January 27, 2005

IGNORING THEOLOGY:

Today's anti-war clergy should ponder their predecessors (Richard N. Ostling, 1/24/05, Associated Press)

[J]oseph Loconte of the conservative Heritage Foundation sees a parallel between clergy who denounce military action against today's Islamic terrorists or tyrants, and their predecessors who opposed America's entry into World War II. [...]

Loconte's heroes include the ''neo-orthodox'' Karl Barth (1886-1968), a refugee from Nazi Germany who was generally considered Europe's leading Protestant theologian, and ''Christian realist'' Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), widely seen as America's top Protestant theologian.

Today it's hard to find a Protestant thinker with the stature of either man.

Barth opposed pacifism because the New Testament depicts the state as God's instrument to control evil and promote social peace (Romans 13:1-5, 1 Timothy 2:1-3). Since appeasement had failed, he wrote, Christians shouldn't just fight Hitler as a ''necessary evil'' but ''approve it as a righteous war, which God does not simply allow but which he commands us to wage.''

Niebuhr was especially interesting because he was a one-time pacifist and had to quit his longtime political home, the Socialist Party, after it decided American ''imperialism'' was so bad that no important principle was involved in challenging Hitler.

To Niebuhr, naive liberals saw no right or duty to defend their own civilization which he acknowledged was morally flawed to prevent ''worse alternatives.'' In the Bible, he wrote, ''human evil is recognized as a much more stubborn fact than is realized in some modern versions of the Christian faith'' that obscure what Scripture says about fostering justice.

On the opposite side, moral opposition to war against Hitler was pursued by some of U.S. Protestantism's best and brightest. Today this is seen as folly. It required over-emphasisis on the evils of America and Western capitalism while ignoring Nazi conquest, oppression and deadly threats against Jews.

The doves were reacting against the devastation and apparent pointlessness of World War I. More basically, they had an idealistic, sentimental belief in human perfectibility that ignored the theology of human sin.


What use are theologians without theology?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2005 9:40 AM
Comments

The NCC types follow the gospel according to Marx, and their attitude towards the Bible is like that of Rev. Lovejoy in the Simpsons,'You can't convert anyone with this 2000 page sleeping pill.'

The United Church of Christ, which has just published an article in praise of Spongebob and advertises that it opens its doors to gays, has just about purged itself of anything even remotely Biblical.

Posted by: Bart at January 27, 2005 10:32 AM

Jesuits?

Posted by: LUCIFEROUS at January 27, 2005 9:00 PM

An elderly lady I knew several years ago, told me that she had grown up "in what's now called the UCC, the Un-Christian Church."

Posted by: Dave W. at January 27, 2005 9:55 PM

Peacemaking/pacificist theologians are not w/o theology as you suggest. Engaging in peacemaking activities is a sign of the Church's faithfulness to Christ. Nurturing peacemaking skills and helping people to be peacemakers is a sign of the Church's obedience to Christ. It's through the nurturing of the moral life of the nation for the sake of the peace in the world that the Church bears witness to Christ. (Freely paraph. the 3 affirmations of the Presby. Church-USA's Peacemaking Program). Peacemaking is a theology. The difficult thing for people of the Christian faith to wreastle with these days is, "what does it mean in this day and age for us to 'seek peace and pursue it'?"

Posted by: Dave W. at January 27, 2005 10:28 PM

Why? Christ wasn't a peacemaker.

Posted by: oj at January 27, 2005 10:34 PM

OJ:
We've gone back & forth on this one B4. Isaiah calls him Prince of Peace, and at the Last Supper Jesus blessed his followers w/his peace.

Posted by: Dave W. at January 28, 2005 12:02 AM

Yes, His followers.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 12:18 AM

C.S. Lewis once wrote that no one would be satisfied with a 'perfect' Christian society. The liberals would be shocked by the stern nature of things (e.g., "if they won't work, they won't eat"), and the conservatives would be surprised at the lack of hierarchy (among other things).

Remember, everyone (except for the disciples and his family (and people like Nicodemus) called for his death.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 28, 2005 10:43 AM

When pacifists are not suicidal, they are merely freeloaders expecting others to do their fighting for them. The behavior of the allegedly pacifist Quakers in the old Pennsylvania Commonwealth, who happily preached pacifism while sending the armed German and Scots-Irish settlers into the wilderness to protect them from the Indians is a case in point.

One would hope that the Savior of about two billion people wasn't at base suicidal and freeloading.

Posted by: Bart at January 28, 2005 1:50 PM
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