Jesus Establishes His Kingdom with Violence

In discussing the harmonization of violence with love for one’s enemies, I mentioned Sean Finnegan’s defense of an absolutist position on nonviolence. A separate point that Sean makes, which surfaces somewhat frequently even in non-pacifist circles, is that the Old Testament’s emphasis on warfare and nationalism is to be starkly contrasted with the higher precepts of a peace-loving internationalism that are to characterize the church age.

One problem of this view, which is enormous even though I’ll state it only briefly, is its confusion concerning the nature and applicability of the moral (natural) law. The moral law is eternal and unchangeable, so the fact that God sanctioned and even commanded warfare and nationalism for the ancient Israelites both demonstrates that such actions and attitudes are permissible-in-themselves and establishes a presumption that they can be permissible today, provided the relevant circumstances obtain. To state it simply, if those actions were sins-in-themselves, God wouldn’t have sanctioned them. But then we should be very careful to call them a sin today, or to suppose that God radically changed His opinion on them and declared them to be universally sinful in our age.

A more important rhetorical point is to directly challenge this appeal to ...

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