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War and Peace

I love the Bible. 

It is an extraordinary collection of 66 "books" that positively breathes with supernatural energy. It is also a "locked" book of secrets which can only be deciphered by invitation from God. Without this invite, the Bible means almost nothing. Stories and teaching that Christians revere as holy are, to unbelievers, outdated fables that have no place in the modern world. 

I found this out the hard way while matriculating at the University of Virginia in the early '80s. Back then, God had only recently rescued me from significant sin and bondage, and I had given myself - as one must do to be reborn - to absolute trust in the Bible. In layman's terms: I was a baby Christian. Thinking it would be a sort of "easy A", I enrolled in a Bible class taught by UVa's Religion department.

Huge mistake. 

UVa, like all of "higher education", espouses a militantly secular worldview, and this professor, far from affirming my new-found faith, ripped it to shreds. Stories that I believed literally true, like Jonah, the 3 Jews in Nebuchadnezzar's fire, and most importantly, the Resurrection, were methodically dismissed as irrational.  I was horrified and numb as he detailed all the discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible. My faith in the Bible was shattered. 

I eventually fell away from the Lord, for a season. 

Looking back, I can't entirely blame the class for my rebellion. There were other chinks in my armor, fissures in my wall of faith, and this class simply helped drive the wedge of unbelief deeper. 

Since then, I've learned to accept the fact that even though the Bible is inspired, because God used human beings to write it there is a clear margin of error. It is my conclusion that the Bible presents us with anomalies and mixed messages that believers have to navigate in the formation of their personal theology. These days, I like to give God and his word a fair degree of "wiggle room", so as not to trap myself into theological corners. 

Now, we know in part. 

Let's take, for example, what the Bible has to say about war. 

Jesus said that peacemakers are "blessed" and that, when attacked, believers should "turn the other cheek". Jesus summed up the Law and Prophets thus: Love the lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. There is also, though, a curious verse (anomaly) in Luke 22:36, which suggests that Christians should arm themselves.  

In Psalms we see a similarly mixed message: the writer of Psalm 120:7, laments that he "he is for peace, but they are for war". But the writer of Psalm 58:10 revels in the notion that the righteous "will be avenged when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked".

For me, Jesus is the absolute authority, and despite Luke 22:36, I can't justify war under any circumstance. The older I get, the less moved I am by the American military complex, and the more impressed I am by the Kingdom of God. Christians constitute a billion person army who, if they wanted to, could satisfy Jesus' command to effect peace (Is. 52:7). 

I understand that peace is a radical notion but Jesus was and is a radical God. 

Regardless, I continue to search the scriptures for inspiration, and value the Bible above any other book. 

Check out a new shirt we just dropped. Wear it and you'll be a living testimony for Jesus, everywhere you go:

Happy T-scipling,

Jeff Criswell

Director of Tee-ology





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