Because Pilate's saying he's going to kill him. And he's like, " Yeah, you have that power. God gave you that power over me." And that's echoed in, say, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, where there is the sense that God has established the ruling authorities of the day, not just Christian ones, even Pilate, even Nero. So I think that we have to be able to distinguish between God's kingdom does not come by the violence of his followers. We're not on some holy war, some Christian crusade to overtake the world and spread the faith of Christianity by the sword. No, absolutely not. But I don't think that's the same thing as, can governments, lawfully established by God, wage war?
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And I'm going to go ahead and say, amen. This is going to be a fun conversation. Because realizing that there's a serious disconnect here and it's the disconnect I've seen a lot of people who try to understand this position. So it'll be fun to get to. But to that point, just to add to what you're saying and agree, how God handles and thinks about secular governments is different than how he talks about the kingdom.
Keith Simon: Yes.
Patrick Miller: This exact same passage, John 18: 36, where Jesus says, " My kingdom is not of this world. If it was like your kingdom, you know what my servants would do, they would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is from another place." So Jesus, again, is saying exactly, I think, what you're saying, which is, " Look, you've got a different kind of kingdom than I have." And the difference here, and you and I, I think, would agree on this, is not that Jesus has a spiritual kingdom versus an earthly kingdom. It's a difference between a secular government with certain rights, responsibilities, authorities, and the kingdom of God, which is on earth as in heaven, in the sense that God's people are on earth, and we're a part of the kingdom. We give the kingdom our allegiance, our citizenship, before we give it to any secular nation, right?
Keith Simon: There's a lot there. I want to wait until we get to it. I don't want to address it all but-
Patrick Miller: I think we're actually in agreement.
Keith Simon: We're in agreement on a lot of things. I just want to test one thing real quick, and that is that these secular governments that are different than God's kingdom are given their power by God, they're sanctioned by God, they're given God- given rights, responsibilities, commissions of things to do. So it's not as if they exist outside of God's authority, they have, they are different. They're different than the coming kingdom of Jesus.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely.
Keith Simon: But they are under God's authority and have been given their call or instructions by God.
Patrick Miller: Yeah.
Keith Simon: So, it's kind of the city of God, the city of man, that Augustine refers to.
Patrick Miller: Absolutely. Romans 13, these are authorities established by God, who will, again, we agree on this, ultimately be held accountable by God. God will hold those authorities accountable for their actions. And this goes back to that paradoxical Old Testament picture of Babylon being both the rod of God's justice and the one who God is judging for its own violence and warfare, right? There's a paradox that runs both through the Old Testament, into the New Testament and how we think about the nature of these secular kingdoms. I would say God is agnostic in many ways towards these kingdoms. Great good can come from them when they're bringing about an ordered and just society. And yet, also, great evil can come, even from the ones that have ordered justice, great evil can come from them as well, and they'll be held accountable by God.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I think it's weird to say God's an agnostic, but sure, let's keep going.
Patrick Miller: All right, let's keep going. Let's do the book of Acts. So, as you can imagine, the story continues and we begin to see multiple of the early apostles and disciples face violence for following Jesus. There's a few examples of this would be the apostle Peter who is arrested on multiple occasions. He's beaten on multiple occasions, and on one occasion, it looks like he's going to be executed. God actually rescues him from prison so that he can escape. But in all of these instances with Peter, the church does not respond in violence. They don't go try to protect him, they don't take up arms to defend him. The same thing happens to Stephen, which perhaps the most famous story of a Christian martyr in the Bible. Paul oversees his execution. And again, no Christians step up to physically resist what's happening there.
Keith Simon: I know I'm getting be accused of an argument from silence later.
Patrick Miller: This is an argument from silence.
Keith Simon: So, I just want to acknowledge that this is an argument from silence. That probably the reason that they didn't take up arms to kill him or to fight for him is because they didn't have arms. And they were such a small minority part of this Roman kingdom. They wouldn't have done any good. Now, I don't think that's the reason, ultimately, they didn't do it. I think they understood that Christ's kingdom does not comment the power of this sword, but even if they had wanted to, they couldn't have.
Patrick Miller: So you're bringing up lots of really valid questions. Was this a practical consideration? " Look, let's not start a war that we can't win." Now, I will say there were thousands of people who were becoming Christians in the city. This was not a city that had a huge, huge, huge populace. So, you can imagine if you had thousands of angry people, we have historical instances of riots happening in Jerusalem, by the way, with smaller groups of people, trying to bring about God's kingdom, so it wouldn't have been unheard of. The more important part to me is that none of the people who are having the violence enacted against them, none of them resist in any physical fashion. Stephen could've said, " Don't stone me. I'm going to try to run out. I'm going to push you, I'm going to get away." They enact none. The same thing goes for Paul, who was also stoned on multiple occasions. And sometimes he resisted people with words. So, for example, when he's put into prison, he says, " Guys, I'm a Roman citizen. You can't do this to me." But again, he doesn't use physical force to protect himself.
Keith Simon: Also in the book of Acts, we have one of these Romans centurions who comes to faith in Acts 10 and 11, kind of tells the story. His name is Cornelius. And it's an argument from silence. But here is a guy who's a military leader who has probably been at war. I mean, you don't know for sure, but it doesn't seem like he's probably the only centurion who comes to faith. So surely, some of them had experienced war in the Roman empire.
Patrick Miller: And you have the example of the Philippian jailer. Paul's able to escape from his jail and he refuses to do it, and it leads the jailer to be converted. One of the first converts in Philippi to believe in Jesus. So there's another example of a Roman soldier-
Keith Simon: And nowhere are these people told that they need to leave the military. They're not even told they need to repent of their killing.
Patrick Miller: It's not remotely implied. In fact, if you ask me, do I think they left their military jobs? I would be really hard- pressed to say, " Yeah, they left their military job."
Keith Simon: Finally, before Acts ends, you have Paul before the court. He's, like Patrick alluded to, claimed his Roman citizenship. He's now standing before a variety of courts and he recognizes their power to control him. He recognizes their power to jail him or their power to kill him. So this is another example, just like Jesus' earlier, of now Paul recognizing the God- ordained power of government.
Patrick Miller: So, overview of the book of Acts, we see Roman soldiers that are converted, we see, like you just said, Paul recognizing the state's right to enact the death penalty. We also see as one of the major themes of the book of Acts, that there is a beauty to nonviolent resistance, which reflects Christ's own crucifixion. If you read commentators, they say, " How does Luke tell the story of the apostles?" It's by them reliving again and again, the death of Jesus in their own lives. Now again, you can go to your position or mine. I just-
Keith Simon: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I agree.
Patrick Miller: I think it's something that we should include.
Keith Simon: I agree.
Patrick Miller: Let's move up to the apostle Paul. So the apostle Paul has a lot of things to say. And Roman's 12 and 13, though, is really the centerpoint for this argument. In Romans 12, Paul is laying out what our life together inside of the church is supposed to look like. And at the end of that section, he commands people to, he's essentially riffing on Jesus, to love their enemies, to bless those who persecute them. And then, he goes on and he says not to carry out vengeance. It's not your job to carry out vengeance for wrongs done to you, which would not be limited to violence, but would certainly include violence. Pick it up in Romans 13 and Paul continues to use the vengeance language. If you look in the Greek, it's the exact same words that are repeated over again. This clearly one section he goes on to talk to the state and says, look, the state has been established by God to do what?
Keith Simon: Vengeance.
Patrick Miller: Vengeance. The thing I just told you guys not to do. And he says that God has given them the sword.
Keith Simon: So let me just read some of that. It's so important that I think it'd just be good to have it fresh in our mind. So this is Romans 12. We'll just pick up at verse 14, " Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another." Skip down to verse 17, " Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath." For it is written,'It is mine to avenge. I will repay, says the Lord.' On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you'll heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." And then, it rolls right into chapter 13. And remember there's no chapter break in the Greek. Those are things that were put there by us later. And he says, " Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." Remember he is talking here about Rome." The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authorities is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer, therefore is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment, but also as a matter of conscience."
Patrick Miller: So this is a great section with, I mean, first of all, Romans 12, one of the best chapters in the whole Bible.
Keith Simon: Yeah, it's a fantastic chapter. You're going to memorize a chapter, memorize Romans 12.
Patrick Miller: I could not agree more. And it goes straight into Romans 13. These aren't really two separate thoughts, they're connected thoughts. He's telling people how do you live with one another? And then, he's says now, how are you going to live in the Roman world? Now I am curious for you, Keith, because I think we both agree on this. I'm sincerely asking this as a question, the focus of-
Keith Simon: As opposed to all your other stuff which is insincere.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. The focus of Romans 13, to me, and I know we've done podcasts on the past where we taught this, and I don't know if your mind has changed, to me, is primarily on policing. So this is talking... Most Roman soldiers would've been what we call police officers today. And this seems to be talking about how you're living inside of Roman society, and that little phrase, having the sword or wielding the sword, was commonly used for Roman police officers to essentially say they're wielding the sword as officers. So it seems to me like the focus in Romans 13 is not on external wars, which makes perfect sense, because it's hard to imagine Paul defending Rome, which had a terrible track record with imperialistic expansion. It seems like he's more so talking about policing, bringing that just order inside of the society.
Keith Simon: Well, I'll answer your question, not as thoroughly as probably I would like to, or you would like me to, but then I have another question back. So, my answer to that question is, my understanding is that there was not a distinction between the police and the military-
Patrick Miller: I agree.
Keith Simon: ...like there is in our world. We think of those as two very, very separate things. In the Roman world, the soldiers were the ones who did the policing. So when we talk about policing in the Roman world, we're talking more of an activity than a separate office, a separate job, a separate uniform, a separate code of ethics.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: So, I guess, that-
Patrick Miller: I hear the tension here.
Keith Simon: I don't quite think that we can say this is for the interior life of Rome, not the exterior type of Rome.
Patrick Miller: Well, so if I can press back. He's not talking about soldiers here. I know you think it has implications for soldiers. I'm just asking is the thing that he's talking about specifically, like the state does lots of things, right? The state taxes, the state protects its populous, the state goes to war. It seems to me the two things in view here is that the state taxes, pay your taxes, and number two, the state polices. And they police through soldiers who do other things. It's not exclusively that. But that seems to me to be the focus, which again, I know I can point out the podcast, but where we taught this explicitly.
Keith Simon: So then, so you're trying to catch me in being inconsistent. That probably won't be hard. Feels like I'm talking to my wife. So, you're saying that you're-
Patrick Miller: The wrath to the wrongdoer is the government punishing people, putting them in jail, enacting the death penalty, all these things.
Keith Simon: So I might be learning something here about your position. I'm going to actually use your terms just to not frustrate you. You're saying that your nonviolence position is not related to policing, that it's only related to wars between nations, but it's not related to how policing is done.
Patrick Miller: I think that in the area of policing, in particular, the question of nonviolence is the most gray. In other words, when it comes to self defense, I don't think it's very gray. When it even comes to neighbor defense, like I'm defending my family from the intruder, I don't think it's very gray. When it comes to policing, I think that there could be a strong case made for why Christians might be able to be police officers who execute violent force. Now, my personal view is not that, but I think there's a case. I think it's gray. I think when it comes to external violence, states going to war with states, there's not a lot in the New Testament about it.
Keith Simon: So, you're going to draw, at least in theory, it sounds like you don't hold this, but you make room for it, that there can be a consistently- held position that draws a pretty distinct line between using, your term, violence through government- sanctioned police officers, but not through government- sanctioned soldiers.
Patrick Miller: Yes. And I don't think you have to be a private- school Patrick, to understand the difference between the kind of violence that happens in the military versus policing. So let me just try to make it clear, because all-
Keith Simon: But don't tell me the difference between the violence, because, yeah, we get that one has tanked. Whatever.
Patrick Miller: No, no, no, no. It's not tanked.
Keith Simon: One tries-
Patrick Miller: It's goals.
Keith Simon: ...rates goals. One tries to-
Patrick Miller: One is for the purpose of killing.
Keith Simon: ... keepit minimum.
Patrick Miller: When you're at war, you're trying to kill your enemy, if you're a police officer.
Keith Simon: But the other one's trying to restrain violence or keep other people safe.
Patrick Miller: Exactly. There's a difference.
Keith Simon: I get that. That's fair. Okay, so you're going to argue that that intent makes it okay.
Patrick Miller: I think that the intent matters tremendously. And that's a part-
Keith Simon: But you don't hold this position.
Patrick Miller: I would say-
Keith Simon: So you don't really think intent matters. You think it could matter, it just doesn't.
Patrick Miller: When we get to policing, I will explain more of my personal position. But again, because I'm not at a hundred percent on this view, at every level, I'm going to say, I think there could be an argument. In other words, I would love it if someone walked away from this, they walked in, they said, " I am pro self defense. You can kill anyone in self defense." And they left, and I said, "You know what? I don't know if I hold that anymore, but I'm still pro neighbor defense. I'm still pro policing. I'm still pro military." I would love to help people just push back the line of their violence. And mine might be as far back as you can go, but that's my goal here. You didn't know that, but now you know.
Keith Simon: Okay.
Patrick Miller: All right, let's keep going. Let's hop into Peter.
Keith Simon: Yeah, I don't think we need to read it, but let's just say that Peter also says that God has given government authority to punish wrongdoing.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And just like Paul, he juxtaposes the government punishing wrongdoing, and then calls Christians to neighborly love. So we actually see the same pattern in both of those passages, which I find interesting.
Keith Simon: Oh, I think it's-
Patrick Miller: So coherent.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I completely agree. There's two spheres of sovereignty, and how you live out your individual ethics is different than how governments do it.
Patrick Miller: I love how we've come to some crosstalk fully agree.
Keith Simon: So let's land... We're on your favorite book now.
Patrick Miller: Ooh, the Book of Revelation.
Keith Simon: The poetic imagery, non- literal-
Patrick Miller: The book I could make say anything I want it too, right?
Patrick Miller: We're going to have lots of
Patrick Miller: beasts.
Keith Simon: Prepare yourself for a lot of beast talk.
Patrick Miller: Beasts.
Keith Simon: Here we go.
Patrick Miller: Okay, so book of Revelation. If you haven't read it, go read it. I mean, this is a fun, fun, fun book to read. But in this book, there is a depiction of cosmic warfare. There's all kinds of beasts. There's a dragon, there's this prostitute, and then there's counter- warriors who are fighting back. Right? And so, what John the Revelator, is trying to do is trying to pull back the veil. He's saying, " You can only see what's happening in this world, but if you pull back the veil, you can see what's happening inside of the spiritual realm." What's interesting is that throughout the book, Christians conquer how? You know the answer to this, Keith.
Keith Simon: Christians conquer, they win a by sacrificing their life by the blood of their testimony.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And so again, we would agree on that. Revelation 12:11, " And they have conquered him," this is the devil, "... by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. For they loved not their lives, even unto death." So, we see this theme that runs throughout the book of Revelation, that the way to win is by dying. You see it first when you meet Jesus. And John says, " Hearing this roar of a lion," and he turns around and it's not a lion, it's a lamb that's been slain. And that's one of the most common images of Jesus inside the book. In Revelation 19, Jesus shows up to the last battle, but he's pre- bloodied, right? So a lot of people think, " Oh, Revelation 19, that's where Jesus is destroying and conquering his enemies." But what seems to actually happen is that he's showing up with blood already there. Whose blood is it? Well, it could be his blood from his sacrifice. It might be the blood of his followers who have conquered people by dying. But the point is that in Revelation 19, Jesus shows up sacrificed.
Keith Simon: I think a lot of people who get gung- ho about marrying Christianity and violence, look to the book of Revelation and they see in it something that I don't think the author intended for them to see. In other words, they see some sort of violent Jesus who comes in and slaughters people, and bloodies everyone up.
Patrick Miller: It's John Wayne Jesus.
Keith Simon: And yeah, that's a great way of putting it. I don't think that's at all what is happening in the book of Revelation. I think, essentially, the book of Revelation is a critique on empire and a critique about the misuse of authority and how empires turn against God, but how God will one day reign over them and bring them all to justice, into account. And the violence that Jesus has is from a sword, but it's not a sword in his hand, it's a sword in his mouth.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. And so, it seems to me that the theme then is that Jesus is judging people and he is enacting judgment, but it's by his words. He has a word of judgment, a word of justice, which in Revelation 20 does ultimately lead to the justice of God coming against all sinners. There will be punishment for wrongdoing. And so, now we're seeing the kingdom of God doing what God has limited to the secular government up until now, which is absolute justice, God's justice through Jesus' just word. But even there, it's Jesus' word, not his hands, not a sword that's bringing about the judgment of others.
Keith Simon: Let's talk about some themes that we've seen run through the New Testament. And one thing that you and I fully, fully agree on, we couldn't be more in agreement on this, that God's kingdom never comes by human force. It doesn't come by human anything. God brings it. He delivers his people. He accomplishes his goals, and that we bring his kingdom by giving of our life, by sacrificing, by loving our enemy. That is absolutely clear in all of scriptures, but especially in the New Testament.
Patrick Miller: I think we'd also agree that the New Testament is clear, there's a call to deny yourself, to die to yourself, to love your enemies, to pray for those who persecute you, to bless them, to do good to them. And even up to a degree, now we might disagree on the degree, to be willing to undergo hardship, violence and persecution, like the early apostles did, for the sake of Jesus and for the sake of the gospel.
Keith Simon: Yes. And I also think that we agree that all those Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, God's king coming and reigning, they're accomplished in the cross. They are accomplished not by Jesus trying to defeat his enemies in some sort of physical battle, but by dying for his enemies on the cross. And that is counterintuitive. It's not necessarily what you would've expected. In fact, that's one of the reasons that the first century Jewish people rejected Jesus because he wasn't their image of what a Messiah should be. Remember, John the Baptist sends his followers to Jesus. " Are you really the Messiah?" Because he wasn't acting like they thought he should. He was healing people and teaching them about enemy love, and then going to a cross. That was counterintuitive. It was a shock to them.
Patrick Miller: And so, now you know why the authors of Revelation say that God's people conquer by laying down their life. Because the way that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, talking about a conquering king was ironically by laying down his own life. That is according to the apostle Paul in the book of Colossians, how Jesus disarmed the devil and the authorities and the powers. And, of course, the power of sin, ultimately. Jesus' battle against ultimate evil in the world was done by self- sacrifice, not by violence. Let me add one last thought before we do our steel man arguments for each position, which will be in the next episode, because we have definitely gone long enough on the Bible. But you know what? I really enjoyed going long on the Bible, because I think it showed how challenging this issue is to resolve. Both of us have strong points, both of us have weak points in the midst of just reading through the Bible. But here's some other things we agree on, violence and war are not the way it's supposed to be. It's not the way it was in the Garden. And we both agree that, in the end, the trajectory of the world is towards a world where there is a just- ordered piece, where there is no more war, where there is no more violence. I think we'd also agree that the Old Testament is, in general, much more friendly towards violence than the New Testament is. Now, you and I believe that there's no such thing as God of the Old Testament and New Testament, there's continuity and discontinuity. But I think we can agree strongly on that. And I think that the fundamental question is whether, as a last resort, Christians can participate in violence, whether that's violence in self defense or violence on behalf of the state, that's where we really disagree.
Keith Simon: Well, I think you're right. I mean, I don't disagree with what you just said, but I want to frame it just a little bit differently as we wrap up. Yes, in the Garden of Eden and in the coming kingdom of Revelation 21, 22, there will be no more war, there will be no more violence, because both of those worlds are a sinless worlds. Both of those worlds were without sin. And so, you had justice and where there is a rightly- ordered justice, there can be peace. Peace is the fruit of something else. Peace is the fruit of justice. We don't live in that world. We live in a Genesis 3 world. And so, to me, the question is, in a Genesis 3 world, is one of the ways that we love our neighbor, is one of the ways that we obey God, by using force in measured, morally- qualified ways? Is that a way that we have to love our neighbor? Is that a way we obey God in a Genesis 3 world that is full of sin and brokenness?
Patrick Miller: I actually really love that question because it goes to the heart of a theology that we both share, we've taught on this podcast countless times, which is that God's people are the means by which he is restoring the world, that we have a role to play in bringing the kingdom on earth as in heaven. And so, I think you're asking a really important question, is force a part of how we play that role or should we say that nonviolence is the way that we bring about a just- ordered and peaceful society? These are important questions that we will wrestle with on the next episode.
Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.
Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.
Keith Simon: Stop. No, just be honest. Reviews help other people find us.
Patrick Miller: Okay, okay. At the very least you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.
Keith Simon: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter, at truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
In this episode of Truth Over Tribe, we're bringing the first in a 3-part series about just war and non-violence. This series will cover the biblical theology of violence, Keith's and Patrick's steel man arguments on just war vs. non-violence, and will end with a debate between the two.
Today, you'll hear Keith and Patrick go through what the Bible has to say about violence, discussing the first examples of human-on-human violence, themes we see from prophets, and how messages from different periods in the Bible vary from others. Tune in for a deep dive into the theology of violence and gear up for Keith and Patrick's debate coming in the following episode.
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