Ukraine, War, and Dictators: What Does the Bible Say?

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This is a podcast episode titled, Ukraine, War, and Dictators: What Does the Bible Say?. The summary for this episode is: <p><strong>BONUS Episode:</strong>&nbsp;Unless you're living under a rock, you know that something is happening between Ukraine and Russia. How should Christians approach this heartbreaking situation? The truth is: the Bible is not silent on such matters. That's why we're bringing you this bonus episode. In it, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Keith</a> and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Patrick</a> lay out what the Bible says about war and dictators, and how God's Word applies to Russia's attacks on Ukraine. Tune in as we seek to understand together how Christians should respond. </p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href=";utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href=";utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Subscribe To Our Blog</a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p>
Ukraine & Russia: Summary of what's going on
03:06 MIN
Considering these events through a biblical lens
02:17 MIN
God's Nation's: No one nation is God's special nation
02:24 MIN
What do Christians do now?
01:21 MIN

Patrick Miller: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.

Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Donald Trump: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Hillary Clinton: You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Patrick Miller: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 4: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 5: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote democratic.

Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant. This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon. And we choose truth over tribe, do you?

Patrick Miller: By now you know that last Thursday, February 24th, pre- dawn Russia invaded Ukraine. Now that is a really big deal for all kinds of reasons that we're going to get into, but let's just think about it for a moment. There are going to be so many lives lost. There are going to be people who are displaced that have to leave that are going to be fleeing into other countries. This is going to be a humanitarian crisis, but if you know about European history, you know that there could be even worse things coming down the road. Now I'm not predicting that they will and let's hope and pray that they don't, but if you're familiar with how wars have gone in Europe, you know that what started out to be a controlled war turned into World War II. On top of that, remember that Russia and several countries in Europe are all armed with nuclear weapons. In fact, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, hinted that people should be careful about attacking Russia because they are a nuclear power. So this is a really big deal that we as Christians need to think about.

Keith Simon: I spent some time this morning looking at photos coming out of Ukraine, not because I wanted to see what was happening, but because I needed to remind myself that these are real life people. I was looking at a photo of a missile that had been lodged inside of an apartment. The entire apartment's crushed, but I was thinking I've lived in apartments. Can I imagine what that would be like to have an actual missile body lodged there? I looked at pictures of moms trying to protect children, hiding in subway bunker stations. I looked at pictures of couples that are separating now, because if you're a man between the ages of 18 to 60, you can't leave Ukraine now, it's part of the Marshall law and there's pictures of couples crying as women are trying to flee the country already a hundred thousand will have fled Ukraine at this point as we're recording. And we're also seeing pictures out of Russia, about people taking to the streets to protest this violent invasion that their government has perpetrated. Many of them being arrested by the police. But I think people all over the world in the United States, in Ukraine, in Russia, all throughout Europe, all around the world are watching this in horror because I read an article in the New York Times yesterday that a columnist was saying, Frank Bruni saying that he thought that this was behind us, that we weren't going to have war like this anymore. Now it's really naive because there's war like this going on all around the world all the time. It's just that we're paying more attention to this one because as we already said, there probably is more at stake and it could lead to World War II.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, we were talking about massive military power. Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the UK said that this is a big deal because part of the fragile balance, it's been established in Europe is this agreement that we don't redraw lines because that's how these wars start. And now all of a sudden we have a nation, which is really smack in the middle of Europe, lines are about to be redrawn. Another thing that was chilling for me was a tweet from an ABC reporter who said that she got a call from the Pentagon and the person on the other line said, you are probably right now living through the last moment of peace in Europe for a long, long time.

Keith Simon: Hmm. Well, that's really sobering. I had heard that. So why are we talking about this? It's because we need to think about this Christianly. We need to come at this from a Christian world view and ask, what can we learn from this? Well, how do does the Christian worldview inform international politics and war? We should not be your news source, right? Events are changing so quickly that whenever you listen to this, whatever we said about the news would be completely outdated. And we're probably not your best source for understanding foreign policy. But what we can work together is to think through this Christly.

Patrick Miller: Yeah, absolutely. And the Bible is not foreign to the concept of war. The ancient land of Israel was on a land bridge, which connected Egypt to the south, which was the bread basket of the ancient world and the various symmetric empires to the north, Syria, Babylon, and those things changed over time. But EV everybody wanted Israel because it was the only way to get between those two places. And so if you look throughout Israel's history, you are seeing a constant redrawing of national boundaries, a constant fight from world powers and internally to hold this land. And I only bring that up to say, the Bible has a lot to say about empires, the Bible has a lot to say about war and violence. The Bible is very real stick about this. And so it's not foreign to these ideas. In fact, I think it's a great launching pad for not just Christians, but people who aren't Christians to think clearly about the realities of violence and war.

Keith Simon: So let's just back up for a second and try to understand some basic facts, get all on the same page at least a little bit. Russia has a history of being an expansionist country. If you go all the way back to the middle of the 16th century, they have a leader called Ivan the Terrible. Now you really wasn't-

Patrick Miller: That's not the moniker you want to get.

Keith Simon: Well, it's a little bit funny how language works because in English at the time terrible meant formidable. He was the prince of Moscow. Wasn't called that then, but he was the prince of Moscow. And he had this idea that he was going to declare himself czar of Russia. And he had this kind of expansionist tendencies and he wanted to conquer more and more land. And even today, Ivan the Terrible, Ivan the Formidable is somebody that Russians look to as a great leader. And you just follow that throughout history of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, the Soviet leaders like Stalin, and now Vladimir Putin who have this idea that an expanded greater Russia is a more powerful Russia. There's a lot of national pride built up in the lands that we control.

Patrick Miller: And it's not just national pride. It's nostalgia. I've read something. I thought this was so interesting. Back in 2000, most Russians disapproved of Stalin. They thought that guy's a bad guy. He's a blemish on our history. Now today, the majority of Russians see him as a heroic figure. And so we're even seeing internally inside of Russia, this kind of nationalist nostalgia for the days when we were a great nation, when we were an expansive nation, when we oversaw all of these territories and that's part of Ukraine's history, it has gone back and forth in terms of who owns it, who runs it historically, it has been a part of the various Russian empires that you just mentioned. But back in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine became a sovereign state. It wasn't a NATO member. Those were kind of the terms of the agreement. Russia sees Ukraine under its thumb as a place where it has influence. And so they agreed, okay, it's not going to join the Western NATO, but it's also not going to be a Russian pond. And that was the agreement that was set back in 1991. And it's important also to note that the Southern and Eastern portions of Ukraine, which is the closes portions to the Russian border, there's lots of people there who are actually of Russian descent.

Keith Simon: Ukraine was in the news back in 2014 and something similar when Russia annex, I guess that's what you call it when you take over a country, but do it non violently. At least wasn't through an invasion, but they annex Crimea, which allows them to attack now Ukraine from the south.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. So Crimea is a peninsula and it's become a staging ground for the ground military forces, which are now invading Ukraine. So coming back up into the president, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, really the dictator overseeing Russia, he gives us big, long speech. And he says that the reason why they need to invade Ukraine is to stop them from militarizing into end Nazis. Now there's a lot of irony here. The prime minister of Ukraine is actually Jewish. And of course he's doing a narrative. I mean, what was one of the greatest periods in Russian history? Well, it was when they fought back Hitler. And so this is a way of saying, this is what we've always done. We're going to reclaim land that has always rightfully been ours in the west, and no one has any right to compromise that.

Keith Simon: You mentioned, Vladimir Putin is the president. That's his official title, but he acts as more of a dictator. And he has kind of a ruling class that he leads and controls that helps him implement his dictatorial policies all under the guise of the communist party. You might know that Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent and he was stationed in East Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell. And so he saw first hand what he saw as the embarrassment of the great nation of Russia, as it lost satellite states that they controlled. And now a lot of people think that he wants to get those nations back under their control. He's done that quite a bit. He did develop Bruce. It doesn't so much mean that they're part of Russia as much as they are ruled by someone who is friendly with Putin and friendly with Russia.

Patrick Miller: And of course, this is exactly where Keith and I shouldn't be weighing in. We don't know his motives and we don't know his end game. A lot of people are saying what you're saying that the goal is basically to decapitate the Ukrainian government and set up a puppet government so that Russia can really be in control. But let's start thinking about this from a biblical perspective. I want to go back to what you just said a second ago, which is that although Vladimir Putin's title is president, he's actually a dictator. He controls the military, he controls the government, he controls the economy. Now in the United States, we believe in the separation of powers. This is why we have various branches. You've got the executive branch, which is headed up by the president, you've got the legislative branch, which is of course the Senate and the house of representatives and the judicial branch, highest court as a Supreme Court, we've separated powers. This came from a French philosopher named Montesquieu, but he didn't really invent it. Montesquieu took the idea-

Keith Simon: Montesquieu.

Patrick Miller: Is that how you say?

Keith Simon: I always thought it was Montesquieu. We'll ask all, anybody listening speaks French, you message us and you tell- [crosstalk 00:00:10:27].

Patrick Miller: I don't know.

Keith Simon: Montesquieu. Come on, that's probably wrong.

Patrick Miller: That's great. That's great. No, but he took this idea from the Bible because in the Bible, God is the first person to really of divide up power. He creates three institutions within Israel that are functionally its leadership, the prophet who speaks truth, the king who oversees the bureaucracy government, and of course the priest and the priestly class, which was responsible for teaching the Torah to the people.

Keith Simon: The Bible sees the concentration of power in one person is being a bad thing because we are all sinful human beings. And so when one person has too much power, then they use that power in ways that are damaging and destructive. And so it's something that we should be very thankful for to live in a country that divides powers, that has a separation of power. And we should always be careful about giving much power to one person or to even a small group of people.

Patrick Miller: Well, and it tells us what we should be resisting in what's happening in Russia. It, it's not just this invasion, it's a form of government that again is giving too much power to a single person. I think another theme we can draw out from the Bible that's really relevant here is that there are moral limits to power. One thing that happens near a dictator is that you begin to think that you are God, you set the rules, you define right and wrong. And there's nothing new about this. Back in the ancient world, kings saw themselves as being made in the image of God, but the everyday person, they were just trashed, they were just rubbish. They could be ignored. They weren't made in the image of God. So that meant that the king had no moral limits on his power. I mean, hey, if I'm the image of God, I can set the terms of our moral arrangements.

Keith Simon: You imagine how radical the Bible then sounded when it came in and said in Genesis 1, that every person is created in the image of God, not just the king. And that means that human beings have rights, dignity, value, and they can speak truth to power. So in the context of Egypt and Pharaoh, think of the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill the young boys of the Israelites, but instead gave birth of them. They resisted Pharaoh's commands or think of Moses himself who speaks truth to power to Pharaoh and says that you are wrong. Just because you have power doesn't mean you can use it however you want. You are accountable to God.

Patrick Miller: Yeah. The Bible is probably the first literary document in history to actually suggest this idea that there are moral limits to power. You just gave two excellent examples, bringing it back to the present. This tells us, first of all, that Putin will be held accountable to God. He's not Pharaoh, he is not God. God is God, God is in charge. God sets what's right and what's wrong. On the other side, it's reminding us that the church must keep its prophetic voice. That in the face of absolute power, there is a time to speak truth, to challenge and to say, no, you don't have the authority to do this. Been really grateful to hear that both the Russian patriarch and the Ukraine Orthodox Church have actually been joining hands to call for peace right now, to call for an end to this. That's exactly what should be happening inside of the church.

Keith Simon: I've read things in the past that says that Putin has used his power to corrupt the Russian Orthodox Church. And I'm sure it's just like any church that there are elements in it that are willing to stand for what's right and wrong and elements that have been corrupted by power and money. So it is good to hear that they are calling for peace right now because that's the role Christians should be playing.

Patrick Miller: I think another principle from the Bible that matters here is just remembering that no one nation is God's special nation. The lie of nationalism is the idea that my nation, wherever I'm located is the most important nation in history, is the most important nation in the world, and therefore it has the right to do whatever it wants. But in the book of revelation, at the end of time, it depicts the end of time, Jesus coming back to earth as a worship service. And inside of that worship service, there are people from every tribe, tongue in nation, and you know what that means? There will be people with Jesus who are Ukrainian, who are Russian, who are standing on both sides of this war.

Keith Simon: Well, staying in the book of revelation, we think that at the very end of the story, God heals the nations. When his kingdom comes here, that war like this will no longer be present because God is healing that which is broken in the world. But this idea that no nation is God's nation, I think is a little bit of a warning to me, maybe you two. And that is that I am a citizen of God's kingdom before I'm a citizen of my country. So I don't want to do this whole USA- USA thing in a way that says, let's go bomb, attack and kill others indiscriminately. Yes, there are times when violence and war may very well be necessary, but I want to have my lead to Jesus and his church over my allegiance to our country. The Bible takes an agnostic, if not antagonistic view at times towards nation states.

Patrick Miller: Well, it's kind of weird, isn't it? Because in some sense, the Bible recognized the nation state, and yet at the same time, it warns you about those same nation states, right? That they become too powerful and corrupt. So at the beginning of the Bible, you see that man is made to rule over the animals. And then interestingly in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, you see these nation states, these empires like Babylon, Persia, Greece, they become these animals who are devouring people. It's almost like the creation order has been reversed because too much power has been accumulated by people in these empires. And those empires tend to exalt themselves. Like you said earlier, think of themselves as God, come up with their own right and wrong. And they almost need more power, more money, more people. And they start existing for their own dynasty instead of existing to serve God.

Keith Simon: I mean, you just made an incredibly important point, the rise of empires and the violence which say often perpetrate doesn't make us more human, it makes us less human. It turns us into animals. And what we're seeing right now, what Russia's doing, they're becoming animalistic in this invasion. They are doing the exact same story all over again. In the book of Isaiah, between chapter seven and 12, there's a number of passages that describe the Assyrian empire. And there Isaiah describes him as this great warrior with a sword or a club that God is using to punish Israel. But what's interesting is that the apostle Paul and Jesus both pick up this imagery of living by the sword and they use it negatively. Jesus says to his disciples, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. And I only say to say, this is how nation states work, they live by the sword, they die by the sword. There is this element of, this is how nations rise and fall. This is nothing new. And I'm not saying this to justify violence, I'm saying this to say, this is the way of the world when the world is characterized by sin rebellion and evil.

Patrick Miller: There's great hope i in Daniel 7 because you see these nation states described as animals waring against each other, waring against the church. But in Daniel 7, you see Jesus, the son of man exalted over them all. And so there's the sense in which these nation states and empires, they look powerful now, Vladimir Putin, Pharaoh, whoever you want to fill in the blank with, they all look powerful as if they are in control, but ultimately Jesus is in control. He reigns, his kingdom will come, people will be held accountable by God. He will heal the nations. And the brokenness that we see in this world will eventually be taken away.

Keith Simon: One last thought here, the animals watch the animals. I think one of the most frightening things in the midst of this is realizing that you've probably got China watching what Russia's doing and seeing how is the west going to respond? Because everybody knows that China wants to do the exact same thing to Taiwan. And so it'll be interesting to watch how our response then leads China, maybe to similar violence. Because again, the animals watch the animals, the animals act more animalistic. This is the way that nation states often function.

Patrick Miller: This invasion of Ukraine is playing out in so many different media platforms, right? You just said you were scrolling through and looking at pictures, you can find stuff on Instagram, on TikTok, on Facebook, wherever you're looking. And we probably need to remember that other countries, bad actors can use those media platforms to spread disinformation. So we have to be careful that we're not just hearing a story on TikTok or social media and believing that it's true. You want to vet, this is where trust and reliable sources becomes a really big deal. You want to be careful that you're not just running down the road, believing some lie that a bad actor or foreign government is spreading and you're being played.

Keith Simon: Absolutely. And by the way, we already know that Russia has mastered the art of disinformation on social media. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that in 2016, they used their various troll farms to spread misinformation about both candidates online. And of course this affected the democratic process. Whether or not that determined an election seems a little bit farfetched to me. But here's the broader point, if you don't think that as Russia's invading, they're going to simultaneously get onto Facebook, get onto Twitter, get onto Instagram and a begin to use this invasion as a way of furthering polarization in our nation of turning the left against the right even more so, you're insane. They're going to use this in every possible way they can to make us inside our nation hate each other more.

Patrick Miller: Right. Because a divided America is much less formidable than a United America. There's this phrase I've heard before, and that is that politics needs to end at the water's edge. And that dates back to the end of World War II and a Michigan Senator by the name of Vandenberg was the leading Republican to go up against Truman. Now he eventually drops out of the primary and never actually runs against Truman, but he had a more isolationist view of foreign policy. Truman wanted to bring Europe together and have some sort of Alliance with them. Vandenberg let his own political ambitions die because he said that he needed to support the president of the opposite party in order to project a unified voice of America. Now, I don't think that policy of politics ending the water's edge has ever really been fully abided by either party. Of course, we know that both parties have used foreign policy against the president in office, but I do think it kind of points out this important thing for us to think about. And that is regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, regardless of what you think about our current president, I think we should be rooting for him and his administration to succeed. And what I mean by succeed is wisely use whatever diplomatic relationships, whatever economic, whatever military are available, to bring this to an end as quickly as possible. And to show the world that oppression and invasion of foreign countries does not pay off. We want to slow Vladimir Putin down. We want him to have to pay a heavy price so that this kind of war does not spread throughout Europe.

Keith Simon: You're making me think of an adage that we have here in the office, which is we'll fight behind closed doors, but when we're out in public, we're all on the same team. And I think that's a principle that we have to try to embrace in the midst of this. And I'm already seeing it falling apart that both sides are beginning to get at each other's throats over how we're responding over this. And of course let's have lively debates, let's think through the best options. And yet, on the other side, like you said, let's try to be unified.

Patrick Miller: I think we, as Christians can acknowledge that there is a lot of pain and a lot of division and a lot of heartache that is happening right now in Ukraine and in this broken world, and yet have a hopeful view of the future. And that's because the Bible promises that we've already said and Revelation that God is going to heal the nations. That the nations are going to lay down their weapons. Here is how the prophet Isaiah says it," They will beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." That means that us as Christians, that we shouldn't be war mongers. We belong to the prince of peace. We are looking forward to a kingdom in which there is no more violence, no more war, no more crying, no more pain. We understand that violence is sometimes necessary in very limited way, but we have a hope to look forward to that is greater that one day soon world will be healed of all that violence.

Keith Simon: So what can we do right now? Let me state the obvious, we should be praying. We should be praying for wisdom for political and military leaders, not just here in the US, but also in the Ukraine and also in Russia as well. We should be praying for peace, we should be praying for a peaceful resolution to all of this, we should be praying against tribalism that we would be united, we should be praying for the church in Ukraine and Russia. I've already read stories about missionaries who are actively saying, I'm going to stay here in Kyiv, I'm going to stay here where I am at, because I want to love and serve my neighbors and show them in the midst of this violence, in the midst of this hardship, show them the sacrificial love of Christ.

Patrick Miller: And it's by showing that sacrificial love of Christ that the church has grown historically speaking. I mean, think back in the time of Rome when there were plagues and the Christians stayed to care for those who were dying, to care for the dead. And people saw that the Christians had a great love for their neighbor that exceeded their love for themselves. They didn't flee to safety, but they stayed right there and ministered to people who were hurting in very difficult circumstances. So let's pray for those Christians in Ukraine that they would be able to love and serve their neighbor and that the watching world would see the church acting in a way that exalts Jesus and draws people to want to follow him.

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, all right. 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.


BONUS Episode:Β Unless you're living under a rock, you know that something is happening between Ukraine and Russia. How should Christians approach this heartbreaking situation? The truth is: the Bible is not silent on such matters. That's why we're bringing you this bonus episode. In it, Keith and Patrick lay out what the Bible says about war and dictators, and how God's Word applies to Russia's attacks on Ukraine. Tune in as we seek to understand together how Christians should respond.

Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode? Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™

Plus, the conversation is just beginning! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to join in on the dialogue! Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe? Visit our website and subscribe to our weekly newsletter.